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Beyond Venice: 8 must-see canal cities

Bruges canal

Photo: fugue/flickr

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Bruges

The Belgian city of Bruges (Brugge to the country's Dutch-speaking population) rivals Venice when it comes to well-preserved pre-car-era neighborhoods. The old core of the city features street after street of charming and historic buildings. The canals cross these timeless neighborhoods, adding to the back-in-time feeling that Bruges is known for.

Yes, there are boat tours of the canals, but you can also rent a bicycle or simply hike alongside the waterways and down the centuries-old lanes. Bruges is in the heart of chocolate country, so there are specialty shops galore. Many are found near the huge central plaza, the Grote Markt, which is framed by a towering belfry that visitors can climb to get a panoramic view of this charming city.