Best canals in Europe: Top 10 for a cruise or a stroll

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Europe has a lot of romantic and gorgeous canals! You can find these artificial waterways inside cities or in the countryside. Either way, walking along the canals or even taking a cruise on them is a great and unique way to discover a region! Enjoy these top 10 best canals in Europe and start planning your trip!

#1: Canal du Midi, France

The Canal du Midi is in Southern France, and runs for 240 kilometers, connecting the Garonne and the Étang de Thau. The construction began in 1667 and ended in 1681, and the canal is now known as one of the greatest construction works of the 17th century. If you have the opportunity to take a cruise on this canal or take a walk by it, you will be able to admire the beautiful vegetated banks, with willows and irises for example. 

#2 Best canals in Europe: Amsterdam, The Netherlands

The city of Amsterdam has more than 100 kilometers of canals in total. However, the three main ones are Herengracht, Prinsengracht, and Keizersgracht. Their construction took place in the 17th century, which was the Dutch Golden Age. You will have much to see while following these canals. Indeed, alongside the main ones, you will find 1,550 monumental buildings. In addition, you will learn some intriguing facts about the vicinity of the canals. For example, the painter Rembrandt as well as the philosopher Spinoza both lived along the canal Zwanenburgwal. 

#3: Grand Canal of Venice, Italia

The Grand Canal is one of the major water-traffic paths in the city. This waterway connects the lagoon near the Santa Lucia railway to the basin at San Marco. If you have the opportunity to take a boat ride on the Grand Canal, you will see more than 170 buildings from the 13th to the 18th century. Noble Venetians built these palaces in order to show off their wealth. Amongst all of these palaces, you will find Palazzi Barbaro, Palazzo Dario, and Ca’ Rezzonico.

Amsterdam, Image by Yanko Peyankov from Pixabay 

#4: Best canals in Europe: Nivernais, France

You will find this canal in France, linking the Loire with the Seine. Nowadays, the Canal du Nivernais is reserved for recreational navigation, so it is very peaceful. When following the canal, you will see many interesting sights. Indeed, there are a lot of charming and picturesque villages in the countryside. On your path, there will also be châteaux and wine villages. 

#5: Canals of Bruges, Belgium

The small historic city in Belgium has a lot to offer. Among all are its canals, crossed by the many gorgeous bridges. The entire city of Bruges is registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and it proves the beauty of Bruges. Go and see for yourself and you will fall in love with the atmosphere of this authentic Belgian city.

#6 Best canals in Europe: Hamburg, Germany

Hamburg in Germany is another destination that we do not immediately think of when we look for beautiful canals. However, it is a truly gorgeous city, and it even has more bridges than Venice! In Hamburg, which is the largest port of Germany, the canals run in straight lines, going through the mix of old and modern buildings. This forms unique and symmetrical walkways by the water. Hamburg is definitely a romantic and peaceful destination!

Hamburg, Photo by Claudio Testa on Unsplash

#7: Canal de Bourgogne, France

The Canal de Bourgogne or “Burgundy Canal” is in east-central France, connecting the Yonne with the Saône. This canal was completed nearly two centuries ago. The scenery along the canal is so beautiful that it is very popular for its hotel barges. However, you can also choose to walk by it instead of taking a boat ride. In that case, you will be able to enjoy 240 kilometers of flat and easy walking, with rural landscapes and historical sights. 

#8: Canals of St. Petersburg, Russia

There are many canals and rivers that run through the city of St. Petersburg in Russia. These waterways allow us to discover the city from a unique perspective. Indeed, you will be able to admire many monuments and architectural gems. In addition, you will see the brightly colored buildings, the bridges, the palaces, gardens, and more! Griboedov Canal, Kryukov Canal, and the Winter Canal are some examples of canals to navigate. St. Petersburg is not usually the main destination people think of when they want to visit a European city, but you should not miss out on it!

#9 Best canals in Europe: Stockholm, Sweden

People who have already experienced it agree to say that taking a boat ride on the canals of Stockholm is the best way to discover the city for your first visit. There are many different tours available, some rather short, and other going in-depth into the history of the city. Indeed, sightseeing from a ferry will allow you to take note of the monuments that pique your interest the most. That way, you will know which ones you want to visit in person and the ones you just want to see from afar. 

#10: Oudegracht, The Netherlands

The Oudegracht means “old canal” and runs through the center of Utrecht, a city in the Netherlands. Walking along the canals in Utrecht is very enjoyable, especially in summer when the bars’ and restaurants’ terraces are out by the water. This creates a convivial atmosphere in the city. However, you should also admire the city from the water and not just from beside it. Indeed, don’t hesitate to take a canoe or a waterbike to visit this beautiful city and sightsee at your heart’s content!

Best canals in Europe, Oudegracht
Oudegracht Canal in Utrecht, Photo by Jeroen van de Water on Unsplash

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