Six of the best canal hotels

Any stay is special when there is water right on your doorstep. Shaney Hudson dips her toes in.

Aman Canal Grande, Venice

Opened in 2013, the seven-star Aman Canal Grande is on the Grand Canal in an opulent, restored 16th-entury Venetian palazzo. The hotel's main reception rooms are in the palazzo, while most of the 24 guest rooms are in a more recent wing and include free mini bar. Facilities include a games room, library and rooftop terrace and, rare for Venice, not one but two private gardens for guests to enjoy. Despite its location on the busy waterway, it maintains guest privacy and exclusivity with a canal-side entrance and limited street access. From $1228. See amanresorts.com

Hotel Locanda Cipriani, Torcello

Not to be confused with the famous Hotel Cipriani, the six-room Hotel Locanda Cipriani is in  the outer lagoon on the historic island of Torcello. One of the most romantic places in Venice, the hotel's six rooms feature Murano glass, Venetian stationery and lace made by artisans living in the area, while the shelves are stacked with books written by former guests, including Ernest Hemingway and Jan Morris. The on-site restaurant is exceptional and once the last ferry departs, guests share the island of Torcello with just a handful of locals. From $202 each, a night. See locandacipriani.com

Fairmont Chateau Laurier, Ottawa

Designed in French Gothic style, the 429-room Fairmont Chateau Laurier in downtown Ottawa is central to most of the Canadian capital's main attractions and overlooks the Rideau Canal. During winter the canal transforms into a 7.9-kilometre ice rink, with guests able to skate from the hotel. Warm up back in your room with a cup of tea (kettles and bathrobes are standard in every room), while those not inclined to skate can borrow an iPadfrom the front desk for a historical tour of the hotel, swim laps or work out in the 24-hour fitness centre. From $244. See fairmont.com/laurier-ottawa

Relais Bourgondisch Cruyce, Bruges

Considered one of the best-preserved medieval cities in Europe, Bruges is an enchanting European destination filled with cobbled streets, horse-drawn carriages, and waterways. Overlooking the canals in the historic centre is the boutique Relais Bourgondisch Cruyce, a hotel originally built in the 16th century, which features stained-glass windows and a traditional exposed timber exterior. The hotel's 16 rooms are furnished with antiques, Persian carpets and marble bathrooms, andthere is complimentary Wi-Fi, turndown service and 24-hour room service .  The hotel restaurant, Maria van Bourgondie, is just off-site and serves traditional Flemish cuisine. From $310. See relaisbourgondischcruyce.be

Coconut Lagoon, Kerala

Accessible only by boat, Coconut Lagoon in the Kerala backwaters of India is known for its incredible architecture. Rooms and guest facilities are 55 traditional Kerala tharavad wooden houses that have been restored and rebuilt on the hotel grounds, with guests offered a choice of Heritage mansions, Heritage bungalows or private pool villas that include their own stretch of waterfront. The hotel is focused on responsible tourism (even an endangered breed of cow grazes on the lawns) while daily activities for guests include yoga, meditation and cooking demonstrations. From $177AUD (low season). See cghearth.com

Canal House, Amsterdam

Overlooking the canals on the Keizersgracht, Canal House Amsterdam is a series of 17th-century merchant houses converted into a luxury boutique hotel, all within walking distance to the city's major attractions. In the trendy Jordaan neighbourhood, each of the hotel's 23 rooms are heavily influenced by Dutch art and history, featuring a dark textured palette of silk wallpaper and rich velvet drapes, while original fireplaces and wooden beams have been preserved in most rooms. The period touches are balanced out by mod-cons including a Bose docking station, Blu-ray players and complimentary Wi-Fi From $282. See canalhouse.nl

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