A Real-Life Fairytale Town: A 6 Part Guide to Visiting Dreamy Giethoorn Netherlands

Giethoorn is a quaint village that’s described as the Venice of the Netherlands plus the lush shire of the Lord of The Rings. Mix in luxurious accommodations and a Michelin star restaurant, and you’ve got a bucket list-worthy trip!  If you’re thinking of a side trip from Amsterdam, here’s advice, tips, and recommendations from an expert: Frans, AKA The Dutch Guy!

1. About Giethoorn Netherlands

Giethoorn Netherlands neighborhood (Courtesy Pexels)

Giethoorn is located in Overijssel province in the northern part of the Netherlands. Founded around 1230, it is one of the oldest towns in the country. When the earliest settlers arrived, they had just missed a huge flood that covered the entire area and drowned inhabiting goats. The new arrivals discovered goat horns buried in mud and thus named the place “Goat Horn” or “Giethoorn.”

Giethoorn may look like a well-maintained open-air museum, but in reality, it is an actual town with residents. People living in Giethoorn are friendly and welcoming, willing to share the peaceful life they enjoy with tourists. Many of the residents have converted their farms or homes into small B&Bs, restaurants, or shops.

Cars and motorized vehicles are not allowed inside most of the village. This is one of the things that make this charming village so unique and inviting. Tourists leave the modern and motorized comforts behind and enjoy walking, cycling, or canoeing around Giethoorn, as the locals do.

Come see thatched-roof houses, cottages, and picturesque wooden bridges that set Giethoorn apart from many European destinations. There are also intriguing museums, medieval churches, parks, and cafés.In addition, Giethoorn is surrounded by lakes, reed beds, farms, and forests.

2. What to do in Giethoorn Netherlands

Explore Giethoorn Netherlands (Courtesy Pexels)

The first thing to do when visiting Giethoorn Netherlands is to leave your car behind as you arrive in the village. There are several car parks where you can leave your vehicle for free.

Walk along the main walking strip, the most popular path in the village, only accessible by footpath or canal. This will take you to the cafés, shops, restaurants, and hotels where you can rent a boat to use during your stay.

Cruise the canals

Giethoorn Netherlands Canals (Courtesy Unsplash)

The village is known as the “Venice of the Netherlands,” with all its artificial canals. The boats here are mostly without engines, and those that do have engines use silent motors. Hence, they are called “whisper boats.” You can also rent or ride a punter, a traditional narrow Giethoorn boat pushed along the water using a long pole by a punteraar.

When you are with family and friends, there are bigger boats that you can enjoy riding together. The boats are padded, and the rides are safe for everyone, including little children.

Hike or cycle at De Weerribben-Wieden National Park

Giethoorn Netherlands Region (Courtesy Agnes Monkelbaan/CC)

De Weerribben-Wieden National Park is home to an array of wildlife endemic to the Netherlands. This vast nature reserve is home to otters, egrets, and cormorants, among other animals. The park is also known for its many lakes, forests, swamps, and a wide meadow of flowers, with stunning trails for you to hike. In addition, the park’s calm, open water is the perfect home for several water plants, such as water gentian, frog bite, or crab shear, as well as swamp life that includes birds, insects, and especially otters. 

From here, several cities are worth a quick visit on a bicycle. Not far away are the old towns of Vollenhove and Blokzijl. Come here to see historic buildings, old churches, and ancient castles. You can also relax for a while on a terrace by the water’s edge before cycling back to Giethoorn.

If you are a seasoned biker, you can ride all the way to nearby Sint-Jansklooster, Kalenberg, and Steenwijk.

If you do not wish to go far, you can always take the 15-km Giethoorn Hiking Route. In addition, there are many walking paths in the village that can take you to picturesque spots.

Visit These Three Museums in Giethoorn Netherlands

Giethoorn Netherlands Museum (Courtesy Wikimedia)

The most popular museum in Giethoorn Netherlands is Olde Maat Uus Museum. It is housed in a typical old farmhouse to represent how the villagers lived from days of old. This lovely museum aims to help you understand and appreciate the origins of this unique village. Actors in costumes demonstrate how Giethoorn residents built homes and boats and worked together to develop their town hundreds of years ago.

Meanwhile, the De Oude Aarde museum is known for its beautiful collection of jewelry, precious gemstones, natural treasures, fossil minerals, and rare stones worldwide. The gems are truly worth seeing. Some of the displays are for sale, in case you wish to bring home a precious souvenir. Also on display here is the world’s largest egg.

