5 Beautiful Canal Cities

Gondolas, houseboats and hydrofoils await.

By Nell McShane Wulfhart

Romantic and evocative, cities with canals capture the imagination in a way that those without rarely do. Here’s your guide to stunning canal cities across the globe, from the iconic and often photographed to the hardly visited.


Venice, Italy

Venice is well-known for its waterways, plied by gondoliers and water taxis. The Grand Canal, Venice’s main thoroughfare, is trafficked by everything from water-buses to police boats to barges. In any other city, it would be a highway.

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Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Amsterdam’s 165 canals are also deservedly famous. Thronged with houseboats and bordered by buildings that come right up to the water’s edge, they’re even beautiful in winter: In March of 2018, the Prinsengracht and Keizersgracht canals froze solid enough to support ice-skaters.

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Suzhou, China

Some of the world’s loveliest canal cities fly under tourists’ radars. Just west of Shanghai, Suzhou is crisscrossed by 15 labyrinthine waterways, which connect verdant and impeccably landscaped gardens. Stone bridges span the canals and afford views of the historic homes set along the water.

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St. Petersburg, Russia

While most photos of St. Petersburg might be of the city’s onion-shaped domes and massive palaces, those buildings line flowing canals that carry hydrofoils and are so numerous the city has earned the moniker “the Venice of the north.”

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Tigre, Argentina

About 20 miles north of Buenos Aires lies Tigre, a small Argentine town where life is conducted on and around a series of naturally formed waterways. Tour companies take travelers on boat trips through the surrounding delta and its islands, which are populated by birds and other wildlife. Or you can simply rent a kayak and paddle yourself around, stopping for asado (Argentine barbecue) when you get hungry.

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  • NOTE: Information may have changed since publication. Please confirm key details before planning your trip.
  • Published: April 2018