Rotterdam, a bustling port town, is the second-largest city in the Netherlands. It was a fishing village and became the province’s major port in 1340. Today, it’s a young, lively metropolis known for its stunning skyscrapers, magnificent architecture, and trendy restaurants. It can be explored by bike, boat, bus, or on foot, offering extraordinary experiences to locals and visitors, regardless of interest.
Whether you’re here for business or pleasure, you shouldn’t leave the city without visiting some of the best museums in Rotterdam. If you don’t know where to start, head to Rotterdam’s Museumpark, boasting a lovely open space and a cluster of exhibition spaces accessible on foot. You may also want to check out the Wereldmuseum or the exciting Maritime Museum and get to know the city’s fascinating maritime world.
It's essential to note that many museums in the city don’t allow suitcases or oversized backpacks. Staff may deny you entrance into the facilities if you show up with your bags. To be safe, leave your belongings at a luggage locker in Rotterdam before your cultural adventure.
Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen
Located in the heart of the harbor city, the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen is a multi-faceted cultural facility boasting more than 151,000 objects in its collection. Over 50,774 of these art pieces are available online, including works by legendary artists, such as Vincent van Gogh, Peter Paul Rubens, Carel Fabritius, Lucas Cranach, Philip Akkerman, Robert Gober, and many more.
Since its opening in 1849, the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen has been a resource of art, history, and culture in Rotterdam. It holds old master sculptures and paintings, decorative arts, industrial design, modern and contemporary art, and pre-industrial household items.
Next to the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen in Museumpark is another vital art storage facility, the Depot Boijmans Van Beuningen. The depot isn’t a museum, but it’s the world’s first art storage space that provides access to the museum’s comprehensive selection. Unlike the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, the depot doesn’t have exhibitions. But visitors are welcome to wander through the gorgeous building alone or on a guided tour and get an insight into the museum’s restoration and conservation efforts.
Location: Museumpark 18, 3015 CX Rotterdam, Netherlands
Natural History Museum Rotterdam
Also found in the Museumpark is the Natural History Museum Rotterdam, set in the 1852 Villa Dijkzigt. It combines permanent and temporary exhibitions, so visitors can always expect something new to see and discover. It’s a must-visit cultural sight in the city, where you can find an excellent permanent collection of mammals, birds, shells, insects, fish, and plants, highlighting the planet’s biodiversity.
One of the permanent exhibitions you don’t want to miss is the assembled skeleton elephant, Ramon. ‘Ramon’ was born at the Hanover Zoo on December 7th, 1970, but died due to cerebral hemorrhage on April 24th, 1998. You may also want to see the famous ‘Dead Animals Tales’ Exhibition and learn about the dramatic consequences when animals and humans collide. In addition to the displays, there are also temporary activities, tours, seasonal events, and children’s parties that will make your visit to the museum more exciting.
Location: Westzeedijk 345, 3015 AA Rotterdam, Netherlands
When visiting a city, looking into its history allows you to learn about its culture for a more immersive experience, and Museum Rotterdam can give you that. The museum contains a collection of historical artifacts telling the story of the city centuries ago. It also has exhibits of contemporary Rotterdam, showing the everyday life of its people today.
Museum Rotterdam has over 100,000 objects in its collection, ranging from artworks like sculptures to daily lifestyle items like dresses, ceramic tiles, and packing materials. The admission fee is free for visitors with memberships or below 18. The museum is open from 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM on Tuesdays until Saturdays and opens a bit later by 11:00 AM on Sundays.
Location: Coolhaven 375, 3015 GC Rotterdam, Netherlands
Another museum giving a glimpse of the city’s culture is the Kunsthal Rotterdam. Specifically, its focus is on contemporary art, architecture, paintings, and fashion from old and contemporary artists, innovative designers, and professional photographers. You can book guided tours for the exhibition or architecture to enjoy the experience fully.
Besides the displays, the best thing about Kunsthal Rotterdam is the building itself, which has become an icon for modern architecture. It was designed from 1988 to 1989 by the famous architect Rem Koolhaas. In addition to its structure, the innovative use of materials for the construction also contributed to its international reputation. So you can say that the venue is part of the exhibition.
You can enjoy Kunsthal Rotterdam’s exhibitions, talks, workshops, and other activities during its opening hours. It’s closed on Mondays and open the rest of the week from 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM.
Location: Westzeedijk 341, 3015 AA Rotterdam, Netherlands
The Maritime Museum Rotterdam
The Rotterdam Maritime Museum highlights the maritime sector, its beauty, and its impact on society. Just 10 minutes from Rotterdam Station, it houses the largest and most prominent maritime collections worldwide, comprising six centuries of Dutch naval history. Furthermore, it’s located in one of the oldest harbors in the Netherlands, founded in 1873 by Prince Hendrik the Sailor. It's one of the best museums in Rotterdam for those curious about the fascinating seafaring world.
Besides the exhibition, the Maritime Museum Rotterdam has a library visitors can check out. It contains the most extensive maritime materials, from scientific books to international literature on shipping, shipbuilding, ports, and offshore.
The Maritime Museum Harbour is also worth exploring. It’s the Netherlands’ oldest and largest museum harbor, where special guest ships and historic ships are moored. Head to the lighthouse and learn how the Port of Rotterdam became the largest in Europe. You can also chill and refuel at the Lage Licht museum café or witness maritime crafts in the workshops.