If you love shells and the sea, Giethoorn’s third museum, Gloria Maris Shell Gallery, is for you. This museum is known for its rich collections of shells, corals, and beautiful ocean treasures.

3. Where to Stay and Eat in Giethoorn Netherlands

Giethoorn Netherlands Accomdations (Courtesy Airbnb)

There is no shortage of accommodations in Giethoorn, Netherlands . However, locals and experts will recommend staying in a boathouse since the village is best enjoyed on the water. Here are seven recommendations for accommodations.

Water Villa Intermezzo

One of the most luxurious boathouses in the area is Water Villa Intermezzo. This is a recreation boathouse for rent, a 95-sqm water villa with large glass walls. Stay here to live amongst birds, deer, and the wild and enjoy complete calm and relaxation.

This boathouse is located on the Cornelisgracht, where you can view passing boats, longboats, canoes, and local boats coming from Giethoorn. It is docked near the starting point, going to Giethoorn and the Weerribben-Wieden National Park.

Bed-on-a-Boat

When on a budget, consider renting Bed-on-a-Boat, a lovely boathouse with a terrace that offers amazing views of the lake. It is located 41 km from Hoogeveen, on Giethoorn water. Staying in this boathouse allows you to go hiking, cycling, canoeing, and fishing.

De Lindenhof

De Lindenhof is one of the most popular restaurants here, primarily for its two Michelin-starred chef Martin Kruithof. It is considered one of the best restaurants in the country, thanks to Chef Martin. Their dessert and wine list are as popular as the dishes.

De Lindenhof comes with a hotel and lodge.

Café-Restaurant Smit

This café-restaurant is popular for its delicious dishes and for offering homely cottages for rent. Café-Restaurant Smit also has a holiday farm that can accommodate eight people.

De Eetkamer van Giethoorn

De Eetkamer van Giethoorn or the “Dining Room” is located on the water just outside De Weerribben-Wieden National Park. Come here to try their creme brulee, French toast with caramelized apples, and lemon cheesecake with strawberry yogurt ice cream and cherries, amongst other delights.

De Grachthof Restaurant Bootverhuur

De Grachthof Restaurant is located in the center of Giethoorn. It is hard to miss. The restaurant has a large lounge terrace that offers a lovely view of the village canals. Sample their spicy Indonesian chicken, pulled pork, or smoked salmon. Their salads, burgers, sandwiches, and soups are also quite popular.

De Grachthof Restaurant also offers cruises and guided tours.

4. When to Visit Giethoorn Netherlands

Giethoorn Netherlands Homes (Courtesy Unsplash)

Giethoorn Netherlands is fast gaining popularity around the world. What used to be an important summer destination for Dutch families is now a sought-after vacation place for European and Chinese tourists.

The best months to visit Giethoorn are just before summer in April and May, before huge tourists arrive during the peak season. May is a fun month, if only for the Flinke Pink Festival in Leek, just a few minutes away from Giethoorn. It is a popular four-day festival during the Whitsun weekend, where people dance and have fun for three evenings.

Peak season is in June, just when summer begins. The village could get really crowded around this time until September. Giethoorn is loveliest in summer when the weather is perfect and colorful flowers are in full bloom. De Weerribben-Wieden National Park is also very popular in summer.

5. What to Avoid in Giethoorn Netherlands

Giethoorn Netherlands
Visiting Giethoorn Netherlands (Courtesy Pexels)

When in Giethoorn, avoid walking over the gardens and farms and picking flowers just anywhere. Chances are you are trespassing into private property. The village is so beautiful that it is easy to forget that families live in an actual town. There are about 2,600 residents here who would really appreciate having some form of privacy.

Also, when traveling to Giethoorn by train through Steenwijk, avoid talking to strangers who offer a boat + bus ticket for 15 euros. One-way bus ticket from here to Giethoorn is only 4 euros, and you can pay directly to the driver. About boat rentals, it is easy to get one when you get to Giethoorn.

6. How to Get to Giethoorn Netherlands

Giethoorn Netherlands Views (Courtesy Pexels)

You can reach Giethoorn by taking the train from Amsterdam Centraal to Steenwijk or a connecting train via Zwolle. NS operates all trains, and the first train leaves Amsterdam at 6:00 AM.

In Steenwijk, take Bus 70 for a 30-minute ride to the Dominee Hylkemaweg stop. From the Giethoorn village bus stop, the village is just a 10-minute walk away.

Another option is to take the train from Amsterdam to Meppel and on to Wolvega and Steenwijk. All of these destinations are just a few meters from Giethoorn.