Welcome to another edition of Travel Like A Local! This week’s edition is brought to you by Zoe of the blog Together in Transit. This post is all about Rotterdam in the Netherlands, and is all about the best things to do, places to eat, touristy activities and off the beaten track places to discover. If you want a local’s help in planning your trip to Rotterdam, this is the guide for you!
Hi Zoe tell us a bit about yourself!
Hey I’m Zoe and I am an expat in the Netherlands! I left my home country of the UK at 18 for love, as I had met a very tall handsome Dutch guy living in Rotterdam. I moved here to be together after living long distance for 4 years and to also start and finish my degree, so it was a great start learning the city I would finally live in. Even though I still call myself an expat, I think I can definitely class myself as a local.
How long did you live in Rotterdam for?
I have lived in Rotterdam since 2012, which I can’t believe is already 6 years! My partner and I moved to a new apartment last year and I can definitely see ourselves still living here in 10 years’ time.
What are your favourite places to eat?
Some of my most favorite places to eat are a range of different price ranges so I’ll start with the most affordable.
Rotown is a local bar and restaurant combined. They have a seasonal menu full of healthy lunches and dinners with fish, meat and vegetarian options. It’s a place you could easily eat once a week at. Plenty of choices but I always choose my favorite cheese and tomato omelet with fresh white bread slices and a side salad. Prices range from 10 – 20 EUR per person.
This diner is new to Rotterdam since the end of December, but I can already say my first trip will not be my last. From specialty burgers to a delicious steak with salad you can immerse yourself in the American style cuisine. What I love about here is that they use local produce and high quality meats! Prices range from 15 – 45 EUR per person.
If you are looking for a slice of apple pie, Dudok in Rotterdam are famous for it! Together with whipped cream you will be amazed as the delicious taste. It’s great to visit during an afternoon of shopping, for a slice of cake and a cup of tea or coffee. It´s so popular you can also buy slices and whole pies at some specific supermarkets and at Rotterdam Central train station from their bakery shop. Prices from 5 – 10 EUR per person.
This is a top restaurant if you enjoy meat/cheese fondues and steak, They have a great range of quality meats that you can choose from and then you can cook on hot stone yourself! It´s a great place to eat with a group but also romantically with loved ones. Prices range from 17.50 to 100 EUR per person.
Do you have a favourite place to study or work?
As a student, my favorite place to study was at the local Library, the perfect place to find a quite spot as well as to work in groups on a project. But these days for working on my website I often find myself with a warm drink at one of the many cafés you can find on the Witte de Withstraat, a hip street full of unique and specialized stores.
What about when you want to relax? Do you have a favourite relaxing spot?
If I want to relax in this busy city, I typically get out in the nature on my bike. Rotterdam has many parks such as the park near the famous Euromast viewpoint tower and the Kralingsebos lake park. These parks are easily reachable and if the sun is shining it´s a great place to take a picnic.
What is your favourite activity or thing to do in Rotterdam?
Since I have lived here for just under 6 years I have done all the touristic things you can think of. So these days my favorite thing is to just stay active by walking to explore new graffiti, to the local market and to the latest hotspots. I’m an active fitbit user who loves walking different new routes for those 10k steps, as well as visiting the local swimming pool, gyms and cycling on my race bike.
Do you have a favourite photo spot?
For photos in Rotterdam, there are so many great places to go and see that it’s pretty hard to pick just one place! One place that comes to mind is that you must not skip the Erasmus Bridge, the famous white swan of Rotterdam. Walking along the water’s edge during the day as well as night near the bridge gives you a great skyline photo. If you’re lucky and visiting Rotterdam during a national public holiday or special event, the bridge often has a different colour at night!
When is the best time to visit Rotterdam?
I think Dutch people would agree when I say the best time would be in the summer months, as the city becomes alive with café areas outside and usually the best weather to explore on a bike! However it´s of course it’s also the busiest months as literally everyone will be outside soaking up the sunshine. However don’t be discouraged to travel in Spring, Autumn or Winter as everything is still open but just a little colder or wetter!
What’s one “touristy” thing in Rotterdam everyone should actually do?
One of the top touristy things that you visit in Rotterdam is to explore the indoor Markthal, a unique horseshoe shaped building that has been open since 2014. Once inside, you are greeted with up to 100 market stalls and a beautifully coloured ceiling. As a local, it´s not a place I go very often as they do have some very unique products which can be rather expensive but it’s a must see as a tourist.
What’s one “off the beaten track” place people don’t normally know about but should know about?
Hidden away behind the busy shopping street is a delicious cookie dough bar! Baker’s Dough is the latest foodie concept to the Netherlands where you can eat raw cookie dough and combine it with ice cream and toppings of your choice. They have a range of dough, including vegan and gluten free, and you can top it with a choice of more than 16 healthy (and totally unhealthy) toppings and syrup! It’s cookie dough heaven!
Any tips or tricks on how to navigate Rotterdam?
Arriving in Rotterdam is fairly easy to reach via the Rotterdam Airport as well as direct trains from Amsterdam and the main airport Schiphol. Once you have arrived, getting around by with a top up card is easy as you can use the same card on the metro, trams and buses. However the best way to explore the city is by bike, so it´s best to hire one during your stay!
Any tips on how to visit Rotterdam like a local so that travellers reading this can blend in?
If you are looking to blend in to locals in Rotterdam, be yourself. Rotterdam is such an international city that you will fit right in with your camera and travel bags. To really fit in, don’t worry about asking the wrong things and be direct with what you are asking as that’s typically Dutch. (more on this later on!)
What is the best area in Rotterdam to stay in? Any specific hotels you can recommend?
Unfortunately I cannot recommend any specific hotels in Rotterdam as I have not stayed in any. However for the best areas as a tourist, I would definitely recommend to stay on the northern side of the river anywhere between Rotterdam Central train station and the Noordereiland as you will be closest to the city center. With good metro and tram connections Kop van Zuid also is a great place to stay.
What do you love most about your city?
The thing I love most about the city is the people. As a British person, the Dutch have some unique qualities such as being more direct and really saying things how they mean. This directness is something I have gotten used to over the years and it´s actually something I miss when visiting family and friends back home. But I love it and makes everyone here friendly.
If I had to guess, I would also say 90% of Dutch people would love and very willing to speak English to you to help, such as if you are lost or misunderstand something in restaurant. As a tourist you can definitely get around the city easily with the help of the locals.
Have you been to Rotterdam before? How did you find it? Let us know in the comments below!