The Best Metro Hikes In And Around Rotterdam
This blog post was actually planned for the spring of 2020. The idea, analogous to the famous Dutch Railways hikes: a number of hiking routes with a metro station or tram stop as the start and end point. But then it became clear that covid-19 would not pass the Netherlands completely unnoticed. Public transport was suddenly declared “for strictly necessary journeys only”.
Of course I could have published in the more relaxed summer months of 2020. But even then, a second wave seemed to be around the corner all the time. Last winter’s lockdown also didn’t seem like the right time. But now that both temperatures and vaccination rates are rising (unfortunately excruciatingly slow), I feel the time is finally right. After all, many people have recently discovered how fun and healthy walking is, also close to home; I’m happy to make some suggestions. Moreover, our public transport company RET could use some support after this bizarre year. But untill corona has left the country, don’t forget the face mask in the metro and tram and try to avoid rush hour …
For now, the collection consists of nine walks. The routes can be viewed on the map below, on which you can zoom, pan and click. The cups of coffee on the map represent recommended stops for a beer or other refreshments. Because also the “horeca” could use some support.
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1 – Between Westland and Waterweg
21.8 kilometers – start: metro Hoek van Holland Haven – finish: metro Maassluis Centrum
Perhaps the most varied walk that can be made in the Rijnmond area. Beach, dunes, forest, farmland, harbors and urban beauty: it is all covered.
In a few years the metro will continue right to the beach, but even then it will be worth getting off at Hoek van Holland Haven and walking the last kilometer yourself, along Berghaven harbour, Queen Emma boulevard and Noorderhoofd pier. After that the route goes along the beach for a while where there is ample opportunity to enjoy a cup of coffee with a fruit snack at one of the beach bars.
We continue our walk through dunes of recent date; the so-called Van Dixhoorn triangle was created in the 1970s, but now it seems as if these dunes have always been there. We cross the Hoekse Bosjes, graze the edge of the built-up area and continue our way through the Kapittelduinen.
The Staelduinse Bos is like the famous knapsack by cartoon character Douwe Dabbert: this forest seems much bigger than it is, or maybe it is much bigger than it looks. The bunkers from the Second World War give it a slightly post-apocalyptic touch.
The route then leads along a grassy dike with the greenhouses of the Westland on the left and open polder land on the right, with Nieuwe Waterweg canal and the Europoort industry behind it.
King Willem Alexander Boulevard is a very ambitious name for a simple path along the Waterweg, but nevertheless it’s a nice walk. Optionally, the route can be shortened by taking the metro at Steendijkpolder or Maassluis West, but the real go-getters will of course continue to the beautiful old center of Maassluis.
2 – Along the river Oude Maas
15.4 kilometers – start: final stop tram 25 – finish: metro station Poortugaal
A classic, this walk. The beauty of this route is that, following the Oude Maas river with it’s many large vessels passing by, you will not cross car traffic anywhere. The succession of nature reserves and recreation areas along the river is therefore an oasis of tranquility just a few kilometers from the Rotterdam Ringroad.
After arriving at the terminus of the tram line, we cross lake Koedoodsplas via a beautifully designed pedestrian bridge. We climb a mountain: the 25-meter-high Oude Maasheuvel in the Jan Gerritsepolder. An enlightening view of the islands of South Holland, the Rotterdam skyline and the road ahead is our part.
Then the route goes, over narrow paths between pollard willows, through Carnisse Grienden, a willow forest cut by creeks. Part of the path even goes over a narrow walkbridge between the Grienden and the river. This is followed by a somewhat more artificial-looking green area, where we pass the most beautiful house in the Rijnmond, which even has its own beach …
We continue on a forest path with a golf course on the right and the willow forests on the left. A small side trip to the beautifully wild nature reserve Klein Profijt (the name means Little Profit) is highly recommended. And the Rhoonse Grienden that follow after that are also among the most beautiful places in our province.
At the Rhoon marina, the landscape is more orderly again, but it still remains rather pretty. We round the tiny harbor of Poortugaal, pass the grounds of the Delta Hospital and, just before the neighborhood of Zalmplaat, we turn inland, past a small lake, sports fields and allotment gardens. The last part of the route leads through an old polder landscape, the Kievelanden and finally through the village of Poortugaal.
