A city known for its epic modern architecture, Rotterdam is the place to go when you feel like you’ve seen enough of the classic Dutch canals.
While there are numerous wonderful things you can do in Rotterdam for free, hikes and nature walks are not frequently mentioned among them.
However, if you’re looking for a place to stretch your legs, or simply want to discover more of Rotterdam’s hidden gems, the city offers plenty of opportunities for the perfect nature escape. Whether you’re looking for a long hike or just a short afternoon walk, Rotterdam has something for everyone.
|🚨 Coronavirus update: Be aware that some restaurants and attractions may be closed due to coronavirus. Take care to avoid crowded areas, wear a mask when you can’t, and choose less-busy times of the day to go out.|
1. Wandelen around Kralingse Plas
Kralingse Plas is a spot for families, couples, singles, and groups of friends alike. Not only is it a wonderful place for a walk, the area surrounding the lake also offers plentiful opportunities to sit down for a picnic or go for a quick swim at the local beach (if the weather and water quality allows). There are various restaurants and cafés on the way where you can grab a quick bite in case you need a refresher.
The local deer farm, as well as the playing ground next to it, will surely light up the eyes of the youngest ones. If you really enjoy the serenity of Dutch forests and the five-kilometre walk around the lake is not enough for you, you can also venture into the Kralingse Bos. To explore this piece of nature at a faster pace, simply bring your roller skates with you.
|📏 Walk distance: A loop around the lake is about 5 kilometres.
🚲 How to get there: The Kralingse Plas is a 15-minute cycle from Rotterdam Centraal.
📍 Starting point: You can start at the Beach House restaurant and make your way around the lake from there.
🗺️ Route: We suggest walking around the lake anticlockwise to save the nicer views for later.
|TIP: The wooden piers located on the north and west side of the lake are definitely a highlight. Sit down for a moment and enjoy the sun setting over the city’s epic skyline.|
2. A walk in Het Park, the perfect picnic spot
Fancy a walk in one of the oldest parks in Rotterdam? Head to Het Park. With trees that are over 100 years old and a French style garden, Het Park is the perfect place to relax after a long week of work. If you’re lucky, you may be able to spot some woodpeckers or tawny owls.
In normal times, Het Park turns into a lively spot with various food festivals and events. Over the past year, it has been a bit more quiet, but nonetheless a great spot to find some nature in the city.
For €10.50 you can go up the Euromast tower and enjoy the views of the entire city. Whether you go during the day, or at night when the whole of Rotterdam is lit up, you are in for some incredible views. Had enough greenery for the day? Head to the nearby bank of the river Maas and enjoy some views of the Erasmus Bridge.
If a moment of peace and tranquility is what you’re looking for instead, you shouldn’t miss the nearby Schoonoord at Kievitslaan. A true hidden gem, Schoonoord is the perfect place to unwind. You can visit from 10 AM to 5 PM.
|📏 Walk distance: 1+ kilometres depending on how quickly you find the perfect picnic spot.
🚇 How to get there: Take the metro to Erasmus MC (metro station Dijkzigt) or the tram to Kievitslaan.
📍 Starting point: If you get off at Kievitslaan, the upper edge of the park will be right in front of you. Just cross the road and you’re there.
🗺️ Route: Make your way into the park and let the winding paths lead you.
3. Hiking the Lage & Hoge Bergse Bos
With highland cattle grazing parts of the forest, walking in Lage and Hoge Bergse Bos is probably as close as you can get to experiencing real wilderness in the Netherlands. There are numerous different hikes you can opt for, whether they are three or 13 kilometers long.
The two forests offer space for all sorts of activities from mountain biking, roller skating, climbing, and canoeing to golf. You may not be able to enjoy everything during a single hike, but luckily, there are camping sites which you can stay at if you wish to enjoy this piece of nature for longer than a day.
If you’re feeling extra adventurous, you can also combine your explorations of Lage and Hoge Bergse Bos with a walk around the Zevenhuizerplas. On a warm sunny day, leave the shade of the forest trees and stroll along the river Rotte instead. You’ll see plenty of cheerful Dutchies sunbathing on their boats.
|📏 Walk distance: 10+ kilometres (but there are also many shorter routes).
