Rotterdam vs Amsterdam: the ultimate Dutch duel

picking your city

Where should you stay on your Dutch adventure: Rotterdam or Amsterdam? If you’re struggling with a mini-meltdown about where to drop your bags, keep calm citizens, we’re going to help you decide. Put on your comfy shoes, grab your bike and get ready for an adventurous ride among rivers versus canals, modern versus traditional architecture and oh-so-much more. But wait, there's more to consider! Rotterdam's buzzing art scene and innovative spirit make it a hotspot for the avant-garde adventurer, while Amsterdam's museums, like the Van Gogh Museum and Rijksmuseum, will satisfy the art aficionado in you. And regardless of your choice, you have your pick of citizenM hotels in both Amsterdam and Rotterdam to rest your head after a day of exploring.

So, whether you're up for a contemporary urban exploration in Rotterdam or a stroll through Amsterdam's iconic tulip-filled parks, the choice is yours. We're here to make sure your Dutch escapade is one for the books!

a bit of history

Alright. Let’s start by explaining why these two cities are endless enemies anyway. Is it football? The Ajax-Feyenoord battle? Or is it the posh versus the ‘niet-lullen-maar-poetsen’ harbour mindset? Is it the food, bikes or bricks? What makes Rotterdam so different from Amsterdam as a destination anyway?

Let’s start with a bit of history. Amsterdam – luckily – has maintained a lot of its original city centre. Think cute canals, bikes everywhere, old Dutch housing and traditional cheese shops. Rotterdam, on the other hand, had been flattened during the Second World War, with the majority of its original city centre decimated. The good thing (which explains the hard-working Rotterdam harbour mentality) is that they’ve completely rebuilt it. Picture modern buildings, bold bridges and a stunning river in between. Both cities have their own identity and are definitely worth a visit.

round 1: general vibe

Amsterdam struts around like the authentic beauty she is, flaunting her intricate network of canals and cobbled streets with an 'I woke up like this' flair. With cosy squares, bikes everywhere and dramatically loose bricks, the Dutch capital city definitely shows off her cuteness everywhere. The hustle and bustle of Dam Square? It's an everyday symphony here. With charming canals, the bohemian rhapsody of the Jordaan neighbourhood and the multicultural vibe of De Pijp – Amsterdam’s melting pot – it makes this city ready for a good time, any time.

In comparison, Rotterdam won’t pretend to be anything that it’s not. This rebuilt city packs a punch with its fresh, working-class glamour and an edgy vibe that screams 'been there, done that, and made it look good'. Sample the modern air of the Kop van Zuid or the multicultural razzle-dazzle of Witte de Withstraat. Take a walk on the wild side in the historical Delfshaven, where maritime charm and industrial cool collide. Here you’ll find less cute canals but a stunning river in return, smooth streets, trendy vibes and the real hard-working harbour mentality.

Round 2: Getting around

Who says stepping out of your comfort zone is always a must? Sometimes, it's the little comforts that give life its flavour. So, which city's got smoother navigation, Rotterdam or Amsterdam?

Plot twist – they both do! But how proficient are you at playing dodge-the-bike? It's only half a joke, promise.

Amsterdam, with its charming cobblestone streets and quaint alleys, tends to be a tad more hectic than the sleek and spacious Rotterdam. Both cities boast excellent connectivity and numerous modes of transport. Think trams, metros, buses, trains, shared scooters and of course, the quintessential bikes. The cherry on top? There's an express train zipping from Amsterdam city centre via Schiphol Airport right to Rotterdam central station. This beauty takes you from the heart of one city to the other in a mere 45 minutes. So, if you're in the throes of indecision, we say – why not both?

Round 3: Things to do

Overflowing with sights to see, both Rotterdam and Amsterdam are vying for your attention. But which city promises more excitement?

Amsterdam, without a doubt, sells itself with a sparkling charm that's hard to resist. It's a city that wears many hats – sporting merry boat tours threading through the canals, thrilling bike rides, panoramic viewpoints, a multitude of museums, the immersive Heineken experience and the vibrant red light district. This capital city is a smorgasbord of iconic tourist attractions, all worthy of a spot on your bucket list. But there's another side to Amsterdam that often slips under the radar – its vibrant character extends beyond the main attractions, with offbeat places like the immersive AMAZE audio-visual tours and the selfie-worthy Wondr Experience, or a laid-back beach day at Pllek. Dig a little deeper and you'll unearth a whole new side to Amsterdam. Don’t sweat it, we're here to point you in the right direction.

