Although Giethoorn is almost a two hour drive from The Hague, I love going there because it is an incredibly scenic and peaceful village. The houses are quaint and immaculately maintained and presented.
There are no roads in the old part of the village. All transport is done by water. You can either walk around the village or rent an electric motor boat for a couple of hours. I took my brother and his family recently and we had so much fun taking it in turns to manoeuvre the boat along the narrow canals. We went out to the huge lake where there is a small island in the middle of it that you can picnic on. This island has toilets and rubbish bins for your use.
It costs around €45 to rent a boat for an hour but if you go to Smit Giethoorn which is on the outskirts of the village, you can park there for free and the boat rental was only €30 per hour.
There are of course many restaurants and shops in the old part of the village to explore on foot. My favourite shop was Gloria Maris’ shell and jewellery gallery. Hence, despite the distance of Giethoorn, I would definitely go back again and bring my family and visitors to.
If you are looking where to go for a day trip, I recommend Zaanse Schans which is less than an hour’s drive from Den Haag. It’s a lovely place to go to as you get to experience what it feels like living in Holland in the 17th & 18th century. All the shops, house and windmills are located close to one another, like a village. I love the authentic houses, windmills and shops. Even Albert Heijn’s first grocery shop is in Zaanse Schans!
There is no entrance fee but if you want to visit the museums such as the Verkade chocolate or windmills, you have to pay an entrance fee. You can buy a Zaanse Schans card which gives you free entry into the museums and entry to one of the windmills. The card gives you a 10% discount in restaurants, souvenirs and bike rental.
My favourite workshop is the clog workshop as it explains the history of clogs and you get to see both original & ornate clogs on display. There is a demonstration of how modern clogs are made and a huge variety of clogs & souvenirs to choose from. I think this shop has the largest range of clog related gifts that I have personally seen.
There’s a lovely cheese farm there too where you can listen to a short talk on how cheese is made and you can sample a range of their cow and sheep cheese and buy some home. I am not keen on Dutch stroopwaffles as I find them too sweet but I liked the ones sold here that were freshly made.
You can visit a number of original working windmills such as the spice mill, oil mill, paint mill & saw mill. It is a shame that you have to pay to enter them but I guess it’s because they need to maintain them.
You can explore the area by ferry or boat. The ferry ride to the other side costs €1 as it is run by volunteers who will give you an explanation of the village and the houses. You catch the ferry at the end of the row of windmills. There is another company that runs an open boat trip along the windmills that charges €5 per adult and €2.50 per child.
In my opinion, although Zaanse Schans may come across a bit touristy, I still feel that it is a more authentic option to explore or even take your guests to.