🚗 How to get there: Put the Eekhoornplaats or Mollenplaats parking lot in your GPS and follow the directions to get to Lage Bergse Bos. To start your adventures in Hoge Bergse Bos, search for Vliegenzwamplaats parking lot or head to Oud Verlaat. Cross the Rotte river via the Rottebanbrug to enter the forest if you start your wanderings in Oud Verlaat.
📍 Starting point: Any spot in the forests is a good starting point.
🗺️ Route: Both Hoge Bergse Bos and Lage Bergse Bos have different routes to choose from. One way through both forests is about 5 km.
4. Walk around the Zevenhuizerplas
Looking for a walk through a paradise of water birds? Then a walk around the Zevenhuizerplas is the perfect option for you. You’ll have the chance to spot kingfishers, cormorants, herons or reed. While you’ll find birds in the more quiet areas around the lake, you can also stop by the more lively Nesselande beach for a quick swim.
This artificially created lake is also a great recreational area for water sports enthusiasts, as it is well suited for canoeing, paddleboarding, sailing and even surfing.
|📏 Walk distance: About 7.5 kilometres to walk around the lake.
🚇 How to get there: Head to Oud Verlaat or take the metro to Nesselande.
📍 Starting point: Make your way from the metro station to the Nesselande beach in about seven minutes and start your walk around the lake. Alternatively, begin your walk at Oud Verlaat.
🗺️ Route: Clockwise or anticlockwise, it’s up to you!
5. Stroll through Zuiderpark
If you want to venture to the south of Rotterdam, make sure you don’t miss out on a walk in Zuiderpark. Zuiderpark is located in the neighbourhood of Charlois and is supposedly one of the biggest city parks in the Netherlands.
The park covers 215 hectares which equals approximately 430 football fields. You can come here to enjoy swamps, the forest, a beach, little islands, and a large playing ground. While you’re here, try to spot the reed warbler or look out for the dozens of bats at twilight.
|📏 Walk distance: 7+ kilometres (and various shorter routes).
🚇 How to get there: Take the metro to Slinge.
📍 Starting point: Walk about four minutes from the Slinge metro station and then enter the park.
🗺️ Route: As you enter the park, pick whether you want to go left or right and start your wanderings from there.
6. Wandelen around Prinsemolenpark & Bergse Plassen
Want to enjoy some good old Dutch windmills? Then a walk through Prinsemolenpark and around the Bergse Voorplas might be something for you. The windmill called Molen de Vier Winden (Mill the Four Winds) is located only a few minutes walk from the upper corner of the park.
Prinsemolenpark is a green strip of land located in between the Bergse Voorplas and the river Rotte, which means you can enjoy marvelous views of the water from here. Away from the hustle and bustle of the city centre, this is the perfect spot to come and savour a moment of tranquility.
|📏 Walk distance: 6 kilometres from Rotterdam Noord to Molen de Vier Winden and back.
🚗 How to get there: Head to Rotterdam Noord train station and make your way from there.
📍 Starting point: Rotterdam Noord.
🗺️ Route: Head north from the station via Bergweg, turn right to Ceintuurbaan and once you get to the river Rotter just continue alongside it.
7. Venture to Het Schollebos
If your wanderings take you to Capelle aan den IJssel, which is right to the east of Rotterdam, make sure you walk around the Schollebos. Schollebos is home to all kinds of tree species and a great spot to encounter various mammals. Think moles, hedgehogs, rabbits, and occasionally also hares and foxes.
Although the pancake place called Petit Restaurant Schollebos is a great place to start your walk, we recommend treating yourself to this tasty delight only after you’ve walked around the park. 😉
|📏 Walk distance: 3+ kilometres.
🚇 How to get there: Take the metro to De Terp and walk for 15 minutes to reach the pancake house.
📍 Starting point: Start at the pancake house Petit Restaurant Schollebos at Bermweg 133 and make your way around the park.
🗺️ Route: Wander around the forest as you please, exploring the different ponds and creeks.
8. Hike around the Ackerdijkse Plassen
If living in the biggest port city of the Netherlands still doesn’t fulfil your water view craving, head for a hike around the outskirts of the Ackerdijkse Plassen. A home to numerous kinds of birds, Ackerdijkse Plassen is a closed nature reserve and a designated bird sanctuary. But don’t worry about missing out on some great views just because the area is closed to humans. There are still three main watchtowers that you can spot birds from in every season.
|📏 Walk distance: Between 6 and 20 kilometres.
