Giethoorn is not the usual Venice of the North, any northern European city that tries to attract tourists by virtue of some vague (and usually impractical) resemblance to the wonderful Italian city of art. It is the bridges and canals that have earned it this overused nickname, but Giethoorn, a beautiful town only 120 km from Amsterdam, does not need to compare itself to anyone and is actually proud to be itself.
It is an enchanting village with less than three thousand inhabitants and a very special conformation. Surrounded by the green national park Weerribben-Wiede, it consists of a collection of islets connected by more than 170 bridges.
Its special feature is the lack of roads: there are only canals, so the only means of transport in Giethoorn are boats. Over the centuries, the canals were widened to facilitate the development of the peat industry, and two artificial lakes were built to the south and east of the city centre.
In this oasis of tranquillity, with a green landscape full of reeds and forests, you can take a break from the hustle and bustle of modern life and recharge your batteries.
Giethoorn is the ideal destination for a fantastic day trip, but also for a relaxing week’s holiday during which you can take wonderful boat trips, walk in safety, take extraordinary landscape photos and enjoy numerous outdoor sports.
Giethoorn has no famous attractions: the village itself is a charming open-air museum, to be explored freely and without a planned itinerary.
In and around Giethoorn you can enjoy numerous outdoor sports activities including cycling, stand-up paddle boarding and windsurfing.
Giethoorn can be circumnavigated on foot, passing from one islet to another thanks to the city’s 176 bridges, but the most fascinating way is to take part in a traditional boat tour or a boat tour that takes you along the canals that have made this location so famous.
The typical boats are called ‘punters‘ and glide placidly on the water like a Venetian gondola, although in shape they are more similar to the boats used in the academic town of Cambridge, England. They are narrow boats that are steered with the help of a long wooden stick.
During a boat trip, which usually takes an hour or two, you can admire the magnificent 19th- and 20th-century farmhouses, some of which are still perfectly preserved, and pass under Giethoorn’s famous wooden bridges.
If you arrive here with a rental car or if you take part in a day tour, you can combine a visit to Giethoorn with some nice places in the surroundings, such as Enkhuizen and Lelystad.
Near Giethoorn is also the Kroller-Muller Museum, opened in 1938, which exhibits an exceptional private collection of over 11,000 works, with an important section dedicated to Van Gogh. The latter represents the largest private collection of Van Gogh works in the world (second in importance only to the collection of the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam). Also beautiful is the sculpture garden, one of the largest in Europe.
Another idea is to combine a half-day in Giethoorn with an afternoon of shopping at the Batavia Stad Fashion Outlet, which brings together in a lovely reconstructed 18th-century village about 150 shops selling more than 250 prestigious brands, including Vingino, Hugo Boss, van Nike, Michael Kors, Le Creuset and Tommy Hilfigerin a lovely reconstructed 18th-century village.
Given the particular shape of Giethoorn, it is logical not to expect to find large hotels with hundreds of rooms. The few hotels in the area are very small, while there are far more holiday homes and flats, which are generally good value for money.
To the lack of a 24-hour reception desk, the b&b’s and holiday homes in Giethoorn make up for this with wonderful views of the city’s canals.
The best way to get to Giethoorn from Amsterdam is to rent a car: Giethoorn is approximately one and a half hours by car from the Dutch capital and Amsterdam-Schiphol Airport via the A1 or A6 motorways.
If you prefer travelling by train, you will have to plan for at least one change; the journey time can vary from two to three and a half hours. Alternatively, you can join one of the many day tours from Amsterdam that are offered by local tour operators, which include transport and a guide.
In the local language, ‘Giethoorn’ means ‘goat’s horns‘. The town was so named for a very simple reason: many bones and goat horns were found in the marshes in the area. Two goat horns appear in the city’s coat of arms.
The reason why no roads were historically built in Giethoorn is because this village had arisen to protect its inhabitants, members of the sect of the Flagellants, from religious persecution in the 12th century.
What's the weather at Giethoorn? Below are the temperatures and the weather forecast at Giethoorn for the next few days.