In contrast, Rotterdam is a star attraction in its own right. The city is a tantalizing mix of food halls, expansive parks, mesmerizing river cruises and harbour tours – with diversity as its second name! While both cities bristle with an array of activities, we've got to give this round to Amsterdam. But why, you ask? One of the biggest pulls to visit the modern and artistic Rotterdam is its jaw-dropping architecture, a subject that's about to get its own spotlight in the next round. Hush now, let's not spill all the secrets just yet!

Round 4 architecture

Amsterdam, donning the blue corner, is all about effortless charm. Picture this – a riveting saga of 17th-century canal houses on the Herengracht, Keizersgracht and Prinsengracht, standing shoulder to shoulder like good old pals. There's the Royal Palace on Dam Square, flaunting its grandeur and the Gothic-style Oude Kerk, crooning a song of the bygone era. It's like stepping onto the set of a historical drama – only the drama is reserved for the price of a pint.

But Amsterdam isn't just all drama, you know. This city is flaunting some real architectural eye candy that you won't want to miss. Like the Silodam – it's not your average block, it's like a playground for architects. Then there's the Architecture Centre of Amsterdam, a window into the city's design DNA. Let's not forget the Muziekgebouw, sitting pretty along the proud river, Het IJ. It's more than just a building, it's a local superstar. So forget the boring tour guides – we dare you to see Amsterdam from a new angle. It'll be a blast, promise. But here's the real fun part – does it pack enough punch to outshine its rival in the ring?

Rotterdam, in the red corner, is for the brave and the bold. Modern architecture takes centre stage in this vibrant cityscape. The moment you arrive at Rotterdam Central Station, it feels like you've time-travelled into the future. No antique charm here, just pure architectural swagger.

From the mind-bending Cube Houses to the Erasmus Bridge flexing its steel muscles across the Maas River, you're in for an architectural roller coaster ride. Wait till you see the Markthal – it's a foodie's wonderland shaped like a horseshoe, doubling as a hip living and working spot.

Without a doubt, Rotterdam is the cool kid on the block when it comes to modern architecture. The city's growing up and up, adding more jaw-dropping skyscrapers to its skyline every day. Icons like Willemswerf, KPN Tower and De Rotterdam are like giant sculptures in the sky. Breathtaking views from both the Erasmus Bridge and Willems Bridge are sure to leave you awestruck.

When it comes to an architectural showdown between the cities, Rotterdam effortlessly nabs the trophy from Amsterdam. With its towering skyline and edgy designs, Rotterdam truly is the champion of modern architecture. This city sure knows how to put on a show and trust us, it's a spectacle you wouldn't want to miss!

Round 5: Food & drinks

Buckle up, foodie explorers! Here's where the cultural diversity of Amsterdam and Rotterdam really shines. Yep, Amsterdam's restaurant scene outnumbers Rotterdam's – but don't you dare assume Rotterdam is falling short on the epicurean front. You just need to discover its culinary secrets.

As a global hotspot, Amsterdam's dining repertoire is as vast as your appetite. Fancy some authentic Dutch delicacies? Make a beeline for Kas (they’re big on organic) or the drool-worthy Kaasbar (cheese anyone?). Are your taste buds fancying a Peruvian adventure? Salmuera's your gastronomic GPS. If it's French fare that tickles your fancy, Amsterdam's got plenty to leave you saying 'ooh la la'. O Bistro’s steak? Life-changing. Or perhaps you'd rather toast to the good life with some fine champagne at Brut de Mer.

When the clock strikes cocktail, Amsterdam’s got you covered. The city’s buzzing with hip bars that promise a tantalizing tongue trip. Sample some wickedly good cocktails at The Flying Dutch, or, for a more traditional tipple, try the beers at Cafe Nol. If you're feeling brave, Kopstootbar’s got some unique brews waiting for you, and for those whisky aficionados, JD William's whisky bar will make your evening.

