If you’re craving for more of Amsterdam’s Dutch charm and magic but a little less of the crowds and buzz, take a road trip through Flevoland.
It’s a region just an hour’s drive northeast of Amsterdam that will take you through the beautiful countryside and to charming canal towns. And yes, Giethoorn – which is every photographer/Instagrammer’s dream – is one of those gorgeous little towns.
While a day trip is doable, I’m pretty sure you’ll want to stay for the night. Check out this road trip itinerary for the best of Flevoland.
Driving from Amsterdam to Giethoorn – a travel guide to Flevoland
KM 0 – Amsterdam
Our adventure starts in Amsterdam. Get your rental car from one of these convenient city car rental pick-up locations and begin your drive about 60 KM northeast to our first stop: Enkhuizen.
Enjoy the emerald green pastures and cows (both friendly and not-so-much) along the way!
KM 62 – Enkhuizen
Though a little bit out of the way if you’re aiming for Giethoorn, Enkhuizen is a wonderful stopover in Flevoland. It’s a picturesque, historic town set by the sea – ideal for a quick brunch and a leisurely walk around the harbor area.
Enkhuizen has a well-preserved historic center with about 370 buildings listed as national heritage monuments. If you want to learn more about its history, you can visit the Zuiderzee Museum. If you want something more fantastical, check out the Sprookjeswonderland – a fairytale theme park that’s great for children. If you happen to love ships – or at least, miniature ships – the Flessenscheepjes Museum has quite a fascinating collection consisting of about 1,000 tiny ships carved by seamen through the ages.
At the very least, walk around the harbor area and have a fish dish at one of the restaurants in town. We especially loved the friendly vibe and fresh options at the Dubbel and Dwars restaurant.
KM 122 – Urk
The drive from Enkhuizen to Urk is one of the most picturesque legs of this trip. You’ll be driving along the N302, which crosses the sea to Lelystad. If you’re a fan of both road trips and the sea (like me!), you can stop by the many lay-bys along the expressway or at the Houtribdijk view point to take in all the expansive views of the Markemeer and Ijsselmeer lakes.
After crossing the lakes, make your way directly to Urk, a small seafaring and fishing town that is considered one of Europe’s most God-fearing places. Having been an isolated island up until the land reclamations in Flevoland during the 1930s, Urk’s locals have retained their strong Protestant faith and conservative lifestyles.
Most of the tourist attractions in the town are centered on fishing and the sea. The Scheepswerf Hoekman is an open “ship hospital,” while the Vissersmonument is a memorial for fishermen who never came back from the sea. For families with children, check out Vakantiepark ‘t Urkerbos, a campsite with lots of fun activities for children.
KM 162 – Blokzijl
The next three destinations – Blokzjil, Giethoorn, and the Weerribben-Wieden National Park – are all within the same vicinity. If you’re staying for a night or two, this is a good area to look for accommodations (see hotel recommendations below).
Personally, I found Blokzijl to be the prettiest town of them all. Everything – from the brick houses with smoke-spewing chimneys, the 17th century buildings keeping the town’s old port vibe alive, the cobblestoned alleys lined with friendly neighborhood cats, to the canals leading to the central picturesque harbor – was what my Dutch storybook town dreams were made of. And while there’s not much to do within the town, the food scene was surprisingly superb.
You’ll find lots of restaurants around the harbor, as well as along the little streets that lead from the harbor. Some of the notables are: Kaatje bij de Sluis, a Michelin-awarded restaurant serving six-course meals with a fine wine collection; Auberge aan het Hof, a hotel with a French cuisine restaurant (also a great place to stay!), and the Prins Mauritshuis Café and Restaurant right by the harbor, a great choice for desserts that come in fancy plates and with good views.
KM 177 – Giethoorn
Of all the towns in Flevoland, Giethoorn is the most popular and photogenic one. A few minutes into the village and you’ll appreciate the Dutch love and affinity to live on water. The village is so dependent on waterways that you can only reach some houses by walking across wooden bridges or riding a boat.
While many have called it the “Venice of the Netherlands” and the village has certainly been racking in the tourists, it remains a simple, quiet village where you can still appreciate the simple countryside life. Most of the tourist attractions, restaurants, and hotels are on either end of the car-free zone, keeping the central area peaceful for the residents. It’s a great laidback destination for a weekend away from Amsterdam – for those trips where you just want to be walking, eating, and taking in the beautiful, peaceful surroundings.
If you’re looking for things to do, check out these museums – Museum Giethoorn, focusing on the life and livelihood of Giethoorn’s residents; Museum Gloria Maris, a showcase of shells, corals, and other decorative objects from the sea; and Museum De Oude Aarde, a collection of gems, minerals, and fossils.
