On our family road trip from the UK to Denmark and back again we’ve come across some beautiful villages, but none are quite as idyllic as Giethoorn – The Venice of the North. Giethoorn is a fairytale village hidden in the Dutch countryside, that has no roads and is only accessible by boat, bicycle or on foot.
Giethoorn itself is around 800 years old and its whimsical canals and picturesque lakes are the result of peat harvesters cutting peat, who then built houses on the islands between them. As the islands were only accessible by boat, the peat harvesters then built bridges connecting the islands and so the village of Giethoorn was born.
As Giethoorn is about a 90 minute car journey from Amsterdam, we couldn’t help ourselves and decided to stop in for a couple of days. After the hustle and bustle of Amsterdam, the change of pace was very much welcomed and we enjoyed taking things slowly for a few days before heading back into bustling cities.
Things to do
Rent a boat
Giethoorn is on the edge of the very beautiful Weerriben-Wieden National park, which is accessible by boat. There are a number of places in Giethoorn where you can hire a boat, but we decided to hire one from the company ‘Kroon Domein’ that rented us the Chalet we stayed in for our first night in the area. The boats were quite a bit more expensive per hour, but they were bigger, had higher sides, comfier seats and looked a lot more child friendly than a lot of the other ones we walked past. We had a great time boating on the lake and through the canals of Weerriben-Wieden National park. We saw little windmills and deer on the banks, dragonflies skimming across the water and herons flying in the sky. We all had such a lovely time and it was such a great experience for the boys to have as well.
Along the side of the main canal running through Giethoorn is a quaint little shop that sells trinkets and soap. At the back of the shop are a few steps that lead down to a room filled with cheese and it is completely free to taste the different variations before buying. After tasting all of the different types of cheese we bought some mild goats cheese, headed to supermarket to buy some crackers, fruit and drinks, then found a shady spot to enjoy a picnic lunch. The cheese and crackers were delicious, so I’d really really recommend stopping by to buy some cheese if you find yourself in Giethoorn.
Despite Giethoorn being a very small place, there are several museums to visit. The ‘Het Olde Maat Uus museum’ takes you through what a traditional farmhouse in the region would have looked a century ago, the ‘Museum de Oude Aarde’ has a collection of minerals and gemstones and the ‘Histomobil museum’ has a collection of vintage cars, motorcycles and carriages.
Outside of Giethoorn
Giethoorn is really close to some very beautiful Dutch villages such as ‘Blokzil’, where there are a lot of walking and cycle trails to explore. Giethoorn itself gets extremely busy at the weekend, so we opted to move on as the weekend rolled in and found a lovely B&B OpdeParkkamp in the neighbouring Havelte. Our room had a separate adjoining bedroom for the boys and a balcony. In the morning our lovely host bought up the most wonderful breakfast which we enjoyed on the balcony, before setting off for our next adventure.
This was one of our favourite parts of our European road trip and is somewhere we would really like to visit again. If you’re looking for a quiet, idyllic break in the Dutch countryside I’d definitely recommend a visit, but try to go midweek before the crowds stream in!