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Moving to Rotterdam

Situated in South Holland and divided by the Nieuwe Maas, Rotterdam stands as a major port city that has overcome significant historical hardships. Expats who move here tend to settle in quite quickly and are generally welcomed with open arms in a city that is often thought of as a symbol of resilience and regrowth.

In 1940, in an event known as the Rotterdam Blitz, German forces bombed and destroyed the historic city centre. Only one building was left standing – St Lawrence Church, which was restored and can still be visited today. While the Blitz resulted in the loss of many historic buildings dating back to the medieval era, the subsequent reconstruction of the city centre gave Rotterdam a unique opportunity to rebuild and redefine itself.

Today, Rotterdam's experimental architecture is unique among Dutch cities, and the city's vibrant energy makes it an exciting place to live. Innovative designs such as the cube houses and the Markthal serve multiple purposes, from accommodation and workplaces to top attractions and landmarks. The shopping, nightlife and restaurant scenes in the city are thriving, and young singles and families alike are sure to find plenty to keep themselves amused.

Families with kids will also integrate into their new lives seamlessly, given the high standard of Dutch and international schools in the city. There are also schools with bilingual programmes catering to the expat community.

That said, there are both pros and cons to relocating to the Netherlands, and one downside is the difficulty for non-EU citizens to secure a job, particularly in Rotterdam. That said, many make the move with a job offer already in hand and, once expats start working, they can enjoy a reasonable cost of living, especially in comparison to other major Dutch destinations.

With so much to offer, Rotterdam is a place well worth considering if planning a move to the Netherlands. The attractive combination of the city's lifestyle perks and low cost of living brings many an expat to Rotterdam. Thanks to the variety of excellent amenities available, expats are sure to settle down in no time.

Pros and cons of moving to Rotterdam

Rotterdam is a popular expat destination, and it's easy to see why. That said, there are some drawbacks to living in this city, and it's therefore important to learn more about the ups and down of expat life before making the move. Check out our list of pros and cons for moving to Rotterdam


Cost of living in Rotterdam

+ Pro: Reasonable cost of living

When compared to that of other cities in the Netherlands, the cost of living in Rotterdam is rather low, which allows for a comfortable and often luxurious standard of living for expats.

- Con: Accommodation is not cheap

Expats need to be aware that accommodation will take up a substantial portion of their income, despite it being cheaper than in other Dutch cities.


Lifestyle and Culture in Rotterdam

+ Pro: Plenty to do

Rotterdam is a thriving city with a lively culture. While the shopping, nightlife and restaurant scenes are constantly bubbling with activity, the city also hosts many annual events and is home to a host of museums and attractions worth visiting.

- Con: Rotterdam is a small city

Rotterdam is quite a compact city, which means expats may get ‘cabin fever’ from time to time and find themselves in need of a getaway and a change of scenery. Fortunately, it’s very centrally located, which makes travelling the rest of Europe a breeze.


Healthcare in Rotterdam

+ Pro: Excellent healthcare system

As the Netherlands is known to have one of the best healthcare systems in Europe, expats can rest assured that they will have access to excellent facilities and highly-trained medical staff when living in Rotterdam.

- Con: Healthcare is expensive

While expats are guaranteed brilliant healthcare, the costs included are rather high compared to other Western European countries. Expats will have to take out a Dutch health insurance policy as, without one, they may end up spending more down the line.


Education in Rotterdam

+ Pro: Good public and international schools

Along with Rotterdam boasting several excellent international schools, the city also has good public schools, with some of them offering bilingual classes, language integration programmes or international sections for foreign students. Despite public education being largely free in the Netherlands, these programmes do come at an extra cost. That said, fees are subsidised by the Dutch government and are therefore much cheaper than those of private schools.

- Con: International schools are expensive

Those expats wishing to send their children to international schools need to be aware of the high costs involved. Although these schools do provide an excellent education, expats should make room in their budget for the large expenses that come with enrolment, or negotiate with their employer for a school allowance.


Getting around in Rotterdam

+ Pro: Good public transport system

Although many of Rotterdam’s citizens prefer to cycle, the public transport system, which includes the metro, trams and buses, is also readily available and efficient. Expats can also purchase travel cards, which will significantly decrease the costs of moving around.

- Con: Cars are expensive

Expats who prefer to use private transport should be aware that buying a car is expensive in the Netherlands. It is also deemed quite unnecessary to own a car in Rotterdam thanks to the well-established transport system and cycling infrastructure.

