Guide to Githorn: discovering the Venice of the Netherlands

Githorn Village: An amazing journey into the authentic Venice of the Netherlands

Githorn has a special feel for the unspoiled purity of the air

The Netherlands have long ceased to be something undiscovered for tourists. A lot of iconic films shot in this state allowed to fully appreciate the beauty of local landscapes and distinctive culture of local villages. One of these is the village of Githorn, often referred to as the Venice of the North. Just as in a popular tourist city, the roads here have been successfully replaced by canals. However, the special zest of this place gives unique buildings and other small things, including road signs and gardens.

History of the Village of Githorn

The history of the formation of the village goes back to the first half of the 13th century. According to tradition, the area was settled by refugees from the southern Netherlands, who came to love this place for the abundance of greenery and rich reserves of peat. Incidentally, the name of the village Giethoorn comes from a phrase that translates as “goat’s horns”.

According to local legend, the farmers who first came to this land, lost a herd of goats, which are safely drowned in the local swamp, so that the whole area was strewn with their horns.

In Githorn, half a dozen wooden bridges connect the canal banks

Initially, the village of Githorn looked like other Dutch settlements. However, thanks to the active extraction of peat directly on its territory, the formation of small lakes, or more precisely, puddles. Wishing to alleviate the hardships of transporting goods through the village, the locals connected them with canals, which quickly filled with groundwater.

And so was born the Venice of the North – one of the most picturesque places in the Netherlands. In contrast to the southern seaside original, the thin web of waterways here was replaced by a single long channel, and instead of strict multi-storey mansions and palaces here are built cute little houses under the roofs of reed.

Locals row their boats through the streets of Githorn

Features of the village

In Githorn, the purity of the air is very special. The lawns in front of the houses are of an extraordinary emerald color, and the water in the canals, despite its proximity to the houses, is clear and clean. The main feature of this village is the complete absence of roads. Locals move through the streets of the village by boat, and the banks of canals are connected by charming wooden bridges, of which there are more than fifty.

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The only narrow, land-lined road is for bicycles, the Dutch people’s favorite means of transport. It winds along the main canal along one of its banks. Environmental cleanliness is the main desire of the locals, so even for water transport boats with electric motors are used. By the way, you can literally see this water transport at every house, and tourists can rent boats to explore all the sights of Githorn.

The only narrow thoroughfare in Githorn is for bicycles - the favorite means of transport of Dutch residents

Amid the pristine splendor of greenery and open water, the houses, which are not fenced off from the outside world, stand out in particular. Made of gray stone and red bricks, they set off the greenery of the lawns. Decorative plantings of rhododendrons and lianas, in which the houses are literally drowned, also look special here.

It is considered chic to decorate a house in the old style, when instead of shingles the roof is covered with reed sheaves. The wealthy inhabitants of Githorn once sought to cover their homes with tiles, but the modern population seeks an authentic decoration of their village. Reed grows here as well, although within the village the canal banks are absolutely clear: the lawns come right up to the water.

Dutch North Venice has become a habitat for many wild and domestic animals and birds. The banks even inside the village are populated by herons, which eat fish that are abundant in the local canals. Horses, cows and ponies, the locals’ pets, also take up the lawns. Upon entering Githorn, visitors often imagine they’ve found themselves in a true medieval village.

In Githorn, it's a veritable feast for the senses to decorate a house in period style.

Main attractions

Sightseeing in the village of Githorn is rich to outrageous. Literally around every corner you can see something that is sure to delight the eye and soul. The first thing that catches your eye is the very unusual design of the gardens. Here the locals have shown themselves as the best landscape designers. Instead of the classic flowerpots and planters, the Githornians have planted flowers in cuttings from old pipes, and some clever designers create flowerbeds from old machine tools for purposes tourists don’t understand.

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There’s no vacant land near the houses. The whole surface of the ground is sown with lawn grass. The gardens are particularly charming with clumps of ferns, spherical shrubs of rhododendrons and azaleas. Along the canals, locals often plant rows of fruit trees that bloom in the spring and bear fruit in the fall.

Despite its modest size, the village of Githorn has acquired two museums:

  • Het Olde Maat Uus, a typical rustic house from a century ago that preserves the atmosphere of the time;
  • De Oude Aarde, a museum of minerals and precious stones from the Netherlands.

De Oude Aarde, a museum of minerals and gems that are mined in the Netherlands

Museums are accessible to visitors from 11 to 17 hours local time on weekdays, and from 12 to 17 hours on weekends. Especially for children they have a special program, from which they can learn a lot of interesting things in a playful way. In the museum De Oude Aarde has a gift store. Here you can buy fossils, unique toys and decorative items made of stones as well as amazingly beautiful inlays.

We also suggest you learn about the features of the old English Great Dixter estate.


How to get there

It takes an average of 2 hours and 30 minutes to get to Githorn Village from Amsterdam with two transfers. To get to this amazing place, tourists first have to take the train to Hilversum and from there take the Bus to Kerweg (Githorn).

The village of Githorn: The Venice of Holland (video).

Once in this place, many travelers fall in love with village life. Such clean, organized and unusual settlements on the water, full of greenery and inspiring a sense of total peace can hardly be found in other parts of the world.

