Home to some of Europe’s most innovative architecture, the port city of Rotterdam has plenty of appeal. Over three days, you can sail on Europe’s largest harbor, admire cutting-edge urban design, and discover the history of Rotterdam’s post-World War II reinvention. Here’s how to spend 72 hours in the Netherlands’ second city.
Day 1: On the Waterfront
Start your exploration of Rotterdam by jumping on a hop-on hop-off sightseeing bus. Tickets are typically valid for 24 or 48 hours, and let you disembark and board the bus as often as you like; traveling this way gives you the flexibility to create your own itinerary. Routes typically cover the swan-shaped pylons of the Erasmus Bridge and the cultural zone of Museumpark, plus much more.
Afterward, take the glass elevator to the Euromast observation deck, which at 314 feet (96 meters) promises excellent views of the city’s ever-changing skyline. While there, have lunch or dinner at one of the on-site eateries. The harbor area has plenty of other eating and drinking options to choose from, such the Art Nouveau Hotel New York, located in the former headquarters of the Holland America Line.
Day 2: Old and New Rotterdam
Spend your second morning on a walking tour of Rotterdam, which tend to cover its modern architecture and reveal pre- and post-WWII history that you’re unlikely to find in the guidebook. Explore Piet Blom’s bizarre Cube Houses and get transported back several centuries in tiny Delfshaven, a classic Dutch district crammed with gabled houses and warehouses that escaped the bombing raids of World War II. Make sure you save time to pop into the 15th-century Oude Kerk (Old Church).
Afterward, discover the delights of Dutch cuisine on a private culinary tour, which can be tailored to your dietary requirements and preferences. Food-themed tours typically visit the Kruiskade and Chinatown neighborhoods, as well as the Market Hall (Markthal). Staple samples tend to include pickled herring,Stroopwafel, and krokets.
Day 3: Boats and Bulbs
Take a ferry across the River Maas from Willemsplein to the steamship SS Rotterdam, which was once the glamorous flagship of the Holland America Line. It’s been thoroughly dusted down and is now open for tours of the engine room, bow, and bridge.
If you’re visiting in spring, take a full-day tour to see the spring bulb fields around Lisse and Keukenhof, one of the world’s biggest flower gardens. Tours typically include free time to admire the vast carpets of flowers, explore themed gardens, and absorb the color and fragrance of millions of tulips, daffodils, and hyacinths. If you’re visiting out of season, see another icon of the Dutch landscape by taking the Waterbus to the UNESCO-listed windmills and polders of Kinderdijk. Back in Rotterdam, head to the buzzing warehouses of Westelijk Handelsterrein for dinner and late-night clubbing.