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12 Best Things To Do in Giethoorn, Netherlands

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Everyone has heard of Amsterdam and The Hague, but have you considered visiting the Dutch village of Giethoorn? The Netherlands may be a small country, but it has so much to offer outside of its main tourist destination, and this picturesque village should be at the top of your list.

If you haven’t heard of Giethoorn, it is a small village in the countryside about an hour from the border with Germany and 90 minutes to Amsterdam. This picture-perfect town is known as Dutch Venice, as it is almost completely street and car-free and is instead made up of canals.

While many tourists skip this wonderful part of the Netherlands, visiting Giethoorn and the surrounding area is worth visiting. You’ll be rewarded with beautiful pictures, fewer crowds, and scenes that look like they are from a fairytale book.

We’ve compiled a list of the best things to do in this charming village, as well as where to stay and how to get around. Read on to see why my recent trip to Giethoorn made me consider it one of the most beautiful places in the Netherlands.

TL;DR

  • Most significant landmark – The many thatched farmhouses
  • Park to visitWeerribben Wieden National Park
  • Best free thing to do – Explore the Giethoorn Walking Route
  • Best thing to do with kids – Canal cruise
  • Activity for adults – Electric motorboat rental
  • Best restaurant – Café Restaurant De Rietstulp
  • Place to stayHotel de Harmonie

Why You Should Visit Giethoorn Village

So, what is so interesting about a small village in the Dutch countryside? The main thing that draws tourists to Giethoorn is simply that it is a stunningly beautiful village. Little houses with thatched roofs sitting on peaceful canals crisscrossed by wooden footbridges are a photographer’s dream. 

Other visitors come for the preserved nature and diverse wildlife in the national park that the village sits in. After exploring Giethoorn town, these travelers will be happy to pack an electric boat with picnic supplies and sit on the lake to watch wild storks land in their giant nests.

While it’s not a super touristy place, these things do make Giethoorn a popular destination for people from all over the world. Let’s look at some of the top things to do there.

Things to Do in Giethoorn, the Netherlands

It may be a small village, but there are quite a few things to do in Giethoorn. In fact, I only made it a day trip from Amsterdam, but I felt like I wanted to stay a night or two to really enjoy it all. Whether you choose to stay or not, here are the main things to choose from in this fantastic village.

Explore the Giethoorn Walking Route

Things to do in giethoorn, Giethoorn Walking Route

The main canal that the village of Giethoorn is set on runs north to south, where you will find most boutiques, restaurants, and picturesque views. The village advertises a specific walking route to tour it all, although you may not mind just wandering wherever the canals take you.

This is a free and easy way to see the historic buildings of the town and get pictures of the many wooden bridges crossing the water.

It’s an especially great way to spend a sunny day, and you may be tempted to stop for an espresso or a cocktail at one of the few cafés along the water.

Take a Canal Cruise through the Town

Canal Cruise through the Town

For a guided experience on the water rather than the paths and bridges, you can take a canal cruise offered all around town. This boat trip takes place on an electric motorboat, also called a whisper boat here, which is covered and enclosed for days with bad weather.

My boat ride experience was a great one. Our captain told us about the village’s history, including how thatched roofs were once a solution for the poor but today are a luxury for the rich.

He pointed out rare birds and animals as we motored across the water. This is a great solution for families with children, those who aren’t comfortable driving a boat themselves, and for rainy weather that you want to escape. 

You can usually find tickets just before the boats leave, but if you are going in high season and want to book in advance to be safe, you can make a reservation on Viator here.

See Related: Best Canals in Amsterdam You Need to See

Rent Your Own Boat to Explore the Stunning Canal System

Rent Your Own Boat to Explore the Stunning Canal System

Alternatively, you don’t have to go with a guide on a tour boat. There are plenty of places to rent an electric boat to explore the canals on your own. They are small and simple to drive, and navigating in town isn’t difficult.

Boats are available on the canal behind the church and are not expensive. In sunny and warm weather you can even jump in the lake for a swim. The water depth in the canals and in the middle of the lake is never more than a few feet.

