Updated October 10, 2023 | Original Post November 14, 2021
Have you heard of the “Dutch Venice?” There is a charming, idyllic, picturesque canal village that exists in the Netherlands; and it is adorable. Even in late Fall, when the crisp fall air graces the land, the leaves have all fallen, and the trees bare, this canal village of Giethoorn is as lovely as the name of the village sounds.
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The “water village” of Giethoorn is located in Overijssel on the northeast side of the Netherlands, about an 85-minute drive from Amsterdam, in the middle of the countryside. It is known as the “Venice of the North” and is only fully accessible by boat or on foot, making it a car-free village. It has about 176 small bridges and numerous hand-dug canals.
One of the many unique features of this place, besides being a car-free traffic-only village, accessible only by boat and bridges connecting the lands, are the little plots of lush, hilly, well-kept green lawns throughout the village. In these plots of land lie tiny, quaint homes, roof-thatched farmhouses as old as the 18th and 19th centuries, and peat houses along canals. They provide the idyllic setting for this canal village, in which only about 2,800 people reside, and I can completely see why visitors flock to visit this village.
This village is also located in the ‘Weerribben-Wieden National Park, making this location a perfect place to explore further. Additionally, the name, Giethoorn derives from the first settlers during the 10th century, around the area, who found several goat horns, gietehorens, in the marshland.
How to Visit Giethoorn
As mentioned above, Giethoorn is a car-free village. The only way to visit this idyllic location and truly appreciate it is by boat, on foot, or by bike. Either way, visiting this village is charming any way you go. Additionally, you only need a few hours to enjoy the canals. Take your time meandering around or putting around the boat and admire every nook and cranies of this village. Trust me, you won’t regret it.
As a waterway village, visiting via rental boat is the perfect way to explore Giethoorn. You can find many boat rental places waiting for visitors. We rented a “whisper boat,” a quieter boat around the canal from Smit company, Café- Restaurant Smit. We rented the boat on a Sunday in mid-November and felt we were the only tourists around. Despite the cold, it was still perfect.
No boat license is required. We rented by the hour, and two hours was perfect for our time; for the busier season, you may need longer if it’s crowded. With the boat rental, you are the captain of your boat; it’s really easy to maneuver yourself around the canals. Just be mindful of other boaters and your speed; keep in mind that there will be homes next to the canals that the locals still reside in as well as tourists staying overnight in Airbnbs.
Don’t worry about getting lost, our rental boat company provided us with a map of the routes we could take. We took the yellow route along the canals and towards the lake and natural reserves. This took us about 2 hours to complete. We took our time and admired everything we could along the canals.
Tip: Rent from companies just right outside of the village for more reasonable prices compared to those directly inside the village.
On Foot or By Bike
Walking or biking is another great way to explore the walkways of Giethoorn. We didn’t get a chance to walk along the homes, canals, and bridges due to time constraints, but I imagined you’d find more of the hidden nooks and crannies around Giethoorn just by meandering around the area. Here is a site I found that has a map; click on this link and locate the download option at the bottom of the page to download the map.
Cycling around Giethoorn is another perfect option for your visit. It’s one of the best ways to explore more bike paths around the village. You can find more information pertaining to bike paths and bike rentals through this website here.
Best Time to Visit
You can’t go wrong with when to visit Giethoorn, although I presume the wintertime is too cold. However, the peak seasons are between April to October, with the busiest times being during Dutch School and National Holidays. If you want to avoid the crowds, visiting during the weekdays and not during any Dutch Holidays is best. Also, plan your visit before the crowd comes around 11 a.m. The best time to avoid the daily crowd would be around before or around 8 a.m. If you prefer to visit later, come after 5 p.m. after the crowds have left so you can enjoy the village and canals to yourself.
Additionally, staying inside the village is another perfect option. We visited in mid-November, and it was perfect; although it was cold, we dressed for the weather and were still comfortable. Additionally, we had the canals to ourselves, although we passed a few tourists as well, but not many.
Daytrip from Amsterdam & Perfect Overnight
Giethoorn is a perfect day trip from Amsterdam either by car or by taking an organized tour from Amsterdam. Amsterdam is only about under 120km from Giethoorn, just under 2 hours drive. I’ve attached below some great tours you can take from Amsterdam.
Additionally, Giethoorn can be a wonderful overnight stay if you want to stay at one of the cottages/homes on the canal. It’s the perfect way to experience living like a local and also enjoy the village after the crowd leaves. You can find great places to stay here.
Giethoorn, Netherlands: Also known as the “Venice of the North,” “Dutch Venice,” Giethorn
GPS Location: Find it here
Boat Rental Companies: We used this company; we parked here and inquired with the Café- Restaurant Smit. We paid €35 for 2 hours (2021) for a “whisper boat.” Prices may have changed; please check their site here. No boat license is needed, and we did not reserve a boat in advance in mid-November.
Find other companies here.
Bicycle Rentals or Routes: Find information here.
Best Time to Visit: Any Season is best to visit this charming village. However, to avoid crowds, try not to visit during Dutch Holidays, such as Pentecost and Ascension Days. The high season is from April to October, with its peak during Dutch School Holidays and Summer. It’s best to visit before 11 a.m., preferably around 8 a.m., or after the crowd leaves at 5 p.m. Weekdays are perfect for visits. We visited in mid-November, early on a Sunday mid-morning, and had the canals to ourselves.
If you ever get a chance to visit the “Dutch Venice,” do it! It’s such a charming village to explore. It can be easily done as a day trip from Amsterdam and doesn’t take long to visit, but it really is charming, just come when the crowd is least likely and you’ll enjoy Giethoorn and all its quaintness. Don’t forget to take tons of photos! Until next time friends! tot de volgende keer vrienden!