On the edge of the lush Weerribben Wieden National Park is a place lost in time. Giethoorn has become famous as the village with no roads, a place where all transport is waterborne. Known for its nickname as ‘The Venice of Holland’, this peaceful and idyllic village lays among a maze of canoe routes, ornate wooden bridges and endless cycling tracks. Take a closer look at this unspoiled beauty, and be inspired to embark on a Netherlands adventure of your own.
The origins of this unique commune date back to the 13th century when settlers in the area began mining peat from the marshland to use as fuel. As the village grew, the early inhabitants decided that using boats would be the easiest way of transporting the peat, and so dug canals throughout the village. To this day there are still no roads to many of the houses, leaving postmen to deliver mail by punt and a peaceful car-free community.
The existence of Giethoorn was unknown to the wider world until Dutch filmmaker Bert Hansstra shot the comedy film Fanfare here in 1958, bringing the village international fame. Since then, it has become an immensely popular tourist attraction, with visitors enjoy gliding along the gently flowing canals, admiring the 18th century thatched roof cottages and discovering the local countryside by bike. While there are no organised tours along the canals yet, but many of the hotels in the area rent out easy-to-use electric boats, allowing you and your loved ones to roam the scenic waterways at your leisure.
While the area is visually stunning, there is far more to Giethoorn than the pleasing views. For the history lovers, there are three canal-side museums and a shipyard where the punts are built. The Old Earth building has a wonderful exhibition on fossils and minerals, the Museumboerderij ‘t Olde Maat Uus charts 100 years of life in the village at its museum and farm, while the Gloria Maris jewellery gallery contains a fascinating collection of ornate seashells and trinkets.
In the winter the canals often freeze over, turning the entire village into an ice rink. Residents and visitors alike gracefully glide along the picturesque frozen canals on ice skates, a surreal experience in what is a true winter wonderland.
With four miles of canals to explore, this leafy, rustic village offers a serene Dutch idyll that is perfect for anyone seeking a relaxing retreat.