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Like a local: things to do in Rotterdam

Rotterdam resident and photographer Vincent Demmenie takes us on a water taxi tour of the port city’s waterways, revealing his favourite foody hangouts, sightseeing hotspots, and architectural wonders for those with a creative eye.

When you think of exploring the Netherlands, what springs to mind? It’s probably flat, green fields, quaint windmills and, most recognisably, the country’s criss-crossing canals. We’re all familiar with those Insta-worthy shots of Amsterdam: old, cobbled stone bridges arching across the city’s still waters, framed by terraced houses of all shapes and sizes. But it’s not just Amsterdam that’s known for its waterways. Its close neighbour Rotterdam boasts picturesque canals to rival those of the capital and has long housed one of Europe’s greatest historic ports, acting as a major trade route and fishing port since the early 14th century.

In fact, Rotterdam’s very identity is linked to its waterways. With the nickname ‘Gateway to the World’, the city boasts a reputation for seafaring and after surviving everything from the French occupation of Napoleon in 1795 to the blitz bombings of World War II, it’s a nickname that has stuck. Today the city’s economy remains based on shipping, with the greatest capacity of sea-transported goods in the world passing through its harbour every year. How better, then, to explore the city known for water – than on it?

Guided by a local: Vincent Demmenie

For this guide, we’ve teamed with Rotterdam local and resident Vincent Demmenie to bypass the standard city sights and bring you an authentic live-like-a-local guide you can trust. At his day job, Vincent works in IT, but come quitting time he’s an avid photographer, living by motto: ‘the best camera is the one you have with you.’ While exploring his creative side, he likes to travel light, using his smartphone to experiment with compositions and colours.

Here, Vincent gives us a breakdown of how best to explore Rotterdam’s unique and local points of interest from its waterways, offering his top tips on the best things to see and do via water taxi. We’ve organised our itinerary to be followed in order — starting at The Social Hub Rotterdam where, of course, you can easily start your trip and jump on a water taxi!

What to do in Rotterdam according to Vincent

This is the ultimate list for photographers who love urban scenes and travelers who like to engrain themselves in a city quickly. Traveling just like a local via the Rotterdam water taxis, Vincent shows you unique vantage points via the city’s waterways and funky neighborhoods, tossing in cultural hotspots and plenty of places to relax, grab a bite and enjoy a drink with a view, too.

1. Maashaven

Water Taxi: 61
Activity: Street art
The Vibe: Industrial-cool

Hopping aboard water taxi 61 right at The Social Hub Rotterdam, get off at Maashaven, an industrial yet colourful part of the port. “There’s street art all over Rotterdam, but this is definitely one of the best places to see it,” Vincent explained to us. Here, you’ll find 18 signature works, from Nelson Mandela murals to abstract skylines plastered on the pillars of the metro line between stations Rijnhaven and Maashaven. Vincent’s favourite artist is @iameelco, who’s yours?

2. Erasmusbrug

Water Taxi: 40
Activity: Sightseeing
The Vibe: Iconic

As an amateur photographer, Vincent is fascinated by architecture, lines and symmetry. That’s why he loves the iconic Erasmusbrug (Erasmus Bridge), nicknamed ‘The Swan’ thanks to its elegant style, delicate construction, and white colouring. “This is definitely one of the most iconic and well-photographed spots in the city,” Vincent admits. “But, you can actually manage to get a unique vantage point from water taxi 40 via the New Meuse waterway.

3. Noordereiland

Water Taxi: 34
Activity: Sightseeing
The Vibe: Creative

If you want to explore a true local gem, head to Noordereiland on water taxi 34. Linked to the city by a web of bridges, the island is mostly residential, but as Vincent explained, “It is also known as the ‘Montmartre on the Maas’ thanks to its creative aura, beautiful design and ever-changing collection of street art.” He went on to tell us, “No visit is complete without checking out the Koningshavenbrug, too, which locals call ‘De Hef’, and the small Hefpark at its base.

4. Markthal

Water Taxi: 43
Activity: Good eats
The Vibe: Delicious

If you’re starting to feel hungry on your adventures, you can’t go wrong with a trip to the famous Markthal via water taxi 43. “This relatively new addition to the Rotterdam skyline is also one of its most impressive,” Vincent explained. “An indoor market hall serving up everything from sushi to sandwiches, it also has a great selection of fresh, local produce, too. But beyond the food, it’s an architectural and artistic wonder, so be sure to look up from your meal to snap some pictures.

5. Kubuswoningen

Water Taxi: 43
Activity: Architecture
The Vibe: Quirky

You can’t come to Rotterdam, especially as a photographer, without seeing the famous cube houses!” Vincent laughed. “These strange, yellow and askew houses are the perfect backdrop for portraits and cool architectural angles.” Designed by the famous architect Piet Blom, each house represents a tree — together, creating a forest. If you’re curious to see what they’re like up close, you can even visit one of the houses, which doubles as a museum, for just a few euros.

