7 Uniquely Cool Rotterdam Museums for Your 2023 Trip
Rotterdam is a modern and vibrant city in the western part of the Netherlands. It is a major port city and one of the largest in Europe, known for its bustling waterways and iconic architecture.
The city has a rich history dating back to the Middle Ages, but is perhaps best known for its role in the 20th century as a center of innovation and industry. After being destroyed during World War II, Rotterdam was rebuilt in the post-war years and today stands as a symbol of resilience and progress.
Rotterdam is also known for its innovative architecture and urban design, including the iconic Erasmus Bridge and the Markthal, an indoor market with a stunning, arched glass roof. Though it may not be as well-known as nearby cities like Amsterdam or Brussels, in Belgium, it’s equally hip and has plenty of art and culture to fill a few days of exploration.
These are the seven best museums in Rotterdam you don’t want to miss on your upcoming Netherlands vacation.
Where to find the best museums in Rotterdam
Several museums listed in this article are in the Museumpark, a cultural complex in the heart of the city near the Erasmus Bridge. The other museums are scattered throughout the city, but fortunately, it’s easy to get around. Rotterdam is very walkable and many hotels have bike rentals or bikeshare programs.
Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen
Museum Boijmans van Beuningen was founded in 1849, making it one of the oldest museums in the Netherlands. This museum showcases a comprehensive collection of Dutch and European art from the Middle Ages to the 21st century, including works by Rembrandt, Vincent van Gogh, Dirksz van Hoogstraten, and Salvador Dalí.
The museum’s collection was originally part of the private collection of Frans Jacob Otto Boijmans, a wealthy Rotterdam collector. Now, it’s one of the largest Rotterdam museums and even has a hip on-site restaurant (Renilde); try to make a reservation if you’re going for dinner. Museum tickets are only available online (not at the museum window) and all information is available in multiple languages, English included.
Pro tip: you’ll want to download the museum’s app to avoid getting lost and ensure you don’t miss any exhibits you’d like to see.
- Address: Museumpark 18-20, 3015 CX Rotterdam, Netherlands
- Hours of operation: Tue-Sun, 11 AM-5 PM. Open until 9 PM on Thursdays.
- Cost: Adults are €20 (roughly $22), children under 18 are free
The Kunsthal Museum
Kunsthal Rotterdam is a contemporary art museum founded in 1992. The museum’s purpose is to showcase contemporary art from the Netherlands and around the world. If you’re not knowledgable on Europe’s art world, the name may not mean much to you, but in the art world, it’s known for its unusual and thought-provoking exhibitions.
Some of the most notable exhibitions that have been held at Kunsthal Rotterdam include solo shows by leading contemporary artists such as Jeff Koons (of balloon dog fame), Gerhard Richter (about whom several documentaries have been made), and New York’s beloved “neo-conceptual” artist Jenny Holzer.
The Kunsthal also has a full schedule of events most months, including panel sessions with exhibiting artists and evening 18-and-over events with interactive elements and late-night access to the galleries. Buy your tickets to the museum and any special events online (though you can buy them at the museum box office if they’re not sold out). Signage is in Dutch and English.
- Address: Museumpark, Westzeedijk 341, 3015 AA Rotterdam
- Hours of operation: Tue-Sun, 10 AM-5 PM. Closed Mondays.
- Cost: Adults are €16.50 (roughly $17.50), children under 18 are free
Maritime Museum Rotterdam
A must-visit for anyone interested in seafaring history is the Maritime Museum of Rotterdam. It showcases the city’s long and fascinating history as a major port and center of maritime trade, from the days of wooden sailing ships to the present day. The museum houses a wide range of exhibits and artifacts, including ship models, paintings, navigation instruments, and more. While the city may not be known as a center of global industry, it used to be, and was, in fact, named for its seaside location. (Rotterdam loosely translates to “muddy water.”)
The Maritime Museum Rotterdam is also in a cool building: a steam-powered water pump house built in 1887.
In addition to the actual museum displays, the Maritime Museum also has a large outdoor area with historic ships, plus active workshops where guests can watch experts make historical seafaring items and even learn how to build a ship themselves. Be sure to stop by the Lighthouse Cafe for some of the city’s best coffee. Exhibits are in English and Dutch.
- Address: Leuvehaven 1 / Maritime District, 3011 EA Rotterdam
- Hours of operation: Tue-Sat, 10 AM-5 PM; Sun, 11 AM-5 PM. Closed Mondays.
- Cost: Adults are €17.50 (roughly $18.50), children 4-15 are €12.50 (roughly $13). Kids under age four are free.
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The items on display at Wereldmuseum Rotterdam were originally established as a collection of objects from the Dutch East Indies, one of the Netherlands’ former colonies. Today, the museum has expanded its focus to encompass a much wider range of cultural artifacts from around the world.
