Gouda can be enjoyed with all your senses. Here culture and history are never far away. This city in the Netherlands has no less than 330 national monuments. You will find these easily on a city walk. The past is still literally on the streets. You smell and see the cheese. You can see how the stroopwafel, a local delicacy, is made. After that you’ll definitely want to taste it.
This city in the southern part of Holland is easy to visit. The city is small, so you’ll find your way easily. I realised that it is not easy to see everything in one day. Certainly not if you want to see the many monuments and do some excursions. I have bundled my tips and sights from my visit to Gouda.
The Gouda cheese market
Gouda cheese is one of the most well known types of cheese in the world. It is also one the most eaten ones. Cheese was already made here in the 14th century. Nowadays you see Gouda Cheese everywhere. Between April and September, you can experience the cheese market every Thursday morning. It starts around 10h00. You will see the famous cheese girls and cheese boys. Horses pull the kaasbrik, in a special kind of wagon for cheese. You can also taste and buy cheese. There are many other local products available. It is touristy but worth a visit.
The City Hall stands proudly on the Markt, which is in the centre of the city. Construction of City Hall started in 1448. The imposing City Hall consists of Belgian limestone. It has been rebuilt several times, over the centuries. The current Renaissance-style platform was added in 1603. This was done by Gregorius Cool, the local sculptor. In 1692 the infamous gallows were built next to the City Hall. You can visit the City Hall.
Incidentally, it is no longer a town hall. The building now functions as a meeting location. You can get married here. The wedding hall is most beautiful. It Includes the tapestry of the Gouda tapestry worker David Ruffelaer from 1642. Outside you can see the carillon from the 1960s. In which you can see how Count Floris V handed over the city rights in 1272. Walk across the Markt to see the building in its entirety.
St. John’s Church
At a length of 123 meters, The St. John’s Church in Gouda is the longest church building in the Netherlands. It is well known for its many stained glass windows. These stained glass windows which date back to 1555 -1603 are very impressive. It is exquisite when the sun shines through. Take the time to view all windows.
St. John’s Church is dedicated to Saint John the Baptist, the patron saint of Gouda. The church dates from the 15th century, although there are older parts. It was later used as a crypt. You can see various burial chapels, including the Cool Chapel from 1516. The most beautiful is the Van Beverningh Chapel from 1668. On the floor in the church are many gravestones of old graves. Amongst others, Dirck Volkertsz Coornhert the humanist is buried here.
Courtyards of Gouda
The city has several courtyards. These courtyards were founded to offer free accommodation to single poor men and women. Courtyards are now wonderful places to rest in a busy city. Similarly in Gouda. A few known are Hofje van Letmaet, the Swaenenburghshofje, Hofje van Arent Bosch, Hofje van Cinq, and The Willem Vroesenhuis.
Most of the courtyards can only be visited on a guided tour. I went for coffee to the Hofje van Jongkind in the Zeugstraat. This has been renovated, but still has the atmosphere from that era. Ask in the local Visitor Center for more information.
The Weigh House
The Weigh House (De Waag in Dutch) stands out. The building dates back to 1668. On the Waag, the cheese in particular was fairly weighed, so that buyers knew what they were getting. The facade has a well-known relief by the sculptor Bartholomeus Eggers. You can see people weighing cheese and taking notes here. The Arab on the right is special. He is probably a merchant from abroad, but not much is not known about him.
Bake Stroopwafels Yourself
Stroopwafels, or syrup waffles, originated in Gouda. They were a treat as early as the 19th century. It is not clear who the inventor is. Gouda once had dozens of bakeries, but only a few remain. You can taste, buy and see how they are made at various bakeries. You can also make them yourself.
At Berg’s Bakery there are workshops where you can spread warm syrup on the waffles and let them stick together. You can now find stroopwafels all over the world. And to think that this was once for poor wretch.
Address: Lange Groenendaal 32
Gouda’s Harbor Museum
On exhibition in the Museumhaven of Gouda there are countless transport ships from the past. Most were used for transport on the rivers, the Zuiderzee and along the coast. You can stroll around here. Each ship has a sign with information. You will see ships with names such as Hoop doet Leven, Vriendschap van Selzaete and Regina.
