Amsterdam vs Rotterdam: Which Dutch City Should You Explore?

One has history and culture that captures hearts 
The other has scene that vibes in music and arts
Its always a dilemma to decide between Amsterdam 
And The Netherlands other city – Rotterdam.

Amsterdam Vs Rotterdam – this is a choice that every traveler heading to The Netherlands faces. Get tips to make your decision with this blog article comparing the two Dutch cities on various parameters including affordability, food, culture and things to do. 

As someone who has visited both Amsterdam and Rotterdam, I can attest that these two cities offer unique experiences that are worth exploring. While both cities are located in the Netherlands and are easily accessible by train, they have distinct differences in terms of architecture, attractions, food, and nightlife. In this article, I will provide an honest comparison of Amsterdam vs Rotterdam to help you decide which city is the best fit for your travel style and preferences.

Amsterdam Vs Rotterdam - which Dutch city should you visit?
Amsterdam Vs Rotterdam – which Dutch city should you visit?

Amsterdam is known for its picturesque canals, historic buildings, and cultural landmarks such as the Van Gogh Museum and the Anne Frank House. On the other hand, Rotterdam boasts a modern skyline, innovative architecture, and a thriving arts and music scene. In terms of food and drink, Amsterdam is famous for its stroopwafels, cheese, and beer, while Rotterdam is known for its multicultural cuisine and trendy cafes. Amsterdam is often considered more expensive than Rotterdam, but which city is more affordable for tourists? Which city has a better nightlife scene? These are some of the questions that I will address in this blog article.

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Key Takeaways from this Article

  • Amsterdam and Rotterdam offer unique experiences that are worth exploring.
  • Amsterdam is known for its picturesque canals and cultural landmarks, while Rotterdam boasts a modern skyline and a thriving arts and music scene.
  • The article will provide an honest comparison of Amsterdam vs Rotterdam in terms of attractions, food and drink, affordability, and nightlife to help you decide which city to visit.
  • Finally, if you are looking for a long and slow travel through the Netherlands, which one of these two cities – Rotterdam or Amsterdam should you consider?

Overview of Amsterdam

Discover Amsterdam - one day trip from Rotterdam                                    PC: Pixabay
Discover Amsterdam – one day trip from Rotterdam PC: Pixabay

Which city to visit in The Netherlands – Amsterdam or Rotterdam? This was one of the biggest dilemmas that I faced when I planned my trip to the Netherlands. I believe that it is the same with all travelers heading there. To help you work out the answer, I will first give you an overview of each of these cities to start with and then get onto the comparison of the two.

Let’s begin with Amsterdam, one of the most famous cities in the world known for its canals, museums, and coffee shops.

History of Amsterdam

Amsterdam has a rich history that dates back to the 12th century when it was a small fishing village. Over the centuries, it grew into a major port city and became the center of world trade in the 17th century. During this time, Amsterdam became a hub of art and culture, with many famous painters, such as Rembrandt and Van Gogh, living and working in the city. Today, Amsterdam is a vibrant and modern city that still retains its historical charm.

Culture of Amsterdam

Westerkerk Church in Amsterdam
Westerkerk Church in Amsterdam

Amsterdam is a city that is known for its liberal and open-minded culture. The city is home to many museums, including the famous Rijksmuseum and the Van Gogh Museum. The Anne Frank House is also located in Amsterdam and is a must-visit for those interested in World War II history. In addition to its museums, Amsterdam is known for its nightlife, with many bars, clubs, and coffee shops located throughout the city.

Overall, there are so many things to do in Amsterdam for almost everyone, whether you are interested in history, art, or just having a good time.

Overview of Rotterdam

Rotterdam city
Rotterdam city PC: Pixabay

If you’re looking for a city in the Netherlands that’s modern, bustling, and has a unique vibe, then Rotterdam is the place to be. As a port city, Rotterdam is a hub of activity and is known for its impressive modern architecture.

