Rotterdam vs Amsterdam: Where Should You Go?

The Netherlands is home to two well-known major cities, Rotterdam and Amsterdam. Just a 40 minute train journey apart, they both offer a rich and diverse mix of art, music, food, history and architecture. But there are some things that set each city apart, making them two worthwhile places to visit on your next city break.

Rotterdam: A Dynamic and Modern Port City

As the only Dutch city with a true skyline, Rotterdam is characterised by its modern infrastructure and large port. Boasting everything from museums and markets to great shopping and nightlife, Rotterdam is thriving and as a city break destination, it packs a serious punch year-round.

Culture vultures will appreciate Rotterdam’s diverse selection of museums, including the contemporary Kunsthal museum and exhibition space, the Maritime museum and Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen – the city’s biggest featuring work from Rembrandt, Monet and Van Gogh. And if cultural festivals are more your scene, then Rotterdam hosts Oude Haven Zomerfestival on the river, North Sea Jazz Festival and International Film Festival Rotterdam.

It’s worth exploring some of the city’s best architecture too. The Cube Houses are iconic yellow abstract homes designed by Dutch architect Piet Blom. New Luxor Theater backs on to the Meuse River and enjoys plays, musicals and live music. And the 19th century City Hall remains as one of the oldest buildings left in the city.

Eating out in Rotterdam can be as varied or simplistic as you like. With influence from all corners of the world, the city is perfect for foodies. From high end restaurants and summer terraces, to trendy café’s and coffee shops, you’ll find something to enjoy at any time of day. Make sure you visit the dynamic Markthal – a secure, covered square that serves as a market space is the day and public space at night. The brand new Foodhallen is another great spot for eating and drinking, located in the characteristic Pakhuismeesteren warehouse.

If shopping is your weakness, then Rotterdam will leave you craving for more. Full of high street and high end shops, you can spend hours roaming the streets for something special. When it comes to nighttime entertainment, Rotterdam is the kind of city where you can enjoy a quiet cocktail with friends or hit the town till the early hours. One of Rotterdam’s most popular nightlife areas is Witte de Withstraat with a diverse crowd. With trendy bars, super clubs, pubs and concert venues at your fingertips, Rotterdam can offer you wildly different nights out.

Amsterdam: A Cool City with Small Town Charm

The capital of the Netherlands has long been a favourite with visitors from around the world. From the narrow houses that line the beautiful canal ways, to the swarms of cyclists navigating their way around the city streets and parks, Amsterdam is full of life but with small town charm.

Like Rotterdam, Amsterdam has a large arts and culture scene. Some highlights include the Anne Frank House where explore the hiding place where she wrote her famous diary during World War II. Discover the masterpieces of Vincent Van Gogh at the Van Gogh Museum, or explore the National Rijksmuseum featuring 80 rooms of world-class art. There are over 60 to choose from, so you can take your pick.

You’ll notice the coffee culture in Amsterdam is vast, with coffee shops, bakeries and small café’s lined up almost everywhere. By night, the city’s bar and club scene comes to life with a multicultural and energetic crowd. From eclectic live music venues like Sugarfactory, to arts and entertainment spaces like Melkweg, there’s something for everyone to immerse themselves in. As the city is small, you can easily walk from place to place without too much effort although the metro and tram system is very well connected and efficient.

Amsterdam is not just a city for hustle and bustle, though. With so many residential and inner city parks to relax in, you can find respite easily. Vondelpark is great for a leisurely walk or cycle, while Frankendael Park features romantic landscaped gardens and is perfect for picnics. For a more educational visit, the Hortus Botanicus (Botanical Gardens) is a must-do, home to over 6, 000 plants. And if you’re in Amsterdam during spring, then a visit to nearby Keukenhof Gardens (the world’s largest flower garden in Lisse) is worthwhile.

And what about shopping? Amsterdam is a shoppers dream. Vintage shops, high street chains, concept stores and international designers can be found throughout the neighbourhoods. The Nine Streets (De Negen Straatjes) is the obvious choice in town, while De Bijenkorf is one of Amsterdam’s best-known department stores.

Heard enough? Book your city break here.