The Most Beautiful Canal Towns (That Aren't Venice) According To Trusted Travel Bloggers

Who doesn't love a getaway to an adorable European town where you can stroll along a peaceful canal and enjoy the ambiance? This is a favorite activity among many travelers as it's a great way to relax after a day of sightseeing and activities. It's also the perfect way to enjoy a new city. Venice, Italy, is the most famous example, with canals, a romantic gondola ride, and waterside espresso topping many bucket lists. However, it isn't the only place in the world full of beautiful canals.

In fact, due to over-tourism and damage from cruise ships, we urge you to rethink your plans if you're considering a Venice trip. Instead, try one of the cute canal towns from around the globe that are listed below. We sourced them from well-known and trusted travel bloggers such as Nomadic Matt, Helene in Between, and many more. So keep reading and keep a notebook handy to jot down where you're inevitably inspired to travel next!

Colmar, France

Located just a 30-minute train ride south of Strasbourg, the French town of Colmar is a fantastic destination, especially if you love canals. The slightly hidden (there are signs, just look for the name, not the word canal) "petite Venise" (little Venice) might just be the best part of this fairytale town. The small canal area is a tranquil little corner situated on the outskirts of the city center, where you can have a coffee along the water and enjoy the white noise or take a small boat ride. Sure, it doesn't have the grandeur or romanticism of Venice, but Colmar is much calmer and has its own adorable charm. After enjoying the canal, wander the Fishmonger District next door and stop for lunch.

One of the most magical times of year to visit the town is during the holiday season. Referred to as a "Christmas super fan" by the British newspaper The Mirror, American-born, Oxford-based blogger Helene in Between (who has also lived in Heidelberg, Germany) has made a name for herself as the Christmas market influencer. Over the years, she has visited hundreds and even recently started hosting group trips for fans. She calls Colmar one of the best due to the cozy, cartoon-like location with glittering trees and gingerbread-esque architecture providing the perfect festive backdrop.

Suzhou, China

When you think of "alternatives to Venice," you probably still envision a European village along the banks of a waterway. Well, think again because Europe isn't the only continent with adorable canal towns. Asia has a few, and the Chinese city of Suzhou is one of the best, per Dame Traveler, a female-empowerment travel blog. The city is located just west of Shanghai and is a great escape if you want to cross canals on quaint bridges and enjoy numerous peaceful gardens.

The "Venice of the East" is actually entirely its own destination, and the only resemblance to the Italian destination is the numerous canals that break up the city. Dotted with ancient pagodas, Ming dynasty-era buildings, and aromatic markets, Suzhou makes for a pleasant alternative from larger cities when traveling to China. Wander along the Grand Canal, coffee in hand, and imagine what life was like before the modernization push in the country. Additionally, like many canal towns worldwide, a boat ride is possible in Suzhou, and it's one of the top activities in town. Marvel at the ancient city from the water and gaze up at towering walls, much higher than those in a certain Italian city.

Gold Coast, Australia

The Gold Coast might be most famous for its beaches, particularly the stretch known as "Surfers Paradise," where Aussies and international tourists party. But, a little-known fact about the coastal city in Queensland is that it is full of waterways where locals and visitors alike can kayak, paddleboard, and swim, should they not want to deal with waves at the ocean. The canals can be followed throughout town, and some eventually spill onto the coastline.

Australian blogging couple Alesha and Jarryd of the popular blog (about half a million readers a month) Nomadasuraus recommend renting jet skis to take along the canals. You can do so independently or as part of a guided tour, and it's a unique way to see the city and enjoy the water — without the crowds at the beach. Zip around the waterways before cooling off in the famous Queensland heat and humidity.

Bruges, Belgium

Often referred to as the "Venice of the North," Bruges is an idyllic medieval Belgian town that makes for a trip on its own or the perfect day trip from Brussels if you're short on time. You can take in the history, try a few beers (don't miss the beer museum!), and wander along the canal that is central to the city. In fact, if you arrive by train, you'll need to walk for about 20 minutes from the station along the waterway to reach the city center. You can also bike or walk along the water to the wonderful countryside outside town. However you spend your time in Bruges, chances are you'll pass by or stroll along the canal at least a few times a day, and some of the best activities in town are centered around it.

