There are many things to do in Gouda, such as learning about cheesemaking, tasting the famous stroopwafels or visiting the famed Sint Janskerk to marvel at the stained glass windows. Pass by the world famous town hall, visit the city museum or have a look at the Lazarus Gate, the story from the bible depicted on the front. Head for the Museum Harbour, the site of the former castle, a once famous candle factory, the fish market, the Jewish quarter, and the peat market just to mention a few other things this town has to offer. That’s before you have even started trying to figure out how to enjoy the tastes that have made Gouda famous – giddy with choices? Fear not, I have devised a walk around Gouda, taking in the culture and cuisine highlights to try and make life easier for you. There is a lot to see in this compact city, you will not want to miss out on anything.
The main sights are to be seen inside the old city moat, now renamed singels, this canal network encircles the town and its history. Let’s start our walk in the Markt, where you will find two of the most important landmarks, De Waag/ Cheese Weighing House and the world famous town hall. It is also a good central point, from which to discover the town. You may want to stop for a coffee, if the weather is agreeable, enjoy a moment on one of the many terraces that are dotted around the edge of the Markt providing views of the magnificent town hall whilst you sip your coffee.
Once you have enjoyed a drink, head south across Markt leaving the town hall behind you. Take Kerksteeg from the south end of the Markt which will lead you on to Achter De Waag and rising impressively in front of you is Sint Janskerk. A 5 Euros (EUR) entrance fee will provide you with a stunning view of the famous stained glass windows, which are a must see. Leave the church, following Achter de Kerk round the outside of the church and you will be standing directly infront of Lazarus Gate. The old leper’s gate which used to be at the entrance to the Leper House, was relocated to its current site in 1964, after the Leper House was demolished. Walk through the gate which brings you into the former St Catherine’s Hospital, formerly a boarding house, which is now the Gouda Museum. The lovely museum gardens, which used to be the former churchyard, provide a wonderful oasis right in the centre of the town.
Heading east away from the church turn left onto Wijdstraat and immediately left again and you will find yourself on Oosthaven. Walk down Oosthaven, cross the canal at the second bridge, and walk back up Westhaven. This area is known as Museum Harbour. Water has played an important part in the history of Gouda and helped to make Gouda one of the most powerful and wealthiest towns in the Netherlands.
When you reach the end of Westhaven turn left and walk into Lage Gouwe. Here a welcome sight awaits you on the corner, Banketbakkerij en Lunchroom van den Berg. Established in 1800 by a local baker who invented the stroopwafel. At this time there were many poor people in Gouda so the baker made an affordable snack from leftover biscuit crumbs and syrup, which today is known as the famed stroopwafel. The lunchroom and shop are open Monday to Friday, 8:30am to 5pm, and Saturdays, 8am till 5pm. You can enjoy lunch here, watch the famous waffels being baked, buy some souvenirs in the shop to take home with you, prolonging the memories and smells of these famous biscuits.
Continuing Our Walk
Once rejuvenated, time to continue our walk. Head out of the bakery turning left and proceeding down Lage Gouwe. You will see here the two old fish markets which used to have a vibrant trade during the 16th century. The market on the Hoge Gouwe was only to be used by local fishermen, the market on the Lage Gouwe was reserved exclusively for the use of ‘foreigners’ to trade their fish in Gouda. As you continue walking down the Lage Gouwe, keep an eye out for the brass memorial tablets which are set into the pavement. These are in commemoration of Jews that were deported and later perished in Auschwitz. Continue further down Lage Gouwe and take a right into Achter de Vismarkt and then take the first left into Lombardsteeg, right down Lange Groenendaal. The first left will lead you in to Looierspoort, the Jewish quarter. You can wander through the narrow streets, feeling the atmosphere of the dark, damp houses, all jumbled on top of each other. Be warned, do not take a bulky bag as you will not be able to walk down the street.
To explore the Jewish quarter, go right at the end of Looierspoort and immediately right onto Geertje Den Bultsteeg and you will emerge onto Turfmarkt/Peat Market. Today a much more tranquil spot than in the hey day of the bustling peat markets.
At the end of Turfmarkt turn right into Hoogstraat which will bring you back to Maarkt, where we first started out. The one thing that has yet to be sampled is the cheese. As luck would have it, there are two cheese shops within close walking distance of where you are. t’ Kaaswinkeltje (Lange Tiendeweg 30, 2801 KH), and Gouds Kaashuis, (Hoogstraat 1, 2801 HG). So muster up that last bit of energy and wander over there to sample and perhaps buy more souvenirs of the famous Gouda Cheese, you will be surprised at just how many varieties there are.
Whether you are tongue tied trying to master the street names or exhausted from all the walking, you will not be disappointed with the rich historical town and tastes of Gouda that you have discovered today.