Location: Leuvehaven 1, 3011 EA Rotterdam, Netherlands
Learn about people and cultures in the past and present at the Wereldmuseum Rotterdam, home to the city’s most important historical treasures. It is housed in a majestic Willemskade building by the Maas river, originally constructed for the Royal Yacht Club. It features over 83,000 objects obtained since the 19th century by Rotterdammers.
If you need a break during your visit, stop by the Museum Café for a cup of coffee or delicious lunch. There’s a terrace where you can appreciate the view of the Erasmus Bridge and the historic arbor area, the Veerhaven, while enjoying your snacks.
Location: Willemskade 25, 3016 DM Rotterdam, Netherlands
Rotterdam’s architecture is renowned for its cube houses, which have been around the city for more than 40 years. These buildings come in odd shapes and slanted walls, so at first glance, it may be hard to imagine how to live in them. The Kijk-Kubus or Show-Code Museum can give you a glimpse of these unique houses and let you experience life inside one.
The architect behind Kijk-Kubus is Piet Blom, whose expertise is in structuralism. Structuralist buildings were criticized during his time, but his works made it big. The museum comprises 38 cube houses, all of which have been occupied since 1984. You can visit any day of the week, from 11:00 AM to 5:00 PM.
Location: Overblaak 70, 3011 MH Rotterdam, Netherlands
Nederlands Fotomuseum, one of the best platforms for photography collection in the Netherlands, is a must-visit place for those who love photography. The exhibitions feature shots from the past to the present from various renowned professional photographers. There are also activities and workshops that visitors can enjoy during their stay. Additionally, you can buy photos, photo books, and visual books.
As for when to visit, this Dutch Photography Museum is open from Tuesday to Sunday from 11:00 AM to 5:00 PM. For special days and holidays, visit their official website or contact them for more information. The museum can be easily accessible by public transport, and parking facilities are available for those driving.
Location: Statendam 1 (Wilhelminapier), Rotterdam, Netherlands
Dutch Pinball Museum
The Dutch Pinball Museum is perhaps one of the unique museums in Rotterdam. Unlike most that show the city’s history through art, crafts, and everyday items, it uses pinball machines. Its collection is arranged based on what era they were produced and most used, as well as their stages of development. One of the oldest is the Humpty Dumpty. Currently, the museum has over 100 playable machines from 1853 to the newest ones.
The Dutch Pinball Museum accepts visitors during weekends only, from 12:00 PM to 6:00 PM. Every ticket allows two hours of stay inside the museum. Besides marveling at the exhibitions, there’s also a small restaurant where you can eat, drink, and relax.
Location: Voorhaven 12, 3024 RM Rotterdam, Netherlands
Het Nieuwe Instituut
Architecture and design enthusiasts will find a paradise at Het Nieuwe Instituut, the country’s national museum for architecture, design, & digital culture. It is located in the Museumpark, boasting an outstanding architectural collection to showcase the unique work of designers, including digital makers and architects.
The museum collection contains the national archive of Dutch architecture. It includes 1.4 million drawings, 3,000 models, and 300 thousand photographs. Plus, there’s a library containing 70 thousand of magazines and books. Apart from the collection, Het Nieuwe Instituut also features a museum shop, café, garden, auditorium, and educational spaces.
Location: Museumpark 25, 3015 CB Rotterdam, Netherlands
If you’re a fan of art museums, you might want to visit Kunstinstituut Melly. It was called the Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art for 30 years and recently changed into its current name to mark the beginning of its transitional juncture. Established in 1990, this international art institution in Rotterdam features global contemporary art exhibitions, programs, and events.
Kunstinstituut Melly organizes exhibitions and tours and commissions arts. It presents art pieces by cultural makers and visual artists from the country and abroad. You can also check out the bookshop with a selection of publications and café located in the street-level gallery area of the museum.
Location: Witte de Withstraat 50, 3012 BR Rotterdam, Netherlands
What are the best free museums in Rotterdam?
Learning about Netherlands’ history and culture through its art galleries and museums in Rotterdam doesn’t have to cost a fortune. Thankfully, it’s possible for visitors to enter a cultural facility in the city without paying hefty entrance fees. While most Rotterdam museums will require you to pay, some offer free entry on certain days of the week or month.
A perfect example is the Museum of Rotterdam. On regular days, adult visitors may pay a minimum fee. But visitors of all ages can take advantage of free admission on the first Saturday of every month.
Which are the best museums in Downtown Rotterdam?
The Rotterdam city center is home to a number of world-class museums, art centers, and galleries. You don’t even have to go far if you explore the Museum Park, with cultural institutions and exhibition spaces just a short walk from each other. As you stroll through the urban oasis, you can visit the Kunsthal Rotterdam, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen and its Depot, and several others.
Are there any cheap museums in Rotterdam?
While Rotterdam isn’t as expensive as the Netherlands' capital, you still have to be financially prepared when visiting the city. But if you’re traveling on a tight budget and want to spend a day at museums, there are cheap exhibition venues and art centers in Rotterdam to add to your must-visit list. Head to Kunstinstituut Melly and the Natural History Museum; each costs half the ticket price of most museums in Rotterdam.
Visit World-class Rotterdam Museums!
Rotterdam is a rich harbor city packed with culture, architecture, and art. Perhaps, the primary reason for your trip is working or shopping in the town. But you’ll most likely be tempted to immerse yourself in its history through its abundance of excellent museums and art galleries. Apart from the top cultural and art centers, don’t forget to discover other valuable gems and a wealth of city treasures hidden in its less popular attractions, many of which are free to experience.