Giethoorn is one of those places you see in a travel website or magazine and then you decide to visit. It’s a small picturesque town in the North of the Netherlands but that’s not what will grab your attention! Giethoorn has no streets! Yepp – none! I know when you hear this you’re waiting for a “but” – “but only in this movie setting” or “but only one day a year”. This is not the case here!
Giethoorn is fully accessible only by boat but even if you’re not a proud vessel owner there’s other options! Of course, you can always drive there – it’s approximately 120km from Amsterdam. Once you reach Giethoorn the parking will be right there –there’s a lot of signs and there’s not really a way to make a wrong turn :-). The parking was free of charge but double check this online before you go.
If you don’t have a car – take a train to Steenwijk (you might have to change trains in Zwolle!) and then jump on one of those almighty buses coming once every hour. Bus line 70 takes about 15-20 min from Steenwijk station to Giethoorn, the bus stop you need is called Dominee Hylkemaweg. Since we’re talking about the Netherlands, you can bike from Steenwijk to Giethoorn which is not a bad idea at all if the weather is nice – you’ll pass by some cozy petite villages on your way. Distance is about 7 km.
Once you take off the bus, you’ll see the “road” to Giethoorn – here you’re welcomed by – surprise, surprise! – boats for rent or for both private and group tours (if you really don’t trust yourself being the captain). There’s a great variety of options regarding boat trips from canal cruises to a paddleboat so choose your favorite and jump in.
If you prefer to explore through walking, pass by the boats and continue further down that road. You’ll also pass by lots of restaurants and cafes on this pathway but don’t be quick to sit and spend half the day here enjoying the view – it gets better! The city hall on the right – Gemeentehuis – will welcome you in a very beautiful old school building. Now, you don’t really need to have a map with you at all times, Giethoorn is really a place where you want to get lost just walking the pathways, crossing the little bridges and simply cherish the nature around you.
It is a very relaxing place not only because of the lack of cars, but also because everything around you is so very green. Giethoorn is a godsend for photographers. Even if you’re not very experienced or a pro with a DSLR in your backpack, here you can test your skills. Almost every picture turns into a postcard!
Things to do in Giethoorn
Once you reach the end of the road, turn right. Stunning 18th and 19th century houses will start popping up on hills, surrounded by waterways and connected by bridges. On the right you’ll see a big black wooden building called ‘t Olde Maat Uus. Go in to experience the atmosphere of the early 20th century and see how people lived in the classic farm houses on the countryside! The staff is dressed like it too! If you turn to the left now and continue in the exact opposite direction, you’ll see on the other side of the water a wooden sign in front of one of the houses “De Oude Aarde” (Museum of the Old Earth)– this is your next stop. This museum for gemstones and minerals is anything but small.
Last but not least – if you’re a car junkie – there’s a retro cars and carriages museum just outside Giethoorn called Histo-Mobil. The address is Cornelisgracht 42. You can bike there or just walk from the center about 10 min.
Now that you’ve seen these all you have to do is walk, relax, take pictures, repeat! I told you not to bring a map and I’m going to stick with this advice, but if you pass by an Italian restaurant called Ristorante Fratelli – I really recommend it. The food was good and I honestly don’t believe there’s anything better to do than watch the canals and all the boats passing by while having a cup of coffee or a glass of wine. If you’re new to the Netherlands – when passing by all the cafés have some poffertjes – the typically Dutch mini pancakes! That’s a must.
And for dessert instead of poffertjes… useless fact of the day – locals are very proud that Giethoorn made it to the international version of the Monopoly game!