You’ll also find lots of great restaurants in the area, but if you’re up for a little walk outside the main village area, visit Hollands Venetië. They serve really great barbecue if you’re craving for some meat.
For accommodations in Giethoorn, scroll down for hotel recommendations.
Hiking in De Weerribben-Wieden National Park
Apart from picturesque canal towns and villages, Flevoland is home to De Weerribben-Wieden National Park. The landscape’s bog environment has fostered distinctive flora and fauna, particularly making the park a great place for bird-watching.
It’s free to walk around the park but cars are restricted from most areas. A good place to start your hike is the Visitor Center in Sint Jansklooster (refer to tourist map below), although there are many starting points from the surrounding towns.
Remember, though: Netherlands is flat as a pancake so if you’re expecting breathtaking views and peaks and troughs, there wouldn’t be any. Instead, you’ll be crossing numerous canals, meeting lots of cows, and getting to see a lot of birds.
Map: Road trip itinerary from Amsterdam to Giethoorn
Here are the main points of interest in Flevoland.
Road trip in Flevoland – essential information
Renting a car and driving in Amsterdam
The Netherlands is one of the best countries to drive in – it’s even ranked by drivers who use Waze as the best! The roads are well-maintained and the sights are amazing. Even if you’re not into long-distance driving, you’ll love driving all around the Netherlands as the country is very compact and the roads are punctuated with amazing sights.
To drive, you must have a valid license from your country. Car rental companies generally require that the driver be at least 19 years old, and may charge drivers under 25 a young driver surcharge. Check if you will need an international driver’s permit – this depends on the car hire service and the country your license is from.
It’s best to reserve your car in advance – you can look for convenient car hire locations in Amsterdam and reserve a car online here.
Most rental cars come with a GPS so you won’t have problems finding your way around. You can also use Waze if you have mobile data.
Staying – Best hotels in Flevoland
While a day trip to Flevoland is doable (it’s only an hour’s drive away from Amsterdam!), there’s really so much to see in the region. Whether you’re planning to hike the Weerribben-Wieden National Park, or take lots of photos of the fairytale canal towns, you’ll definitely want to stay for longer.
Blokzijl and Giethoorn are the best towns in Flevoland to stay the night. If you’re commuting, Giethoorn is more accessible. If you’re driving, you might want to consider staying in Blokzijl as it’s a little bit less touristy than Giethoorn, but just as charming.
Where to stay in Giethoorn – best hotels and holiday rentals
★Top Pick: Hotel Giethoorn
We stayed at Hotel Giethoorn during our last trip to Flevoland and really loved our stay. The check-in was self-service and no-fuss (just make sure to remember or take a screenshot of the details Booking.com will email you as you will need it when you’re checking in using the machine), the rooms were really clean and newly renovated, and we were on the “quiet” end of Giethoorn.
When we checked in, we were actually pleasantly surprised to find that Giethoorn wasn’t as touristy as we expected. There were just a few other guests with us, we had ample free parking space, and the area was very peaceful and quiet. Only when we walked across the village and reached the other end did we find all the other tourists plus an almost-full common parking lot. So if you’re like us and prefer to stay in a less-touristy area, Hotel Giethoorn is the perfect place.
Another great option, especially for couples on a romantic trip, is the De Dames van de Jonge Hotel. It’s also a little far away from the crowds and it has an onsite restaurant as well as boat rental services. Travelers love it for its great location, convenient amenities, and great food.
If you prefer to be in the center of the action, though, check out the Black Sheep Hostel right on the main canal of Giethoorn’s tourist center. It’s near all the popular places and restaurants in Giethoorn, plus it’s only a 5-minute walk from the bus stop.
Where to stay in Blokzijl – best hotels and holiday rentals
★Top Pick: Auberge aan het Hof
One of Flevoland’s best hotels, Auberge aan het Hof has lovely and spacious rooms, an in-house French cuisine restaurant, and is right in the middle of the gorgeous port town of Blokzijl. Whether you’re in Flevoland for a relaxing staycation, a gastronomic tour, or active relaxation in the Weerribben National Park, this is a great place to stay.
For bigger groups, look at holiday rentals like B&B De Strandhoeve. This rental has a more intimate and warm vibe, perfect for couples and families looking for a peaceful stay and fun barbecue sessions.
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I hope this inspires you to take your trips outside Amsterdam and into the gorgeous Dutch countryside of Flevoland! Windmills, tulips, canals, storybook towns, and cows await! This was seriously one of the best road trips I’ve taken in Europe.
If you found this useful, please share it with your friends or on social media so more people can find it. And if you have additional information to share or any questions at all, let me know in the comments. Thanks so much for reading and happy travels to the Netherlands!