Giethoorn, the Netherlands, is a charming village in the province of Overijssel, and a must-visit place if you’re traveling to the country.
Did you know the Netherlands has its own Venice? That’s right, the village of Giethoorn has a car-free central area perfect to have a good time in the countryside.
While there are not a lot of things to do in Giethoorn village besides experiencing the place and cruising in the maze of canals, you still won’t get bored!
Giethoorn, the Netherlands
Imagine a lovely Dutch village with very old and cute thatched-roof farmhouses along a canal full of beautiful wooden bridges and lots of nature. You’re one step away from picturing Giethoorn.
The Dutch architecture is undoubtedly fascinating, whether it is the modern architecture of Rotterdam or the traditional Amsterdam.
However, the houses in Giethoorn look like they are straight out of a fairytale book and make this picturesque village one of the most beautiful places in the Netherlands.
Whether you’re hopping on a shuttle bus or driving yourself, know this is undoubtedly a perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of Amsterdam. Just relax and enjoy the town!
Since there is not much information on how to get to Giethoorn from Amsterdam, things to do in Giethoorn, and other practical information, I decided to write this guide (including a map of Giethoorn) to help you with that based on my experience.
Hope you enjoy the read!
So, if you’re wondering what to do in Giethoorn, read on!
Interesting Facts About Giethoorn
History and Goats
Not Geithoorn, Giethorn, or Geithorn. None of those, but the village’s name is Giethoorn. It might be a bit difficult for non-Dutch speakers, I know. But there’s a meaning behind this name worth remembering.
Many people ask me, “what does Giethoorn mean?”. Well, it means “goat horns.” The Dutch and English versions even look alike, right?
Anyway, many goats had a tragic end in the region, as a result of a flood in the 10th century, and years later, in the 13th century people found their horns. That is a little sad, I know, but these are the facts behind this small town’s name.
Today, the village has over 2,800 inhabitants. Just so you can have an idea of how small and unique this place is.
Also, most houses are over 200 years old. Nevertheless, the cottages and their gardens look tidily organized.
Venice of the North
Dutch people are very proud of their adorable little town, which they kindly call “the Dutch Venice.”
The Netherlands has been fighting against the water for a long time. After all, about 26% of the country is below sea level. As a result of years of experience, they found a way to get along with it.
Giethoorn is an example of it, among other Dutch cities and towns, of course. But unlikely those other places, Giethoorn has almost no streets, only canals. This small town developed itself around water, and today it is a beautiful attraction in the countryside.
Don’t go to Giethoorn expecting a Venice vibe. The ambiance is different. They only call it the Venice of the North because of the lack of streets around the main canal.
Read next: 3 Days in Amsterdam Itinerary
Is it True That There Are No Streets in Giethoorn?
Well, not really. The town center only has canals and a bike path (called Binnenpad). Still, the village is a bit bigger than that, and in those areas, you can just drive.
However, the real charm of Giethoorn (at least for tourists) is in the center – which is a quite long canal – and believe me when I say it looks straight out a fairytale. It’s no exaggeration.
Anyway, you can only explore the romantic area of this Dutch village by boat. Or bike, of course. After all, we are talking about the Netherlands.
This small hidden town has a magical appeal, but don’t fool yourself. It’s a hidden village, but it is so tiny that it doesn’t need many tourists to get crowded.
Pssst: By the way, this is the only bike path in the Netherlands you can walk on. But only there! Walking on the bike lane is something you never do in other cities, so here’s my best travel tip for Amsterdam.
Where to Stay in Giethoorn
There are plenty of options for accommodation in Giethoorn and I’ll list some here.
I won’t sugarcoat it, this village is crowded during the day, so unless you can arrive VERY early in the morning, you’ll be among the crowds the whole day.
That’s why I recommend you book a room even if for a night. It will give you much more time to fully enjoy this place.
For budget travelers, I recommend the Black Sheep Hostel, right in the heart of the village. It has super good reviews and a simple – yet cool – decoration
If you’re looking for a charming luxe accommodation in Giethoorn, take a look at De Dames can De Jonge Hotel. The rooms have a traditional Dutch decoration, very sweet.
Best Time to Visit Giethoorn
Giethoorn is cute and pleasant during spring and summer. That is true. The flowers are blooming, the grass is greener than in other seasons, and the sun is probably shinning. Yes, probably (that’s the Netherlands, folks).
However, even in the winter months, the village has this magical appeal, and everything looks enchanting! So, yeah, Giethoorn in December is still worth your time.
Besides, the fact that you can ice skate on the frozen canals, if the weather gets icy, just makes it more special.
Just be sure to wear a good coat (gloves and hat) and drink some hot chocolate to warm you up.
