attractions along the Grand Canal in Venice

Exploring the top attractions along the Grand Canal in Venice

The Grand Canal not only connects most of Venice’s top tourist attractions, it is one of its top attractions. Curving in an inverted S through the heart of the city, it is also Venice’s main street, always busy with traffic that includes everything from gondolas to barges carrying produce to market. In Venice’s heyday, anyone who paid attention – or who wanted to be observant – had to have a palace facing the Grand Canal, and their palazzi represent every style of architecture, from the 12th to the early 18th century. The best way to see and appreciate all these grand palaces is to take a vaporetto (a water taxi) from San Marco to Porta Roma.

Saint Mary of Health

Saint Mary of Health
 

As your vaporetto leaves the San Marco stop, it passes over the mouth of the Grand Canal and aims almost directly at the monumental Baroque church of Santa Maria della Salute, built in gratitude for the end of the plague of 1630. In support of its immense weight, architect Baldassare Longhena had to have driven more than a million timbers into the floor of the lagoon. The church is an impressive monument, visible across the Grand Canal from San Marco, and this grandeur continues as you step inside with your attention immediately drawn to its enormous dome. Be sure to see the Sacristy, where the best paintings are, especially those of Tintoretto’s Marriage at Cana.

Read also: Where to stay in Venice

Peggy Guggenheim Collection

Collection Peggy Guggenheim Jean-Pierre Dalbéra / photo modified
Collection Peggy Guggenheim Jean-Pierre Dalbéra / photo modified
 

Just past Santa Maria della Salute is the low white Ca’ Venier dei Leoni, a modern building on earlier foundations. The 17th-century Vernier Palace was never completed and in 1949 its single floor became the site of American art collector Peggy Guggenheim’s Venice Museum of cubist, abstract and surrealist paintings and sculpture. The collection includes works by Max Ernst, to whom Peggy Guggenheim was married, as well as Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque, Fernand Léger, Joan Miro, Salvador Dali, Paul Klee, Rene Magritte, Piet Mondrian, Marc Chagall and Jackson Pollock. As your vaporetto flies by, you can see the equestrian statue of Marino Marini Angel of the City on the terrace.

Adres: Palazzo Venier dei Leoni, 701 Dorsoduro, Venetië

Official site: www.guggenheim-venice.it

Palazzo Corner della Ca’ Grande

Palazzo Corner della Ca' Grande John Lord / photo modified
Palazzo Corner della Ca’ Grande John Lord / photo modified
 

Located right in front of the Guggenheim, Palazzo Corner della Ca’ Grande is one of the finest examples of High Renaissance architecture in Venice. This enormous palace – the name “Ca’ Grande” means big house in the Venetian dialect – was built in 1545 by the Italian master builder and sculptor Jacopo Sansovino, for the powerful Cornaro family. Like all this palazzo, Ca’ Grande had to impress, with stately Ionic columns on the first floor and Corinthian columns on the second.

Ponte dell’Accademia and the Academy of Fine Arts

Ponte dell'Accademia and the Academy of Fine Arts
Ponte dell’Accademia and the Academy of Fine Arts
 

For centuries, Ponte di Rialto was the only bridge over the Grand Canal, until the Austrians, who had occupied Venice since 1815, built a small iron bridge connecting San Marco with Dorsoduro in 1854. It was replaced by a “temporary” wooden bridge in 1932, but proved so popular with Venetians that it was never replaced by a stone one as intended. At the end of Dorsoduro you will find Venice’s finest art collection, the Accademia, in the former 16th-century monastery of Santa Maria della Carità.

Address: Dorsoduro, Venice

Official site: https://www.gallerieaccademia.org/?lang=en

Grassi Palace

Palazzo Grassi Jean-Pierre Dalbéra / photo modified
Palazzo Grassi Jean-Pierre Dalbéra / photo modified
 

On the other bank, the facade of the three-storey Palazzo Grassi shows both Baroque and Classical features. The last palace built on the Grand Canal before the collapse of the Venetian Republic in 1797, it was built from plans by Giorgio Massari that took advantage of an unusual ground plan in Venice, with four wings surrounding a rectangular courtyard. When the Fiat Motor Company acquired the palace, extensive restorations and renovations included the courtyard, which – along with the rest of the palace, is used for exhibitions. The building is interesting for its harmonious blend of the original neoclassical and modern architectural styles.