Working in Rotterdam

Rotterdam is an exciting, cosmopolitan city undergoing constant development – however, expats looking for work here often find that the search is tougher than expected.

Compared to the national average, Rotterdam's rate of unemployment is high, so competition for jobs can be tight. This goes double for non-EU citizens as their hiring company would need to prove to authorities that no EU citizen could fill the vacancy.


Job market in Rotterdam

Known as the gateway to Europe, Rotterdam is home to the continent's largest seaport. Needless to say, the city's most prominent industries are shipping, logistics and trade. Energy, chemicals and business services are other major sectors. Unlike in Amsterdam, tourism is only a small part of Rotterdam's economy.

Expats working in the retail sector usually find securing work in Rotterdam to be fairly easy, and healthcare and welfare industries are also prominent in the city. Academia and teaching are also potential career paths to pursue thanks to the number of top colleges and universities in the city, such as Erasmus University Rotterdam and Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences.

Expats who can offer specialised skills and speak Dutch have a better chance of finding work. However, given Rotterdam's cosmopolitan and diverse population, fluency in Dutch is not always a requirement.


Finding a job in Rotterdam

Expats looking for work can make use of online job portals or join a recruitment agency. Job platforms such as LinkedIn, Indeed and Glassdoor advertise the latest job vacancies and can give job seekers an idea of expected salaries, company culture and working environments. 

It helps to have contacts in Rotterdam as word-of-mouth will often yield better results than responding to job postings. We also advise expats interested in a specific company to check their relevant website for available job listings. A worthwhile strategy may be to contact the HR or recruitment consultant at one's desired workplace regardless of whether a position has been advertised. This rather forward approach shows initiative, a quality valued by Dutch employers.

Job fairs and careers workshops in the city are also a good way to start networking and find work – anyone from recent graduates to entrepreneurs with start-up ideas can benefit from these events.


Work culture in Rotterdam

Although many international companies can be found in Rotterdam and company culture varies between organisations and fields of work, there is a general perception of business culture in the city. Punctuality is critical when working in the Netherlands, and honesty and directness is appreciated.

Doing business in Rotterdam may entail a communication style that expats are unfamiliar with. Meetings tend to skip the small talk and dive right into the agenda in a very direct and straightforward manner. This way of communicating may seem efficient if a little blunt at first, but given the emphasis on collaboration, teamwork and valuing every member's opinion, decision-making can nevertheless be a slow process.

Expats working in Rotterdam are entitled at least 20 days of paid annual leave, and some companies offer more. Expat employees could also benefit from a decent employment package covering transport costs and, in some cases, partial school fees for employees with children attending a private school.

Cost of Living in Rotterdam

Generally speaking, the Netherlands is on the lower end of the price scale compared to neighbouring Western European countries. While some parts of the country can be expensive, Rotterdam's cost of living is comparatively low, and the city offers a good quality of life without the high price tag attached to cities such as Amsterdam.


Cost of accommodation in Rotterdam

Accommodation is likely to take up the biggest portion of an expat's income – that said, rental prices in Rotterdam are reasonable and are generally lower than those in other major Dutch cities such as Amsterdam and The Hague. As Rotterdam grows, though, prices are rising, so it's a good idea for expats to do some research to find a suitable deal.


Cost of transport in Rotterdam

Cars in the Netherlands are expensive but with cycling being such a popular form of transport, most expats find driving unnecessary. Apart from the once-off expense of purchasing a reliable bicycle, costs are minimal. Rotterdam is a small city and, like most of the Netherlands, has extensive cycling infrastructure in place.

On rainy days, expats can make use of Rotterdam's well-integrated public transport system, comprised of the metro, trams and buses. Buying individual tickets can be expensive, but using a travel card lowers the costs considerably.


Cost of education in Rotterdam

Public education in the Netherlands is largely free, and some government schools even offer services for foreign students such as bilingual classes, language integration programmes or international sections. This does come at an extra cost for parents, but fees are subsidised by the Dutch government and are therefore still well below those charged by private international schools. However, if private international schooling is preferred, parents should ensure that their budget has ample space for the extra expense.


Cost of healthcare in Rotterdam 

While the quality of healthcare in the Netherlands is excellent, costs are fairly high in comparison to other Western European countries. Once an expat starts working in the Netherlands and registers at their local municipality, they will have to take out a Dutch health insurance policy. Monthly payments vary based on how comprehensive one's insurance package is, though it's recommended that expats prioritise this in their budget, otherwise they may pay more in the long run.


