This may have just been coincidence, but as many times that I saw Giethoorn mentioned, I figured I may need to check it out. Several times before my Rhine River cruise last month, Conde Naste had posted a short video about this cute little town in the Netherlands on Facebook. The video was quite intriguing, so I remembered it. When we met up with my German cousin in Amsterdam, out the blue she mentioned this same town. Her neighbor had fallen in love with it and highly suggested a visit. And when I picked up a brochure on day trips from Amsterdam, there it was, mentioned again.
Well then! We must check it out, right? YES!!
We decided to venture a bit (actually a lot) off the beaten path on our way back from Bruges to Amsterdam to see for ourselves what all this attention was about.
The drive to Giethoorn was easy and pleasant, and the landscape different and interesting. We met up with the A6 freeway on the outskirts of Amsterdam, which took us past a large number of wind turbines and plenty of farmland. Quite interesting and impressive was the drive along the dike (levee) system. When you are on the bridge and you can see the amount of water the system holds back, it really opens your eyes! I wish I could have stopped to get pictures, but pullouts were not to be found.
Once off the freeway, we drove about 30 minutes or so along winding country roads, largely through farmland. The many roundabouts were fun but thankfully we had GPS. There were no signs to Giethoorn until a few kilometers outside of town and all those roundabouts had us second guessing ourselves on which direction we were actually traveling in.
Located one and half hours from Amsterdam (by car), Giethoorn is a quaint little town, home to approximately 2600 residents. The town has no roads, and consequently, no cars. The only way to get to the homes once inside the town is on a bike or walking along the paths, or by boat. With over 90 kilometers of canals, the area has been labeled as the Venice of Netherlands.
The village was founded back in 1230 AD, and was largely a farming community. The area had a lot of peat, and when the farmers started using it, they built canals to move the material, thus creating the system you see today. This also created the little islands on which most homes are built today. While working their fields, the farmers also uncovered hundreds of goat horns, believed to have come from large herds of goats that drowned in the Flood of 1170. Originally named "Geytenhoren" after these goat horns, it was eventually shortened to Giethoorn.
The area is very quiet and peaceful, ideal if you are looking for a few days or even a few hours of relaxation, away from the hustle and bustle of Amsterdam. I loved walking along the paths, taking in the unique architecture of the thatched-roof farmhouses and beautifully manicured gardens. I understand that the canals are popular in the winter when they freeze over and offer opportunities for skating.
I wouldn't define Giethoorn as an absolute must-see destination. However, I thoroughly enjoyed the few hours spent there. I can see why people are attracted to this spot, and it was a lovely "last stop" before preparing to fly back home the next day. An adventure to a place less traveled can bring pleasant surprises. This one certainly did.
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Laurie Marschall - Owner and Founder