Ferries and cruises to Rotterdam, The Netherlands

When it comes to holiday or short break destinations, most people’s minds wouldn’t perhaps turn immediately to Rotterdam.

But that’s where most people are wrong – Rotterdam is exciting, vibrant, and cultured with a history that spans the centuries and architecture to stir the soul.

It’s the second largest city in the Netherlands, but it never feels overly crowded or busy – it’s a comfortable place to explore and enjoy, giving you ample opportunity to get to know its streets, its food, its entertainment, and its people. And despite The Beautiful South’s song declaring that Rotterdam is just like any other large city, it really is unique and beautiful.

If you are a history buff then Rotterdam will suit you down to the ground. Like museums? There are plenty to choose from here. Love the water and boats? Rotterdam has it all. In fact, no matter what you are into, no matter what you love to do, there will be something in Rotterdam to cater to your tastes – and probably more than one thing!

The name Rotterdam means ‘muddy water’, but despite this inelegant image, the city itself is a beautiful place to visit. Picture perfect and full of surprises, Rotterdam was even once the spy capital of the world during World War I. This city just keeps unfolding and making you pricy to its biggest secrets once you make your first visit – and because there is so much to see, you’ll want to come back time and again.

Getting to Rotterdam

Ferry Routes

Operator Route Services Travel Time Price
Hull Rotterdam 1 daily 10¾ hours See prices
Hull Amsterdam (via Rotterdam) 1 daily 10¾ hours See prices

This information is for reference purposes only. Journey times are approximate. Frequency is based on typical schedules. Schedules are subject to availability and weather conditions. Information correct at the time of writing.

Taster Cruise Ship Itineraries

Cruise line Typical itinerary Prices
Southampton Ports such as Rotterdam See prices

This information is for reference purposes only. Information correct at the time of writing.

Top 3 Cruise & Ferry Deals

  1. DFDS Amsterdam Mini Cruise From £50pp
  2. DFDS Boxing Day mini cruise from £95pp
  3. DFDS Amsterdam Mini Cruise from £35pp - Effort Required
Tip: You may want to consider alternative routes between Newcastle and Amsterdam as well as between Harwich and Hook of Holland in addition to those listed above.

Sightseeing

Visiting any new city for the first time can feel a little daunting, especially if it’s not somewhere that is particularly well known as a tourist hot spot. What to do? Where to go? What to see? Don’t worry though; Rotterdam has plenty of wonderful places to visit on your trip, no matter how long you are there for. Enjoy!

Rotterdam Zoo

A treat for the whole family is Rotterdam Zoo. Reached by road or river, Rotterdam Zoo boasts an impressive array of animals, both big and small. Here you can see everything from elephants and gorillas to butterflies and bugs, but that’s not all.

The on-site food is great and highly regarded so as a day trip the Rotterdam Zoo has everything you need! If your legs get tired (or the kids needs a rest), then there is a mini train that takes you from one side of the zoo to the other; the perfect way to see everything in comfort! Plus there is an adventure playground for the little ones so you can let them blow off steam in safety.

Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen

Next on the list of things to see on your first time in Rotterdam is the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen. For art lovers this is the perfect place to ponder for an hour or two (or more – there is so much to see you could easily spend a whole day here if you wanted to!).

With art from the Middle Ages to the present day, no matter what style or period is your favourite, you will be able to find a beautiful example of it here. Rembrandt, Van Gogh, Dali, and many other world class and world famous artists are represented here, and it’s not often that it’s possible to see so many renowned pieces in one huge museum.

Arboretum Trompenburg

The Arboretum Trompenburg is a lovely attraction to visit on a sunny day when it’s warm and bright. It’s a lovely attraction to visit on a winter’s day when it’s chill and overcast. No matter what the time of year, no matter what the season, the Arboretum Trompenburg will welcome you.

With over 750 species of Hosta, rhododendrons, and azaleas, as well as hundreds of other plants and trees, it is a nature lover’s paradise. For those of a romantic mind, it is also the place where brides love to have their photos taken on the big day, and it’s the best place in Rotterdam for people watching.