Cost of living in Rotterdam chart

Prices may vary depending on product and service provider. The list below shows average prices for Rotterdam in April 2021.

Accommodation (monthly)

One-bedroom apartment in the city centre

EUR 900 - 1,200

One-bedroom apartment outside the city centre

EUR 700 - 1,000

Three-bedroom apartment in the city centre

EUR 1,600 - 2,100

Three-bedroom apartment outside the city centre

EUR 1,000 - 1,500

Groceries

Milk (1 litre)

EUR 0.95

Loaf of white bread

EUR 1.80

Rice (1kg)

EUR 1.90

Dozen eggs

EUR 2

Chicken breasts (1kg)

EUR 7.60

Pack of cigarettes (Marlboro)

EUR 8

Household

Mobile call rate (per minute – mobile to mobile)

EUR 0.18

Internet (uncapped ADSL or cable – average per month)

EUR 40

Utilities (monthly for average-size home)

EUR 160

Eating out

Three-course meal at mid-range restaurant for two

EUR 50

Big Mac Meal

EUR 8

Cappuccino

EUR 2.90

Local beer (500ml)

EUR 4

Coca-Cola (330ml)

EUR 2.40

Transport

Taxi rate (per km)

EUR 2.20

City centre public transport

EUR 4

Petrol/gasoline

EUR 1.65

Accommodation in Rotterdam

Expats headed to Rotterdam will be pleased to know that accommodation in the city offers excellent value for money. Rent is significantly cheaper than in other major cities like Amsterdam and The Hague and makes for a more attractive cost of living. Demand is high, however, and rental prices are rising, so it's best for expats to be prepared to act quickly in case they spot a place they like at a reasonable price.


Types of accommodation in Rotterdam

Rotterdam is famous for its exciting modern architecture, and housing is no exception. From unique designs and architectural landmarks such as the quirky 'cube houses' and buzzing Markthal, to towering apartment blocks and traditional Dutch rowhouses, expats are sure to find something they like.

Expats such as international students on a budget generally opt for house or flat shares in Rotterdam. This involves sharing kitchen facilities and a living room space among multiple tenants but having a private bedroom.

Alternatively, business travellers and expats looking for luxury can find several serviced apartments in Rotterdam. These are fully furnished and equipped with attractive amenities and WiFi.

Most accommodation in Rotterdam comes unfurnished and sometimes even basics such as carpeting and curtains may not be included – this is indicated by the word 'kaal' in rental ads. Fully furnished housing (gemeubileerd) is rarer and more expensive but is often the ideal for expats who aren't settling in the Netherlands for the long term.

Expats looking to furnish their new homes can buy brand new or second-hand furniture, sourcing it locally or abroad, or they can opt to rent furniture for a given period.


Finding accommodation in Rotterdam

In general, the Netherlands is not an easy place for foreigners to find long-term accommodation. This is because the majority of the country's housing is social housing, which is in high demand with years-long waiting lists. In addition, tenants must fall below a certain income bracket to qualify.

Since many expats don't meet these requirements, they are limited to private-sector housing. Again, competition is tough, since only a small percentage of rental houses are privatised – and costs are high.

Expats can search for accommodation using online property portals, such as IamExpat and Pararius, and local newspapers. However, if they don't speak Dutch, the language barrier can be a problem. In this case, it's usually best to hire a real estate agent (makelaar). Some new arrivals employed in Rotterdam enlist the services of a relocation company which can make the house hunt a far less stressful process.

Word-of-mouth is another useful way to find a room or place to stay in Rotterdam, and expats with local contacts, friends and colleagues are advised to reach out to them or use social media platforms to start networking.


Renting accommodation in Rotterdam

Tenancy contracts can seem complicated, but expats hoping to rent in Rotterdam will need to do their research and be aware of all the terms and conditions before making a firm agreement.

Most prospective tenants will need to provide their citizen service number, known as the BSN (burgerservicenummer). Expats may also be asked to provide an employment contract or bank statement.

Leases

The type of tenancy contract an expat will sign depends on their preference and duration of stay. Fixed-period rental contracts are for an agreed minimum period, generally six to 12 months. This can include a clause allowing early termination and providing notice of at least one month. Alternatively, a more flexible lease option is an indefinite rental agreement which has no termination date.

