When you think of the Netherlands, Amsterdam, and its beautiful canals usually come to mind first. However, if you're looking for something more modern, authentic, and away from the big tourist crowds, then Rotterdam is definitely the right city for you.

As the largest port city in Europe, Rotterdam was, with the exception of Delfshaven, completely destroyed during the World War II bombings. But Rotterdam saw this as an opportunity to rebuild, turning the city into one of Europe's most modern and exciting hubs. It almost feels like a bustling metropolis in the USA rather than in Europe!

When it comes to big, major cities with their amazing neighborhoods, the big dilemma is never knowing where to stay, especially if this is your first time traveling to Rotterdam. Don't worry, though; I've got you covered. I've gathered my favorite neighborhoods, areas, and hotels in Rotterdam so you can easily decide where to stay in Rotterdam.

The best places to stay in Rotterdam

North Rotterdam

On the north side of the New Meuse River (Nieuwe Maas), you'll find most of the trendy and popular districts. Staying here is awesome if you want to be close to the city center, enjoy some sightseeing, or enjoy the nightlife! My favorite areas here are the City Center, the Cool District, West Rotterdam & Delfshaven, and Rotterdam Noord. Find accommodation close to Rotterdam city centre.

South Rotterdam

The south side of the River is where you'll find two other areas that I absolutely love, and let me tell you, they couldn't be more different. On one side, we have Katendrecht and Kop van Zuid, right by the docks, with plenty of luxurious hotels and amazing restaurants. On the other side, we have Feijenoord, a working-class district with its own unique charm, perfect for backpackers and solo travelers. Find accommodation close to the Rotterdam docks.

1. Where to stay in Rotterdam for first-timers & shopping: Rotterdam City Centre

Where to stay in Rotterdam - City Center

If you're visiting for the first time or just for the weekend, then the City Center (Centrum) is the perfect place to stay! It's conveniently located between the river and the Rotterdam Central Station, and it's always bustling with exciting things to do.

It's also right in the center, so it's super easy to get around the rest of Rotterdam. You can walk or take the train, and from here at the Rotterdam Central Station, you can even catch trains to Germany, France, and Belgium.

Of course, the city center is also an awesome spot to dive into Rotterdam's culture. Here, you'll come across the Maritimes Museum, the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, and the nearby Cube Houses and Erasmus University.

And, of course, this is the ultimate spot for all the shopaholics out there. The city center boasts Rotterdam's largest shopping malls, where you can find everything from trendy designer boutiques to charming vintage stores.

Best area for:

  • First-timers

  • Weekend trips

  • Shopping

  • Nightlife

  • Close to the main train station

Things to see & do in the City Centre

You should totally check out some of Rotterdam's museums, they're definitely worth a visit! My personal favorites were the Maritime Museum, with its cool ships and their impact on today's world, and the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, one of the best art galleries in the Netherlands.

Definitely don't forget to visit the Markthal Rotterdam when you are in the city centre! It's a massive indoor market hall that you just have to see when you're in the city. The architecture is seriously mind-blowing, with the ceiling being the world's biggest artwork. Plus, there are so many incredible food stalls with different traditional snacks to try, such as frikandel, a deep-fried sausage.

The city center is also the perfect spot to hop on one of the awesome Rotterdam boat tours. You'll cruise through the iconic canals of Rotterdam and even explore the massive harbor area. A real unique experience awaits you with the Splash Tour! It's a super cool amphibious tour bus that takes you to all the Rotterdam landmarks, both on land and in the water.

Best hotels to stay in the Rotterdam City Centre

($$$) Hilton Rotterdam

($$$) Rotterdam Marriott Hotel

($$) Savoy Hotel Rotterdam

($$) citizenM Rotterdam

($) Holiday Inn Express Rotterdam

($) Most unique stay inside a Cube House: Stayokay Hostel Rotterdam

2. Where to stay in Rotterdam for trendy vibes & cozy cafés: Cool District

Where to stay in Rotterdam - Cool district

Want to stay in the coolest and trendiest area in Rotterdam? Then the Cool District is where you should stay. Yes, it's actually called that! It's a small but bustling district within the city center that really packs a punch.

The Cool District is my absolute favorite place to be. Spend your mornings in a cozy cafe, sipping on some amazing barista-made coffee. And in the evenings, you can have a blast at some of Rotterdam's coolest bars and restaurants.

And the best part is this place is quite the up-and-coming hipster area, so everything here is still pretty affordable (including cheap hotels).

Best area for:

  • Foodies

  • Laid-back vibes

  • Central location

Things to see & do in the Cool District

My favorite place in Rotterdam to come for a beer is, without a doubt, Bar Restaurant Sijf. It's a very quirky place with tons of charm and character, and the beers are cold. They also make great coffee and breakfast in the morning. Plus, it's within walking distance of the famous Market Hall Rotterdam!

