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Bucket list experience:

Last updated: 09 November, 2022
Expert travel writer: Nicky Swallow

To all intents and purposes, the Grand Canal (or Canal Grande) is Venice’s high street, a wide thoroughfare lined with elegant palazzi that winds through the city. Like any high street, it is full of traffic (water buses, ambulances, builder’s barges, gondolas and private boats) and is essential to Venetian life.

Two miles long, and traversed by four bridges, the Canal flows between the train station and St. Mark’s Square (Piazza San Marco). Between the 12th and 18th centuries, every important Venetian family built a palazzo (often called a Ca’) on its banks, each with a water entrance. The most notable palazzi include; Ca’ d’Oro, Ca’ Pesaro, Ca’ Foscari, Ca’ Rezzonico and Palazzo Grimani.

The cheapest boat ride is to hop on one of the regular water buses (vaporetto) that ply the Canal from one end to the other. Progress is slow, and they are often crowded, but a sought-after open-air seat at either the front or the back allows you to see everything. For a more exclusive experience, and to up the glamour stakes, take a water taxi or a gondola.

Recommended itineraries by our writers that include this experience

Price from: £5
Minimum age: Any
Age suitable: 8+
When: All year around
Duration: 45 minutes

Getting there & doing it

The trip between the San Marco and Ferrovia (train station) stops takes around 45 minutes;

Line 1 plies this route zig-zagging along the canal between multiple stops along the way. Just like buses, you can hop on and off along the route. For information and timetables about this and all the other public transport routes in Venice, see the ACTV website.

Water taxis have pick up points at the train station, Rialto and Piazza San Marco. You can also order one by phone. There are official gondola stops all over the city including at the railway station, in front of the hotel Danieli and at the San Tomà and Vallaresso vaporetto stops.

When to do it

Vaporetti run daily, all year round from around 5am until around 11.30pm.

For a better chance of an outside seat (and to avoid the crowds), take the trip very early in the morning or late at night when the canal is at its romantic best.

Venetians themselves walk a lot; the vaporetti are often filled with tourists. So low season means emptier vaporetti.

Our selection of the best Viator tours of this attraction or activity

Semi Private or Private Grand Canal 1-Hour Boat Tour

Semi Private or Private Grand Canal 1-Hour Boat Tour

Venice

The best way to appreciate the beauty and uniqueness of a city built on water is by boat. Gliding through Venice's Grand Canal and minor can...

€69 | Rating 4.11 / 5 [660 ratings]

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Tour supplied by:

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Venice in one Day: Grand Canal, St Mark's Basilica, Walking Tour

Venice in one Day: Grand Canal, St Mark's Basilica, Walking Tour

Venice

If it’s your first time in Venice, see all the highlights of this magical city on a combination walking including St Mark's Basilica and a b...

€109 | Rating 4.15 / 5 [3324 ratings]

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Venice Grand Canal by motorboat & Basilica San Giorgio Maggiore

Venice Grand Canal by motorboat & Basilica San Giorgio Maggiore

Venice

Speed through Venice by luxury motorboat to discover the sights of the Grand Canal and the Basilica of San Giorgio Maggiore. As a knowledgea...

€119 | Rating 4.52 / 5 [23 ratings]

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The Secrets of the Grand Canal - Boat Tour

The Secrets of the Grand Canal - Boat Tour

Venice

The most exclusive and unique tour of the Grand Canal, discovering its stories, legends and mysteries. A true Venetian will guide you in thi...

€165 | Rating 4.87 / 5 [16 ratings]

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Our writer’s picks of the best places to stay near this experience, closest first

Oltre il Giardino

Venice, Veneto, Italy[0.9 miles]

A romantic six-room Arcadian retreat of family-run homeliness. The shady, canal-side garden is a godsend at the end of a long, hot day’s culture fest.

Official star rating:

Palazzina Grassi

Venice, Veneto, Italy[1.1 miles]

The Grand Canal meets Philippe Starck – think glamour, glitz, seduction and gorgeous views from the waterside terrace and many of the rooms. There’s an excellent restaurant too.

Official star rating:

Orologio

Venice, Veneto, Italy[1.2 miles]

A stylish, modern and good value alternative to some of Venice’s more traditional hotels. Just steps from the Rialto produce market and the Rialto bridge.

Official star rating:

Hotel Corte di Gabriela

Venice, Veneto, Italy[1.3 miles]

An 11-room boutique hotel with a lovely courtyard, personalised service and a centralissima location within easy reach of the Accademia, the Rialto and Piazza San Marco. The contemporary, design-led interior provides a refreshing contrast to the usual flock wallpaper and swathes of brocade.

Official star rating:

Destination guides including or relevant to this experience

Venice

Veneto, Italy

Crammed with picturesque canals, Renaissance palazzos and artistic masterpieces, this unique and alluring city is heaven-on-earth for art lovers and romantics.

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Accademia Gallery (Venice)

Venice, Veneto, Italy[1.4 miles]

From Titian to Tiepolo, the Accademia’s world-class collection represents the Golden Age of Venetian painting. A dazzling collection of masterpieces but also a voyage through the history of Venice itself.

Best for ages: 18+ | £15

Saint Mark’s Square
Experience

Saint Mark’s Square

Venice, Veneto, Italy[1.8 miles]

It’s huge, and often crowded, but St. Mark’s square is one of the most emblematic spots in the city and is lined with over-priced cafés that offer live music. But out of season, on a foggy winter’s evening or at dawn, it’s undeniably atmospheric.

Best for ages: 13+ | Free

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St. Mark’s Basilica

Venice, Veneto, Italy[1.9 miles]

Surely the most exquisite, beguiling and opulent place of worship in Italy, St Mark’s cathedral was built to satisfy the wildest dreams of the Doges and is rich in glittering Byzantine mosaics, Gothic carvings and sumptuous treasures.

Best for ages: 18+ | Free

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Orsoni Mosaics
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Orsoni Mosaics

Venice, Veneto, Italy[0.7 miles]

The last existing furnace using fire in the historical centre of Venice, Orsoni has been using the same techniques to produce 24k gold leaf mosaic tiles since 1888. Visitors can watch skilled artisans create the tiny gold and enamel squares in some 3,500 different colours. Pre-booking is essential.

Best for ages: 8+ | Free

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Basilica of Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari

Venice, Veneto, Italy[0.8 miles]

Of all Venice’s many churches, the huge, Franciscan barn-like Frari (1338-1469) is one of the most art-packed. It boasts the second-highest bell tower in the city and a severe exterior, but once inside, the quality of the art is extraordinary.

Best for ages: 18+ | £2

Venetian Ghetto
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Venetian Ghetto

Venice, Veneto, Italy[0.9 miles]

Venice’s original Jewish ghetto dates from 1516 and is a fascinating, atmospheric neighbourhood. It remained home to the city’s Jewish population until 1797; today you can take a guided tour of the five magnificent synagogues and museum and eat in a neighbourhood Kosher restaurant.

Best for ages: 13+ | Free

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Learn to make a Carnevale mask
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Learn to make a Carnevale mask

Venice, Veneto, Italy[1 miles]

Although Carnevale falls in February/March, you can learn to make your own Venetian Carnival masks year-round at one of several workshops in the city. Experienced artisans teach the art of papier-maché mask making and decorating in traditional Venetian style. Great for kids and adults alike.

Best for ages: 6+ | £42 | 1 hour

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