The Canal Grande, or Grand Canal, is the main artery of Venice. Not only does it provide the fastest connection between the northwestern side of the city and Saint Mark Basin, it is also the main transportation hub of the city. Public boats or vaporetti, water taxis and gondolas, but also cargo ships, police boats and ambulance boats use the Canal Grande as the highway of the city. From here, smaller canals fan out in all directions; they all pale in comparison to the size of the Canal Grande. It is less than 4 km long, and has a width between 30 and 90 metres. There are surprisingly few bridges crossing the canal: at present only three, while a fourth is under construction. The most famous of all is, of course, the Rialto Bridge, roughly halfway from the station to Piazza San Marco.
The Canal Grande is lined with many grand palazzi or palaces, like the famous Ca d'Oro, Palazzo Barbaro and Ca' Foscari. You can also find churches, old warehouses, and markets (notably, the Pescaria or Fish market) directly on the Canal Grande. Many buildings have their front door directly on the canal, without pavement, which means that they can only be admired either from a boat or from the other side of the Canal. Originally, the course of the Canal Grande was that of an ancient river flowing through the lagoon; people settled here in houses on stilts. The course of the Canal Grande has more or less remained the same, while the buildings developed into the imposing palaces we see now.
For most visitors, the first view they get of Venice is the Canal Grande, either upon exiting the railway station, or Piazzale Roma which can be reached by road. The most obvious way from here is to take a vaporetto through the city - it gives an excellent impression of what Venice is all about: water, majestic palaces and boats, lots of boats. Equally rewarding, though, is to walk along the Canal Grande: it gives you ample opportunity to marvel at the beauties of palazzi, some with finely decorated marble front sides, on the other side of the Canal. There are, however, entire stretches of the Canal Grande without pavements: the palazzi rise directly from the water of the Canal.
Around the World in 80 Clicks
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Canal Grande (Italy). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Canal Grande. Read more about this site.