Grand Canal Venice – What to See and Do

by vacationideaz
grand canal venice

Grand Canal is the #1 tourist attraction of Venice, a sight that is so unique that you will not find it anywhere else in the world. A cruise on the Grand Canal is a trip of a lifetime. The highway of this water world, Grand Canal is the main street of the city. It stretches for 3.8 kilometers or 3800 meters and bends like an S, dividing Venice into two. There are beautiful buildings on both sides, most of them constructed from the 12th and the 17th century. You will see many gondolas, water taxis, and traghetto, or shared gondolas.

The Grand Canal is a symbol of Venice and Italy. It is on many travel posters. Extremely popular, it is extremely recognizable. Riding a gondola in the city is a must-do for all tourists visiting Venice.

Catch an ancient spectacle unfolding on the 1st Sunday of September on the Grand Canal. Thousands watch the Regata Storica, a colorful waterborne procession followed by rowing competitions. It recreates the moment when Queen of Cyprus arrived in the city in 1489. It is a highlight in the Venetian calendar.

Locals refer to the canal as ‘Canalasso’. It connects the lagoon near the Santa Lucia railway station and the St. Mark Basin, going through the central districts. There are 400 bridges on top connecting 118 islands. There are 170 buildings that face the canal.

Grand Canal Venice – Quick Facts

Grand CanalS-shaped main waterway of Venice dividing the city into two
Length2.36 miles or 3.8 kilometers
Depth16 feet or 5 meters in most places
TrafficGondolas, water taxis, water buses, traghetto, or shared gondolas
Buildings170 buildings along the canal, many popular landmarks of the city
Main AttractionsSanta Maria della Salute, Gallerie dell’Accademia, Palazzo Corner della Ca’ Grande, Palazzo Grassi, Ca’ Rezzonico

Grand Canal Boat Ride

Riding on the Grand Canal is an experience to remember. A must-do in Venice! There are many options –

Gondolas – Extremely popular with tourists. The city’s poster. Very good to navigate through the smaller channels going into Venice.
Vaporetti – Water buses that also visit the surrounding islands
Water taxis – For 10 people max, including luggage. Expensive.
Traghetto – Shared gondolas. Cheaper.

grand canal venice

A Vaporetto can take you on a ride through the entire canal, from Porta Roma to San Marco. Take Line 1. Line 2 is express service. It skips many stops and moves very quickly.

Some tourists prefer motorboats with a guide who will show them the different palaces and buildings. You can see San Giovanni e Paolo and Santa Maria Formosa on the 1-hour tour. The longer 2-hour tour also shows you the Dorsoduro neighborhood. It also stops at Cannaregio, the former Jewish ghetto.

Gondolas and Gondoliers

The gondolas are an integral part of Venice. You will see many gondolas dancing over the water ripples or moored to the tall posts called pali near the Paglia Bridge, where the gondoliers’ Madonna stands.

These small boats can take 4 people, up to a maximum of 6. But some tourists have to sit facing backward. The gondolas can ride on the Grand Canal, and take you to even the smallest water channels. They even ride at night. See the gondoliers wearing sailors’ jumpers and straw hats with colored ribbons – it’s an iconic sight.

You will find all kinds of gondolas in Venice. There are police gondolas, refuse to collect gondolas, fire service gondolas, good delivery gondolas, and even funeral gondolas with black pompoms.

Tour the Grand Canal in a steamer or gondola, starting from St. Mark’s Square. If you do not want to travel the length of the Grand Canal, take a traghetto. It can also help you cross from one side of the canal to the other.

Palazzo Grassi
Palazzo Grassi

Grand Canal FAQ

Why is the Grand Canal in Venice famous?

The Grand Canal is a famous sight. It is unique because you won’t see such a canal as the main transport in any other city. On both sides, you will see palaces that are more than a century old. Many of them were constructed between the 13th and the 18th century, during the time of the Venetian Republic. Most of the residents in these buildings were wealthy Venetians. They were very powerful people.

What can you do in the Grand Canal?

