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Gouda is a city in South Holland, the Netherlands, that is famous for its namesake cheese. Many people only come to Gouda for the cheese market, however there’s so much more to this beautiful Dutch city only an hour from Amsterdam.
In this guide to Gouda’s beautiful historic city center, I’ll be showing you the best things to do in Gouda that aren’t cheesy, including obvious historicarl monuments, some secret places in Gouda that people leave off too many itineraries, and a few independent cafes/restaurants in Gouda that you’ll want to visit. I tried to minimize costs in this one day guide to Gouda, so you can choose whether you want to pay for museums or walk more. (Don’t worry, this Gouda itinerary includes a cheese shop!)
For the longest time, I skipped Gouda thinking that it was overly touristy–and there wasn’t much to see in Gouda’s city center besides the Gouda cheese market. I finally gave Gouda a good chance and I fell in love with this historic Dutch city, which many tourists only visit for the cheese market. There’s something charming about the hidden alleyways and stunning Dutch buildings that make Gouda perfect for history lovers looking for a place to keep them on your toes.
Note about Gouda: The city is packed on Thursdays during the summer as this is when the Gouda cheese market occurs. It’s certainly one of the main reasons to visit Gouda, but Gouda is a great foodie-centric city even if you miss the cheese market (as I did).
You can follow this self-guided tour to Gouda’s city any day as I was unlucky enough to visit Gouda on a Sunday. I strongly recommend avoiding visiting on a Sunday as many of the shops and restaurants will be closed–or close early. Click for the best day trips from Amsterdam.
Your free self-guided tour of Gouda
Map at the very bottom prior to comments!
Begin at Gouda Centraal
This is simple as Gouda is quite walkable, so no need to rent a bike (unless you really want to).
This tower is all that remains of the Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekapel, a church that was built in the 1400s. It was used a school for girls where free reading and religious lessons were given. However, after the Protestant reformation, the main church switched to the Sint-Janskerk (later on this tour). The clock tower actually dates back to the 1500s and today, the tower is used as an artist studio.
Hofje van Cincq
I’m really sorry if you don’t enjoy hofjes, but I love these little time capsules that still are inhabited. Previously, wealthy aristocrats would rent out houses to those in need according to some terms set by the original owner. Some are more specific than others.
Hofje van Cincq is considered to be one of the most luxurious hofjes in the city. Beyond requiring that the hofje helped the poor, the original benefactor funded twelve homes to be built in a courtyard. This courtyard was built in 1700, however the painting of the coat of arms by a famous Gouda painter made costs too high. For about a hundred years, you would have had to pay ten guilders in 1757 (worth € 93.01 in euros today!) to view the hofje. At this point, the houses are now privately owned and the hofje is open to polite members of the public (for free).
Hofje van Letmaet
Hofje van Letmaet (Christian Gijsberthofje) is a hofje built in 1616 that was built to house poor widows with children. Althought there were more lovely cottages, quite a few were demolished and the remaining ones have been restored. It has a lovely garden path behind it, so be sure to walk behind it.
Stroll along Hoge Gouwe
This canal in Gouda is absolutely lovely to stroll along, so don’t be afraid to take your time. Be sure to peek into the Sluiswachtershuisje, a canal lock keeper’s house, which has a pillory where you can take photos. (Consider giving a donation afterwards.)
Old Catholic Church (Parochie van de H. Johannes de Doper)
Although the Catholic church standing at Hoge Gouwe 107 proudly displays information about its services, this was not always the case. Starting in 1630, a hidden church was built behind the three houses. Unfortunately, I was unable to visit as I visited Gouda on a Sunday, however if you’re lucky enough, you can attend services at this historic church, which has many liturgical objects on display.
Banana Warehouse (Bananenpakhuis)
I really promise that the building at Low Gouwe 140 was a banana warehouse. You usually don’t think of beautiful canal houses when you think of bananas, but why not? This house built in the 1881 was converted into a banana warehouse in 1928 as the West Indies Banana trade was big business at the time. Please note the bananas above the front door. Isn’t that bananas?
