Guide to Giethoorn: a fairytale Dutch village

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Guide to Giethoorn: a Dutch village in the Netherlands without roads
Giethorn will take your breath away if you visit in Spring

 

Have you ever dreamt of finding a place where cars aren’t an option? Where everything is green, full of flowers and the air smells good? If you are looking for the perfect place for some digital detox and to unplug from the urban jungle, then we found it for you. Giethoorn is a Dutch village that will make you feel like stepping into a fairytale: a must see if you are visiting The Netherlands and also a great option for a day trip from Amsterdam.

 

Giethoorn is one of those idyllic and wonderful places … that was always in my feed on Instagram and Facebook as I was planning our trip to The Netherlands. We were going to rent a car, and because we decided not only to explore Amsterdam, but also to try a real road trip in the Netherlands, we decided to ad Giethoorn to our itinerary. We really wanted to see if it’s worth the trip or if it was yet another Instagram scam. After all, how many times have we visited a beautiful place found online, than in the end looked just plain and dull?

 

Guide to Giethoorn: a Dutch village in the Netherlands without roads
Even if tourism has picked up, Giethoorn hasn’t changed one bit

 

How do I reach Giethoorn?

You can get from Amsterdam to Giethoorn by train, from the Amsterdam-Zuid station, to Steenwijk. There you need to hop on bus number 70 to reach Blauwe Hand, the closest stop to get to Giethoorn. During the peak 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 might have to leave it behind for this day trip from Amsterdam… unless you’re able to ride it for 118 km … and back (my legs hurt just by writing this)!
We reached Giethoorn by car in less than two hours. The scenic A6 road to Emmeloord is generally busy in the Amsterdam outskirts, 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! If you are looking for Dutch instagrammable spots, then make sure you take your time on this road, because you will definitely stop a lot!

 

What is the best time to visit Giethoorn?

The best season to visit Giethoorn, the Dutch “Venice of the North” is Spring, when it’s full of blooming shrubs that will give you that fairytale village vibe. The Dutch have a green thumb, while on the contrary I’m unable also to take care of a succulent. Al, on the other hand, loves gardening, and 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 is a great idea. Don’t be discouraged if you all you can see are the clouds! During our trip to the Netherlands it was raining for at least one hour every afternoon, but the sun kept on shining for the rest of the day: good enough for us. In case you still feel a bit discouraged, know that having too much sun won’t improve your pictures. The harsh light is in fact considered to be the worst from many professional photographers. So a few clouds won’t ruin your trip!

 

Guide to Giethoorn: a fairytale village in the Netherlands without roads
The best way to experience Giethoorn is walking around and enjoying yourself

 

What to expect from this Dutch village

Located within the De Wieden nature preserve, in the Dutch province of Overijssel, Giethoorn is a small Dutch village that you can only explore by foot or by boat. It is of course possible to use your bicycle to explore the outskirts of the village, but it’s really up to you. We have reached Giethoorn using a car and walked to the village center: walking in what looks like a fairytale location is priceless.
We left our 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. And… we filled our backpack to the brink of something that the Duch absolutely love: licorice. Perhaps you didn’t know it, but in the Netherlands people eat a lot of licorice. We even got to taste the salty licorice that we read about, and that we don’t have in our stores in Italy. It doesn’t taste terrible, but it’s definitely different from what you might be used to.
Anyway every store in The Netherlands has a huge licorice selection. If you are looking to try some “weird” ones or if you want a nice snack for your day trip, the supermarket near Giethoorn is a good place to go to!

 

Guide to Giethoorn: a Magical village in the Netherlands without roads
Many people choose to book a canal cruise – there are local companies offering all sorts of deals in Giethoorn

 

 

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 area that was used mostly for trading peat. Once they settled, they started to build a dense network of channels, the same one we can see today in Giethoorn. This Venice of the North has over 180 small bridges, and is inhabited by about 2600 people. Unlike other places, ruined by the mass tourism, Giethoorn hasn’t become some kind of Disneyworld in the Netherlands, but has remained faithful to its traditions: it still is a silent, peaceful and green place, deliberately shielded by the chaos of the bigger cities. The perfect location for all of those who want to unplug, maybe looking for some digital detox.

 

Guide to Giethoorn: a Magical village in the Netherlands without roads
A good option for lunch could be a picnic, especially if the weather is good!

 

Things to do in Giethoorn

Like in many other cities in the Netherlands, in Giethoorn you can also rent a boat or buy a ticket for a cruise on the canals. There are many local cruising companies that offer different cruises. If you want to find the best deal, either have a good look around, to make sure you check all the prices, or book one in advance, to be able to check the online reviews! You should be able to find the most convenient offer for you in terms of time and money.

If you decide to just have a walk around this fairytale village, enjoying your day and relaxing, the main route you can choose is the Binnenpad. It’s also the most colorful and instagrammable one. On this street you will be able to see some of the cutest houses (and gardens). Most of the cutest pictures I have found online of Giethoorn were shot from here!
Because there are many benches, the Binnenpad is perfect for those who are planning a nice pic-nic in the Dutch countryside. Once again, the supermarket is not too far away, so you can buy some sandwiches and have lunch in the shade, without having to bring your stuff all the way from Amsterdam.

 

Guide to Giethoorn: a Magical village in the Netherlands without roads
Take pictures from the bridges or from the main street: intruding into someone else’s garden isn’t cool!

 

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 and 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.

In case you want to stay for the night (how can we blame you?), near the Binnenpad there is a really tiny hotel (only 14 rooms!), the Hotel Giethoorn. I’m not sure how safe it is to go for an unplanned stay because they are so small, so if you aren’t going to risk it, maybe it’s better to book your room in advance.

It’s always good to remember to be respectful to the locals: don’t litter and don’t walk in someone else’s house just to take pictures (sadly enough, it happens a lot in The Netherlands)!

 

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A useful guide to Giethoorn, a Dutch fairytale village, also called the Venice of the North. Info on how to get there, what to do, what to eat and where to find lodging in case you want to treat yourself to a very relaxing weekend in The Netherlands! | #Giethoorn #Dutch #Europe #TheNetherlands

73 Comments

  1. Rachana Kadikar

    Hi Danila!
    I am going to Amsterdam for the first time in two days and soo excited. I have heard a lot about Giethoorn and have planned a day trip. We wanted to rent a car and go at our own pace so we can enjoy the country side as well. Is there any particular route that you would recommend to go to Giethoorn from Amsterdam? I would really appreciate your input on this.
    Thanks!

    1. Ciao Rachana! A day trip from Amsterdam to Giethoorn sounds lovely! And I approve of renting a car to explore a bit the area, we absolutely loved it! As for the road, once you get out of Amsterdam, follow the A6 to Emmeloord, and from there a few smaller roads. It isn’t difficult but maybe this Google maps itinerary will help: https://bit.ly/2Hy1H33
      Have a safe trip and let me know how you liked the Netherlands when you get back! Me and my husband fell in LOVE with the country!

  2. 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!

  3. 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!

  4. 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!

  5. 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.

  6. 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

  7. 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!

  8. 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. 🙂

  9. 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!

  10. 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!

  11. 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.

  12. 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!

  13. 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!

  14. 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.

  15. 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

  16. 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!

  17. 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!

  18. 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!

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