This Storybook Village Is Called the 'Venice of the Netherlands' — and It's the Perfect Day Trip From Amsterdam
Scenic boat rides along the canals, strolling, and cycling awaits in Giethoorn.
The word enchanting tends to get thrown around a lot. But some destinations really do fit that description. Insert: Giethoorn. One of the most beautiful towns in the world, this tiny treasure in the northeastern Dutch province of Overijssel shows off hand-dug canals that have earned it the nickname the "Venice of the Netherlands." Adding to the charm are 176 bridges, thatched-roof houses dating back to the 18th century, and leafy pathways.
This storybook village is home to less than 2,800 residents, but that number swells with day trippers. So, how do all those people get around? Certainly not cars, as motor vehicles have no place in a fairy tale. Sailing, walking, and cycling are the preferred modes of transport for locals and the one million tourists who visit annually.
Here's how to plan a picture-perfect trip to Giethoorn.
Getting to Giethoorn
For most travelers, Amsterdam is the jumping-off point for seeing the rest of the Netherlands. Assuming you’re staying in the country’s capital, it’s under a two-hour drive to Giethoorn. Prefer public transport over renting a car? Hop on the train from Amsterdam Central Station to Zwolle or Steenwijk, then switch to the number 70 bus to the Dominee Hylkemaweg stop.
Best Things to Do in Giethoorn
Unsurprisingly, the canals here are a huge draw. Most tourists come with the intention of going for a sail — after all, it’s the most scenic way to soak in all the beauty. That means major demand for boats, especially during the peak summer months. With that in mind, it’s recommended to reserve a vessel (no, you don’t need a license to play captain for the day), arrange a guided tour, or book tickets on a group cruise in advance. Come winter, you can actually go ice skating on the frozen waterways.
It’s quite lovely to explore on land, too. True to tradition in the Netherlands, Giethoorn has both cycling and strolling paths, including a 9.5-mile walking route that runs through the village and countryside. Many visitors choose a canoe excursion to see the lakes, ponds, reed beds, and peatlands in the neighboring Weerribben-Wieden National Park. There’s also an idyllic hike called the Silent Kiersche Wijde Route.
While it’s tempting to spend the entire day outside, it’s worth checking out a museum or two. Museum Giethoorn ‘t Olde Maat Uus brings history to life through letters, images, and a traditional Gieterse farmhouse. Fans of fossils and minerals will enjoy a trip to Museum de Oude Aarde. Activities for kids make it a great place to bring the whole family.
Best Places to Eat and Drink in Giethoorn
There are plenty of places to grab a bite or drink in between sightseeing in Giethoorn. Travelers return to Restaurant 141 because of its canalside location, tasty food, and friendly service. De Eetkamer van Giethoorn is a great choice for lunch or dinner. It serves high tea with lots of sweet treats and has a delightful waterfront terrace. For a gourmet meal you’ll never forget, reserve a table at Michelin-rated Restaurant De Lindenhof. The chef-created multicourse menus marry artful techniques and artisanal ingredients in extraordinary ways.
Best Places to Stay in Giethoorn
Though the majority of travelers opt to visit Giethoorn as a day trip from Amsterdam, it’s possible — and quite pleasant — to spend the night. Some actually prefer this because it gives them a chance to not only wander around before the day trippers roll into town, but also savor a few moments of quiet after most have left for the evening. Looking to stay over? The accommodations comprise small hotels, bed-and-breakfasts, and holiday home rentals. De Lindenhof is favored for its character-rich guest rooms, warm hospitality, and gourmet restaurant. Another well-rated option, Plompeblad Giethoorn consists of a residential-style luxury suite and a separate guesthouse. Both sleep two people comfortably and have private entrances.
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