Meet Giethoorn, A Village In The Netherlands Without Roads Or Cars

The Netherlands

The composition of Giethoorn is simple: The town is part canals, part wooden bridges, part peace and quiet, and part magic. While in Giethoorn, you might feel like you’re in the middle of a landscape from a snow globe.

The village has no roads or cars, but it’s easy to reach, and the beauty of this quaint Dutch town makes it an absolute must-stop.

Where Is Giethoorn?

Aerial view of Giethoorn.

Giethoorn is in the province of Overijssel in the Netherlands and has a population of less than 3,000.

Affectionately known as the Venice of the North, Giethoorn bears a slight resemblance to Venice because both cities rely on canals for transportation. Unlike Venice, however, Giethoorn flies under the radar and hides in plain sight.

Where Does The Name Come From?

Canals in Giethoorn.

Back in the 13th century, farmers native to the region unearthed an abundance of goat horns. The horns are thought to have belonged to wild goats that drowned in a flood in the early 12th century.

The area was named Geytenhoren, or “Goat Horn,” after the discovery. Later, the name was shortened to Giethoorn.

What Is The Village Like?

A boat on the canals of Giethoorn.

Giethoorn is completely dependent on 4 miles of waterways, so much so that even the mailman travels by punt (an old-fashioned boat without a motor).

There are only two ways to get around the small village: by boat or on foot. Because there are no roads and no cars, the village is incredibly peaceful — noise is almost nonexistent. To further reduce noise pollution, the townspeople use whisper boats, or boats with silent electric motors.

The quietness of Giethoorn creates a serenity that’s nearly otherworldly.

When Should I Visit?

The canals of Giethoorn.

Giethoorn might appear detached from reality, but it’s actually fairly easy to get to. The town is only 75 miles from Amsterdam, making it a great day-trip option. If you’re interested in staying longer, the town’s bed and breakfasts are ultra-cozy.

National Geographic recommends arriving on a weekday early in the morning or after 6 p.m. to avoid a surge of tourists. April, May, June, and September are the best times of the year to visit.

The spring and summer months are a magical time to visit because of the weather and scenery, but visiting in winter has an interesting benefit: When the temperature drops, the canals freeze over, and you can actually ice skate on them!

What Is There To Do In The Area?

The canals of Giethoorn.

The city is known for its canals, so naturally, you’ll want to explore them. There are boat tours to consider, and if you want to navigate the canals at your own pace, you can rent a canoe, kayak, whisper boat, or punt. (Note that a punt excursion isn’t the best option for those with mobility issues.) You can also rent a bike to see the canals via the town’s dreamy wooden bridges.

At the Museum Giethoorn ‘t Olde Maat Uus, you can learn more about the history of the area. The Museum De Oude Aarde Giethoorn features an impressive collection of gemstones, fossils, and minerals.

After your trip to Giethoorn, you might be in the mood to tackle a bigger city. If you are, we know nine exciting things to do in Amsterdam.