Visit the Museum De Oude Aarde

Museum De Oude Aarde
Source: Viator.com

Address: Binnenpad 43, 8355 BR Giethoorn, Netherlands

One of the oldest museums in the area, Museum De Oude Aarde is an impressive collection of minerals, fossils, and otherwise fascinating pieces of nature. Many were found by the museum’s founder, René Boissevain, who traveled all around the remote corners of the world in search of them.

Interesting items include a petrified tree trunk from North America, Australian agates from down under, and amethyst geodes from Brazil. Children can even open up their own geode and discover what’s inside for a small fee. 

This is another attraction that can usually be visited without reservations, but if you are a planner or are visiting in the busy season, you can reserve a ticket on Viator here.

Stop by the Old Mennonite Church

Address: Binnenpad 50, 8355 BT Giethoorn, Netherlands

The village is somewhat centered around the main church, situated on the main canal. The Mennonites established a presence in Giethoorn almost 500 years ago, and this church dates back to the 1800s. 

Its architecture is considered a bit peculiar compared to other churches from the period, but is anything in Giethoorn really typical?

It was interesting to hear about how, historically, families would arrive for Sunday mass by boat and how it has always symbolized the ‘downtown’ of Giethoorn.

See Related: Most Famous Landmarks in the Netherlands

Learn About Giethoorn’s Past at Museum Giethoorn T Olde Maat Uus

farmhouse styled Museum Giethoorn T Olde Maat Uus across the canal

Address: Binnenpad 52, 8355 BT Giethoorn, Netherlands

The Museum Giethoorn T Olde Maat Uus (say that five times fast) is also in the village center and just across the canal from the church. It is housed in a typical farmhouse renovated to showcase all things Giethoorn.

Exhibits include antique tools, a fisherman’s house, the farmhouse interior, peat cutting, agriculture methods, and more. Many old items are preserved from Giethoorn’s past, and you get even more information from the small film and free tour inside.   

Admire Weerribben Wieden National Park

Address: Oeverweg, Giethoorn, Netherlands

The town of Giethoorn sits right in the center of Weerribben Wieden National Park, explaining how the historic beauty of the place has been so well-preserved. Even the architecture is protected- home renovations will only be approved if they keep with traditional aesthetics.

The national park is all around the village, and many canal cruise tours offer an extended version at certain times to go deeper into the nature preserves. We saw wild storks in their giant nests, which was pretty amazing. As you continue into the farther corners of the canals and lakes, there’s even more to see.

See Related: Rijksmuseum Travel Guide: What to Know When Visiting

Bike Your Way Through the Giethoorn Cycling Routes

If you don’t want to sit still on a boat and walking is just not going to do it for you, don’t forget that you are in the Netherlands – the land of biking. You can rent bicycles at several places around town if you didn’t happen to pack yours.

Locals can inform you about the best paths to take depending on what you want to see. Many trails also go through the national park, which is another way to see the previously-mentioned natural wonders nearby. 

See Related: Best Bike-Friendly Cities in the World

Swimming, Fishing, or Other Activities on Bovenwijde Lake

There are plenty of lakes in the surrounding area, but the main one immediately next to Giethoorn and easily accessible from its canals is Bovenwijde Lake. If you are staying in Giethoorn, many holiday rentals are situated directly on its banks.

You can kayak, boat, fish, swim, or float on this lake. Don’t dive in, as the depth does not surpass three feet or so, even at its deepest point! If you have rented a place with a kitchen and are lucky enough to catch fish, they are safe to cook and eat. The water is clean enough to dip in as it’s tested weekly for quality.

Eat at a Traditional Dutch Restaurant, Canalside

Address: Dominee T.O. Hylkemaweg 15, 8355 CE Giethoorn, Netherlands

If there is ever a place to truly enjoy authentic Dutch food, it has to be in the countryside. Even better, your restaurant of choice in Giethoorn will likely have excellent views of the quiet canals.

