Pretty Giethoorn canal view with canoe and bridge

After seeing all the beautiful photographs of Giethoorn Netherlands I really wanted to make an effort to visit.  The “Venice of Holland” looked so magical and storybook.  I loved the idea of seeing thatched roof homes, the lovely gardens in each yard, and of course float through the canals.  We picked a beautiful day on our holiday visit in Amsterdam; the 3rd week in May.  As with some of our experiences when traveling I try not to do too much research or look at too many photographs, so that I can still have some surprises.  So here are 6 details we learned and experienced on our visit to Giethoorn Netherlands.

A thatched roof home with beautiful garden in the Netherlands
Giethoorn Netherlands thatched roof home with a beautiful garden

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Number One: History of Giethoorn

To write this article I wanted to give a little little history on Giethoorn.  However, double checking on what our guides told us I found some conflicting information.  In some articles there is a claim that the area was first founded by Franciscan monks in the 13th century. Other articles claim it was Mediterranean fugitives who first settled the area.

Whichever it may be, the story of how Giethoorn got it’s name and how the canals developed are the same; goats and peat.   Yes goats.  Very large numbers of goat horns were found, it is believed the goats found their demise due to the 1170 St Elisabeth great flood.  Hence the name Geytenhorn which means horn of goats, later it was adapted as Giethoorn.  The peat.  Peat mining was very important in this area, as they dug it developed holes, which became canals and the canals were then used to transport the peat.

Giethoorn Netherlands remained a little secret for years, actually century’s, until a movie called Fanfare was produced in 1958 by a famous filmmaker by the name of Bert Haanstra.  As a result, here come the tourist by the numbers!

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Street with crowd headed to Giethoorn
Giethoorn Netherlands crowds

Number Two: Getting to Giethoorn

There are a few ways you can arrive at Giethoorn; train/bus or by car/tour bus.   Taking a train from Amsterdam Central Station to Amersfoort, here you change trains and take a train to Steenwijk. Once you reach Steenwijk take the bus 70 to Dominee Hylkemaweg from there you rent a boat.  This trip will take approximately 2.5 hrs and cost 32.00-58.00 USD .  Or you can take a tour bus right from Amsterdam or drive yourself.  Driving yourself will take approximately 1.5 hrs. There is a parking lot for cars and buses, however it fills up quickly.

Our experience: We took a bus tour form our hotel that was very nice.  We were able to ride in comfort while receiving more information from our guide on the Netherlands.  It was relaxing and worry free. Upon arriving we found it was very crowded.  Being a holiday weekend I believe it was more crowded then maybe it usually is, however our tour guide indicated this was a typical crowd at this time of year.

Giethroon Holland traveling by whisper boat
Giethroon Holland traveling by whisper boat

Number Three:  Boat Rental

The best way to get a feel for Giethoorn is by boat.  No worries there is no shortage of Giethoorn boat rentals. In fact, there is an over abundance of boats that you can rent. There are few choices on which kind of boat you can rent; there is the electric “whisper boats” also known as Fluisterboot and Slopen (longer) boats you can take out yourself.  They are very nice because they are quite to help with the noise.    If you want to be more adventurous rent a Punter boat, an old fashioned no motor wood boat.  As they say Venice has their gondolas and Giethoorn has its Punter boats.  There are canoes available too.

There are also larger covered tour boats that hold around 25 people and equipped with a guide.  The tour boats take approximately an hour, as they go out to Bovenwijde, a shallow lake, and then returns.

Our choice: Part of our tour included a covered boat tour in Giethoorn, so we chose to take advantage of what was already part of the tour.  We did have to wait a few minutes to be able to hop on our boat, but being a really sunny day I did end up appreciating the covered top.  I did find it cute that we actually were offered coffee and tea on the boat.

Thatched roof on corner of canal in Giethoorn Netherlands
Thatched roof on corner of canal in Giethoorn Netherlands
Pretty Giethoorn canal view with canoe and bridge
Pretty Giethoorn canal view
Giethoorn Netherlands oil tour boat, rotten wood
Giethoorn Netherlands: No worries I think this one was out of commission

Number Four:  Exploring With A Boat

The boat tour takes you completely around the area, moving at a speed you can really see everything.  If you have your own boat you will be able to go down a few more canals that the larger tour boats do not. Just make sure you understand how to maneuver the boat you rent, you will be surprised on how many do not. There is farm land, some wild life and even a trailer community (total surprise) you see while touring the Giethoorn Netherlands

Our experience:  Loved the speed of the boat, no rush.  Our tour guide and driver of the boat gave us information about Giethoorn I would otherwise not of known.  However, be prepared for traffic.  Lots of it.  We were stuck pretty much in one spot for about 10 minutes.  We also experienced people’s boats colliding into each other, into the sides of the walls, or even just turning in circles because the driver did not know how to paddle correctly.  Unfortunately, we also witnessed people taking advantage of going down areas that were restricted.