In contrast, Rotterdam showcases its multicultural soul in every bite. Surinamese, African, Italian or Dutch – you name it, they've got it. Takeout, traditional, or trendy? It's your pick! Let the flavours at Viva Afrika give your fork a break, while Delfshaven brings back the joy of hearty Dutch grub. Searching for something upscale? Kop van Zuid's the name you need to remember – think lofty sky bars, chic French bistros and sophisticated sushi bars.

And drinks? Rotterdam doesn't skimp on those either. Fewer cafes, yes, but what they lack in numbers, they make up for in quality. Want a taste of old-school Dutch charm? Look no further than Cafe Ari, a raw and real gem that's steeped in Rotterdam’s ethos. For a slice of unpretentious cafe culture, the Westerpaviljoen's your spot. Fancy a cocktail or two? Rumah, Botanero and Jigger will shake up your evening just right. Aiming for a posher affair? Sip on some sophisticated cocktails at The New York Basement or a fine wine at Louise Petit Bar a Vins.

So who takes the crown for the best food and drink? For those with an adventurous palate, it’s got to be Rotterdam. For those who like a blend of the exotic and familiar, Amsterdam’s your culinary canvas. Both cities are a treat for the senses. In Rotterdam, you might have to dig a little deeper, but the gastronomic treasures you'll unearth are well worth it. Meanwhile, every corner of Amsterdam teases you with scrumptious cafes and eateries. In the end, you really can't go wrong – it's a win-win whichever city you choose!

round 6: diversity

Amsterdam has built a culture of open-mindedness, tolerance and a sprinkle of 'anything goes'. Wander into any of the city's coffee shops or stroll through the Red Light District and you’ll know what we mean. You can step back in time at the Anne Frank House or take in the rich art culture in the Museum Quarter, home to the Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh Museum and Stedelijk Museum. Amsterdam doesn’t just have culture – it’s steeped in it.

On the other side, Rotterdam is a cultural mosaic – and it's never afraid to show it. Feel the ebb and flow of its maritime past at the historic harbour or get to know the city's immigrant roots in neighbourhoods like Katendrecht and Delfshaven. If you're a fan of art, museums like Kunsthal and Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen are your ticket to a visual feast.

round 9: price tags

Amidst all this festivity, feasting and staying over, what's the bottom line? Pondering over which city is more affordable: Amsterdam or Rotterdam? Well, the candid response is – it relies on a few factors. Being the illustrious capital, Amsterdam does have a reputation for a slightly elevated cost but fear not, budget-conscious options aren't in short supply. As with any major metropolis, the pulsating city centre naturally draws the premium outlets. In the case of Amsterdam, the stylish neighbourhoods in Amsterdam South also lean a bit more on the plush side – but they do it with such refined elegance. Believe us, it's an experience worth investing in. A stone's throw from the city centre, Amsterdam Amstel is our preferred niche – a wealth of affordable luxuries at your disposal. Want to balance out your swanky evenings? Traverse towards Amsterdam's east side for some budget-friendly adventures!

Rotterdam, the smaller sibling of the capital, typically carries a slightly more approachable price point for accommodation - however, this modern jewel also provides a spectrum of options from modest to luxe. Tempted by cocktails with a riveting river backdrop and sophisticated dining at Kop van Zuid? It's a notch higher on the price scale, but definitely worth every penny! In the mood for a more casual outing? You'll find an array of delightful alternatives in the charming local neighbourhoods of Rotterdam North.

So, which city brings the best value for money, Rotterdam or Amsterdam? We'd argue it's a close call! You just need to know where to look, smart citizens, and you'll unearth stellar value for your money in both these vibrant cities. Some insider's advice? Become a + member at citizenM, and get a discount on any of our hotels globally!

round 8: nightlife

Amsterdam's jukebox has a tune for every traveller. Whether it's the pulse of electronic music during the Amsterdam Dance Event, the symphonic melodies at the Royal Concertgebouw or the dynamic energy at venues like Paradiso and Melkweg, this city knows how to keep your feet tapping. Feeling a different vibe? Buckle up, because Amsterdam's brimming with drag bars so dazzlingly colourful they'd make a rainbow blush. Hold onto your hats, we haven't even dived into the festival frenzy that Amsterdam turns into each year!

