Last updated on March 21st, 2016.
Occupying an important place in Dutch history, make sure that your visit to the Netherlands includes a trip to Gouda. Famous for it’s cheese and stroop (syrup) waffles, the town centre is still the same today, as it was in 1350. The old town walls were dismantled in the 19th century, but the original moat surrounding Gouda, now called Singel, still exists. Gouda has several impressive monuments, churches, and interesting passageways to get lost in as you marvel in the history and follow in the footsteps of the many barge skippers and fishermen who once inhabited this town. Learn how the famous Gouda cheese is made and visit the Waag where, at least five million pounds, of mainly cheese, was weighed annually. The magnificent town hall and the impressive St John’s Church are the famous icons of this Dutch city but, there is much much more to see.
The Netherlands has a temperate maritime climate influenced by the North Sea and Atlantic Ocean, with cool summers and moderate winters. Daytime temperatures vary from 2°C-6°C in the winter and 17°C-20°C in the summer. Best months to visit are May to September when you can enjoy warmer temperatures and long light evenings. Late March to early May is a particularly good time to visit. It’s tulip season, so you can enjoy some breathtaking sights as colour blazes out from the landscape. The tulip fields, literally, go on as far as the eye can see.
Gouda is situated in South Holland/Zuid Holland and can be reached from Amsterdam Schiphol Airport (AMS) via Rotterdam or Utrecht, in about 60 minutes. Gouda is situated in the middle of Holland so a day trip from any other major city can be quite easily achieved. Check out the train times and schedules at www.ns.nl. If you choose to drive you will find plenty of public parking in the city centre, but expect to pay around 10 Euros (EUR) per day. If you are hiring a car there are several options at the airport, Avis, Budget, Enterprise, Hertz and Sixt, the car hire desks are all in the terminal building. Head south from Amsterdam on the A4 and then east on the N11 which will bring you to Gouda within a hour’s drive. Gouda can easily be reached within half an hour from The Hague and 40 minutes from Rotterdam and Utrecht. Google maps will assist you in planning your drive.
The Waag/cheese weighing house, which stands at the north end of the Markt dates from 1668. The amount of tax paid depended on the weight of the cheese, once weighed the cheeses were stamped to indicate to traders that it was a legal batch of cheese. The cheese was sold to dealers who waited in front of the Waag, the deal was sealed with a fixed price and a firm handshake between farmer and trader.
The magnificent Stadhuis/Townhall is world famous. Built around 1540 in late Gothic style, it’s imposing appearance was used to demonstrate that Gouda was a flourishing town. The town council held meetings, court cases were heard, and butter and meat were traded here. Today however, it is mostly used for weddings. The stairs were added to the town hall in 1603 by the town mason. On the left hand side of the roof over the stairs you can see a coat of arms of Napoleon, dated 1806. On it both the dutch lion and the French Eagle are visible, it’s the only place in Holland where this can be seen.
St Janskerk/St John’s Church is the longest church in the Netherlands and has more than 70 stained glass windows. The church that you see today was rebuilt in 1552 after lightning struck the church destroying much of the former structure. During the reconstruction the donors who paid for the stained glass windows are featured in their windows. Several famous people — the Bishop of Utrecht, William of Orange, Spanish King Phillip — donated windows to the church and can still be seen today. During the reformation the church was protected by local militia which saved the stained glass windows installed before the reformation in the Netherlands.
At the east end of the church, in the former churchyard, stand the two great citizens of Gouda, a printer and a humanist. The printer was one of the first to print books containing text and illustrations. The humanist entered the Stein Monastery, which you can find outside the town gates and after six years exchanged his life for one that took him all over Europe.
The Lazurus Gate used to be the entrance to the Leper House and was relocated to it’s current site in 1960s after the leper house was demolished in the 1930s. The frieze on the gate depicts the story from the bible, of Abraham and Lazarus.
The fish market used to take place here on the banks of the river Gouwe. Lage Gouwe and Hoge Gouwe separated the fishermen depending on whether or not they were from Gouda. The Lage Gouwe was only used by local fishermen and the ‘foreigners’ used the market on the Hoge Gouwe.
