Internationally, Gouda is known as the Dutch city of cheese. In The Netherlands, we also know Gouda as the city of candles and the city of stroopwafels (syrup waffles). Now if I told you that all of this can be found in a completely romantic setting of Golden Age buildings, a mesmerizing market square, cobblestones and canals… would you like to discover traditional Gouda The Netherlands?
There isn’t a city more centrally located than Gouda in the Netherlands (okay, Utrecht is actually more centrally located, but I am trying to make a point here). Gouda is only 15-20 minutes by train from Utrecht, Rotterdam and The Hague, and just a 45-minute train ride from Amsterdam.
So honestly, there is no reason why you shouldn’t visit Gouda on a day trip from Amsterdam or add it to your list of places to see on your road trip in The Netherlands. Plus, Gouda is one of those places where you can experience pure Dutch culture and folklore without it being too imposed or too overly touristy. If you’d like to discover traditional Gouda, you shouldn’t be missing these attractions in town.
Traditional Gouda cheese market
Okay, confession of the day. I don’t like cheese. I don’t like it, at all. I think it’s gruesome and it stinks. But if you follow me on Instagram you saw that just a few days ago I took one for the team and visited Gouda to see the spectacle that is the traditional Gouda cheese market. The things I do in the name of journalism! Anyway, I concurred the smell (did I mention, I don’t like cheese) and the crowds and I have to admit: it was quite something.
Every Thursday morning between April and October the real Gouda cheese is sold an auctioned off on the Gouda market square in front of the pretty town hall. Traditionally dressed farmers and salesmen trade cheese in an oldfashioned ‘hand-clapping’ manner. It can get very crowded, especially in the summer months, and it is quite, dare I say, cheesy. Though I think the surrounding traditional market is an excellent place to buy the real Gouda cheese, the tradespeople will allow you to taste different kinds and if you decide to buy some cheese they will wrap it up so you can take it home, odourless.
Cheese Weigh House and Museum
Opposite the cheese market is the beautiful historically cheese weighing house (Waag, in Dutch) which dates from the Golden Age and was once the place where cheese, and other goods, were weighed before going to market. These days the Tourist Office is housed in the weigh-house, as well as a Gouda cheese seller. On the top floor you can visit the Gouda cheese museum to learn all there is to learn about Gouda cheese.
Gouda town hall
I have seen a lot of pretty city halls in The Netherlands (personally, I think the Middelburg city hall is spectacular) and the Gouda town hall has to be in the Top 5 of the prettiest town halls in the country. It was built in the Golden Age and the hundreds of red-and-white shutters, the sculptures, gothic spires and carillon with mechanical sculptures are simply mesmerizing. I visited the town hall once, as I was lucky enough to attend a wedding there. If you see the doors open, simply walk inside to have a look. If the doors are closed, you’re out of luck.
Arts and craft market
If you can’t stand the crowds during the traditional cheese market on Thursdays, don’t worry. It can get a little crazy at times. Just wander along the stalls of the surrounding arts and crafts market instead. You’ll be able to buy the best typical food The Netherlands have to offer: poffertjes (fluffy mini-pancakes), freshly bakes real Gouda stroopwafels (syrup waffles) and of course, cheese. But there’s more to buy, like handmade woodwork, whicker, clothes, toys and even children’s books about cheese and Gouda (available in several languages).
Golden light in the cathedral
The Sint Janskerk towers high over the market square and even though it isn’t that high, it is actually the longest church in The Netherlands. Do take your time to walk around the church as it will take you through some really pretty cobbled historical streets, flanked by small canals, gates and gardens. But do visit the church as the incredible 72 glass-stained windows form the largest 16th-century stained glass panel in the world and they filter daylight into this amazing golden glow.
If you have visited the beguinage of Amsterdam (or Bruges for that matter) you’ll know how special these small, secluded courtyards can be. Gouda has a handful of beautiful historical courtyards, like Hofje van Cincq, Swanenburgh’s Hofje and Hofje van Letmaet. Finding the courtyards takes a bit of a search (they’re secluded after all), but if you follow the tourist signs that say ‘Hofje’ you’ll be able to find at least a few courtyards.
But making things easier, it’s also possible to have drinks or even dinner at one of the Hofjes: Hofje van Jongkind is one of these historical courtyards and has recently been added to a restaurant. It’s just the perfect place for lunch or drinks. If you stay the night in Gouda, I highly recommend having dinner there and ordering the cheese fondue with real Gouda cheese (yes, I don’t like cheese, but I wouldn’t deny anyone who likes it their cheese fondue, of course).
Syrup waffle museum
Have you heard of stroopwafels? Don’t come to The Netherlands without knowing about these babies, and buy some as soon as you get off the plane or train. Seriously, stroopwafels are just The Best. Stroopwafels are thinly baked waffles held together by a thin layer of golden syrup. And they are good, so good. And they’re originally from Gouda.
The city used to have many stroopwafel-factories, but now only a few remain. Kamphuisen is one of them and has opened up a Syrup waffle factory museum, where there’s simply all you need to know about stroopwafels. And then there’s the sampling, of course. Though it’s entirely possible to skip this museum and buy proper syrup waffles at any bakery in town or at the open-air market.
Plan your trip to Gouda The Netherlands
- It’s easy to combine a visit to Gouda with seeing Rotterdam, The Hague and/or Utrecht, since the cities are very near, just 15-20 minutes by train. Perfect if you have a few days to spend in The Netherlands and you’d like to see multiple cities. Gouda is just 45 minutes by train from Amsterdam. Check out train timetables, you can buy your tickets at the station. From Gouda, a walk from the station to the city centre takes just a couple of minutes.
- If you only have a few hours to spare and you’d like to see the best of Gouda, I highly recommend joining this guided bike tour. In just a few hours a guide tells you many interesting facts about the cheese and candle making city and you’ll see all the highlights.
- If you’d like to stay the night in Gouda (and why not, it’s centrally located and so much cheaper than Amsterdam!) there aren’t many hotels to choose from. Having said that, there are plenty of cute B&B’s in gorgeous historical, typical Dutch houses. Stay at B&B Het Goudsche Huys or B&B Tannery Lane for an excellent Dutch experience.
- Use my complete city guide Gouda to plan your trip.
Save on Pinterest!