3 – Over the Hillegers Mountain
10.7 kilometers – start: metro station Meijersplein – finish: metro station Stadhuis
One of the most beautiful mountain walks in Rotterdam. The Dutch word berg means mountain and Hillegersberg is indeed a real mountain, at least by Dutch standards. This ancient river dune is a staggering five meters higher than the surrounding land and it has a church, a ruin and a cemetery on its summit and slopes. A hidden gem, concealed behind the houses on Bergsche Dorpsstraat.
We reach the mountain from Meijersplein station through a series of parks: Wilgenplaspark, Schiebroeksepark and Argonautenpark, connected by nameless green strips and a small section of an old road: the Hoge Limiet.
After climbing the mountain, the route continues along the north bank of Bergsche Voorplas, with beautiful views over the lake, a windmill and the Rotterdam skyline. At the sluice of Boterdorpse Verlaat we turn right and continue our way along the river Rotte over the initially green but gradually more stony banks into the city, meandering between the neighbourhoods of Crooswijk and Oude Noorden to the beckoning skyscrapers of the city center.
4 – Lansingerland and Eendragtspolder
15.9 kilometers – start: metro station Rodenrijs – end point: metro station Nesselande
From Rodenrijs station, this route first goes through the elongated Annie M.G. Schmidt Park, named after the famous children’s books writer and poet who lived here for many years. Then we cross the high-speed railway line (don’t worry, there is a bridge), we walk through a quiet neighborhood from the 1970’s and via Leeuwenkuil park we reach the tiny center of Bergschenhoek .
We follow the Oosteindseweg, an old road lined with canals and traditional houses. Then we turn left and arrive in a neighborhood from around the turn of the century, where we naturally follow the greenest paths.
When we cross Oosteindseweg again, an impressive greenhouse horticulture area unfolds. The Westland has the reputation, but the Lansingers seem to be good at it too. Via a green strip between the greenhouses we reach the Rotte, the old river with a string of nature and recreation areas along its banks.
When we cross the Rotte we arrive in the Eendragtspolder. Until recently, this was a fairly large-scale and not terribly fascinating agricultural area. Since 2010, a large part of the polder has been redeveloped into water storage, rowing course and nature reserve. And that makes hiking here a lot more pleasant. Do not forget to view the area from above from the lookout tower on the Slingerkade.
After meandering paths between reed beds and herbaceous grassland, we eventually get to the new neighbourhood of Nesselande. The idea of the urbanists was to create a kind of seaside resort with a beach and a boulevard and that has worked out surprisingly well. Although lake Zevenhuizerplas cannot of course by no means be compared with the North Sea.
5 – The Woods of West-IJsselmonde
12.5 kilometers – start: metro station Zalmplaat – finish: metro station Rhoon
This is perhaps the most afforested walk that can be made in the Rijnmond area. Don’t picture vast wildernesses however…. But still: a remarkably large part of this walk takes us through woods, groves and bushes.
After a short approach route from Zalmplaat station through the new-build district of the same name, we reach the river Oude Maas, where a number of residential towers are enjoying the view.
And there is also the first grove: the Visserijgriend, through which a boardwalk gracefully winds its way. At high tide there is a dry feet route over the dike.
After the Spijkenisser Bridge and the Hoogvliet marina, another wild area in the floodplain follows: the Ruigeplaatbos. A 500 meter long pedestrian walkway runs along the banks of the river. And at high tide even through the river, but here too there is a dry alternative.
The route then takes us inland, past the Heerlijkheid Hoogvliet, which has a small arboretum and a chill hill where, sitting in bright red plastic benches, one can enjoy the view over Hoogvliet, the industry and the green zones in between.
We walk through Bonaire Park along the foot of a ten-meter-high overgrown noise barrier. Nevertheless, it does not stop all the noise from the A15 motorway, but it helps to imagine that the sound is caused by a large waterfall.
We cross a neighborhood access road, the Aveling. For the really desperate there is a McDonald’s here, otherwise cafes and restaurants along this route are unfortunately sparse.
