Gouda is a small city located in the south of the Netherlands. Perhaps you’ve recognized the name because of the popular Gouda cheese. This is actually the city where it originates from. Gouda has more to offer than just it’s tasty cheese but also beautiful architecture, historic monuments and picturesque streets. Whether it’s for a day trip or excursion, here are reasons why you must visit the charming city of Gouda Netherlands.
How to Get to Gouda Netherlands
Gouda is central to many Dutch cities like Rotterdam, Utrecht and Amsterdam. It’s easily accessible by frequent train departures from these areas and by car. Gouda Central Station can also get you anywhere in the Netherlands quite conveniently. For Reference, by train it takes 20 minutes from Utrecht, Rotterdam and the Hague and 50 minutes from Amsterdam.
A Bit of Quick History
The city of Gouda is nearly 900 years old and its cheese is one of the earliest made in the world. However, it isn’t just cheese that grew this small city into importance. In the 1200’s the Gouwe river was connected via canal to one of the infamous European rivers – the Rhine. This route became a harbour which created opportunity due to the amount of traders coming in and doing business. The 15 and 16th centuries were quite prosperous for Gouda but unfortunately plague epidemics hit the city, killing a portion of the population. This continued on with recessions and war. Nonetheless, starting from the 19th century Gouda’s economy started to recover especially during the Industrial Revolution. Today, Gouda is a top destination amongst travelers and locals especially since it’s so reachable by the Randstad cities (Rotterdam, Amsterdam, Utrecht and the Hague).
The perfect place to start your tour of Gouda Netherlands is in the bustling heart of the city in Market Square. You will find numerous shops, restaurants, cafes and pubs alongside it.There are stalls selling everything from cheese, fish, snacks, clothes and knick knacks – which can differ according to the different types of market taking place. Take a stroll around the plaza and observe the bustling and lively activity taking place. The medieval buildings make you feel as if you’ve been transported to the European middle ages. If the weather permits, enjoy coffee at one of the many outdoor cafes to see Market Square in action.
Visit the Cheese Market
How can you not taste the cheese of the city you are visiting? In fact, Gouda holds one of the oldest traditional cheese markets in the Netherlands. Market Square is also where the infamous cheese market takes place. Cheese has been sold here since 1395 and today is the biggest tourist attraction for the city. Between the months of April-August, on Thursday mornings you can visit the cheese market. Witness cheeseman actors in traditional clothing perform a historical reenactment of how cheese was sold and weighed centuries ago. It’s quite a remarkable and amusing show to watch. On Market square is where farmers also sell their delectable cheese. It’s nice to have the opportunity to hear the history and process of how the farmers do it themselves.
Admire the Gouda Netherlands Stadhuis
The Stadhuis which is Dutch for city hall is located in the center of historic Market Square. It was constructed in 1448 and built in a beautiful 15th century late Gothic and Renaissance style. This first thing you will notice about the exterior is the vibrant red and white colored shutters. While the Stadhuis no longer serves as city hall, it is very much a national monument and can even be rented for events like weddings and parties. You can purchase tickets to go inside the Stadhuis which is just as stunning as the exterior. There are decorated lounges, rooms, and a grand hall dating to the 17th-18th centuries.
Visit Sint-Janskerk (Saint John’s Church)
Situated on the corner of a winding cobblestone street is this marvelous Gothic style church. Sint-Janskerk is one of the largest, oldest and longest churches in the Netherlands. It was built in 1278 but restored in the 15 and 16th centuries. Saint John’s Church is famous for its beautiful and well preserved stained glass windows. The interior is quite ornate with stunning paintings, furniture and artefacts. Give yourself time to wander around and take in all the beauty this church has to offer.
Entrance fee to the church comes along with a 30 minute audio guided tour, to give you a more comprehensive understanding of the stained windows and its history. Additionally, did you know that the windows were hidden during WWII to keep safe from the Germans? You can come to appreciate the preservation of the windows and the depicted biblical stories and those of Saint john. This exquisite church holds so much rich history and is well worth the visit to Gouda.
Visit a Museum in Gouda Netherlands
If you’re in the mood to learn some history I suggest paying a visit to the few museums. Museum Gouda contains a collection of paintings dating from the 1500’s to present time as well as displays of pottery and other artefacts. Gouda Cheese Experience is a favorite choice for tourists of all ages. It’s an educational and interactive experience that teaches how exactly to make this delicious cheese.
Stroll Along the Canals
The canals of Gouda may be small but they are absolutely charming to stroll around and explore. You’ll pass by quaint houses, unique architecture and tree lined streets. Some of the best photography shots of the city are actually amongst the canals. Another way to experience the canals is by boat tour. This way you’re able to see the city from a different perspective. If the weather is warm and you’re feeling adventurous then I recommend kayaking or paddle boarding!
Check out the Harbour
Along your tour of Gouda you may stumble upon a beautiful harbor called Museumhaven. Here sits grand and long ships dating back to the 1900’s. Skipper families reside on these ships and work to take care of them. Although you cannot visit the ships it’s nice to marvel from afar and check out the cafe for coffee and snacks.
Red Lion Windmill
The Netherlands contains over 1000 windmills. Molen De Roode Leeuw or Red Lion Windmill is one of the oldest, having been built in 1727. This historic monument is also one of the last remaining few that works to grind mills. There are volunteers who can tell you all about the history and how the flour is grounded. It’s fascinating to be in the presence of a mill from nearly 300 years ago. There is a shop next door that sells different types of self ground flours that you can make delicious breads with. While here, try climbing the steep ladders to the platform to see great views of Gouda and its surroundings.
Helpful Tips & Interesting Things to Know About Gouda Netherlands
● Gouda is actually pronounced How-da instead of Goo-da. Despite its popularity throughout the world, many people don’t pronounce this cheese correctly.
● If you’re visiting from abroad learning Dutch is not mandatory to know. However, you should try to learn some basic Dutch phrases.
● Many Dutch cities prefer payment by card/pin instead of cash, so keep this in mind especially when going to the Gouda market. I purchased cheese from the farmer’s stall and he, like his other colleagues, prefer pin.
● This might be surprising but Gouda cheese was never made in the city. During the Middle Ages it was purchased and sold here.