History of Rotterdam

The history of Rotterdam goes back to the 13th century. This city too, was founded as a small fishing village on the banks of the river Rotte. It grew over the centuries, becoming a major port city and a hub of trade and commerce. Unfortunately, during World War II, Rotterdam was heavily bombed, resulting in the destruction of much of the historic architecture of this city. This led to a massive rebuilding effort, which is why Rotterdam is now known for its modern architecture.

Culture of Rotterdam

Us at Keukenhof - one of the places that you can easily visit from Rotterdam
Us at Keukenhof – one of the places that you can easily visit from Rotterdam

Rotterdam is a melting pot of cultures, with a diverse population that includes people from all over the world. This is reflected in the city’s vibrant art scene, which includes museums, galleries, and street art. Rotterdam is also home to a number of festivals and events throughout the year, including the Rotterdam International Film Festival, the North Sea Jazz Festival, and the World Port Days.

One of the things that you should do when you are exploring Rotterdam’s culture, is to check out the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, which has an impressive collection of art from the Middle Ages to the present day. You should also stroll along the Witte de Withstraat, which is lined with galleries, shops, and restaurants.

There are so many day trips from Rotterdam that allow you to explore the authentic Dutch culture and countryside. This makes Rotterdam a great gateway to explore the rest of The Netherlands

Groningen canals
Groningen canals

Groningen is one offbeat town in Netherlands that is usually missed out on the tourist circuit. Check out why you need to visit it.

Rotterdam Vs Amsterdam on the various attractions

Amsterdam Attractions

Main Amsterdam Attraction - Rijksmuseum
Main Amsterdam Attraction – Rijksmuseum PC: Pixabay

While I have a complete post on the best Amsterdam places to visit, let me share some of the top attractions that I recommend checking out. This will also, give you a good idea when you get around to comparing the attractions of Rotterdam.

  • Rijksmuseum: This museum houses an extensive collection of Dutch art, including works by Rembrandt, Vermeer, and Frans Hals. The building itself is a work of art, with its grand entrance and stunning interior.
  • Van Gogh Museum: This museum is dedicated to the life and works of Vincent van Gogh, one of the most famous Dutch painters. The museum has the largest collection of Van Gogh’s paintings and drawings in the world.
  • Anne Frank House: This is the house where Anne Frank and her family hid during World War II. The museum tells the story of Anne Frank’s life and the persecution of Jews during the war.
  • Canal Cruise: A canal cruise is a great way to see Amsterdam from a different perspective. There are many companies that offer canal tours, and some even include dinner or drinks.
  • Vondelpark: This is Amsterdam’s largest park, and it’s a great place to relax and enjoy nature. There are walking and cycling paths, as well as playgrounds and cafes.

Overall, Amsterdam has a lot to offer visitors, from its world-class museums to its picturesque canals and parks. Even if you decide not to base yourself in Rotterdam for your Netherlands trip, I highly recommend taking the time to explore this beautiful city – possibly as a day trip or a weekend one. 

Attractions in Rotterdam

Rotterdam cube houses
Rotterdam cube houses PC: Pixabay

When it comes to attractions, Rotterdam is a city that has something for everyone. Here are some of my favorite places to visit in Rotterdam:

  • Markthal Rotterdam – Markthal Rotterdam is a unique indoor food market that is a must-visit for foodies. The market has over 100 stalls selling everything from fresh fish and meat to cheese, bread, and wine. The building itself is also a work of art, with a colorful and intricate ceiling that adds to the overall atmosphere of the market.
  • Euromast – For a stunning view of Rotterdam, head to the top of Euromast. This tower stands at 185 meters tall and offers panoramic views of the city and its surroundings. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can even take a zip line from the tower to the ground.
  • Rotterdam Zoo – Also known as Diergaarde Blijdorp, is a great place to spend a day with family or friends. The zoo has a wide variety of animals, including tigers, elephants, and penguins, as well as a botanical garden and a butterfly exhibit.
  • Cube Houses – The Cube Houses are a unique architectural attraction in Rotterdam. These houses are designed to look like cubes that have been tilted on their sides, and they are a great spot for a photo op. One of the Cube Houses is even open to the public as a museum, so you can see what it’s like to live in one of these unusual homes.
  • Rotterdam Harbour – This is the largest port in Europe and is a fascinating place to visit. You can take a boat tour of the harbor to see the massive ships up close, or you can visit the Maritime Museum to learn more about the history of the port and the ships that have passed through it.

