Giethoorn is a town of 2,600 inhabitants in the northern part of the province of Overijssel. Known as the Venice of the North, Giethoorn is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the Netherlands. Here are our recommendations for a trip to Giethoorn and the area.
Why is Giethoorn so Famous?
Giethoorn is also called the Venice of Holland. Part of the city is a car-free area consisting of canals, bridges and walking paths which makes it unique in its kind in the Netherlands.
Giethoorn was once a peat-cutting settlement, which has created various lakes and ponds, connected by more than 150 bridges. On the hills in between, small thatched farms were built, some of which are still preserved today.
Plan at least half a day to explore Giethoorn. If you want to make a longer boat ride or go for a walk in the surrounding nature, it’s best to plan a full day.
The best way to explore the Venice of Holland is to first walk along the canals by foot, and then rent a boat. Walk along the main canal to see the beautiful houses, take some pictures and maybe visit the museum.
Giethoorn by Boat
There are countless boat rental companies and several types of boats to choose from. The traditional boats, called punters, which come as electric boats. They are perfect for families and small groups. Many boat rental companies also allow dogs on these boats.
When renting a boat in Giethoorn, you can choose between three routes. The shortest one takes about one hour and goes through the main canal of Giethoorn and leads back to the starting point via the connected lake Bovenwijde. Behind the lake you’ll find a huge green area which is even bigger than the village itself. Several waterways lead through that area and allow you to make a big round of up to 4 hours.
Note that Giethoorn can get quite crowded during summer and weekends. Most canals are therefore one-way routes and longer photo stops could lead to traffic jams. If you visit during low-seasons, you’re more likely to have the canals all for yourself.
If you travel as a couple or in a small group, we absolutely recommend that you rent your own boat. We had a great time exploring Giethoorn at our own pace and steering the punter!
Those who don’t want to rent their own boat can join a guided boat excursion. This option is ideal for solo-travelers or small groups that don’t feel comfortable steering their own boat.
Whichever way you choose, a boat trip through Giethoorn is the ideal way to explore the many waterways, farms and nature up close!
Adjacent to the village, close to the main canal, you will find the museum of Giethoorn, ‘t Olde Maat Uus. The museum showcases a historic farming village. The museum is quite small, but absolutely worth visiting. There are costumed actors that bring the history of Giethoorn back to life. During summer months and school vacation, the museum holds smaller events for children. A visit to the Giethoorn museum is a must for those who want to learn more about the history of the region.
Across the village, there are several other small museums available, some of which offer workshops and other activities.
How to Get There
Giethoorn is located in the Dutch province Overijssel, in the northern part of the Netherlands. You can get there by public transport as well as by car. If you come from Amsterdam, the drive to Giethoorn is about 120 km (75 miles) and takes around 1.5 hours.
If you travel from Amsterdam to Giethoorn by public transport, the journey will take about 2 hours, includes 2 changes and costs around €50.00 (both ways, standard fare). Joining a group might be a cheaper and more pleasant option for those who don’t drive. Some tours include other stops such as the famous Zaanse Schans or Volendam.
In the Area
Giethoorn is located in the Weerribben-Wieden National Park, which historically, was a popular peat and reed mining area. Giethoorn is thus surrounded by nature! South of the village center and the museum is the heart of the Weerribben-Wieden National Park. Home to numerous large lakes, expansive fields and interspersed with countless small bodies of water. While the area can get pretty muddy in winter, it’s perfect for a long walk during summer.
About 10 kilometers southwest, are the Zwarte Meer and the Ketelmeer, popular areas for walking and birdwatching.
If you want to visit more places, the Hanseatic cities of Kampen and Zwolle are not far away. The amusement park Slagharen is also not far from Giethoorn. If you are looking for a destination close to the sea, head to Urk or Makkum, two scenic villages at the IJsselmeer.