Latest update: 7 July 2022
When you think of Giethoorn, you think of bridges and boats. Giethoorn, the Venice of the Netherlands, has an enormous appeal to both Dutch and foreign tourists – and I totally get it. As a result, it is pretty busy, so doing a bit of planning for a day in Giethoorn is definitely worth it. I’ll help you out!
Why go on a day trip to Giethoorn?
The answer is simple: it is a unique man-made piece of the Netherlands. Man has dug all the water in Giethoorn. People used to dig the peat here. These peat cutters removed the peat from the soil and threw it on the land to dry. That’s how puddles and lakes arose in the area. But the peat also had to be transported. For this purpose, the now-famous waterways of Giethoorn were excavated. The water is about 80 to 100 cm deep everywhere. The narrow waters, bridges, and cute houses (and huge villas) are super photogenic. And, of course, you go to Giethoorn for a day because a boat trip is always a good idea. Well, especially when the weather is nice.
Because of all those waterways, the houses are actually on islands. That is why the bridges were desperately needed. There are 170 of them (or 176, depending on who you ask). And to those bridges, Giethoorn owes the nickname Venice of the Netherlands.
Giethoorn is about 750 years old but has only had streets for 100 years. Before that, EVERYTHING was done by boat: go to school, to church, even taking the cows to the pasture. That is why the traditional Gieterse punter (a type of boat) is as wide as a cow is long.
By the way, the streets in the center are entirely car-free; everything is a walking path. Many residents of Giethoorn (called Gieters) still have a boat to do daily things. Also, don’t be surprised if you see people walking from their car to their house with a wheelbarrow full of groceries. Fewer than 3000 people live in Giethoorn, but they receive more than 1 million visitors yearly.
Do you want to know all the ins and outs? Check everything about Giethoorn here.
Boating is a rather obvious activity and an absolute must if you go to Giethoorn for a day. But there is even more to experience: on land, water, and air. So check out my Giethoorn tips quickly.
Discover Giethoorn on land
There are narrow footpaths along the water. They lead you past the houses and bridges. If you want to walk through Giethoorn at your own pace, come early or at the end of the day. Otherwise, you have to dodge a lot of selfie sticks. If you’re into it, you can rent an e-chopper and explore Giethoorn and the surrounding area.
Grab a drink now and then, watch the boats pass by, or visit a museum. In the small museum De Oude Aarde, you can admire precious stones, minerals, and fossils. Or go to museum ‘t Olde Maat Uus to learn about the history of Giethoorn. You can see a Gieterse punter and take a look inside an old farmhouse.
Try the ice cream at IJsmakers – all lactose-free and homemade. And if you’re up for a good lunch or dinner, try the Italian restaurant Fratelli. The outdoor area is nice and sunny and directly on the water. This is how you get the full Giethoorn experience!
Boat trip in Giethoorn
The absolute number one activity in Giethoorn is, of course, a boat trip. It is cheerful chaos on the water with all kinds of boats. You can rent a boat and be the captain yourself in a whisper boat or sloop, or maybe you prefer to go on a tour. Everything is possible. You can even discover Giethoorn with a pedal boat – a slightly more active form of boating.
Boat rental in Giethoorn
You can rent a boat in the center of Giethoorn, on the Dorpsgracht, but I advise you to make your first sailing meters just outside the center. At Giethoorn boat rental you board your sloop or whisper boat in a quiet environment and make your way through nature towards the center. This way, you get used to driving a whisper boat or sloop before zigzagging your way through the rest of the tourist boats. I recommend you opt for a boat rental for at least two hours in Giethoorn: you have an excellent combination of nature reserve and village center.
Pedal boats in Giethoorn
Aqua Verhuur introduced pedal boats in Giethoorn last year, which is quite a success. When I think of pedal boats, I immediately think of those plastic ones with sometimes a slide on them or in the shape of a swan. But no, these pedal boats are much cooler than that. They look state-of-the-art and turn out to be stable and easy to drive. It is impossible to fall over, says the attendant. From the age of 15, you can ‘sail’ with a pedal boat through Giethoorn. Keep in mind that you have to pedal the entire route yourself. It is not hard, but you will feel your legs and get a bit tired after a while.