Beautiful and peaceful, coming to the Arboretum Trompenburg will take you away from the hustle and bustle of the city and give you a moment to think. There are also many workshops available to enjoy here, including porcelain painting, flower arranging, and t-shirt printing for the kids. And if it’s your birthday let the attendants know as you’ll receive a free cup of coffee and slice of cake!

Erasmus Bridge

You simply cannot visit Rotterdam and not take a good look at the Erasmus Bridge. Well, you can, but you really shouldn’t. Iconic and impressive, the Erasmus Bridge was designed by Ben van Berkel in 1996, and since it was built it has been nicknamed ‘The Swan’ thanks to its unique shape.

It is 800 metres long and 139 metres high with forty cables keeping it all in place. This superb piece of engineering spans the Maas River and connects the north and south of Rotterdam. At night it is illuminated with purple lights that seem to hover in the air above the city – drive (or cycle) across it or go under it by boat and admire the work that went into making this bridge.

Euromast Tower

Speaking of incredible design and engineering, the Euromast Tower is another Rotterdam ‘must see’. Climb the tower and see the city from 100 metres in the air – spot your hotel, and enjoy the views from the safety of the tower.

But there’s more… take the glass elevator (the Euroscoop) up another 85 metres for a picture perfect view of Rotterdam. At almost 200 metres in the air, this is like nothing you will ever have experienced before, and it will take your breath away.

Thankfully, there is a fantastic restaurant and bar on site (but lower down, don’t worry!) to restore you. Great food and drink and the most amazing views out across the city, there is nowhere better to enjoy dinner and scenery. If you’re really into thrill seeking, it’s even possible to abseil down the side of the Euromast tower – now that’s something to get the adrenalin pumping!

Wereldmuseum

The Wereldmuseum is another Rotterdam highlight. Although small, there is always something fascinating exhibition on, as well as the more permanent pieces of art and sculpture that many travel for miles to see.

With many of the pieces of display loaned from private collections, it really is a wonderful way to experience art from all over the world, and from different eras. To top it all – literally – there is a Michelin starred restaurant above the museum, so after you have seen everything there is to see downstairs, it is time to replenish your energy with a wonderful meal upstairs!

Sint Laurenskerk

Sint Laurenskerk  is a must for anyone who appreciates medieval architecture, religious spaces, art, or just about anything else! Once a church that dates back to the Middle Ages, Sink Laurenskerk is now a multifunctional building that holds a museum, interactive displays, conference rooms, and private parties to mention just a few of its uses. It is worth checking out the events happening at the church, as there are often concerts, plays, and talks featured.

And there's more...

Frequent visitors to Rotterdam who are looking for something new or a little bit different to do when they are there have no end of choice. There are activities for every day of the week, and for every type of traveller. Here are just a few examples.

For those who love nothing more than to be tested to the limits, the Exit Game attraction has got your name written all over it. Join in the adventure as you find yourself locked in a room with a limited time in which to escape. Simultaneously heart poundingly terrifying and grin-inducingly exciting, Exit Game is certainly never to be forgotten once it has been tried. You’ve got one hour and a huge array of puzzles and quizzes between you and freedom. Good luck!

Miniworld is, as the name suggests, a world in miniature, and it is the perfect way to spend a little time when you visit Rotterdam. Or should I say a lot of time, since this is the largest miniature model collection in the world! The scenes are set to show everyday life, and include trains, work, a beach, homelife, and countless other ideas.

Each ‘day’ in Miniworld lasts for 24 minutes, so as you walk around you can see the light fading, the tiny inhabitants pausing in their activities, and dozing off until the sun rises again. Miniworld is Rotterdam in miniature, so if you want to explore the city but have limited time, or access, then this is a wonderful way to see the sights in a very different way! There are special activities for the child too, such as a Rotterdam scavenger hunt (in miniature, of course).

