Guide for the student life in Rotterdam by Dutch Glocals: Enjoy your City!

An introduction to Rotterdam by 3 Dutch GLOCAL students Lisa, Tynke and Esmeralda (and Esmeralda is a Rotterdammer!) in cohort Ⅲ. There are a lot to discover in this multicultural city – use this as a stepping stone and find your own highlights. This post has highlights from the full version guide. After reading it, don’t forget to find the link at the end of this post to download the guide in pdf!

City of Rotterdam. Credit: Stijn Hanegraaf



As you will notice, Rotterdam looks very modern in comparison to other cities such as Amsterdam or Leiden. This has to do with the fact that it was bombed by the Germans during the Second World War in order to force the Dutch to surrender. The initial strategy of the Dutch during the Second World War was to stay independent, which was the way the Dutch survived the First World War, but unfortunately this strategy didn’t work out the second time. On 14 May 1940, the historical city centre was wiped out by the bombs and accompanying fires within 13 minutes.

Although thousands of people lost their houses and about 900 people died during this occurrence, the municipality of Rotterdam turned the negative into something positive and decided to rebuild the city in a more modern way. The reason for this was that, back then, it was already visible that the small, narrow streets the city existed of, were already getting a bit too crowded by the expense of traffic. To be prepared for the future, those were replaced by wider lanes and streets, as you can currently see in the city.

For those who are interested in this history, you can still find some spots through the city, besides the Zadkine statue, which remind back to this historical period. For example, in the walls of the City Hall (which survived the bombing) you can still see bullet holes from the fighting during the War. Also, on the street, there are tiny red lights in the shape of a flame, which define the boundaries of the destroyed part, in Dutch called: de Brandgrens.

Symbol of the ‘brandgrens’ Rotterdam. Credit: Rijnmond
Map of the ‘brandgrens’ in Rotterdam. Credit: Trouw


Erasmus University Rotterdam (EUR)

The EUR has all the buildings situated at 1 campus, so there is no stress to find out which metro you need to take to get to your building. At this link you could find the campus map.

Erasmus University Rotterdam (EUR). Credit:

There is also is an overview of the letters corresponding with the buildings’ names and the reason why the university chose this system.

The EUR has a general introduction week, which is called the Eurekaweek to show Bachelor-students the entire student life in Rotterdam. Although Master-students can also join this week, there is also an Eurekaweek Master Introduction Day. For more info, visit their website

Besides the introduction day, there is also the Heartbeat festival in September, organized by the EUR, to celebrate the beginning of the student year.

In addition, there is a good offer of food places. There are very different options, from canteens in various buildings, to a campus café (Erasmus Paviljoen), to the Food Court, the famous student bar the Smitse and not to forget a Spar! Click here to see an overview of all the food and drink places.

Also, the EUR provides (social-)cultural events by the organization of SG Erasmus. This organization arranges several cultural events in the Erasmus Paviljoen, such as pub quizzes and an open air cinema, during spring and summer. See this website to check their calendar.

Besides this, there is also a new initiative of students opened last year: the Living Room in the Tinbergen Building on the 6th floor, room 2 (H6-2). This is an initiative to give a central place at the Uni to come together with all sorts of students to foster inclusion and connections among all students.

In addition, the campus has its own gym: the Erasmus Sports Building. This building provides a nice fitness room and several group lessons you could take, but unfortunately no sauna or swimming pool.  Several subscriptions are possible, check here for the prices and options they have.

The faculty Erasmus School of History, Culture and Communication (ESHCC), will take care of GLOCAL students. Their office, alongside the one for the Faculty association ACE, can be found on the 6th and 7th floor of the Van der Goot Building. The coordinator of International Students is Sabai Doodkorte. If you have any questions regarding your stay and studies in the Netherlands, you can contact her.

Student associations

In Rotterdam, there are a lot of student sport associations to become a member of. A good thing to keep in mind: sometimes you don’t have to buy a sports pass of the Erasmus Sports Building in order to become a member. If you are planning to join an association, please contact them in order to know if this applies also for your association in particular.

Besides sport associations, there is also a study association called ACE, which is only for the ESHCC faculty. This association organises many study and non-study related activities to unite students of this faculty. For example, they have a social drink every Wednesday in café Stalles on the Nieuwe Binnenweg, but they also organise the ACE Career Days and give you discount for study books! On top of that, they also organize a short and long trip and there are many committees you could join.


Besides the national holidays, Rotterdam has its own festivities, which you cannot miss! Most of these are free. One example is the World Port Days in the beginning of September. Every year there are a lot of nautical activities, such as a diving demonstration in which the authorities show how to rescue someone out of the water and a show of the Royal Dutch Navy helicopters. Besides the demonstrations, port companies are having an ‘open house’, so you can see their business up close. On one of these days there will also be a beautiful firework show at 10.30 pm, so make sure you don’t miss that! For more information, see their website.

World Port Days Rotterdam. Credit:

Another Rotterdam cultural experience is the International Film Festival Rotterdam (IFFR). During this week in the end of January / beginning of February, you can watch around 500 movies of various lengths (short, middle-long and long) from more than 50 countries. To see the programme and to read more information about this, here is the official website.

