Background: arterial stiffening is a marker of vascular ageing and an independent risk factor for cardiovascular disease. A potential mechanism linking cardiovascular disease to chronic kidney disease might be the change in arterial elasticity. We aim to determine the association between renal function and arterial stiffness in older subjects. Design: cross-sectional study. Setting: Rotterdam study, a population-based cohort study. Subjects: we included 3,279 subjects from 1997 to 1999 with a mean age of 71.9 years. Methods: estimation of glomerular filtration rate (eGFR) was used to assess renal function. Aortic pulse wave velocity (PWV) and carotid distensibility coefficient were used as measures of arterial stiffness. Results: each standard deviation increase in eGFR, adjusting for age and sex, was associated with 0.14 m/s lower PWV [95% confidence interval (CI): -0.23, -0.05]. Further adjustments for socio-demographic and cardiovascular risk factors did not change the association (beta: -0.16 m/s; 95% CI: -0.26, -0.06). There was a linear association between mean values of PWV and quartiles of glomerular filtration rate (P for trend = 0.006). There was no association between decreased renal function and carotid distensibility. There was no statistical difference in the strength of the association between renal function and PWV in subgroups of participants with and without cardiovascular risk factors. Conclusions: in this large population-based study of elderly subjects, our findings suggest that renal impairment is associated with aortic stiffness. This association is independent of cardiovascular risk factors.