While sailing along the open ocean has its lure, there’s nothing quite like admiring a city centre on a canal boat holiday. A canal boat is a vessel specially designed to navigate along shallow waters such as canals and rivers. What was once built to transport goods in large quantities is now a great way to get to discover an urban setting in a relaxing and leisurely way.
In contrast to summer destinations, the best part about a canal is that you can enjoy them all year round. Let the canals guide you with their currents and become entwined by the natural surrounding scenery. At Click&Boat, we have created the ultimate guide on where to enjoy a canal cruise in Europe.
First up on our list is the beautiful city of Amsterdam. The Dutch capital has 165 canals and over 1,500 bridges, making it a great place for a canal boat holiday. This city’s canal ring is so vast and complex that has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2010. Experience a canal cruise like no other when you hop on a boat and explore the intricate canal system. If you visit in autumn, you can float along the waterways, making your way through the warm red and orange hues of the trees. Alternatively, visit in spring and witness fields of tulips that come in a kaleidoscope of colours.
Regardless of the season, Amsterdam is a stunning city that offers countless activities as you drift along the water. Take a deep dive into Dutch history and culture and visit the Rijksmuseum and Van Gogh Museum. Otherwise, you can let your senses guide you through the city with a food tour. For those of you with a sweet tooth, find your way to Lanskroon in the afternoon to enjoy a king-size stroopwafel with crispy wafers and a gooey caramel centre. This is best consumed fresh off the grill with tea or coffee. To cut through the sweetness, search for the best nugget-like snack named bitterballen in the evening. You can pair these with Gouda and Edam to make a perfect starter before dinner.
Known as the city of canals, Venice is one of the most popular destinations for a canal boat holiday. In fact, the waterways stretch across more than 40 kilometres. With the first settlements and buildings dating back to the fifth century AD, Venice is so rich in culture and history that it can feel like an open-air museum as you glide through the canals. The city is located on the Venetian Lagoon, a large area of 550 square kilometres with an average depth of around 1.2 metres. However, the canal depths can vary greatly depending on the location, reaching up to 21.5 metres deep as it connects to the Adriatic Sea. For this reason, a canal cruise is a perfect way to enjoy the city.
Begin your canal cruise at Rialto Bridge, the oldest of the four bridges in the Grand Canal. The bridge was considered an audacious project structurally. Against all architectural odds, this stone arch bridge has become a famous landmark and one of Venice’s most popular attractions. Then, head over to the heart of the city, the Piazza San Marco. This medieval square has unique and historic architecture such as Doge’s Palace and the Basilica of San Marco. Finally, you can end your journey near the Bridge of Sighs, a beautiful white limestone bridge that was historically the last view of Venice that convicts saw before their imprisonment.
Canal du Midi
Located in the heart of the Languedoc region in the south of France, Canal du Midi is a charming destination stretching from Toulouse to the Etang de Thau. The canal itself is 360 kilometres of navigable waterways created to link the Mediterranean and the Atlantic (via the River Garonne). To put it in perspective, it would take around 10 days to travel from one end of the canal to the other. The 17th-century construction combines the art and creativity of engineering from the Industrial Revolution. Therefore, not only is it aesthetically beautiful, but the canal has a large technical and cultural significance for engineers.
The spring is a perfect time to visit Canal du Midi. As you drift along the enchanting canal, you will come across blossoming sunflower fields, bright green forests and pastel-pink houses. This, in combination with the majestic Midi-Pyrenees as a backdrop, is exactly why the canal is popular for romantic getaways. Thanks to its extensive length, there are many sites to discover by cruising along the Canal du Midi. For example, you can explore the Cite de Carcassonne, a UNESCO World Heritage Site known for its mediaeval fortress. The city itself looks straight out of a fairy tale and is an ideal way to learn French history. You can also visit the quaint village of Puichéric, located amongst the Minervois vineyards. Here, you can taste the finest of wines as you wander around the dreamy village.
Did you know?
- The difference between a canal and a river is that one is manmade and the other is natural. Canals are specifically designed by humans, typically for the purpose of transporting goods on boats.
- Canals date back to around 2400 BC to the Nahrawan Canal in ancient Mesopotamia.
- The longest canal in the world is the Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal, stretching across 1,776 kilometres to connect the Yellow and Yangtze Rivers.
- While most people think of waterway canals used by boats and ships, there are also aqueduct canals that are used for transporting fresh water for drinking, agriculture, and hydroelectric power.