The Grand Canal in Venice is one of the world’s most famous thoroughfares. And with good reason: it’s one of the most beautiful streets in the world.
This one canal is a trip through a thousand years of history and empire. The Venice Grand Canal is lined with many of the main Venice landmarks – including grand palaces, or palazzi, magnificent hotels and some of the most beautiful churches in Europe.
It’s crossed by just four bridges, and is by far the busiest canal in Venice. Yet even here there are quiet corners, pockets of Venice off the beaten path in the unlikeliest of places.
The journey from one end to the other – on the number 1 vaporetto or waterbus – is one of the best public transport journeys in the world.
Enjoy it from wherever you are in the world, on our virtual Venice Grand Canal tour.
The newest bridge over the Grand Canal is the Ponte della Constituzione, which links Piazzale Roma bus station with a walkway to the railway station. It’s also known as the Ponte Calatrava, after the Spanish architect who designed it.
A view from the Ponte della Constituzione. The vaporetto, or waterbus, is the most popular way of travelling along the Grand Canal. The church with the green dome in the background is San Simeone Piccolo.
This view, from the Ferrovia or northern side is of the Tolentini church in the setiere of Santa Croce.
The next bridge over the Grand Canal is the Ponte degli Scalzi, named after the Baroque church of the Barefoot Sisters next to the Ferrovia or railway station. This is the view from the Scalzi bridge down the Grand Canal, with the district of Cannaregio and church of San Geremia to the left.
Just after San Geremia, the Cannaregio Canal meets the Grand Canal to the left. This is a view down another canal in Cannaregio, the Rio di Noale, the Ca’ Pesaro, an impressive modern art museum on the Santa Croce (south) side of the Grand Canal.
Ca’ d’Oro, the House of Gold, is one of the most beautiful buildings in Venice, even without its original gold façade. It’s one of the best examples of Venetian Gothic architecture, along with the Doge’s Palace in St Mark’s Square. The Ca’ d’Oro now houses the Galleria Giorgio Franchetti.
Ca’ Favretto is a 15th century palazzo on the south side of the Canal. It’s one of many luxury hotels on the Grand Canal. This hotel is right next to the famous Rialto fish market, and in one of the best areas to stay in Venice.
The Rialto bridge, or Ponte di Rialto, is the oldest bridge in Venice. It was built in 1571, and the distinctive arcades along either side still house craft and jewellery shops. This is the view from the Cannaregio side.
The view from Rialto isn’t bad either. Here it is during a spectacular Venetian winter sunset, looking down towards the bend that leads to San Marco.
Another view of the Rialto bridge, this time from the Riva del Carbon on the San Marco side.
If you want the Venice gondola experience without paying 80 euros for the pleasure, you can use catch a traghetto across the Grand Canal. This is the Sant’Angelo traghetto. These boats are mainly used by locals. They are among the most convenient ferries in Venice, offering several short-cuts around Venice.
The final bridge over the Grand Canal is the Ponte dell’Accademia, named after the renowned art gallery next door. It offers one of the most iconic views of Venice, down to the end of the Grand Canal and the Basilica of Santa Maria della Salute.
Salute dominates the south-eastern end of the Grand Canal, its distinctive silhouette an unforgettable sight. Here it is at night from across the Grand Canal.
This is Santa Maria della Salute on a glorious winter morning, from the Dogana traghetto stop outside Harry’s Bar.
After the Punta della Dogana, the Grand Canal opens out into the Bacino di San Marco, or St Mark’s Basin. As you leave the Grand Canal, the lagoon opens out before you, and some of the most famous Venice landmarks around you. If you disembark at one of the San Marco vaporetto stops, turn back and look across the water to Andrea Palladio’s stunning church of San Giorgio Maggiore.
David Angel is a British writer and photographer who has been travelling and photographing the world for over 25 years. His work is regularly featured in worldwide media including the BBC, the Guardian, the Times and the Sunday Times.