From Amsterdam to Giethoorn: Pack your bags and enjoy the ride
Amsterdam, the capital city of the Netherlands, is still the biggest tourist destination in the country and one of the best destinations in the whole of Europe. There’s an abundance of cool things to see and fun activities to do. The city’s palaces and museums will definitely impress you and make you feel as though you are in the presence of royalty. The only downside, perhaps, is that it can get too crowded during peak season. Millions of tourists come here every year, and most of them mistakenly assume that Amsterdam is all that Holland has to offer.
If you’re craving for more of Holland’s magic and cultural appeal but fewer crowds and less of the urban tourism and noice that goes along with it. Then you definitely should take a break from Amsterdam and head to beautiful Giethoorn in the northeast. This is a quaint, medieval village that promises a fairytale experience like no other.
Pack your bags and head to Giethoorn, from an ultra-busy yet enchanting major Dutch city to a dreamy, car-less peaceful little village. Here’s a guide from Amsterdam to Giethoorn by car and all the amazing stops along the way as you drive through the Netherlands’ beautiful countryside.
From Amsterdam to Giethoorn: Pack your bags and enjoy the ride
Along the way
Just outside Amsterdam is the university city of Utrecht. The Dutch and frequent travelers through Europe know Utrecht well because it is the largest train hub in the Netherlands. Everyone passes through the city, which is why it is known by many as the beating heart of Holland. But people don’t need to hurry to get out of Utrecht, as the city is very attractive and fun to be in as well.
Utrecht is a vibrant city that is popular for its beautiful canals, wharf cafés, terraces by the water, shopping centers, boutiques, the Centraal Museum, Museum Speelklok, Wilhelminapark, Lepelenburg park, and the majestic Dom Tower, which you can see from any point in the city.
Like Giethoorn, Utrecht’s city centre is car-free, with amazing city art, design, and architecture. Utrecht is the home of world-famous furniture designer and architect Gerrit Rietveld. Discover the colorful heritage of De Stijl at the Centraal Museum and Rietveld Schröder House and see the impact of the art movement on the city’s architecture. Rietveld Schröder House became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2000.
2. Schokland and Urk
Two nearby spots of interest, which could easily be your next quick stop, are the islands of Schokland and Urk in the province of Flevoland, Holland’s newest province. Schokland was actually the first Dutch destination that made it onto the UNESCO World Heritage Sites list thanks to its old lighthouse, the ancient harbor, and church ruins.
Urk, on the other hand, is an enchanting fishing village with a unique history and culture. You can enjoy a lazy, leisurely afternoon along the water. Walk around a bit along the old lanes and alleyways to see the cozy harbor, terrace cafés, the lighthouse, and the fish market on the Ijsselmeer Lake. If you manage to make some friends, any local would love to take you on a boat trip across the Ijsselmeer Lake.
Around this time on your trip, you will surely already be convinced that the Netherlands is truly a country of culture, arts, museums, flowers, palaces, and exciting Dutch history. Your possible next stop along the way, the city of Amersfoort, is another proof of this.
Make a quick stop here to admire the centuries-old street pattern, several historic buildings, and unique monuments. You might be surprised that this small city off Amsterdam receives more than a million tourists every year. They come to see the lovely canals, shopping centers, terraces, cafés, and restaurants in this chic city center.
You’ve almost made it to your final destination – the medieval town of Giethoorn, but not before a relaxing tour into Zwolle, which is only 30 minutes away from the green village.
Those who’ve made the trip from the capital to Giethoorn before will definitely recommend that you take some time to enjoy Zwolle along the way as well. It is a small yet gorgeous city just a little over an hour from Amsterdam, and like the capital, Zwolle will woo you with its own canals and lovely bridges. You will be welcomed by cobblestone-covered streets and gothic medieval architecture making for a very special atmosphere in this little town.
If you decide to spend some time here, you need to check out Sassenport, the 600-year-old medieval gate in the city’s castle-like entrance. This is a Dutch UNESCO monument that has withstood the test of time. An Instagrammable reminder of the city’s golden era in the 15th century, being part of the Hanseatic League.
Another popular landmark here is the cool 14th-century tower that you can climb to enjoy a nice view of the city and the old church beside the tower itself.
After strolling around Zwolle and before you resume your journey farther north, grab a cup of coffee in any of the city’s many cute and inviting cafés. I recommend you choose between these three: Espressobar Maling, a tiny and artsy espresso bar that serves fresh coffee; Chocolate Company, which is popular for its iced coffee and chocolates; or Beagles and Beans. Can’t go wrong with either of those three options.
A final interesting stop along the way is the little town of Meppel. You are now just a stone’s throw away from Giethoorn. 17 minutes by car to be exact.
At Meppel, checkout the Grote of Mariakerk, the city’s largest and oldest church located within Kerkplein (Church Square). There are also the traditional windmills, old canals, and the Drukkerijmuseum to see on this little stop.
6. Final destination: Giethoorn
Finally, you made it to Giethootn. Welcome to one of the dreamiest little towns on the planet. You can now give your car a much-deserved break from all the travels since cars aren’t permitted inside Giethoorn. There is a designated parking area for visitors just outside of town. Prepare to walk, cycle, or why not take a cruise on a boat along with the waterways instead.
Like the rest of the country, Giethoorn gives off an intriguing, medieval vibe that is rich with culture and flowers of all colors.
Giethoorn is best known as the “Venice of the Netherlands” with its lovely man-made canals. It is home to about 3,000 people, with very few modern-day motorized forms of transport. The locals are kind enough to share their own special piece of paradise with a lot of visitors each year, so please keep this in mind and respect their privacy.
