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Things to Do in Gouda

Best known for its bright orange rounds of cheese and the glorious stained-glass windows in its Gothic church, Gouda is only an hour away from Amsterdam in South Holland. It’s a typically Dutch town with an enormous central square called Markt, dominated by a turreted, gabled and pinnacled Stadhuis (town hall) dating back to 1449. Around Markt is the centuries-old cheese market that attracts thousands of tourists from June to September on Thursday mornings between 10 a.m. and 12:30 p.m.

Just across Markt you’ll find the Waag, once used for weighing all the dairy produce at the market. Built in 1669, its purpose is proudly announced on the white marble panel on the front façade depicting merchants weighing cheese. Inside, there’s a miniscule interactive exhibition detailing the importance of Gouda as a center for dairy production.

St Janskerk Church is a step away from the main square, easily identified by its spire peeking above the roofs. This ornate 15th-century building houses some of Europe’s loveliest stained-glass windows, considered so beautiful that they were even spared destruction in the Protestant Alteration of 1578. They were donated to the church by a series of wealthy patrons and number 64 in total, depicting both biblical and contemporary scenes.

Adjacent to St Janskerk, the Museum Gouda is found in the Catharina Gasthuis, a former almshouse dating from 1665. It showcases a charming mix of Hague School landscape painting, silver guild relics, altarpieces that survived the Alteration and original sketches for the church’s stained-glass windows.

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Museum Gouda
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The Museum Gouda specializes in religious art from the 16th century, paintings from the 'Haagse School' of the 19th century and 20th-century Dutch pottery. Visitors will get to know the classical scholar Erasmus, who grew up in Gouda and played on the street where the museum is now located, and Dirck Crabeth, the master artist who created eight of the stained-glass windows in the nearby St John Church (leading to the church being placed on the UNESCO list of monuments).

The museum has a large collection of smoking pipes, tiles, antique apothecary jars and a solid selection of works from artists such as Toorop and Redon. If this sounds like an eclectic mix, it is! But hundreds of years ago, beer, cheese, pipes and pottery were cornerstones of Gouda's economy, and the museum does a wonderful job of showcasing how the town developed over the years.

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St. John's Church (Sint Janskerk)
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John the Baptist, patron saint of the town of Gouda, looks out from the Sint Janskerk (St. John's Church) and welcomes visitors that come from all over the world to see the church’s famous stained-glass windows. The large brick church, built in the Gothic style during the 15th and 16th centuries, is notable not only for its beautiful windows but also because it is the longest church in the Netherlands. The church has been placed on the UNESCO list of Dutch monuments specifically for its stunning stained-glass windows. The ‘Gouda Windows’ (Goudse Glazen) were made and installed between 1555-1571 by the brothers Dirk and Wouter Crabeth, and were spared during the Reformation and several following wars. The main theme depicted in the windows is the life of St John, although there are many biblical scenes pictured, as well as important events in Dutch history.

Another highlight of the church is a narrow passage leading from the back of the choir to a small chapel. The chapel’s stained-glass windows depicting the Passion of Christ (also from the workshop of Dirck Crabeth), were moved to St John Church in the 1930s from the Monastery of the Regulars.

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