From the vibrant Rialto market to the busy shopping streets of Le Mercerie, there’s plenty more to see in this area, so why not spend a day exploring? You’ll also find some great cafés, restaurants and bars near Rialto Bridge if you want to relax and take in the views along the canal.
Arriving in Venice by train? Rialto Bridge is a 20-minute walk from Santa Lucia station. Alternatively, take the number 2 vaporetto (waterbus) from Ferrovia B to Rialto stop, a 12-minute journey.
What’s in this guide?
Rialto Bridge history and facts
Rialto Bridge is one of only four bridges crossing the Grand Canal, despite this being one of the city’s most prominent and busiest waterways! The other bridges over the canal are Ponte degli Scalzi, Ponte dell’Accademia and Ponte di Costituzione. Rialto Bridge is the oldest and most famous of the four.
When was Rialto Bridge built?
Since 1173, various bridges have occupied the site of Rialto Bridge. Initially, a wooden pontoon bridge was built here by the engineer Niccolò Barattieri. It was called the Ponte della Moneta, after the city’s mint on the bridge's eastern side.
In 1255, a new wooden bridge was installed to cope with increasing traffic due to the thriving Rialto market, Venice's commercial hub. The new bridge was named after the market, as we still know it today.
Many shops lined Rialto Bridge during the early 15th century, which was common during the medieval period. Today, there are still shops along both sides of the bridge selling souvenirs, jewellery, art, Venetian glassware and more.
Rialto Bridge collapsed in 1444 and 1524, but the construction of the new stone bridge didn’t take place until 1588-91. The 16th-century reconstruction gave Venice the bridge that still stands today.
How long is Rialto Bridge?
Rialto Bridge is 48m long and 23m wide, with a clearance of 7.5m at the highest point of the archway. It is a single stone-arch bridge supporting a semi-enclosed rectangular deck with arcades.
Who built Rialto Bridge?
The stone arch bridge was built by Antonio da Ponte, following the same structure as the original wooden bridge: two ramps leading to a central entrance. Although his engineering and design were widely criticized at the time, Rialto Bridge is now one of Venice’s most iconic landmarks and has stood the test of time!
Notable attractions near Rialto Bridge
Whichever way you walk across Rialto Bridge, you’ll find plenty more to do in the surrounding areas. Some of the best places to visit are:
Grand Canal – Since the bridge crosses the Grand Canal, you could take a boat tour down Venice’s main waterway to see more incredible architecture, including palaces and churches.
Rialto market – Venice’s oldest and busiest market is located a stone’s throw from Rialto Bridge, in the San Polo neighbourhood. Here you can buy fresh, local produce, including fish, fruit, vegetables and more.
Teatro La Fenice – If you like opera or classical music, add Teatro La Fenice to your itinerary! Learn about the development of Italian opera from the 18th century onwards at this famous theatre, an 8-minute walk from Rialto Bridge.
St Mark’s Square – St. Mark’s Square is just 7 minutes from Rialto Bridge and one of Venice’s most-visited locations. Discover the stunning 11th-century St. Mark’s Basilica, explore the Doge’s Palace or relax in one of the cafés on the square.
Bridge of Sighs – Another of Venice’s famous bridges, the Bridge of Sighs, is an 8-minute walk from Rialto Bridge, near St. Mark’s Square. This bridge was built by Antonio Contino, the nephew of the architect Antonio da Ponte who built the Rialto Bridge.
Restaurants, bars and shops near Rialto Bridge
When you need a break from sightseeing, head for lunch or dinner at a restaurant near Rialto Bridge, enjoy a drink overlooking the Grand Canal or head to the nearby shops and markets. These are the best places to eat, drink and shop around the famous landmark.
Best restaurants near Rialto Bridge
Sample authentic Venetian cuisine in a relaxed atmosphere at these restaurants:
- La Porta d’Acqua
- Osteria Bancogiro
- Da Mamo
- Rosticceria Gislon
- Antica Osteria Ruga Rialto
- Al Gobbo di Rialto
- Osteria Al Sacro e Profano
- Antico Calice
- Trattoria Rialto Novo
Enjoy lunch or cicchetti (small snacks) at these spots near Rialto Bridge:
- I’Bacaro de’ Bischeri
- Cantina Do Mori
Want to discover more of Venice’s best restaurants? Find the best locations by area in our dedicated guide.
Best bars near Rialto Bridge
Head for a spritz beside the Grand Canal or try local wines from the Veneto regions in these popular bars near Rialto Bridge:
- Devil’s Forest Pub
- Ai Stagneri
- Al Mercà
- Cicchetteria al Pesce Rosso
- Bacaro Jazz
- Bar All’Arco
- Osteria Bancogiro
Best shops near Rialto Bridge
The Rialto area has long been known for trade and commerce, so this is the perfect area to do some shopping during your trip. While many vendors on Rialto Bridge sell souvenirs, there are plenty of other shops and markets nearby. Here you can find everything from fresh, local produce to clothing, jewellery, art and homewares.
Overlooking the bridge and the Grand Canal in San Marco, you’ll find the luxury department store, T Fondaco dei Tedeschi. Venice’s main shopping area, Le Mercerie, is also located near Rialto Bridge, with many high-street shops and independent boutiques.
On the opposite side of Rialto Bridge in San Polo is the famous Rialto market selling seafood, fruit, vegetables and more local produce. Spend a morning at the market, then cross the bridge into San Marco for an afternoon of shopping or sightseeing.
For more information on the best shopping areas in Venice, visit our dedicated guide here.
Travelling to Venice by train?
If you're considering spending some time in Venice, why not travel by train? Travelling to Venice by train is easy due to the high-speed rail connections operated by Trenitalia and Italo. You can travel to Venice from some of the most popular cities in Italy, including Milan to Venice (2h 12m), Rome to Venice (3h 16m) and Florence to Venice (2h 1m).
Need more information about travelling to Venice by train? Check out our dedicated page to trains to Venice.