Destinations cheese of the day in Gouda

Photo: Brandon Hartley

“Cheese” is the first thing that may come to mind when you think of Gouda, but fear not if you are lactose intolerant. The town is also famous for its pottery, stroopwafels and pipes in addition to its picturesque center.

Long before its now world famous cheese market first rolled out its curdy wheels, it was little more than a swampy swamp. The Van der Goude clan appeared in the Middle Ages to build a castle along the Gouwe River. This ultimately led to the construction of a canal and a port to accompany it, the first cornerstones of what would become the burgeoning village of Gouda. The rights of the city were granted in 1272.

The following centuries were difficult for its citizens. Gouda has suffered several catastrophic fires, epidemics and severe economic setbacks. At one point, things were so bad that the term “Goudaner” came to mean “beggar”. One of the few bright spots was the stroopwafel, which was invented there in the 18th century (but some claim it was in the 19th).

Gouda has come a long way since then. Post-war investments and civic projects greatly improved the city. Along with the cheese market, it is now known for its magnificent historic architecture and Gouda by candlelight, an annual Christmas event.

The tourist sight of Gouda. Photo: Wikipedia Commons

Top 5 things to do

Live the life of gouda

If you’re feeling a little blue, you won’t be alone in Gouda. It goes without saying that there are quite a few activities related to cheese. The famous Gouda and crafts market, which has been going on for about eight centuries, usually takes place every Thursday between April and September. If you like cheese or a good dose of Dutch kitsch, look no further. It is made up of “Cheese Boys” and “Cheese Girls” dressed in period costumes. There is no shortage of things elsewhere in the city and shops devoted to the namesake of the city as well as many other types are plentiful.

Visit some very old-fashioned museums
If the market is not operational and you still haven’t stocked up on cheese in the shops, there is not just one but two museums dedicated to it in Gouda. The Goudse Waag, the town’s former weighing house, serves both as a tourist center and a museum which involves the production of local cheeses as well as other products. The most modern Gouda cheese experience can take you on an interactive journey through what its website describes as “a golden yellow universe”.

Contemplate the Goudse Glazen
Gouda is home to the 123 meters Saint-Janskerk, the longest church in the country. He is best known for his “Goudse Glazen”, a series of 72 stained glass windows that date back to the 16th century and feature both biblical scenes and scenes from Dutch history. The church has a small shop and an audio tour available. It also hosts concerts.

Town hall. Photo: Brandon Hartley

Stroll through Gouda Town Hall
When Gouda’s original town hall burned down in 1438, local rulers decided to build a new one in a bog. The bog is long gone, but the building remains, and it is one of the most striking examples of Gothic architecture in the Netherlands. Located in the middle of the town’s market square, the Gouda Stadhuis can be described as majestic, imposing, or both.

The exterior features a glockenspiel style display with mechanical puppets doing their work twice an hour. Visitors can also tour the interior, which features floor-to-ceiling fabric walls in a room called the Wedding Hall. If you can figure out what’s going on with all the floating artwork of the former Queen Beatrix’s head in one of the upstairs rooms, please contact us.

Find a stroopwafel
These syrup-filled treats were said to have been created in Gouda centuries ago as a cheaper alternative to cookies, which many locals couldn’t afford at that time. The original stroopwafels were made from pieces of dough and crumbs thrown away from bakeries. They have since become a staple of outdoor markets across the country. The Kamphuisen, a local syrup waffle factory, has been making them since 1810. They offer tours with stroopwafels and liqueur waffle syrup in their shop.

Fans of stroopwafels might also be interested in swinging by the Punselie Cookie Company, who came up with an alternate version of the tidbit during the dark days of WWII. In the average working day, they still produce over 40,000. If your stroopwafel the itch still hasn’t been scratched, stop at Stroopwafelmuur. It is a vending machine filled with several different varieties that opened in the spring of 2021. It also offers gluten-free and lactose-free products.

Photo: Brandon Hartley

Where to eat (and / or drink)
If you still have an appetite after stuffing yourself with cheese and / or stroopwafels, there are several cafes along the perimeter of Gouda market square. They mostly have standard lunch and dinner menus as well as sunshade covered terraces where you can sit under a rain shower or two.

Gouda swing is one and the ‘swing’ refers to their musical evenings. They currently organize “interactive piano shows” on Friday and Saturday evenings. Lunchcafe Turmeric is a nearby vegetarian cafe which is a good place for lunch or a latte.

Grand Café Central is a good choice for dinner. It has a beer bar with a menu listing over 80 different bottled varieties. The walls are lined with art deco paintings that will give you the impression of having been transported to the roaring twenties. They were painted in 1924 by the same artist who decorated theaters across the country, including the Tuschinski in Amsterdam. If you prefer tea to lagers, take a look Café Gouda Museum. Their menu currently offers nine varieties.

David’s ice cream is the place to head on a hot summer afternoon. The city has two locations and both offer a range of rotating flavors. There is at least 100 of them, and it would probably take a half-life to try them all. Two of the most exotic are “Anti-Hangover” and “Thailand”. Those looking for a good brown bar will probably appreciate mounting a stool to Biercafé de Goudse Eend or grab a table on their unique outdoor patio. It is lined with dozens of rubber ducks.

Photo: Brandon Hartley

Where to stay
Relais & Châteaux Weeshuis Gouda is in the center and is located inside an elegant building that dates back to 1599. Hotels are somewhat limited around Gouda, but there is a Best Western as well as several small guest rooms and rental apartments. Check sites like and Airbnb for the latest listings.

How to get there
It may take about two hours to get to Gouda from Amsterdam if there is traffic but the normal journey about an hour. The journey from Amsterdam Centraal by train usually takes around 50 minutes.

Nothing else
There isn’t much to see other than houses outside of the city center and there is quite a lot of ugly urban sprawl. The stroopwafels and cheese are catching the attention of visitors these days, but Gouda Museum is the place to aim if you want to learn more about the city’s iconic pottery and pipes.

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