A Fairy Tale on the Canals – Our Travels in Giethoorn, Netherlands

Even traveling, you can sometimes feel a little stuck. During our loop back through northern Europe, we found that many of the cities we were visited felt very similar, mostly with regards to the amount of WWII history. When we reached the Netherlands, we wanted to find something unique and new – which is how we discovered Giethoorn.

I had seen Giethoorn on a travel guide and the photos looked stunning. We figured that after a healthy dose of bopping around from city to city, we were due for some relaxation. We started off with a train ride from Amsterdam to Steenwijk, and then a bus ride to Giethoorn village. We were surprised that the bus dropped us off outside the village, but quickly realized why. Giethoorn is like the small Venice of the north because it has no roads; only canals and walkways, which frankly, only added to its charm and peacefulness.

Once we arrived, we headed straight to get food by the waterside. After, we tried to rent a boat for the day, but most places were already sold out. Instead, we decided to take a boat tour. It may not have been the most lively tour, but we were stunned by the picturesque village! You know those quaint little villages that people set up for Christmas? That’s how it felt riding through the canals of Giethoorn. The small canals weaved through rows of old thatched roof houses while wooden bridges crossed overhead. The whole town was encompassed in green, from small grass fields to the weeping willows lining the water, giving it an effervescent glow. After our boat ride, we spent the rest of the day just meandering the streets. The canals were packed with boats by the afternoon, looking more like a lazy river at a water park. There was only one rowdy group of men on a stag party who decided to moon some tourists on a passing boat; funny but pretty out of place for this town! Even with all the tourists, there was a calm and quiet through the town that was so tranquil. We got dinner at an Italian restaurant along the water and watched as the masses of day-trippers left for the day. For dessert, we grabbed ice cream and a bottle of prosecco, and had a romantic night along the canals. By then, the village were pretty empty and we felt like we had a piece of the town all to ourselves. Well, except for the ducks who now had their time in the water!

The next morning we woke up feeling refreshed after sleeping on our super comfy bed! We went out to find breakfast first thing, and relished in the quiet of the village. Don’t get me wrong, there were locals out doing their business and getting ready for the day, but the town just had their relaxed air to it, and the most noise you heard at this time of day was from the birds and the horses. We decided to get a little picnic brunch and headed out to find a boat to rent before the day trippers arrived. We were happy to find one in no time and set off on the canals. With Matt nor I being boat-savvy people, it took a minute to get used to driving it and we were happy that there weren’t too many people on the canals to crash into. After a while, we finally got the hang of it, and slowly cruised through the town. I was happy to let Matt drive so that I could look at all the amazing houses! It amazes me how every country builds their homes, and the ones in Giethoorn were all picture-perfect houses. We stopped at the entrance to this large lake and ate our picnic brunch on the boat. It was pure bliss! We continued our boat trip further into the lake, as we heard there were some small nature trails that took you through the marsh. A family of ducklings found our boat and became our little tour guides through the marsh, stopping when we did and requesting payment in food. We ate, we chatted, and we lounged in the sunshine feeling like we were in a fairytale. By the time we headed back towards town, the canals were a bit more crowded. Unfortunately, we had to catch our train back to Amsterdam, so we returned our boat and were off too soon.  

We have really enjoyed our spontaneous side trips during our travels, but I can honestly say that Giethoorn was one of my favorites! What this small village lacks in “attractions”, it makes up for in immense beauty and serenity. After just 2 short days in Giethoorn, we felt like we had stepped into a new world where the tires of traveling, technology and reality had just slipped away. It was charming, romantic and tiny enough to allow us to really appreciate the town and some intimate time together. We left feeling utterly relaxed, refreshed and easily in love.   

Getting to Giethoorn from Amsterdam:

Train/Bus: You can take a train and bus combo to get to Giethoorn from Amsterdam, just like us. From Amsterdam Centraal Station, take the train to Steenwijk station. There may be a transfer in Zwolle, or a direct line; both usually take about 90 minutes to arrive in Steenwijk and the fare is around 50 euro round trip. From Steenwijk, take the no. 70 bus towards Giethoorn Village, which takes about 30 minutes and costs about 4 euro for a one way ticket. We stopped at the Ds Hylkemaweg bus stop to enter Giethoorn Village.

Car: If you have a car, or can rent one in Amsterdam, you can also drive 120 km to Giethoorn on your own. It should take you about 2 hours, and you’ll have to find parking on the outskirts of the village when you arrive. Check with your hotel/B&B or look for free parking lots such as the one below to leave your car.

Free parking lot (found through Google): Address – Binnenpad 2, 8355 BP Giethoorn, Netherlands

Matthew & Stephanie

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