Giethoorn is one of the best places in the world to be in during wintertime. This quaint village is just lovely and even more enchanting when covered with glistening snow. The experience is like being inside a giant Christmas crystal ball, as snowflakes trickle and sparkle under the sun while slowly resting on the wooden cottages and villages.
Giethoorn in Winter: A Wonderland for Ice Skaters
Giethoorn is known as The Venice of Holland, primarily for its intertwining canals, which stretch for over 80 km. Life in this village is basically spent on water.
The lovely canals pass through 180 picturesque wooden arch bridges, and boats crowd this waterway for the rest of the year. In winter, they turn into frozen crystal paths for skating. People put on their skates and take over.
The picturesque scenery is enough to convince first-time ice skaters to learn how to glide and be graceful on ice. It’s an experience that should not be missed when in the Netherlands this time of year.
Another thing is, the Netherlands is popular amongst ice skaters worldwide for the Elfstedentocht, a 200-km long ice-skating event on natural ice. A speed skating competition and leisure tour, the Elfstedentocht, takes place in the northern province of Friesland and through 11 historical cities in the area.
Elfstedentocht actually means “11 cities tour”, and according to Washington Post, “The 110-year-old event is wildly popular — the next race is expected to attract 26,000 participants, 2 million spectators and 3,000 journalists.”
Giethoorn is not part of Elfstedentocht.
Warm Chocolate, Anyone?
In Giethoorn, ice skating on the frozen canals usually ends with warm chocolate topped with whipped cream or a mulled wine in one of the many cafés and restaurants along the frozen waterways.
The most popular restaurants in this enchanting neighbourhood are De Sloothak restaurant, Hollands Venetië restaurant and the 2-Michelin-starred De Lindenhof. Enjoying high tea in any of these venues is just perfect as well; grab some scones, savoury sandwiches, chocolates, and muffins.
Visit a Museum
Aside from the canals, peaceful farms and ancient cottages, Giethoorn is also known for its museums. They are open in winter, and visiting them when there is not much happening outside is a good idea, too.
One of the most famous museums is the Olde Maat Uus Museum. Housed inside an original and typical farmhouse from the bygone years, Olde Maat Uus is a living museum that showcases a historic farming village with actors in costume. From a one or two-hour visit, people will see first-hand how the old Dutch people of Giethoorn used to live more than 100 years ago and how they worked hard cutting peat and building punters or small boats.
Here is a very telling review: “It is a nice small museum which gives you all the information about the past. It is amazing to know that the landscape as it is today was man-made. All the canals (in Giethoorn) were dug out by workers who cut turf which was used as fuel for fire, for heating and cooking. The museum tells you all about how it came about, how the people used to live and what life was like hundreds of years ago. Very educational and interesting.”
Another museum in Giethoorn that’s drawing visitors in is the De Oude Aarde museum. It is known for its precious gemstones, pieces of jewellery, fossil minerals and natural treasures from all over the world, including the world’s largest egg.
The museum owner is a proud local. He always mingles with guests, talking about the artefacts with a great deal of passion.
Even the gift shop outside the museum features a large selection of rocks and stone artwork and decorations to the delight of museum-goers or those who are simply passing by.
A visitor review reads: “Amazing place for people who love stones and crystals. The gift shop was also great, so many choices of crystals it is hard to choose.”
All the museums, churches, boutiques, and restaurants in the village are reachable by foot (and boats during the other seasons of the year).
Cycling in Giethoorn
Finally, even in winter, cycling in Giethoorn is a hit. You can’t go anywhere in the Netherlands without enjoying a scenic and lovely bicycle ride.
For the Dutch, two-wheeling is a way of life, and so while here, don’t miss renting a bike to explore the unique charm of this dreamy village. There are several bicycles for rent, as well as kick bikes, e-chopper, and mopeds. Before the village freezes entirely, take time to ride around the village along several cycling routes to choose from.
If the weather allows, go cycling to the nearby Weerribben-Wieden National Park and enjoy the meadows and forests.
Enjoy cycling on the wooden bridges and watch the skaters whizz by below you on the frozen canals. Cycling and simply strolling around Giethoorn in summer is lovely, but it becomes truly magical with the falling snow in the winter.
Seeing the green lawns and thatched roofs covered in a white blanket of ice will definitely stay with you for a long time, including the trees with glistening snowflakes.
A Popular Tourist Destination All-Year-Round
Giethoorn is quite an attraction in all months of the year. People come in the summer for the festivals, boat rides, and summer market; in the spring, for the tulips and other blooms; while in the winter, for the snow and frozen waterways.
Giethoorn is a real village with 2,600 residents. They are kind enough to let tourists visit their village and see their farms and cottages. It is perhaps one of the quietest destinations in Europe.
From April to October, the village becomes a bit crowded with tourists, especially on Sundays, national holidays, and school holidays. June, July, and August are when the village is most colourful with all the gorgeous flowers in full bloom.
Only those who love snow and skating are wise enough to come and lucky enough to see the village covered in white splendour in the winter.
When in the Netherlands in the winter, come to Giethoorn by car or train/bus. From Amsterdam Zuid/Centraal Station, take the train going to Steenwijk. From there, get on Bus 70 to reach Dominee Hylkemaweg stop and then walk for a short distance to the village.
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