“A Day in Gouda” is a first in a series of posts about The Netherlands beyond Amsterdam. As many of you know, I’m married to a Dutchman and he’s very, very proud of his orange roots. Many Americans travel to The Netherlands but they opt to stay in Amsterdam. Sadly, they are missing out. Whether it is the modern architecture of Rotterdam or the fairy tale like town of Giethoorn, there’s so much to see beyond the fabled canals of Amsterdam. This summer I had the opportunity to spend a day in Gouda, a small city south of Amsterdam. Beyond the cheese and the charming architecture, Gouda is a quaint city with friendly people and it gives you a snapshot of Dutch culinary history.
Getting There: It’s easy to spend a day in Gouda. It’s only a 50-60 minute train ride from Amsterdam Centraal Station. Check out my transportation guide to The Netherlands for more details on how to get there.
Dining Traveler Guide to a Day in Gouda:
Where to Eat:
Even if you’re going to spend one day in Gouda, make sure to make space for good food! What I love about the city is that you can really experience the history of some of the food items the Dutch revere most without the crowded shops you will see in Amsterdam. One Dutch beloved food item is the stroopwafel. These thin wafers filled with caramel are a favorite of the Dutch and every visitor who encounters these little treats immediately falls in love with them. Head to Bakery van Den Berg (Lange Groenendaal 32) just walking distance from the city center. There, you can get stroopwafels fresh off the production line (they are still made by hand in the back), a selection of desserts made with stroopwafels, and even stroopwafel liqueur!
We enjoyed our lunch at Chocoladefabriek. Don’t be fooled by the “Chocolate Factory” name. This cool cafe and bookstore concept was filled with locals catching up, taking their lunch break, or simply immersed in their books sipping some coffee. I had a fun menu with small dishes all inspired by Gouda cheese: a slider smothered in cheese, a quiche, and cheese soup. Delicious.
Dining in Gouda: Gouda is filled with cozy, small restaurants. We dined at Viejee’s a cute restaurant owned by a lively young couple who serve as the hosts, managers, and even waiters. The service is very personalized as we could observe the owners socializing with the diners around us. Although they have a menu of small plates, their specialty is a chef’s table with a sampler of some of the chef’s favorite dishes. We enjoyed the savory seared meats, grilled veggies, and the delicious bread (another food item the Dutch excel at!) with our dinner service. A must dine if you spend a day in Gouda (or a week for that matter!).
What to do:
Gouda Cheese Museum: One of the first things that people associate with Gouda is cheese as it is one of the most popular products coming from the city. If you are a fan of mature, hard cheese, you will love Dutch cheese. I will admit, one of the first words I learned in Dutch was “kaas” (cheese). If you’re going to spend a day in Gouda, your first stop should be at the Cheese and Craft Museum. This historic building was a weighing station for all the cheese traded in Gouda. There, you can also purchase a large selection of cheese, go for a guided tour and tasting, and learn about the history of one of Holland’s most renowned product.
Walk it off: Between the stroopwafels and the bread, one must workout after all the amazing food. The great news is that Gouda is tiny so you can literally experience the whole city by foot. Take a stroll along its maze of cobblestone streets and alleys. Go on a tour of Sint Jan Church, an immensely beautiful Gothic church in the city center. The beautiful collection of stained glass windows is one of its kind. If you really want to go local, rent a bicycle to explore more of the city. Here’s a list where you can rent a bicycle.
Shop: Stock up on cheese at a local cheese shop such as ‘t Kaaswinkeltje (Lange Tiendeweg 30, 2801 KH Gouda) and local beer and Dutch genever (a traditional spirit) at the local owned Beer House Den Gouwen Aar. If you come by car, I highly recommend going to Kaasboerderij Jongenhoeve, a family owned farm which produces raw milk cheese. We took a free tour of the farm where we got to meet the hardworking cows, witness the cheesemaking process, and the best part, buy tons of cheese.
Where to stay:
We stayed at Guesthouse the Utrechtsche Dom, a tiny guesthouse on a small side street in the city center. The room was comfortable, friendly service, affordable (less than 90 EUR a night), and the breakfast was good. We loved its location as it was walking distance to all of the attractions of the city. Bonus: you must go to the hat shop Hoedenhuis ‘t Matelootje, located across the street from the guesthouse. The ladies who work there are the sweetest, I bought the most beautiful hat for a wedding I was attending in Sicily for just 25 Euros during their summer sales.
The Verdict: If you want to experience authentic Dutch hospitality, great food, and culture without the crazy crowds, this city is for you. Whether you spend a day in Gouda or a weekend, you will feel more acquainted with Dutch culture. I most certainly did! This trip is ideal for: couples, friends (I went with my friend Maribel, and families.