In the Netherlands, verbal rental agreements are legally valid, but we recommend signing a written agreement to serve as documentation and evidence in case of dispute or changes to the living situation.

The lease will include all necessary details about renting the particular property, the requirements of the landlord and the housing rules for the tenant. For example, it will stipulate required payment dates, notice periods, pet policies, deposits and utilities.

Deposits

In Rotterdam, prospective tenants can expect to pay one to three months' worth of rent as a security deposit. This is returned when the rental period terminates, as long as the state of the property remains as it was found.

Before moving in, expats should request an accurate inspection list describing the condition of the property and any furniture. Agents or landlords can then inspect the property in line with these lists when the tenant moves out.

Utilities

Inclusive rental contracts consist of both the rent and utility fees. However, more often than not, utilities aren't included and tenants need to pay this expense for themselves. Expats should ask their landlords about the relevant electricity, internet and telecommunications providers.

Areas and suburbs in Rotterdam

The best places to live in Rotterdam

When deciding where to stay, there are many exciting areas and suburbs in Rotterdam for new arrivals to choose from. From trendy, upmarket areas in the city centre to quieter, family-friendly suburbs on the outskirts of town, there's something to suit everyone. 

Here's a list of popular expat areas in and around Rotterdam.


City-centre living in Rotterdam

Noordereiland

The heart of Rotterdam could become the home or workplace of new expats. Expats staying short term may find themselves staying in a city-centre hotel or apartment, able to enjoy the buzzing city life while working in one of the many international companies operating in Rotterdam Centrum. This district also boasts a transport hub, being home to Rotterdam Centraal, the city’s major railway station.

Oude Westen

Oude Westen is a charming, artsy district that acts as a hub for the city's creatives and is especially popular with expats. The area has a distinctly multicultural atmosphere and there's a lot to explore in the form of speciality shops, cafés and restaurants. Younger residents are drawn to this sprawling area thanks to its live music and nightclubs. Despite its city-centre location, rentals in Oude Westen can be affordable and this is a good option for those on a budget. 

Stadsdriehoek

Home to Rotterdam’s maritime area, Stadsdriehoek is a lively central area boasting waterside restaurants and bars. The popular Markthall is found here, housing eateries as well as apartments and offices. Rotterdam’s history and economy have been shaped by its access to waterways, and the city is said to be home to Europe’s largest seaport. The Nieuwe Maas river flows through the city, and the waterfront Maritime District is a popular tourist area, but is equally attractive to locals who can enjoy a number of landmarks, monuments and the Maritime Museum.

Noordereiland

Noordereiland sits in the Nieuwe Maas, dividing the northern and southern suburbs of the city. This island is largely a residential neighbourhood that offers views of the iconic bridges connecting the city, including the modern Erasmusbrug suspension bridge.


Northern and eastern areas of Rotterdam

Families with children generally opt for accommodation in the surrounding suburbs, such as those to the north and east of the city. The green spaces, properties with gardens and access to schools are major draw factors while transport links to business places allow an easy commute.

Rotterdam Noord

Rotterdam Noord sits just north of Rotterdam Centraal, ideal for expats working in the city centre who prefer to live in a quieter neighbourhood. Blijdorp has a quaint, village-like atmosphere that is well suited to families. Other perks include close proximity to expansive green spaces such as Vroesenpark, perfect for picnics, and Rotterdam Zoo, a great choice for a family outing. Accommodation in this charming northern area is typically reasonably priced – a major draw factor.

Hillegersberg

This upmarket suburb is situated to the northeast of the city centre and is one of Rotterdam's most prestigious addresses, offering detached houses and villas, all in a lush, green environment with views of canals and lakes. Due to the high demand among locals and expats alike, accommodation in Hillegersberg tends to be pricey. Those who can afford to live there will enjoy proximity to good public transport links, while expat families with children can rest assured that good quality international schools are not far off.

Kralingen

Kralingen lies east of Rotterdam Centrum and is close to Hillegersberg. As the home of Erasmus University, Kralingen is naturally popular with students. Its proximity to the city centre, along with the excellent schools in the area, also make it attractive for families and executives. There are plenty of restaurants and cafés to enjoy, along with the natural beauty of Kralingse Bos, a forested area with a lake. Kralingen has a distinctly international feel and housing in the area range from humble apartments to sprawling villas.


