The lifestyle in Rotterdam is varied and exciting, and there always seems to be something new to explore. Whether expats are in the mood to indulge in a shopping spree, dine on fine cuisine, dance the night away or all of the above, here are a few tips on making the most out of what Rotterdam has to offer.
Shopping in Rotterdam
There are plenty of opportunities to shop up a storm in Rotterdam. Two main open-air shopping streets characterise the city's shopping scene: Lijnbaan and Hoogstraat. These are connected by a sunken passage known colloquially as the "koopgoot" (literally "shopping gutter"). It's more than just a passageway, though, and visitors can indulge in even more shopping here as they cross from one street to the other.
These streets also link to the popular Markthal, a large futuristic building shaped like a horseshoe. Beneath the wide arch of the building, there's a market full of interesting tidbits and artisanal goods. Don't forget to look up – the underside of the arch is covered wall to wall by a massive artpiece called "Hoorn des Overvloeds" ("Horn of Plenty"). This is a great place to pop in for a snack or purchase mementos. Much to many a new arrival's surprise, the building houses both residential and office space, so it could end up being one's workplace or home away from home.
Eating out in Rotterdam
Rotterdam's culinary scene is growing, and there are several Michelin-starred restaurants in the city. International fare is a favourite and there is a rapidly expanding range of Thai, Spanish, Chinese, Indian, Italian and French restaurants to choose from. Fusion cuisine is also popular.
Many of Rotterdam's most popular restaurants can be found in Witte de Withstraat, though it's worth checking out a few hideaway spots too. For example, Fenix Food Factory is well worth visiting – a food hall housed in a converted harbourside warehouse that can be found just beyond the city centre.
Nightlife in Rotterdam
There's a seemingly endless array of nightclubs and bars for revellers to choose from in Rotterdam. Expats may find themselves drinking cocktails in a dazzling rooftop bar one night and dancing to house music in a converted underground train tunnel the next.
Witte de Withstraat is the city's nightlife hub and is home to some of Rotterdam's best-loved bars and drinking haunts. Another popular clubbing hotspot is Binnenweg, not far from Witte de Withstraat. Oude Haven and its numerous clubs, cocktail bars and live music venues are also well worth a visit.
Sports and outdoor activities in Rotterdam
Come rain or sunshine, Rotterdam residents are sure to be seen out on their bicycles. Countless outdoor activities are on offer in the city, from riverside strolls to simply enjoying the green spaces in one of the many parks dotted around various neighbourhoods.
Expats can enjoy the picnic and mini golf opportunities in Het Park or the flora and fauna in Historische Tuin Schoonoord as well as a number of botanical gardens. Family-friendly activities abound, from treasure hunts to climbing parks and paintballing.
Rotterdam is sometimes referred to as Sportstad – city of sports – and it follows that active expats will find endless sporting activities on offer. There's a place or club in Rotterdam for expats who are into judo, baseball, basketball, gymnastics, volleyball, equestrian sports and more. From major sports events such as the Rotterdam Marathon and the Rotterdam Open to ever-popular football matches and everything in between, sports fans will have plenty to keep busy with.
See and do in Rotterdam
Thanks to Rotterdam's rich history and lively culture, expats will have plenty of things to see and do in their new city. Here are some of the must-see tourist attractions in the city.
A famous instance of creative Rotterdam architecture, the cube houses are experimental living spaces designed by Piet Blom in the 1970s. Constructed on top of a pedestrian bridge, each house has diagonal walls, giving it the appearance of a cube shape. One cube is used as a 'show cube', allowing visitors to tour the interior of a cube house.
The iconic Erasmusbrug can't be missed in Rotterdam. Erasmusbrug connects the northern and southern areas and suburbs of the city and is said to be the second largest bridge in the Netherlands
This 606ft (185m) tower is the tallest building in the Netherlands and offers stunning panoramic views of Rotterdam. The tower has a coffee shop and a revolving restaurant, and guests can even enjoy a traditional high tea. Adventurous expats may enjoy abseiling or ziplining from the top of the tower.
Arguably one of the city's best hidden gems, Kralingse Plas is a lake popularly used for water-related sports from rowing and sailing to fishing. In warm summer weather, Kralingse Lake is a local favourite for picnics and simply hanging out.
Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen
Centrally located at the Museumpark and only a short walk from the Natural History Museum, Museum Boijmans Van Beuninge offers art enthusiasts the chance to take in its remarkable collection, which includes famous pieces by Rembrandt, Van Gogh, Monet and Dalí. Group visits and guided tours can be arranged.
What's on in Rotterdam
With Rotterdam's exciting calendar of annual events, there are plenty of opportunities for new arrivals to get out and about in the city. Below are some of the top yearly events in Rotterdam.
International Film Festival Rotterdam (January to February)
Film buffs are sure to enjoy Rotterdam's annual film festival, known for screening eclectic and unusual films made by independent filmmakers. There are more than 500 screenings, ranging from short films to full-length feature films. Other highlights include talks held by actors, directors and other filmmaking professionals.
Rotterdam Museum Night (March)
One night a year, dozens of galleries and museums throughout the city take part in Rotterdam Museum Night. For a small fee, attendees can visit as many participating places as they like, all of which stay open late into the night during this time.
Rotterdam Marathon (April)
Whether a fitness fanatic or an enthusiastic spectator, the Rotterdam Marathon is not to be missed. This marathon is the largest in the Netherlands and is an exciting event with thousands of participants each year. There are several options for those wishing to join in, from kids' and beginners' runs to full-length marathons.
Rotterdam Unlimited (July)
Rotterdam Unlimited is one of the country's largest street festivals – a five-day-long extravaganza packed with things to see and do. Highlights include live music performances by international artists, a carnival-style street parade and a vibrant market.
World Port Days (September)
Home to the largest port in Europe, Rotterdam celebrates all things maritime once a year during the World Port Days festival. Each year is themed and consists of exciting events such as nautical demonstrations, exhibitions, ship tours and more.
►Check out the top areas and suburbs in Rotterdam to live in or explore
Are you an expat living in Rotterdam?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Rotterdam. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
Expat Health Insurance
Cigna Global Health Insurance
With Cigna, you won't have to rely on foreign public health care systems, which may not meet your needs. Cigna allows you to speak to a doctor on demand, for consultations or instant advice, wherever you are in the world. They also offer full cancer care across all levels of cover, and settle the cost of treatments directly with the provider. Cigna is currently offering a 10% discount for seniors (over 60) on their Silver package.
Sirelo has a network of more than 500 international removal companies that can move your furniture and possessions to your new home. By filling in a form, you’ll get up to 5 quotes from recommended movers. This service is free of charge and will help you select an international moving company that suits your needs and budget.