If you're in the mood for a delicious breakfast, you'll absolutely love Baker&Moore! They serve fantastic breakfast sandwiches, freshly baked pastries, and their baristas make an amazing flat white too.

Best hotels to stay in the Cool District

($$$) Urban Residences Rotterdam

($$) Hotel Unplugged

($) The James Rotterdam

3. Where to stay in Rotterdam for couples: Rotterdam West & Delfshaven

Where to stay in Rotterdam - Rotterdam West & Delfshaven

The west of Rotterdam is awesome for couples because it's still close to the Rotterdam city centre, but not as touristy and crowded. You'll find plenty of relaxation spots, amazing dinner options, and parks to enjoy. Rotterdam West is a big, multicultural working-class neighborhood that includes cool districts like Chinatown and Delfshaven.

Depending on where you want to stay in Rotterdam West, you can find affordable or more expensive hotels.

Best area for:

  • Relaxation

  • Couples

  • Families

Things to see & do in Rotterdam West

To escape the touristy Rotterdam city center, taking a stroll through Dak Park is the perfect way to spend an afternoon. You can enjoy a lovely picnic in the grass while enjoying this little green space right by the river.

Another favorite thing to do is visit Delfshaven, a charming and traditional area of Rotterdam. What makes it unique is that it miraculously escaped destruction during the second world war, so it still retains an authentic and historic feel. The buildings and rivers around here are so cute and quirky, they'll totally give you Amsterdam vibes.

One of the coolest spots for a great night out with friends or a date is definitely the Pool Cafe. This old industrial hall, located right by the water, has been transformed into one of the neighborhood's coolest bars. Inside, you'll find a bunch of pool tables, while outside, you can enjoy your drinks right on the water. I could easily spend hours here, playing pool, munching on their rather greasy burgers, and washing it all down with a cold drink.

Best hotels to stay in Rotterdam West

($$$) Le Petit Marin Boutique Hotel

($$) Alberti – Bed & Bike

($) Sam's Place

4. Where to stay in Rotterdam for families & a traditional atmosphere: Rotterdam Noord

Where to stay in Rotterdam - Noord

Rotterdam Noord is a great residential area, perfect if you're coming with your family for a more traditional and peaceful experience.

The area includes the neighborbood of Blijdorp and is pretty much just on the other side of Rotterdam Central Station, so it's still a short walk from the Rotterdam City Center. Plus, with the Rotterdam Central Station around the corner, you'll have easy access to other parts of the Netherlands and Europe, including easy access to Rotterdam The Hague Airport.

In Noord, you can also find some of Rotterdam's best parks, like the Vroesenpark as well as Rotterdam Zoo. It's great to spend an afternoon with the kids, as it has awesome picnic spots, chill areas, and playgrounds.

Best area for:

Things to see & do in Rotterdam Noord

Visiting the Rotterdam Zoo is an absolute blast for families with kids. This amazing zoo in Noord is not only incredibly popular but also home to some fantastic animals like giraffes, lions, and even tigers. It's definitely a must-visit when traveling with the whole family!

If you're getting hungry and can't decide what kind of food you're after, you should definitely check out Mooie Boules Rotterdam. It's this really cool and quirky food court in Noord. Trust me, they've got something for everyone in the family. From Mexican food to Asian dishes, French fries, and beers, you name it.

Best hotels to stay in Rotterdam Noord

($$) Bed & Breakfast Walenburg

($$) Mainport Design Hotel

($) Appartement Rotterdam Noord

5. Where to stay in Rotterdam for backpackers & affordable prices: Feijenoord

Where to stay in Rotterdam - Feijenoord

Feijenoord is your go-to district if you're backpacking through Rotterdam and are on a budget. It's the epitome of ‘cool yet affordable'. Feijenoord is located just south of the city center, which means you're never too far from the action, yet far enough to escape the tourist crowds and high prices. Here you will find many students and young professionals living and hanging out.

What makes Feijenoord truly unique is its multicultural vibe. This district is a melting pot of diverse cultures and cuisines, and that's reflected in the delicious variety of street food you'll find here – perfect for the foodie backpacker! Plus, thanks to its industrial past, Feijenoord is covered in cool street art and edgy bars and cafes.

Best area for:

  • Backpackers

  • Solo travelers

  • Young people

  • Well connected to Rotterdam Centrum

Things to see & do in Feijenoord

The highlight of the area for me, as a big-time foodie, is the Fenix Food Factory. It is a complete haven for foodies. The old industrial building has been transformed into a truly hip place where you can find organic street food, craft beer, and great coffee.

The atmosphere is always very laid-back, and it's the perfect place to enjoy some street food and beers with friends.

