If you are paying attention to such trivial things, you’ll eventually hear of many cities that have a nickname claiming they are the “Venice of” something. These can be found in almost every corner of the world, and a bit of research has demonstrated that some are much closer to the real thing than others. In fact, some of them have such a flimsy case that the real Venice should probably get a lawsuit going.
Even though some of them are really pretty close, it seems in order to call your city the “Venice of” something you must meet the following strict qualifications:
- Your town must have at least one canal or slow-moving river
So let’s start by taking a quick visit to the real thing, and then we’ll compare and contrast all the fakes out there.
Venice, Italy – The Venice of Italy
The Venice that started the whole “The Venice of…” craze, it’s easily one of the most beautiful and romantic cities on earth, and it’s an excellent place to visit if you are a fan of crowds of other tourists wondering why this place is so damn crowded. But seriously, if you follow the advice of the pros, you’ll spend at least one night here and discover that the early mornings and evenings are amazing and easy to deal with.
Suzhou, China – Venice of the East (Chinese version)
This city of over 6 million in the suburbs of Shanghai is on a lake and also near the mouth of the mighty Yangtze River, and evidently many centuries ago it had an extensive canal network, which earned it the nickname “Venice of the East.” Most of those canals have since been paved back over, but enough still exist that they are a tourist attraction, and from certain angles this place actually does look just a bit like the Venice of Italy.
Alappuzha, India – Venice of the East (Indian version)
With over 2 million residents (this is India, after all) this is one of the largest cities on this list. Its canals somehow seemed unusual enough to earn it the title “Venice of the East” around 100 years ago, in spite of the fact that the canals themselves appear to be the only similarity, and even that might be stretching it.
>> Book flights to India
Bangkok, Thailand – Venice of the East (Thailand version)
With its position on the Chao Phraya River basin, Bangkok actually has quite a bit in common with the real Venice. Its extensive canal network is actually not used for in-city shipping as much as it used to be, but the city is also said to be slowly sinking itself into the swamp. Many visitors will get to spend some quality time on the canals, as tours of the various “floating markets” in the area are a very popular novelty.
Basra, Iraq – Venice of the Middle East
Evidently, the canals that flow through this second-largest city in Iraq that sits near the Persian Gulf are at the mercy of the tides, so the nickname of “Venice of the Middle East” is only valid during parts of the day. We can excuse the city for not resembling Italy much, especially since any gondoliers that might have been here before have, up until very recently, been replaced by the British military.
>> Read our Iraq travel guide
Amsterdam, Netherlands – Venice of the North (Dutch version)
One of several cities sometimes called “Venice of the North,” Amsterdam actually has more canals and bridges than the Italian city (and Hamburg, Germany has more bridges than both of those combined), so this is not some phony nickname that stretches the imagination. Amsterdam is also extremely well known for its network of gorgeous waterways, and some of the nicest are those in the Red Light District (pictured), which is the oldest part of the city.
St. Petersburg, Russia – Venice of the North (Russian version)
This on-again, off-again capital of Russia sits on the Baltic Sea, and in the early 18th Century the city planners began digging a series of canals to help move goods around. Most of these canals remain, and the hundreds of bridges crossing over them definitely do make the Venice association believable.
Monasterevin, Ireland – Venice of Ireland
This small town of around 2,300 people in County Kildare that sits on the N7 road that connects Dublin and Cork is sometimes known as the “Venice of Ireland,” which does seem to be a bit of a stretch. A confusing passage on the Monasterevin city website says, “An aqueduct built in 1826 carries the Grand Canal over the River Barrow. Monasterevin is noted for its unusually high number of bridges,” so it sounds like the combination of a ‘Grand Canal’ and some bridges were all it took to adopt its own Venice nickname, in spite of the small size and look of the place.
Nantes, France – Venice of the West
The 6th largest city in France is the largest in the Brittany region in the far west, so the fact that it has a canal network helped earn it the nickname “Venice of the West.” The current description on its Wikipedia page says the name is, “owing to its position on the river delta of the Loire, the Erdre, and the Sèvre (whose tributaries were infilled in the early 20th century).” Sounds like a perfect match!