Cottage thatched roof in Giethoorn Netherlands
Cottage thatched roof
Giethoorn Netherlands canal with a few boats
Giethoorn Netherlands canal with a few boats
Giethoorn Netherlands boats having a traffic jam
Giethoorn Netherlands boats have a traffic jam

Looking for another fun thing to do while in The Netherlands?  Try this tour right in Amsterdam!

Number Five: Walking Giethoorn Netherlands

There is so much emphasis and media on the boats, many do not realize you can also walk some of the Giethoorn.  There are sidewalks leading through the area, many parts are shaded.  You can choose to walk or eve bicycle through the walks.  There are shops to explore and purchase cute items from baby bibs, to local art, to…well just about any touristy item you can imagine.   The restaurants are of plenty.  You can enjoy fish, pizza, ice-cream and more throughout most of the area. There is also a museum to visit with the history of Giethoorn.

Our experience:  For the most part we loved the walking of the paths.  At times they were crowded but still manageable. We throughly enjoyed a lovely lunch at a restaurant with outdoor seating with views of a perfect garden.

I have to be honest, what I did not like was the total disregard for the people who live there.  There were tourist who were not following the rules and respect of residents; going on their private bridges, into their private canals, I even saw someone enter a residents yard.

Picture from bridge of two homes with thatched roofs in Giethoorn on the waterway
Picture from bridge of two homes in Giethoorn on the waterway

Number Six: Have The Upmost Respect For The Giethoorn Residents

Follow the signs, respect the residents privacy.  There are signs clearly stating Private do not enter, chains and/or gates on bridges that you should not pass.  Follow them, its that simple.  I also found it nice to keep the noise down.  Why not?  Screaming is not necessary, besides then you can’t hear the beautiful birds to go along with the views.

Quite area of canal in Giethoorn Netherlands
Quite area of canal
Giethoorn Netherlands thatched roof home with purple flowers
Giethoorn Netherlands home with purple flowers
Very neat garden at a home with trees in front of home in Giethoorn Netherlands
Very neat and beautiful garden
A private area of canal with a boat in Giethoorn Netherlands
Private area of canal
A thatched roof home with beautiful garden in the Netherlands
Giethoorn Netherlands thatched roof home with a beautiful garden
Giethoorn Netherlands Thatched home with purple flowers
Thatched home with purple flowers

Our experience: As we walked and boated through Giethoorn I felt at times like an intruder.  I took notice of the hard work that went into each persons home whether it be in the upkeep of their home or in their gardens.  I saw residents not happy at all with tourist invading their privacy.  One moment which sticks in my mind is seeing a man who reminded me of my Grandfather trying to enjoy time what looked to be with his grandchildren. Only to have tourist in boats enter his only private part of land, he was upset, with good reason.

Turn in the canals in Giethoorn Netherlands with thatched roof home
Turn in the canals in Giethoorn Netherlands with thatched roof home
white Gate surrounded by bushes to a private garden in Giethoorn Netherlands
Gate to a private garden in Giethoorn Netherlands
Thatched Roof home in Giethroon with pink flowers in garden
Thatched Roof home in Giethroon
Thatched Roof home with chimney
Thatched Roof home with chimney
Small private's canal in Giethoorn Netherlands
Small private's canal in Giethoorn Netherlands
A few homes along the path in Giethoorn Netherlands
A few homes in Giethoorn

A Special Moment

I clearly remember an elderly women attending her garden.   The colors were beautiful, everything she touched bloomed.  Her garden could be win an award and as beautiful as some of the most famous gardens. The garden was so precise and thought-out.  I silently stood and observed from the sidewalk as she took so much care with each flower and plant. Standing there just hoping to catch her eye. As she finally glanced my way and made eye contact , I simply whispered her garden was so beautiful and gestured my appreciation.  She gave me a sweet smile, making me feel a little less of an intruder in this magical Giethoorn.

