A Day In Giethoorn, Netherlands

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This post is by Spencer Hart.

Located in the Overijssel province of the Netherlands, the village of Giethoorn is full of canals and centuries-old thatched-roof cottages, giving it the nickname “Venice of the North”. Cars are virtually non-existent here, with locals getting around by bike, walking or boating along the waterways. In short, the village is a throwback to a bygone era. Here is how best to spend a day in Giethoorn.

Why Visit Giethoorn

Giethoorn is famous for the network of canals that crisscross it, making boat travel the primary mode of transportation. Its unique layout, dating back to the 13th century, was shaped by peat mining, which resulted in the creation of countless lakes and canals. Much of its architecture, including its bridges, thatched-roof farmhouses and buildings, has retained its traditional style.

Canal with grassy banks and trees. There is a house on one side, a bridge across the water and a small boat with two people in it.
A peaceful canal in Giethoorn (Image by 3345557 from Pixabay)

The village’s tranquil atmosphere makes a pleasant change from the frenzied pace of Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Eindhoven. Fascinating institutions like the Museum De Oude Aarde and Giethoorn Museum reveal its history and cultural side. At the same time, several cafés and restaurants showcase the region’s culinary flair.

What To See In Giethoorn

Whilst one day in Giethoorn isn’t nearly enough time to experience the full magic of the place, it will at least give you a taste of its charm. Here is what you should prioritise seeing and doing whilst you are there.

Boat Tours

The best way to experience Giethoorn is on a guided canal tour. Led by knowledgeable locals, you’ll gain insights into the village’s history, architecture and natural beauty. Alternatively, you can rent a whisper boat – an electric, noiseless boat – and navigate the waterways at your own pace.

Spend some time on the water during your day in Giethoorn - here we have two boats in a canal passing a large house on the grassy bank
On the water in Giethoorn (Image by Sơn Nguyễn Đình from Pixabay)

Along the waterways, arched bridges adorned with blooming flowers, quaint cafés on the banks and swans gracefully wading by are just some of the things you’ll see.

Museum De Oude Aarde (Museum Of Earth)

Museum de Oude Aarde is a must-visit destination for those interested in the Earth’s history and geology. It contains an extensive collection of gemstones, minerals, fossils and rare crystals from around the world.

The museum opened in 1969 and its main highlights are fluorescent minerals that glow in vibrant hues under UV light and the amethyst geode, a crystalline wonder. Visitors can also see jewellery and sculptures crafted from precious gems and browse for gifts at the on site shop.

Giethoorn Museum

Housed within a traditional farmhouse, the Giethoorn Museum exhibits the history and culture of the village. Its displays include artefacts, photographs and objects that portray Giethoorn’s evolution from a peat excavation site to its present-day canal-rich landscape. Expect to see traditional costumes, tools, and handicrafts that depict the local lifestyle.

The museum has also recreated an old-time classroom, which offers insight into bygone educational methods. And visitors can admire vintage boat models and images illustrating the village’s water heritage.

Nature Reserves

Giethoorn is surrounded by pristine nature reserves, making it a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts. De Wieden and De Weerribben are two such destinations that offer opportunities for hiking, cycling, and birdwatching.

The De Wieden Nature Reserve features serene waterways and wildflower-strewn meadows. Here you might catch sight of otters gliding through the water. At De Weerribben, you’ll find lush wetlands, tranquil lakes, and reed-covered marshes. Keep an eye out for herons, kingfishers and rare marsh harriers. 

Dine At Eetcafé Giethoorn

The village has an excellent selection of cafés and eateries, and Eetcafé Giethoorn is among the best. It is adjacent to the Museum de Oude Aarde and is well known for its grilled meats and upscale traditional Dutch fare.

Long pleasure boat in a canal. On one side of the canal is a restaurant with tables and chairs outside. On the other side is a house with garden full of flowers
A classic view of Giethoorn (Image by PublicDomainPictures from Pixabay)

How To Spend A Day In Giethoorn

Giethoorn is an easy destination for day-trippers. If you’re travelling from Amsterdam, take a train to Steenwijk and then use a local bus to reach Giethoorn. However, if you prefer driving, rental cars are available. But remember you won’t be allowed to take them into the village.

Once you arrive in Giethoorn, renting a boat or opting for guided boat tours is the best way to explore the village’s waterways and immerse yourself in its charm. Alternatively, you can cycle or walk along well-defined paths.

Whilst in Giethoorn, it is important to respect the environment. Its residents proudly maintain the village’s pristine beauty, so dispose of waste properly. Likewise, keep noise to a minimum. Giethoorn’s peaceful atmosphere is what makes it so unique and special. So don’t disturb it.

Unfortunately, Giethoorn can be popular with visitors. To maximise your time there, try to ensure you are there early in the morning or after 5 pm to avoid the crowds.

Spencer is a freelance travel writer with over 20 years experience producing written content for tourism-related businesses. An ex-pat Brit who now lives on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, he has visited over 40 countries in the world, but cites Miami Beach in the USA and Palm Cove in Australia as his favourite travel destinations.

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