Police said dozens of arrests had been made and officers were among the injured, with units from across the Netherlands dispatched to help restore order. Two people were believed to have been hurt by police warning shots.
The violent unrest was linked to anger among some Dutch citizens at plans by the government to restrict access for unvaccinated people to select venues.
Riot police used water cannon in an attempt to move several hundred of rioters from a central street in the city.
Officers issued an emergency ordinance in Rotterdam, shutting down public transport and ordering people to go home
“The police are present in large numbers and are trying to restore order,” Rotterdam police said. “Maximum deployment of the police is necessary to restore public order. Emergency order is still in force, stay away from Coolsingel.”
Photos in Dutch media showed at least one police car ablaze and another with a bicycle smashed through the windscreen.
Police spokesperson Patricia Wessels told the Reuters news agency: “We fired warning shots and there were also direct shots fired because the situation was life-threatening.
“We know that at least two people were wounded, probably as a result of the warning shots, but we need to investigate the exact causes further.”
Witnesses with video of the riots were urged to submit footage to the police.
The government has said it wants to introduce a law that would allow businesses to restrict the country’s coronavirus pass system to only people who are fully vaccinated or have recovered from Covid-19, excluding people who test negative.
A partial lockdown came into force a week ago after the country saw record numbers of infections.
In January, rioting broke out in Rotterdam and other Dutch cities after the government announced a curfew in an attempt to rein in soaring coronavirus infections.