Not to be outdone, Rotterdam hits back with its own blend of beats. Think techno and gabber nights at clubs like Maassilo, Munch and Annabel, hip-hop vibes at the Eendracht Festival or smooth jazz performances at the North Sea Jazz Festival. Warning: spontaneous dance outbreaks are a common side effect. While Rotterdam certainly knows how to get its groove on, we're throwing our confetti in the air for Amsterdam, the city that takes nightlife to next-level fabulous. The capital's vibrant party scene is a glowing beacon of welcome to everyone – it's a non-stop carnival where all are VIPs.

round 9: hotels & accommodation

Whether you're here for business or just want those chic vibes, Zuidas is the place to be. It's Amsterdam's financial hub, where tech-savvy offices like Google hang out. Picture yourself in a classy ‘suits up’ atmosphere, surrounded by trendy sky bars, wine bars and delicious restaurants. And guess what? It's super convenient! Hop on the tram, and in no time, you'll be exploring Oud Zuid, De Pijp or checking out the amazing Rijksmuseum. Need to catch a flight? Amsterdam South is just a quick train ride away. For a trip like this, citizenM Amsterdam South is your go-to, where comfort meets style!

If you're looking for some pure fun and excitement, head over to the Amstel neighbourhood. Here, you'll find yourself right in the heart of all the action – walk into Amsterdam's charming canal belt with its cute little streets filled with unique shops, lively bars and mouth-watering restaurants. Or if you prefer public transport, take a tram ride straight to the Jordaan neghbourhood where you can immerse yourself in the vibrant Dutch culture. For a trip like this, look no further than citizenM Amsterdam Amstel, your ticket to affordable luxury!

book citizenM Amsterdam Amstelbook citizenM Amsterdam South

Alright, Rotterdam enthusiasts, it's your turn! Where should you stay to make the most of this buzzing city? We've got the answer: the Rotterdam Blaak area. It's as central as it gets! Imagine stepping out of your hotel and being just a few steps away from the famous Market Hall, admiring Rotterdam's iconic Cube Houses, and leisurely strolling along the river. Trust us, it doesn't get any better than this. Getting there is a breeze too! From the airport, hop on the train to Rotterdam Central Station, switch lines and voila! You'll be at Blaak Station in no time. It's the perfect location for an unforgettable stay at citizenM Rotterdam hotel. 

So, whether you're an Amsterdam lover or a Rotterdam enthusiast, we've given you the inside scoop on the best places to stay. Get ready for an amazing adventure in these fantastic cities!

book citizenM Rotterdam

So, which one to choose?

We believe in playing nice, and the winner is... drumroll, please... you! The beauty of this Dutch duel is that you get to choose your own adventure. As we mentioned above, it’s incredibly easy to just visit both – only 45 minutes by train in between, you can easily stay in one city and go on a day trip to the other one.

Just in case, a final summary…

Amsterdam- your Dutch masterpiece

If you find yourself drawn to timeless elegance, art-soaked streets and an eclectic rhythm of life, then look no further than Amsterdam. With its enchanting canal houses, historical allure, and myriad beats echoing from bustling venues, Amsterdam welcomes those who appreciate the vintage charm of yesteryears. It's a city that has mastered the art of blending the old with the new, creating a melodious symphony that's bound to resonate with history buffs and art aficionados alike.

Rotterdam-  your Dutch dreamland

Alternatively, if you're an urban trailblazer, always on the lookout for the newest and boldest, then Rotterdam might just be the city for you. Characterized by innovative architecture and a vibe that's always a step ahead, Rotterdam is a haven for those with a futuristic outlook. It's the city where the skyline tells a story of constant evolution, a destination that embodies the spirit of reinvention and progress, a perfect fit for the modern-day explorer in you.

Stay at citizenM hotels

Remember, in the Netherlands, your next city adventure is just a train ride away. Be it Amsterdam or Rotterdam, rest assured, a cloud-like bed at citizenM awaits to cocoon you in comfort after your urban exploits.