This picturesque village located in the province of Overijssel resembles the setting of a storybook fairytale. It’s known for its cute canals, waterways, and thatched-roof houses. I like to think of it as the smaller, Dutch version of Venice Italy but its official nickname is the “Venice of the North”. Visitors from all over the world come to experience the charm of this quaint village on the water. Whether you stay for a day or a week, come see what Giethoorn Netherlands has to offer.
Is Giethoorn worth a visit?
It’s extremely touristy here especially during the summer months when the weather is nice. When I say tourists I mean hordes of them. They block the canal walkways, trespass private properties, and seem to forget that people actually live here. While tourism generates money for Giethoorn village, as you might imagine, the locals are annoyed with the constant influx of tourists.
However, I visited during the close of summer so it wasn’t as crowded and packed. And to be frank, I’ve been living in the Netherlands for quite some time and have only been as of recently. My boyfriend is a Dutch native and this was his first-ever visit. What I mean by all this is that Giethoorn was never the first priority on our travel list because of other less touristy Dutch destinations. But after having such a wonderful experience I can recommend that it is a nice place to go for a day trip.
Giethoorn Village is car-free
The center of the village is a completely car-free area so there are no roads. The main modes of transport are by boat, bike, and foot. Since Giethoorn is not too big it’s easy to walk everywhere. The main source of traffic is on the water.
How to get to Giethoorn
Giethoorn village is located near the capital of Overijssel, Zwolle, and very easy to reach whether by car or public transport. From anywhere in the Randstad area, it should take you no longer than two hours.
The closest station to the village is Steenwijk. From here you can take the buses number 70 or 270 to get to the village.
Driving to Giethoorn is the fastest way to arrive here. Although you’re not able to drive in the village there are plenty of free and cheap parking places. On the outskirts and at many restaurants and boat rental companies offer parking.
If you’re coming from Amsterdam to Giethoorn, the cheapest and most efficient way to get here is by car. The route time is about an hour and thirty minutes.
Rent a boat
No visit to Giethoorn Netherlands is complete without sailing the waterways on a boat. It’s the most popular activity and the best way to experience the village. We rented the infamous whisper boat which has a quiet, electric motor. Our booking lasted for two hours so we sailed the longer route which goes from the main canal area to the natural reserve Weerribben. My suggestion is to book your rental in the morning when there is less traffic and you can enjoy sailing in peace.
If you prefer not to drive a boat there are kayaks, canoes, guided tours, and cruises to choose from.
I would like to warn you about boating in Giethoorn because I didn’t find this information up for grabs. The boat rental companies that operate here rent out boats to everyone and anyone. This means people that have no prior boating experience. If you watch the canal you’ll notice people steering and crashing boats into one another. I witnessed six crashes and that includes the two where a young couple hit us from behind because they could not control their boat. As you can tell, It can be quite dangerous.
How deep are the canals in Giethoorn?
The canals are about three feet deep so if you do end up in the water, there isn’t much to worry about.
Visit a museum
Giethoorn has a number of museums to visit. Museum Giethoorn ‘t Olde Maat Uus is a popular pick to learn about Giethoorn’s rich history. Find out about the first inhabitants and how they traditionally cut peat. Learn the story behind the village’s original name Geytenhore derived from a 10th-century flood.
Head to Weerribben-Wieden National Park
If you’re in Giethoorn it’s worth checking out the national park Weerribben-Wieden. Did you know that it is the biggest bog in Northwestern Europe? The nature and landscapes consist of a variety of marshes, swamps, ponds, and canals. The views are amazing and not many tourists venture out here since Giethoorn village is the main attraction in the Overijssel area.
The Weerribben-Wieden is the perfect place for nature enthusiasts but also nice to spend time relaxing and doing outdoor activities. There are a number of cycle paths that are bike-friendly for all ages and levels since the terrain is flat. This is also a convenient way to see the park since it is so big. I saw a lot of kayakers in the water and plan on doing that on the next visit.
What to eat in Giethoorn
Wondering where should I eat in Giethoorn? There are many restaurants and cozy eateries to choose from when you get the hunger bug. Many of these establishments sit by the waterfront and have lovely terraces with a view. We grabbed lunch at the Grand Café Fanfare which was absolutely delicious. It had a rustic ambiance feel and overlooked the canal. The dishes were excellent, the portions nice and overall it was a pleasant experience.
Prefer to grab a drink instead? There are many places to sit down by the waterside and have a nice cup of coffee.
Extra tips for your trip to Giethoorn
In preparation for my trip to Giethoorn, I found these tips to be helpful:
- Weekdays are the ideal time to visit.
- Leave early enough before the crowds arrive.
- Book boat rentals in advance online especially during the summer months.
- Pack snacks or lunch with you for the boat ride if you book a longer time slot like two – three hours.
- If you’ll be exploring the cycle paths in the national park and outside areas of Giethoorn rent an electric bike if a regular one may be to tiring to cover the distance