Home The Netherlands 20 best and free things to do in Rotterdam in 2023

20 best and free things to do in Rotterdam in 2023

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Is Rotterdam your next destination, but you’re trying to stick to a budget? Or maybe you’re another Rotterdam resident who has fallen victim to the high rental costs and is looking to explore the city for free? (Or you just like a freebie. 😉)

Whatever your reasons, we’ve got you covered! Luckily, Rotterdam has plenty of free things to enjoy. So, without further ado, here are the 24 best things to do in Rotterdam in 2023 for free!

1. Explore the Markthal

art-rotterdam-market-hall
art-rotterdam-market-hall

The Markthal is home to all the amazing food you can imagine. This indoor market is an absolute must-see if you are in Rotterdam! Inside, you’ll find a variety of different food stalls, shops and restaurants.

The Markthal also has a variety of different living spaces along the outside. Yup — people live in there! Thankfully for the resident, the ceilings are so high that you can’t actually peak into the houses. But they sure can spy on you. 👀

💰 Price: Free (unless you want to stop to eat or drink something)
📍 Location: Verlengde Nieuwstraat, 3011 GM Rotterdam

2. Walk along Rotterdam’s harbour

Rotterdam port
Rotterdam port

Okay, so while Rotterdam is not all harbour, it’s pretty damn big (the biggest in Europe), and some of it is really beautiful. 🛳 If you start at Oude Habour and cross the road, you can walk all along the front until you reach the Erasmus bridge (more on this landmark site below).

Once you’ve crossed it, you can then continue along the edge of the cruise terminal and walk to the Hotel New York. From there, you could carry on walking along the harbour front all the way up to the SS Rotterdam.

Not only is it free, but it keeps you fit, and it’s a beautiful walk on a summer’s day. Or, like a real Dutchie, you swing yourself onto a bike and cycle instead! 🚲

💰 Price: Free
📍 Location: Port of Rotterdam

3. Visit the Cube Houses

rotterdam-cube-houses
rotterdam-cube-houses

You’ll hardly fail to miss these if you’re on your way to the Markthal. The iconic cube houses of Rotterdam dominate the scenery here. It’s the perfect Instagram shot and the ideal place to take a wander.

Walk up the steps and go for a stroll there — you’ll find a few cute shops, a museum, a hostel, and people’s houses — yup, people actually live in these. 🏘

You can visit the cube house museum to see what it would be like to live in a cube house. The museum is essentially a showhouse, demonstrating what the insides of the cube houses actually look like.

You pay a few euros at the door, and then you can go and look around. Check it out!

💰 Price: Free (unless you want to see what it looks like inside)
📍 Location: Overblaak 70, 3011MH Rotterdam

4. Walk along the Erasmus Bridge

rotterdam-erasmusbrug-Erasmus-Bridge
rotterdam-erasmusbrug-Erasmus-Bridge

“The Swan” is the iconic Rotterdam bridge, connecting the city’s northern and southern parts. I love walking across the bridge because of the view. At night it’s especially nice as the bridge lights up and so do the houses and offices around it.

Prewarning: if you’re looking to check these sights out by bike, make sure that it’s not too windy! Paddling your bike across the Erasmus Bridge on a stormy day, reeeaaalllyyy isn’t fun. 😅

💰 Price: Free
📍 Location: Erasmusbrug, 3011 BN Rotterdam

5. Go to Het Park

Het-Park
Het-Park

Rotterdam is the right place for you if you’re looking for some big open space. Het Park by the Euromast is just one of those places, and the walk to and from the park is just beautiful (if you’re lost, just head for the Euromast — you can’t miss it).

There’s plenty of green space to sit down, read a book, or sunbathe — and you can feed the ducks on the lake. It’s a quiet place away from the hustle and bustle of the city, which is much needed sometimes.

💰 Price: Free
📍 Location: Baden Powelllaan 2, 3016 GJ Rotterdam

6. Catch a train at Rotterdam Centraal Station

Rotterdam-Centraal-Station-building
Rotterdam-Centraal-Station-building

Rotterdam central station, in my opinion, is the most impressive part of Rotterdam — it’s an architectural masterpiece.

The inside is impressive enough, but when you walk outside the front entrance, you’ll find yourself surrounded by all those different and funky skyscrapers. 🏙 When you turn around, you’ll see Rotterdam Central Station in all its glory.

The area is beautiful and the perfect place to go for a wander. There is some cool graffiti and architecture as well, along with plenty of terraces to get that much-needed beverage after your walk.

