If you haven’t heard, one of the dreamiest places in Europe is found in the Netherlands. This place is called Giethoorn Village and is located in the province of Overijssel, around 120 km northwest of Amsterdam. And in case you didn’t know, Dutch families see to it that they visit Giethoorn for a holiday at least once in their lifetime. A day trip to Giethoorn is a popular activity amongst the Dutch for three practical reasons – it is easy to reach, enchanting any time of the year, and promises complete relaxation.
The day trip to Giethoorn it’s also as popular for travelers visiting the Netherlands, too. So, if you’re planning a visit to the land of windmills, tulips, and canals, don’t miss including this fairy Dutch village in your Netherlands itinerary.
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This village dates back to the 14th century as a farming community or as early as 1230 when the first settlers arrived. The name, pronounced something like hate-horn, came from the Dutch word “geytenhoren”, which means “goat horns” after the earliest settlers discovered goat horns buried in mud.
Giethoorn is a functioning village, which means people actually live here. The town is home to more than 2,000 residents, eager to share their beautiful village with over 200,000 tourists who come here each year.
This quaint Dutch village is known as the “Venice of the North” for its lovely canals and fairy-tale-like atmosphere. The town is famous for not having proper roads – indeed, the village is super dependent on its waterways, which are the only way to reach some of the houses. Giethoorn is free of car noises and smokes that bug you every day in the big city.
A day trip to Giethoorn
Although Giethoorn deserves more of your time, the village is tiny and easy to navigate on a boat, bicycle, or on foot in one day.
Giethoorn has a lot to offer, its sights are amazing and the experiences are unique. But if you must visit for just a day, here’s the best way to do it:
The best way to explore this medieval town is by going on a boat tour. When you arrive, make your way to one of the many car park areas you can use for free. They are not difficult to find. Once you’ve parked, you can begin your unique Giethoorn day trip experience on foot.
There is one main walking route that is only accessible by foot. You can walk to the cafés, shops, and restaurants along the canals. From here, you can look for a boat to rent for the entire day.
How to spend one day in Giethoorn
There are different boat types to choose from. The most popular type is the whisper boat, which is red in color, so they are easy to spot. They are called whisper boats because they run on silent electric motors.
The pedal boat is popular amongst families and couples on a date. As its name suggests, this boat runs on the power of your feet, which is great because you control where to go and how fast.
Others love to glide Giethoorn’s waterways on a canoe. This is the simplest and most traditional way to go, but make sure you know how to paddle a canoe.
Then there are guided tours and cruises. If you wish to simply relax and enjoy the ride, look for one of the many cruises offered by hotels, companies, or residents. There are big cruises if you are visiting with your family or friends. Some boat tours come with picnic ideas, as there are lovely picnic spots along the canals.
If you decide not to get a guide or boatman, driving a boat on your own is quite easy and straightforward. Don’t be surprised to see that most of the boats cruising along the canals are captained by tourists like you. The boats move very slowly and with a rubber exterior to keep you safe and comfortable without risking damage.
After seeing the beauty of Giethoorn on water, it’s time to visit the museums to appreciate the village better. If you arrived on a rainy day, your day trip to Giethoorn could still be as memorable, interesting, and enchanting when you check out the museums.
There are three amazing museums that are not far from each other. It won’t take long for you to see all three.
Het Olde Maat Uus is the most popular and should be your first stop. Here, you will see a traditional farmhouse and experience how the Dutch lived in this part of the country hundreds of years ago. You will also learn about the history of Giethoorn as you interact with the staff.
Museum de Oude Aarde is quite unique. Here you will see different types of minerals, jewels, and gemstones, many of which you didn’t even know existed. Enjoy seeing all things shiny and learn about them from the museum owner himself. De Oude Aarde also boasts of housing the biggest egg in the world.
Gloria Maris Schelpengalerie, on the other hand, focuses on shells, corals, and many more objects from the sea. They have a shop where you can buy sea-inspired clothes, jewelry, and home goods.
