Giethoorn is Holland’s Venice

Today’s post comes from my friend Jan, who runs a popular blog about the Netherlands. My limited time in the Netherlands was spent eating space cakes in Amsterdam, so reading about Giethoorn makes me wanna get back and do something less…debauch? Enjoy.

Giethoorn is a village located in the north-west of the Overijssel province in the Netherlands in the middle of a national park called Weerribben-Wieden. The village was founded around 1230 by a group of flagellants. These first inhabitants came from areas around the Mediterranean, which were plagued by major disasters like floods and pestilence. When they first arrived they found large quantities of horns of wild goats in the area, which were probably killed in the St. Elizabeth’s flood in 1170. For this reason they named their settlement ‘Geytenhoren’ which translates into Goat Horn. Later this name changed into Geythorn and eventually Giethoorn.

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Due to being centrally located, Giethoorn is ideal to put up base to explore the area. What’s special about Giethoorn is that you can’t access the town center by car, which is why it is internationally known as the “village without roads.” There is no better way to explore the village and its surroundings then by boat!

The nature area around Giethoorn is referred to as “de Wieden” and is part of the largest fenland of Western Europe. Together with the adjacent nature reserve “Weerribben” it forms the Weerribben-Wieden national park. The area lends itself perfectly to spot wild animals and in particular (water) bird. You can do so from an electric boat, the watchtower in the park, or from the so called ‘Eendenkooi’.

If you’re interested in learning about what life was like in the 19th century in this area you can visit the Museum t Olde Maat Uus where you’ll find exhibitions of traditional crafts such as peat stabbing, shipbuilding and thatching. The typical ships called ‘Punters’ are still being used and can be booked by tourists to explore the area by water. A ‘Punter’ is a ship that is pushed forward by a long stick. But don’t worry there’s motorised boats available as well.

When you have the opportunity to explore the province of Overijssel some more, I suggest having a look at the village called Diepenheim. Diepenheim is famous for its castles and beautiful parks and gardens. The local tourism office can provide you with a so called ‘castle walk’ that takes you along all six castles.

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Most travellers will actually not stay in Giethoorn itself but visit while staying in Amsterdam (or any other large city). There are several day trips offered and it’s easy to travel on your own to Giethoorn by public transportation as well (should take you no more then 2 hours from Amsterdam). The advantage of an arranged day trip will be the expertise of the guide and often several stops at tourist landmarks. Often the tour can be combined with other attractions/museums.

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If you’d like to learn more about this place, check out Jan’s Best Places to Visit in the Netherlands.

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