Shop along Lange Groenendaal
On Lange Groenendaal, you’ll find all kinds of cute independent shops. Definitely peek into Heb ik VIA for household goods although you’ll find something for everyone on this street. Just be warned that many of the shops are closed on Sundays.
Notably, you’ll find Spa Gouda here, so peek inside if you can! Spa Gouda was built in 1922 in the style of the Amsterdam School as many homes lacked a bath or shower at this point in time. (Just imagine how people smelled back then…) It’s been since restored to its former glory.
Looierspoort & Arie Kerssensteegje
Although I didn’t really realize this until I came to Gouda, Gouda is full of cute little alleyways and side streets. Although many historic cities have side streets, I haven’t encountered alleyways on the scale that you find them in Gouda. I love the feeling of turning up a small alleyway just to take a peek inside, so you must take a walk up Looierspoort, the narrowest alleyway in Gouda.
Until the 19th century, there were large houses in front of this area, however these were workers houses for the leather tanners here. In 1879, these houses were built although they only included one room on both levels. Despite this, large families still lived here. There’s not too much privacy as the houses were built to maximize light, given the cramped nature of the alleyway. In 1996, they were saved from demolition and restored.
You must take a right to glimpse down Arie Kerssensteegje, another charming alleyway this way. When I was there, they were doing construction, so you couldn’t go all the way through, but you normally can.
So, the siroopwafel is the stroopwafel, which originates in Gouda. (Everyone else copied Gouda!) For those of you who don’t know about Dutch food, the stroopwafel is a tasty Dutch dessert with two waffles and syrup, however Gouda has its version of it called the siroopwafel (syrup waffle). It was invented in the 1800s. Some way that it was the Kamphuisen bakery that invented it. After being popularized in 1870, Gouda had many siroopwafel factories, around 17, however only four remain today. You don’t need to pay to enter the offical factory to have a good stroopwafel. I’d recommend visiting Van den Berg to get a siroopwafel and a coffee. (The Breakfast of champions. 😉 )
You’ll also find a number of other bakeries around Gouda that sell stroopwafels, so don’t feel that you must pay 10 euros to see it made. You can just buy the Kamphuisen siroopwafels at their bakery on Markt. If you’re visiting on a Sunday, you can stop by the Waaghuis (the Weighing House), which is the tourist office, to buy a bag of siroopwafels produced by a local bakery as most of them will be closed then.
This is just a lovely street to walk down and it has several lovely historic Dutch buildings.
Gouda City Hall
Finally, you are in the Markt, Gouda’s main city square. In front of the Gouda City Hall, the Gouda Cheese Market occurs each week. (Spoiler alert: It’s not real. Go to nearby Woerden for the real deal.) The Stadshuis (Gouda City Hall) dates back to the 1300s although it was finished in 1450. It’s the oldest Gothic city hall in the Netherlands.
Gouda had a beautiful medieval center, a fire in 1438 almost burned it to the ground. Although the city hall was damaged, it survived. The decision was made to keep the city hall far enough away from the rest of town, so that if there was a fire, it would not burn down. You can tour the city hall for a few euros, which definitely ranks on the best things to do in Gouda, although you need to buy a ticket in a different building. Be sure to look at the wedding hall! Be sure to admire the carillon with the puppets. Each half hour, they move.
We are in Gouda after all. This shop is definitely touristy, however it’s a great place to try all the variants of Gouda cheese as they have so many samples. I’m lactose intolerant due to IBS, but I will admit that I had a taste. My favorite is the Jonge Gouda (the youngest Gouda), but you’ll have to decide for yourself. There are more authentic cheese shops, but this one has good hours and a good selection. This is just to help you stave off your appetite as real lunch is coming!
The Gouda weighing house was built in 1668. Not surprisingly, it’s where cheese was weighed for the cheese market. The nearby De Zalm hotel, dating back to 1670, was forced to lower their roof to be six feet lover than De Waag by the town council. The top floor of De Waag was used for the local militia as well as other random functions, including a veterinary office. Now, it’s where the Gouda Cheese Museum is. I skipped it, but you can still step into the weighing house for free, which is where the Gouda tourism board has their office.