For those who love to run, the NN Marathon Rotterdam will take place every year in April. This is an event where the whole city is involved with. The event is screened on national tv and people either watch it on tv or go supporting the runners on the track itself. Before the start of the marathon on the Coolsingel, the singer Lee Towers, traditionally, sings the song ‘You’ll never walk alone’, which has a very special meaning to many inhabitants of Rotterdam (also called: ‘Rotterdammers’). This is because it is the anthem of the most supported soccer club in the city: Feyenoord (for those, who are into soccer: it is also the anthem of Liverpool FC, but there it is not sung by Lee Towers but by a Liverpudlian band). Every runner, who knows the song, sings along and then the event starts. At the end, also traditionally, the last runner is accompanied by a bunch of police motors, which put their sirens on as a sign of support to get him or her over the finish line. Once there, a great welcome of the supporters and a personal congratulation of the mayor of Rotterdam awaits the runner and ‘You’ll never walk alone’ will be played again. The event is really worth experiencing! Click here for more details.

As Rotterdam is a very multicultural city, we also have the ‘Zomercarnaval’ in July. At this two day during event, there is a Queen Election, Warming-Up, Street Parade, Mercado, Battle of the Drums and many more, all performed by Rotterdammers from anywhere in the world. For those who like Carnaval the tropical way, this is really a must! Visit their website for more information.

Also, during New Years Eve, there is the National Firework show in Rotterdam from the Erasmus Bridge (Erasmusbrug in Dutch), which is really nice to watch. Exactly on midnight the fireworks start and you will see the countdown on the building ‘the Rotterdam’. Two tips if you are planning to go there: go early if you want to see it from a spot near the Erasmus Bridge. From 7.30/8 pm people are going there to get a good spot and listen to some music the organisation provides, but if you think that’s too early, just go along the ‘Parkkade’ to the ‘Willemsbrug’ (the other, red, bridge in the city) and go down the stairs, until you are the closest to the water you can get (if you are there, you will see what this means). You can still see the fireworks perfectly from there, just bring your own drinks and enjoy! Look at the website to see what the fireworks are looking like.

National firework Rotterdam. Credit: | Peter Bezem

Recommended highlights through the city

Of course, you know the classic highlights as the Euromast, the Koopgoot etc, but here are some inside tips about spots and activities you cannot miss during your stay in Rotterdam.

If you like to dance salsa, bachata or kizomba, please go to ‘Strictly’ at Stadshuisplein on Tuesday evenings from 7.30 pm. At that time, the café Coconuts organizes a dance event where you can practice these dances! When the weather is good in summer, the dancers even dance outside on the square next to the café. Really a must go, if you are a dancer! 

Although it is a little bit expensive, try to go with the ‘Watertaxi’ at least once. The ‘Watertaxi’ is a tiny boat, which cruises on the river with a relatively high speed. You can cross the river by going from ‘Wilhelminaplein’ near Hotel New York to ‘Leuvenhaven’. Not as public transport, but just for fun. If you don’t like high speed boats, you can also have trips with ‘Spido’, the ‘Waterbus’ or the ‘Splashtours bus’. Remind that these trips are more focussed on tourists, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be fun!

Watertaxi in Rotterdam.

If you like beers, there are some good beer cafés to try. 

  • Locus Publicus on ‘Oostplein’ (near the Uni)
  • Proeflokaal Reijngoud on the ‘Witte de Withstraat’
  • Boudewijn on the ‘Nieuwe Binnenweg’ (especially Belgian beers)
  • Kaapse Brouwers – this is a local brewery, surrounded by food stalls. You can sit outside near the water, definitely a nice place to hang out! 

Also, a good place to go during spring and summer is ‘Biergarten’, which is near the Central Station. In the garden of club Annabel, you could get 0,5 litre beers for a good price and there are several cool places to sit.

In addition, there are some spots in Rotterdam, which are still old and historic and therefore a funny contrast with the modernity of Rotterdam. There is one in the city centre: the ‘Oude Binnenweg.’ This is a little shopping street, where you also can find cafés and restaurants. Another one is ‘Historisch Delfshaven’ (Historical Delfshaven). This is a bit further away from the centre, but if you take the metro or walk to the end of the ‘Nieuwe Binnenweg’, you will get there quickly. This small area is a bit like Leiden and the other old historic cities the Netherlands have.

Cool Activities to explore in Rotterdam

The city has a lot to offer: the largest port in Europe, an impressive skyline and a good rapid transit system, remarkable architecture, a wealth of arts and culture and a wide range of festivals – plus restaurants and shops in abundance. Rotterdam offers all kinds of ‘hidden gems’ – although occasionally, it will take you some time to uncover them. The more you explore and get to know Rotterdam, the more the city will reward you.

Every year, Rotterdam’s world-renowned museums Boijmans van Beuningen, Maritiem museum Rotterdam, NAI and Kunsthal draw many thousands of visitors. Rotterdam’s numerous small-scale institutions and galleries make the city a fertile breeding ground for interesting cultural initiatives. More and more of them can be found in North Rotterdam. Check out this link to get a good idea of what’s going on.

Do you like the theatre? Then why not pay a visit to Luxor or Rotterdamse Schouwburg. In February, the city is overrun with thousands of Dutch and foreign film aficionados during International Film Festival Rotterdam.

Would you like to do some art or photography of your own? Check out the programme of courses offered by Stichting Kunstzinnige Vorming Rotterdam (SKVR).

You can find fun and interesting pubs throughout the city. Most student cafés are found on Oostzeedijk, Meent, Witte de Withstraat, Binnenweg and along Oude Haven. 

Prefer to dance? Then look for a bar with a dance floor, like Beurs, – located right behind Stadhuisplein – or technoclubs like Perron.

Of course, Rotterdam also offers enough trendy hotspots for live music performances: Bird near Hofbogen, for example, or Rotown on Nieuwe Binnenweg.

Enjoy your city! And last but not least, download the full version of Rotterdam Guide in pdf:

Author: Lisa van Barneveld, Esmeralda de Zwart, Tynke Schepers

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