The most important street in a city built around the sea is not a street, but a Canal. Venice’s main artery is the Grand Canal. It’s a 2-mile long, s-shaped canal that runs through Venice. It’s lined with some of Venice’s most significant buildings, and jam-packed with private boats, barges, and vaporetto. Some of Venice’s most important mercantile families once lived in the palaces, museums, and warehouses along the Grand Canal.
The Grand Canal, Venice’s great empire of commerce, is now a distant memory. However, it is still the main point for goods and people entering and leaving the city. As you stand on the banks, enjoy the incredible, constant ebb-and-flow of city life while watching the world pass by.
Buildings along Grand Canal: The Ca’s and Palazzos
The buildings that lined the Grand Canal in Venice were built between the 13th-18th centuries. They belonged to the most prominent families and merchants guilds of the city. They were prominent displays of wealth because they were located along the main thoroughfare of Venice. You can spot the various styles represented by different facades such as the classic Renaissance lines of Sansovino’s palaces or the intricate details in the Baroque Palazzo Balbi.
The Fondaco dei Turchi is one of the most remarkable sites. This building was once home to the Byzantine Turks, who established and maintained trade routes between Istanbul (and Venice). Its façade is adorned with Veneto Byzantine embellishments. This style evolved from Venice’s sacking Constantinople to the trading relations they established with the Ottoman Empire, who conquered Constantinople.
Another impressive feature is the Gothic splendor on the facade of Ca’ D’oro. It was originally a family home for Contarini families. It is also one of the most elegant and elaborate facades on Canal. Its name means “the golden house”, as it was decorated with gold outside. However, the gold has since been lost.
The Rialto Bridge
Since 1181, there has been a bridge that spans Venice’s Grand Canal. They weren’t always the most sturdy structures. After several wood bridges had collapsed and burned, Venice’s government decided to build a stone bridge in 1551.
Everybody, from Sansovino and Michelangelo, was eligible for the position of lead architect. However, the winning bridge design belonged to Antonio Da Ponte, a relatively unknown architect. His design was different from his competitors’ because they all had multiple arches in classical style while Da Ponte’s bold single arch was so unconventional that some thought it might collapse.
It has stood the test of time admirably as the Grand Canal’s only bridge for over 300 years. It is the only non-watery thoroughfare in the city that is open to the public. This bridge is a symbol of unity for both residents and visitors.
Tips for Seeing the Grand Canal of Venice
The Grand Canal of Venice is like Piazza Navona and the Champse Ellysee. It never closes and it rarely gets quiet. It’s open to all visitors, provided you can navigate through the labyrinth of Venice and reach the banks of its largest waterway.
Tickets are not required to view the Grand Canal, but they can be purchased if you wish to ride a boat along it. For more information on the ticket options, visit the Official Tourism Website of the City of Venice. Gondola rides are more comfortable sticking to smaller canals in Venice than they have to contend with the currents that sweep through the Grand Canal. The majority of boats that line the Grand Canal are water taxis. These boats, also known as Valetto, pleasure boats, or tour boats, are found in the Grand Canal. Vaporetto may be hired at any authorized stand, but you should book in advance for any type of cruise or guided tour.
The Welcome to Venice and Venice Boat Tour with Grand Canal, Tower Climb are offered. These tours take you to the most important sites and obscure corners of Venice, giving you a glimpse into the city’s history.
You should never attempt to swim across the Canal. The currents will likely take you on a long ride.
When is the best time to see Grand Canal in Venice
Sunset and sunrise offer some of the most romantic and classic views of Grand Canal. Sunset is a popular time to visit the Grand Canal. This means that you can forget about taking pictures of the Rialto bridge if it’s not full with other visitors. The early morning is a peaceful time in Venice if you are able to get out of bed. It’s also the best time of day to admire the calm waters of Grand Canal.