Two famous cities of canals! Although they are initially similar in their city planning, in truth, these cities could not be more different. Each one is beautiful in its own way, it just depends on what you like. Here is my opinion on these two curious canal cities!
In the simplest sense, Amsterdam is an organized, planned city while Venice feels completely random and organic. Essentially, their city planning matches their history. On one hand, Amsterdam’s UNESCO canal rings are feats of modern engineering with a long-term planned program of concentric arcs of canals that are connected with perpendicular canals. This makes the city incredibly easy to navigate because it just all makes sense.
Venice, on the other hand, is a cacophony of alleys, streets, bridges, and dead-ends. This is certainly not a UNESCO Site because of its mathematical plan, but for its insanity. Venice was founded in the 5th century and slowing grew out into the ocean on 118 tiny islands. This organic and long-time growth (as opposed to long-term, planned growth) makes Venice a maze of small winding alleyways. Your best bet is to throw away that map! Know where the major things you want to see are located in relation to your accommodations and then just enjoy getting lost because its inevitable anyways!
Read more at the blog Becoming Italian Word by Word: Walking Venice in the Italian Language
Amsterdam is famous for its Bloemenmarkt, or flower market, overflowing with tulips at the right time of year. The market actually consists of floating barges stationed along on Singel between Muntplein and Koningsplein. Easy to find and totally worth a stroll through, even if the tulips aren’t in full bloom yet. And if you are wondering, yes you can bring tulip bulbs home – just make sure they are the “international travel approved” ones.
Venice is alternatively famous for its Rialto Fish Market that teems with the ocean’s bounty every single day starting at 7 am. You can find nearly every variety under the sun but some Venetian specialties are cuttlefish, octopus, canoche (a mix between a shrimp and crab), and schie (tiny shrimp). Even if you are not a seafood lover, it’s fantastic to walk by and watch Venetians haggle, argue, and swap the day’s news in this packet covered market.
“Where we‘re going, we don’t need roads.”
Bikes rule the streets in Amsterdam and if you are brave enough, it is an awesome way to get around (personally I did not have the courage!). Be careful! The Amsterdam bikers are professionals and they don’t mess around. Always double, triple check before crossing the street or sidewalks, you can’t always hear the bikes whizzing by. Alternatively, a canal tour is a great way to get your bearings and see a lot of the city in an hour or so.
That iconic line from Back to the Future essentially sums up Venice. No cars, and hardly any bikes or scooters; nothing but boats and boots. Although gondolas are Venice’s iconic mode of transportation, I don’t suggest them. They’re expensive, cheesy, and really not the best way to see the city. Alternatives? Walking will allow to you get leisurely lost in the back alleys but you will be limited on your “point A to point B” capabilities. The vaporetto, or water bus is the best way to get around and see the city from the water – as it is meant to be seen.
The architecture of Amsterdam and Venice could not be more different and a lot has to with their geography. Amsterdam is in Northern, Protestant Europe which tends to be more reserved and practical. While Venice has always been known as a city of excess and glitterati. The fantastic architecture is best seen via boat so I would highly suggest booking a canal tour while in either city!
My personal winner?
As frustrating as Venice is, it wins this showdown! My choice has a lot to do with my overall love of romance cultures as opposed to the orderly Northern Europe but Amsterdam’s architecture did surprise me. Venice I think just captures the imagination as a “romantic” city. My husband through would probably disagree with me (he hated Venice lol). To each their own!