Rotterdam has its share of amazing museums like the Museum Boijmans-van Beuningen with its art collection and the Wereldmuseum on the world cultures. There are some stunning churches too – such as Grote of Sint-Laurenskerk.

Overall, Rotterdam is a city that has a lot to offer in terms of attractions. Whether you’re interested in food, architecture, nature, or history, there is something for everyone in Rotterdam. Again, you can do a day trip from Amsterdam to Rotterdam but I will leave that call to you after you see the rest of the comparison between the two cities of The Netherlands.

Food and Drink Comparison between Amsterdam and Rotterdam

Stroopwafels - a Dutch specialty
Stroopwafels – a Dutch specialty PC: Pixabay

Honestly speaking, as a foodie, you will find both Amsterdam and Rotterdam just amazing. The food scene in Amsterdam is quite diverse with a wide range of international cuisines while Rotterdam on the other hand will delight you with its unique culinary offerings and experimental cuisine.

Rotterdam has innumerable street food stalls and cheap kebab shops, as well as high-end restaurants serving Instagram-worthy dishes. Be sure to check out one of the most popular dishes in Rotterdam – kapsalon. This is a mix of fries, kebab meat, cheese, and salad and was invented in Rotterdam in 2003. I would also, suggest trying the Dutch bitterballen, which is made using a different recipe from the Amsterdam version. Rotterdam has some food tours that you can book online using this link.

Amsterdam has a more established food scene with a variety of Michelin-starred restaurants and traditional Dutch cuisine. If you are a seafood lover, then you are in for a treat with its fresh seafood, particularly herring. My favorite here was the stroopwafels – a thin waffle cookie filled with caramel syrup. You can find these at street markets and bakeries all over the city. Of course, there is that vibrant café culture, with cozy coffee shops and trendy brunch spots – a perfect place to relax and enjoy the local vibe. Of course, there are always those Amsterdam food tours that you will find here to enjoy the best of Dutch delicacies

Accommodation Comparison of Rotterdam & Amsterdam

Amsterdam city center - a good place to stay in the city
Amsterdam city center – a good place to stay in the city PC: Pixabay

Accommodation is always an important factor in any travel. In this case, when comes to choosing between Amsterdam and Rotterdam, you might find it tipping the scales in favor of the latter – especially if you are looking for a slow and long trip through the Netherlands.

Amsterdam has a plethora of options for accommodation, ranging from budget-friendly hostels to luxurious hotels. However, you are likely to find them a little higher than in Rotterdam.

Rotterdam has a more local feel and is not as touristy as Amsterdam. As a result, the cost of accommodation in Rotterdam is generally lower than in Amsterdam. Here too, you will be finding options for budget as well as luxury stays.

The city center in either of the two cities is a good location to stay given its proximity to the main attractions, food joints and ease of transport. In Amsterdam, this is generally quite crowded and noisy, especially at night. Rotterdam city center, on the other hand, is not as bad as the city itself is more spread out.

When I did my research, I kept the city center as my preferred location and worked out the costs. This is how similar hotels in Rotterdam and Amsterdam might work out for one night.

Which city has a better nightlife scene, Amsterdam or Rotterdam?

For those of you who love their nightlife, here is what the two cities have to offer.