A little warning: you will become an attraction yourself: the pedal boats stand out between the regular boats, and people like to take pictures of them. You can rent a pedal boat for up to 8 hours – take a lovely picnic basket with you for those longer rentals. Check your options at Aqua Verhuur.
Evening cruise in Giethoorn
Because Giethoorn makes for a great day trip, you can see the village and the water emptying around dinner time. Perfect! Now the real fun starts if you ask me. If you have the chance, I would avoid the tour boats in the center during the day and opt for a private evening cruise with a skipper. It is so quiet on the water and our captain Jan has endless knowledge about Giethoorn.
You’ll get the standard facts but also nice inside information with some gossip here and there. And it’s how you discover unique places: an abandoned, overgrown boat and a bridge where you have to lie flat to pass under it. The reflection on the calm water is beautiful at this time of day! You will also be treated to a beautiful sunset on the water. What else do you want, right? By the way, all the captains of the evening cruise are retirees from Giethoorn with a heart full of their beautiful village.
Giethoorn in the air
Giethoorn by air? Yes, of course! You can join a balloon flight. I’ll sure put it on my to-do list for another visit. Check your options at Ballonvaartmaken.com, for example.
Bonus tip for a day in Giethoorn
Frederiksoord is not far from Giethoorn. Now, that place probably doesn’t ring any bells. It didn’t for me. But now that I’ve taken the electric Colony Express ride through the colony village, I’ll never forget it for sure, thanks to guide and chatterbox Bob. Book your ride here.
From Amsterdam to Giethoorn
A lot of tourists in Amsterdam organize a day trip to Giethoorn. It’s very doable time-wise but also logistically. It’ll take you about 2,5 hours by public transport, or 1,5 by car (Sunny Cars is a good car rental company in the Netherlands). But there are also plenty of options to go on an organized trip. Find the best one for your needs:
Spend the night in Giethoorn
Actually… I wouldn’t spend the night in Giethoorn itself if I were you. Instead, look for something in the area and make a day trip to Giethoorn. For example, I stay in the Residence de Eese holiday park. You have a massive choice of types of houses, but you can also camp. The park is beautifully situated in the middle of nature. There are even alpacas, horses, and an emu on the property. Nearby is also a Fletcher hotel.
Another good spot to spend the night near Giethoorn: Paasloo. There is a friendly campsite with pre-pitched tents and (yes) alpacas. Camping de Houtwal is highly recommended: read my blog about my experience of my stay with them.
More travel inspiration for the Netherlands
Useful links for travel in the Netherlands
- Travel guides. I love the practical travel guides from Lonely Planet, buy them at Bol.com or Book Depository. The latter has longer delivery times but is often cheaper. I always like it to see my own country through the eyes of foreign visitors.
- Accommodation. Forever favorites: Booking.com, Natuurhuisje, Campspace , and Airbnb. Or try a holiday resort viaBelVilla or Roompot. Rather stay in a hostel? Try HostelWorld. Something different: BoerenBed.
- Activities. You book the best tours and activities with GetYourGuide and Viator. For tours with locals, go to WithLocals or Hi,hi Guide. And for bike tours, try Baja Bikes.
- Car rental. My go-to car rental companies are EasyTerra and Sunny Cars as they have all-inclusive / worry-free offers.
- Public transport. Use the regular public transport options, or find a bus, train, or something else on Busbud or Omio.
- Travel gear. Buy your gear at Bever or Decathlon, or simply at Bol.com.
- Package deals. Rather go on a catered trip? You have plenty of options. For the Dutch: ANWB vakanties orTui, or maybe Vakantie Discounter? Or try a yoga retreat in the Netherlands.
Some of the links on this site are affiliate links. If you buy something through these links, I might receive a small commission – at no extra costs to you of course!
I was invited to explore Giethoorn by Blogger by Nature and Giethoorn Village. Opinions are my own.