The Oudelandsepark is again a somewhat wild green zone. At a certain point the route becomes a very narrow green corridor between highways and industry. But do not despair: after passing under the metro viaduct we enter the Valckesteinse Bos. This area was forested as a buffer zone between the petrochemical industry of Pernis and the growing villages of Poortugaal and Rhoon. After a few decades it ‘s really getting somewhere: adolescent forests, interspersed with water and an occasional remaining pasture.
The walk ends at the fifteenth century Rhoon Castle, surrounded by a moat and a beautiful garden.
6 – The green-blue curve
18.7 kilometers – start: metro station Rodenrijs – finish: metro station Pijnacker
The once rural area between Rotterdam and The Hague has become quite urbanized in recent decades. Well, the metro line is here for a reason. Fortunately, in the 1990s, it was decided at a provincial level that the two cities should not be allowed to grow into one urban sprawl entirely. And so this region is not only dotted with old village centers and new suburbs, but also with groves, landscape parks and nature reserves. One has to know the way, but it’s certainly possible to do nice hikes here.
As with walk 4, the first part of the hike goes through the Annie M.G. Schmidtpark, parallel to the high-speed railway line. But then we bend to the left and pass through the center of Berkel, largely consisting of new buildings, but built around an ancient church. Via the water-rich, reasonably successful new suburb Meerpolder we arrive at the, if possible, even more water-rich Groene Zoom.
We meander between scraps of agricultural landscape and new wet nature to Zoetermeer. We walk into that city through one park and leave it via another park. The latter park is in fact the Floriadepark with all kinds of remnants of the horticultural exhibition of the same name in 1992. The Floriadepark changes into a beech forest named Baleibos, which may not be the Veluwe, but is nevertheless beautiful, especially in autumn.
When we leave the forest we first find some farms, greenhouses and meadows on our way. Finally, we walk through a village-like new housing estate to the end of the walk at Pijnacker Centrum station.
7 – Broekpolder and friends
20.6 kilometers – start: metro station Vlaardingen West – finish: metro station Schiedam
From Vlaardingen West station we walk a few hundred meters parallel to the metro track and then through the Vlaardinger Food Forest (or around it to the right if the gate is closed). This area west of Vlaardingen has a recreational character, with golf courses, a surf lake and restaurants. On the other side of lake Krabbeplas we see, fortunately at a reasonable distance, work in progress on the new Blankenburgtunnel.
The route takes us over the A20 motorway to a somewhat wilder area: the Broekpolder. A new residential area was once planned here, but it never materialized. Instead, we find here a varied landscape with patches of forest, open field and waters, crossed by low dikes and birch lanes. Keep a safe distance to the highland cows that have made these lowlands their home.
After we have crossed Vlaardingervaart we follow this canal for a while in a northerly direction. A pub named Vlietzicht, with its terrace on the water, is a very tempting resting point, about halfway through the walk.
Then a winding path through meadows and across bridges leads us through the Midden-Delfland landscape park. We could walk all the way around the outskirts of Schiedam, but we make a shortcut through Sveaparken, the Swedish Park neighbourhood with the central square ABBAborg. For architectural puritans, this neighborhood must be a nightmare, but at least it’s very colorful and surprisingly village-like.
The Anna Lindt path (to stay in the Swedish theme) takes us past the church of Saints Jacob and Martin in the old village of Kethel. After the bridge across Poldervaart canal we enter Princess Beatrix park, with a somewhat neglected botanical garden and a petting zoo.
The route can be shortened by taking the metro at Schiedam Nieuwland station after 17.8 kilometers. But it is certainly advisable to continue walking to the historic center of Schiedam with its canals, its mills and, not unimportantly after a twenty-kilometer walk, its cafes.
8 – Zeelandic moods
19.1 kilometers – start: metro station De Akkers – finish: metro station Spijkenisse Centrum
I know: the province of Zeeland is two islands further down the road. But still, when we leave Spijkenisse, walking past the world famous whale tails sculpture, the landscape gets unmistakably Zeelandic features. Wide polders, fields and meadows, marine clay soil, dykes with rows of poplars, cozy villages, large and small windmills.
Along a picturesque country road, the route leads straight to the striking white church of Simonshaven. This otherwise tiny village lies on the Bernisse, an old river that was upgraded to a recreational stream in the 1970s, with some forest on its banks. On the other side is Zuidland, a larger village with a beautiful square around a pond and a Pisa-esque church tower.