💰 Price: Free
📍 Location: 3013 AJ Rotterdam

7. Get on board the SS Rotterdam

The SS Rotterdam is another absolute icon of the city. It was launched back in 1953 by Queen Juliana of the Netherlands. The ship sailed for 41 years until it stopped in 2000. 🚢

The SS Rotterdam was then restored and brought back to her home-harbour Rotterdam, where it was re-modelled as a hotel, restaurant, and event venue. You can enter completely for free and have a look around!

If you’re looking to spend some money, the SS Rotterdam has loads to offer on the culinary front. Afternoon tea? You can do that. Fine dining? You can do that. Greasy nachos and a beer outside? You can do that too. It’s certainly the go-to place in Rotterdam and a piece of living-breathing history.

💰 Price: Free (unless you want to eat and drink)
📍 Location: 3e Katendrechtse Hoofd 25, 3072 AM Rotterdam

8. Check out a food hall

There are a variety of food halls here in Rotterdam, and there’s nothing wrong with a little bit of window shopping! However, if you think you’re going to cave in and buy half of the place out, then maybe skip this one to guard your wallet. 😉

Fenix Food Factory — the most hipster place ever — is housed in an old port warehouse in Kadendrecht. Overall, the place has maintained its rustic charm, but it’s also been revamped to look trendy and up-and-coming. Cute little fairy lights and a nice outside space to have a beer and a burger make it the perfect destination for mild summer nights.

Another must-see food court is the reasonably new Foodhallen Rotterdam. The Pakhuis Meesteren, where it’s located, used to be a storage place for tea, nuts, and other colonial goods.

Now Pakhuis Meesteren houses many different food stalls…just when you thought the Markthal was the only good food place we’ve got. 😋

💰 Price: Free to walk around (unless you’re too tempted to get something to eat)
📍 Location: Nico Koomanskade 1025, 3072 LM Rotterdam

9. Visit Hotel New York

Hotel New York is the former head office of the Holland Amerika Line. This is where many people left for North America, hoping to find a better life. A lot has changed since then; the former headquarters has been transformed into a hotel and a restaurant/bar.

Hotel New York is THE place to stay in Rotterdam, and while the hotel certainly isn’t on the cheap side, the building and area around it are lovely. If you have spare euros, grab a drink and sit on the terraces. It gets busy in the summer, and it’s hard to find a seat, but it’s so worth it.

💰 Price: Free (unless you plan to stay)
📍 Location: Koninginnenhoofd 1, 3072 AD Rotterdam

10. Visit TREK: a food festival

Festival TREK is free and takes place every year near the summertime close to Blijdorp Zoo, a beautiful park. Think really cool food trucks, performances, cocktails, shisha bars, fairy lights and a really chill vibe.

Of course, it’s not totally free if you’re going to want to buy something (which you are), but you can make it as cheap or as expensive as you’d like.

💰 Price: Free (unless you get something to eat)
📍 Location: 3039 KB Rotterdam, Netherlands

11. Visit the historical Delfshaven and Pelgrimvederskerk

If you know about the history of Rotterdam, you will know that many of the old city was flattened by bombs in 1940. The neighbourhood of Delfshaven is one of the few parts of the historical city that actually survived.

Visiting this neighbourhood treats you to old Dutch canal houses and a beautiful yacht marina. You can visit antique stores, beer breweries, small art galleries, and restaurants here!

But the most interesting part of this buurt is its history: it was originally Delft’s harbour before becoming a part of Rotterdam in the 19th century. The people who lived there survived by fishing for herring and making the famous Dutch gin Jenever.

This neighbourhood is also home to the Pelgrimvaderskerk (Pilgrim Father’s Church), which dates back to 1417. It was originally a Roman Catholic Church, which later became Protestant in 1574.

Also, Delvtshaven was the port from where the Pilgrim Fathers sailed to Southampton in England and then boarded the Mayflower that sailed to the Americas.

💰 Price: Free
📍 Location: Delfshaven, Rotterdam

12. Go and see Het Havenmuseum (the Harbour Museum)

You might have heard of the Maritiem Museum at the harbour (which you should seriously consider exploring), but did you know there is an open-air, freely accessible part called Het Havenmuseum?

It is located at Leuvehaven 50 and is right next to the Maritiem Museum. You can see the history of the port of Rotterdam from 1850 onwards all the way to 1970. It is also possible to walk into most of the ships docked there, and discover what they look like from the inside!

💰 Price: Free
📍 Location: Leuvehaven 1, 3011 EA Rotterdam, Netherlands

13. Attend World Harbour Days

The World Port Days, or the Wereldhavendagen, takes place every year in Rotterdam (this time in September 2023)! It’s a three-day festival with demonstrations and tours of companies that operate in and around the harbour.

