The very crowded Venice of the Netherlands.
Next up on my Dutch travel report is the picturesque historical village of Giethoorn, but please do not ask me how to pronounce that. 🙂 The name dates back to the 13th century when the first farmer-settlers discovered some horns belonging to wild goats thought to have died during a big flood in 1170. Goat horns or Geytenhoren was then shortened to Giethoorn and there we are now.
Giethoorn is a wholly pedestrian village famous for having no roads at all. It consists of hand-dug water canals, small lakes and individual mini islands full of traditional Dutch thatched roof farmhouses, so it looks like a little fairytale site, specially because the ever-present cars are banned. Most of the pretty houses were built in the 18th and 19th centuries, when peat digging was the main industrial activity in the area, which is also how the lakes came to be. The whole village is essentially a network of 176 bridges, so you can only get around by walking, cycling or via boats, leading to Giethoorn’s status as the Venice of the Netherlands. Just like the real Venice, it is immensely popular with tourists as over a million people come to visit every year. Fun fact: there are also no weed coffee shops in Giethoorn.
Impressions of Giethoorn
The most convenient way to visit Giethoorn is of course by boat. My friend Eva and I visited in April 2022 and we picked the cheapest cruise we could find online. It was on this ultra touristy, bulky, most regular boat ever. You know the type of round wooden boat full of middle-aged German tourists with swollen ankles and salami sandwiches? That one – and I’ll tell you what, it was awesome. It all depends on what you are looking for, but Giethoorn is so crowded that I wouldn’t pay extra to rent my own swag boat just to bump into other boats inside the narrow canals, but to each their own. I suppose it is nice to have your own boat if you are planning to zoom around the lakes, go swimming etc. We managed to have a drink and some food out in the sun and did some people watching, but even that felt a bit strained because there were just so many people everywhere, and we weren’t even visiting during the top tourist season.
The Boat Trip and lake views
So, did I enjoy my visit to Giethoorn? Absolutely, because Eva and I always have fun together and it is a very beautiful place, but would I say it is a must visit spot if you are in the Netherlands? Not really. Feel free to call me a hipster and a snob, but practically every town in the Netherlands has a canal where you can take a boat tour and some thatched roof houses to take those must have social media photos of. Even though Giethoorn is really pretty and historically interesting, it is also crowded to the point that you can’t really enjoy it. Unless you are sitting on the boat and looking at it from afar, you won’t have time to observe the traditional houses that make it interesting, because you’ll be dodging other tourists taking selfies and crawling around the place like an ant infestation. To this particular ant it felt more like an amusement park ride where you get on the boat, take the ride and see the sights along the way, then get out again. Unless you can afford to stay in one of the fancy houses, of course, but even if you do, you’ll have the ant infestation to contend with anyway.