6. Oude Haven

Water Taxi: 43
Activity: Drinks
The Vibe: Local hangout

For an afternoon or evening drink, Vincent tells us you can’t beat Oude Haven. “Grab a seat at one of the many outdoor terraces and enjoy a cold beer or hot coffee overlooking the water,” he explains. “This is the perfect spot to marvel at the historic old ships docked in the harbour.” You can easily get here by hopping on water taxi number 43.

Fun fact: “If you take a closer look at the photo of Oude Haven, you’ll see a white house,” Vincent explains. “This was once the tallest building in Europe!

7. Het Park

Water Taxi: 61
Activity: City park
The Vibe: Fun & relaxed

If you ask a local, they’ll probably tell you the most impressive park in the city is Het Park. Easily reached by water taxi number 61, spend the day here enjoying a picnic or leisurely stroll past ancient trees, manicured lawns and spouting water features. “The park is huge, but one of my favourite spots is the Euromast observation tower on the edge. The surrounding area, known as the Scheepvaartkwartier, is also one of my favourite districts in the city, known for its romantic walkways, quaint bistros and protected historic heritage.

8. Depot Boijmans Van Beuningen

Water Taxi: 61
Activity: Art
The Vibe: Explorational

Also reachable via water taxi route 61, Depot Boijmans Van Beuningen is the world’s first art storage facility that’s fully accessible to the public. “The building itself is a sight to behold,” Vincent admits. “Designed in the shape of a giant bowl with a mirrored exterior, it’s really cool to photograph. But, it’s what’s inside that is really impressive.” With a collection of art spanning 172 years, the facility houses more than 150,000 object d’art over six sprawling floors — so bring your walking shoes.

9. Delfshaven

Water Taxi: 75
Activity: Landmarks
The Vibe: Historical

It’s well known that Rotterdam was all but destroyed during the bombings of World War II. The Delfshaven district, however, is an exception. “This is one of the few areas of the city that survived and now pays homage to pre-war Rotterdam, including its incredible Dutch-style terrace houses.” Vincent explained. “It’s definitely worth visiting the Pelgrimvaderskerk (Pilgrim Fathers’ Church) and Stradsbrouwerij De Pilgrim (Pilgrim brewery).” Of course, it can all be reached via water taxi — this time grab number 75.

10. Kop van Zuid

Water Taxi: 44
Activity: Museums
The Vibe: Artistic

If you're in need of some artistic inspiration, Vincent advises hopping on water taxi number 44 to Kop van Zuid. Built on old, abandoned areas of the port, the district is home to some incredible museums, like the Nederlands Fotomuseum, and showcases the most impressive buildings in the city, like the Jugendstil buildings. “Wander its streets and waterways for long enough and you’ll discover dozens of great bars and eateries, too.” Vincent explains.

11. Fenix Food Factory

Water Taxi: 50
Activity: Restaurants
The Vibe: Local bites

No busy day of exploring is complete without… more food and drink! Fenix Food Factory labels itself ‘the artisan fresh market of Rotterdam’ — bringing together incredible culinary entrepreneurs and craft sellers, offering up some truly delicious delights. From fresh fruit and veg to a market kitchen and deli, you’ll be spoilt for choice. Vincent’s top tip? “Cap it all off with a brew from Kaapse Brouwers, offering more than 20 local craft beers on draft, you’re sure to find your new local favourite.” Proost!

Want the short version?

Copy and paste these full and half-day itineraries so you can easily hop between Vincent’s top Rotterdam recommendations.

Half-day tour: The Social Hub (31 → 62) Maashaven (walk) Erasmusbrug (walk) Noordereiland (34 → 43) Markthal (walk) Kubuswoningen (walk) Oude Haven (walk) The Social Hub

Full day tour: The Social Hub (31 → 61 ) Het Park (walk) Boijmans Depot (47 → 75) (walk) Delfshaven (75 → 40) Erasmusbrug (walk) Kop van Zuid (walk) Fenix Food Factory (44 or 50 → 31) The Social Hub

See you in Rotterdam!

There you have it! Our complete local guide to exploring Rotterdam by water taxi. If you’re planning a trip to the city, we hope you use this unique guide to explore some hidden gems and see this city from unique vantage points.

Of course, after all that adventuring, you’ll need somewhere to take the weight off your feet – or sea legs. TSH Rotterdam is the perfect place to start or end your sightseeing-at-sea itinerary, offering everything you need to feel refreshed and ready for another day in the city and out on the waterways. You can check out our hotels and book a room here or sign up for our newsletter via the box below to receive a head’s up on events, blogs, offers and the best rate. Happy exploring!

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