First making an appearance in the Dutch town in 1395, Gouda Cheese Market has continued with the traditions and cheese selling until this day. The horse and carts that transport the cheese wheels still make an appearance every Thursday when the market fills the town square. Ladies wander around in the traditional dairy maid outfits, and the nearby Waag still weighs cheese on the huge scales.
Gouda Cheese Market is definitely worth a visit to see a bit of history in action. And, of course, to sample a bit of cheese! Gouda cheese has been produced in The Netherlands since the 12th century, but wasn’t typically made in the town of Gouda. Instead, it got its name because the traders would come to the market in Gouda to sell it.
The cheese wheels are still brought to the market by horse and cart, and it feels like stepping back in time to watch the traders at work. The wheels are stacked in rows in the middle of the market, and when someone approaches to negotiate a price, the real theatrics start.
Deals are done with the clap of a hand here. The trader and buyer press a hand together as if they’re about to shake hands, and with each offer and counter offer, they clap the hand of the other. When they come to a price they both agree on, they shake hands, the deal is done and the cheese wheel is taken away.
Aside from the main cheese market attraction of seeing the traders and cheese wheels lined up, there are also a number of stalls surrounding that would be considered more like a modern day market. Here you’ll find yet more cheese, though usually smaller wheels that you’d buy to have at home. There are also snacks and arts and crafts that you’d find at most markets in The Netherlands.
The nearby Goudse Waag, which is an old cheese weighing house built in the late 1600s, has been transformed into a museum. The ground floor still holds the giant scales used to weigh cheese, and to this day are still used. There’s also the tourist information and a cheese shop downstairs, while upstairs is the cheese museum. Just out front, the occasional cheese auction takes place, with huge wheels of cheese being auctioned off in the town square.
You can visit Gouda Cheese Market every Thursday from early April until late August, 10am until 12.30pm, although it’s currently on hold due to COVID-19. When it’s back, head for the centre of town, as the market fills the town square surrounding the town hall. You’ll know when you’re close as the sounds of deals being clapped out can be heard down the street!
Gouda is an ideal day trip from Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Utrecht, along with most other cities in The Netherlands.