We ate at Café Restaurant De Rietstulp, a wonderful little place set a bit back from the main canal. They also offer holiday rentals and canal cruises, and this is who we did our canal cruise with as well. It was just as fantastic as our lunch inside!

Our plates were a traditional Dutch schnitzel and a pulled pork sandwich. Pair them with a Heineken or Amstel, and you have the perfect lunch.

Take a Day Trip to Nearby Steenwijk, Meppel, or Zwolle

range of restaurants serving authentic Dutch meals in Steenwijk-Giethoorn
Image by Sjaak Kempe used under CC Attribution 2.0 Generic license

If you are staying in Giethoorn, you may want to see the other towns nearby; if you are making Giethoorn a day trip, you may as well pass through some of these places on your way in or out after coming all that way. The small and less-traveled towns of Steenwijk, Meppel, and Zwolle are rewarding for the curious traveler looking for a more authentic Dutch scene.

Meppel has a beautiful windmill, and Steenwijk has a history of battle and fortification for war. Zwolle is a bit of a larger city (by countryside standards) and has a lovely old town plus several cool museums.

Catch a Ferry to the West Frisian Islands

This is an off-the-beaten-path thing to do if you have some free time in the Netherlands, as most travelers don’t make it to the country’s islands. Driving a bit north of Giethoorn, you will come to the coast of the North Sea, where several islands lie offshore. 

Texel is the largest of these islands, but the smaller ones are quite similar. They are famous for their giant sand dunes and for being a haven for wildlife like birds and seals. You will find wandering through their trails, biking their few streets, and watching the tide disappear on these peaceful paradises relaxing.

You will need to take a ferry to reach the islands, departing from several places on the northern coast, depending on the island. Confirm with your rental agency that your rental car can go on this journey.

Where to Stay in Giethoorn, the Netherlands

As I mentioned, I would have been happy to stay a night or two in the village rather than drive in and drive out from Amsterdam as most tourists do.

Remember that Giethoorn is small, and the accommodation options are somewhat limited. You won’t find large resorts but there are some wonderful small hotels, guesthouses, and B&Bs that are just right for this destination.

Budget Hotels in Giethoorn

The Black Sheep Hostel

The Black Sheep Hostel at the main  Giethoorn canal
Source: Booking.com

Address: Zuiderpad 19, 8355 CC Giethoorn, Netherlands

If you are on a very tight budget, there is a hostel in Giethoorn. It is located on the main canal and includes free Wi-Fi and parking, as well as boat rental facilities and a restaurant just across the canal. It is also super cool that the building is a traditional Giethoorn house.

Check the Black Sheep Hostel here.

Mid-Range Hotels

Hotel Giethoorn

range of cars parked infront of Hotel Giethoorn's facade, family on boat
Source: Booking.com

Address: Petersteeg 2, 8355 CB Giethoorn, Netherlands

By increasing your budget just a bit, you can stay at this very pleasant hotel with updated rooms and furnishings. Situated directly on the water, all rooms have televisions and guests love the Dutch-style breakfast. Also interesting is that check-in is performed yourself on a kiosk, meaning that while Giethoorn takes you back in time, you still have modern technology here.

Check the Hotel Giethoorn here.

Luxury Hotels in Giethoorn

Hotel de Harmonie

view of Hotel de Harmonie with its veranda overlooking the lake
Source: Booking.com

Address: Beulakerweg 55, 8355 AB Giethoorn, Netherlands

It may not be a luxury hotel by the standards you expect in a major city, but it is one of the best Giethoorn has to offer. That doesn’t mean it’s missing anything important, however. All rooms are spacious with seating areas.

There is a large veranda on the water where you can enjoy the views of the country. Plus, you have boat and bicycle rentals on-site for village exploration. Check the Hotel de Harmonie here.

Vacation Rentals in Giethoorn

3 Bedroom Accommodation in Giethoorn

traditional chalet-styled houses in Giethoorn
Source: VRBO

You’ll find that besides the traditional houses, Giethoorn has a lot of small and newer-looking chalets on the water. These are vacation rentals, and plenty are for vacationers who want a little more space or self-catering amenities. Many of them come with boats or bikes to enjoy the village.

