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Venice is among the most iconic destinations in Europe.
Crossed by centuries-old canals lined with pastel-colored buildings and beautiful ornate churches, it is indeed one of the greatest feats of humanityBut there are some huge downsides for first-time visitors to Venice that are often overlooked when planning a vacation:
It can get crowded with tourists, so much so that local authorities are considering introducing a ticketing system to reduce overtourism, as well as enforcing a cruise ban, implementing strict policies governing vacation rentals and, what is worse, struggle with drying. channels.
Yes, the legendary canals of Venice are running dry.
This is a hot and busy city, but luckily for canal enthusiasts, is far from the only one of its kind in the old continent.
Are here 4 great alternative destinations with their own canal systems that you can visit instead of Venice this summer:
Aptly nicknamed the ‘Portuguese Venice’, Aveiro is an ancient city in northern Portugal, just an hour’s drive south of modern Porto.
Like Venice, it is best known for its various canals, except that Aveiro’s was artificially built in the 18th century as a means of boosting local economic growth.
Located on the shores of the Atlantic, this medium-sized port is inhabited by some 80,000 people, compared to 261,000 in Italy, which makes it less densely populatedand most enjoyable for walks in the hot summer months
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In addition, while the urban landscape of the latter is ocher, that of Aveiro is distinguished more by its vibrant tones.
You will find several Iberian-style houses painted in bright shades of red, yellow and green lining the front of the main canal, where the traditional moliceiro boatsthe Portuguese gondolas travel transporting tourists and goods from the Atlantic sea.
In addition to taking a boat tour of the canals, visitors should visit the beautiful Aveiro Cathedral, a 15th-century Catholic monument in a perfect state of preservation. Also not to be missed is the historic Aveiro Museum, housed in a medieval convent where a Portuguese princess is buried.
In the Flemish north of Belgium, where Dutch is the most widely spoken language, Bruges has historically been nicknamed the « Venice of the North » due to its masterfully designed canals, central to European trade until the 20th century, and unlimited medieval treasures.
The city center has been listed by UNESCO as one of its World Heritage Sites, and taking a quick look at its grand canal, lined with stone buildings, 15th century churches and their beautiful bell towers and cobbled walks, soon you will understand why.
About 117,000 people live permanently in Bruges, though only 20,000 reside in the compact, walkable, oval-shaped center, meaning it’s not so full and certainly not as polluted as sprawling old Venice.
Bruges is not exactly a hidden gem, featured in several travel brochures on Belgium and Central Europe, but it is most picturesquearguably more romantic than its more famous Mediterranean competitor, and enjoys a small-town feel that we’re sure couples on a belated post-COVID honeymoon will appreciate.
Perhaps the least famous entry on this list, Empuriabrava is a thriving residential marina on Spain’s Costa Brava, within the autonomous province of Catalonia, encompassing more than 24 km of waterways and up to 40 km of channels in total.
You read well.
Although the area has been inhabited since time immemorial, Empuriabrava only flourished as a tourist destination in the mid-1970s, when work on the canals finished and guest houses and luxury estancias began to emerge.
Unlike Venice, however, it is not a historical cityserving instead as a tourist destination.
While history buffs will appreciate the nearby Roman archaeological site of Sant Martí d’Empúries, holidaymakers who come to Empuriabrava are simply looking to relax and soak up the sun, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
This incredibly exclusive, high level community it has its canals arcing along the Gulf of Roses, bounded by the blue waters of the Mediterranean, and the Aiguamolls de l’Empordà, a protected reserve popular with nature lovers.
The fourth largest city in Poland, with an area of 292.8 km² and over 673,000 inhabitants, Wrocław (anglicized as Wroclaw) is often overlooked by visitors to this Eastern European country, despite being so cosmopolitan as Warsaw, and as charming as Krakow or Gdansk.
Besides that, a little known fact about Wroclaw is that it is an urban conurbation that spans twelve islands in the wide Odra River. With many channels fed by the tributaries of the Odra and more than 200 bridgesno wonder it is sometimes called the ‘Polish Venice’.
Like Venice, aside from the busy waterways, Wroclaw has a host of world-class land-based attractions, including a gothic town hall erected in the 13th century, the Wroclaw’s imposing cathedralsitting imposing on the island of Ostrów Tumski, and a pedestrian market square.
If you’ve been to Poland before, you know that most of what you see around its old towns has been rebuilt or renovated after the devastating bombing raids of World War II.
Wroclaw is no exceptionbut most of the structures that flank the Market Square have remained intact, making it a unique heritage site for Poland.
Are you going to Europe this summer?
Find more unique off-the-road destinations to explore here.
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com