Rotterdam City in the Netherlands is often associated with skyscrapers and modern architecture but did you know that it's also a green city? Parks such as the Kralingse Bos (“Woods of Kralingen”) and the Dakpark (“Rooftop Park”) are ideal spots for those who want to get away from the crowds while park festivals such as Duizel in het Park create a cozy outdoor ambiance.
5 fun parks in Rotterdam
On my most recent trip to Rotterdam, I decided to visit some of the city's parks. This is where I went.
1. Kralingse Bos
The Kralingse Bos is the only “forest” in Rotterdam and you can find it in the northeast of the city in the neighborhood Kralingen. It's more than just a forest with some trees and walking lanes running through it, though.
A large part of the park consists of a huge pond – the Kralingse Plas – on which you can go sailing or supping. It even has its own little beach (and nudity beach) where you can go for a swim.
I don't go swimming unless it's like 30°C – and it wasn't – so I opted to go for a walk around the pond instead. My friend Anne from the Rotterdam Tourism Office joined me so we could catch up and chat while enjoying the fresh air.
If you follow the main path, the walk around the Kralingse Plas is 5 km long. As a pedestrian, however, there are plenty of smaller sideways you can take. I loved that because I never knew where they would lead and even Anne, who's been living in Rotterdam for quite a few years now, told me she discovers a new part of the park each time she goes there.
We started our walk on the Langepad (“Long Path”) at Brasserie Woodz and followed that path past the Children's Farm and the Climbers Forest. The Climbers Forest is a track through the trees and it looked pretty cool – if you're not afraid of heights.
Next up were the beach, the playground and the children's pool. Once we passed those, we could leave the main path to follow some smaller paths into the botanical garden and onto a wooden path that ran over the water. That was probably my favorite part of our walk as there were barely any other people on the path and we got such a good view of the Rotterdam skyline while we were standing there “on” the pond.
You can also follow the paths in the other direction and go into the actual forest, but we both preferred to follow the water and so we did until we reached cafe De Tuin van de Vier Windstreken (“The Garden of the Four Cardinal Directions” – It sounds better in Dutch :D).
As this cafe was located near the end of our walk, we decided to stop for a bit and enjoy a coffee. De Tuin has an inside lunch and dinner area, but you can also enjoy drinks on its large terrace and there's even a lounge area with cozy benches overlooking the water.
Also fun to know is that the cafe has two old mills as neighbours, called De Ster (“The Star”) and De Lelie (“The Lily”). These 18th-century mills are monuments and can be visited every second Saturday of the month. That's also when they're put to work again. They're the only two remaining working herb mills in the Netherlands.
How to get there
I took tram 7 from the center of the city and got out at stop Rotterdam Essenlaan. From there, it's only a short walk to the park.
Another option is to take metro lines A, B or C and get out at stop Kralingse Zoom.
That metro station also has a large parking lot, should you happen to be visiting by car. I highly recommend using public transportation to get around Rotterdam, though.
2. Zuiderpark Rotterdam
Th Zuiderpark (“South Park”) lies about half an hour out of the center of Rotterdam by public transportation. I really wanted to go there as it's the biggest city park in the Netherlands. About 430 soccer fields large, it consists out of walking and cycling lanes, a playground, a swamp, a beach and forests. There's also a Sportplaza with tennis, basketball and soccer fields as well as a skatepark.
If you prefer the water, you can rent a water bike, a kayak or a canoe and kids can visit the animals of the children's farm.
How to get there
Take metro line D or E to Zuiderplein stop or Kiosk Slinge stop. If you're coming by car, there's a large parking lot at event hall Ahoy.
3. The Park Rotterdam
The park by the Euromast is really just called “The Park”. You can play mini golf there, barbecue or have a picnic. If you're feeling a bit lazy, lunch at one of the bistro's is an option too. I had a lovely grilled sandwich at Parqiet.
Aside from those things, this is mostly a park where you can stretch your legs on a walk or chill with a book on the grass.
How to get there
You can easily reach the park using tram line 7 or 8 and getting off at stop Kievitslaan or stop Euromast.
4. Dakpark Rotterdam
Dakpark Rotterdam is the biggest rooftop park in Europe. It's built on top of BigShops, a shopping center consisting of 18 stores and a parking lot.