>> Find a hostel in Nantes
Sète, France – Venice of Languedoc
“Languedoc,” (in case you didn’t know either) is the region in southern France that borders Spain and the Mediterranean Sea, so being known as the “Venice of Languedoc” may not sound like a big deal, but it turns out this city of around 40,000 actually resembles Venice, Italy more than probably any other on this list. The Canal du Midi spills into the sea here after its 240km journey from Bordeaux, and the whole town is filled with small waterways that actually look somewhat like the real Venice.
>> Read more about the Languedoc region
Puerto de Mogán, Canary Islands – Venice of the Canaries
In one of the more dubious claims on this list, this city in the Canary Islands (owned and operated by Spain) features what the most recent Wikipedia editor calls “Canal-like channels linking the marina to the fishing harbour.” This seems to set the bar pretty low, but still it is sometimes called “Little Venice” or “Venice of the Canaries.”
Recife, Brazil – Venice of Brazil
Lately it’s become more famous for its many shark attacks just off the coast, but this nearly-500-year-old city on the Eastern tip of the continent is also sometimes known as the “Brazilian Venice” due to the number of rivers and bridges in town. While it may be the closest thing Brazil has to the famous Italian city, this one does seem to stretch the moniker a bit. In our book, just having rivers and bridges doesn’t cut it, but we don’t get a say in these things.
Ft. Lauderdale, USA – Venice of America (East Coast)
This touristy city just north of Miami used to be mostly known as a cheesy Spring Break destination, but its 165 miles of canals just behind the beach definitely do qualify it for its nickname “Venice of America.” One major difference is the Italian waterways are used for shipping goods while these are mainly used so more people can park yachts in front of their houses and then get them out into the ocean.
>> Find a flight to Fort Lauderdale
San Antonio, USA – Venice of the Southwest
This huge city in Texas has a section called the River Walk, which is a series of canals just off the San Antonio River, and is said to be the number one tourist attraction in the state. It has at least a few bridges that appear to be inspired by Venice, Italy, so obviously its worthy of being known as the “Venice of the Southwest” by at least some people.
>> Look for hotels in San Antonio
Venice, California – Venice of America (West Coast)
This is one of two actual ‘fake’ Venices on this list, since it was built in 1905 to copy the canal system (to some degree) of the Italian city it was named after. Over the following decades the city boomed and then fell into disarray, and the stagnant water in the remaining canals became something of a health hazard. But the canal area that sits a few blocks from the beach was cleaned up and revitalized, and it’s quite nice to look at today, even though it’s so out of the way that most people don’t even know it’s still there in this form.
Venetian Resort – Venice of Las Vegas
Since the vast majority of Americans don’t even have a passport, much less enough money for a flight to Italy, the Las Vegas Sands Corporation decided to grant a public service to under-traveled Americans by imploding the Sands Hotel and building a 5-star hotel in its place that has a kitchy and over-the-top Venice theme. You can now take a gondola ride through its indoor-outdoor canal system, and be piling prime rib onto your buffet plate less than 10 minutes later. Take that, Italy! The Venetian in Las Vegas has been such a success that it’s spawned an imitator, in the name of a similar Venetian hotel in Macau (owned by the same company) that features the world’s largest casino.
>> Learn more about the Venetian Hotel
Venice, Italy by llamnudds on Flickr,
Venice, CA by GrahamKing on Flickr,
Alappuzha, India by akshaydavis on Flickr,
Suzhou, China by jeremybarwick on Flickr, Amsterdam by Roger Wade on WhyGo Amsterdam,
St. Petersburg by Tierecke on Flickr,
Monasterevin by archangelm on Flickr,
Nantes, France by broken glass on Flickr,
Ft. Lauderdale by cliff1066 on Flickr,
San Antonio by satosphere on Flickr,
Puerto de Mogán by mmeida on Flickr,
Sete, France by kafeole on Flickr,
Basra by david_axe on Flickr,
Bangkok by jhecking on Flickr,
Recife by Márcio Cabral de Moura on Flickr,
Venetian Las Vegas by Marionzetta on Flickr