Gouda is a municipality and also a city in the west of Holland. It has a population of about 70,000 and is probably best known for the cheese that takes it’s name from the town. it is a very popular place for tourists due to it’s beautiful array of old buildings that are mostly in the compact center, making it very easy to see them all and to enjoy the city.
History Of Gouda
Gouda was first noted by a message from the Bishop of Utrecht in the 12th century. At that time the area was not much inhabited as it was mostly swamp. But the area had lots of peat in it which can be used as fuel for fires. And this is how it’s first inhabitants probably made their living. But not long after this the area became more populous and there was a canal dug to link the river ( the Gouwe), that the town was on to the old Rhine. This became a harbor that was used for trade and the transport of goods and in this way the area grew quickly in importance and had a fortified castle built to defend it.
Then in the later half of the 13th century, Gouda was granted a charter to become a city. Then as trade grew in importance there were more canals dug in the city as a means of easier transportation. But in the 14th and the mid 15th centuries the city was subject, as were many cities at this time, to huge fires causing much of the city to be rebuilt.
Then in the 16th century the city was taken by the Dutch rebels who fought against the Spaniards who ruled the area at that time, They also burned parts of the city. For the next century, Gouda suffered several outbreaks of the plague that was prominent in Europe. in the mid17th century the area again became wealthy until war started in 1672 and the next year the worst bout of the plague hit the city. At the turn of the 18th century Gouda prospered, but this only lasted for about 30 years until decline began again.
This decline lasted right until the second half of the 1800’s, when new factories and business’ started in candle making and spinning of yarn began and the railway linked Gouda with Utrecht. In the early 1900’s the city began to grow in size. This continued after the second World War with the city growing to 3 times as big as it was previously. In more recent years, much of the city has been improved and rather than adding new buildings, prosperous inhabitants have been modernizing and improving the older buildings that were already there.
Getting To And Around Gouda
If you are flying in the nearest airports are Rotterdam Den Haag and Amsterdam Schiphol. There are good train services from Rotterdam Den Haag and Schiphol. If you traveling by train then there are services from Leiden, Amsterdam, Utrecht, Den Haag and Rotterdam. If you are driving then Gouda is conveniently on the A12 from Den Haag and the A20 from Rotterdam.If you are driving from Amsterdam or Schiphol Airport you need to take the A4, then the N11, then the A4 towards Den Haag and then the A12 to the city. Driving around the town can be slow and parking can be expensive, so it generally easier to leave the car in one of the cheaper car parks at the edge of the city and take the bus from there.
If you are traveling just around the town then one of the best ways is to go Dutch and go by bicycle. You can hire a bike from the train station and there are lots of well marked cycle lanes around the city. There is a good network of buses in the Gouda area, and the services are cheap and reliable. You will need to buy an ov-chipkaart from a station to pay for your journeys. If you would like to take a taxi, then you can find one at taxi ranks at the station, or in the town. if you would like to order a taxi, you can telephone one at, Taxi-1 Gouda, +31 182 538 769, or, Regio Taxi Gouda, +31 6 22060050.
The Stadhuis or the Old Town Hall is a magnificent feat of Gothic building. It was built in the mid 15th century and is as impressive now as it was then. The interior now houses a museum. Well worth a visit just for the architecture. Museum Gouda has some very good exhibitions about the past of the city, including pottery, paintings and some very interesting archeological findings.
Shopping And Eating
The central market square, as well as having some tourist shops has some really interesting little stores. Take a wander around the back streets and you will find, as well as the inevitable cheese shops, some interesting boutiques, and craft shops. Every Saturday and Thursday there is a market in the main square, and on Wednesday’s there is a market for antiques and collectibles.
Scheeps is an excellent Dutch restaurant in Gouda. It has a good range from the fairly cheap to the more expensive. Their menu has a good variety and the meals are prepared with fresh, local produce. Bij Ons is a restaurant that is usually busy with locals which is a good sign. The food is not cheap but you can tell the quality is very good. The staff are friendly and helpful and the place is very lively. Etoile is an upmarket restaurant serving very imaginative food. if you like your food plain and simple, this would not be the place for you, but if you like innovation and to have interesting and great tasting food then this would be a good choice.
Although Gouda is known, predominantly for it’s cheese there is a lot more to it than that. The buildings around the compact town center are very beautiful and there are great places to shop and good food as well.