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Exploring the Grand Canal in Venice: The Ultimate Guide

The Grand Canal is the main street in Venice. 

It is a 3.8-kilometer-long (2.4 mi) waterway that runs through the city’s center, dividing it into two parts: San Marco and Cannaregio. 

It is the busiest waterway in Venice, Italy, lined with beautiful palaces and churches, dating back from the 13th to 18th centuries.

At the end of the canal, you can see the Basilica di San Marco, the most famous church in Venice.

This guide will tell you everything from the history to its significance, the best time to visit, and how to reach the Grand Canal.

About Grand Canal in Venice

Length: 2.4 miles

Width: 30 to 90 m (98 to 295 ft)

Depth:  5 meters (16 feet)

Other Names: Canal Grande or Canałasso

🛫Closest Airport: Marco Polo Airport

🚇Closest Railway Station: Venice Santa Lucia station

The best time to visit: 9 am and 7 pm

🚶How to Cross: Gondola Rides

Gondola Ride Costs: € 80 – €125 (max. 4-5 people)

What to expect 

Many beautiful places can be found along the Grand Canal.

If you are ever in Venice, take a gondola ride and experience the beauty of this iconic waterway.

  • Palazzo Grassi: The Palazzo Grassi is a neoclassical building with a symmetrical façade and a large courtyard.

    The palace’s interior is decorated with frescoes, sculptures, and other works of art. 

    The palace is now a museum that houses a collection of modern and contemporary art.
  • Ca’ d’Oro: The Ca’ d’Oro was built in the 15th century and is one of Venice’s most beautiful Gothic-style buildings. 

    The façade of the building is decorated with marble filigree work, which gives it its nickname, the House of Gold.

    The palace’s interior is also stunning and is decorated with frescoes, sculptures, and other works of art.

    The palace is now a museum that houses a collection of art and furniture.
  • Santa Maria di Nazareth: Santa Maria di Nazareth was built in the 1670s and is known as the Church of the Scalzi.

    The church is located next to the Santa Lucia train station and is dedicated to the Virgin Mary.

    Tiepolo, one of the most famous painters of the Baroque period, painted the church’s interior.

Types of Venice Grand Canal Tours

It is said that a Venice trip is incomplete without Gondola rides, which give you the best view of the water city!

Gondolas are an iconic symbol of Venice, often associated with romance and elegance, making them a favorite choice for couples.

The cost of Venice’s Grand Canal rides can vary depending on the boat type and the tour duration.

Grand Canal tour with App Commentary 

The Grand Canal tour with app commentary is a great way to see the most famous waterway in Venice.

The tour includes a 20-minute walking tour to learn about the history and culture of gondolas, followed by a 30-minute gondola ride along the Grand Canal. 

The live commentary is in English, French, Spanish, and Italian, and the mobile app provides commentary in German, Japanese, Chinese, Russian, and Hindi. 

Each gondola can hold a maximum of five people, and the gondolier will determine your seat according to your weight. 

The tour will only be canceled in extreme weather conditions, and the itinerary may change in wind or bad weather. 

For the serenade option, the performers (a singer and a musician) will board a gondola in the center of the row so all participants can hear the music.

You won’t have to worry about getting lost or not understanding anything because the guide will be able to answer all of your questions.

Tour options

DurationTour TypePrices (per participant)
30 minGrand Canal View: Private Gondola Ride€126
45 minSeats in the Same Gondola: Shared Ride €35
45 minBridge of Sighs: Shared Gondola Ride€35
30 minBridge of Sighs: Private Gondola Ride€152
45 minRandom Seating: Shared Gondola Ride€28
45 minSeats in the Same Gondola: Shared Ride€35

Grand Canal tour with Live Commentary

Booking this Grand Canal gondola ride will give you 30 to 50 minutes to tour the famous landmarks of Venice. 

Each gondola has a maximum capacity of five people with a live guide.  

Additionally, a knowledgeable, multilingual guide will travel with you and educate you along the way with fascinating information.

This tour starts at €36 per person and includes:

  • The introductory walking tour lasts for an hour.
  • The commentary via mobile app is available in five languages: German, Japanese, Chinese, Hindi, and Russian.
  • Access to a free mobile app to see what Venice looked like in the past.
  • The mask is optional and can be added to the package for an additional fee.

