You're already on the Grand Canal if you arrive in Venice by train. The waterway snakes around in an S shape, so you can cross the water once to reach Santa Croce, San Polo and Dorsoduro, or twice to get to San Marco and Castello.  

Or why not take a vaporetto (ferry) to experience the Grand Canal from the water? Take the number 1 ferry from Piazzale Roma F, a 7-minute walk from Santa Lucia to San Marco. En route, you’ll sail under Rialto Bridge, one of Venice’s most popular attractions. 

What’s in this guide? 

Grand Canal history and facts 

The Grand Canal is an iconic feature of Venice and one of the main traffic corridors in the city. But it’s also one of the most beautiful! Lined with palaces, churches and some of Venice’s oldest buildings, take a walk along the Grand Canal or see these impressive locations from the water on a boat tour. 

Many of the buildings on the Grand Canal were erected between the 13th and 18th centuries, so visiting this famous waterway can tell you a lot about the city’s rich history. You’ll notice a range of architectural styles on display here, including Venetian-Byzantine, Venetian-Gothic, Renaissance, Venetian-Baroque, Neoclassical and modern.  

How long is the Grand Canal?  

Despite being one of the most significant waterways in the city, at 3.8km long and up to 90 metres wide in some parts, only four bridges cross the Grand Canal. These are Rialto Bridge, Ponte dell'Accademia, Ponte della Costituzione and Ponte degli Scalzi.  

Carving a distinct S shape through Venice’s city centre, Grand Canal likely follows the path of an ancient river that once flowed into the Venetian Lagoon. The canal has long been an important trade route where ships could moor and load their goods.  

Things to do on the Grand Canal 

Some of Venice’s best attractions are located on the Grand Canal, so why not take a boat trip and see all the sights in one afternoon? We’ve put together a list of the top places to visit on the Grand Canal and the best ways to enjoy this iconic waterway, so you can make the most of your visit.  

Boat tours 

Venice comprises hundreds of waterways, so the best way to see the city is by boat. There are many options to choose from, including the public vaporetto, private water taxis or gondolas.  

If you’re on a budget, take the vaporetto to see all the sights along the Grand Canal for less. Private water taxis are more expensive, but you have the bonus of stopping at specific locations along the way. 

As for gondolas, these are best enjoyed on the smaller canals. Larger boats will block your view from a gondola, and with this being the city’s main traffic corridor, you’re likely to have a bumpy ride! 

With a boat tour, you’ll get to see all the sights along the Grand Canal and have a tour guide pointing out notable attractions. Many companies offer boat tours across Venice, but you can find ticket offices at either end of the famous waterway, in Santa Croce and San Marco.  

Historical Regatta  

If you’re lucky enough to be in Venice on the first Sunday in September, watch the Historical Regatta (Regatta Storica) taking place along the Grand Canal. The boat race is followed by a procession of 16th-century boats, including the doge’s galley ship known as the Bucentaur. 

Notable attractions on the Grand Canal 

Discover the best attractions to see along the Grand Canal, from galleries and museums to famous bridges, palaces and churches, including: 

Rialto Bridge – As the oldest of the four bridges that cross the Grand Canal, Rialto Bridge is a must-see attraction in Venice. Sail underneath it on a boat tour or walk across on foot to get between San Marco and San Polo.  

Fondaco dei Tedeschi – Built in 1228, the Fondaco dei Tedeschi was the headquarters and living quarters of the city’s German (Tedeschi) merchants. Today, it’s a luxury department store known as the T Fondaco dei Tedeschi, having undergone numerous renovations and the addition of a roof terrace overlooking the Grand Canal. 

Fondaco dei Turchi – Built in the 13th century, the Fondaco dei Turchi was the residence of the Turkish merchants in Venice. It was restored in the late 19th century and now houses the Natural History Museum of Venice. 

Ca’ d’Oro – One of the most impressive palaces on the Grand Canal is the Ca’ d’Oro (Golden House), also known as Palazzo Santa Sofia. Completed in 1430, it’s one of the best surviving examples of Venetian-Gothic architecture in the city, thanks to the stunning façade you can see from the water. Since 1927, it has housed the Giorgio Franchetti Gallery. 

