Giethoorn Netherlands: Is It Worth Visiting from Amsterdam?

Giethoorn is a small village located in the Dutch province of Overijssel.

It has become famous as the “Village with no roads” or the “Venice of the North” because the older part of the village is only accesible on foot or by boat on a few narrow canals (which was my main reason for visiting as well). This area is also popular for its thatched cottages, which give it a fairytale-like feel.

While Giethoorn is no Amsterdam in terms of fame-level, it is in no way a hidden gem either, as its popularity with visitors is on the rise in recent years. And while it’s not very straightfoward or quick to travel there from Netherlands capital city, I believe the effort is very much worth it.

So read on to find out what is truth and what is myth upon seeing Giethoorn is real life, how to get there, what to do on a day trip and other helpful tips.

Day trip to Giethoorn village in Netherlands
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Does Giethoorn really have no roads?

I’d have to say no. the village does have roads and even big parking lots. However, the older area of the village is only accessible by foot, bike, or boat and that’s the most visited and photographed section that most people associate with Giethoorn.

Is Giethoorn a quiet, hidden gem?

The answer is yes and no. Giethoorn’s popularity rose pretty high in the last few years, so you can’t consider it a hidden gem anymore.

Visit the village during the high season (generally the summer months and April, because of the tulips blooming) and you’ll find it bustling with people. Go during the shoulder or off-season and it will be more quiet and idyllic.

However, I have to say that, even when it’s busy, Giethoorn still looks like it just came out of a fairytale. This is also because the public path goes along one side of the canal, while on the other there are private homes.

I visited the village in April as part of my tulip fields trip and I’d say that it was moderately crowded.

Giethoorn village in Netherlands

Does Giethoorn look as magical in real life like in photos?

YES! The thatched roofs of the cottages hidden among colorful flowers and bordered by narrow canals are as beautiful in real life as in pictures.

One thing that surprised me though was the size of the village, more exactly of the no-roads tourist area. I was somehow under the wrong impression that it was much bigger.

So, is Giethoorn worth visiting from Amsterdam?

Yes, Giethoorn is definitely worth visiting from Amsterdam. Despite the 2.5+ hour journey to get there and the fact that it’s often crowded (especially during peak tourist season), Giethoorn’s beauty is still undeniable.

Its narrow canals and thatched-roof houses with charming tiny gardens make it one of the most picturesque locations I’ve ever visited.

And honestly, even with its popularity, you can still find quieter spots if you move further away from the area around Museum Giethoorn ‘t Olde Maat Uus, where most of the tourists hang out.

Giethoorn: fairytale village in Netherlands
The main canal in the old part of Giethoorn

Best time to visit

The best time to visit Giethoorn in terms of scenery and weather is from June to September, but that’s also when it’s most busy.

If you don’t like crowds you can try visiting in April – early June or late September – October. However, mid-April is when many people come to visit the tulip fields in Netherlands, so it’s also going to be busy during that time.

How to get to Giethoorn from Amsterdam?

Getting to this quaint Dutch village from Amsterdam is fairly easy, as it’s well connected by road and public transportation. Renting a car and driving to Giethoorn is the most comfortable and faster option, but not by much in comparison with using public transport.

If you don’t want to drive, you can take a train from Amsterdam Central station to Zwolle, and then take a bus (70) from Zwolle to Giethoorn.

Or, catch the intercity to Almere Centrum train station where you will change for Steenwijk (change time is 4 minutes, but don’t worry, in my experience, it’s more than enough time as trains are rarely late in the Netherlands) and then take the same bus 70 to Giethoorn, which is what I did as well.

You can also book a tour like this one: Giethoorn Day Trip by Bus and Electric Boat from Amsterdam.

Giethoorn: the village with no roads

There are also guided tours that you can book to visit the village. Here are some popular options:

How much time to spend in Giethoorn?

Spending half a day or more in Giethoorn should be enough to see the highlights of the village, meaning the old area where the thatched-roofed cottages are located.

