One of the best places to visit when in The Netherlands is a little village called Giethoorn. It is a stunning little Dutch village where all the houses are surrounded by waterways and are only accessible by boat. It is often referred to as The Little Venice of The Netherlands.
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If visiting The Netherlands and looking for places worth visiting other than Amsterdam then Giethoorn should be near the top of your list.
It sits right at the north-west head of the Overijssel province (right on the edge of the province of Drenthe) and lies between Stijnwijk and Meppel.
The History Of Giethoorn
When you read about the history of the village you will discover that it wasn’t originally built on a series of waterways.
Peat diggers used to cut peat from the soil and leave it to dry on the banks. There were 2 large floods in 1776 and 1825 where the banks were actually washed away causing the lakes around Giethoorn to rise. The villagers then dug ditches and canals drawing the water through the village to create waterways to transport the peat.
There are lots of little walking paths and little wooden bridges that allow you to explore all the charms that this picturesque village has to offer.
There are no actual roads suitable for cars within the centre of the village, so all transportation to and from the houses has to be done by boat.
The traditional type of boat that was used to do this is called a ”Gieterse Punter” which is sort of small sailing barge.
These days you will also see whisper boats which are noiseless and environmentally friendly (no stinky fumes) electric boats.
The village is quite touristic and has got a lot busier since 2015 when it was included in the Monopoly World Edition Game. This inclusion was quite special because Nederland was the only country to receive two spots on the board (Amsterdam and Giethoorn).
But despite getting very busy during the height of the summer season it is still a must-see destination to add to your itinerary. Its unique charm and gorgeous views more than make up with the inconvenience of having to share it with others.
I personally love soaking up the atmosphere and enjoy watching all the people milling about and the boats travelling up and down the waterways.
And as for the houses here, they are gorgeous! They ooze character with their traditional coloured shutters, whitewashed walls and thatched roofs. The gardens are also really stunning, the whole village takes pride in its appearance and house owners have beautifully planted and well-maintained gardens around the properties.
We are quite lucky to live close (about 20 minutes drive) to this lovely little village so when we want to do something with the kids and head out for a ride we very often end up there for a drink and an ice cream.
It’s also a place that we take our visitors as it’s really fun to take a picnic and rent a whisper boat for the afternoon.
Even though it is not a large village there is still a lot for visitors to see and do.
There are quite a few quaint little cafes, museums, art galleries and souvenir shops.
Grand Café Fanfare
Another one of the places in the village that is worth taking a look at is the Grand Café Fanfare which is a little bit famous. In 1958 the famous Dutch film Fanfare was filmed on location here in the pub.
Inside the pub, it is decorated with loads of musical instruments you will see lots of memorabilia from the film.
What To Order
If you are a beer fan then you will find that they serve their very own beer called Geytbier which is brewed locally and definitely worth ordering a glass.
If you want a little snack with your beer then you should try the bitterballen which are a mixture of mashed potato with little bits shredded beef, coated in breadcrumbs and deep-fried. It’s traditional to eat these with some mustard on the side.
Hiring A Boat
As I mentioned before it is actually possible to rent a variety of boats. I must say if you have the time (and budget) to rent a boat it is definitely the best way to see the village.
Prices start at €17.50 for one of the smaller boats and you can rent them for a minimum of 1 hour (2 hours during the high season).
They are quite simple to operate and the friendly boat rental owners are happy to give you a helping hand. With a clear explanation and instructions of where you are allowed to go with the boat, you can be on your way in no time.
You also have a bit of freedom with the boats where you can choose to follow the given routes or go your own way and explore a bit.
If you do decide to go your own way you can travel out of the village canals and go out onto open bodies of water. As long as you are back on time this is not a problem.
Tips If You Are Planning On Renting A Boat In Giethoorn
- During high season, it can be a good idea to book boat hire in advance. Doing this will mean you don’t have to wait too long for a boat to become available and more importantly avoid the disappointment of there being no boats available at all!
- If you are planning to take a boat for longer than one hour then it is nice to take a picnic along with you. If you can’t be bothered with that I know that some of the places where you can hire a boat offer a packed lunch service (you will need to order this in advance).
- Also, another few items that come in handy are a towel (to sit on and in case you get splashed) and a hat (when it is warm weather it is easy to get burnt on the water).
- There is also a lake with an island where it is possible to moor your boat and visit the Smit’s Paviljoen Cafe & Restaurant ( <– click this link to find more info about this and see a cool aerial view video of the restaurant and lake).
- Keep your eye out for an ice cream boat. Last time we rented a boat we came across a little boat on the water selling ice creams – the kids loved the fact we could buy and ice cream on the water.
- Don’t forget to take your camera!
Organised Boat Excursions
If you don’t fancy operating a boat yourself there is also the option of taking on of the organised tours on a covered barge.
There are 2 types of tours available. One goes up and down the waterways around the village and the other takes you further out of the village to the nature reserve that surrounds the village. Both types of tours have knowledgeable tour guides that can point out and explain all the points of interest.
Another plus about these tours is that because the boats are covered it doesn’t matter so much about the weather. You can sit comfortably inside whilst enjoying a cup of coffee and a piece of Dutch Apple Pie.
These excursions can be booked individually or as a group (discounts are available for group bookings).
When To Visit Giethoorn
It’s also a great idea to try to combine your visit with events that take place in the area throughout the year. At giethoornevenementen.nl you can see a list of all the events taking place in Giethoorn (I’m afraid it is only in Dutch but you can see pictures of the events and the dates they are taking place. You can also run it through an online translation program).
Giethoorn In The Winter
Although we tend to go in the summer it is also worth visiting in the winter. West Overijssel is great for skating and when the temperature drops and the water freezes you can explore all sorts of areas that not always accessible.
Accommodation In And Around Giethoorn
If you want to spend a little more time in the area it is also possible to book holiday accommodation. Being quite a touristic area you will find plenty of choices and can find lots of holiday cottages, caravans and campsites where you can stay.
If you need more information about this charming little village then you can visit giethoorn.com where you will find lots more information and links where you can book boats, excursions and accommodation (this site has an English version too).
So after reading my little guide, I hope you will agree with me. That the beautiful village of Giethoorn is definitely worth putting on the top of your list as one of the best places to visit in The Netherlands.
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