Book this 3 Bedroom Accommodation in Giethoorn here.

How to Get Around Giethoorn, the Netherlands

Note that Giethoorn does not have a train station, and the only form of public transport is some limited buses that run to the nearby village of Steenwijk. And while the main mode of transportation within the villages is by boat, bike, or walking, renting a car to get here is best.

You can fly into Amsterdam on most international airlines as it is a well-connected airport. The airports at Rotterdam and Eindhoven are smaller but great for budget flights from other parts of Europe.

My tip is to use Skyscanner and check the box to search nearby airports. Not only will you be able to see all the airlines and all the prices at once, but the results will also check for cheaper options at the smaller airports that are still relatively close by.

Then, you’ll need a car to get to Giethoorn. I recommend using RentalCars.com or Kayak to search the entire city where you arrived.

Sometimes, it can be cheaper to take a train into town and rent from there rather than pay airport premium location fees, and these sites will help you confirm if that is the case.

Finally, if renting a car is just not an option for you, you aren’t out of luck. There are many day tours like this one departing from Amsterdam to see Giethoorn and even other nearby sites.

Check sites like GetYourGuide and Viator for all the options. If you definitely want to take trains and buses, visit Dutch Railways to see timetables to Steenwijk.

Whether renting a car or getting there yourself, don’t forget to equip yourself with the appropriate travel insurance for anything that could go wrong and get expensive fast. We recommend InsureMyTrip or TravelInsurance.com for inexpensive and customizable plans.

Tours in Giethoorn

1. Private Tour to the Zaanse Schans Windmills and Giethoorn Top Recommendation

Traveling to Amsterdam is one of the best ways to enjoy a vacation. Imagine touring some of the area's most beautiful sites while enjoying your time in the city. Now, imagine doing this with a loved one or group of friends. Let AXA Tours help you create this unforgettable memory with the Private Tour to the Zaanse Schans Windmills and Giethoorn.

2. Giethoorn Sightseeing Tour from Amsterdam

A private sightseeing tour through the Dutch village of Giethoorn. It is the most beautiful village in Holland and a popular tourist destination. During this full day tour, you will visit the village by boat and explore it on foot. You can also rent a rowing boat yourself to discover the surroundings at your own pace!

3. Giethoorn - Venice of the Netherlands - Day Trip from Amsterdam With Boat Trip

Giethoorn is the Venice of the Netherlands. Located in Overijssel, it's a must-see for those who want to see countryside, a beautiful Dutch village and enjoy the atmosphere together with their friends or family. This tour includes an exciting boat trip that will take you through the canals of Giethoorn and its lakes. You'll also enjoy a delicious lunch at one of the many restaurants in Giethoorn.

FAQ

What is the best time of year to visit Giethoorn?

The true tourist season runs from April through October, thanks to the weather. You could visit during the winter months. However, it will be cold, and certain places may be closed. I recommend a visit in late April or May for the best weather, the least crowds, and the ability to do other things in the Netherlands.

Are there windmills in Giethoorn?

There are not any active windmills. However, you can see the remains of some older historic ones that are no longer used. For the best windmills in the Netherlands, I recommend a trip to Kinderdijk. You can see many of these fascinating pieces of Dutch history that are not far from Amsterdam.

Is there anywhere to swim in Giethoorn?

In fact, yes! Our guide told us that locals and tourists enjoy swimming in the large lake Giethoorn sits on during summer. It’s never more than a few feet deep. If you are looking for more of a beach experience, there are several small islands off the coast just to the north of the village.

Why is the skull of a goat the symbol of Giethoorn?

Fun fact: hundreds of years ago, when the area was settled, the first residents found the skeletons of goats stuck in the marshy bogs. In their language, Giet means goat, and Hoorn means horn. Hence, they named their village Giethoorn; this legacy is today in the local flag and other town symbols.

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