Giethoorn belongs to the province of Overijssel. It is about one and a half-hour drive from Amsterdam. The English name is “goat horns”. The town was first developed in the 1200s as part of a large nature reserve. During the farming activities, local farmers uncovered a large number of wild goat horns. The town was then given the name Geytenhoren which was shortened into its current form Giethoorn.
This picturesque town has no roads. Many bridges link small peat of islands. The only access to the town is by water over the beautiful canals or on foot over its wooden arch bridges. The locals use punters to get around. All cars remain outside the village. We were lucky to get a free parking place on the compound of a boat rental company.
Explore Giethoorn by boat
There are several types of boats for tourists to rent. We rented one which is controlled via the engine lever. Depending on where we wanted to drive, the rental time varied from 1 hour to 4 hours. As we wanted to reach BovenWijde lake we rented the boat for two hours. The rental company provided us a map of the water route.
Some canals are one way only. To avoid driving in the wrong direction we must follow the map to drive on the dedicated routes. However, sometimes tourists were overexcited by the scenes along the canals and did not pay attention to their way. It was quite often to see some boats turning around at waterway junctions and tried to redirect themselves to the correct ways.
In other situations, tourists did not seem to know how to steer their little boats. They constantly bumped into the edges of the canals, which also blocked the way. In fact, there were more tourists on boats than on the islands.
The water is shallow and is only about one meter deep. So, it is very suitable for families with children. Some kids were driving their boats while parents were busy taking photos.
If you join a Giethoorn & Enclosing Dike Full-Day Tour from Amsterdam, you can explore the restored farmhouses of “Dutch Venice,” see beautiful canals and picturesque wooden bridges and enjoy free time to explore on your own as well.
Explore the Dutch Venice by foot
After cruising over the canals and the lake, we decided to explore the village on foot as well. The main activity in the village is to see the beautiful thatched-roof farmhouses and walking over footbridges that cross the maze of canals. It was a very pleasant walk, and we enjoyed different views of the village from the islands.
Many footpaths lead into the area, and most of the area were shaded. It’s also possible to cycle through the area. We stopped randomly and took more photos. Local shops sell art pieces and stuff about any touristy item you can imagine. Several restaurants offer food and strangely, also many types of ice-creams. We bought one, but it didn’t taste special except the price was high.
The village is small, but there is still enough to do for a day trip. When you have time, it is worth visiting two museums ‘Het Olde Maat Uus‘, which is a typical farmhouse, and ‘De Oude Aarde‘ (The Old Earth).
Tips for taking photos
The best places to take photos is from a boat. The boat goes in a pre-set slow speed. Therefore, it has no problem to use either a professional camera or a mobile phone to take pictures.
When we explored the village on foot, we constantly had to be aware of not stepping into private gardens, bridges, and footpaths, since the beautiful gardens and the houses easily divert our attention.
Since the footpaths are narrow, it is not so easy to take a picture without any tourists on it. So, if you want to have the best photos along the canals, go there earlier in the morning when no one is on the way and no boats get on the water yet. Or, wait until late afternoon, when visitors are leaving. This gives you the reason for having an overnight in one of the local hotels.
Where to stay
B&B De Hofstee is rated very high on one booking platform by couples. It offers a garden and free WiFi. A continental breakfast is available every morning at the bed and breakfast. Guests at the accommodation can enjoy table tennis on site, go cycling, or fishing in the surroundings.
Giethoorn Lodge is located in Giethoorn and offers free bikes, a garden and water sports facilities. The accommodation is 44 km from Hoogeveen, and guests benefit from complimentary WiFi and private parking available on site.
The holiday home offers a barbecue. If you would like to discover the area, hiking, cycling and fishing are possible in the surroundings.
How to get there
If you have a car, then it is easy to drive there. We left Amsterdam in the early morning to Giethoorn and were able to visit Zaanse Schans before being back to our hotel in Amsterdam.
But it is not easy to drive there with own car because the parking place is limited and the chance not to have a parking place is high.
If you stay in Amsterdam, you can book a tour starting from there. Some tours include bus transfer and a boat tour in Giethoorn, for example, check this day trip to Giethoorn by bus and boat tour.