Giethoorn: A Dutch Town Where Cars Aren’t Allowed

The loudest sound you’ll hear in this village is the quacking of a duck

Often referred to as the “Venice of the Netherlands”, Giethoorn is a village that floats on water, with canals connecting every house. Believe it or not, it has been without roads for over 800 years—residents use boats, bikes, and walking as their primary means of travel. 

Located in the northeast of The Netherlands, about 2,800 people choose to live in Giethoorn, because of its calm setting. The town is criss-crossed with more than 55 miles of waterways, 176 bridges to the mainland cater to cyclists and pedestrians. The question is: how did Giethoorn stay road-free? 

Dating all the way back to the thirteenth century, the village was occupied by a farming community. The name “Geytenhoren” was derived from the huge amounts of goat horns that farmers found underneath the ground, believed to be the horns of wild goats that drowned in the flood of 1770. As water continually defined the landscape and history of the village, settlers dug canals which eventually resulted in the structure that left the islands perfect for road-free living.

Over time, Giethoorn has protected its quiet rivers, populated with motorless boats and canoes. Motorboats are allowed, but only with low-decibel engines. Apart from its stillness, the classic thatched-farmhouse architecture makes the village even more fairytale-like. Visitors can rent boats, wander around along the many cafes and restaurants, or even visit museums which are dedicated to marine life, fossils, and the town itself. During winter, when the rivers freeze over, ice skating is a popular activity.

Other than the extremely serene setting, the village has also become a sanctuary for wildlife. With so much greenery and flowers, birds and fish from the nearby Weerribben-Wieden National Park are drawn to the village.

Could this be a destination for your bucket list? If so, you can book tours on the Giethoorn tourism website.