Giethoorn – the Dutch village entirely made out of canals
In a land far, far away (well, not that far, it’s just an hour outside Amsterdam) is a village where time seems to have stood still. With no cars, coaches or any engine aside from the gentle humming of the odd motorised punt, Giethoorn is truly a dream come true. It’s flanked by traditional Dutch farmhouses with thatched roofs and blooming tulip copses, and moves to the rhythm of the local duck gang persistent’s quacking. Must I really go on with these superlatives, or do you understand by now that a day trip to Giethoorn, located in Weerribben-Wieden National Park, is an absolute must if you are visiting the Netherlands?
Unfortunately, it was overcast and drizzly when I arrived in this so-called “Venice of the Netherlands” on a cold, overcast April day; but the enchantment I felt as I strolled along the narrow canals vastly made up for the mildly inconvenient weather conditions.
Why you should plan a day trip to Giethoorn
So, this is actually a village without roads? That is correct. But how could this be?
Back in the 18th century, Giethoorn was a settlement of peat harvesters. Peat cutting naturally forced the creation of lakes, ponds, and with a bit of imagination and rudimentary urban planning, canals. Residents built farmhouses on the islands created in the process and moved around in punts and on foot—and very much still do so to this day, with the added option of bicycles, using one of the 176 wooden bridges.
Nowadays, the village is pretty much intact, with little signs of modern civilisation. There is plenty to do in the area to keep yourself busy for a day, be it walking a heritage route, renting a bike, hopping on a canal cruise (€6 to €12 per tour per person; no need to book far in advance, there are plenty of walk-in options) dining at a Michelin-starred restaurant or simply admiring the view from one of the many waterfront cafés.
How to get to Giethoorn and when to go
Although I’m sure Giethoorn is gorgeous year-round, as with the rest of Holland I would recommend visiting mid-spring when the flowers are in full bloom.
I drove to Giethoorn from Amsterdam, where I hired a car for the day. I wanted to be at liberty with my schedule that day with the option of stopping in tulip fields along the way as I visited in April. Once you are there, park in the nearby car park outside the village and then you can easily book a boat tour.
I wouldn’t recommend going independently by rail or bus from Amsterdam as it would be an unnecessarily lengthy journey (roughly three hours one-way).
If you can’t be bothered to drive, there are a number of guided tours departing from central Amsterdam stopping in Giethoorn throughout the year:
- Giethoorn day trip from Amsterdam including boat tour
- Small-group Giethoorn day trip from Amsterdam
- Giethoorn and Zaanse Schans windmills small-group day trip from Amsterdam