I love love love writing about places in the Netherlands. And while I love love love the city we live in (Amsterdam), people already know about it. You should totally visit Amsterdam, in fact, here’s a post just for you for that purpose. But, and this is a big but, you really need to get out of the city, too.
Seriously, people. There are authentic Dutch experiences to be had with a quick day trip from Amsterdam, like in the city of Woerden. That said, it would be cheaper for you to stay outside the city, too. Just sayin’
Quick history of Woerden
It’s pretty dang old. How old? Well, the Romans first built a watch tower here in 40 A.D. because it was part of the northern border of the empire. There’s even a real Roman boat in a parking garage.
Yes, you read that right! They found the boat when they were building the garage, and now they have it proudly displayed below ground, in the garage (and encased for its protection), near the stairwell, so you can go see it when you visit.
The city is now known for its cheesemaking status because they have 15 million kilos of cheese in Woerden which ships to 40 countries. That’s a pretty big deal for a town you’ve probably never heard of!
From about May through August, you can experience the famous cheese market in Woerden. It’s been going since 1885 and it certainly a sight to see. You’ll discover, first hand, how they weigh the cheese and then agree on a price…it’s probably not how you’d think!
How to take a day trip from Amsterdam to Woerden
Getting to Woerden is a piece of cake! Head to Amsterdam Centraal Station and take the Sprinter train headed to Rotterdam Centraal. The direct train runs every 30 minutes, it’s direct so you don’t have to change at Utrecht, and the entire journey is only 39 minutes. Just check the boards to make sure Woerden is one of the stops. Once you reach Woerden station, follow the signs for the Tourist Info/VVV and enjoy the scenery as you walk.
For the best information, check the 9292.nl website or app. You can purchase a ticket from the yellow machines at the front and back of Amsterdam Centraal Station, or use your OV chip card. If you have a blue and white Anonymous card, make sure you have at least €20 on it to get into the regional NS train gates.
Experience the cheese warehouse
A cheese warehouse probably isn’t the first thing you’d want to do when you go to a new city, but in this case, it’s the perfect place to begin. You’ll obviously learn about cheese, but also about the city of Woerden and how important cheese is to the city. It’s clear (once explained) why the warehouse is right by the canal and how important the waterways are to the Dutch.
You can even book a “Brew your own cheese” package where you get really hands-on and work with a cheesemaker, or, what I would call a cheese master, to create your own masterpiece!
We met the cheesemaker, Jos, who will teach you how to make cheese. He is incredible. He’s retired but loves cheese and has a passion that is infectious! We didn’t make cheese on this visit…but we might just go back 😉
In this warehouse, you’ll find 17 tons of cheese. SEVENTEEN TONS! It’s all run by volunteers which I love even more because you can just see the pride they have in their cheese. If you want to buy some to take home, you can find some of the smaller wheels at the entrance that you can purchase.
But, before you leave, don’t forget your samples! Who doesn’t love samples? There were sheep’s milk and cow’s’ milk cheese to taste and my absolute favorite was the Italian one because it tasted just like a cheese pizza!
Take a tour of Woerden with a guide from the VVV
In the Netherlands, the VVV is the tourism board, so whenever you see the blue and white VVV sign, head on in to get some good info!
In Woerden, the VVV is at the entrance of the Cheese Warehouse. How convenient! You can book a tour of the city by contacting the VVV directly. Their info is on the website.
We highly, highly recommend doing this. Our guide was Hans and he was beyond incredible. He gave all the good info exactly when you want it. The guides are volunteers as well. Although I probably sound like a broken record, these people are passionate about their city. They have so much pride and it’s so nice to see that. These aren’t 20-year-olds just looking for a summer job. These are locals who want you to know about Woerden and why it’s important.
On the tour, we learned about the Romans, the canals, the river, the barracks, the church, and the tower. Anything and everything that Hans said was fascinating. He even took us to the windmill that sits in the middle of town. Get this…it is still in use! They were using it while we there there. They make flour to sell and it’s so incredible that the technology from so long ago is still being used in a practical way.
You’ll feel like a VIP on this tour while you stroll up a beautiful winding, stone staircase to see the inner workings of the bells of the Petrustoren (Petrus Tower). See the bells as they ring throughout the city. Hear the story of the fire in the tower that saved many lives but destroyed the original bells…and then what they did with the bells to be able to use them again.
Make your way through a small door to a viewing platform that takes your breath away. We went exactly at noon, and got to experience the bells ringing up-close and personal. Being on top of the tower as it sprang to life was a wonderful experience. The views, though…the views…
We were a bit sad when our tour ended, but we are so glad we went to Woerden and took this tour. It’s such a pretty town and it’s a great place to stroll through. Whether you have a coffee or camera in your hand, you’ll love this town. I guarantee it!
Check out more day trips from Amsterdam!
Grab some lunch in Woerden
Before heading back to the train station, we headed to Bij Petrus for a bite. It’s a traditional Dutch restaurant with simple but delicious options for lunch in a courtyard that you wish you had in your life more often.
We ordered a G&T each plus the Uitsmijter Bij Petrus. the
uitsmijter is a Dutch classic — an open-faced sandwich with a cooked egg, bacon, cheese and ham on top. Sean made sure we tried the croquettes as well. Everything was delicious. We were so satisfied that we didn’t want to move!
If it’s a nice day, you’ll definitely want to grab a seat on the terrace to soak up the sunshine (as we LOVE to do in the Netherlands). People who get sunshine regularly don’t appreciate it as much as we do. If it’s grey, or just not a nice day out, head on inside because there’s a ton of space. The interior caught my eye as well. Just loved the style!
Why visit Woerden?
If I had to give one reason why you should visit Woerden, it would be that it’s a welcoming city with a rich, interesting history. We were seriously impressed after our visit, especially because we didn’t have any knowledge of the city before we arrived. People were smiling, they are kind, and the service was actually nice. The whole place is a welcome change of pace from the bustling city of Amsterdam which is typically full of visitors. In Woerden, they look at visitors as people they are curious about and want them to enjoy their city.
Fun fact: As we were walking back to the train after lunch, I saw a salon, popped in and got a haircut right then and there. It was so inexpensive (compare to everywhere else I go, apparently), and she did an amazing job!
Anyway, I hope this post encourages you to look outside of Amsterdam for some other Dutch treasures with some day trips. The value is there, the people are nice, and you won’t be disappointed.
Wishing you joy and travels!