One of the best attractions here is the peace and quiet. Even the boats here are quiet and are actually called “whisper boats”. The loudest sounds you can hear around here are the water, ducks, birds, and excited tourists’ voices. Giethoorn, quite simply put, is serene, tranquil, and magical.
7. What to do
It’s now time to find out what you can do in a day in Giethoorn. When you arrive at Giethoorn, leave your car and walk along the main path heading towards the boats. If you wish to be led by a professional guide (mostly local residents who know the village like the back of their hand), you will be taken on a short walking tour of the village, or boat tour if you prefer, and then you can explore the village on your own after as you please.
The most popular path in the village is its main walking strip that is only accessible by footpath or canal. This will take you to the cafés, shops, and restaurants along the canals, and you definitely won’t need a car to get there.
Cruising the canals on your canoe or “whisper boat” is quite lovely, as you pass farm-style homes, traditional cottages, and farmhouses, and under lovely wooden arch bridges. Cycling around is lovely too. There are several bicycles and e-scooters for rent.
On a bicycle, explore the many charming and cosy little cafés nestled in nooks, or look for cottages that are actually hidden museums and churches. The two most popular museums here are Olde Maat Uus Museum and De Oude Aarde museum.
Olde Maat Uus Museum is a typical farmhouse that is dedicated to helping you understand the origins of this unique village. You will be transported back in time as you witness actors in costumes mimic how Giethoorn residentts used to live hundreds of years ago.
In case you were wondering about the name, Giethoorn or “Goat Horn” got its name after the earliest settlers discovered goat horns buried in the mud here. The town was founded around 1230.
Meanwhile, De Oude Aarde museum will mesmerize you with beautiful pieces of jewelry, precious gemstones, and natural treasures from all around the world, as well as fossil minerals. Some of the displays are for sale, in case you wish to bring home a precious souvenir. The museum is also popular for owning the world’s largest egg.
10. Nature reserve
Another leading attraction that could keep you busy and engage for an entire day is the mysterious De Weerribben-Wieden National Park, found not far from the village. Cycle to this vast natural reserve to see an array of wildlife endemic to the Netherlands including otters, egrets, and cormorants. Other than that, the park is known for its many lakes you can explore by rowboat and a wide meadow of flowers, with stunning trails for you to hike.
11. Where to dine
Although not anywhere as huge as Amsterdam or Utrecht, Giethoorn will not disappoint your cravings for delicious food. The most popular restaurants here are De Lindenhof (Beulakerweg 77), awarded with 2 Michelin stars, Hollands Venetië (Beulakerweg 167) and ’t Achterhuus (Dominee T O Hylkemaweg 43).
If you want a more affordable option, try a snack or a meal at Grand Café Fanfare, a cosy and modern restaurant that is known for its great lunch choices, salads, ice cream, and coffee. It is located right in the center of the village, surrounded by beautiful farms, canals, bridges, and nature. As additional service to its diners, the restaurant offers group packages and boat rentals to let you experience sailing in Giethoorn!
Het Wapen van Giethoorn is a café-restaurant and a lovely shop at the same time. Here you can scout for souvenirs as you enjoy their well-loved coffees, delicious cakes, wines, and special beers. Then there’s De Landije van Giethoorn, which is considered by many as one of Giethoorn’s best-kept secrets. This lovely diner is near the Olde Maat Uus museum and De Oude Aarde museum. You’d love dining here under their lovely old pear tree.
12. When to visit
The best months to visit Giethoorn are April, May, June, and September when there are not too many tourists. During the peak months, large crowds of visitors could ruin the serenity and absolute peace that the village is known for in the first place. Every year, more and more people are coming, which is proof of this destination’s growing popularity.
In case you didn’t know, Giethoorn is now popular enough to make it into the famous game of Monopoly, the world version. You can “visit” Giethoorn and “purchase” properties when playing this new international Monopoly set. Giethoorn successfully won out over 182 other places across the world that hoped to be featured in the board game.
Come visit during the weekdays, when the village and its residents are most quiet, naturally going about their day-to-day lives during the week. If you come over the weekend, it may not be easy getting a bike or boat to rent, as there would be plenty of tourists competing to get one.
If you are a fan of snow and ice skating, come in winter. Giethoorn becomes more magical and more fairy-tale-like than it already is. The canals would have turned to ice and the surrounding lakes and ponds of De Weerribben-Wieden National Park. Also, the green lawns and thatched roofs would have been covered in a white blanket of ice and the trees with glistening snowflakes.
Many tourists come and spend an entire day on a Day Trip package to get their hearts full, but if you feel a day is not enough for you, the village does have hotels to house you in.
13. How to get there by train
If you wish to visit Giethoorn on a public commute, take the train to Zwolle and get a vehicle from there. If you wish to take the train and then a bus, leave from Amsterdam Zuid/Centraal Station to Steenwijk and from there hop on Bus 70, which will take you to the Dominee Hylkemaweg stop. From here, Giethoorn is just 10 more minutes away on foot. The whole trip on public transport will take about 2 hours.
Discover more when you get here. There are surprises around every nook and corner, as you stroll around or ride a bicycle along the canals. And in case you haven’t heard, you don’t have to pay an entrance fee to enter the village.
You can even park for free almost anywhere. If you have a boat, you can sail on the lakes for free as well. Visit www.giethoorn.com to know more about this village without roads and all that it has to offer.
Do you know of any secret spots along the way from Amsterdam to Giethoorn that we missed? Let us know in the comments below.
About the Author
Ask The Dutch Guy is your go-to guide when it comes to The Netherlands. The goal of “Ask The Dutch Guy” is to showcase the beauty of The Netherlands and to inspire others to explore the country. Read more about Ask The Dutch Guy here or follow him on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest.
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