Gouda is a city that is famous for its delightful cheese and is a city located in the western region of the Netherlands in close proximity to The Hague and Rotterdam. Although one of the smaller cities in the province of South Holland with a population of 70,000, Gouda still remains a popular tourist destination due to its cheese heritage and wealth of historical buildings.
During the 11th century, Gouda was mainly covered in peat and peat harvesting was the main source of employment. As technologies developed, Gouda was connected to the great canal network in the Netherlands via the Oude Rijn and became a major trade hub. Its history after this period was quite turbulent with outbreaks of disease, war and economic decline. In modern history, Gouda’s economy revolves around the cheese industry and markets and the famous cheese market is held on a weekly basis. Aside from the cheese, Gouda also boasts a range of stunning buildings such as the City Hall and the Church of St. John.
Lets explore the best things to do in Gouda:
1. Gouda Cheese Market
Gouda is famous for its production of cheese; the Gouda variety of cheese is a wonderful blend that is sold internationally.
Held every Thursday morning in the impressive setting of the Markt Square, the Gouda Cheese Market is a true spectacle and is wonderful to behold.
Farmers and traders will negotiate deals and huge quantities of cheese is bought and sold.
The cheese wheels are displayed in the centre of the square and the colours are brilliant – Different shades of yellow and orange all mingled together with the smell of cheese.
You can of course sample some of the famous cheese and watch the wheels being weighed.
Even if you are not keen on this type of food, you can still appreciate the artistry and spectacle.
2. Church of St. John
Dedicated to John the Baptist, this impressive church stands in the centre of Gouda and is renowned throughout the country for its design and beautiful stained glass windows.
Constructed in the 15th century, the church has seen various changes and restorations over the years but its stained glass windows have remained intact.
As the longest church in the Netherlands, the interior has an abundance of stone columns and supporting archways.
The real treat as mentioned is the array of stained glass windows – There is a dual layer of windows, and each individual frame contains a different depiction.
Notable windows include the baptism of Jesus and the last supper – the colours and detail are simply fantastic.
3. Gouda Stadhuis
This iconic building stands proudly in the centre of the Markt square and is a landmark of the city.
Constructed in 1448, the town hall is one of the oldest in the Netherlands and has a delightful Gothic style.
The front façade of the building features a series of pointed towers, spikes and arched windows and also has a myriad of stone statues of various important people from Dutch history.
On either side of the town hall there is a series of bell chimes that ring on the hour.
Furthermore at night the front of the Stadhuis is lit up in various colours and light shows are sometimes performed.
4. Markt Square
The expansive market square remains the centre of activity in Gouda and contains several historical buildings.
Furthermore, surrounding the square is a collection of shops, restaurants and cafes.
If you are visiting Gouda, the Markt Square is the perfect place to start your tour and from here you can explore the city.
St. John’s church, the Goudse Hout and the Stadhuis are three historical buildings that can be found in or around the square and should definitely be on your to do list.
Additionally, traditional markets are still held here, most important of which is the Dutch cheese market which is renowned internationally.
5. Kaasboerderij Jongehoeve
To truly appreciate the history and importance of Gouda cheese, it is advisable to take a trip to the Kaasboerderij Jongehoeve which is a working cheese farm located to the south of Gouda near the De Lek river.
Away from the touristic city centres of modern towns, this cheese farm has a rustic and traditional feel.
Guided tours are available of the farm and you are treated to an engaging experience where you can watch several presentational videos, see how cheese is made, admire the beautiful cows and calves that contribute to the cheese making process and also sample some fine fresh produce.
Don’t forget to visit the farm shop and purchase some authentic cheese or other souvenirs.
6. Museum Gouda
This museum is another fine building that is located on the Market square and is in close proximity to St. John’s Church.
Hosted within the Arti Legi building that was constructed in 1874 and originally served as a school.
Inside the museum is a brilliant collection of pottery dating back to the 1800’s together with a extensive display of porcelain.
Furthermore there is a great display of paintings, sculptures and ceramics from various periods.
Finally, you can also find a collection of religious artefacts and art including altarpieces and blueprints of stained glass windows.
7. Goudse Hout
For nature lovers and those who enjoy the outdoors the Goodse Hout or Goudse Wood is a great place to explore.
This fantastic park can be found in the eastern part of Gouda next to a large section of waterways – A large public car park lies at the southern end of the woods.