Lunch at Miss Nice Banana or Hofje van Jongkind
Gouda has some amazing food options. Definitely consider eating at the affordable and cozy Hofje van Jongkind, which was built in a former hofje, intended for single women. The hofje used to have eleven houses and a courtyard although you can view the remains of four of this “houses” in their lovely cafe. They’re restoring it with a lot of love, so be sure to get a coffee or lunch here.
For anyone who is vegetarian or vegan, stop by Miss Nice Banana for delicious vegan-friendly food. My husband loved their jackfruit taco and I loved their vegan banana chocolate ice cream.
This street is named for the Jerusalem Church , which was dedicated in 1504. The church is in the same shape as the Holy Sepulcher. It will be an art center. Be sure to look out for the Jeruzalemkapel, which is on your left side.
Saint Jans church is a UNESCO listed church in Gouda. It’s hard to miss along the skyline and it’s one of the longest churches in the Netherlands with a length of 123 meters. Although the original church burned in the 1500s, the “new” church was rebuilt. The famous philosopher Erasmus actually lived in Gouda at the Catholic monastery associated with the church.
The 72 stained glass windows are a reason to visit this church. The stained glass windows date back to 1555 and luckily, this church survived the Protestant Reformation intact. Although the church was plundered, the windows were left untouched. For many years, Catholicism was illegal in Gouda and around this time, it was converted into a Protestant church. Luckily, the church survived World War II as the stained glass windows were removed prior to the Netherlands becoming involved with World War II. Admission costs seven euros.
In the exterior of the church, you’ll find a cozy little garden, the Willem Vroesentuin. This garden is free to enter and the perfect place to enjoy a nice snack. It dates back to 1555 with an original gate dating back to 1614. The main house here (for the name) can only be visited when the monuments are open in Gouda, but at least take a look here.
The Swanenburghshofje is a hofje dating back to 1692 that is still used for charity purposes and assisted living for those in need. The houses were intended for the elderly, the honorable, and the widowed. Prior to the hofje, the a women’s convent was here, however it burned down due to arson. The stone entrance is lovely to admire.
David’s Gelato or Koffiefabriek
Looking for a coffee or an ice cream? Stop into David’s Gelato for some of the best ice cream in the Netherlands. There’s often a line out the door in summer. Alternatively, head to Koffiefabriek for a cup of coffee to keep you awake before you stop for a beer at a cozy cafe.
Cafe Cozy or Biercafé De Goudse Eend
Let’s end this lovely day in Gouda with a beer. I recommend stopped into Cozy Cafe, which has a divey atmosphere that I kind of love. Their beer menu is pretty average, but the bartender is friendly.
For craft beer, I prefer De Gouse Eend, which is considered by many to be the best beer bar in Gouda. The bartender was generous and even gave my husband a free t-shirt after he heard him admiring the decorations. Their beer selection was surprising and vast. Even my friend, who doesn’t love beer, found a great beer to enjoy. They have a nice outdoor patio for summer.
Where to stay in Gouda
Be sure to stay in the historic center of Gouda. It’s walkable, beautiful, and even more affordable than Amsterdam. There are not many hotels in Gouda, but there are some lovely ones that you’ll definitely want to check out if you’re looking for a typically Dutch atmosphere.
You can stay in a beautiful 17th century canal house in Gouda city center for a fraction of what you’d pay in Amsterdam. Alternatively, stay at an atmospheric hotel walking distance from the city center. For those on a low budget, consider staying in Utrecht at a hostel, which is only fifteen minutes away.
How to get from Amsterdam to Gouda
You can take the train from Amsterdam to Gouda. The train ride should take about 50 minutes from Amsterdam to Gouda. The train direction will be Rotterdam Centraal if it’s a direct train, otherwise you may have to transfer in Utrecht. Google Maps will give you the best route to get to Gouda from Amsterdam.
If you decided to drive to Gouda, you can park in the parking lot “Kleine America” for a reasonable rate. (It made me laugh that the parking lot name was Little America as I was curious what Little America in Gouda was… It’s a parking lot. (There’s a nice coffee place in the Chocolate Factory.)
Map of the best things to do in Gouda
Have you been to Gouda?
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