You’ve devoured all the Rotterdam top 20 lists and think you have seen everything the city has to offer? Well no, no, no, dear friend — we’re pretty sure we can reveal some hidden gems of this amazing city that you haven’t seen before.
This list of 16 hidden places in Rotterdam will take you across all corners of the city and the best part? Most of the locations on the list are free!
Café De Riddert: the smallest bar in Rotterdam
Do you remember that time you were so drunk you fell over? Well, probably not. In any case, Café de Riddert is so small this wouldn’t even be possible! This brown café, just around the corner from Centraal Station, offers special beers, whiskeys, and live music. The beer casks are stored underneath the floor, so it happens quite often that you have to step away from the bar to make room for the floor to open up — it’s magical! For this bar, we can really state: three make a crowd.
Rotterdam has three famous parks to the north side of the river: Vroesenpark, Kralingse Bos, and Het Park (a.k.a. the Euromast park). But did you know that next to Het Park, behind a little stream, some trees, and a fence, you can find a little park called Schoonoord? Walk past its gates and find yourself in a big garden dating back to the year 1706!
This place used to be someone’s backyard but now it’s open and free to visit for everyone. The park has a beautiful pond, a botanical garden, birds, and trees that are more than 250 years old! You can even adopt one of the trees, and no — you can’t carve your name in it.
I would say this is the perfect place to take your date and have a glass of wine. Just make sure it’s a day-drinking date because the park closes at 4:30 pm.
Eiland van Brienenoord (Island of Brienenoord)
Close to the Feyenoord football stadium, there is an exit that leads to a tiny bridge. This bridge will take you to Brienenoord Island. An island with forest, open waters, and Scottish Highlanders.
The animals are tame so you can walk next to them. Just don’t feed these furry friends! Have you seen that Gremlins movie? Well, then you’ll know what happens if you feed them.
Halfway through the island, you’ll find little cottages with gardens full of veggies and plants. Walking underneath the Brienenoord bridge is quite impressive and a huge contrast with the rest of the island which is full of nature. Because of the bridge and the noise of the cars, it may not the perfect place for some quiet nature but you do get some nice skyline views.
Restaurant Gare Du Nord train wagon: vegan restaurant
This is one of those places that is really hidden and you only find it if you are vegan or if you have watched way too many Thomas the Tank Engine episodes. In all honesty, I found this place when I was looking for a good pub-crawl route.
Even though this place might sound fancy, it’s not really expensive. Just make sure you make a reservation if you are going for dinner. So, if you feel like a rebel and want to eat a sandwich on a train, this is the place for you. You’ll find Gare Du Nord just behind the old Hofplein train station.
Hofplein train station rooftop
After you’ve had your lovely hummus quinoa bean falafel potato herb burger, walk over to the old Hofplein train station to enjoy the view with a beer. This station is built on top of the old train tracks, where you will find a little garden growing herbs, fruits, veggies, and other plants. In summer you might even stumble upon an event.
Rotterdam is planning to convert all the old Hofplein train tracks into a 1.2 km long park, just like they did in New York. If you always had the desire to walk over train tracks without being hit, this is your chance! This station is connected to the famous yellow pedestrian bridge “de Luchtsingel”, which also connects to the Biergarten.
Biergarten & Op Het Dak
Biergarten might be the least hidden spot on this list and if you have lived here more than 10 seconds, you will probably already know this place. Normally, this is the first location I take my foreign friends, as it is really close to Centraal Station and in summer, a great place to grab a drink and have some food.
Additionally, this is one of the few places where instead of 33cl, you get half-litre beers. Finally, a place where they understand how to drink beer! Clubs like Annabel surrounding the garden are closed during the day but in the evening, everyone is mingling.
Inside, on top of the yellow stairs, you’ll see a sign that says “Entrance to Op Het Dak”. Of course, Dutch people LOVE stairs, so you only have to take seven more flights of stairs to the top of the building. There is an elevator, but in my experience, it’s just there to fool people. It never works and if it does it’s sooo slow! My dead grandma would out-shuffle that elevator. At the bar and restaurant on top, you have a great view of the city center. And again, you can find a garden that grows veggies and fruits.
Noordereiland: full of history and great views
You don’t have to go to Zeeland or the north of the country to find islands — there is one in Rotterdam! Noordereiland is floating in between the north and south of Rotterdam and is connected by De Willemsbrug and Koninginnebrug.
Whilst the island is officially part of the south side of the city and neighborhood “Feijenoord”, people keep debating about whether it is the “real” south. Noordereiland, therefore, remains stuck in the middle.
The island played a very important role at the beginning of World War II. When the German army caught the Dutch by surprise at the old Willemsbrug on May 10, 1940, the Dutch marines and army fought for four days straight at the south side of the bridge.
Despite the fact that the Dutch army was weak, surprised, and not modernized yet, the Dutch were able to keep the German forces from taking the bridges. Of course, this changed after the city bombardment on May 14, 1940.
Next to the rich history of the island, it has great views and locations to take pictures. On the west side, you’ll find a unique angle of the Maastoren and Erasmusbrug. On the north side, in front of the historical houses, you will have a great skyline view.
