If you use Pinterest (or possibly even on Facebook) then you’ve probably seen photos of the Dutch town of Giethoorn. Touted as being idyllic and serene, with no roads and hardly any people (maybe just some cows on a boat) it certainly looks like the perfect place for a peaceful getaway. I’d been hoping to visit for a while now, and during the holidays a few weeks back Dennis and I finally went for a road-trip to Giethoorn! Here’s what we discovered…
Giethoorn is a village in the Dutch province of Overijssel. It’s about an hour and a half drive from Amsterdam, and is known for being very pretty as it contains very few roads and much of the village can only be reached by foot or boat. There are many canals and bridges (more than 180 bridges) which only adds to its picturesque charm. Most of the houses and cottages have thatched roofs so it feels a little as if you have stepped back in time as you walk along the footpath by the canal admiring the pretty homes and perhaps stopping for lunch at one of the canal-side cafes or restaurants.
The Truth about visiting Giethoorn
Now that you know the nitty gritty details about Giethoorn and how to get here, I’m going to let you in on a few little secrets that I discovered when visiting this well-known destination for myself! Just think of me as your travel Mythbuster as I sort the facts from fiction so you can make an informed decision for yourself before you go to Giethoorn.
Fact or Fiction: Giethoorn is a town with no roads?
Well, yes and no. Technically, no; the village of Giethoorn does have roads and even car-parks, but there is a large section in the middle that is only accessible by footpath or canal. Most likely, if you’ve seen a photo of Giethoorn, it’s been taken along one main walking strip where there are a lot of canal-side cafes, shops and restaurants; as well as places you can hire whisper boats to explore the canals. Some of Giethoorn’s residents would definitely only be able to access their house by canal, which must make grocery shopping and moving house interesting events! But there are roads, so you can arrive by car and even park for free and then walk alongside the canals to see all the famous and most picturesque spots without renting a boat.
Fact or Fiction: Giethoorn is an idyllic, untouched destination?
Again, the answer to this question is a bit of a ‘yes and no’ one. You might have heard of Giethoorn being called “The Venice of the Netherlands,” or ‘Little Venice’, and if by Venice you mean ‘pretty canals but packed with tourists’ then yes, Giethoorn is just like Venice. Giethoorn has become quite a popular destination lately, so you might be rudely surprised when you visit to find it very busy with tour-groups and other visitors, wandering around the paths in packs or clogging up the canals in their rented whisper-boats. I actually found it quite amusing how full of tourists in boats the canals were, many of whom didn’t seem to actually know how to steer their little boats, so they were constantly bumping into the edges of the canals and other boats like some sort of slow-motion dodgem’ boats. Those peaceful-looking photos of cottages by the water with not a soul in sight? You have to wait quite a while and time your photography skills by the split-second in order to avoid scenes like these two:
The footpaths beside the canals are quite small, and so many visitors would just randomly stop to take photos, or mill around in packs talking and not moving out of the way of other pedestrians, that it also got a bit frustrating at times. Along with the ‘whisper-boats’ you can see in the above photo (they thankfully make very little engine sound) there were also much larger tour boats chugging along at times, with tour-guides’ amplified voices added to the noise. The boats full of vacationers were often moving along bumper to bumper (when they weren’t bumping into each other). Here are some photos of the main part of Giethoorn, complete with hordes of visitors:
HOWEVER, we did visit during the August summer holidays, which is basically the busiest time of year. I have been assured by reliable sources that Giethoorn is a lot quieter and more peaceful during the shoulder and off-seasons, especially if you stay overnight so you can enjoy the town after all the tourist groups have left or early in the morning. So, let’s tackle the last question:
Fact or fiction: Giethoorn is a beautiful destination?
I would have to say, YES! I mean, yeah there’s a lot of other tourists (depending on when you go), but they don’t change the fact that the town itself IS actually very pretty; it wouldn’t be so popular if it wasn’t. There are boxes of flowers on a lot of the bridges, the houses are all immaculately cared for with beautiful painted shutters and gorgeous gardens. It’s also very nice to sit beside the canals and watch the boats, ducks and swans go by, whether you sit on the ground or a bench with a picnic, or in one of the canal-side restaurants.
Some of my favourite photos actually included the people in their boats (like the one above which I think is funny – the teenage girl ignoring the beauty around her to look at her phone) or this lovely one below:
Getting to Giethoorn
Where to Stay in Giethoorn
There are some nice AirBnBs in Giethoorn as well as a few hotels. Hotel de Harmonie is a four-star hotel a little way out of the town centre (but still walking distance). Rooms include breakfast and the hotel also rents bikes and boats directly. If you’re travelling on a budget then The Black Sheep Hostel is probably the cheapest option, although it’s a really nice looking hostel and also includes breakfast! There are some other three-star hotels as well as bed-and-breakfasts if you’d like some more accommodation options for Giethoorn.
What to do in Giethoorn
So you’ve got your transport and accommodation all sorted, but if you’re wondering what there is to do in Giethoorn, I’ve got ya! I mean, the main attraction is literally just to walk around oohing and aahing over how cute the place is and, you know, take a million photos for your Insta. But there are some other things to do in Giethoorn too, like:
- Visit a museum: Giethoorn is home to a couple of small museums like ‘t Olde Maas Uus Museum which teaches you about the history of Giethoorn and often has actors in traditional clothing to do so.
Have you ever dreamed of exploring Giethoorn, or have you been? Let me know in the comments what you think about this famous Dutch town! And don’t forget to pin one of these for later if you are planning to ever visit Giethoorn for yourself.