🚌 How to get there: Take the bus to Oude Leede, Oude Leedeweg bus stop and head to Ackerdijkseweg to reach the starting point of the loop.
📍 Starting point: Ackerdijkseweg. Alternatively, start at Pijnacker Zuid for a longer return walk of about 20 km.
🗺️ Route: Follow the signs around the edge of the nature reserve.
9. Stroll around Prinses Beatrixpark
If you’ve ever ventured west of Rotterdam to Schiedam, you probably already know all about this gem. A place to enjoy not only walking, but also a botanical garden, a petting zoo, various playgrounds, and some lekker eten, Prinses Beatrixpark is the biggest park in Schiedam.
After the construction of Wilhelminahaven in the 1950s, the park was supposed to make up for the lost forest, and its creation was meant to provide jobs for the unemployed. However after the 1953 floods in Zeeland, much of the newly acquired workforce left to work in Zeeland and Prinses Beatrixpark began to decay. In 2012, it was finally revamped and now it offers a vibrant location in the city to be enjoyed with family and friends.
|📏 Walk distance: A loop around the park is about 2.5 kilometres.
🚇 How to get there: Take the metro to Schiedam Nieuwland and walk for about five minutes from the station to reach the park.
📍 Starting point: Start at the edge of the park, or head to Restaurant Parckhoeven to stock up on some carbs before beginning your walk.
🗺️ Route: Left or right, make a loop around the park, or just weave your way through it.
10. Visit Het Klauterwoud
Looking to venture even further away from Rotterdam than Schiedam? Plan a walk in Het Klauterwoud. Located close to Vlaardingen, Het Klauterwoud is a true paradise for children. Stroll through the labyrinth of trees and bushes and find your inner adventurer as you explore the natural playgrounds.
|📏 Walk distance: Anything between two and 10 kilometres depending on how much of the forest you decide to explore.
🚗 How to get there: Park your car at Watersportweg 11 or 21. Alternatively, you can leave your car at the Broekpolder parking lot.
📍 Starting point: Start from the parking lot and slowly make your way through Klouterwoud.
🗺️ Route: Take a lap around the forest or stroll along the different paths.
11. Walk through centuries of Dutch history: Kinderdijk
Fancy a wander through seven centuries of Dutch water management? The Dutch have shown an incredible amount of skill and persistence when it comes to managing water and fighting off the seas, and Kinderdijk is a prime example of their efforts.
Located only a quick drive from the city, Kinderdijk is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of Netherlands’ most popular tourist spots. Stroll along the canals and enjoy the view of 19 picturesque windmills. People actually live in some of them, so who knows? Maybe you’ll make some friends with the locals while you’re here.
|📏 Walk distance: A stroll along the canal with windmills is about 1.5 kilometres.
🚌 How to get there: Take a bus from Kralingse Zoom, or come by car or bike.
📍 Starting point: Start making your way around the area from the bus stop or the parking lot.
🗺️ Route: Just follow the canal and enjoy the views of the picturesque windmills.
|TIP: To beat the crowds, make sure to head to Kinderdijk early in the morning or late in the afternoon.|
12. Walk to the coast: Hoek van Holland
What’s better to lift your mood than some vitamin sea? The Hoek van Holland beach offers plentiful opportunities for walks with scenic views.
You can opt for a short two-three kilometre walk and then spend a laid back afternoon relaxing at the beach or instead go on a longer hike which takes you through the local dunes, forests, and charming villages. On your way, you can explore the bunkers and underground passages of the Atlantic Wall defence line. The options here are truly endless.
|📏 Walk distance: You can opt for walks and hikes between three to 10+ kilometres.
🚇 How to get there: Take the metro from Rotterdam all the way to Hoek van Holland Haven. From 2022, you can also travel all the way to the Hoek van Holland beach.
📍 Starting point: Many of the walking routes start at the tourist information office on Prins Hendrikstraat.
🗺️ Route: Choose directions based on which route you want to take.
If you’d like to venture beyond Rotterdam and explore other nature areas in the Lowlands, check out our guides on hiking in Amsterdam, The Hague, and Maastricht.
Have you tried any of these walks? Are there any other hikes and walks in Rotterdam that you’d like to see added to the list? Let us know in the comments below!
Feature Image: Micheile Henderson/Unsplash