Don't just take it from us; listen to Christina of Happy to Wander fame, a Europe-focused travel blog with over a million annual viewers. She writes on her blog that "Bruges is a city famed for its canals, and the best way to appreciate them (while enjoying a relaxing tour of the city) is by booking a canal cruise." These depart multiple times a day, and it's recommended to book ahead of time online.

Tigre, Argentina

If Buenos Aires (Argentina) is the "Paris of the South," then Tigre, a lovely town along the Parana River and just north of the Argentinian capital, could be called the "Bruges of the South." The small city is known for its gorgeous markets and canals that wind through the city's heart. It's a spectacular site, full of brightly colored colonial buildings and surprising street art, surrounded by thick jungle. Once a trendy getaway for the Argentinian elite looking for a vacation from Buenos Aires, Tigre might be less popular and quieter now, but it's a fun spot to check out and an interesting stop on any South American itinerary.

Travel blogger Jessie Festa of Jessie on a Journey was initially taken aback by the brown appearance of the water. However, after checking with locals, they assured her it wasn't polluted but takes its color from the sediments in the soil, and most residents use the water to bathe and clean. It's also safe for swimming, and a popular activity is to canoe or kayak down the canal. There are several tour operators that offer excursions by boat that allow you to visit one of the islands, accessible only via the waterways.

Annecy, France

Located in the magnificent French Alps, Annecy is often compared to Venice. The town might be better known for the lake it shares its name with, and it is one of the most underrated destinations in France, one full of canals surrounded by sweeping mountains. Annecy is beautiful no matter the time of year. The cobblestone streets, picturesque backdrop, and colorful buildings will make you feel like you're walking around a fairytale. Don't miss Palais de l'Ile, a medieval palace on a little island on the canal that used to be a prison, royal residence, and city hall at different points in time. Now, it makes for an interesting stop, and the exterior can frequently be seen all over Instagram.

According to Anna of Anna Everywhere, the canals are actually too shallow for boating, which makes Annecy a bit of an anomaly among those on this list. However, they still add to the scenic nature of this alpine town on the shores of the lake of the same name. And if you still want to get out on the water, boat rentals are available on Lake Annecy.

Bangkok, Thailand

Back in the early days of travel blogging, Thailand, and specifically Bangkok, was the place to be. The city is one of the most popular in Asia and still comes highly recommended by OG travel bloggers such as Emmy-Winning Oneika Raymond of Oneika the Traveller, as well as Matt Knepes of Nomadic Matt and author of "How to Travel the World on $50 a Day," for travelers looking for a great trip.

One feature of Bangkok that often gets overlooked in favor of the history, nightlife, and cuisine is the city's magnificent network of canals. The waterways existed when the city we know today was little more than just a few settlements. They served as the main mode of transportation for both people and goods. However, many were drained or covered up in the early 1900s to prevent disease spreading and to accommodate the city's growth. Today, some remain, along with houseboats and scenic bridges. You'll find many tour operators offering boat rides through Bangkok (which is often quicker than battling the famously horrible road traffic) and many paths along the water.

Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Miami might be one of Florida's most famous destinations, but if you want a less crowded experience full of winding canals, Fort Lauderdale is the place to go. As Anna Everywhere put it, the city "has something for everyone." Most of Fort Lauderdale's canals are located along Las Olas Boulevard, which is also one of the nicest neighborhoods in the city. You'll find nearly every type of cuisine along this street, perfect for travelers with refined palates and groups with varied tastes. It's also the place to shop, should that be your thing, as Fort Lauderdale's cutest and trendiest boutiques are located along Las Olas.

This is also the departure point for gondola rides along the canals. These can be enjoyed in balmy temps no matter what time of year you visit. You'll be able to take in views of the Floridian mansions, bright flowers, palm trees, and the city from a unique vantage point. It's also the best way to people-watch in Fort Lauderdale, where travelers of all types conjugate.

