Quynh Mai

Did you know that along with the Keukenhof Botanical Gardens, the windmills in Zaanse Schans village, I Canals of Amsterdam, and the Heineken Museum, the Netherlands is home to Giethoorn, an ancient fairytale village known as the “Venice of the Netherlands”?

A brick house with a traditional Dutch thatched roof

While searching for information on tourist sites in the Netherlands, I came across a video clip about Giethoorn on YouTube. Captivated from the first frames, I told myself that one day, I must visit and feast my eyes on this beautiful and tranquil place.

My plan was to visit both Zaanse Schans and Giethoorn villages in one day. Learning that getting to Giethoorn and back from Amsterdam via public transport would take around five hours, I decided to spend a full day in Giethoorn instead.

There are more than 170 wooden bridges in Giethoorn

On a drizzly day in early summer, armed with lunch, a bottle of water and my camera in a small backpack, I was eager to explore. I took a 9am train from Amsterdam and hopped on a bus to reach Giethoorn around noon.

People praise Giethoorn as the “Venice of the Netherlands”. To me, the village seemed much more peaceful and simple. Tiny houses with gardens full of flowers and carefully tended trees were encircled by small canals. To enter the houses, you must walk over wooden bridges.

While many think of Giethoorn as a tourist town, it isn’t. Giethoorn was an ancient village built in the 13th century. It was founded in 1230 by a group of refugees who came from the Southern Netherlands. The village rose to fame in 1958 because of a Dutch movie director named Bert Haanstra chose it as the setting of his comedy “Fanfare”. Despite its continued popularity, the village has only a few tourism services like restaurants and souvenir shops. Fearful of losing their tranquility, the locals chose not to expand these services to attract more visitors.

The most common way to explore Giethoorn is by boat. Visitors float along the small canals and watch the houses on both sides. My ticket combo included a boat tour so I went straight to the dock and boarded a boat with some other tourists. The boats here are very special. Nicknamed “whisper boats”, they are small and adorable and run via quiet electric engines. Visitors can admire the pretty landscape in near-silence, occasionally murmuring to each other.

Visitors explore the village by boat

You can also explore by bicycle. After a round in a “whisper boat”, I rented a bike and rode down every alleyway. Each house has its own style and unique touches, such as decorated mailboxes and special flowers in the garden. It was a pity I came in early summer when the flowers weren’t in full bloom, but this village remained beautiful. On my way back, I visited two gemstone stores. They sold unique art pieces handmade by local artisans at prices I could only dream of paying. Never mind, art is priceless! Apart from these shops, Giethoorn also had a small museum with an entrance fee of just 6€ per ticket. This museum helped visitors understand Giethoorn’s history and villagers’ daily lives over the centuries.

Before visiting, most tips claimed it only took half a day to discover everything. Once I got there, this wasn’t nearly enough time. I would definitely return to spend the night, watch the sunrise and sunset, breathe in the fresh air, and enjoy the tranquil atmosphere. I often dream of waking up with the birds singing outside my window, watching the colorful flowers, and drifting away on a “whisper boat” in this fairytale village.