What makes it really special, is that it was developed in collaboration with the neighborhood and that different volunteer groups now take care of the park, keep an eye on things and guide visitors around.
Those visitors kan enjoy a meal at the park's wok restaurant, work on their physique by running up and down the large water staircase, have a barbecue or take a look in one of the park's different gardens. They might even come across one of the sheep that serve as natural lawnmowers.
Good to know
At the moment, dogs aren't allowed at the Dakpark. There are plans to develop some dog areas in the future, but those are still vague.
How to get there
You can reach the parking lot of shopping mall BigShots via the street parallel to the Vierhavensstraat.
If you're coming by public transportation, there are different options:
- Bus B3 stops at stop Van Helmontstraat, which lies across from the Dakpark.
- Metro lines A, B and C stop at stops Rotterdam Delftshaven and Marconiplein, both just a short walk from the park..
- Tram lines 4 and 8 stop at various stops close to the Dakpark.
5. Vroesenpark and the Duizel in het Park festival
The Vroesenpark lies to the north of Rotterdam and is mostly known as a barbecue park and festival park in summer. Every year, this is where the Duizel in het Park (“Dizzy in the Park”) festival takes place. I was lucky enough to be in Rotterdam the right weekend this year.
Duizel in het Park
Duizel in het Park is a festival that takes place the first weekend of August, from Friday until Sunday. It has a wide focus and features literature, music, theater and more.
What I liked, was that the festival only occupied part of the park so that people who didn't want to attend, could still enjoy the park.
I don't see why they wouldn't want to attend though, as this was one fun festival!
There was a main area with food trucks, a dance tent, the main stage, a kids activity and lots of space to sit and hang. Aside from that, smaller podiums and activities were dispersed across the terrain.
People could have a meal with a stranger or discuss environmental issues at the #wethemillions stand.
My favorite “attraction” was something small and rather intimate. There was this thing where you needed to write down a word or thought that you wanted to share with someone on a rock and then wrap that rock into a piece of cloth that you could hang on a wire. When you did that, you could unwrap someone else's “thought” and keep it with you. Later, someone would unwrap your rock.
The rock I unwrapped, said Leven is het meervoud van lef which, literally translated, means “To live is the plural of having guts”, but it's a wordplay when you say it in Dutch and it basically means that you aren't alive unless you have the guts to try things.
Which was pretty fitting, because I had written probeer, the Dutch word for “try” on a rock.
I'm going to keep the rock I unwrapped and I'm wondering if someone will do the same with my rock. Wouldn't it be fun if I could find them, or the person who's rock I got?
How to get there
The easiest way to get to the Vroesenpark is by taking metro line E to stop Blijdorp or bus 33 or B8 to stop Vroesenpark.
What you need to hit the parks in Rotterdam
- Sunglasses, such as my new one from Zalando
- Sunscreen, for protection
- A pashmina or something else to sit on that's easy to take with you
And that's it! Of course, you could also bring a book or some music, but you really don't need a lot to enjoy the parks of Rotterdam.
Rotterdam Welcome Card
Lots of people ride their bikes in Rotterdam, but when you don't know the way, I find it easier just to walk or use public transportation. Rotterdam si a pretty big city, so if you want to see and do a lot, walking just isn't always an option.
If you also want to visit a bunch of museums and take a few tours, than the Rotterdam Welcome Card can be interesting. It's valid for one, two or three days depending on which one you get and gives you free use of the city's public transportation system on top of discounts to a wide range of museums, attractions, activities and restaurants.
Where to stay in Rotterdam
I spent two nights at Hostel Room. Now, I normally don't stay in hostels anymore, but I definitely don't mind if they have nice private rooms with a balcony and an en suite bathroom like my Clocktower Room at Hostel Room did!
Let me show you:
The hostel entrance is just a few meters from the tram 7 tram stop, a few minutes from the tram 8 tram stop and about 10 minutes walking to metro lines D and E. It's located in a quiet area and a great base for exploring the city.
How to get to Rotterdam
If you're coming from abroad, you can fly into Amsterdam Schiphol and take a direct train to Rotterdam. Alternatively, you can also travel by train directly to Rotterdam. Thalys offers the fastest option, especially from Belgium.
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I was invited by Rotterdam Tourism to visit the city again. What I did there and what I wrote about it, was entirely up to me.