Stockholm, Sweden

The Swedish capital of Stockholm is a lovely waterfront town that Australian blogger Katiesaway frequently visits and raves about. She is based just outside of the capital in Gothenburg and is always recommending something new to do in multifaceted Stockholm. One of the best assets of the city is the many waterways that run through it. These connect the mainland to the numerous islands in the Stockholm archipelago. You can book a boat tour that takes you along the water and to many of the isles. Some even take you out into the surrounding countryside, which is lovely no matter the season.

In winter, the canals freeze over and provide a location for classic Nordic recreation. Instead of gondola rides, try a cross-country ski or snowshoe out to the islands. Depending on the month and weather, some are even cleared for ice skating. Winter in Sweden isn't for the faint of heart, but it's a magical way to experience this wonderful canal town.

Venice Beach, California

The use of the phrase "that aren't Venice" in the title refers to the well-visited (some might say too well) Italian city known for the canals that run through it. However, people sometimes forget that the LA neighborhood of the same name is called such because of its resemblance to Venice. That's mainly due to the numerous canals that run through this subset of the City of Angels. Venice Beach certainly feels like a nice little slice of Europe on the West Coast. The Blonde Abroad, a SoCal local and successful travel blogger, recommends exploring the canals as a top thing to do in the neighborhood. It is also a fantastic free thing to do in Los Angeles.

The climate is different from Europe, but the essence is the same. Instead of Italian espresso bars, you'll find third-wave coffee shops full of laptops and dogs. Instead of artisan glass and souvenir shops, you'll find thrift shops and yoga studios. The vibrant area is packed with things to do and quiet corners to take a break from wandering. There are also gondolas awaiting you, imported from Italy, should you want to glide along the water. Then, once you've had your city fill, walk a few minutes to the beach, go for a swim, or let the crashing waves of the Pacific sweep you to relaxation paradise.

Hamburg, Germany

Germany isn't the first place that comes to mind when we think of "canal" towns, but the northern city of Hamburg is a cute surprise for all who visit. Take it from Happy to Wander and Adventurous Kate, powerhouses in the solo female travel space and big fans of this small German city. Canals weave in and out of various neighborhoods, and if you take the metro, you'll probably ride along one at some point.

Poggenmühlenbrücke (pictured above) is a bridge along one of the main canals and one of Hamburg's most photogenic spots. The Wasserschloss (Water Castle) sits in the middle of the water with two bridges on either side and is best seen from another bridge a bit further down the water. You can take a boat ride on a traditional barge throughout the seasons. Additionally, you'll see recreational fishermen most days of the week, hoping to catch eels and carp. It all makes for a very romantic experience.

El Gouna, Egypt

El Gouna is located on the Egyptian side of the Red Sea and looks east towards Saudi Arabia. It is lesser known amongst travelers than, say, Hurghada and Sharm El Sheikh, but Egyptian travel blogger Curls en Route can't recommend the town enough. And, fun fact; the town is located along numerous canals that make parts of it feel like little islands.

It's newer than many of the better-known resort areas, but that's what makes it the ideal place to get away from the crowds and truly relax. While other international travelers flock north, you'll have El Gouna's bright blue lagoons all to yourself. Additionally, the marina is full of boats to rent, should you want to invest in a yacht cruise for the day and enjoy the water at its best. The town is a bit more upscale than Hurghada and other Red Sea destinations, so if you're hoping for a budget trip, it is best to head elsewhere.


We selected the specific canal towns listed above using the following methodology. Initially, our writers built on their firsthand knowledge of cities with canals to create a base list. We then searched "alternative canal towns to Venice" to make sure we hadn't overlooked a destination or left out an important city. Then, to narrow down what we included in this piece, the research continued through numerous posts on every place listed on travel blogs from around the world.

These included Happy to Wander fame, Oneika the Traveller, Helene in Between, and many more, whose credentials we've noted. Those that seemed to have the most to offer travelers, including activities revolving around their canals, made the final list and were posted in this article.