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Book Venice Grand Canal tours




Grand Canal tickets and tours

Venice's canals are more than just transportation routes; they're the city's arteries, pulsing with life and history. One needs no introduction to the Grand Canal; the lifeblood of Venice's canal system. So, slow down, ditch the itinerary, embrace the winding waterways, and let the Grand Canal weave its magic on you. Here's all you need to know about a canal tour in Venice.

The Grand Canal: Quick facts

  • Official name: The Grand Canal
  • Location/Address: 30100 Venice, Metropolitan City of Venice, Italy. Find on maps.
  • Formation: Around the 11th or 12th century
  • Depth: 16-26 feet
  • Number of visitors annually: Approximately 15 million
  • Function: Waterway/tourist attraction

Why go on a Grand Canal tour in Venice?

Venice canal tours

Explore the Grand Canal

The Grand Canal is Venice's main waterway, lining centuries of history, architecture, and Venetian life. A tour provides insights into the past and present of Venice, allowing you to see up close the palazzos, churches, and bridges that tell the story of this ancient city.

Venice canal tours
Venice canal tours

Explore Venice

The Grand Canal cuts through the heart of Venice, making a tour an efficient way to see a large part of the city without the need for walking through crowded streets. It's an especially appealing option for those who wish to experience the city's beauty in a more relaxed manner.

Venice canal tours

Photographic opportunities

The Grand Canal offers unmatched scenic beauty and photo opportunities. Whether it's the play of light on the water, the intricate facades of Venetian palaces, or the lively scenes at the Rialto Market, you'll find endless subjects to capture.

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Know before you go on a Venice Grand Canal tour

When booking a Venice gondola experience, especially a Grand Canal tour, there are essential things to consider to choose the best option for you and enhance the overall experience. Here's a comprehensive guide to help you navigate through the choices and make the most of your Venetian adventure:

  • As the Grand Canal and St Marks are the busiest boarding points, book your tickets in advance to skip the lines, find your gondolier and hop on for your ride.
  • Be prepared for long queues, especially during peak tourist season when wait times can go up to over an hour. During the low season, you could get a ride 15-30 minutes of arrival.
  • Gondola rides can be expensive. Consider shared gondolas for potentially lower rates.
  • Combine your ride: Pair your gondola tour with other activities like visiting nearby landmarks or enjoying a meal at a canal-side restaurant to make the most of your experience. 
  • Can't go on a Venice canal tour aboard a gondola? No problem! You can still get around the city using the water bus. 

Is the Grand Canal tour for me?

Pros

Cons

Gondolier stands/boarding points are readily available along the Grand Canal, making it easy to find a ride without extensive planning.

The Grand Canal can get very crowded, with wait times occasionally exceeding an hour during peak season. This is especially the case if you don't have pre-booked tickets.

You'll stand a chance to see iconic landmarks on the gondola tour including the Doge's Palace, St. Marks Basilica, the Peggy Guggenheim Museum, and more.

The traffic can extend on to the waterways too, with gondolas sometimes jostling for space. This might mean a reduced ride time.

The Grand Canal tour can provide access to sights and landmarks that are less accessible by foot, offering a comprehensive view of Venice's diverse architectural styles and historical periods.

If you're seeking an after-hours tour, you might be charged higher as compared to the after-hours rate of a quieter gondola station.

The Grand Canal: Location

Venice canal tours

Address: 30100 Venice, Metropolitan City of Venice, Italy. Find on maps.

Getting there

The Grand Canal roughly begins from the train station and winds its way to St. Marks Square. To get to any of the stations along the Grand Canal, you can either walk between the Santa Lucia Rail Station and St Mark’s Square from the Rialto Bridge, or take the following public transport options:

  • Vaporetti (Water Bus): The most scenic and popular option, Line 1 vaporetto, offers a full tour along the Grand Canal, passing by major landmarks. It's an ideal choice for first-time visitors wanting to immerse themselves in the beauty of Venice from the water.
  • Water Taxi: For a more private and direct route, consider a water taxi. Although more expensive, it offers the convenience of customized drop-off points along the Grand Canal, perfect for those with specific destinations in mind or traveling with luggage.

The Grand Canal: Purpose

Venice canal tours

Prime gondola station

While the Grand Canal is undeniably important for gondolas, it's more than just a scenic backdrop; it's the starting point for an unforgettable journey. 

