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
- 2. Walk along Rotterdam’s harbour
- 3. Visit the Cube Houses
- 4. Walk along the Erasmus Bridge
- 5. Go to Het Park
- 6. Catch a train at Rotterdam Centraal Station
- 7. Get on board the SS Rotterdam
- 8. Check out a food hall
- 9. Visit Hotel New York
- 10. Visit TREK: a food festival
- 11. Visit the historical Delfshaven and Pelgrimvederskerk
- 12. Go and see Het Havenmuseum (the Harbour Museum)
- 13. Attend World Harbour Days
- 14. Relax at Luchtsingel
- 15. Purchase a Rotterdam Pass
- 16. Discover the Kabouter Buttplug
- 17. Admire the street art of Rotterdam
- 18. Go on a free walking tour
- 19. Visit Leeszaal Rotterdam West
- 20. See the Floating Forest
- 21. Explore the Witte de Withstraat
- 22. Walk around the Koopgoot and Lijnbaan
- 23. Relax at the Kralingse Plas
- 24. Stroll along the Oude Haven
- Things to do in Rotterdam with kids
- Things to do in Rotterdam when it rains
1. Explore the Markthal
The Markthal is home to all of the amazing food that you can possibly 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
Okay, so while Rotterdam is not all harbour, it’s pretty damn big (the biggest in Europe, in fact), 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
If you’re on your way to the Markthal, then you’ll hardly fail to miss these. 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. 🏘
To see what it would be like to live in a cube house, you can visit the cube house museum. 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
“The Swan” is the iconic bridge of Rotterdam, connecting the northern and southern parts of the city. 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
If you’re looking for some big open space, then Rotterdam is the right place for you. 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 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.
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, and 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 any spare euros at all, 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.
Tip: TREK Rotterdam will take place on 11-14 May 2023!
💰 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 a lot of the old city got 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 turned into a Protestant church 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!
READ MORE | 10 unique things about Rotterdam
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.
READ MORE | 31 unmissable things to do in Rotterdam in 2023
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.
READ MORE | 16 hidden places Rotterdam you have to visit
This statue has travelled all around the city, where it was first displayed near the De Doelen building, then moved on to the courtyard of the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, 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, and this really gives you all the information you need to enjoy the streets of Rotterdam truly. 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 under no obligation to return it, but you do have the option of leaving 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
21. Explore the Witte de Withstraat
Integrate with Rotterdam culture by taking a walk through the Witte de Withstraat. This district is the number 1 place for art and nightlife in Rotterdam, spanning from Sciedamse Vest to Eendrachtsweg, making it a popular place if you want to be in the middle of the cultural centre of the city.
Whether you’re looking for art, nightlife, or sightseeing, this district can accommodate your preferences, offering several museums, art galleries, restaurants, bars, and parks along the way. And needless to say, it is completely free to walk around and enjoy this artistic street (unless you stop for a cheeky beer, of course).
💰 Price: Free
📍 Location: Witte de Withstraat, Rotterdam
22. Walk around the Koopgoot and Lijnbaan
The famous shopping area in Rotterdam would be the Koopgoot and Lijnbaan, where you’ll see a lot of people strolling around and on the hunt for their next wish item.
There are no cars at both places, which makes it a nice and chill walk. Koopgoot and Lijnbaan are also connected to each other, making it easy to get around.
And who says you have to actually buy anything? There is a typical Dutch phrase that goes ‘Kijken, kijken, niet kopen,’ which means that you can look, just not buy. Window shopping can be fun, and you can always come back next time you feel like spending a bit of money. 🛍️ The Koopgoot and Lijnbaan won’t be going anywhere.
💰 Price: Free (unless you decide to shop until you drop) 😉
📍 Location: Beurstraverse 186, 3012 AT Rotterdam
23. Relax at the Kralingse Plas
Want a little break from the busy city? Head over to the Kralingse Plas, where there is plenty of space to bask in the sun, read a book on the grass, or spend a warm afternoon with friends or family.
Kralingse Plas is surrounded by Kralingse Bos, which is a wooded park that surrounds the Kralingse Park Lake. There is so much to do in this green forest! You’ll find people barbecuing, tanning, walking, cycling, going to the petting zoo, or even swimming in the lake (perfect for those scorching warm days during the summer). If you’re here until the evening, you can also marvel at a beautiful pink sunset — get those Instagram-worthy pictures! 🌅
💰 Price: Free
📍 Location: Langepad 2, 3062 CJ Rotterdam
24. Stroll along the Oude Haven
You cannot leave Rotterdam until you have visited Oude Haven, located in the Maritime District, with its beautiful historic ships. This is one of the most popular places among Rotterdammers to eat, drink, and dance, as it offers an abundance of restaurants, bars, and terraces. On those summer days, the terraces are fully booked until late at night.
What makes this area so special is that it is the first harbour in Rotterdam where you can find historic buildings, such as the Witte Huis. And no, we’re not talking about the White House in Washington, DC. 😉 In 1898, this 45-meter-high office building was the first skyscraper in Europe — think of that next time you’re sipping a drink and enjoying the remarkable view!
💰 Price: Free (unless you want to get a drink)
📍 Location: Oude Haven, Rotterdam
Things to do in Rotterdam with kids
Stuck for things to do with kids in Rotterdam? Apart from some of the things listed above, there are plenty of parks and walks that you can do with children in and around the city.
There are a lot of cinemas too, so maybe you could catch a kid-friendly movie with your family. 🍿 Rotterdam also has an amazing zoo (Blijdorp Zoo) and plenty of museums with children-friendly sections.
Things to do in Rotterdam when it rains
There are a ton of things to do outside, but what about inside? Like we said above, Rotterdam has many museums (think the Museum pass!) — the perfect place to go to on a rainy day.
Rotterdam is also a great place for shopping. For example, Zuidplein Mall and Alexandrium Mall, along with plenty of shops and restaurants in the city centre. Who doesn’t love a bite to eat and a shopping spree? 🛍
Looking for more things to do in Rotterdam? Check these out!
Where’s your favourite place in Rotterdam? Tell us in the comments below!
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in January 2020, and was fully updated in May 2023 for your reading pleasure.