The Kijk-Kubus is a completely function, fully decorated ‘cube house’ that can be explored to your heart’s content, as it is also a museum. Find out more about the architect, Piet Blom, and why he decided that living in a cube was the way to go. It’s a surprising and unique museum that just goes to show how it’s possible to live in a small space and still fit in all the mod cons and personal touches that you need. Perhaps you will even come away with ideas for your own home!

De Rotterdam Steam Ship makes for a great day out for the whole family. Whether you are into ships or not, the majesty of this massive vessel and the engineering that went into making it (and that keeps it running) has to be admired. Built in 1959, this is the largest passenger ship ever built in the Netherlands, and she sailed from Holland to America on hundreds of occasions.

Now a static ship, the SS Rotterdam has become a tourist attraction with a difference. Learn how the big ships are made, how they work, and who used them. And to make matters even more strange and interesting? The ship doubles as a stunning hotel and restaurant!

For something completely different, why not take a stroll down the European Walk of Fame? This is a surprising yet wonderful piece of pop culture that certainly does its best to rival its (perhaps) more famous Hollywood counterpart. There are stars from stage and screen, as well as pop idols and sports heroes.

Familiar names including Bon Jovi, Elvis Costello, Johnny Cash, and even Shrek appear here, alongside more obscure celebrities such as Piet Romer (a Dutch actor), Faas Wilkes (a Dutch footballer), and Dick Bruna (a Dutch graphic designer). Unexpected this walk of fame might be, but interesting and entertaining it is too!

Hotels

Rotterdam is a varied and vibrant city, and because of this there are plenty of great places to stay that will suit any traveller on any budget. According to TripAdvisor there are over 50 hotels in Rotterdam to choose from.

Budget hotels in Rotterdam

Value hotels abound, and whether you are staying just one night or want to stick around for longer, they are a fabulous option leaving you more money to enjoy the city with:

easyHotel Rotterdam City Centre is a clean and friendly hotel, and has all the amenities you could want, including tea and coffee making facilities, a comfortable bed, and the fact that it has only just opened makes it a good prospect. Not only that, but for explorers it is ideal since it is right in the heart of Rotterdam, close to subway station and walking distance to great attractions, restaurants, and bars.

citizenM Rotterdam is a small hotel but an attractive prospect for the traveller since it is located in a beautiful spot close to the city centre. It is cool and modern, and focuses on a fairly self service kind of ethos which won’t suit everyone. For those who love to be left to their own devices, however, it couldn’t get any better.

Family-friendly hotels in Rotterdam

For families, there are many hotels that offer that little bit extra:

For family friendly, the Hotel Breitner does all it can to make you and your little ones feel right at home in Rotterdam. You can bring your own travel cot, or borrow one from the hotel, and the family suites have pull out beds so the older children also have somewhere comfortable to sleep. Close to restaurants and shops, this is a great base for any tourist visiting Rotterdam.

Located on a quiet street, the Hotel van Walsum is ideal for when you want your children to get a good night’s sleep. Away from the bustling city centre yet close enough to be able to go everywhere you need to on foot, this hotel boasts a good breakfast selection and all you can drink coffee too!

Luxurious hotels in Rotterdam

And for those who like a little more luxury when they are away from home… you won’t be disappointed either:

Five stars and across the street from the main train station, the Manhattan Hotel is everything you could ask for, and a touch more. If you really want to push the boat out, a room on the Club Floor is a perfect way to enjoy the city, but any of the rooms offer a high standard of décor and cleanliness, plus the breakfasts are ideal for getting you ready for a day of sight seeing (and since they are served until 1pm, you can even treat yourself to a nice lie in)!

With a swimming pool, sauna, and Jacuzzi on site, the De Arendshoeve really is a wonderful place to relax and treat yourself. The hotel even offers special packages (including a ‘55+ package’ and an ‘asparagus package’) to suit all tastes.