Take a quick lunch break
Grab a hearty lunch in one of the many restaurants in Giethoorn. For fine dining, go to De Lindenhof, which is known for its two Michelin-starred chefs, Martin Kruithof, one of the best chefs here. Meanwhile, eating on the large lounge terrace of De Grachthof Restaurant Bootverhuur while watching the boats gliding along the canals is quite an experience.
On the other hand, Het Wapen van Giethoorn or the Coat of Arms of Giethoorn is a café-restaurant that doubles as a popular shop that sells interesting souvenirs. This restaurant is well-loved for its coffees, delicious cakes, wines, and specialty beers.
Located in the heart of the village is Café-Restaurant Smit. Come here when on a budget. Try their chicken salad with feta cheese, bacon, nuts, cherry tomatoes, and grapes with yogurt dressing. This place also offers homely cottages if you wish to stay for longer in Giethoorn.
Finally, try De Landije van Giethoorn’s lunch served an old pear tree if you prefer casual dining. Sample their delicious pastry and fresh home-grown vegetables.
Time with nature
Cap your day trip to Giethoorn with a visit to the nearby National Park Weerribben-Wieden. This is one of the most mysterious and popular nature reserves in the Netherlands. The park is most popular in summer when the flowers are in full bloom.
Weerribben-Wieden National Park is the largest fen wetland in this part of Europe, composed of lakes, ponds, and canals. Its calm, open water gives life to all kinds of water plants, such as water gentian, frog bite, or crab shear, as well as exciting swamp life that includes birds, insects, and otters.
Here you can rent a boat to explore the swamps or enjoy a lovely hike on the Silent Kiersche Wijde Route to enjoy the beauty of nature. Keep your eyes open for otters, black terns, great cormorants, and egrets.
If you wish to stay in Giethoorn and refuse to visit Weerribben-Wieden National Park, you can still treat yourself to a special time with nature. Go on a hike in Giethoorn’s 15-km long Walking Route. You definitely will not regret strolling along the lovely canals and farmhouses.
See old thatched-roof farmhouses, well-trimmed farms, meadows of flowers, medieval cottages, and wooden arch bridges. Some of the farms have been transformed into small B&Bs, restaurants, or shops, where you can enjoy dining, shopping, or spending the night.
The route will take you through the polder landscape and to the water village of Dwarsgracht. Make your way back to the village through the lake de Beulakerwijde.
If hiking is not for you and you wish to go around in style, rent an e-chopper or electric scooter. You can rent this for half a day or all day to see the entire village. You can even drive it to nearby Sint-Jansklooster, Blokzijl, Kalenberg and Steenwijk.
Seeing all these local attractions will allow you to make the most out of your visit.
When is the best time to visit Giethoorn?
Come for a day trip to Giethoorn in April, May, June, or September when there are not many tourists. Also, try planning your trip during the weekdays, when the village is quieter and the residents naturally go about their day-to-day activities. Weekends can be too busy and crowded and with many tourists competing to get a boat. If you feel one day is not enough, there are several hotels, B&Bs, and boathouses to stay in.
There are many affordable yet lovely boathouses with amazing views you can try. For example, check out Tiny Hanzeboat, a 3-star accommodation that includes a kitchen, living room, and refrigerator. It is located on the waters of Giethoorn. Also, Bed-on-a-Boat is a budget Giethoorn boathouse for rent, with a terrace and amazing views of the lake. This boathouse has a private parking space, free Wi-Fi, a kitchenette, a dining area, and a flat-screen TV. From here, it is easy to go hiking, cycling, canoeing, or fishing whenever you fancy.
How to get to Giethoorn from Amsterdam
The fastest way to get to Giethoorn from Amsterdam is to rent a car and drive all the way. You could also take the train to Zwolle and then rent a vehicle from there.
If you prefer public transportation, take the train from Amsterdam Centraal Station to Steenwijk and from there hop on Bus 70 going to the Dominee Hylkemaweg stop for 4 euros. From here, Giethoorn is just ten more minutes away on foot.
Traveling by train and bus will take about 2 hours in total.
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