Canals and authentic roof thatched houses, doesn’t this sound romantic? Giethoorn is small village in the Northern part of the Netherlands, and they sometimes even call this village ’The little Venice of the Netherlands’. There are about 90 waterways and about 180 bridges, while there are as little as 2800 inhabitants in Giethoorn. ‘The village with no roads’ does have some roads and car parks, but most of the village is only reachable by footpath or canal.
To get you around the village there are a few footpaths. Those same footpaths are also used for bikes. But to be honestly, I felt a little annoyed walking around at the footpaths and bikers trying to pass on the small paths or bridges. So I recommend walking around. The main walking strip is near the free car park and there are shops, cafes and restaurants.
Although it is a lovely village to explore on foot, the best way to get around is by boat. It was a lovely Sunday in June when we arrived, so unfortunately we couldn’t rent a boat a go around the channels ourselves, as they were all rented. If you really want to rent a boat, make sure you make a reservation in advance! The boat rental and boat tours are found on the main walking strip.
Instead of a boat rental, we took a boat tour, so we got to know a little more about history of the village and area. The boat called as a ‘whisper boat’ or ‘silence boat’, because the electric engine of these boats are very quiet. This tour took about an hour and the guide was telling a lot about the history. It’s also interesting to see the village from another perspective; the water.
It was super busy at the water! We even had a traffic jam of boats in the canals. Some (local) tourists do not know how to handle a boat, so some had some issues to navigate around. But as soon as you leave the main canal it is less crowed and I found it really enjoyable! The gardens of the houses were well maintained and has so many colorful flowers in it!
Back in days they used boats which called ‘Punters’. These flat-bottomed boats with a square-cut bow are designed to use in shallow waters and small canals. To steer them you use a ‘punt polo’ which is a big pole and is used by pushing it against the river bed to move forwards. Because you have to stand to steer these punter boats, the bridges over the canals in Giethoorn are high enough so the people who steer the boat won’t bump their heads.
Take a boat tour or rent a boat and hit the canals yourself. Another option is to rent a kayak. The advantage of a boat tour is that you can learn more about the history of the village, sit back, listen and enjoy the scenery from the water. The boats are covered so if it’s a sunny day you don’t have to worry about getting a sunburn and on a rainy day you still get to enjoy the scenery without getting wet. Cost for a one hour boat tour: 7 Euros.
If you arrive by car, you can perk your car at one of the free parking lots at the entrances of the village. From there you just walk to the village. It’s small so it’s a short walk. Just follow the main walking stripe, cross the lovely bridges and have look at the cute roof thatches house. What I really enjoyed was the gardens of the houses. They were in full bloom and therefor very colorful!
Along the main walking strip there are a lot of restaurants and cafes to get some traditional food of the Netherlands. Try ‘kroket met brood’, this is a fried meat croquette which you eat with mustard on a slice of bread. For lunch, I can recommend ‘old Amsterdam sandwich'. But in one of the souvenir shop you can buy some cheese to take home with you.
In the Winter season I recommend to take a pea soup; Snert. This is a tradition soup with boiled pea's, including some other vegetables. There will be a tradition smoked sausage, cut in slices. This is called 'rookworst'.
There is one museum which is interesting to visit. Museum Giethoorn ’t Olde Maat Uus tells stories about the history of Giethoorn and you get to see a local house from the inside. The entrance of the museum is 6,50 Euros.
To enjoy Giethoorn a little more, it’s a good idea to spend a night or 2 in this cute village. There are a few B&B where you get to stay in a traditional roof thatched home, which gives you more insight of the Dutch culture. Beside that, when the one-day tour groups are gone after 3PM or so, the village will be more quiet.
There is not a specific best time of the year to visit Giethoorn, but try to avoid a rainy day. The first time I visited Giethoorn must be at the age of 6 or so. I was super young. All I knew about this day was that we have to sit on in boat and I couldn’t see outside as it was pouring down. Even thought it was dry inside, it wasn’t that much fun.
I’d say May until September is a good period, as there will be colorful flowers in the garden.
Try to avoid the weekend, as they get more crowded with local tourists on top of tourists.
- The easiest way is to go by car. You can park your car at one of the many parking lots just outside the village, from there you can continue walking to the center of the village. There are many options to rent a boat at that point.
Cost: Free of charge
- Check 9292ov.nl if you want to use public transport. From Amsterdam, it will take you about 2 - 2,5 hours to get to Giethoorn.
- If you don’t want to take the public transport and you don’t own a car or have the possibility to rent a car - then a tour is your best option. The advantage of a day tour is that you don’t have to worry about anything. You just follow your guide and it will be an interesting and hassle-free day.