Don’t miss the memorial stones, laid in remembrance of Jews who were arrested by the Nazi’s and deported. St Catherine’s Hospital which, used to be a guesthouse in the 13th century. Looierspoort, where a mainly jewish population lived in the dark, damp houses literally crammed in on top of each other. Peat Market/Turfmarkt became one of the most important markets in Holland during the 16th century.
Several other notable places, dotted around the town, mark important dates in history. Remonstrants Gate, Gouwe Church, Museum Harbour, Gouda Candle Factory, and Gouda castle, where a windmill now stands on the site of the former castle. The orphanage, Jerusalem Chapel, and the Jewish Gate are all also worth seeking out.
If you fancy looking at the town from a more relaxing perspective then head down to Oosthaven 28, 2801 PD, Gouda. You can take a boat tour of the city between May and September, Thursdays to Sundays. Boat trips last approximately one and a half hours and take a maximum of 30 people. It’s advisable to check availability and book in advance, Have a look at the website which is, unfortunately, only in Dutch. The VVV/Tourist Information Office will also be able to assist you.
Eat and Drink
Gouda, not only famous for it’s cheese and syrup waffles, has certainly no shortage of places to rest your weary legs and recharge yourself with a hearty brown cafe meal; a brassiere, should you fancy something lighter or you can even go all out and dine like royalty at some of the top end restaurants that Gouda has to offer.
On the marketplace you will find several brassieres and restaurants all with heated outdoor terraces enjoying a view across the market place towards the town hall. Brassiere De Zalm serves everything you can imagine from soup and salad, uitsmijters, luxury sandwiches, snacks, and main courses of meat and poultry.
On the opposite side of the markt Het Bakhys serves traditional dutch fayre including pancakes, dutch style tapas, and main courses — and you can enjoy a view of the town hall from the first floor. Others to mention are Cafe Vidocq, Bij Ons, Restaurant Neo
Perhaps it’s a special occasion and you have something to celebrate, or you may want to spoil yourself. In which case then head to Koeien en Kaas, Achter de Waag 20, Gouda. You can enjoy prime steaks, house made burgers, fish, cheese fondues, and plates to share such as Chateaubriand and Cote de Boef. Overlooking the Turfmarkt/Peat Market is Restaurant Scheeps, Westhaven 4, 2801 PH Gouda, has an extensive menu and is sure to delight the most discerning palette.
Gouda attracts a lot of tourists in the high season, so be sure to book in advance. Gouda is a small town and although there are several places to stay, they fill up quickly during the summer months with the tulip fields nearby and other notable UNESCO sights such as Kinderdijk, Gouda has become a popular location. Expect to pay between 70 and 90 EUR per night per room.
Best Western, (Hoge Gouwe 201, 2801 LE, Gouda) is centrally located, west of the market square. De Utrechtsche Dom, (Geuzenstraat 6, 2801 XV, Gouda), is a converted former coach house offering light and airy rooms. Hotel De Keizerkroon, (Keizerstraat 31, 2801 NJ, Gouda), offer rooms in a typical Dutch house with free breakfast and bike hire. Aan de Gouwe Bed and Breakfast, (Lage Gouwe 114, 2801 LK, Gouda), is a classic canal house offering compact rooms and shared kitchen facilities.
Here are additional options for where to stay in Gouda.
Local Tips and Insider Travel Blogs
For more Gouda travel tips and local advice check out the local tourist office (VVV). Located in the Waag on the main market square. You will find a wealth of information, day trips, walking tours, bicycle hire, and boat tours of the city can be arranged here.
At Holland.com you can find out more information on the local area, book hotels, arrange day trips, and find out what else there is to do whilst visiting Gouda, should you feel adventurous enough to travel further a field.
Gouda kaasstad (cheese capital) will provide you with all the information about Gouda cheese that you didn’t realise you needed to know, and more.
Local blogger Little Big Traveller is an interesting and informative blog written by an expatriate living in Amsterdam and includes information about what to see and do in the Netherlands.