This means that you can easily visit it as a day trip from Amsterdam since the journey time is usually around 2.5+ hours long. Make sure to start your day early though.

Giethoorn village in Netherlands
I still found empty locations, despite the fact that it was tulip season during my visit

Things to do in Giethoorn, Netherlands

Giethoorn is filled with waterways and bridges, making it a popular spot for boating and cycling. You’ll also find plenty of restaurants and gift shops to explore. Check out below the top things to do in Giethoorn to make the most out of your visit!

  • Just walk around the village and admire the beauty of the cottages and the canals, occasionally resting on one of the benches near the canals to listen to the quacking of a duck.
  • Take a boat tour on the canals: enjoy the scenery from a larger, covered boat with commentary. The Giethoorn canal cruise takes about an hour and most guided tours to Giethoorn include it in their program.
  • Rent a boat and tour the canals by yourself: if you want to explore the place at your own pace, then renting a silent electric boat (whisper boat) is a great way to do it. I only took the cruise and I kinda regret not getting my own boat to explore by myself as well as it looked like a lot of fun. If you visit during the high season, it’s probably a good idea to book your whisper boat online ahead of time though.
  • Find out more about the village at Giethoorn ‘t Olde Maat Uus museum where you’ll be given the opportunity to see the interior of a typical farmhouse and a fisherman’s house.
  • Rent a bike and explore the village and its surroundings.
  • Eat at one of the restaurants facing the canals. Giethoorn is known for its nice restaurants located right by the water. The highlight among them is without a doubt the 2 Michelin star De Lindenhof (Beulakerweg 77).
  • Wildlife enthusiasts and nature lovers will also appreciate the proximity of the Weerribben-Wieden National Park.
Giethoorn village in Netherlands
Me admiring the thatched-roof cottages of Giethoorn

Giethoorn canal cruise tour vs renting a whisper boat

If you’re debating whether to joing a guided cruise on the canals or to rent a small boat, I hightlighted the main differences in the table below.

Also, in addition to the whisper boats, you can rent 2 other types of boat too (called electric sloop and console boat). The main difference is that these have steering wheels and backrests (the sloop is a bit bigger too as it can accommodate up to 8 people). However, they’re also more expensive.

Canal cruiseWhisper boat
Larger, steadier boat with rows of benches.Small, flat electric boat.
You’re doing the tour with several other people (1 – 26 persons).Private, fun experience for 1 – 6 persons.
You’ll find out interesting tidbits from the guide during the cruise (for example, he’ll show you how shallow the water really is).With the freedom of exploring by yourself also comes the responsability of navigating the boat.
You’re restricted to mainly see one side of the canal. I recommend you sit on the right for the best views.360 degree views.
Lasts for 1 hour, but a 2-hour experience is also offered upon request (minimum of 20 people). Runs hourly from 11 AM to 4 PM.You can rent the boat for 2, 3, 4 or 6 hours.
Prices: 9.50 euros/adult and 5 euros/child for the standard 1-hour cruise.Renting a boat for 2 hours costs 35 euros, for 3 hours it’s 50 euros, 4 hours – 65 euros and 6 hours is 80 euros.

Warning: If you rent a boat, make sure you don’t steer it on a no-entry canal (usually these are private access boat entries for locals) or turn it around on a way too narrow canal.

I saw a group struggling for a while after they tried to turn their boat around and got stuck perpendicularly on the canal, blocking incoming traffic. In the end, they were helped by a resident to reposition the boat properly.

Giethoorn, Netherlands

Where to stay overnight

If you decide to spend a few nights in Giethoorn instead of doing a day trip, here are a few options in terms of accommodation:

Final thoughts

With its thatched-roof houses and narrow canals, Giethoorn is truly a fairytale-like destination and one of the best places to visit in the Netherlands.

And although the old area of the village is small, there’s still plenty to do here – from renting a boat to visiting some of the local museums and restaurants.


Visiting Giethoorn, the prettiest village in the Netherlands

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