The path follows the Bernisse for a short while before turning right on a cart track through the meadows to the hamlet of Biert. With the Dutch word for beer in its name, that would be a great place for a cafe, but unfortunately…
Via a cycle path over the old tram track we reach the outskirts of Spijkenisse, which town, however, has a very green character here. We walk through Mallebos forest and along the green banks of Vierambachtenboezem canal and before we even realize we are in the town center.
That center has improved quite a bit since I spent my high school days here. It is an interesting combination of the old town, failures from the eighties, post-modern repair attempts and two grand projects: the Boekenberg library by MVRDV and De Stoep Theatre by Ben van Berkel. And fortunately, the days when Hotel De Keizer was the only form of “horeca” are long gone.
9 – Harbors and canals
11.7 kilometers – start metro station Blijdorp – finish: metro station Zuidplein
Most of these RET walks explore the outskirts of the city and the surrounding countryside. But one can also make good hikes in the city itself. This route runs from north to south, ignores the city center, and takes us past many of Rotterdam’s harbors and canals.
It starts off beautifully in the neighbourhood of Blijdorp with its green canals and 1930s architecture. We pass the old entrance to Blijdorp Zoo, cross under the railway tracks and arrive at another beautiful green strip: Heemraadssingel canal. Via the also quite green Heemraadsplein square, a section of lively Nieuwe Binnenweg and the bridge across the Schie, we arrive at by far the most picturesque part of Rotterdam: Delfshaven.
After Aelbrechtskolk, Voorhaven and Achterhaven canals, we enter an area that can be read as a catalog of architectural styles, some more successful than others, from different eras. Next is the Lloydkwartier, until 25 years ago and a bustling port and industrial area, now transformed into an urban district with a view. Via harbours named Schiehaven, Sint Jobshaven and Parkhaven we reach the city’s landmark Euromast, after which, thanks to the pedestrian bridge over the Maastunneltrace, we also enjoy a corner of the park simply called The Park.
Unfortunately, the ferry does not sail anymore, but the passage under the Nieuwe Maas, through the recently renovated Maastunnel with its monumental escalators is certainly an experience. Arriving at the Southbank, we briefly follow the river downstream. After Dokhaven Park, built on an underground water treatment plant, a surprise follows: a round square with a church in the middle, the heart of the old village of Charlois.
Boergoensevliet is another beautiful green canal surrounded by neighborhoods from the 1930s. On Kromme Zandweg there is a scenic windmill and a historic castle: Huize D’Oliphant (Elephant House). The last part of the walk goes through Zuiderpark, again with plenty of water features. The end point, near the Ahoy congress and concert center, the shopping mall and the metro station, has been a textbook example of disastrous urban development for a long time, but repair work is in progress.
10 – Great contrasts
22,1 kilometers – start: metrostation Maassluis Centrum – finish: metrostation De Akkers
There are hardly any greater contrasts imaginable than on this epic journey through the Europoort. Large-scale industry, port activities and infrastructure are followed by lush greenery, quaint villages and winding country roads.
After a short walk along Maassluis’ Outer Harbour we arrive at the ferry (note: tickets are only available at the vending machine on the quay). After a short crossing we reach Rozenburg, once an independent village, which became a part of Rotterdam a few years ago. We follow Nieuwe Waterweg canal a few hundred metres downstream and then cross a park-like area on the edge of Rozenburg.
After that we suddenly find ourselves in the middle of the Rotterdam port and industrial area. A symphony of concrete, steel and asphalt. A cacophony of canals, bridges, a tunnel, a highway, a railway, oil tanks, wind turbines, not to mention an impressive sculptural windshield.
After Harmsen Bridge, on arrival on the island of Voorne, we abruptly enter a completely different environment: the green, quiet southern banks of the Brielse Meer. We walk successively through three picturesque villages: Zwartewaal, Heenvliet and Geervliet. The latter two can officially call themselves “city” but there is little reason to do so these days.
We cross the Groene Kruisweg and continue our path over winding dikes along fields and farms to Mallebos forest on the outskirts of Spijkenisse. Here we cross the route of walk 8, which gives us a choice: straight on for the last one and a half kilometers of the walk to De Akkers station or turn left for a small detour with a catering stop in the center of Spijkenisse.