Rotterdam is just an hour-long drive from Amsterdam, and well-worth the side trip.
Known for its pulsing student nightlife and alternative vibe, Rotterdam—which was named one of Travel + Leisure's Best Places to Travel in 2017—is starting to steal Amsterdam’s spotlight. Here’s how to spend three days in this dynamic Dutch city.
Start your weekend off by checking into the Mainport (doubles from $165), a wellness-oriented hotel where you can book a room with a Finnish sauna, or the CitizenM Hotel Rotterdam (doubles from $92), which feels like your design-savvy friend’s living room. Wander north for some shopping in Oude Noorden, a vibrant residential area with experimental fashion and home-design boutiques. Grab a pre-dinner drink at Brouwerij Noordt, a brewery with 20 beers on tap situated in a former firehouse. Continue the tasting tour with a 15-minute bike ride to Roffa Streetfoodbar (entrées $9–$28), a smokehouse that serves bread, beer, and cheese from some of Rotterdam’s best producers. The brisket—slow-cooked over oak for 24 hours—is not to be missed.
Stroll to the nearby Het Nieuwe Instituut, a museum dedicated to Dutch design and architecture. Afterward, cruise the river in a water taxi to spot a few examples in person, like the Erasmus Bridge and De Rotterdam, a striking skyscraper by Rem Koolhaas. This summer, cool off with a dip at RiF010, an artificial-wave park in the Steigersgracht canal. Once you’ve worked up an appetite, take in the skyline while dining on dishes such as veal tartare with langoustines and pata negra at HMB Restaurant (small plates $5–$24). Cap off the evening with a bespoke gin and tonic at Ballroom, where your ideal elixir is crafted with one of more than a hundred gins.
Art is every where in this city—more than a thousand pieces adorn the public spaces. Walk along the Rijnhaven for a glimpse of Bobbing Forest, a surrealist installation of floating trees by art collective Mothership, then head to De Markthal, a vast, mural-covered space where vendors sell aged Goudas and cinnamon-kissed stroopwafels. It’s also home to De Tijdtrap, an exhibition of medieval artifacts excavated from the ground on which the building now stands. Save room for dinner at Fenix Food Factory (entrées $3–$27), in buzzy Katendrecht. In the winter, a hip crowd hovers indoors over cured meats and pear cider. In warmer months, benches overlooking the canal are the setting for long, boozy evenings.