Museumhaven is popular with photographers. With a bit of luck you will see a skipper repairing his ship. They often use traditional materials. The skippers are friendly and you can always have a chat. From the IJsselhuis you have a wonderful view of the harbour with the Gouwekerk in the background. And you can walk over the narrow lock.
The Cheese Shops
In Gouda you will (generally) see several cheese shops. Where you can smell the cheese, but also taste it. The offer is overwhelming. An employee can help you search if you indicate what’s your favorite cheese. If it’s difficult to choose one of the best options for this is ‘t Kaaswinkeltje on Lange Tiendeweg.
The Houtmansplantsoen is a famous park in Gouda. Here you will find the remains of the castle of Jacoba of Bavaria. Although these days you can only see the bottom of the tower. Next to it is Molen ‘t Slot, which is one of the four windmills in and around the city. There are regular open air concerts in the park. This is only in the summer months.
The Gouda Museum is best known for its collection of altar paintings from the sixteenth century. These are unique in the Netherlands. You will also find paintings from the 19th century here. The entrance is now the special Lazarus Gate from 1609. This also leads to the museum’s garden.
The Westhaven is a wonderful area to walk. Here you will find numerous mansions on the canals with wonderful vistas, and many beautifully decorated houses. Special buildings are the Theodorus Foundation, Diaconessenhuis De West and the Tolhuis. The oldest house in the city; at Westhaven 65, which dates back to the 14th century, stands here.
Gouda has many narrow alleys, but the Looierspoort is the narrowest of them all. You can walk through it, however cycling is a challenge. If you walk here you will see that the windows of the houses are not facing each other, so that the neighbours cannot look inside.
De Vier Gekroonden
De Vier Gekroonden is a late Gothic house with a famous frieze on the facade. The house dates back to the 16th century, although the frieze is much older. Masons and stonemasons can be seen at work on the frieze. It is probably also a tribute to four martyrs who refused to make an idol for the Roman emperor Diocletian in the year 306. They were dumped in lead boxes in a river.
Address: Naaierstraat 6
The Agnietenkapel is the remnant of the former women’s monastery. The monastery was founded at the end of the 14th century. It then took on many other functions, such as a workshop for carpet workers, a pawnshop and an emergency post office. Today it is used for cultural activities, including exhibitions.
Address: Nieuwe Markt 100
The Turfmarkt is a famous canal in Gouda. Peat was sold here in the past, but also pigs, eggs and wood. On the left and right of it you will find numerous historical buildings. These are now monuments. The Trappenburg is unique in Gouda. It is extra high, so peat ships could pass below. The Turfbrug is a well-known place for photos.
Gouda Cheese Experience
The Gouda cheese Experience has been open since 2020. You can make an interactive journey through the world of Gouda cheese. Where you will learn more about the history of Gouda cheese, the age-old hand clap and more. And of course you get to taste Gouda cheese.
Address: Agnietenstraat 21
More information: goudacheese-experience.com
De Goudse Hout is a nature reserve on the outskirts of Gouda. There are several lakes, as well as small forests and you can easily reach the Reeuwijkse Plassen on foot. The park is located in the northeast of Gouda.
Address: Goudse Houtsingel 101
Excursions in Gouda:
Canoe or SUP through the canals of Gouda
It is called the picturesque sailing route of Gouda. With a canoe or a SUP you can sail through the historic water tunnel and along the museum’s garden. It’s narrow here so watch out, but this is precisely the charm of this tour.
History of Gouda
In the past, the transport of people and goods were mainly by ship. Inland shipping grew rapidly in the middle ages due to its strategic location. Where Gouda is now located, the Gouwe and Hollandse IJssel meet. This brought great wealth to the merchants. This can still be seen in the many richly decorated houses. The city was granted city rights as early as 1272. And by the end of the middle ages, Gouda had grown into the fifth city of Holland.