All in all, the best time to visit Giethoorn would be late-April, when it’s still a bit chilly, but the sun shines more often and there are less crowds too.
How to Get to Giethoorn, Netherlands
Getting to Giethoorn By Car
Considering that you’re leaving from Amsterdam, that’s a 1h30 drive, and Google Maps worked correctly suggesting the way there.
You can easily park your car for free in Giethoorn (location on the map at the bottom of this article) and walk no more than 10 minutes to the center (Binnenpad). If you don’t have a car, you can rent one here.
If you’re cruising the canals, I recommend you park at the address they indicate because it’ll be more convenient for you.
My husband and I parked our car at the Cafe-Restaurant Smit since we were renting one of their boats.
Ps: if you don’t have internet abroad, you might consider renting or buying a Wifi hotspot for your trips.
Getting to Giethoorn By Train
Departing from Amsterdam Central Station, take the train to Utrecht Central, then transfer to a train towards Leeuwarden and get off at the Steenwijk station. This is a 2h-train ride so far, but you aren’t there yet.
Now take the bus 270 or 70 towards Giethoorn or Zwartsluis, respectively, next to the station and get off at the Dominee Hylkemaweg stop (it’s a 15 min trip). Finally, walk down the street with the same name, and you’ll be in Giethoorn center.
Unfortunately, this isn’t the easiest way to get to Giethoorn, but if you follow these instructions, you should have no problem.
- Fares: The Netherlands has very high-quality and punctual trains (except when the weather gets terrible, of course). However, it also reflects in its tariffs. Roundtrip from Amsterdam to Giethoorn by train and bus costs around 50 euros. Ouch!
Pro tips: the bus goes more often in the summer months, but if you’re planning to go to Giethoorn in December or November, for example, you might have to wait a little longer.
So, I highly suggest you download the 9292 app to check the bus timetables and plan your day trip. This is the official Dutch app for public transport. To know the train’s timetables, I suggest you download the NS app.
You can set up both apps in English, and they show ticket prices, disruptions, everything you need to know to go to any Dutch city by public transport.
Getting to Giethoorn By a Shuttle Bus
Alternatively, you can take a shuttle bus and guided tour in Giethoorn. This is the most popular option to get to Giethoorn from Amsterdam because it is hassle-free and the bus/shuttle departs from Amsterdam city center.
Once you’re in Giethoorn, you’ll have a 1-hour boat tour with a guide through the sweet canals. Don’t forget your camera as you’ll see many ridiculously photogenic cottages from the boat. It’s a nice ride.
10 Things to Do in Giethoorn, the Netherlands
One day in Giethoorn, the town with no roads, is enough to see and do everything.
However, if you want to stay for a night – definitely a bucket list item for couples – and wake up to a slightly foggy morning by the canal, I recommend you stay for the night.
Besides, you can wake up early in the morning and have the village just for you, without the crowds!
1. Cruise the Canals
There’s nothing better to in Giethoorn, the Netherlands, than cruise the canals.
Whether you rent a canoe, kayak, or whisper boat or take a boat tour, it’s an experience you shouldn’t miss!
You can rent an electric boat in the morning when the canal isn’t crowded.
If you do so, sail the whole canal to the half windmill, then turn right to the big lake. There, turn off the boat and chill for a while taking in the view.
There is a small island in the middle of the lake where people swim around and enjoy the sun. So if you’re heading there in the summer, take your swimming clothes with you!
Pro tip: Even if you’re not going to swim, take a towel with you so you can put your feet in the water. It’s refreshing!
Mind you, boats hitting each other are a reality in the main canal because many people get confused when sailing, so watch out when raising your phone or camera to take a photo.
If someone hits your boat hard, you might let it drop. I almost lost my camera in an electric boat because of that.
Alternatively, you can take a 1-hour boat tour of Giethoorn, sit back, and enjoy the view. This option is obviously easier and can be more comfortable too, but you can’t spend a whole day on the boat if you wish to do so.
Don’t miss out! Click here to book your 1-hour boat tour!
2. Learn About Giethoorn at Museum Giethoorn ‘t Olde Maat Uus
This living museum is an orginal Giethoorn farmhouse and showcases the historic village of Giethoorn with actors in traditional clothes.
I don’t know about you, but I find this one of the most interesting things to do in Giethoorn. It’s so interesting!
Beyond that, the museum has a nice coffee corner and shop where you can buy souvenirs, books, old Dutch cleaning products, and much more.
3. Buy Gemstones to Attract Good Energies
The De Oude Aarde showcases fossils, minerals, and many interesting artifacts.
