16 hidden places in Rotterdam you have to visit

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!

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1. 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.

photo-of-Cafe-de-Riddert-bar-in-rotterdam
This bar takes gezellig to a whole new level. Image: Cafe De Riddert/Supplied

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 say three really do make a crowd.

2. Park Schoonoord: for Rotterdam nature views

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!

READ MORE | A guide to 11 beautiful national parks in the Netherlands

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 over 250 years old!

You can even adopt one of the trees, and no — you can’t carve your name in it.

Photo-of-Schoonoord-pond-in-rotterdam
This is something straight out of Lord of The Rings. Image: Yoreh Schipper/Supplied

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.

3. Eiland van Brienenoord (island of Brienenoord): escape to the highlands

Close to the Feyenoord football stadium, an exit leads to a tiny bridge. This bridge will take you to Brienenoord Island. An island with forest, open waters, and Scottish Highlanders.

Photo-of-Brienenoord Island-in-Rotterdam
This little bridge will take you to Brienenoord Island. Image: Yoreh Schipper/Supplied

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, full of nature.

Shrubbery-in-Brienenoord-island-near-Rotterdam
So beautiful! Image: Yoreh Schipper/Supplied

Because of the bridge and the noise of the cars, it may not be the perfect place for some quiet nature, but you do get some nice skyline views.

4. Restaurant Gare Du Nord train wagon: a vegan restaurant in Rotterdam

This is one of those hidden places, and you only find it if you are vegan or if you have watched way too many Thomas the Tank Engine episodes. We found this place when we were looking for a good pub-crawl route.

READ MORE | 15 delicious vegan restaurants in Amsterdam

You’ll find Gare Du Nord just behind the old Hofplein train station. Even though this place might sound fancy, it’s not expensive.

Just make sure you make a reservation if you are going for dinner. If you feel like a rebel and want to eat a sandwich on a train, this is for you.

5. Hofplein train station rooftop in Rotterdam: a beautiful garden

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.

READ MORE | 6 delicious places to get vegan food in The Hague in 2023

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.

If you always wanted to walk over train tracks without being hit, this is your chance! Rotterdam plans to convert all the old Hofplein train tracks into a 1.2 km long park, just like they did in New York.

This station is connected to the famous yellow pedestrian bridge “de Luchtsingel”, which also connects to the Biergarten.

6. Biergarten: for late night pints

Biergarten might be the least hidden spot on this list, and if you have lived here for more than 10 seconds, you will probably already know this place.

READ MORE | 14 best clubs in Amsterdam according to locals [2023 guide]

Normally, this is the first location we take our international friends to, as it’s close to Centraal Station and, in summer, is a great place to grab a drink and have some food.

Interior-of-Biergarten-in-Rotterdam-places-to-visit
Every seasoned resident and traveller in Rotterdam knows about the famous Biergarten. Image: Yoreh Schipper/Supplied

Clubs like Annabel surrounding the garden are closed during the day, but in the evening, everyone is mingling.

7. Noordereiland, Rotterdam: full of history and great views

You don’t have to go to Zeeland or the north to find islands — there is one in Rotterdam!

Noordereiland is floating between the north and south of Rotterdam and is connected by De Willemsbrug and Koninginnebrug.

While the island is officially part of the city’s south side and neighbourhood of Feijenoord, people keep debating whether it is the “real” south. Noordereiland, therefore, remains stuck in the middle.

Skyline-of-rotterdam-south
Noordereiland is situated on the river Maas. Image: Dominik Mecko/Unsplash

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 straight at the south side of the bridge for four days.

Even though 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.

READ MORE | Rotterdam is the coolest city — and these epic pics prove it

Next to the island’s rich history, it has great views and locations to take pictures. On the north side, you will have a great skyline view in front of the historical houses. On the west side, you’ll find a unique angle of the Maastoren and Erasmusbrug.

Did you know they have their own flag? The Rotterdam flag is horizontal green white stripes with a heart added in the middle.

So, bring your camera or a book and put on “Stuck in the Middle” by Jimmy Eat World or “Stuck in the middle with you” by Stealers Wheelers (pun intended).

8. Pedestrian Maastunnel: a 1.2 kilometre walk under Rotterdam

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 sunk into the water after.

Next to the car tunnel, the city built a cyclist and pedestrian tunnel. 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!