Amsterdam is known for its lively and vibrant nightlife scene, with plenty of bars, clubs, and pubs to choose from. Some of the best areas to explore for a night out in Amsterdam include Leidseplein, Rembrandtplein, and the Jordaan neighborhood. You’ll find everything from trendy cocktail bars to live music venues and dance clubs. You can even book their tickets online. Amsterdam’s famous Red Light District is a popular spot for tourists looking for a wild night out.

Rotterdam’s nightlife scene is just a little relaxed compared to Amsterdam, but that doesn’t mean it’s any less fun. One of the best things about Rotterdam’s nightlife is the variety of options available. The same goes with a cozy pub or a trendy nightclub. Some of the best areas to explore for a night out in Rotterdam include Witte de Withstraat, Oude Haven, and Katendrecht. Personally, I feel that the Rotterdam nightlife works really well for couples looking to spend a good time with each other.

Transportation Comparison between Amsterdam and Rotterdam

Trams in Amsterdam - one way of getting around the city
Trams in Amsterdam – one way of getting around the city PC: Pixabay

When it comes to transportation, both Amsterdam and Rotterdam have excellent public transport systems that are easy to use and affordable. Both cities have a transport or city card that can be bought online and can be used across the public transport system – helping you save a few pennies. However, there are some differences between the two cities that are worth considering.

~Buy your city transport cards right here ~
Amsterdam Card
Rotterdam Card

In Amsterdam, you will find that the tram is common and possibly, the primary mode of public transport is the tram. This is one mode that is easily accessible from the city center and is interconnected with the other modes like buses and metro services. I also, found that one of the best ways to get around Amsterdam is by bike. Cycling is a popular mode of transport for locals, and it’s a great way to see the city at your own pace. With so many rental shops in the city, getting one for yourself is a piece of cake.

Rotterdam on the other hand, has the metro, which covers most of the city center and surrounding areas. Trams and buses too, are available, but they are not as extensive as the metro network. Here too, like in Amsterdam, cycling is a popular mode of transport. Rotterdam is also relatively flat, making it easy to cycle around.

Both places have Hop-on Hop-Off buses and a great canal cruise too. Essentially, they are both equally easy to get around. There is a slight difference in the overall cost that you might incur but more of that in the next section.

Which city is more affordable for tourists, Rotterdam or Amsterdam?

According to a travel price comparison, Rotterdam is generally cheaper than Amsterdam. If you keep London as the base, then the cost of living index in Amsterdam is 1.57% higher than in London. While in Rotterdam, it is 9.50% lower than in London. Similarly, the average cost of rent in Amsterdam is 16.71% lower than in London, but in Rotterdam, it is 31.15% lower.

On the parameter of food, both cities have a range of options to suit all budgets. In general however, Rotterdam is cheaper than Amsterdam. For example, a meal for two at a mid-range restaurant in Amsterdam can cost around €60, while in Rotterdam, it can cost around €50.

While ease of travel is great and comparable in both cities, the difference is in the cost of transportation. In Amsterdam, the cost of public transport can add up quickly, with a single tram or bus journey costing €3.20. In Rotterdam, a single journey costs €2.00. Having said that, Amsterdam is a walkable city, with many of its attractions close together. This makes it possible to explore on foot.

In conclusion, Rotterdam is generally more affordable for tourists.

My Verdict on Amsterdam Vs Rotterdam – which is the better city to visit and stay in the Netherlands?

After exploring both Amsterdam and Rotterdam, I have to say that both cities have their own unique charm and appeal. However, as a traveler, I feel Rotterdam might be a better city to base yourself and explore the rest of The Netherlands. Not only does it have its own attractions, the proximity of various destinations and ease of travel from Rotterdam add some points in its favor. Affordability wise too Rotterdam tends to be a bit cheaper than Amsterdam.

That is not to say that one must not visit Amsterdam. It can be a part of your Holland itinerary as a day trip or a weekend getaway from Rotterdam. That way, you can satiate your wanderlust with the rich history and culture of this city too. The weekend also gives you room to experience the bustling nightlife of Amsterdam.

Trust that gives you an answer to your dilemma. Do you agree?

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