Yes, I know the title is ridiculous. I just couldn’t resist.
Gouda (pronounced “how-da”), Netherlands is a small, canal town in South Holland, a little less than an hour’s train ride from Amsterdam. Gouda is most famous for its namesake cheese and its famous Thursday market celebrating said cheese – the Kaasstad! In addition, Gouda has a well-preserved 15th century town hall (the Stadhuys), beautiful canals running throughout the city and a compact center. I visited Gouda as a day trip from Amsterdam and highly recommend it! Here are some pictures of the charming town:
As one would expect, the Kaasstad (or cheese market in English) is the main tourist attraction in Gouda! The Kaasstad takes place every Thursday during the warm months (approximately April – August) from 10 – 12:30 in the historic center of Gouda. Gouda’s historic center, marked by the Stadhuys, is a short, 10 minute walk from the train station. You can’t miss it.
The Kaasstad opens promptly at 10:00. Traditionally dressed farmers set up their huge gouda wheels and begin haggling with buyers. More importantly, traditionally dressed women hand out free samples of cheese!
While pretty damn touristy, the Kaasstad is quite entertaining and very interesting, and I mean, you are a tourist… The auction lasts until about 12:00, when the farmers start packing the unsold cheese into the backs of tractors, and it officially closes at 12:30. Get there early if you want to enjoy the auction! Note – as a tourist, you cannot purchase cheese at the Kaasstad, but you can purchase from the surrounding, local vendors!
In addition to the Kaasstad, the entire town of Gouda opens up to welcome visitors on Thursdays. A market pops up around the Stadhuys around the same time as the Kaasstad, selling everything from cheese and meats to clothing to plants and more! This market lasts longer than the Kaasstad and gives tourists an opportunity to buy gouda from local farmers.
The cheese selection at the market:
We purchased some to bring back to our hotel. Note – if you are planning to take cheese back to the US, make sure it conforms with Custom’s regulations, meaning that it probably has to be shrink-wrapped and stamped. In addition to cheese, these “churros” were freshly fried, cheap and really delicious!
What To Do On Non-Kaasstad Days?
Aside from the cheese market, Gouda’s main attraction is the ambiance of the town itself. Gouda is clearly an old town, and it maintains a lot of character. One of the most famous sites is the 15th century Stadhuys in Markt Square. On many days (including cheese market days), you can enter the building for a few euros. The interior is quite different from other “old buildings” in European towns, as this one has been re-done to host modern events. The basement level is particularly modern!
And if you miss the Kaasstad, you can (and should) visit one of gouda’s many cheese shops. These shops have more gouda than you can imagine and there are so many free samples! My favorite shop is ’t Kaaswinkeltje, which specializes in Gouda farmer’s cheese! Want to try basil gouda, truffle gouda, blueberry gouda? You can sample them all here for free!
On the food note, stroopwaffles, a Dutch specialty, are originally from the Gouda area, and they are available all over town. While I also tried stroopwaffles on my Hungry Birds Food Tour (click to read), there is something special about having it in its hometown.
The canals are another reason to visit Gouda. While not as big as Amsterdam’s canals, Gouda’s canals are more manageable, more quaint and more photogenic! I enjoyed walking around the town photographing the canals and gorgeous flowers. #Sorrynotsorry for the barrage of pictures!
How to Get to Gouda?
I took a train from Amsterdam’s Central Station station around 10:00 in the morning and came back by train in the late afternoon. The train ride was pretty easy, and downtown Gouda is a short walk from the train station. The cost was €22,00 roundtrip per person. As of August 2015, if you want to purchase tickets with a non-pin credit card, you have to go to an actual person. Just before you board, validate your train ticket and take a seat. Stops are announced in English.
Steal Our Trip
Gouda – Lots of information available on the town’s website, including dates of the Kaasstad!
’t Kaaswinkeltje – Lange Tiendeweg 30, 2801 KH Gouda, Holland. E: firstname.lastname@example.org. Fabulous cheese store in old town Gouda with lots of free samples.
Netherlands Trains – Find train times and information on this website (in English).
Gouda Cheese Market – the Kaasstad’s website (in English). Lot’s of good information, including dates and special events!