Maastunnel-on-Valentine's-Day-places-to-visit-in-rotterdam
Maastunnel on Valentine’s Day. Image: Yoreh Schipper/Supplied

9. Merchant Marine Memorial and park at Boompjes: for historical remembrance

This is one of our favourite places to relax in summer. Next to the Merchant Memorial for all fallen sailors during WWII, the city built a little park with many colourful flowers and plants.

The park’s official name is “Ze Hielden Koers” park, meaning “they kept course.”

READ MORE | Architecture in Rotterdam: 11 buildings that prove Rotterdam is the best

The park is easy to find, right next to Erasmusbrug. 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.

View-from-Ze-Hielden-Stand-Park
View from Ze Hielden Stand Park. Image: Yoreh Schipper/Supplied

Make sure you go to the restroom before going to the park; it’s quite a walk to the nearest one.

10. Heemraadssingel: take a romantic stroll in Rotterdam

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 brook), you can find historic houses and artwork. If you can read Dutch, you’ll enjoy the explanation texts that were stuck on little electric houses along the water.

Canal-and-park-areas-in-heemraadsingel-in-rotterdam
A rare shot of sunny Rotterdam from Heemraadsingel. Image: Yoreh Schipper/Supplied

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!

Enter the walk from the south side at metro station Coolhaven or the north side at Beukelsdijk.

Canal-and-park-areas-in-heemraadsingel-in-rotterdam
Someone put this in a tourism pamphlet ASAP! Image: Yoreh Schipper/Supplied

11. Hotel bar at De Rotterdam: for some fancy cocktails

Take the elevator to the seventh floor of De Rotterdam to enjoy even greater free skyline views. The fancy Nhow hotel bar has crazy expensive food, but it’s a great place for a few drinks. Also, a good area to party at night.

Tip: Cross the street and buy food at the new food halls. 

12. Rotterdam’s townhall garden: for quiet reflection

Would we be right if we said that you probably hadn’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. The garden is pretty small, but hey, it is not about size. It is about the kind of sandwich you bring. Amazingly, this kind of silence is hidden in the city’s centre.

13. Vessel 11: views by the docks in Rotterdam

Did you know that all small harbours and docks in the centre of Rotterdam are named after what they used to import and export? Veerhaven (feather), Bierhaven (beer), and Wijnhaven (wine). Guess what they brew? Right, beer!

British red lightship floating in Wijnhaven was turned into a bar and restaurant with English food.

A-bright-red-ship-parked-in-a-canal-in-Rotterdam
It’s very difficult to miss Vessel 11 in the canals. Image: Yoreh Schipper/Supplied

You can sit outside on the deck in summer, but if it is colder, just cosy 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.

The bar is close to the Maritime Museum and Stad Zonder Hart WWII memorial statue. Get to this bar by leaving the metro at Beurs.

Hot-tubs-for-rent-at-Vessel-11-in-rotterdam
Anyone up for a boating trip? We know we are. Image: Yoreh Schipper/Supplied

14. Keerweer, Rotterdam: for inclusivity

Keerweer is a bar that you visit for a few reasons:

  • It’s an LGBTQ+ friendly bar;
  • They’re open in the late afternoon, and we don’t even know when they close — or if they have a closing time;
  • The bar is small and cosy, and the music is amazing (if you love guilty pleasure songs from the 80s and 90s);
  • It’s free! (except for the restrooms and coats on weekends);
  • The bartenders are 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.

15. Dakpark: An evening of epic tunes in Rotterdam

We’ll take you to the west part of town for this location. The M4H area is full of old renovated buildings that store artists, musicians, and creative and innovative concepts.

The neighbourhood used to be notorious for men roaming the streets, seeking a lady to satisfy them for five minutes. Mark our 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 nice place to relax if you happen to be in the neighbourhood.

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.

Just take the metro to Marconiplein, or park in the underground garage at Vierhavenstraat 79. 

16. Keilecafe in Rotterdam: a pop-up that stayed

We’re still in the M4H area for this last stop. Keilecafe started as a temporary outside pop-up bar, but when we noticed the bar was still there in mid-winter, we 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.

What’s your favourite place in Rotterdam? Did you find some new spots on the list? Let us know in the comments below!

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in May 2019 and was fully updated in August 2023 for your reading pleasure.

Feature Image:Depositphotos
Yoreh Schipper
Yoreh Schipperhttps://www.cameradeals.nl
Born in Utrecht, but when I was 5 months old, I told my mom we should move to Rotterdam. We did, and I have lived there ever since. I travel the world writing, filming, making and releasing music and running a camera comparison website.

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