There are several activities for the visitors of the festival to enjoy, like the Royal Dutch Navy helicopter shows, boat races on the river Maas, diving demonstrations and more! The Dutch police and fire brigade also participate, showcasing everything they have to show off.

💰 Price: Free
📍 Location: Wilhelminakade 901, 3072 AR Rotterdam, Netherlands

14. Relax at Luchtsingel

If you look at a satellite image of Rotterdam from above, you will be able to spot a weird, bright yellow line running from Rotterdam North to the centre. That’s Luchtsingel!

The yellow, wooden bridge is right around the corner from the central station, and you walk around the 390 m-long wooden pedestrian bridge.

On it, you will also find the DakAkker — a harvestable roof where vegetables, fruits and herbs are grown; the Roof Hofplein, which acts as a small public venue space for events; and the park at Pompenburg, where you can relax when the sun is shining.

💰 Price: Free
📍 Location: Rotterdam

15. Purchase a Rotterdam Pass

This one is a little too hard to believe: buying the Rotterdam Pass lets you do almost 750 free or discounted things in and around the city. You can go play a game of laser tag, go to one of the many museums at a discounted price, or even grab some pancakes!

The best part is that it’s valid for a whole year! The year always starts on March 1 and until the end of February! You only pay 60 euros for the pass or 12.50 euros (!) if you’re a student.

And we all love our discounts, don’t we? Check out their blogs on what other people have done with this pass for some ideas, or just go to their shop to know what’s on discount or free! You can get this pass at the central library at Blaak or order it online.

💰 Price: Free
📍 Location: Hoogstraat 110, 3011 PV Rotterdam

16. Discover the Kabouter Buttplug

One of the most beloved public art pieces in Rotterdam: is the Kabouter Buttplug. This one deserves a special mention, not because of its aesthetic prowess, but for the idea artist Paul McCarthy had in mind when creating it.

The L.A.-based contemporary artist is known for his provocative art pieces, which send the faint-hearted into a frenzy. This sculpture is nothing less: it’s supposed to be a tribute to Christmas, with Santa Claus holding a bell in one hand, and what is supposed to be a Christmas tree in the other hand. But, as you can see in the picture below, it looks far from a festive tree.

This statue has travelled all around the city, where it was first displayed near the De Doelen building, then moved on to the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen courtyard, following resistance from many people due to the sexualisation of Mr Claus.

Finally, it was moved to Eendrachtsplein, where it is still at home today.

💰 Price: Free
📍 Location: Eendrachtsplein, 3012 LA Rotterdam

17. Admire the street art of Rotterdam

Exploring the city by hunting for street art is one of the best ways to see it. Rewriters Rotterdam has come up with an app that guides you through the city, giving you the context and relevance of each street art piece. This way, the whole city becomes a sort of open-air museum!

You can download the app for just 99 cents, which gives you all the information you need to truly enjoy the streets of Rotterdam. Curious but not yet willing to dish out? They also offer a free map you can use as well without downloading the app. 🧭

💰 Price: Free
📍 Location: All over the city — check out the app!

18. Go on a free walking tour

If you don’t particularly care about street art, you can join a free walking tour of the city that starts at the Markthal. You are taken around the city by true Rotterdammers who will tell you a little bit about everything you need to know: Erasmus of Rotterdam, World War II, the quirky architecture, and the port.

There is no better way of getting to know the city because the tours are organised by volunteers who truly love living here. You can book a spot for a tour at their website where you can see just why it is worth taking it!

💰 Price: Free
📍 Location: Your choice of where to begin and where to end — book a spot for directions on where to go!

19. Visit Leeszaal Rotterdam West

The Leeszaal or the Reading Room really is a special place. Here, you can borrow books without applying for a library card. Did you love the book you borrowed? You can keep it! You are not obligated to return it, but you can leave behind any book you have already read yourself.

What’s more, the Leeszaal offers a lovely space where you can go to read, write, or meet interesting people from the neighbourhood.

💰 Price: Free
📍 Location: Rijnhoutplein 3, 3014 TZ Rotterdam

20. See the Floating Forest

You can spot this floating forest at Rijnhaven, where there are miniature trees seemingly growing out of the Maas. There are as many as 20 trees right now floating around on the river, waiting for you to grab a seat at the many benches on the riverside, and watch them bounce around!

The floating forest has been around since 2016, so if you haven’t seen it yet, you’re definitely missing out on a very fun free thing to experience in Rotterdam.

💰 Price: Free
📍 Location: Buizengat, 3063 AA Rotterdam

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