Address: Campo San Samuele, San Marco, Venice

Ca’ Rezzonico and the Museum of 18th Century Venice

Image
Image
 

Ca’ Rezzonico and the Museum of 18th Century Venice Alice Barigelli / photo modes

On the left, as the canal begins its long bend to the right, the massive Ca’ Rezzonico is the work of two famous architects. Begun in 1660 by Baldassare Longhena, the greatest Baroque architect in Venice, it was completed almost a century later by Giorgio Massari. Today it houses the Museum of 18th-century Venice, where you can get a fascinating glimpse into Venetian life in the Rococo period. The 40 rooms showcase the lavish decorative styles and furnishings, including the Chinoiserie and lacquered furniture, that were so popular at the time. There are Venetian porcelain and pottery, bronze statues, dolls and original 18th-century Venetian costumes. An 18th-century pharmacy has been carefully reconstructed and a theater is located on the third floor.

Address: Fondamenta Rezzonico 3136, Venetië

Like ‘Foscari

Like 'Foscari
Like ‘Foscari
 

When Doge Francesco Foscari ordered its building in the 15th century, Ca’ Foscari, just past Ca’ Rezzonico, had an unprecedented innovation: it had four floors. Today, the palace remains one of the most important late Gothic buildings in Venice. The fortunes of the Foscari turned around after the Doge was forced to cede the eastern Mediterranean to the Turks in 1454 and his son Jacopo was exiled from Venice. In 1574, King Henry III of France used the palace as a residence.

Rialto Bridge (Rialtobrug)

Rialto Bridge (Rialtobrug)
Rialto Bridge (Rialtobrug)
 

As the Grand Canal begins to straighten out again, the familiar shape of the Rialto Bridge comes into view, although it’s hard to take your eyes off the palaces that continue to line either side. The first wooden bridge was built here as early as 1180, later replaced by a drawbridge, which collapsed in 1444 when a large crowd gathered on it to watch a boat trip. Almost 150 years later, in 1588, the Venetians built this stone bridge, designed by Antonio de Ponte. The 22 meter long bridge is supported by 6,000 wooden piles under each side.

Fondaco dei Tedeschi (Duitse grondstoffenbeurs)

Fondaco dei Tedeschi (Duitse grondstoffenbeurs)
Fondaco dei Tedeschi (Duitse grondstoffenbeurs)
 

From at least 1228, the ‘German’ merchants (a term that also included Poles, Czechs and Hungarians) who did business in Venice lived and worked in this prime location at the end of San Marco Rialto Bridge . The fact that Venice paid for reconstruction after a fire and used Titian to decorate the interior shows how beneficial their business was to the Republic – a high commission had to be paid to Venice for every purchase and sale. That is why the Fondaco was called “the golden ark of the Senate” in the 16th and 17th centuries. The exchange was both a place of business and a refuge for the traders, who were not allowed to appear alone or conduct business outside the Fondaco. The facade you see on the right, facing the Grand Canal, is in the Venetian tradition of three stories. In the center there is a portico with five arches. The shops and storage were on the ground floor, while the upper floors were living quarters and offices.

Fish market

Fish market
Fish market
 

Dating only from 1907, the market hall, on the left past Rialto Bridge , was built in the Gothic style, with beautiful carved capitals supporting the arches. Stone fish and other sea creatures look down on the morning grumbles as chefs and housewives compete for freshly caught fish. Although a relatively modern building, it was built using the age-old method on more than 18,000 larchwood piles.

Ca’ d’Oro

Ca' d'Oro
Ca’ d’Oro
 

On the right bank, one of the most beautiful sights on the canal, Ca ‘d’Oro, the Venetian Gothic is the most beautiful. Although it has lost the original rich paint and gilding that gave rise to its name – House of Gold – the marble filigree work of Bartolomeo Bon, who also built the Porta della Carta in the Doge’s Palace, is perhaps even more beautiful without it. The interior, now a museum, vividly illustrates how Venetian nobles lived in the late Middle Ages. The mosaic on the ground floor copies one in St. Mark’s Basilica and there is a beautiful fountain of red marble in the courtyard. Artworks from the Galleria Franchetti art collection complement the historic setting of the palace. Along with Titian’s Venus before the Mirror , Portrait of a Nobleman by van Dyck and Mantegna’s unfinished St. Sebastian, you will see marble sculptures, bronzes and terracottas by Bernini, Giambologna, Tullio Lombardo, Ricci and others, as well as fragments of the frescoes of Giorgione and Titian who once built the facade of the Fondaco dei Tedeschi .