Unusual hotels in Rotterdam

It can be fun to stay somewhere a little out of the ordinary, and there are plenty of hotels in Rotterdam that fit the bill:

A night on the SS Rotterdam is like being on a cruise whilst staying still (apart from the gentle sway of the water that is). This ship was a genuine ocean liner that travelled from Holland to America, and is now stationary and enjoyed by many visitors to Rotterdam. With rooms to suit every budget, everyone can experience life on board ship.

As mentioned above, the Euromast is a fascinating and multifunctional place to visit, and for those who really love heights there is a hotel there as well! As long as you don’t mind the possibility of being spotted by the multitudes below, this is a very different hotel experience!

Top restaurant choices in Rotterdam

Eating out and sampling the delicious local cuisine whilst on holiday is a joy, and Rotterdam has some fine restaurants to offer up to you.

Great value eateries in Rotterdam

If you like value for money, you’ll be spoiled for choice here:

As long as you don’t mind self service buffet styles meals then Le Place Le Marche at V&D in Rotterdam will certainly set your taste buds and bargain hunting nose on fire! With a huge salad bar and plenty of choice, you can rest assured your budget will stretch.

For those who think that bagels are just, well, bagels, think again. At Bagels and Beans you can choose from savoury or sweet varieties, with lots of different fillings. You can even get a ‘cream tea’ version which is a lovely lunch time treat.

Abrikoos is a comfortable and cosy tapas restaurant which oozes quality, but the prices are surprisingly reasonable. The location is lovely too, allowing you to sit by the river.

Family-friendly dining in Rotterdam

Eating out with the family can be tricky sometimes. Not in Rotterdam though:

Whatever the size of your group, you can always be sure of a warm welcome at Tai Wu. Freshly prepared Chinese food and a huge selection of dim sum await you here; traditional and delicious!

More fun times are to be had at Sorgh & Hoop! Not only is the food great (traditional Dutch fare), but there is an extensive cocktail menu, and children’s choices too. There is dancing and music during and after dinner and the atmosphere is electric.

Big and buzzing, Bazar is a Turkish restaurant that is such a great place for a family meal. Amazing food and an atmosphere to match, children are treated like kings and queens – you might have trouble getting them to leave!

Luxurious dining in Rotterdam

Whether it’s a special occasion or just because you feel like it, finding a luxury place to eat is a great memory on any holiday:

At FG Restaurant, food is considered an art form, and the staff here treat your plate like a canvas. It’s a beautiful place to eat, and the nine or 11 course tasting menus are a great way to get to sample every piece of molecular gastronomy that this place produces.

With a Certificate of Excellence to its name, Restaurant Parkheuvel uses local produce to create some out of this world dishes (including spring chicken, langoustine curry, and Kobe Wagyu tartare) – no wonder it is Michelin starred (two of them, to be precise).

Fusion food can sometimes be a little hot and miss, but not at Fred. Here the chef expertly combines French and Dutch food into something very special. With attentive, friendly staff, a large, comfortable dining room, and food that will leave you full and content, you will want to visit Fred.

Family travel

If you’re not sure whether Rotterdam is a family friendly city, or you think it’s all about business meetings and work, think again. Rotterdam has numerous activities that will suit young children, teenagers, and families in general.

The zoo, the games (such as Exit Game and Lasergame), the days out that are geared towards spending time together… It’s a great place to go as a group, and wonderful memories will be made there.

The best news is, because many people are under the assumption that Rotterdam is all business and no pleasure, it’s relatively quiet, even in the school holidays, meaning you can relax and enjoy time with your kids no matter when you choose to go.

When to visit Rotterdam

The weather in Rotterdam is similar to that in the UK, so it can never be guaranteed. However, if you do want to spend most of your time exploring outdoors, the May to October period is the best time to do it. But don’t let that put you off visiting outside of these months; many of the fun and fascinating things to do in Rotterdam are inside, so it doesn’t matter if it’s raining.