  • Multiple boarding points: It might be more accurate to think of the Grand Canal as a vast network of gondola stations, called traghetti, rather than a single, centralized one. These traghetti are typically small piers marked with signage or simply identified by waiting gondolas.
  • Scenic backdrop: The Grand Canal itself becomes an integral part of the gondola experience, offering stunning scenery and historical context for the ride.
Venice canal tours

Other functions

  • Trade and commerce: The canal's location connected Venice to the Adriatic Sea, making it a vital hub for trade and commerce. This fueled the city's economic prosperity for centuries, attracting merchants and promoting the exchange of goods across Europe and beyond.
  • Tourism: The Grand Canal is a major tourist attraction, drawing millions of visitors every year. Gondola rides, boat tours, and scenic walks along the canal are popular activities, generating significant revenue for the city.
  • Aesthetic beauty: The canal's picturesque setting, with its iconic bridges, palaces, and gondolas, creates a visually stunning environment that contributes to Venice's romantic image and popularity.

Besides the Grand Canal, there are some hidden gems that offer a quieter waterway experience.

Venice canal tours

Cannaregio Canals

Explore a number of canals like:

  • Rio di San Barnaba: Lined with colorful houses and bridges, this canal offers a glimpse into local life. Nearby, Campo Santa Margherita provides a lively atmosphere.
  • Rio di Sant'Alvise: This narrow canal winds through a peaceful residential area, showcasing hidden gardens and traditional architecture.
  • Rio dell'Arsenale: Pass by the historic Venetian Arsenal, once a shipbuilding powerhouse, for a touch of history.
Venice canal tours

San Marco district canals

  • Rio dei Bareteri: This tranquil canal leads you past artisans' workshops and charming squares, offering a taste of Venetian craftsmanship.
  • Rio di San Salvador: Navigate under bridges adorned with flowers and admire Renaissance palaces lining the canal banks.
  • Rio della Canonica: Discover hidden gardens and peaceful corners near St. Mark's Square, offering a serene escape from the crowds.
Venice canal tours

Dorsoduro district

  • Rio di Santa Maria del Giglio: Pass by charming bridges and historic churches like the Basilica dei Gesuiti.
  • Rio di San Trovaso: Witnessing gondola-making firsthand at the Squero di San Trovaso, a traditional boatyard, is a unique experience.
  • Rio del Zattere: Glide along the charming waterfront promenade, offering stunning views of Giudecca Island and the lagoon.

Frequently asked questions about Venice Grand Canal tours

How much does a Venice Grand Canal tour cost?

A 30-minute shared ride starts from €30 per person, while a private ride could be €80-150+ per gondola. These prices can vary if you decide to extend your ride or take an after-hours gondola.

How long does the Grand Canal ride last?

Generally, the tour is around 30 minutes, depending on the route you choose. It's enough time to soak in the sights and capture good photos. However, you might be able to extend the duration of your ride if your gondolier permits.

Do I need to book my canal tour in advance?

Pre-booking online is strongly recommended, especially during peak tourist seasons. This secures your spot as gondola rides are extremely sought after in Venice.

How can I get to the Grand Canal for my tour?

The most popular options are the Line 1 vaporetto, offering a scenic route along the canal, or a water taxi for direct, private access. Both are accessible from major points like the Santa Lucia Rail Station.

What makes the Grand Canal tour special?

 Beyond its breathtaking views, the tour offers a unique perspective on Venice’s history, architecture, and culture, making it a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

What attractions can I see during my Grand Canal tour?

You'll sail through the scenic waterways of Venice, passing by awe-inspiring architecture, quaint bridges, and busy piazzas. You'll also get a close-up of famous landmarks like the Doge's Palace, St. Marks Basilica, the Peggy Guggenheim Museum and the Rialto Bridge.

How long is the Grand Canal?

The Grand Canal of Venice stretches for a total of approximately 3.8 kilometers (2.4 miles). This measurement represents the main navigable pathway of the canal, excluding any small side canals or branches that might contribute to a slightly larger overall length if counted.

How many canals are there in Venice?

There are around 150 canals threading their way through the city. It's important to note that this number isn't completely fixed, as classifications can differ between natural waterways, man-made canals, and smaller channels.

How deep are Venetian canals?

While the Grand Canal's average depth is 16 feet, some of the smaller canals are only about 5-6 feet. Periodically, canals are dredged to remove sediment and maintain navigable depths. This can temporarily affect the depth in specific areas.

What are Venice canals today like?

The network of canals still serves as the city's primary transportation system, just like in centuries past. Gondolas, vaporetti and water taxis ply the waterways, carrying locals and tourists alike. However, due to increased population, traffic on the canals is greater. Moreover, sea level rise and climate change pose new challenges, making Venice more vulnerable to flooding. Constant adaptation measures are required to protect the historical city and its canals.

Are there alternatives if I can't go on a gondola?

Yes, the vaporetto (water bus) provides a practical and scenic way to explore Venice and its canals at a lower cost. You can also take the traghetto, which is a public ferry gondola.