Throughout the grounds of this reclaimed park you can find cycling and walking trails and also a riding stable and several small lakes.
Hire a bicycle or take to the trails on foot; search for wildlife, admire the natural scenery and enjoy the outdoors.
8. Molen De Roode Leeuw
The Red Lion Windmill is a fine example of a working mill and stands proudly on the edge of one of the canal networks in the centre of Gouda.
Although this windmill no longer produces flour, it still works and you can see the sails turn and the mechanical parts of the mill are on display.
Windmills are one of the greatest Dutch traditions and this particular windmill was constructed in 1727 and has been lovingly restored in recent decades.
To gain a sense of how these marvellous structures operate and to see a windmill up close, the Red Lion windmill is a great historical attraction.
9. Take a walking tour of the Gouda Canals
The centre of Gouda is encircled by canals and a great way to see the city and its wonderful architecture is by exploring these waterways.
Consider starting at the canal that lies just above the market square and walk down its entire length – This canal is lined with trees and has a charming bridge in the centre.
Continue to the edge of the canal and turn either left or right to walk around the larger waterway that encircles the whole of the old city centre.
You can easily complete the whole canal ring and take in the sights of Gouda en-route including the wonderful houses and architecture that line the peaceful stretches of water.
The second of the major churches in the centre of Gouda, the Gouwekerk is a later addition to the city and was constructed in 1904. Utilizing a traditional cruciform style, the church is considered to be Neo Gothic and has a large central tower that looms above the surrounding buildings.
This building provides fantastic photographic opportunities, especially as it sits so pleasantly on the canals.
Furthermore, the architecture itself is stunning and it is a great example of a modern building taking a historical design style.
11. Goudse Waag Cheese and Crafts Museum
Located in the Markt Square, the Goudse Waag is a fascinating old building that has served for hundreds of years as a weighing station for cheese.
It now stands as a museum and craft centre to help people learn about the history of Gouda and its famous cheese market.
Aside from the informative displays, you can also book cheese tasting sessions and even combined cheese and wine tasting! Furthermore, guided tours are available of this fantastic structure including the museum and shop.
12. Enjoy a coffee or a light snack at the Kruim café
Looking for a charming café in a quiet but attractive location? The Kruim café is one such establishment and offers a great range of coffee, cold drinks and snacks.
Varieties of coffee served include Sweet Mocha, Hazelnut Heaven, Vanilla Latte and Caramel.
Additionally you can also enjoy a variety of loose leaf teas and refreshing health soft drinks.
Furthermore you can enjoy various snacks and meals including Cheesecake, Mud Pie, fresh sandwiches and even a Black Angus burger.
The Kruim café really is a fantastic place to relax and find some rejuvenation.
13. Sample a local beer at the Kamphuisen bar & restaurant
This superb bar is located on the edge of one of the canals that circles Gouda city centre and is In close proximity to the Gouwekerk.
Full of atmosphere, character and quality service this is a great place to enjoy a couple of drinks as a break from a busy day sight-seeing.
Aside from a great food menu, the Kamphuisen also has a wide selection of wines, local beers, craft ales and bottled brews.
With a team of dedicated and friendly staff, you can really feel at home here and relax.
14. Take a day trip to Utrecht
As the capital of the province of Utrecht; this city is full of historical buildings, cultural attractions and is part of the Randstad conurbation.
The Dom tower is undoubtedly the main attraction and towers over the city – Climb this tower for fantastic views of the surrounding region and admire its architecture.
If you are afraid of heights, why not consider a tour of the canals or a visit to the railway museum? Alternatively you can visit the Speelklock museum or the university botanical gardens.
Utrecht is located to the east of Gouda and regular buses and trains travel between the two cities.
15. Try a delightful stroopwafel
A trip to Gouda without sampling a delicious stroopwafel is a trip wasted! This sweet waffle is made from two crossed layers of baked dough and has a filling in the centre made of either caramel or syrup.
Stroopwafels are often served in cafes and Gouda has a plethora of establishments available where you can try this desert.
Depending on your tastes, you can keep it simple and have a waffle with a mug of tea.
Alternatively if you have a sweet tooth, why not sample a stroopwafel filled with cream and meringue, or chocolate sauce? Whatever you choose, you are guaranteed to enjoy this simple treat!