Beyond that, this small family museum has a fantastic shop where you can buy gemstones from around the world–from Brazil to Australia–as well as silver and gold jewelry.
This place is an attraction for the whole family as children can learn more about fossils. Not only that but the museum also offers a few activities for the little ones, like cracking crystals, looking for gold, and more.
4. Cycle Along the Canal
It wouldn’t be the Netherlands if you wouldn’t see bicycles everywhere. So, why not go ride one yourself?
There is one very long bike path along the main canal where you can bike and enjoy the fairytale and quiet view, but that’s also where people walk.
Imagine you’re in Giethoorn on a Saturday afternoon in the summer and you want to ride a bike there. Sorry, it’s not going to happen.
I highly suggest you get up early to cycle, so you avoid the crowds like around 09-10 am, or even earlier. Later in the day, it will be impossible given the number of tourists.
Pay attention to the bridges you have to cross as they are steep and narrow.
5. Check Out Rare Shells and Ocean-Themed Goods
At Gloria Maris Shells Gallery, you can take a look at an interesting shell collection. It’s a semi-museum, semi-shop with an ocean theme.
However, if you want to shop local handicrafts, you’ll love the Bijoux, clothing, and home goods inspired by the ocean or made of shells.
6. Wander Along the Canals
Wandering along the canals is one of the best things to do in Giethoorn, the Netherlands, especially if you’re in the village early in the morning.
This way, you can take your time to stroll around and take in the beauty of the cottages and houses.
Trust me when I say it’s well worth the time. Giethoorn is gorgeous!
7. Self Guided Photograph Tour
By now you have seen many of Giethoorn photos throughout this article, so I assume I’ve convinced you to take many photographs of this quaint village far before you started reading this paragraph, right?
So, here goes my best advice: prepare your camera! The village of Giethoorn is an enchanting photography hotspot because of its sweet thatched cottages.
As a matter of fact, the whole village makes it a perfect opportunity for any photos you might want to take–couple, family, pregnancy, you name it.
The bridges, the flowers, the cows in the meadows, everything makes Giethoorn mesmerizing.
Fun fact: Giethoorn was included in the international edition of Monopoly, together with Amsterdam.
8. Picnic by the Water
Honestly, if the weather allows, this is one of the best things to do in Giethoorn, the Netherlands!
Grab your picnic stuff, hop on a boat, cruise the canal to the Bovenwijde Lake, and enjoy some time in nature at the little island there.
Many locals go there to picnic themselves, besides going for a swim and sunbathing.
Alternatively, you can also picnic on the boat. Just be sure to park the boat in a calm area, away from the traffic of boats.
Pssst: Remember to leave nothing behind and to keep the area clean.
9. Booze by the Water
If you prefer to stay on land, go for a few drinks in one of the restaurants along the main canal.
There are enough options with inviting terraces that you can’t afford to miss! Besides, you often get a view of a fairytale cottage. How cool is that?
We had a beer at the cozy Cafe-Restaurant Smit while many other people were having lunch. Ristorante Fratelli is a good option if you like Italian food.
Read next: 30 Traditional Dutch Foods You Need to Try
10. Go for a Hike
There is a plethora of enjoyable hikes in the Netherlands and the Giethoorn Walking Route is one of them.
The total hike is 9.5 miles long (about 15 km). While exploring the route, you can enjoy the beauty of Giethoorn, Weerribben-Wieden National Park, which has an extensive cycling network, and many other places along the way.
All you have to do is follow the green colored arrows from the starting point (Eendrachtsplein, Giethoorn).
Tips for Visiting Giethoorn, the Netherlands
- Visit during the week: Especially if you’re traveling in spring or summer as this is peak time.
- Book a place to stay: It will give you peace of mind and time to enjoy Giethoorn properly as it get crowded.
- Pack some picnic supplies: Beind such a touristy place in the Netherlands, don’t expect to pay anything less than touristy prices. So pack picnic supplies to save some money.
- Respect the locals: Remember that Giethoorn, the Netherlands, is an actual village where people live. So don’t litter, don’t tresspass, don’t photograph those who don’t want to be photographed, and treat others the way you would like people to treat you.
Good to Know Before Visiting the Village Without Roads
This is a popular destination among Chinese people, and they very often travel in large groups.
I went on a boat ride at 10.30 am, and we didn’t find many boats in the canals, but later, around 1.00 pm, there was a real traffic jam!
Map of Giethoorn, Netherlands
As promised, here’s a handy, interactive map of Giethoorn, the Netherlands that you can access from your phone. Click here for the map. Enjoy!
When are you headed to Giethoorn? What other villages have you been in the Netherlands that were also straight out a fairytale book? Leave your answers in comments. I would love to hear about you!
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