I can't forget to mention another recommendation, especially for all you football (soccer) fans out there – the Feyenoord Stadion; it's a must-visit! Even if you're not a huge fan, this massive stadium and its museum have hosted numerous European finals.

Also nearby is Ahoy Rotterdam, a state-of-the-art event complex renowned for hosting concerts, sports events, conferences, and exhibitions.

Best hotels to stay in Feijenoord

($$$) Central Suite Rotterdam

($$) Art Hotel Rotterdam

($) Crash'nstay

6. Where to stay in Rotterdam for luxury & unique hotels: Katendrecht & Kop van Zuid

Where to stay in Rotterdam - Katendrecht & Kop van Zuid

Kop van Zuid & Katendrecht make up another fancy district in Rotterdam. Kop van Zuid, which literally translates to ‘head of the north', is known as the trendiest area in the southern part of Rotterdam. It's basically like the Old Town area of Rotterdam.

Katendrecht is not as fancy as Kop van Zuid, but it still has plenty of upscale restaurants and popular hotels. Since both areas are in the area of Feijenoord, you may still feel some rough edges, especially in Katendrecht, which used to be a proper sailors' district.

Both areas are on the south side of the river, but getting to the central station or city center is super easy. If you're up for it, you can either take a 30 min walk or hop on the tram for just 10 mins.

Best area for:

  • Luxury hotels

  • Unique stays

Things to see & do in Katendrecht & Kop van Zuid

Kop van Zuid is connected to the City center through the Erasmus Bridge. The Erasmus Bridge is a well-known landmark in Rotterdam, affectionately called ‘the swan' by the locals. It's a really cool suspension bridge that links two vibrant areas of the city, and it also makes for an awesome picture.

When it's time for dinner, and you're in the mood for something a bit more sophisticated, my top pick in the area is De Matroos en Het Meisje. It's this small yet chic traditional Dutch restaurant that serves amazing 5-course meals paired with the perfect wine!

My last suggestion for the area is the Dutch Photography Museum which is located right in the heart of Kop van Zuid. If you're into photography, this is a must-visit museum, as it has some really cool exhibitions and interactive displays.

Best hotels to stay in Katendrecht & Kop van Zuid

($$$) Luxury: Hotel New York

($$) Mid-Range: Room Mate Bruno

($$) Most unique accommodation: Wikkelboat Nr1 at Floating Rotterdam Rijnhaven

($) Budget: SS Rotterdam Hotel

Where to stay in Rotterdam – Frequently Asked Questions

📍 What is the best area to stay in Rotterdam?

The best area to stay in Rotterdam depends on your budget and the type of experience you're looking for. For first-timers, I recommend Rotterdam Centrum. For luxury hotels and unique stays (such as on a boat!), Kop van Zuid & Katendrecht are great options. For a more affordable stay with plenty of street food, I suggest the Cool District (my favorite area).

🏙️ Where is the Rotterdam City Centre?

The Rotterdam City Centre is in a very convenient location, just north of the river and south of the Rotterdam Centraal Station. At the heart of Rotterdam lies the Lijnbaan, the city's primary shopping street, offering a diverse retail experience. From here, you're close to all the must-see spots in the city and can easily check out the rest of Rotterdam.

🚗 Do I need a car in Rotterdam?

No, you don't need a car in Rotterdam. The city has great public transportation options and is quite walkable. You can easily get around by tram, bus, metro, bike or even boat! Plus, the Rotterdam city centre is very compact, making it easy to explore on foot.

❓ Should I visit Rotterdam or The Hague?

Both Rotterdam and The Hague are definitely worth checking out, depending on what you're into. But if you're short on time and have to pick one, I'd say go for Rotterdam. It's got that urban vibe and tons of cool stuff to explore. Trust me, the Cool District and the Fenix Food Factory alone make it totally worth it.

❓ Should I visit Rotterdam or Amsterdam?

Now it is getting tricky! Both Rotterdam and Amsterdam are great cities, so it really depends on what kind of experience you're looking for. For a more urban vibe with an emphasis on street art and edgy cafes, I'd go for Rotterdam. But if you're looking for the classic Dutch capital experience, then staying in Amsterdam is your best bet.

Where to stay in Rotterdam – Final Words

Unfortunately, Rotterdam sometimes gets overshadowed by its bigger brother Amsterdam. But that's really unnecessary! Rotterdam has everything you'd want from a major Dutch city and more. You can experience the traditional atmosphere with historic buildings in Delfshaven, and if you're in the mood for some amazing street food, just head over to the trendiest district in town, the Cool District.

Not only that, but you'll also find awesome accommodation choices in every district, regardless of your budget. I hope my guide on where to stay in Rotterdam sheds some light and will help you in making your decision.

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