  • You can take a gondola ride
  • See the Santa Maria della Salute Roman Catholic church
  • See the Palazzo Corner della Ca’ Grande Renaissance-era palace
  • Visit the Academy of Fine Arts and the Ponte dell’Accademia
  • Palazzo Grassi, the Venetian-era classical building
  • Peggy Guggenheim Collection
  • Museum of 18th-Century Venice

Can you swim in the Grand Canal Venice?

No. The locals and tourists cannot swim in the canals of Venice.

Are there floating buildings in Venice?

Venice is often called the “Floating City” because the buildings appear to rise from the water. Many large buildings like the Santa Maria della Salute church were constructed on more than a million wooden stakes that go deep within the ground.

Is the Grand Canal in Venice man made?

There used to be a big lagoon with many marshy, small islands. Natural canals separated them. With time, more and more people started to live in the growing settlement. Bigger and better buildings were constructed. The natural canals were made deeper and wider so that the building materials could be transported by boat through the lagoon.

Is Venice going to sink?

Venice has been sinking for many years. However, according to a new study, it could happen much faster, by 2100. The climate change report suggests that if global warming cannot be reversed, Venice may go underwater by 2100.

cafes in venice italy
Venice Cafes

How much does it cost to visit the Grand Canal?

A Grand Canal tour costs about 30 Euros for an adult. It is free for children up to the age of 6 years.

Is Venice expensive?

Venice is more expensive than most other cities, partly because of the logistical challenges of transporting everything and moving around. However, you can still save money by avoiding hotels on the Grand Canal and eating in smaller places. You will even find hotels at less than $100 a day.

Can you do Venice in 2 days?

No. You need at least 3-4 days in Venice. There are so many things to see and do in the city. You must see the St. Mark’s Basilica, St. Mark’s Square, Doge’s Palace, the Rialto Bridge, Scuola Grande di San Rocco, the Murano and Burano glass factories, Santa Maria dei Miracoli, and so much more. You will also want a ride on the Grand Canal and do a walking tour of the city.

What is the best month to go to Venice?

The best time to visit Venice is between September and November. You will find fewer tourists this time of the year. The canals will be less crowded. You will also get lower hotel prices.

What is the best food to eat in Venice?

  • Baccala mantecato
  • Sarde in saor
  • Risi e bisi
  • Risotto al nero di sepia
  • Fegato alla veneziana
  • Bigoli in salsa
  • Baicoli
  • Mołéche

Is Venice worth going to?

Absolutely yes. Venice is a unique city. The canals are so beautiful. A gondola ride will certainly be a memorable experience. There are also many palaces and other attractions.

What is the traditional food of Venice?

Many of them are fish-based. Risotto al nero di sepia is risotto cooked with cuttlefish, sarde in saor is sardines that are preserved in a sour and sweet marinade, and bigoli in salsa is pasta in an anchovy sauce. These three are some of the most traditional and popular dishes in the city.

Santa Maria Della Salute
Santa Maria Della Salute

Santa Maria della Salute

Built at the entrance of the Grand Canal in the 17th century by Longhena after a plague epidemic! It stands at the water’s edge. The interior has an octagonal plan. It is surmounted by a dome. Here you can see 12 paintings by Titian and Tintoretto’s Marriage at Cana. It is open on weekdays between 9 AM and noon, again from 3 PM to 6 PM.

You will find the charming Campo San Gregorio and a 15th-century Gothic church with a 15th-century doorway near Santa Maria. There is also the Dogana da Mar or the Maritime Customs Office at the end of the Punta della Salute. See the revolving statue of Fortune mounted on a small tower. It is a weather-vane.

grand canal venice tour

Top Bridges On The Grand Canal

There are just 4 bridges on the canal, though Venice has a total of 417 bridges.

1. Ponte della Costituzione – A modern bridge opened only in 2008 September
2. Ponte dell’Accademia – Named after the nearby Accademia galleries.
3. Ponte degli Scalzi – Named after the monks. It means ‘Bridge of the Barefoot’
4. Ponte di Rialto – The oldest bridge. The most popular and an icon.

The bridges are all very picturesque. They have a rich history and architecture.

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