Thatched roof home with black shutters in Giethoorn Netherlands
Thatched roof home
Brown Thatched roof home with trees in Giethoorn
Thatched roof home with trees
Giethoorn Netherlands-Little white shed with thatched roof
Little shed with thatched roof
Outside the Giethoorn Netherlands Museum
Giethoorn Netherlands Museum

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A wonderful day trip from Amsterdam, visit the

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Comments ( 36 )

  • Jean

    What a gorgeous little town. It looks like the perfect spot for a day trip. Think you guys made the best decision by taking the bus!

  • Nancie

    Giethoorn is a place I would love to visit. I love these boat rides where you can sit back, relax, and drink in the beautiful scenery. Too bad visitors don’t show respect for the residents. Sadly, I often find that some people leave their manners at home when they travel.

  • eli

    This looks like the charming Dutch town of my dreams. It looks so peaceful, aside from the small crowds. Always nice to hear about places in the Netherlands aside from Amsterdam

  • David

    This is the first time I’ve heard of Giethoorn to be honest and wow! The pictures look fantastic and I can see how some would call it the Venice of the Netherlands. I’ll have to check this out next time I visit Netherlands! Great post!

  • Anna

    This looks like somewhere I would like to explore as well. Little far from Amsterdam, I have been to Harlem. Perhaps next time I can make it here

  • Lauren

    I’ve never heard of this place before, so thank you for introducing me! It’s true in any place you go – having respect for the residents is something that is easily and too soon forgotten.

  • Sinjana Ghosh

    I have fancied travelling to Giethoorn ever since my husband read about it in a Bengali travelogue. We coulnd’t make time for this on our 3day trip this year, but thanks to you I now know how accessible this is from Amsterdam and I’m definitely gonna go there next time

    • travelbyasherrieaffair

      It’s so hard sometimes to see everything when traveling- but I hope your next visit you will make it to Giethoorn!

  • Backpacking Series

    Loved reading about these fantastic experiences in Giethoorn Netherlands. Especially walking around and absorbing the place. Its so amazing when we have some special moments in our travel just like the lady from the garden in your travel. They really stay forever with us.

  • Aswathi Ashok

    Beautiful place!! Thank you for sharing.We would definitely add it to our bucketlist soon.

  • Soumya Gayatri

    What a beautiful place! What wonderful pictures! Thanks for introducing me to Giethoorn. Would love to visit one day.

  • Mohit

    This is something that has been on my list for long and I loved the architectural feel of the town.. The only thing I would want to avoid is that crowd I can ever

  • Renata - www.byemyself.com

    This looks just too cute – like Gulliver’s travels. The little boats are darling – it must be so much fun cruising in them!

  • Gabby

    I love Giethoorn! I used to live in the Netherlands and my boyfriend took me there once for my birthday, it was so lovely. I had no idea about the formation of the town though, that is really interesting, and also a bit strange that it has become something so beautiful!

  • Sarah Carter

    This reminds me so much of the cute little riverside towns in england. I love all the Thatch n the roofs! Your photos are wonderful.

  • Kemi

    OMG!! I love it already!! This is literally my ideal place or type of place to visit! History, culture and uniqueness. Oh my!!

  • Andrea

    A lovely looking place! Your article reminds us all about travelling responsibly and respecting local people.

  • alison netzer

    I love small villages, but like you I cannot stand it when tourist disrespect those who live there. Looks like a little gem and a great place to visit.

  • Alexander Popkov

    These are really lovely wooden houses. Would like to get to this place just for the atmosphere and to go on a boat.

  • Zoya

    I’ve only recently learned about Giethoorn, and I’m totally in love with the little canals and those thatched roofs! I’m not a big ‘tour group’ person, I much prefer discovering places at my own pace, but sometimes it just makes more sense (practically) to travel with such a group. Thanks for all the info – bookmarked.

  • Michael Hodgson

    What a magical looking place! Thatched roofs are just so quaint (my family is from the Cotswolds region in England, famous for thatched roofs). And I love the way you boat around to see everything, though from some of your photos (which are super by the way) it does look a bit, well, ahem crowded. 😉

  • elizabeth

    What a stunning place, deffo one I will add to my bucketlist. Bookmarked this post for future reference. I loved your photo captures too.

  • Michael

    Your pictures are lovely. They make me want to be there. Unquestionably a place that will go on my bucket list.

  • Leah

    Wow this place is so pretty!! It’s nice to see posts about the Netherlands beyond Amsterdam!!

  • Moimehr

    This is the fourth time I am hearing about this place in a month. Had been doing a research on Netherlands and locals keep suggesting it to me. Am so glad you liked it there, it strengthens my hope of visiting it some day.

  • Tif

    Oh my this place looks right out of gingerbread house!! I would definitely hire a boat and explore that way!

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