Southern areas of Rotterdam

Rotterdam

Suburbs south of the Maas sprawl outwards, encompassing several eclectic neighbourhoods. Areas of Rotterdam Zuid (Rotterdam South) are well connected to public transport and bicycle paths which make cycling a convenient mode of transport. 

Kop van Zuid

Resting on the Maas River's south bank, Kop van Zuid is a vibrant area that is home to many of Rotterdam's architectural marvels. Though the area was once a disused port, the government invested in major redevelopment in the 1990s and today it's a cultural and business hub boasting major banks and financial organisations. Expat professionals, in particular, are likely to enjoy Kop van Zuid's closeness to the city centre.

Katendrecht

Katendrecht has also transformed over the years, becoming a lively riverside neighbourhood offering burger joints, classy restaurants and the opportunity to take in beautiful waterfront views while strolling around. Expats looking for accommodation in Rotterdam should not overlook Katendrecht, where they could score a decent bargain.


Western areas of Rotterdam

Delfshaven

Families, young expats and cultural and historical enthusiasts are all drawn to Rotterdam-West, a sprawling area encompassing multiple suburbs, such as the historical Delfshaven. While new arrivals may be drawn to central Rotterdam areas, many expats settle in surrounding suburbs and neighbouring cities, such as Schiedam.

Delfshaven

Expats keen for a home with a view can find accommodation in one of Delfshaven’s neighbourhoods overlooking the harbour. While the area maintains its historical charm and offers some great sightseeing opportunities, it has developed into a vibrant district with lively bars and music venues.

Schiedam

Schiedam is a city west of Rotterdam. Schiedam's charming historical centre, numerous museums and attractions, and some of the tallest windmills in the world make for a great day out from Rotterdam with the kids. However, some expats may prefer to call Schiedam their home, possibly commuting into Rotterdam for work, or finding a job in Schiedam itself.

Healthcare in Rotterdam

Expats moving to Rotterdam can rest assured that the Netherlands is credited with having one of the best healthcare systems in Europe. The city is home to Erasmus University Medical Center, one of the most prominent academic hospitals in the Netherlands, so those relocating to Rotterdam will have access to excellent healthcare facilities and highly qualified medical professionals. However, it is important to do some research and invest in the right health insurance policy before arriving in the Netherlands. 

EU citizens can use their European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) to access state healthcare here during a short-term visit. UK citizens can make use of their Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC), which replaced the EHIC for UK citizens post-Brexit.

Most medical staff at hospitals in Rotterdam speak good English so expats should not have too much of an issue when it comes to communication.

Here is a list of prominent hospitals in Rotterdam.


Hospitals in Rotterdam

Erasmus University Medical Center

Website: www.erasmusmc.nl
Address: Doctor Molewaterplein 40, 3015 GD Rotterdam

Franciscus Gasthuis & Vlietland

Website: www.franciscus.nl
Address: Kleiweg 500, 3045 PM Rotterdam

Ikazia Ziekenhuis

Website: www.ikazia.nl
Address: Montessoriweg 1, 3083 AN Rotterdam

Maasstad Hospital

Website: www.maasstadziekenhuis.nl
Address: Maasstadweg 21, 3079 DZ Rotterdam

Education and Schools in Rotterdam

While the range of schools and education styles in Rotterdam isn't as extensive as that in Amsterdam, parents still have a few options to choose from. As is the case throughout the Netherlands, both public and private schooling is of a high quality. In public schools, teaching is in Dutch, while private international schools teach in the language of their country of origin.

Younger children can pick up a new language relatively easily and are best suited to public schools in the Netherlands, while older kids and teenagers are less likely to adapt to full-time schooling in a new language. In this case, an international school or bilingual programme is recommended.

Homeschooling is not a common option for parents in Rotterdam – it is not explicitly recognised by Dutch law, and parents would encounter several hurdles to find exceptions to this. Moreover, given the high quality of education in the city, few families see the need for homeschooling.


Public schools in Rotterdam

Compulsory education in the Netherlands begins at the age of five, but most parents opt to begin their child's schooling at age four, especially as this non-compulsory year is funded by the government. Tuition at Dutch public schools is free for children between the ages of four and 16. However, some schools may ask for an additional parental contribution (ouderbijdrage). Teaching is in Dutch, though, which means that public schools aren't always a viable option for non-Dutch-speaking families or those that aren't staying in the country long term.

Some public schools have international sections offering bilingual education (tweetalig onderwijs) designed for native English speakers. For some families, this is an ideal solution. Though not free, these programmes are subsidised by the government and are considerably cheaper than private international school fees. At present, the tweetalig onderwijs programme is offered by only a few select schools in Rotterdam.

