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When it comes to a romantic punt along a canal, Venice, Italy is always top of mind. But plenty of other cities around the world are built around enchanting canal systems. Here are 10 of the most beautiful canal towns that aren’t Venice.

Related: 10 amazing bridges around the world.


1. Amsterdam, Netherlands
Perhaps the second most famous city in the world with a canal system, breezy and tolerant Amsterdam has more than 60 miles of waterways that ring the city center in a concentric horseshoe fashion and give it an undeniably romantic air. Although they aren’t the cleanest waters, there’s still nothing prettier than standing perched upon a bridge and admiring the way the buildings appear to melt right into the water.


2. Annecy, France
Pretty Annecy is an artist’s painting come to life. Only 26 miles south of Geneva, Switzerland, this Alpine city boasts a historic old town filled with cobblestone streets and painted in a vibrant palate of colors that give the canals an enchanting pastel hue. If you can pull yourself away from irresistible selfies taken along the quaint pedestrian walkways, stroll down to shimmering Lake Annecy for gorgeous mountain views.


3. Bruges, Belgium
If it’s a fairytale version of Europe you’re imagining, book a trip to Bruges, a picturesque Belgian city which has several visitor-worthy distinctions, including a historic city center that is lined with medieval architecture (and is thus designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site), enough chocolate shops around every magical corner to satisfy even the most insatiable sweet tooth and miles of undeniably charming waterways.


4. Fenghuang, China
The literal translation for this tiny—by Chinese standards anyway—cityof 350,000 people is “Phoenix,” a bird who is reborn and rises from the flames. It is an apt description for a place that has survived a rebellion and several natural disasters. In Fenghuang, water flows freely throughout this ancient mountain city so much so that houses are built on stilts. Stand atop one of its bridges and marvel at its 1,300-year history.

Related: Check out America’s most stunning sunsets and sunrises


5. Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Often referred to as the “Venice of America,” sunny and affluent Fort Lauderdale is so much more than its 165 miles of navigable waterways, but we won’t deny them their rightful charms. Take a boat tour and learn about their fascinating origins, snap a few pics of the many outrageous mansions lining them or jump in the water and do the canal system via kayak. Just be prepared to meet a few friendly iguanas along the way.


6. Giethoorn, Netherlands
Who says canals have to flow through big cities? With a population of only 2,620 folks, this small town about 75 miles northeast of Amsterdam beckons visitors with its 4 miles of canals. That may not sound like much until you consider that the town has no roads, meaning that locals and tourists alike get around via boat (the whole town was once an auto-free zone). Book a sightseeing tour and marvel at the many wooden bridges and thatched homes.

canal towns-st petersburg russia

7. St. Petersburg, Russia
Modeled after European cities, St. Petersburg has an elegance and beauty that is unlike the rest of Mother Russia. While the Hermitage Museum, the Winter Palace and the city’s varied architectural styles are true spotlight hogs, the city has an enviable system of canals which flow throughout the city and into the Gulf of Finland. Experience them by water taxi during the warmer months or stroll along them in early summer during the White Nights period in June/July when sun in this northernmost metropolis never fully sets.


8. Stockholm, Sweden
Most visitors to the efficient Swedish capital have no idea they’re visiting a group of 14 islands that are just a tiny fraction of the more than 24,000 that make up the entire Stockholm archipelago. Nevertheless, as visitors cross from one intriguing neighborhood to another, they’re actually passing over navigable waterways that connect the city into one while offering dramatic scenescapes and visual treats.

venice california

9. Venice Beach, California
No, it’s not a coincidence that this SoCal surf community and Italy’s most picturesque city both share the same name and are lined with canals. In fact, the Venice Canal Historic District is a series of canals developed by Abbot Kinney who sought to bring a little bit of Venice, Italy to the Golden State. Stroll the lovely Venice Canals Walkway and afterward shop and do lunch on bustling Abbot Kinney Boulevard.

canal towns-Zhouzhuang

10. Zhouzhuang, China
China’s oldest water town—or so the town claims—is a bustling tourism hub where visitors clamor during holiday weekends to take in the charms of its lantern-lined canals, cross one of its 14 bridges or take a leisurely gondola ride. Visit Zhouzhuange in June and you’ll witness the Dragon Boat Festival, which is exactly what it sounds like.

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Tagged: California, Europe, Florida

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Jason Heidemann

Jason Heidemann

Jason is a Lead Content Specialist for Expedia Group, and manages content initiatives across numerous Expedia-owned brands. His work has been featured in the Chicago Tribune, Time Out, the Huffington Post, Chicago Magazine, Passport and many others.

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