Palazzo Grassi – This 18th-century palace sits on the banks of the Grand Canal in the San Marco neighbourhood. It is now an exhibition space, presenting works from the Pinault Collection.  

Church of San Simeone Piccolo – Located in Venice's Santa Croce sestiere (district), you can’t miss this 18th-century church. The enormous green dome and impressive Neoclassical architecture are some of the first things you’ll see when you exit Santa Lucia station.  

Church of San Geremia – Where the Grand Canal passes through Cannaregio, you’ll see the apse of this large 18th-century church. The church houses the relics of Saint Lucy (Santa Lucia).  

Church of San Stae – Located in Santa Croce, the façade of this church faces the Grand Canal. Reconstructed in 1709 by Domenico Rossi, you could spend hours looking at the ornate decoration and statues executed in Baroque and Rococo styles.  

Santa Maria della Salute – The stunning Basilica of Santa Maria della Salute is one of the most iconic churches in Venice, dominating the skyline. Located in Dorsoduro, it sits between the Grand Canal and Giudecca Canal in the San Marco basin.  

Gallerie dell’Accademia – One of the best-known galleries in Venice, Gallerie dell’Accademia, can be seen from the Grand Canal. Be sure to go inside and see works by Italian masters like Leonardo da Vinci, Titian, Tintoretto and Canaletto. 

Peggy Guggenheim Collection – You’ll pass another of Venice’s most famous art galleries whilst touring the Grand Canal: the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in the Dorsoduro neighbourhood. The collection features well-known European and American artists, including Pablo Picasso, Marcel Duchamp, Salvador Dalí and Jackson Pollock. 

Restaurants, bars and shops near the Grand Canal 

Whether you’re hopping on a boat tour of the Grand Canal or taking in the views from its bridges, you’ll find plenty more to do in the area once you’ve finished sightseeing. With restaurants and bars on the waterfront and some of Venice’s best shops nearby, you can plan your day from start to finish. 

Best restaurants near the Grand Canal 

Take in the views of Venice whilst you enjoy lunch or dinner at these restaurants along the Grand Canal: 

  • La Porta d’Acqua 
  • Ristorante San Silvestro 
  • I’ Bacaro dei Bischeri 
  • Sepa 
  • Ristorante Ca’ Dolfin 
  • Trattoria Povoledo 
  • Osteria Bancogiro 
  • The Gritti Terrace 

Looking for more inspiration when it comes to dining out in Venice? Discover the city’s best restaurants in our dedicated guide. 

Best bars near the Grand Canal 

What better place to enjoy a drink or two than a bar on the Grand Canal? These are the best spots to head for a mid-afternoon drink or watch the sunset over Venice: 

  • Hostaria Vecio Biavarol 
  • Bar All’Arco 
  • Bar Longhi 
  • Osteria Bancogiro 
  • Al Mercà 
  • Bar Ai Artisti 
  • Barcollo 
  • Bacaro Jazz 

Plan your perfect night out in Venice with the help of our nightlife guide, featuring the best bars, pubs and clubs in the city.  

Best shops near the Grand Canal 

You’ll find most of the best shops in Venice a stone’s throw from the Grand Canal, in the area near Rialto Bridge. For designer goods, head to T Fondaco dei Tedeschi department store or find high-street favourites in Le Mercerie area, near the Rialto vaporetto stop. 

Or why not pick up some souvenirs from your trip when visiting the Grand Canal? Explore boutiques and stalls run by local artisans selling traditional Venetian masks, jewellery, leather goods and more.  

Want more tips on the best shops in Venice? Check out our dedicated shopping guide here. 

Travelling by train to Venice?

If you are considering spending some time in Venice, why not take the 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 Verona to Venice (1h), Rome to Venice (3h 16m) and Bologna to Venice (1h 15m). 

Need more information about travelling to Venice by train? Check out our dedicated page to trains to Venice.