Guide to Giethoorn: a Magical village in the Netherlands without roads

This post is also available in: Italiano (Italian)

Guide to Giethoorn: a Magical village in the Netherlands without roads


Giethoorn is one of those idyllic and wonderful places … that continued to appear in my feed on Instagram and Facebook as I was planning our trip to Holland. Since we were going to rent a car, and because we decided not only to stay in Amsterdam, but also to try real road trip to the Netherlands, we decided to go and check ourselves. It really didn’t seem possible that this magical village really existed. Us being us, always wary of click bait stuff online, we wanted to investigate.
… and then for Aldo every excuse is a good one to just drive around, so why not!


Guide to Giethoorn: a Magical village in the Netherlands without roads


How do I reach Giethoorn?

It is possible to reach Giethoorn from Amsterdam by train, from the Amsterdam-Zuid station, to Steenwijk. There you need to take bus number 70 to reach Blauwe Hand, the closest stop to get to Giethoorn. During high season you can also use bus 249 to get to Giethoorn: it also works on the weekends. The whole trip takes just over two hours. If you rented a bicycle, you will want to leave it at your hotel this time, unless you’re able to cycle for 118 km … and back!
We reached Giethoorn by car in about two hours. The scenic road is busy only around Amsterdam, but the rest of the journey was smooth and pleasant, between green meadows and a landscape dotted with flowers and windmills: the perfect postcard from the Netherlands!


What is the best season to visit Giethoorn?

The best season to visit this small village on the water is Spring, when it is full of colorful flowers that decorate flowerbeds and gardens. The Dutch have a green thumb, while I … don’t. Aldo, on the other hand, loves gardening, but can’t reach the Dutch perfection: he spent the whole trip wondering what magic they use in the Netherlands to have such beautiful gardens!

Since the Dutch climate is always variable, carrying a foldable raincoat in your backpack would be a great idea. Don’t be discouraged if you have to see the clouds! During our trip it was raining for at least an hour every afternoon, but the sun continued to shine for the rest of the time and this certainly didn’t stop us!


Guide to Giethoorn: a Magical village in the Netherlands without roads


Located within the De Wieden nature preserve, in the Dutch province of Overijessel, Giethoorn is a small piece of the Netherlands where you can only explore by foot or by boat. It is possible to use your bicycle to explore a bit, and you can definitely cycle around the perimeter of the village.
We left the car in an open lot in front of a small supermarket. Once there, of course, we decided to go in to buy a bottle of water. We were also tempted by a snack absolutely loved by the Dutch: licorice. Perhaps you didn’t know it, but in the Netherlands people eat a lot of licorice, of all shapes and flavours. Here we finally tasted the salty liquorice, almost completely unknown in Italy. They didn’t taste as terrible as we feared, but we still prefer the sweet one!


Guide to Giethoorn: a Magical village in the Netherlands without roads



The village of Giethoorn was founded in 1230 by a Protestant religious group, the Flagellants, whose members, in order to escape the persecution, decided to take refuge in this watertight area, exploited mainly for the transport and trade of peat. That’s how they created the dense network of channels that makes Giethoorn the beautiful place we know today. In this village, crossed by over 180 small bridges, live about 2600 people. Despite the massive tourism waves, especially from China, the village hasn’t become some kind of Disneyworld in the Netherlands, but has remained faithful to the original idea: a silent, peaceful and greenplace, deliberately shielded by the chaos of the bigger cities.


Guide to Giethoorn: a Magical village in the Netherlands without roads


Things to do in Giethoorn

Like in many other cities in the Netherlands, at Giethoorn you can also rent a boat or buy a ticket for a cruise on the canals. There are many local companies that offer various types of cruises, so it’s better to have a good look around at the prices to understand what is the most convenient offer for you in terms of time and money.

If you choose to explore the picturesque village of Giethoorn by foot, the main route is the Binnenpad, the most colorful one, through which you can see some of the cutest houses (and gardens). There are many benches that you could use to have lunch or a snack – licorice, in our case – but the path is also interesting because it lets you photograph the beautiful houses on the water. Do you remember the photos I told you about, extremely popular ones on Facebook and Instagram? Well, they’ve probablu been taken from the Binnenpad!


Guide to Giethoorn: a Magical village in the Netherlands without roads


Best local restaurants and eateries in Giethoorn

The village is very small but there are still some nice restaurants where you can eat, mainly on the Binnenpad. Specifically, the restaurant Fratelli serves Italian dishes – it’s really pretty inside! The restaurant De Grachthof serves charbroiled meat, salads and delicious cheese platters, while the Grand Café Fanfare offers a very rich and colorful seasonal menu.

Not far from the Binnenpad there is also a really small hotel (only 14 rooms!), the Hotel Giethoorn, if you decide to spend the night in Giethoorn.


