- WHERE TO STAY
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The Grand Canal is 3.8km (2.4 miles) in length and travels in an S shape between the two islands Venice is built upon.
The Grand Canal links the entry point to Venice for most (Santa Lucia Railway Station and Piazzale Roma) and St Mark's Square where it spills out onto the open ocean.
Unless you are staying in Venice longer than one day, most first time visitors will limit their visit to the area between Santa Lucia Railway Station and St Mark's Square.
Santa Lucia Railway Station and adjacent Piazzale Roma are the gateways to Venice at the end of the causeway from the mainland.
As this is where the railway station, car parks, bus stations and cruise terminals of Venice are located this will in all probability be your arrival point when visiting Venice.
Piazza San Marco (St Mark's Square) is the heart of Venice. As the largest square in the city St Mark's Square has always been the location of important government buildings and other facilities central to the goings on in Venice. For first time visitors its the natural magnet to head for when first arriving.
The main city of Venice is two islands split into two by the Grand canal. There are only 4 bridges (footbridges) connecting the two islands. Two bridges are right next to Santa Lucia Railway Station.
Midway between Santa Lucia Railway Station and St Mark's Square is the Rialto Bridge, one of the must see sights of Venice and not too far from St Mark's Square at the other end of the canal is the Accademia Bridge.
Either side of the Grand Canal private buildings front the waterfront, there is no footpath alongside the Grand Canal.
You can walk between Santa Lucia Railway Station and St Mark's Square and view the Rialto Bridge on the way, but your only glimpse of the Grand Canal will be at Rialto Bridge.
It is only when you get beyond St Mark's Square where the Grand Canal spills out onto the ocean that there is a wide promenade next to the waterside.
If you want to view the Grand Canal it therefore has to be from the water. Not doing so would be missing out on one of the "must do" experiences of any visit to Venice.
Although there are water taxi services and tours most visitors experience of the Grand Canal will be from the water bus service.
The workhorse route is route number 1 that stops at every stop along the Grand Canal.
These are the largest boats, (see image) and even in Winter there are five boats an hour most of the day.
The scheduled journey time between Santa Lucia Railway Station and St Mark's Square is about 45 minutes. There are 14 stops along the way. Number 1 ferry continues another 20 minutes across to Venice Lido Island.
There is also another express boat, route number 2 that does the journey between Santa Lucia Railway Station and St Mark's Square in a scheduled 30 minutes making only 5 stops including Rialto Bridge.
Though make sure the boat you get is travelling along the Grand Canal as this route is a circular route that loops around the south of Venice.
The Venice gondola is perhaps one of the instant images most people have when Venice is mentioned.
Although you will come across gondolas all over Venice, at least the parts frequented by tourists, by far the most popular place to catch one is from the waterfront at St Mark's Square.
Up to six people can share a gondola. The City of Venice sets official rates for gondola rides, typically a rate for 40 minutes, then additional increments of 20 minutes.
Seek out the official rates by all means, but don't expect the actual price to be exactly the same rate in your head - make sure you have an agreement on price before you depart. In the evening rates may climb.
From the busy gondola stops by St Mark's most gondolas will follow the same route in a circuit behind St Mark's Square along the narrow canals there. At busy periods the route can have the water equivalent of traffic congestion, (see image).
Below is a link to gondola opportunities where the money side is sorted out all in advance.
|St Mark's Square, Basilica & Doge's Palace Tours|
Orientation of St Mark's Square plus tour of Basilica
See the best of Doge's Palace
See the best of Doge's Palace + St Mark's Basilica
2 Hour Walking Tour of 'hidden Venice' + St Marks with skip the line basilica tour
|Best Of Venice Tours|
A selection of gondola ride opportunities in Venice
Tour the outer islands of Venice by boat
|Venice Shore Excursions From Cruise Ships Docked|
A choice of Venice tours independent of the pricey ship offerings