Top 8 Things For Families To Do In Rotterdam, Netherlands

When I used to think of Rotterdam, I always associated it with a very modern American city along with the favorite football club of my son and Nils. But it was not until now doing my tourism research for our visit to the see family in the Netherlands which I see the city has a lot more to offer than Feyenoord games or the fan shop ;).  For example,  I knew they had a tram system but no idea an underground Metro.

Part of my attraction to Amsterdam and the Netherlands in general, is the style of most of houses / buildings. This is probably why I ignored Rotterdam for so long. It is also surprisingly a very family-friendly city with loads to do for children. I have complied a “top 8 things for families to do in Rotterdam” list.  But we need more than one day to get through the list.   

Note: I originally made this blogpost a few years ago when we were visiting the Netherlands and living in Ireland, but I just went back in and updated it with photos and republished. I figured now we’re living here in the Netherlands for two years and recently visited Rotterdam with [and often without] the kids, why not!

Tip: As with many other local attractions, when booking online, you can combine visits and save a few Euros!

#1 VISIT THE MARITIME MUSEUM

We absolutely LOVED this museum. Even if you are not a “water person”, I really think you’ll still find it interesting. I did a separate post on it which can be found here.   I went back a second alone with Funs and had a nice time – and a bonus, I wasn’t seasick on the platform.  We even went back a third time with the kids —  the four of us spent time on the platform doing the activities like landing the helicopter, repairing a leak in an oil pipe, etc.  This section of the museum is brilliant and a must do while there. 

As the museum closes early at 5, I took Maebh upstairs to Profession Plons, so she could have about 20 minutes of play up there as she enjoyed it when we were there the first time.  But now at 10, she is really way too old.  It is great for kids 3-8. 

#2 – TAKE A HARBOUR CRUISE 

There are a few options available for you to visit and sightsee by water including hop on and off boats and of course water taxis and aqua shuttle. 

First is Spido tours. Among the busy traffic of sea-going and inland ships, this trip is a special journey through one of the largest harbours in the world. You can see Rotterdam’s impressive skyline with its imposing buildings glide by, and then get a unique view of the harbours shipyards, docks and the hypermodern trans shipping of thousands of containers. Last but not least the tour will end with a view of the steamship ‘Rotterdam’, the former cruise flagship of shipping company Holland America Line. An exciting 75 minutes with clear descriptions of everything you see.

Second is Splashtours which is similar to the Ducktours in Boston but instead of a WW2 style vehicle it’s an amphibious​ bus!  You have the option of first taking a tour where you drive through the city before ‘splashing’ into the river Maas.

But unlike the funny Boston drivers who give live commentary, here your tour was TV footage and audio.

#3 – PANNENKOEKENBOAT

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If the idea of eating UNLIMITED Dutch pancakes with a variety of toppings while seeing Rotterdam by boat seems like your type of fun, you won’t want to miss this place.  They offers variety of sailings from 75-minute to 2.5 hours!   They even have a ball pit area to keep the younger kids entertained. While I’d find this a bit boring personally, I’d go along for the kids as I know they’d love it.   Book online here

#4 – PLASJWIJCK PARK

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This place is so unique and a place the kids loved to visit and were never bored!  It’s called an amusement park but it’s more of an indoor and outdoor play space with a petting zoo and water playground. The parks website is only in Dutch but this review is in English and is very thorough and shows how fun this place can be for kids. While we visited, I never got around to do a post on it.  We’ll have to re-visit.

#5 – BLIJDOORP ZOO – AKA – ROTTERDAM ZOO

Also known as Diergaard Blijdorp, it is recognized as one of the most beautiful zoos in Europe, it is home to giraffes, tigers, seals, gorillas, polar bears all having their own unique habits.  Other highlights include the award-winning butterfly garden area, Amazonica and an aquarium area Oceanium.  We ended up visiting this zoo without the children but will take them next time.  Visit my post – A Day at the Blijdoorp Zoo. 