Address: Calle Ca’ d’Oro, Venice

Official site: www.cadoro.org

Ca’ Pesaro

Ca' Pesaro Bill Rand / photo modified
Ca’ Pesaro Bill Rand / photo modified
 

Further on, on the left, Ca’ Pesaro was built between 1652 and 1710 by the masters of the Venetian late Baroque, Baldassare Longhena and Antonio Gaspari. The beautiful facade is inspired by Sansovino’s library in the Piazzetta. The lavishly designed interior may seem an unusual home for the Galleria d’Arte Moderna , one of the most important collections of modern art in Italy. But the palace provides an interesting contrast to the works of Franz von Lenbach, Auguste Rodin and Marc Chagall. On the third floor, the Museo d’Arte Orientale has an equally excellent collection of Far Eastern art with Chinese vases, Japanese paintings and Indian sculpture.

Location: Santa Croce, Venice

San Stae

San Stae
San Stae
 

The official name of the church in the left jetty of San Stae is Sant’Eustachio, but hardly anyone mentions it. It was built in 1678 by Giovanni Grassi, in the shape of a Greek cross, and its facade on the Grand Canal was added thirty years later by master builder Domenico Rossi. It was paid for by Doge Alvise Mocenigo II who is buried in the church. Also inside are paintings by artists from the early 18th century, including Tiepolo and Pellegrini.

Palazzo Vendramin-Calergi

Palazzo Vendramin-Calergi takomabibelot / photo modified
Palazzo Vendramin-Calergi takomabibelot / photo modified
 

This palace on the right, shortly before it San Stae , is such a perfect example of Venetian Renaissance architecture that many other Venetian palaces were modeled after it, and in the revival period towards the end of the 19th century many of its elements were copied all over Europe. It was built between 1480 and 1504 by Mauro Codussi. The German opera scanner Richard Wagner died here in 1883.

Fondamenta Turchi and the Natural History Museum

Fondamenta Turchi and the Natural History Museum Jay Galvin / photo modified
Fondamenta Turchi and the Natural History Museum Jay Galvin / photo modified
 

This strangely restored building almost opposite Palazzo Vendramin-Calergi was originally a ninth-century palace and one of the oldest in Venice. Its current form dates from the mid-13th century. In the 14th and 15th centuries, before it became the offices and living quarters of Turkish merchants, it was the residence of the Dukes of Ferrara, who hosted Emperor Friedrich III here as a guest in 1452 and 1469. By the early 19th century, it was in total ruins, so the city took it over and attempted to rebuild it in its original 13th century style. Whatever the results, it is still considered a good example of the Byzantine-Venetian mix of styles common in the Middle Ages. It houses the Natural History Museum , where you can learn about the Adriatic Sea’s animal life and view geological and zoological collections. The ground floor also has an excellent exhibition of Venetian wells.

Address: Santa Croce, Venice

Official site: https://msn.visitmuve.it/

Saint Mary of Nazareth

Saint Mary of Nazareth
Saint Mary of Nazareth
 

The beautiful Baroque church on the right, next to Santa Lucia train station, was built in the 1670s by Baldassare Longhena and the facade was added by Giuseppe Sardi. In the second chapel on the right is Tiepolo’s fresco The Glory of St. Teresa and the third chapel on the left contains his fresco Christ Praying in the Garden of Gethsemane . The smallest bridge of the Grand Canal crosses in front of the church.

Address: Fondamenta Scalzi, Venetië

Constitution Bridge

Constitution Bridge seier + seier / gefotografeerd
Constitution Bridge seier + seier / gefotografeerd
 

Not all Venetians agree on the bridge by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, built in 2007. But they agree that it is useful to have a bridge at the end of the Grand Canal, where the vaporetto line ends at the bus station and parking garage. The design does not appear to reflect traditional Venetian styles, reflecting the earlier bridges only in its graceful sinuous curve. The steel and concrete structure is faced in a combination of Istrian marble and glass, and like Calatrava’s work elsewhere it has become an attraction in its own right.

Tips: How to make the most of your tour of the Grand Canal

  • Vaporetto Lines: Make sure you take Line 1, and not the Fast Line 2, which moves too quickly past the palaces and skips several stops.
  • Tickets: The ride along the Grand Canal is the most expensive in Venice, but it is included with any day or longer pass. Whether you purchase a pass or a single ticket, make sure you validate it on the machine as you board.
  • Timing: You’ll find crowds on the vaporetto at almost any hour, but it’s best to avoid morning and evening commute hours, as well as the lunch rush between noon and 2 p.m.
  • At night: Although you can’t see all the palaces, many are fully illuminated at night, a magical sight with their facades bathed in spotlights and Murano glass chandeliers glittering from the large windows.
  • Best views: To see the palaces on both sides of the canal, try to get a place to stand outside where you can move from one side to the other more easily.
  • Direction: While this tour lists the attractions starting at San Marco, you can ride it in either direction. To get the best view of everyone, drive in both directions and see one side at a time.

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