Venice Grand Canal for cruisers

"Looking at the facades of the Venice Grand Canal palaces is almost like flipping through a Who is Who book of European art and high society from the 13th to 20th century..."

A ride down the Venice Grand Canal must be one of the things you’re looking forward to the most when it comes to planning your Venice Italy cruise.

And you are so right, because it will be the most exciting and interesting 40 minute ride you’ve ever had in your life!

Even if the Venice Italy Grand Canal was just a street that you could drive or walk down, and you tried to compare it to any other city’s famous streets… after a few minutes of thinking you would come up with nothing much.

It’s really hard to think of any other streets, avenues or boulevards in the world that in a stretch of only 3 kilometers house 170 magnificent palaces and churches.

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And in those palaces, right there on the Grand Canal, Popes and Doges were born, Emperors stayed or were entertained, some of the most famous painters in the world decorated walls with frescoes, superstar composers of the past created musical master pieces, poets and writers found their inspiration, and where art collectors stashed their invaluable collections!

Looking at the facades of the Venice Grand Canal palaces is almost like flipping through a Who is Who book of European art and high society from the 13th to 20th century.

Dining room table tidbit:

There are only 3 real canals in Venice: the Grand Canal, Giudecca and Canareggio. All the others Venetians refer to as rio (river).

But also, it’s like a ride through a study book on architecture: the facades of the Venice Grand Canal buildings will reveal a whole spectrum of different styles:

There are 13th century Fondaco houses that combined the merchants’ residences with the warehouses. Venetian-Byzantine style palazzos decorated with elements brought in from Constantinople. You will see Venetian Gothic style with its thin columns and pointed arches; Renaissance style columns in the three classical orders, the Venetian Baroque, Neoclassicism and modern style. It’s all here in the 3 km stretch.

The Venice Grand Canal is an S-shaped, river-like canal that winds through the main districts (sestieri) of Venice.

On one side it ends in the Venice lagoon (near Santa Lucia) and on the other it opens up into Saint Marks basin right in front of the Piazzetta di San Marco.

Venice Grand Canal facts:

Length: 3800 m (2,3 miles)

Width: 30-90 m (98-295 feet)

Depth: (on average) 5 meters (16 feet)

Apart from being one of the most romantic ride routes in the world for tourists, its purpose is also very practical for the locals. The Venice Grand Canal is the major traffic corridor of the city.

Most of the traffic on the Venice Grand Canal happens along the canal: vaporetto water buses, water taxis, gondolas can be used to have a ride past all the beautiful buildings.

While traghettos are the only ones to take you across the canal. Together with the bridges of the Venice Grand Canal, they are the quickest way to cross from one side to the other.

How to take a ride down the Venice Grand Canal

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One way of enjoying the Venice Grand Canal view is by admiring it from one of the bridges that cross over it. This is a no-cost way and it’ll still provide you with some great photos to show off back home.

However, if you would like to maximize your experience, it is so worth spending €6,50 for a vaporetto ride.

The best time of the day to have a ride is probably later in the afternoon.

Remember that rush hours for the local commuters are in the morning between 9-10 and after 7-8 in the evening.

In the daytime vaporettos will be packed with day trippers and locals running errands, so the late afternoon really seems to be the best time.

The two best ways to take a ride down the Canal Grande of Venice are to make them part of your transportation process from the ship to downtown Saint Marks square or vice versa.

Remember, Piazzale Roma, where you take the vaporetto down the Grand Canal is only 15-20 minutes walk from the Stazione Marittima cruise terminal.

That way you can partially save on the transportation provided to you from the cruise line enjoy the Canal Grande and then have a quick walk between Piazzale Roma and your cruise terminal.

The best vaporetto to take down the Grand Canal is #1, as it takes the longest. Its 40 minute slow zig-zagging between the banks of the canal will give you enough time to enjoy the ambiance and take photos.

If you can, take a seat in the open at the back of the vaporetto, that’s the best spot for taking photographs.

If you are starting your Grand Canal tour from Piazzale Roma, take vaporetto #1 from in front of the Santa Lucia train station, the name of the stop is Ferrovia.

Your tour will finish at the San Marco Valareso stop which is only a few minutes walk from Piazza San Marco.

Deals on Hotels and Shore Excursions:

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