With a collection of more than 26,000 artifacts and artwork from across the globe, the museum provides a comprehensive look at the diversity of human cultures and civilizations. It’s a blend between an art museum and an anthropology museum, and exhibits as of March 2023 include one on the history of hairstyling and another on how hip-hop builds communities.
The museum emphasizes immersive and interactive exhibitions that bring its collections to life, so visitors can expect to see everything from intricate textiles and ceramics to historical photographs and hands-on installations. It’s one of the best Rotterdam museums for adults and children since it covers such a wide range of topics, and audio tours are available in several languages, including English.
- Address: Wereldmuseum, Willemskade 25, 3016 DM Rotterdam
- Hours of operation: Tue-Fri, 10 AM-5 PM; Sat & Sun, 11 AM-5 PM. Closed Mondays.
- Cost: Adults are €15 (roughly $15), children 6-18 are €6 (roughly $6). Kids under age five are free.
The Netherlands Photo Museum
The Netherland Photo Museum (i.e. the Nederlands Fotomuseum) is a museum dedicated to the art of photography. The museum’s collection includes works by renowned photographers such as Henri Cartier-Bresson, Ansel Adams, and Helmut Newton. It’s one of the best museums in Rotterdam if you want to learn a thing or two while you’re traveling as it offers everything from “Museum Nights” with cash bars and pop-up performances to its “Hall of Fame” event series, featuring lectures and Q&A sessions with top photographers.
Note that you’re not allowed to take photos in the museum, nor can you carry anything larger than a small purse through the museum (but there’s a coat check on-site). You can buy your tickets in advance online or at the box office when you arrive as the large museum never reaches capacity. Displays and interactive exhibits are in English and Dutch.
- Address: Statendam 1, Wilhelminapier, Rotterdam
- Hours of operation: Tue-Sun, 11 AM-5 PM. Closed Mondays.
- Cost: Adults are €14 (roughly $14), children are free
The Chabot Musuem
The Chabot Museum was founded as a private museum by Hendrik Chabot, a prominent Dutch artist and collector. Over the years, the museum has grown and expanded, becoming one of the leading institutions of its kind in the Netherlands. Rather than being a purpose-built museum building, the Chabot is actually in a villa built for a private family. Considering it was built back in 1938, it’s surprisingly modern, and visitors can stroll the gardens and grounds as well as the museum collections.
Visitors to the Chabot Museum can expect to see mostly modernist and expressionist art. Much is by Chabot himself, but there are often rotating exhibits with sketches and works from artists like Wassily Kandinsky and Joan Miró. The museum’s collection includes paintings, sculptures, drawings, prints, photographs, and installations. You can visit just the museum or get a combined ticket to also see the Sonneveld House, a preserved home from 1933.
- Address: Museumpark 11, 3015 CB Rotterdam
- Hours of operation: Tue-Sun, 11 AM-5 PM; Sun 12 PM-5 PM
- Cost: Adults are €9 (roughly $9), children are free
Museum Rotterdam is dedicated, as you may be able to guess, to the history and culture of Rotterdam. Visitors can learn about the city’s past and present through various exhibitions, installations, and interactive exhibits. The museum traces the city’s history from its origins as a small fishing village to its current status as a major port city. It’s not huge, but it’s the best of the Rotterdam museums to visit if you’re into history, as there’s an extensive section on the impact of World War II and the city’s subsequent rebuilding.
The museum strives to showcase ordinary people’s stories and life experiences in Rotterdam from its early beginnings to the present day. And it does that in unique ways, like offering bicycle tours that trace the routes of people impacted by WWII. Displays are in English and Dutch.
- Address: Coolhaven 375, 3015 GC Rotterdam
- Hours of operation: Tue-Sat, 10 AM-5 PM; Sun 11 AM-5 PM
- Cost: Adults are €9 (about $9), kids under 18 are free
Where to stay in Rotterdam
The Museumpark is the cultural hub of the city and where you’ll find many of the best Rotterdam museums. It’s also near Rotterdam’s thriving nightlife scene, making a hotel near the Museumpark a good choice if you want easy access for exploring the city on foot. If you’re interested in experiencing Rotterdam’s thriving nightlife, staying in the city-center is a no-brainer.
We hope you love the spaces and stays we recommend! Just so you know, Matador may collect a small commission from the links on this page if you decide to book a stay. Listed prices are accurate as of the time of publication.
Inntel Hotels Rotterdam Centre
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Inntel Hotels Rotterdam Centre is in the city center, at the foot of the famous Erasmus Bridge. The hotel’s interior is inspired by the movement of water, which is incorporated into decor and detailing throughout the property. There’s also a gorgeous bar where you can experience the early evening Dutch concept of “Borrelen,”and an indoor pool in case walking through the city wasn’t enough exercise.
Novotel Rotterdam Brainpark
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The James Rotterdam
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