Village of Giethoorn – the Venice of Holland

Giethoorn in the Dutch province of Overijssel is sometimes called the “Venice of Holland” or the “Venice of the Netherlands”. It is said that unlike the Italian Venice, Giethoorn has no streets and no modern transport, only water channels.

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Anyone going to Githorn should leave the car at the entrance to the village and then go by boat or on foot. Usually bicycles or silent boats with an electric motor are used here.

Interesting fact – These boats are often called “whisperers”, of course for their low engine noise. But boats with diesel and gasoline engines are forbidden here

In fairness, we should note at once that in this small town there are still roads. And even cars can be found. Therefore, to call Githorn village without roads is not quite correct. However, some areas of the town can only be reached on foot or by boat.

The water canals of Githorn

Almost every resident of Githorn has his own boat

Did you know that there is more than one “Venice” on the planet. For example, the island of Mescaltitan in Mexico is also called the Venice of Mexico. Or El Gouna, known as the Venice of Egypt.

Where is it

The Githoorn is located approximately 40 kilometers north of the town of Zwolle and 120 kilometers northeast of Amsterdam.

Geographic coordinates (52.74305, 6.07891)

Dutch Venice. View from above

Aerial view of the Dutch Venice

What is Githorn.

You really see most of the houses here on small islands connected by bridges. And there are a lot of bridges. You can count more than 180 of them.

Guithorn Netherlands

The bridges of Githorn are also a peculiar attraction.

And there are plenty of canals. Locals often use boats to get around.

In fact, the unofficial name “Venice of the Netherlands” does not really describe Githorn. You might get the false impression that it is a bustling tourist center, like Amsterdam or Venice. But this is neither Venice nor Amsterdam. It is much quieter and serene.

Interesting fact – Locals say that the village of Githorn is so peaceful and quiet that “the loudest sound you’ll hear is a duck quacking or other bird noises.”

Now imagine how the villagers feel when they return home by boat to their little island and enjoy the beautiful view from their living room windows. The silence. The beauty. Peacefulness. But that’s about the time when Githorn isn’t packed with tourists.

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A bit of history.

Githorn was originally a settlement of peat pickers. Peat extraction created ponds and lakes, and people built houses on the islets. Eventually the only way to get to the houses was by bridge or by traditional Githorn boats. They are called ponters. It is a narrow boat that was pushed with a long punch pole. Sort of like the Venetian gondolas.

Fortunately, not much has changed in Githorn since then. The low wooden bridges are still in place. And you can still travel on the water by pontoon, electric boat or tourist boat. 1 or 2 hour boat tours will take you under the bridges and past gorgeous 18th and 19th century farmhouses with thatched roofs.

Dutch Venice

Interesting fact – The name Githorn means “Goat Horn” and comes from the fact that the first residents found hundreds of goat horns in the area

When to go to Githorn

The best time to visit is, of course, the high season. The period from mid-April to mid-October. But August has the highest number of tourists here. Keep this in mind when planning your trip.

However, do not forget about the winter. During this time, the canals of Githorn are frozen. Imagine the views that await you as you skate along the frozen canals surrounded by the classic houses of old Europe.

Dutch Venice in winter

Dutch Venice in winter is also quite attractive

How to get there

There are three main ways to get to Githorn.

If you own or rent a car, it takes about an hour and a half to get to Giethoorn from Amsterdam. There is free parking on Bartus Warnersweg, next to the shopping center PLUS Giethoorn. From there only by boat, bike or on foot.

Or you can book a tour from Amsterdam. It usually includes a transfer, an hour boat tour along the canals and some free time to walk around the town on your own.

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Finally, the third way to get to Githorn is by regular public transportation. But it takes more time. Take the train from Amsterdam to Stenwijk and then the bus from Stenwijk to Githorn. The whole trip takes about 2 hours. This is the best way to go if you plan to be in Githorn for more than one day.

Githorn in tourism.

The proximity to Amsterdam makes Githorn a great place for a day tour. Still, it’s worth sticking around for at least 2-3 days to really appreciate all the splendor of the village.

Don’t forget to visit Githorn’s most famous café, The Fanfare.

Monument to director Bert Hanstra

A monument to the director Bert Hanstra in Githorn. It was he who made the film “The Fanfare”, which made this restaurant famous

Visit the Museum Giethoorn t Olde Maat Uus. It will introduce you to the history of Giethoorn. It is actually a living reconstruction of a farming village with actors in traditional costumes. There is also a souvenir store and a cafe.

The Githorn Museum

Githorn Museum

And be sure to take a tour of the canals of Githorn by boat. It’s the best way to get to know the village.

Boat trips on the canals of the Githorn

Boat rides on the canals of Githorn are the most popular attraction. Although for the locals it is a common occurrence.

Interesting fact – Githorn is quite an interesting and popular attraction in the Netherlands. Especially the village attracted the Chinese. Each year, about 200,000 Chinese tourists visit the Dutch Venice. And the locals here are less than 3,000 people

Guethorn Holland

In peak season, there are more tourists than locals.

In fact, remember that in the tourist season there are a lot of tourists in Githorn. So taking idyllic pictures like this one is quite problematic.

Village on the water Githorn

In the off-season, Githorn is a surprisingly peaceful place

Experienced travelers claim that Githorn is much quieter and calmer in the off-season. And if you’re staying here overnight, the best time to walk around the town is in the morning and evening. During this time, the number of tourists is minimal.

For more information, visit the official Githorn village website.

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