Alappuzha, India, is sometimes called the “Venice of the East“because of its canals. // © 2015 Creative Commons user vinothchandar
Feature image (above): Canal city Fenghuang, China, is on the UNESCO World Heritage Tentative List. // © 2015 Creative Commons user shenxy
When you think of the word “canal,” the first place you (and your clients) probably think of is Venice. People travel from all over the world to see the Italian city’s world-famous waterways, but Venice isn’t the only beautiful canal city around.
These seven towns and cities from around the globe also can provide clients with the chance to sightsee by water and take in historic charm — but with fewer crowds.
Alappuzha, also referred to as Alleppey, is home to more than 1,000 houseboats, which has helped earned the city its “Venice of the East” moniker. Clients can take everything from speedboats to houseboats for cruising along its canals and seeing the chaotic sights of daily life in Kerala, as well as the calm paddy fields, beaches and rice barges.
There’s nothing like drifting down the canals of Annecy with snowcapped mountains in full view. Roaming around this romantic French town is like being transported back in time with the perfectly preserved buildings of Vieille Ville (Old Town) and charming canal-side restaurants. Clients can stop at one of Annecy’s famous farmers’ markets, some of which are hosted on its bridges, to grab authentic French cheeses and fresh vegetables. Also worth a visit is the Chateau d’Annecy, former residence of Geneva’s counts during the 13th to 16th centuries.
While it’s up for debate, many say that Birmingham actually has more canals than Venice. In the middle of the 18th century, the city had approximately 170 miles of waterways. Since then, that number has been reduced to 114, but Birmingham’s canals are still a sight to behold. For those who don’t want to traverse them by boat, the canals in the city’s center have been made walkable — pop into the center’s hip bars, restaurants and cafes while strolling.
Stepping into Bruges feels like stepping into a fairytale. The cobblestone streets, soft floodlighting and picturesque scenery make for sights you won’t forget, especially as you amble along the canals. Bruges is beautiful any time of year, whether it’s lit up for the holidays or covered in daffodils during the springtime. It’s also a hotbed of great cultural festivals and museums, featuring works by famous artists such as Salvador Dali. In short, the charming little city has something for every client.
Fenghuang — which means “phoenix” in Chinese — is on a Tentative List to become a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and upon arrival in the city, it’s easy to see why. As you cruise its canals, you’ll see the beautiful, historic houses of Fenghuang sitting upon stilts with the surrounding mountains visible over their rooftops. Visiting this ancient city offers insight into what China was like before the country became the modern political and economic juggernaut it is today.
Sometimes called the “Venice of the North,” this Dutch village used to be a completely auto-free zone. Since then, some cars have been introduced, but almost all of the locals still use small boats to travel around town. In fact, some houses can only be reached by boat. While there are some tourists, Giethoorn is nowhere near as crowded as Venice. In fact, Giethoorn’s tourism website promotes its serenity and lack of commercialism — plus its 4 miles of canals and beautiful 18th-century farmland — in comparison to the Italian city.
For fans of belle-epoque architecture, Tigre, which is just 45 minutes from Buenos Aires, is a must-see. Several new spas and properties have opened around town, and it’s quickly gaining a reputation for luxury. But the real draw is Tigre Delta, one of the largest deltas in the world at 5,405 square miles. No wonder so many artists live here — it’s hard not to become inspired by the natural landscapes and beautiful British-influenced houses surrounding the delta.