Tour options

DurationTour TypePrices (per participant)
50 minShared Gondola with Live Commentary€36
50 minDiscounted Random Seating: Shared Ride €30
50 minShared Gondola Ride with App Commentary€36

Private Grand Canal tour

The Private Grand Canal tour is a great way to see the most famous waterway in Venice without crowds. 

The tour is self-guided, so you can set your own pace and explore the sights that interest you the most. 

You will also have the opportunity to pass under a small bridge and discover hidden spots reachable only by gondola. 

The tour is priced per gondola and can accommodate up to five people. 

Please be aware that the tour is subject to weather conditions and may not operate during bad weather, exceptionally high tides, or strong winds. 

In such cases, your ride can be rescheduled for the following day or refunded.

Buy these 30- to 40-minute Private Grand Canal Ride tickets in advance for just €122 (for 4-5 people).

Private tour options

DurationTour TypePrices (per participant)
30 minGrand Canal View Gondola Ride€126
30 minRomantic Canal Gondola Ride€126
30 minBridge of Sighs Gondola Ride€126
40 minGrand Canal View Gondola Ride€187
30 minGrand Canal View Sunset Gondola Ride€159

Water Taxi Tours

Water taxis also offer a luxurious experience, with prices starting at around €100 for an hour-long tour.

Vaporetto Rides

Vaporettos are a more affordable option, with prices ranging from €7-€10 per trip depending on whether you purchase tickets in advance or onboard.

Traghetto Crossings

If you’re looking for an even more budget-friendly option, consider taking one of the many traghetto crossings.

These large gondolas ferry passengers from one side of the canal to another, costing just €2 per person.

Why is the Grand Canal of Venice so famous?

The Grand Canal of Venice is famous for being the world’s largest waterway, its historical role as a vital trade route, and the beautiful architecture of the surrounding buildings.

Grand Canal Venice opening hours

The Grand Canal is open to the public 24 hours a day.

However, visiting at different times of the day has some advantages and disadvantages.

Advantages of visiting the Grand Canal in the morning:

  • The crowds are smaller.
  • You’ll get a better view of the buildings and palaces lining the canal.
  • The light is softer and more flattering for photography.
  • It’s a more peaceful experience.

Advantages of visiting the Grand Canal in the evening:

  • The city is illuminated, creating a magical atmosphere.
  • You can see the vaporettos (water buses) and gondolas lit up at night.
  • It’s a romantic setting for a gondola ride.

Best time to visit Grand Canal

Best time to visit Grand Canal
Photo by Adél Grőber on Unsplash

We recommend going in the morning or early evening if you plan to take a gondola ride. 

The prices are lower in the morning, and there are fewer crowds. You can also get some beautiful photos of the Grand Canal in the morning light.

If you are searching for the best months to visit the Grand Canal, the beginning of May is a great time. 

The weather is starting to get warm and sunny, but it’s not too hot yet. 

There are also fewer tourists in May than in the summer months.

History of Venice Grand Canal

The Grand Canal has a history that dates back over a thousand years.

It was the principal waterway of the Venetian Republic, serving as a crucial trade route and connecting the city with the rest of the world.

This historical importance has left an indelible mark on Venice’s identity.

It has been the city’s main transportation route for centuries and is also home to some of the most beautiful and important buildings in Venice.

The canal was first used for transportation in the 10th century, and it quickly became the main route for trade and commerce in Venice.

In the 15th century, the Gothic style became popular, and many of the houses along the canal were rebuilt in this style. 

The Renaissance and Baroque styles also influenced the architecture of the Grand Canal, and many beautiful buildings from these periods can still be seen today.

The construction of new buildings along the Grand Canal slowed in the 18th century as Venice’s power and influence declined. 

However, the 19th and 20th centuries saw a renewed interest in preserving the city’s heritage, and many of the historic buildings along the canal were renovated. 

Today, the Grand Canal is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world.

Architecture of Surrounding Buildings

Tourists worldwide are amazed by the centuries-old palaces from the time of the Venetian Republic lining the banks of the Grand Canal.

The canal’s history is reflected in the changing architectural styles of these buildings.

In the 12th and 13th centuries, homes embraced Byzantine influences with arches and loggias.

By the 15th century, the Venetian-Gothic style dominated with colorful plasters and pointed arches.

The 16th century brought Classical and Renaissance designs to buildings like Palazzo Grimani and Palazzo Dario, marked by white facades and round windows.