#6 – EUROMAST

The Euromast is Rotterdam’s iconic observation tower. It was built in 1960 to mark the occasion Floriade, an international flower and garden exhibition. Its height at 101 meters was the tallest building back in the days. Unfortunately, Euromast quickly lost its title due to the ever changing Rotterdam’s skyline. In 1970, Euromast retaliated with additional 85 meters by adding a rotating elevator – ‘Space Tower’.

I just did a blogpost about our recent visit to the Euromast – read it here:  The Euromast – Experience the most stunning views of Rotterdam

#7 – SS ROTTERDAM CRUISE SHIP 

This former Trans-Atlantic liner has been transformed into a restaurant/bar and 254 room hotel. The ss Rotterdam is the largest passenger ship ever built in The Netherlands: 228 meters long, 28 meters wide and 61 meters in height. It was inaugurated by Dutch Queen Juliana in 1958. Until 1971 it ran scheduled services to New York City, but turned more towards cruises when air traffic became more popular. You can read more about the history and things onboard on their site.   We went here for a drink and I posted about it in my blog post – A Day Out in Rotterdam.  We ended up going back this time taking the kids on – but of course, it was drizzly that day too so no chance for a dip in the pool or a drink on the Lido Deck.  Read about my blog post here:  ss Rotterdam: Legendary steamship with a nostalgic atmosphere. 

#8 – VISIT A MUSEUM

There are several other museums to visit where the children will be entertained and at the same time learn something new. 

Natuurhistorisch Museum   Rotterdam features skeletons, stuffed animals, fossils, butterflies.

Museum Rotterdam ’40 – ’45  features all things pertaining to the War and the resistance. It’s a reminder of how people lived and what they did during the war. It is a treasure trove of information and stuff like cigar boxes, Jewish stars, etc 

Kunsthal  There is always something for families and children to do in the Kunsthal. Children between 6 and 12 years old can go on their own Look & Do tour of the main exhibition of that moment, while for teenagers between 12 and 18 years there are Viewer Guides. Get inspired by the exhibition ‘Masterly! Four centuries of drawing and painting’. Dive into the DrawingLAB and create your own work of art!

While I know there are so many MORE things to do in Rotterdam, these are some  of things to do with the kids.  When we do more things, I’ll add more details and photos.  Have any tips of fun things I can do with the kids?  

Check out my other blog posts relating to this fabulous city Rotterdam:

A Day Out In Rotterdam
Maeslantkering: Visiting the Storm Surge Barrier
A Day at the Blijdorp Zoo
Cafe Dukok – Best Apple Pie in Rotterdam
Day & Day Hot & Hot – Hot Pot Restaurant Review
ss Rotterdam: Legendary steamship with a nostalgic atmosphere. 

 

A Day At Blijdorp Zoo Rotterdam, Netherlands

On Sunday, I spent the entire afternoon at one of the oldest zoos in the Netherlands, Blijdorp Zoo aka Rotterdam Zoo. We arrived at 11:30 and left at 4:00. We walked and walked and saw as much as we could. With COVID, some things were sectioned off, like various indoor buildings, all scheduled feedings, the bird flight demonstration and presentations were cancelled to avoided groups from gathering (although that happened a bit naturally at times). We did see a guy with a bucket of veg walking near the prarie dogs [which are not actually dogs but burrowing rodents native to the grasslands of North America] – so lucky for us we did see a mini feed :). Look at this cute guy!

The zoo is really HUGE! I’d like to go back with the kids as I know they’d really enjoy it.

I took a lot of photos of the animals with my iPhone – so the quality of the phots are not superb but good enough. I will not post about every item we saw at the zoo, you can see all that is offered yourself by looking at the zoo’s website, rather I’ll post some of the highlights which I found great. The zoo map takes you on a journey of discovery through different countries in the world, where you can meet the animals which live there.