Did you know they have their own flag? It’s the Rotterdam flag: horizontal green white green stripes with a heart added in the middle. So, bring your camera or a book and put on “Stuck in the middle” by Jimmy Eatworld or “Stuck in the middle with you” by Stealers Wheelers (pun intended).
The Maastunnel is the oldest “sunken” tunnel in the Netherlands, opened in 1942 during World War II. The tunnel was built on the mainland and sunken into the water after. Next to the car tunnel, a cyclist and pedestrian tunnel were built. If you ever feel like walking 1.2 kilometres to the other side of the city for no reason, this tunnel could be your friend!
Merchant Marine Memorial and park at Boompjes
This is one of my favorite places to relax in summer. Next to the Merchant Memorial for all fallen sailors during WWII, the city built a little park with lots of colorful flowers and plants. The official name of the park is “Ze Hielden Koers” park, meaning “they kept course.”
It’s an amazing place to bring some drinks, friends, or dates, and sit on a bench whilst watching the sunset reflecting in the buildings. Make sure you go to the restroom before going to the park, it’s quite a walk to the nearest one. The park is easy to find: right next to Erasmusbridge.
The Heemraadssingel is a 1.5 kilometre long park in Delfshaven built around 1900. The stroll offers little bridges, different kinds of trees, birds, and lots of bird poo. On both sides of the singel (stream or brooke), you can find historic houses and some artworks. If you can read Dutch, you’ll enjoy the explanation texts that were stuck on little electric houses along the water.
Enter the walk from the south side at metro station Coolhaven or the north side at Beukelsdijk. The Heemraadssingel is only one of the many singels in Rotterdam. Some other singels are Noordsingel and Provinierssingel. Did you know that around 1900, Coolsingel used to look like these singels as well? Hence the name!
Nhow hotel bar at De Rotterdam
Take the elevator to the 7th floor of De Rotterdam to enjoy even greater free skyline views. The fancy Nhow hotel bar has crazy expensive food but for a few drinks, it’s a great place. Also, a good area to party in the night. Tip: cross the street and buy some food at the new food halls.
Would I be right if I said that you probably haven’t discovered this cosy garden yet? The town hall at Coolsingel, built between 1914 and 1920, has two entrances on both sides of the building to enter the garden. It’s a public space and free to enter. It’s just amazing that this kind of silence is hidden in the center of the city. The garden is pretty small, but hey, it is not about size, it is about the kind of sandwich you bring.
Did you know that all small harbors and docks in Rotterdam center are named after what they used to import and export? Veerhaven (feather), Bierhaven (beer), and Wijnhaven (wine). There is a British red lightship floating in Wijnhaven which was turned into a bar and restaurant with English food. Guess what they brew? Right, beer!
In summer you can sit outside on the deck, but if it is colder, just cozy up inside in the living room and order a home-brewed Ale, Lager, Stout or IPA. The bar rents out little floating hot tubs, so you can float around the canals in your swimsuit, whilst drinking an IPA. Get to this bar by leaving the metro at Beurs. Close to the Maritime Museum and Stad zonder hart WWII memorial statue.
Keerweer is a bar that you visit for a few reasons:
1. It’s a gay bar;
2. it opens in the late afternoon and I don’t even know when it closes. Man, I don’t even know if it has a closing time;
3. it’s small and cozy and the music is amazing (if you love guilty pleasure songs from the 80s and 90s);
4. it’s free! (except for the restrooms and coats on weekends);
5. the bartenders are really professional and nice.
The front entrance is at Keerweer 14 (Beurs/West-Blaak), but you can only enter through the back entrance. Which is funny, because it’s a gay bar.
For this location, I’ll take you all the way to the west part of town. The M4H area is full of old renovated buildings that store artists, musicians, and creative and innovative concepts. The neighborhood used to be notorious for men roaming the streets, seeking a lady that would satisfy them for five minutes. Mark my words, this area will be the new Katendrecht within 10 years. Meaning, there’s not too much yet, but it will bloom and boom soon!
One of the bigger projects is the Dakpark on top of a big shopping centre. A really nice place to relax if you happen to be in the neighborhood. Bring your children because in summer they turn on the water fountains! It has a rooftop restaurant, so you can always find restrooms and grab some beers. To get to the park just take the metro to Marconiplein, or, park your car in the garage beneath the park at Vierhavenstraat 79.
We’re still in the M4H area for this last stop. Keilecafe started as a temporary outside pop-up bar, but when I noticed the bar was still there in mid-winter, I knew it would stay as a sort of permanent festival. Drink, eat, dance, talk, or yoga away at one of the smallest permanent festivals in Rotterdam. Leave the metro at Marconiplein and walk towards Vierhavenstraat 46. It is right next to the Tango petrol station.
Did you find some new spots on the list? What’s your favourite place in Rotterdam? Let us know in the comments below!
Feature Image: Yoreh Schipper/Supplied
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in May 2019, and was fully updated in June 2021 for your reading pleasure.