Getting to know this enchanting car-less Dutch village
Exploring Giethoorn is a truly magical and unforgettable experience. This is one of the most pristine and most charming villages in the province of Overijssel in the Netherlands. Located in the Weerribben-Wieden National Park, Giethoorn is an idyllic village that is known and well-loved for its many waterways, countless thatched farms, and small peat islands connected by over 170 small wooden arch bridges.
Giethoorn was established as a settlement of peat harvesters. Early settlers created ponds and lakes, and people built houses on the islands and beautiful wooden bridges to connect them. In the past and still today, residents use traditional Giethoorn boats, which are narrowboats pushed along using a long pole.
Little has changed in Giethoorn, allowing tourists to imagine life in medieval times. The tall wooden bridges are still there, and gorgeous 18th and 19th-century farmhouses still stand today.
Venice of the Netherlands
This quaint village is popularly known as the “Venice of the Netherlands” for its lovely canals and romantic boat rides. The village is as picturesque as can be, reminiscent of fairy tales and magical wonderlands.
One of the most important reasons for its popularity is the fact that there are no streets in this idyllic village. No roads also mean no cars. Cars and any motorized vehicles are not allowed inside, thereby preserving complete peace, tranquility, and the best of nature.
When arriving, visitors, tourists, and even residents of Giethoorn village need to park their car outside the village at special car parks for free. People walk their way to the commercial heart of the village to rent whisper boats, board a guided cruise, visit a museum, and check out lots of restaurants and cafes.
There is just a one-foot path leading to all these spots, and the path is known as ‘Binnenpad’. Walking or biking along Binnenpad is in itself already magical and quite picturesque, as though one is walking on to a film set.
Whisper boats are electric-powered punt boats that have muffled engines, thus making very little noise. They are easy to spot for their red color. Giethoorn’s punt boats are not only noise-free, but also eco-friendly, making them the ideal means of transport in this serene village.
Boats for rent
The best way to explore Giethoorn is on its waterways. hotels, restaurants, and even local residents offer so many boats for rent, making it very easy for visitors to get one. Below are the most common boats to rent, aside from whisper boats.
Dutch sloop boat
Sloop boats, like whisper boats, are electrically powered but with a stronger motor. They can move faster and are a little more comfortable, thanks to the leather cushions. Also, they have a steering wheel, making them very easy to control and maneuver. Dutch sloop boats are considered the luxurious version of whisper boats for their stronger motor, leather cushions, and steering wheel.
In Giethoorn, three types of sloop boats are available for rent: a 4-person sloop boat, an 8-person sloop boat, and a 12-person sloop boat, which is the maximum capacity allowed.
Canoes for rent are for those who know their way on the water and have experience in canoeing. Although the waters in Giethoorn are smooth and safe, canoeing is for real adventure-seekers and experienced boaters. Available for rent in the village are 1-person canoes and 2-person canoes. This is the most thrilling and fun-filled way to enjoy Giethoorn’s canals, allowing visitors to be one with nature.
Guided cruises are perfect for groups and families. Guaranteed safe, guided cruise tours are led by skippers who are eager to tell visitors about the history of this enchanting village.
Giethoorn has a picturesque walking route (4.3 km) that goes through the water-rich village, the wooden bridges, canals, and thatched-roof farmhouses. It extends to 15.3 km to satisfy more seasoned hikers. Hiking is quiet and peaceful, especially in Giethoorn-Noord or the northern part of the village.
The path goes all the way to Zuideinde, which is the southernmost part of the village that leads further to the big Beulakerwijde lake. Also to the south is De Wieden and the tiny Giethoorn-like village of Dwarsgracht. It is equally charming and picturesque but hidden away from most tourists. In all, hiking in Giethoorn is a wonderful experience in nature.
The most popular Giethoorn museum is Olde Maat Uus museum, a traditional museum located in a farmhouse. It allows visitors to understand, appreciate and experience how residents of Giethoorn used to live here hundreds of years ago. Museum staff are dressed as old settlers, demonstrating how they gathered peat and built punt boats.
