Around 1230 in the province of Overijssel, (about a 90-minute drive northeast of Amsterdam) the enchanting little village known as the “Venice of the Netherlands” was founded. Giethoorn "Goat horn" received its name after its medieval founders discovered buried goat horns in the mud there- remains of a 10th-century flood. Home to less than 3000 people, what makes this village truly spectacular is its lack of roads and modern day transport.
With over 80km of canals intertwining amongst quaint farm-style cottages, cafes, hotels, and museums, this village is a true definition of whimsical beauty. The village is home to some 180 wooden arch bridges that allow pedestrians and cyclists to get around. However, many residents of Giethoorn live on private canal-side islands, and are only accessible via boat- you’ll notice local resident's mail being delivered by punt.
Visitors are required to leave their vehicles outside the village, exploring the village by foot, bike, or on the water. The most common way of getting around the canals is via canoe, kayak or “whisper boats”, which have silent motors to avoid disrupting the peace and tranquillity- the use of noisy engines is in infact forbidden in the village. Giethoorn is so peaceful you can expect the loudest sound to come from a quacking duck or the chirp of birds frolicking in the trees above you- it truly is something magical.
You will find plenty of charming and cozy little cafes nestled in the nooks of the village, and if you’re exploring by foot- lookout for hidden museums churches in and amongst the cottages. Take a step back in time when you visit the Olde-Maat-Uus museum, which shows what a typical farmhouse looked like hundreds of years ago.
What could possibly be more magical than this you might ask, well, Giethoorn in the winter is inexplicably even more fairytale-like. The canals turn to ice, the green lawns and thatched roofs are blanketed with white, and the trees dusted with glistening snowflakes. Giethoorn makes for the perfect destination for ice skaters- since the surrounding lakes and ponds of De Weerribben-Wieden National Park also turn to ice, visitors have the luxury of choice for places to skate
The serenity of Giethoorn’s canals and its quaint thatched cottages have certainly earned it some fame across the globe- particularly in China where Chinese tourists outnumber locals 75:1 every year when visiting. Many Chinese tourists joined the locals of Giethoorn in a campaign to get the village on the international edition of the well-known board game Monopoly. Of course, it was successful, and Giethoorn now sits alongside properties in London, New York and Tokyo.
For those nature lovers and wildlife enthusiasts, not far from Giethoorn is the De Weerribben-Wieden National Park. The park is home to an array of species such as otters, cormorants and egrets. You can explore the park's many lakes by rowboats, and its meadow of flowers by hiking a range of stunning trails. For those ancient artifact fanatics- indulge in the precious gemstones, jewelry, and fossil minerals on show at the De Oude Aarde museum dedicated to showcasing beautiful and natural treasures from all around the world- including the worlds largest egg.
To avoid large crowds, it would be best to visit Giethoorn during April, May, June, or September. It is also best to visit during the weekdays when the town is at its quietest- otherwise, finding a boat or bike that is free can be nearly impossible. Nonetheless, whether you visit Giethoorn just for the day, or decide to get away for a few days, prepare to have your heart stolen.