Photo of The Grand Canal, Venice

Visit The Grand Canal, Venice

The Grand Canal winds through the centre of Venice. At four kilometers long it is the longest of all the canals and the most important. At one end is the lagoon and the Santa Lucia train station and at the other the Basin of San Marco.

Explore the Grand Canal

Italy This Way review: Your first view of the Grand Canal will undoubtedly count as one of those magical moments in your life. All those beautiful buildings lining a canal buzzing with gondolas, vaporettos, taxi boats and many others is an experience not to be missed.

Venice Grand Canal

More than 170 buildings line the Grand Canal. These date from the 13th to the 18th century and virtually every one is a beauty as the rich noble Venetians all strove to outshine each other with their palazzos.

Amongst the houses are several churches including the basilica of Santa Maria della Salute which you will no doubt see often as it sits across the canal from Saint Mark's Square.

The easiest way to travel along the canal is on a water bus called a vaporetto. These are inexpensive and stop on both sides along the length of the canal. It is worth taking the vaporetto just to enjoy the views from the water and you can also travel on them in the evening and part of the night allowing a quite different view of the canal and palazzos.

Small parts of the canal have pavements but the only way to see many of the palazzos is from the water as they do not have paths in front of them.

The best vaporetto for sightseeing is line 1 and tickets can be bought from machines near the water bus stops.

There are four bridges that cross the Grand Canal. These are the famous Rialto bridge which was the only bridge up until the 19th century, the Ponte degli Stalzi, the Ponte dell' Accademia and the Ponte della Costituzione.


There are many styles to be seen along the length of the canal. Dwellings began here before the Roman empire and gradually became more populated. In the 9th century the doge moved here and more trade followed.

Some fondaco houses were built which combined warehousing space with accomodation for the merchants. A portico (porch) covered the loading bay and leads into the storage areas.

The Fondaco dei turchi is one of these that was built by Turkish merchants in the 13th century. The Fondaco dei Tedeschi is another which was built by the German merchants. It is now a luxury shopping centre and even has a roof terrace that can be visited. It is next to the Rialto bridge.

With the import of goods and art from the Byzantine Empire the Venetian Byzantine style developed and in particular led to large loggias, with round or elongated arches and the use of multicoloured marble decorations.

Look for the Ca' da Mosta, Ca Farsetti and Ca' Loredan buildings for examples of the Venetian Byzantine style. These buildings date to the 12-13th century.

Later the Venetian Gothic style was developed and can be seen and is characterised by thinner pointed arches in the porticos and loggias and buildings were often plastered in bright colours.

Examples of the Venetian Gothic style abound on the Grand Canal and include Ca' d'Oro, so named for the gilt external decorations that once decorated its facade. The Palazzo Cavallo-Franchetti, Palazzo Barbaro and Palazzo Pisani Moretta are further examples.

The 15th century saw the introduction of Renaissance architecture and Ca'Vendramin Calergi which know houses the casino of Venice and the Wagner museum is a fine example of this style which incorporates large windows and classical columns.

The 16th century was the time of Venetian Baroque and the Santa Maria della Salute basilica is a particularly fine example of the style which is rich in ornamentation.

Other examples include the Palazzo Balbi, Ca' Rezzonico and Ca' Besaro.

During the 16 and 17th centuries the Venice Republic was declining but it was still a very busy period for building on the canal.

The San Simeone Piccolo church was built in Neo Classical style in the 18th century.

With the fall of the Venetian Republic in 1797 the construction of palazzos came to a halt and by the late 20th century most had been bought by the city or state.

The Grand Canal is amazing any time of the year but if you visit on the first Sunday of September there is a big historical regatta with a competion between Venetian boats and a procession with gondoliers dressed in costumes.

Venice Grand Canal

Attractions nearby

Saint Mark's Square is a particular highlight of Venice and in the square are the Saint Mark's Basilica, Saint Mark's Campanile, the Doge's Palace, the Correr Museum and the Museum of Archaeology.

The islands of Murano and Burano are well worth a visit. Less interesting is the Venice Lido but if you need some beach time it is fairly easy to get to.

You can find more local travel ideas in the Venice guide, and the Venice-Veneto guide.

See also: 

Photos of The Grand Canal, Venice

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Map of The Grand Canal, Venice and places to visit


The Grand Canal, Venice places to visit

Academy of Art, Venice

Academy of Art, Venice

The Academy of Art in Venice has an important collection of Venetian Renaissance paintings and other Venetian art up until the 19th century.

Academy of Art, Venice guide
Scala Contarini del Bovolo, Venice

Scala Contarini del Bovolo, Venice

Scala Contarini del Bovolo is a 15th century palace in the renaissance style and with a spiral staircase, in the San Marco district of Venice

Scala Contarini del Bovolo, Venice guide
Museo Correr, Venice

Museo Correr, Venice

The Museo Correr has a collection of sculptures and items related to Venice housed in the sumptuous rooms of the Napoleonic wing on Saint Mark's Square.

Museo Correr, Venice guide
Saint Mark's Campanile, Venice

Saint Mark's Campanile, Venice

Saint Mark's Campanile is one of the iconic buildings of Saint Mark's Square and a visit to the top offers great views over Venice.

Saint Mark's Campanile, Venice guide
The National Archaeological Museum, Venice

The National Archaeological Museum, Venice

The Venice National Archaeological Museum has an interesting collection of Roman and Greek statues and many items donated by rich Venetian families.

The National Archaeological Museum, Venice guide
The Rialto Bridge, Venice

The Rialto Bridge, Venice

The Rialto bridge is one of the iconic sights of Venice

The Rialto Bridge, Venice guide

...or see all our recommended places to visit in Venice-Veneto