De Oude Aarde, on the other hand, is the oldest museum in Giethoorn. It is very popular for its displays of precious and ornamental stones of all kinds from over the world, including minerals and fossils. The museum is located along Binnenpad via a lovely wooden bridge. Some of the gems are for sale at the gemstone shop next to the museum. There are gems for every budget.
A third museum is the Art Pottery Giethoorn Floramics, located in the middle of the village, right along with one of the lovely canals. The museum is both a workshop and shop within a former stable, a more-than-100-year-old typical thatched-roof farmhouse. Visiting this gallery is a unique opportunity to take a look inside an actual Giethoorn farm.
Exploring Giethoorn is not complete without a side trip to the bewitching De Weerribben-Wieden National Park. Visitors come here to be immersed in nature as they hike, cycle, relax, wander, and camp in forests, flower fields, and along lakes. The park is teeming with marine life and wildlife.
Not far away are the medieval towns of Vollenhove and Blokzijl. A bike ride from De Weerribben-Wieden to these old cities is short and lovely. These destinations are known for their historic buildings, old churches, and ancient castles. Those who want to discover more may cycle further to nearby Sint-Jansklooster, Kalenberg, and Steenwijk.
Exploring Giethoorn becomes easier and more fun with these practical tips in mind. First, it is best to arrive before 11:00 am and after 6:00 pm to avoid crowds of tourists. Weekdays are also more peaceful here, as the throng of visitors typically arrives on weekends.
Second, canal cruises cost around 7.50 euros per person per hour, while boat rental is 15.00 euros per boat per hour. When on your boat, avoid passing along the center of Giethoorn, where it could get crowded with other boats of tourists. Take an alternative route.
And third, a local private tour guide proves to be very helpful. With a private captain, it is easy to avoid the hustle and bustle involving other eager tourists. This is especially true during the high season.
There are several hotels in Giethoorn, covering a wide range of prices. Hotel Harmonie, for instance, is a 4-star family hotel run by a local resident, who has happily opened their place to receive guests from all over the world. Hotel Harmonie has 16 rooms, all equipped with various conveniences. It is located on the Wieden nature reserve, near the Binnenpad footpath.
Hotel Giethoorn, on the other hand, is a unique old Dutch-style family hotel that offers 34 rooms. This 3-star hotel attracts guests with its thatched roofs, romantic room decor, and friendly staff. Meals are available at Restaurant Giethoorn where hotel guests can choose from a mix of cuisines. An extensive breakfast buffet is available between 7:30 am and 10:30 am. Dinner is served at around 5:30 pm.
A third accommodation is the 4-star Fletcher Hotel-Restaurant De Eese-Giethoorn. It is located in a forest area near Giethoorn, on the edge of the Woldeberg and Eese nature reserves and on the border of Overijssel, Drenthe and Friesland. This means the hotel is uniquely nestled not far from forests, swamps, peatlands, and lakes.
Fletcher Hotel-Restaurant De Eese-Giethoorn is equipped with a sauna, a heated indoor pool, tennis court, and other facilities. Some rooms have a balcony or a seating area.
Giethoorn is about an hour and a half’s drive from Amsterdam or Amsterdam’s Airport, Schiphol. There are several trains from Amsterdam’s Centraal Station going to Steenwijk or Zwolle. From Steenwijk or Zwolle, a bus will take travelers to the Giethoorn bus stop.
Another train route is from Amsterdam through Meppel, to Wolvega and Steenwijk, which are just a few kilometers from Giethoorn itself. The total trip from Amsterdam to Giethoorn costs about 34 euros. When visiting, avoid the months of April through October, which is the peak season in Giethoorn.
Giethoorn village is clearly one of the most beautiful destinations in the Netherlands, if not the whole of Europe. Giethoorn is a residential area with more than 2,000 people living here in 2020. It is regularly visited by over a million tourists every year from all over the world. They come no matter what the weather is, as the village is attractive all year round. Each season of the year offers a unique experience to everyone exploring Giethoorn.
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