Sunday, October 1, 2023

The Eco Travel Guide to Rotterdam, the Most Sustainable City in the World


From low-waste dining options to eco-friendly accommodations, here’s how to plan a trip to Rotterdam that’s equal parts sustainable and luxurious.

Tucked away in the Dutch province of South Holland, the bustling city of Rotterdam is known as the Gateway to Europe — and for good reason. 

In addition to being the second largest city in the Netherlands, Rotterdam is a major port city that boasts an incredible seafaring past dating back to its inception as a fishing village in the mid-14th century.

Located on the banks of the Nieuwe River, the European city is widely regarded for its stunning architecture — from the iconic, swan-shaped Erasmus Bridge to its towering skyscrapers. 

Rotterdam Cube Houses
The innovative Cube Houses are tilted over by 45 degrees. | Photo by Richard Ciraulo on Unsplash

But in addition to its maritime heritage and breathtaking river views, the port city is a leader in the field of sustainability, aiming to become carbon neutral by 2050. It’s also spearheaded a number of green initiatives over the years, from its rainwater-collecting Sponge Garden to its urban rooftop farms.

According to a recent report by the travel search engine Kayak, Rotterdam is also the most sustainable travel destination in the world. The 2023 City Index for Mindful Travelers ranked the city in first place among 167 countries based on their “mindful” travel options across four categories: traveling to, getting around, stay, and experiences. 

“Rotterdam is the top city for mindful travelers because it is easy to get to by train or ferry, it has a great urban rail network, the widest length of cycling routes, and a large number of competitively-priced properties with certain sustainable practices in place,” explains Per Christiansen, Kayak’s senior vice president. 

For the eco-conscious traveler, Rotterdam is a bucket list adventure like no other. From where to stay to fun excursions to do, here’s how to plan the most memorable — and sustainable — trip to the Manhattan on the Meuse.

skyline of Rotterdam
Rotterdam is the second largest city in the Netherlands. | Photo by Stephan via Unsplash

Where to stay

Get a little R&R sustainably with these luxurious stays.



This five-star hotel is a perfect blend of luxury and sustainability. Its eco-friendly initiatives include an energy conservation program and a ban on single-use plastic straws. Located on the banks of the river Maas, enjoy stunning views of the city’s skyline. And indulge in pure comforts like an on-site restaurant, indoor pool, and spa and wellness center.

Address: Leuvehaven 77, 3011 EA Rotterdam, Zuid-Holland

suite hotel

Suite Hotel Pincoffs

This boutique hotel has garnered a number of sustainable awards, such as the Golden Green Key and Gaia Green Award. The charming hotel’s green initiatives include tree planting to offset emissions and donating drinking water to those in need. It also has an urban garden and uses energy-saving lighting, among others. It’s a truly eco-friendly home away from home.

Address: Stieltjesstraat 34, 3071 JX Rotterdam, Zuid-Holland, Netherlands

Rotterdam Marriott

Rotterdam Marriott Hotel

This upscale hotel is conveniently located across from the Rotterdam Central Station. Featuring a high-end bar and restaurant in the lobby and a private beach, this property is the pinnacle of luxury. The hotel offers bike rentals and electric charging stations on-site for those interested in minimizing their carbon footprint.

Address: Weena 686, 3012 CN Rotterdam, Zuid-Holland

Sint-Laurenskerk Rotterdam in the Netherlands. | Photo by micheile henderson on Unsplash

Where to eat

It’s easy to eat with the planet in mind in Rotterdam. The city offers a plethora of plant-based dining options, from health-centric restaurants to zero-waste eateries.

Happy Food & Health

Located on the bustling Nieuwe Binnenweg street, this all-vegan restaurant serves up a delectable array of artisanal delights, from homemade bread and cheese to sauces and burgers. In addition to being plant-based and organic, this eatery is gluten-free.

Address: Nieuwe Binnenweg 200D, 3021 GL Rotterdam, Netherlands

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Gare du Nord

For traditional Dutch food with a plant-based twist, head to Gare du Nord. Nestled inside of a refurbished, old train carriage, this intriguing eatery is quite the experience. The restaurant serves colorful dishes featuring mostly organic ingredients. And it’s also nearly zero-waste, using degradable and recycled materials and producing minimal food waste.

Address: Anthoniestraat 2, 3032 CP Rotterdam, Netherlands


Centrally located, this plant-based restaurant has it all: coffees, cocktails, mouthwatering breakfast staples like smoothie bowls and avo toast, wraps, burgers, and sweet treats like banana bread and carrot cake. The eatery also has a three-course dinner menu that features mains like tikka masala bowls, spicy kimchi burgers, and baked sweet potatoes. Yum!

Address: Korte Hoogstraat 14, 3011 GL Rotterdam, Netherlands

What to do

Explore the city mindfully with these fun activities and experiences.

Strand Maasvlakte in Rotterdam.
Strand Maasvlakte in Rotterdam. Photo courtesy micheile henderson | Unsplash

Go sightseeing

From its museums to its sprawling green spaces, the city offers tourists much to do and see. Opt for a bike rental to navigate the city and visit Museumpark, which boasts the Boijmans van Beuningen and the Kunsthal Rotterdam museums. Nearby, tourists will find Het Park, which has mini-golf courses and amazing river views. Or, check out the vibrant Cube Houses.

Dearhunter on Eendrachtsweg
Dearhunter vintage shop | Courtesy

Shop sustainably

Support local businesses by shopping at the plethora of vintage shops in the area, from Dearhunter on Eendrachtsweg to Sweet Rebel on Schiedamse Vest. (The latter is a short walk away from the Vegan Junk Food Bar.)

ikapitein boat rides in rotterdam

Embark on a river tour

Head to iKapitein Boats & Bites for a thrilling day on the waters. The company’s boat rentals are not only electric but collect waste and other debris from the water as they navigate the river.

“Our mission? To become the most impactful water recreation company in the Netherlands where fun, innovation, awareness, and recycling come together,” the company’s website reads. For a truly sustainable river tour, visitors can also opt for a paddleboat or schiller pedal boat, which offers a fun, carbon emissions-free blend of exercise and sightseeing.

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