Often called the “The Venice of the Netherlands,” Giethoorn is a lovely little village in the northeastern Dutch province of Overijssel and is mostly car-free. About a 1.5-hour drive from Amsterdam, it makes for a great, long weekend getaway.
Giethoorn was on my list for a while now so, I was really excited to explore ‘the venice of the North’.
Giethoorn is different. It’s peaceful, so much so that it hardly seems real. After your first few minutes in the village you will see why. It is a sleepy community with immaculate lawns and trimmed shrubbery accentuating pretty, thatched-roof farmhouses. In between are the canals which give the village it’s moniker of “Dutch Venice.” Yes, Amsterdam too has its canals, but the ones in Giethoorn are more picturesque. More serene. Here, the loudest sound you will normally hear is the quacking of a duck or the gentle lapping of the water.
The little village is in fact so dependent on this canal system that many of the houses are accessible only by boat. Hence the lack of cars. The local postman delivers the mail by punt. The main tourist attraction here is just enjoying the water – there are canoe and boat rentals aplenty. With 90 km of canoe trails and 180 bridges crossing over them, it makes for the most peaceful of afternoons.
Instead of conventional motorboats, the rental companies hire out so-called ‘whisper boats, which are dinghies driven by electric motor, and fairly quiet, keeping in tune with the surroundings.
Weerribben Wieden National park.
Just south of the village is Weerribben-Wieden National Park. This park offers great Bed & Breakfasts, which you can reach by bicycle or boat.
In addition, there is a camping sites where you can spend some days.
The park contains the largest freshwater wetland in northwestern Europe, and is a great place for birdwatching.
Spend a couple of days here and enjoy the park’s many scenic hiking and cycling trails. Every summer they have a small festival.
*Did you know that the former Queen of the Netherlands had a chalet here?
Tips and Tricks for Giethoorn
- Try to visit Giethoorn during the shoulder and off-seasons, for a much more peaceful experience. The high season of late June through August sees LOTS of tourists and often times visitors clog the canals.
- As you drive into town, there are car parks along the perimeter.
- The best way to experience Giethoorn and its many canals is by joining a canal cruise. Local skippers will guide you, showing you the most important and historic spots in this quaint village. Be sure to book in advance. Spots are limited and recent years have seen a surge of tourism in this area.
- Alternatively, visitors can rent a small electric boat that seats 2 to 3 people. A little technical know-how is required to drive the boat, but is a nice second option to a guided tour. Many canal-side restaurants rent them. It is a great way to gently putter down the water, past those cozy cottages and under graceful arched wooden bridges.
- End your day at any one of the many restaurants and cafes nearby. It is a great way to watch others enjoying themselves on the water.
- Definitely visit Weerribben Wieden national park, you can go kayaking, cycling or take a tour with a forest keeper.