It’s always good to remember to be respectful to the locals: don’t litter and don’t intrude in someone else’s house just to take pictures! These are, after all, the basic rules of the “good traveler”!


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Guide to Giethoorn: a Magical village in the Netherlands without roads


  1. Tom

    This place looks truly magical, or right out of a fairy tale! The one thing we really love about the Netherlands are the many waterways. It must be fantastic to live in a town without cars as well!

  2. You are right, their gardens ARE amazing! We have one crazy storm in Wisconsin, in the US and we have to spend all summer attempting to revive our plants and flowers… we have a pretty rough time over here too! I love that you can only travel by foot and boat; what a great way to really take in the lovely town!

    1. Here in the South of Italy it’s the heat waves that kill every plant in the Summer! It hasn’t been raining for months and as much as you water them, they just can’t resist the weather! Honestly the flowers and the gardens in the Netherlands had me in awe! And I loved that in some areas each had its own scene or style, from the gnomes to the fairy gardens, to sculptures, horses… how beautiful!

  3. RaW | Ramble and Wander

    I’m hooked and sold the moment I saw the first photo! And I’ve already pinned this post for my reference for my next trip to the Netherlands. I’ve only been to Amsterdam and Delft before so this would definitely be something different! Thanks for the guide!

  4. Valerie Ferguson

    Dany, your photos are absolutely stunning! I’d never heard of Giethoorn, but now I’m completely inspired to go next time I’m planning a trip to the Netherlands. Thanks so much for all your great travel advice

  5. Joella

    What a beautiful little town. I think I would like to find a way to explore it by boat as well as land. I now need an excuse to ravel to the Netherlands just so I can go see this for myself.

  6. Sherrie Fabrizi Allbritten

    I too have seen this on my instagram feed as was wondering about it. Thanks for writing this blog, I would love to go this village for myself, it looks so wonderful!

  7. Anna Schlaht

    Giethoorn looks like something out of a dream … or a fairy tale story with watercolor illustrations. Definitely putting this on our list of places to visit when we finally hit the Netherlands! That two hour drive would be totally worth it. 🙂 I love all the little bridges!

  8. Jennifer

    I love salted licorice and lived off of it while I was in the Netherlands. It’s expensive at home, so I definitely got my fill there. This village is so magical! I would love to boat around on the canals totally relaxing.

  9. Susan R

    This village looks so charming! So do all the locals have their own boats? I never knew that the Dutch like liquorice, maybe I’ll try the salty version in October when I visit!

  10. Angela @ Dang Travelers

    Will you just look at this place! I’ve never heard of it, but it’s on my future travel list now. Sounds like a great place to get off the beaten path and explore. Thanks for sharing!

  11. Punita Malhotra

    When we visited Holland a few years back, places like Giethoorn, Utrecht and Harlem were not so much talked about, and we missed them. Next time we go to that part of Europe, I know which places I’m not missing. 🙂

  12. Amélie

    What a cute place! I wonder how convenient it is for the local to get to work in the morning for example? Also, I’m a little mortified that you have to specify that people shouldn’t walk into people’s home hahah! Has this been done? What is wrong with people LOLL

    1. I don’t think they’re overly bothered by it, considering that in the Netherlands boating is very common! And gosh, yes! There were reports of tourists trespassing in Rotterdam, Amsterdam and even Sausalito (California). People don’t get that there’s someone living in the cute boat so they just walk in and start taking pictures. Then they complain that sometimes the locals get bored with tourists… I wonder why!

  13. Christopher

    The only thing I regret about the Netherlands was not leaving Amsterdam. I love Amsterdam but I would of loved to of visited this place. It really does look magical. Does it become magical after spending time in a “coffee shop” or is it naturally this beautiful hee hee

  14. Sandy N Vyjay

    I can scarce believe that such a place like Giethoorn exists! It looks like it has emerged straight from the realms of an artist’s imagination or from the pages of a fairy tale book.Definitely a place to look beyond Amsterdam and the tulips in Holland.

  15. Edith & Juan

    This village is so picture perfect! I’ve never heard of it but I need to remember it so I can go when I visit Netherlands. It reminds me a little of the Venice Canals in California but probably 1,000 times nicer haha!

  16. Megan Jerrard

    Giethoorn sounds like the most charming village ever! And wow, what a rich cultural heritage too. Thanks for the tip to travel with a raincoat, I actually find clouds make for more dramatic photos anyway 😀 I would love to take a boat ride through the canals, and then head for a bit of exploring on foot through Binnenpad – this is my new #1 destination to get to in Europe next!

  17. Jenn and Ed Coleman

    Wow, Giethoorn is amazingly beautiful, but I would definitely take my bike. Much of the wetlands is only accessible by bike. The cycle path along the Kalenbergergracht takes you straight through National Park De Weerribben. I would love to tour the Venice of the North by bike. Your pictures are most inspiring. Thank you for an amazing piece!

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