For those who feel festive, there is a spectacular Christmas market in Rotterdam, and it’s open throughout December. It’s not just the market that makes itself Christmassy though – many of the restaurants put on special Yuletide menus, the shops stay open later, and the Rotterdam Christmas Circus and ice rink come to town.

August and September are great months to visit if you are a music lover, as there are festivals aplenty during that time. From rock to jazz, you’ll find your favourite musical genre and a crowd of other people who love it too!

For sports enthusiasts, Rotterdam is a year round treat. From skating and motor racing in the summer to cycling and tennis in the winter, you can visit at any time and find yourself immersed in a sporting frenzy. Enjoy!

Handy information

Where you will dock

If you are travelling to Rotterdam by ferry then you are most likely going to dock at Europoort, a port designed to accommodate cargo. It is quite an industrial setting for a port and is quite a fair distance from any major town or city so you'll need transfers, either by taking your own car or by booking onto a transfer coach bound for Rotterdam. Europoort is around 23 miles (about 37 kilometres) from the centre of Rotterdam.

If you are arriving by cruise ship then you are most likely going to dock at the Cruise Terminal Rotterdam. This is a mere 1.5 miles (about 2 kilometres) from the centre of Rotterdam and is a preferred berthing location for Holland America, Royal Caribbean, P&O Cruises and more.

Nearest airports

Rotterdam's airport is known as Rotterdam The Hague Airport (RTM) and is just a short 4.5 miles (about 7 kilometres) drive from the centre of Rotterdam. This airport is fairly small in comparison to Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport but it does host flights to London Heathrow and London City. For reference, Amsterdam Schiphol Airport is around 36 miles (about 58 kilometres) drive from the centre of Rotterdam.

Nearest railway stations

The Centraal Station Rotterdam is located in the heart of Rotterdam, with excellent links to Holland and The Netherlands.

The nearest station to the Cruise Terminal is the Wilhelminaplein, Rotterdam subway station. Catch a train from here to Centraal Station Rotterdam to transfer to regular overground train services.

Europoort is very industrialised so it isn't really somewhere you'll find a lot of people. As such passenger train services don't exist. The closest subway station is Tussenwater, Hoogvliet Rotterdam located in Hoogvliet Rotterdam. This is, however, 15 miles (about 24 kilometres) from the ferry terminal so you'd be better off with either a coach or taxi transfer if you aren't taking your car to Rotterdam.

Stena Line offer a Rail and Sail package from London ° to Rotterdam which includes train travel to Harwich from any Abellio Greater Anglia station, North Sea ferry transport, and travel to any Dutch railway station from the Hook of Holland. If you intend to travel as a foot passenger to the Netherlands this might work out as good value for you.

Currency

The currency used in Rotterdam is the Euro (€). 100 cents make up 1 Euro. Euro coins are available in 1 cent, 2 cents, 5 cents, 10 cents, 20 cents and 50 cents coins. Euro bank notes are available in €5, €10, €20, €50, €100, €200 and €500 values.

The exchange rate is currently around £1 equals €0.00. The rate you get when exchanging currency online or on the high street may differ to this rate as this figure comes courtesy of the European Central Bank. The foreign exchange rate may differ from this so it pays to shop around to get the most currency for your money

Ferry Routes

Operator Route Services Travel Time Price
Hull Rotterdam 1 daily 10¾ hours See prices
Hull Amsterdam (via Rotterdam) 1 daily 10¾ hours See prices

This information is for reference purposes only. Journey times are approximate. Frequency is based on typical schedules. Schedules are subject to availability and weather conditions. Information correct at the time of writing.

Taster Cruise Ship Itineraries

Cruise line Typical itinerary Prices
Southampton Ports such as Rotterdam See prices

This information is for reference purposes only. Information correct at the time of writing.

Top 3 Cruise & Ferry Deals

  1. DFDS Amsterdam Mini Cruise From £50pp
  2. DFDS Boxing Day mini cruise from £95pp
  3. DFDS Amsterdam Mini Cruise from £35pp - Effort Required

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