These Canal Cities Are Giving Your Beach Vacation a Run for Its Money

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With these canal cities, you get the benefits of a coastal trip and a city vacation in one.

In March, the Italian city of Venice began charging an entrance fee to all visitors looking to get in. The ancient city, first inhabited sometime around the year 400, had simply had enough of the 25 million or so tourists floating through the canals each and every day. Now, just to step foot in Venice a visitor must pay a 3 Euro per person fee.

The move was understandable. After all, overtourism is a real problem for popular areas that come with rather real consequences for the locals. And that’s why it’s time to start exploring new places and spreading out our tourism dollars instead of all flocking to the same place.

For those dead set on a canal-centered vacation we have good news: There are plenty of other options in the world. Take, for example, Suzhou, a canal city located just a short 30-minute bullet train ride away from Shanghai, often referred to as the “Venice of the East.”

In Suzhou, visitors can meander through both the streets and the city’s waterways. Hop on a boat and float past centuries-old homes, pagodas, and its 20 UNESCO World Heritage Site gardens and attractions.

Related: The 6 Best Museums in Amsterdam

Suzhou has 15 canals intersecting the city, some of which connect to the Grand Canal, the longest man-made waterway in the world. Riding through them is a serene experience that will give any visitor the quiet moment of reflection that travel calls for.

While the city is most certainly filled with old-world charm, there are plenty of modern luxuries to enjoy, like the newly opened W Hotel Suzhou, and shopping districts where visitors will find both a great deal and the one high-priced item they may be looking for.

Want more? Here are nine other canal cities around the world waiting for you to explore.


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Utrecht, The Netherlands

Taking to the 200-year-old canals in Utrecht will give visitors a whole new perspective on the city. In the early days, homeowners around the canals realized they could get in on the merchant action happening in the waterways by building a series of docks and warehouses on their first floor. Today, those very warehouses are now home to some of the best restaurants in the city. Travelers can check out the canals and the restaurants by either board a boat tour, a roundtrip cruise, or taking their adventure to the next level by renting a paddle boat, kayak, or canoe.


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Bruges, Belgium

Before you make a trip all the way to Amsterdam, stop in at Bruges to see its beautiful canal system as well. Dating back to 1128, the Bruges canals still transport people throughout the city today. While in town, hope on a 30-minute boat tour at any of the city’s landing docks. From there, all you need to do is sit back and take in all the charming European architecture and dream about the pom frites you’ll eat later.


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Hamburg, Germany

Every canal through Hamburg originates from Alster Lakes. As they snake through the city, the canals dissect some of the city’s best neighborhoods, including Altstadt, which is home to 17th- and 18th-century merchants’ mansions. Visitors can see all the beautiful architecture by taking a local boat tour. To maximize the viewing experience try to book a twilight boat tour to get the ideal light and maybe even a peek in the windows.


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Can Tho, Vietnam

Can Tho, located in Mekong Delta, is the very center of a massive system of canals and rivers. Each one is still a working network of merchants selling their goods at floating markets throughout the city. The most famous market, the Cai Rang market, is both the largest and best way to find any souvenir you could ever dream of. But, if you’re looking to dig a little deeper into the local scene, try chartering a boat to take you on a tour of the lesser known allies and waterways throughout the city.


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Cape Coral, Florida, U.S

Cape Coral city in Florida is well-known for its massive 400-mile long canal system. In fact, that 400 miles makes it the longest canal system in the world. Visitors can check out the man-made canal system through several charter companies. Most of the canals, constructed back in the 1970s, even have access to the Gulf of Mexico, as well as access to many of the waterfront restaurants along Cape Coral.


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Alleppey, Kerala, India

Unlike the cities listed above, the canals in Alappuzha, often lovingly referred to by their old name of Alleppey, are much wider and expansive. The canals are currently undergoing a massive renovation project to both widen and deepen them to further aid in water flow. While visiting the city, get into the spirit by renting a local houseboat and staying directly in the canals.


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Tigre, Argentina

Located about a 45-minute train ride away from Buenos Aires is the town of Tigre, which is built directly on the delta of the Parana River. The town is made up of small islets filled with everything from stunning homes to tiny shacks and could keep any visitor busy for days. Everything in Tigre is accessible via water taxis and private boat tours, though some of the islands are indeed still private homesteads only viewable by water.


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Bangkok, Thailand

The canals of Bangkok once ran heavy and deep through the city, transporting both commerce and people wherever they needed to go. However, time has taken its toll on the canals, many of which had to be drained due to the risk of cholera. But, if you look hard enough, you can still find the old canal city that once was. In Bangkok, head to the downtown Thonburi neighborhood and the outlying Green Lung area to check them out. These canals are best wandered by foot along the bridges and alleyways as the water is known for being a bit pungent. But, the view of the old, crooked homes and fisherman who still use the canals each day is beyond worth a little stink.


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St. Petersburg, Russia

St. Petersburg is a city made of canals, rather than a city merely containing them. St. Petersburg, built on the marshlands of the Neva River delta, is crisscrossed with dozens upon dozens of canals with a total length of more than 180 miles. The canals pass by several important landmarks in the city including the State Hermitage Museum, stunning cathedrals, and glamorous private mansions. To see it all, book one of the many available boat trips and explore the historic rivers and canals for yourself.