Most children attend a school in the same neighbourhood where they live, which makes getting to school easy but also means schools must be prioritised when looking for accommodation in Rotterdam.

At age 12, children begin secondary school. Rotterdam, like elsewhere in the country, offers three public secondary schooling options: VMBO (voorbereidend middelbaar beroepsonderwijs), HAVO (hoger algemeen voortgezet onderwijs) and VWO (voorbereidend wetenschappelijk onderwijs). All three start with a general curriculum then offer specialised streams. HAVO and VWO are typically academically oriented, preparing students for university, while VMBO takes a practical approach and offers a vocational programme.


International schools in Rotterdam

Private international schools are accredited to offer foreign curricula in the Netherlands. Generally, these schools provide a good standard of education with excellent facilities. However, fees can be high, so if opting to go this route, parents should ensure they can afford it, especially as education subsidies in relocation grants are becoming increasingly rare.

Choices for private international schools are limited, with just a handful of schools in Rotterdam offering international curricula. Because there are so few options for expat parents, demand often outnumbers available seats, so it's best to start the application process as early as possible.


Nurseries in Rotterdam

Expat parents to infants can find a number of childcare facilities and services across all areas and suburbs in Rotterdam. Daycare centres are typically open from 7am to 7pm, and provide food, play activities and care for the youngest infants, while preschools generally take children from ages two to four.

Additionally, expats can easily find after-school centres for children, join informal playgroups or hire babysitters, nannies or au pairs.

Expat parents should find out about the national child benefit allowances to cover costs of raising their children at their local municipality where they register after arriving.


Special needs education in Rotterdam

The level of support to children with disabilities in Rotterdam is high. Many schools provide inclusive classroom settings with additional support staff and facilities dependent on student needs, and various informal support groups can be found in the city.

When looking for the most suitable school in Rotterdam, children may be evaluated and expat parents interviewed to determine their needs, and parents should enquire about this at their local municipality.

Children may be integrated into a mainstream school or settled into a school dedicated to children with special needs, namely speciaal basisonderwijs (SBO) and speciaal onderwijs schools. These schools are further divided into four specific clusters for children with visual impairments, hearing or speech impediments, physical or cognitive disabilities or chronic illnesses, and behavioural or social problems.


Tutors in Rotterdam

Children and adults alike can benefit from extra tuition in Rotterdam. Tutors an easily be found through specific companies or online portals, and they can provide private classes, online or in-person, in a wide range of subject areas. Expat families will benefit from learning Dutch to overcome any language barriers, and a private tutor is a good way to go about this.

Lifestyle in Rotterdam

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. From museums, galleries and churches, to abseiling, zoos and boat tours, Rotterdam has much to offer.

Here are some of the must-see tourist attractions in the city.


Recommended attractions in Rotterdam

Cube houses

One of the most photographed buildings in Rotterdam, expats and tourists alike should definitely stop by the cube houses. 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. Today, some of the cubes have been converted into hostels while others still have full-time occupants. One cube is used as a 'show cube', allowing visitors to tour the interior of a cube house.

Erasmusbrug

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

Euromast

This 606ft (185m) tower is the tallest building in the Netherlands. It offers stunning panoramic views of Rotterdam and there are hotel suites available for those wishing to spend a night above the city. The tower has a coffee shop and a revolving restaurant, and guests can even enjoy a traditional high tea. If that sounds a bit tame, adventurous expats may enjoy abseiling or ziplining from the top of the tower.

Grote of Sint-Laurenskerk

During WWII, the medieval centre of Rotterdam was completely demolished by the Rotterdam Blitz bombing. In the wake of the bombing, only one building remained standing, though seriously damaged: Grote of Sint-Laurenskerk, a church built in the 15th century. After the war, extensive restorations took place and today the church is not only a beautiful example of Gothic architecture but also a reminder of the city's resilience through past hardships. 

Kralingse Plas

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.

Markthal

One of Rotterdam's most distinctive and unique buildings, the Markthal is an 11-storey glass building in the shape of an arch. Beneath the arch is a market hall, where visitors can browse shops and stalls. The inside of the arch is covered from floor to ceiling by an awe-inspiring artwork measuring 11,000 square metres.

Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen

One of the most popular art galleries is the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, centrally located at the Museumpark. 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, Vincent van Gogh, Monet and Salvador Dalí. Group visits and guided tours can easily 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. From live music and film screenings to sports events and parades, there's something for everyone. Events generally take place in the same month each year, but expats should confirm exact dates and find out about any postponements or cancellations.

Below are some of the top yearly events in Rotterdam.


Annual 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. Filmmakers of various levels are included, whether well established in the industry or just starting out. Throughout the festival, 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 for the purpose of the festival.

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 Netherland'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.

Getting Around in Rotterdam

Thanks to a fast and efficient public transport system, most expats find Rotterdam's metro, train, buses, ferries and trams to be more than adequate for fulfilling their day-to-day needs, with cycling filling in any gaps. For this reason, it isn't necessary to own a car and most expats find that it's not worth the trouble (and extra expense) especially when there are so many good alternatives available.


Public transport in Rotterdam

Rotterdam has a well-integrated public transport system consisting of buses, trams and the metro. All public transport in the city is operated and coordinated by RET (Rotterdamse Elektrische Tram).

OV-chipkaart and RET tickets

Public transport in Rotterdam and throughout the Netherlands can be accessed using the OV-chipkaart. This smart card is loaded with credit and is used to tap in and out at the beginning and end of each journey. There are different types of cards available, ranging from daily to yearly subscriptions, but all should be renewed after five years.

Metro  

The metro is a quick and easy way of getting around Rotterdam. There are five different lines, each with a corresponding colour and a letter. Beurs Metro Station is the largest subway interchange and all lines cross through here.

Though coverage is widespread, even extending beyond Rotterdam into The Hague, the metro network isn't comprehensive. Any gaps are generally filled in by tram routes. 

Trams

There are nine tram lines operating permanently in the city, with additional lines that operate only during big events or festivals. While the tram route is more comprehensive than that of the metro, many still prefer to take the metro.

Buses

Though a slower way to get around than the tram or metro, buses serve a wide range of areas and can be used for regional travel. There are also night services, which are useful if travelling very late at night when other forms of public transport aren't operating.

Ferries

Expats can hop on board the Aqualiner ferry service or the Waterbus for trips between Rotterdam and Dordrecht. The Waterbus is a great way to experience the city and surrounding areas. RET also offers the Fast Ferry, connecting Hoek van Holland and Maasvlakte.

Trains

While trains are not recommended for travel within Rotterdam, it is one of the best and easiest ways to travel across the country and the continent. Rotterdam Centraal is the city's major railway station and is served by several train lines and routes connecting cities including Paris, Antwerp and Brussels.


Taxis in Rotterdam

There are two options for taking a taxi in Rotterdam: by road or by water.

Regular taxi cabs can be hailed on the street throughout the city as long as the light on their roof is lit up, indicating availability. Otherwise, a cab can be called via phone or mobile application, and Uber also operates in the city.

In addition to Rotterdam's ferries, Watertaxis traverse the Maas River and are a fun and speedy way to get around. Watertaxis typically have eight or 12 seats and offer around 50 stops across Rotterdam. Though not necessarily the most practical for day-to-day transport, this is something that should be experienced at least once.


Cycling in Rotterdam

The Dutch are known worldwide for their love of cycling, and expats living in Rotterdam will find that joining in is not only an easy and convenient way to get around but also has the desirable side effect of getting some exercise and fresh air. Although Rotterdam is the second-largest city in the Netherlands, it's still relatively compact and there are plenty of cycle paths to make it easy to get around on two wheels.

Bicycles can be taken on board the metro and ferries. However, only certain types of compact bicycles can be taken on buses and trams. Expats can rent a bicycle or can purchase their own either new or second-hand.


Driving in Rotterdam

Rotterdam's excellent public transport system, along with its well-developed cycling infrastructure, means that it's easy to get around the city without a car. In fact, the government actively discourages driving, with measures such as high taxes and expensive parking in place to deter the use of private vehicles.

Those who do decide to drive will need to find out if their current drivers' licence is valid or if they need to exchange it. When purchasing a vehicle, be sure to take the cost of tax, fuel and parking into account.


Walking in Rotterdam

Rotterdam is a pedestrian-friendly city and getting around on foot is easy and convenient. Along with its many cycle paths, Rotterdam's sidewalks are well maintained. Most residents enjoy strolling along the canals and pedestrianised areas, such as Lijnbaan, the main shopping street in Rotterdam, and depending on where expats live, they could walk to work or school.