The second largest city in the Netherlands and the largest port in Europe, Rotterdam is often a gateway to other parts of the continent. However, do not just quickly pass through to another destination! Spend some time discovering the rich history and maritime of Rotterdam, and you will surely be pleasantly surprised. The vibrant city has a lot to offer visitors—there are fascinating World War II monuments, historical windmills, beautiful beaches, and fantastic hotels in Rotterdam (try the NH Atlanta Rotterdam or the Hilton Rotterdam.) There are also these five must-see tourist attractions:
1. The Delfshaven
Once the actual seaport for the old city of Delft, the Delfshaven district now acts as an open-air museum. Take a leisurely stroll along the quaint, shop and house-lined streets to see what Holland was like in the 1600’s. Famous photo ops include Piet Heynstraat, a street named for the venerable Fleet Admiral Piet Heijn, and the working mill of Korenmolen de Distilleerketel. A particular point of historical interest is that in 1620, the Delfshaven was the departure point for Pilgrims bound for America. They left the port on the Speedwell, and were eventually transferred to the Mayflower. The district’s old church (the Pelgrimskerk, or “Pilgrim Fathers Church”) is still a great place to visit.
2. The Arboretrum Trompenburg
If you feel the need to escape the hustle and bustle of the city, head to Rotterdam’s Arboretrum Trompenburg. The beautiful botanical garden covers 17 acres (7 hectares) of manicured parkland dating all the way back to the early 19th century. Various trees and shrubs, some imported from far-off lands, mingle to create a serene and romantic atmosphere. As the seasons change, so do the attractions within the Arboretrum Trompenburg. The garden’s springtime bulbs are especially lovely.
3. Blijdorp Zoo
Also simply referred to as “Rotterdam Zoo,” Blijdorp is one of the oldest zoos in Europe. The sprawling compound dates back more than 150 years, and is to this day one of Rotterdam’s premier attractions. It is especially popular among those visiting with children; however, guests of all ages are sure to have a wonderful time. Highlights include the exotic animal exhibits—check out the African giraffes and elephants!—and Blijdorp’s famous Oceanarium. The underwater shark tunnel, giant turtles and child-friendly penguin feeding demonstrations are major draws.
4. The Euromast
An imposing tower stretching 185 metres (607 foot) high, the Euromast is an iconic part of Rotterdam’s urban skyline. It has been a major focal point since 1960, when the tower was completed. Adventurous visitors should not merely marvel at the tower from the ground; instead, board the exhilarating space-ride simulator that will transport you to the very top of the Euromast! Once there, you will be greeted by breathtaking views of Rotterdam—and by the tantalizing menus of the Panorama Restaurant. As one of the city’s most famous attractions, the Euromast is always very easy to find. It stands within Heuvel Park, near the famous Museumpark.
5. Railz Miniworld
Don’t have time to see the entire city of Rotterdam? Then do the next best thing—head to the Railz Miniworld! The unique attraction is actually a miniature replica of Rotterdam, built around the city’s main freight and passenger railway tracks. You can witness the action in the fashionable harbour district, and even see the time pass from day to night (the cycle runs over a course of 24 minutes, instead of 24 hours—thus recreating even an entire day in miniature!) Obviously an unmissable site for anyone who has played with model trains, the Railz Miniworld is the largest covered model harbour in Europe. It covers 500 square metres, and has more than 100 model trains traveling around 2km of tracks. There are also fully automatic model cars giving life to this tiny city.