Giethoorn used to be a carfree town known in the Netherlands as "Venice of the North" or "Venice of the Netherlands". Giethoorn has over 180 bridges. It became locally famous, especially after 1958, when the Dutch film maker Bert Haanstra made his famous comedy Fanfare there. In the old part of the village, there were no roads (though a cycling path was eventually added), and all transport was done by water over one of the many canals. The lakes in Giethoorn were formed by peat unearthing.
Giethoorn was founded by fugitives from the Mediterranean region in around AD 1230. Giethoorn was a separate municipality until 1973, when it became part of Brederwiede.