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Giethoorn: A picturesque car-free village in Netherlands also known as “The Venice of the North”

Ian Harvey

The village of Giethoorn in the Netherlands, located in the Dutch province of Overijssel, about three miles southwest of Steenwijk, is a charming little place that has lately become a very popular tourist attraction.

Those who have already visited Giethoorn are mesmerized by its peaceful environment, bohemian canals, small wooden bridges, and the lovely vivid flowers. Not to mention the charming houses that are 200 years old yet still in good shape.

Giethoorn, The Netherlands: A boat builders shop at one of the Giethoorn’s water channels Photo Credit


Canals in Giethoorn Photo Credit


House in Giethoorn, the Netherlands Photo Credit

The village was first established around 1230 by a group of settlers from the Mediterranean. The name ‘Giethoorn’ literally means ‘goat’s horns’ and was chosen as the name of the village by the first inhabitants who found hundreds of goat horns in the marshland. The horns were remnants of a 10th-century flood.

Today, there are no goat horns there, but the vegetation is still quite distinct. Giethoorn was a separate municipality until 1973 when it became part of Brederwiede, a former town in the Dutch province of Overijssel.

This idyllic village is often referred to as ‘The Venice of the North’ or ‘The Small Venice’ because of its similar infrastructure with the Italian city; there are plenty of bridges and no roads, except for the cycling lane.

Vehicles of any kind used to be strictly forbidden in Giethoorn. However, lately, due to the increased number of visitors, exceptions were being made, so bicycles are now allowed. Most of the transport is usually done via water. There are no roads in the old part of the village either, and the place has over 180 bridges.

Canals in Giethoorn Photo Credit


Bridges in Giethoorn  Photo Credit

Boating has been popular tourist attraction here for years. Visitors can rent motorbikes, canoes or boats which are driven by an electric motor. However, the electric boats are the most common choice of transport by the tourists because of the comfortable double seats.

Canals in Giethoorn, Province of Overijssel, Netherlands  Photo Credit


Giethoorn  Photo Credit


Giethoorn, The Netherlands: House with thatched roof in Giethoorn  Photo Credit


Giethoorn  Photo Credit

Thanks to the Dutch movie maker, Bert Haanstra, who chose Giethoorn as a perfect place for filming the famous comedy Fanfare in 1958, the village became a popular tourist attraction.

With only 2,620 inhabitants, this pretty village is the best choice for those who want to escape the city life and relax in a quiet place. People who actually live there say that sometimes the loudest sound you can hear is the quacking of a duck or a random bird noise. Unlike the city hustle and bustle to which tourists are used to, hearing the noise of the birds in Giethoorn makes it hard for them to leave this place.

The small canals and the lovely thatched-roof farmhouses impress with their simplicity and provide a pleasant experience for the visitors.

Regarding the restaurants and cafes, most of them are at the canal-side and represent a pleasant way to spend the afternoon after enjoying the beauty of this small but lovely village.

Restaurants, cafes, and canals in Giethoorn, Province of Overijssel, Netherlands  Photo Credit


Giethoorn, The Netherlands: House with thatched roof in Giethoorn at the end of a channel Photo Credit

The best time to visit Giethoorn is in the period between mid-April and mid-October.

Read another story from us: Venezuela was a German colony for almost twenty years and was called Klein-Venedig (Little Venice)

However, visiting the village out of season isn’t a bad idea either, because in winter the canals freeze and are perfect for ice skating. Regardless of the season, Giethoorn provides a marvelous experience once you decide to explore its territory and its majestic setting.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for The Vintage News