Are you feeling tired of the noisy and bustling city and wish to escape it all? I very often do, and though the perfect escape is rarely possible, there is a small village in the Netherland that may be your personal (but alas not so private anymore) retreat.
Giethoorn is located in Overijssel province, about 1.5 car drive from Amsterdam. The oldest part of the village has no roads; you can only go there by boat, bike or on foot. You can travel to Giethoorn by car, bus, train or a boat and once you are there, it is highly recommended to go on a boat tour.
People tend to refer to Giethoorn as the “Dutch Venice”, but for me, it is rather Tolkien’s Shire – the ultimately peaceful place where people lead a simple but very satisfying life, close to nature and respecting one another. Sounds too good to be true? In the rest of the article, I will try to judge whether Giethoorn really is what it looks like and give you some useful tips and details concerning it.
What exactly is Giethoorn?
In the east part of the Netherlands, there is a green and beautiful province of Overijssel, and in its very heart, the small village of Giethoorn is located.
Doesn’t it sound like a perfect beginning of a fairytale? And indeed, this water village is a perfect setting for an idyllic story. It was founded either by Franciscan monks or Mediterranean fugitives sometime around the 13th century. The settlers made a startling discovery of hundreds of goat horns (died in the 12th-century flood) that gave the village its name. During the following years, locals started digging around in search of peat deposits, and with the passing time, small lakes started forming around the village and in between the houses.
Nowadays, Giethoorn is set in the middle of the canals and lake system, and its architecture strongly resembles the Medieval one – the houses have large windows and pointy, thatch-covered roofs. There are bridges of course, and lots of them – about 180. And there are beautifully kept gardens, so it is really worth visiting during spring or summer when the flowers and trees are in bloom.
Sounds like a paradise? And it’s only 1.5-hour journey from Amsterdam!
How To Get To Giethoorn?
If you want to visit Giethoorn, you have four options. You can go either by car, train or bus or decide to go on a boat trip.
- By car: that is the easiest and the most convenient way to get to Giethoorn, you have to take highway A1-E231 to the A28-E232
- By train: if you would rather use public transportation, starting from Amsterdam, take a train to Amersfoort and there switch into a train to Steenwijk. Then you only have to go by bus to Dominee Hylkemaweg and then… rent a boat.
- By bus: unfortunately, there is no direct public bus from Amsterdam to Giethoorn, but you can always take a bus tour – if you are staying in a hotel ask if there is such a possibility. If not, try for example here – you get a shuttle bus transportation and a short boat tour on this site – Link Here
- There are lots of places where you can buy a boat trip to Giethoorn, for example, you can check out this website — Link Here
What To Do in Giethoorn
Once you are in Giethoorn, there is a strong possibility that all you would want to do is just… be there and enjoy the scenery and do nothing particular. That is why it’s good to store at the back of your head all the ways to spend your time in this picturesque location.
- Rent a boat. This one is a no brainer though. If you want to see all of Giethoorn you have to get on a boat somehow and cruise the canals. You can take the most popular one, an electric ‘whisper boat’, that indeed makes very little noise. These boats are pretty stable, so you should not be afraid of using them. Moreover, the canals and lake are not too deep; they reach about 1 meter down. For those who would prefer something more basic, there’s an option of a Punter boat, without the engine. You can take a canoe as well. In most places, minimal rental time is two hours, and the prices start at 18€ for the first hour and 15€ for the next one(s).
- If you would rather walk, you can. Rent an inflatable ball and literally walk on water! But there are sidewalks as well so don’t worry.
- Go on a guided tour. You can buy yourself a one-hour tour in a larger, covered tour boat. There is a downside to it though as the larger boat cannot enter a few smaller canals which you can see only if you rent a smaller boat just for yourself.
- Visit a museum. You have seen it all and want some more? There are three museums to visit:
In the first one (Museum de Oude Aarde) you get to see, how did the settlement in Giethoorn look like centuries ago (the tickets are 4€ for adults and 1€ for children)
The second (Museum de Oude Aarde) has huge gemstones and minerals collection (adults have to pay 3.5€, children 2,5€).
The last museum is called The Histomobil, and as you’ve probably figured it out, you can see a collection of old cars, motorcycles and carriages in it.
- Rent a bike. If you are not too big of a boat rider, you can go for a bicycle instead. Renting a bike for a day should cost you about 9€ unless you would prefer an electric one, then the price soars up to 22€.
- Go for a swim. There’s a lake, fully accessible by boat which is called In the middle of the lake, there’s even a picnic island. It is an ideal place for those who love swimming in open water.
Useful Tips and a Little Myth Busting
First of all, you should remember that in Giethoorn there are over 2600 residents. It is their home and very private space you get to admire. But what you are supposed to do is respect every sign that says private road or private canal.
And please – no matter how beautiful they are – do not enter the yards or gardens. Although the village does look like a Botanical Garden, the
The other issue is to choose the moment of your visit carefully. For centuries, the village of Giethoorn was almost unknown for others than the residents. The situation changed as recently as in 1958 when the place became a setting for a quite famous film. And then it kind of snowballed. Nowadays there are lots of tourists there (from what I heard, Giethoorn is most particularly popular among the Chinese) and, well, it is not a very spacious place, you know. So sometimes the narrow paths are so densely packed with people that you are stuck and cannot walk at all. Taking a photo without a bunch of strangers on it is a challenge. So, if you have any possibility to choose, go there on a weekday and maybe at least once do it off the season.
Beware of boats!
But not the one you’re in, but the ones with other people. They tend to rent a boat only to find out they have no idea how to steer it. So you can see boats bumping into each other or going in circles and even experience a traffic jam in the canal.
And, well, there is no easy way to say this, but… there are actually roads in Giethoorn. Chill out, the tale about homes accessible only by a boat is true, but only for the oldest part of the settlement.
Food and accommodation
Giethoorn is well prepared for the tourists’ onslaught. There are little shops with the souvenirs, where you can find almost anything you can think of. And there are lovely restaurants with various types of food, from seafood to Chinese, and in most of them, you can enjoy the outdoor seating with delightful views.
When it comes to staying for a night or two, it also should not be a problem. There are hotels and B&Bs, and the prices start at 65€. If that is too much, you can always stay in a town nearby and go to Giethoorn by boat or bike.
If you really want your visit in Giethoorn to be longer than just one day, you can combine it with the trip to The Orchid Farm. https://www.orchideeenhoeve.nl/ That is another beautiful spot, located in the vicinity of the village with no roads.
Although the village of Giethoorn may not be as ideal as pictured on the idyllic photos, it is still a unique and beautiful place. It is a perfect destination for either a one day trip from Amsterdam or a bit longer stay that may allow you to fully appreciate the peaceful surroundings of the village with no roads.