AMAZONICA

You walk into the rainforest-like environment and suddenly there are butterflies everywhere. This is Europe’s largest butterfly paradise with tropical temperatures and hundreds of beautiful South American butterflies flying around landing on the native plants and flowers. There are plenty of opportunities to get really close to them too. My favorite of all were the giant blue ones which were very hard to capture on my phone. Other residents of the South American section is an anaconda and piranhas. Oh and these giant leaves – I can imagine how beautiful the flower in the middle will be when in bloom.

BOKITO THE GORILLA

The most (in)famous inhabitant of the Blijdorp Zoo is Bokito, the giant silverback gorilla. In 2007, he managed to jump over the canal and broke out of his pen to grab a female admirer who visited him daily. We did see a giant silverback stand up and beat his chest (as you can see in my photo) but I’m not sure if it was Bokito, but I assume it is.

The word “bokitoproof“, meaning “durable enough to resist the actions of an enraged gorilla” and by extension “durable enough to resist the actions of a non-specific extreme situation” was voted the Word of the Year for 2007 in the Netherlands.[11][12]

POLAR BEAR

We saw one lazy, sleeping polar bear out in the heat. I so wished he got up and went for a swim – no such luck. This area is a great example of one that was completely closed off due to COVID. There was a seating area and stage for a discussion “meet our polar bear keeper”.

ELEPHANT ENCLOSURE

It is very hard to resist smiling when you see elephants playing in water, especially the young ones – pushing each other around and just asking like kids. We even saw the mom or dad (couldn’t tell) throwing sand up on its wet body. I made a few videos – hope they make you smile too.

GIRAFFES

Technically there is not really that much to see with the giraffes besides animals eating. We didn’t see any baby giraffes but that doesn’t mean they were not inside. They are such beautiful creatures and from the bridge, you get quite close to them.

OUTDOOR PLAYGROUND

OCEANIUM

 

I couldn’t help think of nearly 100 year old, Myrtle the Turtle from the New England Aquarium in Boston. Last time we visited the aquarium, it was 2014 when we went back to the states for the kids to be in our friend’s wedding and got to spend some time in Boston with one of my best friends and her kids. I just look back at my blog post for that day – they were so little!!

PRACTICAL INFORMATION

Details about opening times, booking, restrictions (you can only pay with pin in the entire zoo) and prices can all be found on their website.  You can even download the map in advance to plan out your route if you are that type of person. With COVID, things are a bit different so you have to book online a time slot and ticket, etc.      We rented OV-fiets from Rotterdam Central Station and it was an easy 9 minute bike ride, but from what I could see there was plenty of parking spots (for a fee) in the car park.  Information about parking and things like buggy rentals, etc.  can all be found online. 

While I didn’t do it, they also offer a free app that you can download for both iOS and Android devices. This app will show you the map of the zoo and possible trails. It also contains more detailed descriptions of the zoo’s residents. I think it’s a good invention to allow their guests a better experience in the zoological garden.  In fact, you could do this in advance of your trip. 

SUMMARY: THIS ZOO IS A MUST VISIT!

I highly recommend a day out at Blijdorp Zoo if you are on holiday in the Netherlands or like me living here and whether you have kids or not.  You’ll want to spend a full day here so arrive at opening time and then plan to spend a full day seeing all the animals and playing in the playgrounds (if you bring kids).  Of course, wear comfortable shoes as you will be walking A LOT!   You can buy lunch at the many food places, but we brought some salads from AH and ate them on a bench near the pond.   Either way, I’m certain it’s impossible to not have a great day at this zoo.     If we lived closer, I’d get a membership. When we lived in North Norfolk, we had a membership to the Amazona Zoo in Cromer – while small, we loved to visit.   I would take my good camera and take photos of the kids and the animals – especially during the daily feedings. 

Have you been to the Rotterdam Zoo?    Any tips for my return visit with the kids apart from brining my good camera?  Send me a private message or comment below.   

Visiting Rotterdam, check out my blog posts Maeslantkering: Visiting the Storm Surge Barrier   A Day Out In Rotterdam    The Euromast – Experience the most stunning views of Rotterdam  Top 8 Things For Families To Do In Rotterdam