Grand Canal Venice Bridges

There are four famous bridges over the Grand Canal in Venice:

Rialto Bridge

– One of the oldest and most famous bridges in Venice
– Features a distinctive arch design and a bustling marketplace on the bridge

Ponte dell’Accademia

– Known for its wooden structure and panoramic views of the Grand Canal
– Connects the Dorsoduro and San Marco districts and offers a popular spot for artists and photographers

Ponte degli Scalzi

– Also called the “Bridge of the Barefoot” due to its proximity to a church
– Connects the Santa Croce and Cannaregio districts and provides easy access to the train station

Ponte della Costituzione

– Connects Piazzale Roma with the Venice Santa Lucia train station
– Modern design and engineering contrast with the city’s historic architecture

Famous buildings around the Grand Canal

There are many iconic buildings, churches, and museums on the bank of the Grand Canal:

St. Mark’s Basilica

St. Mark’s Basilica, known as the “Golden Church,” is a must-see attraction in Venice.

It is known for its intricate Byzantine architecture, treasure, golden mosaics, and the tomb of St. Mark.

Doge’s Palace

The Doge’s Palace, or Palazzo Ducale, is one of Venice’s most iconic landmarks and the next top attraction on the Grand Canal.

The palace was the residence of the Doge of Venice, the supreme authority of the former Republic of Venice.

Palazzo Grassi

With its fusion of modern architecture, this neoclassical building is a museum of today.

It was the last place to be designed on the canal before the fall of the Venetian Republic.

Ca’ d’Oro

Ca’ d’Oro is situated on the right bank of the canal. This beautifully crafted Gothic-style building can astonish anyone with its charm and glee.

This building is called the House of Gold because of the marble filigree work.

Santa Maria di Nazareth

The floating church, built in the 1670s, is next to the Santa Lucia train station, and  “Ponte degli Scalzi” is right in front of it.

There are notable paintings, and one shows Jesus praying in a garden.

How to reach Grand Canal

Santa Lucia station in central Venice is a suitable option to reach the Grand Canal.

The station connects Venice with different cities in Italy, like Rome, Milan, etc.

The closest airport to the Grand Canal is Marco Polo Airport. From there, you can reach the Grand Canal by different means:

You can opt for private cars, buses, and taxis from the airport to reach the canal, which costs €60 – €75, covers a distance of 14 km and takes 15-20 minutes.

Another option is to take a water bus directly from the airport, which takes nearly 40 minutes to reach the Grand Canal, covering a water distance of almost 8 km.

Tips for visiting the Grand Canal

1. The Grand Canal is crowded primarily during the daytime, so opt for early morning or late evening rides.

2. Book tickets in advance to take the famous Gondola Rides.

3. Due to its comfortable and warm atmosphere, early May is considered the best month to visit the Grand Canal in Venice. 

4. Take a guided motorboat tour for better views and more information.

5. Avoid traveling the canal via Lane 2, as it is meant for a quick tour, and you will miss some famous attractions.

FAQ’s

Why is the Grand Canal of Venice so famous?

The Grand Canal of Venice is renowned for its historical role as a vital trade route.

It is surrounded by beautiful buildings, hotels, and bridges with stunning architecture dating back to the 16th century.

It is the largest canal in Venice and plays an iconic role in Venetian life and tourism.

How many bridges cross the Grand Canal in Venice?

The four major bridges crossing the Grand Canal in Venice are:

Rialto Bridge, Accademia Bridge (Ponte dell’Accademia), Scalzi Bridge (Ponte degli Scalzi) and  Constitution Bridge (Ponte della Costituzione)

How to cross the Grand Canal in Venice?

You can cross the Grand Canal using vaporettos (water buses), water taxis, or gondolas.

Additionally, you can walk on any of the four bridges to cross the Grand Canal.

Can you swim in the Grand Canal Venice?

Swimming or diving into the canals of Venice is illegal. 

If you dip in the Grand Canal or any other canal in Venice, you will be handed a €350 fine.

What is the other name for the Grand Canal in Venice, Italy?

The Grand Canal of Venice is called Canałasso or Canal Grando in Italian.

How much is the Gondola Ride in the Venice Grand Canal?

A gondola ride with app commentary costs around €28 per person.

For a more private experience, you can book the gondola rides in Venice, which cost €80 to €125 for a 25- to 30-minute tour.

However, the price may go up at night or during peak season.

Featured Image: Britannica.com

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