The famous canals of Venice have attracted visitors in their masses for centuries. Over 170 waterways dissect all the city’s sestieri (subdivisions), meaning you can explore all of Venice without stepping foot on dry land. Almost all the city’s waterways are lined with stunning palaces and architectural wonders, too.

    Whether you want to get a glimpse into local life, escape the crowds or take in views of Venice’s most remarkable landmarks, at least one of the city’s canals has you covered. Read on to learn more about the most famous waterways in Venice and to make the most of your trip.


    Grand Canal

    The main aquatic thoroughfare through Venice

    The Grand Canal is famous for its busy stream of gondolas and Renaissance palaces. In the morning, you’ll see barges carrying fresh fish, meat and produce to the canal’s many markets. Throughout the day, you can visit museums and order Venetian delights from traditional diners.

    The easiest way to catch a glimpse of the Grand Canal’s famous landmarks is to ride the vaporetto, Venice’s water-based floating public transportation system. For a sightseeing journey, use Line 1, which stops at most palaces and museums along the canal. Top sites include Santa Maria della Salute, Palazzo Corner della Ca' Grande and Palazzo Grassi.

    Location: 30100 Venice, Metropolitan City of Venice, Italy


    Giudecca Canal

    A major canal near Venice’s trendy university district

    The Giudecca Canal is a major canal in Venice that’s deep and wide enough for large vessels to access the city. During a vaporetto journey along this thoroughfare, you’ll see historical landmarks like the 16th-century churches Il Redentore and Le Zitelle. You’ll also see Renaissance palaces like the Palazzo Giustinian Recanati.

    The Giudecca Canal cuts through the sestieri (subdistrict) of Dorsoduro, where you’ll find unpretentious eateries, informal bars and vintage fashion boutiques in Venice’s main university district. You can also see the city’s classic and modern art in galleries including the Gallerie dell’Accademia and the Peggy Guggenheim Collection.

    Location: 30100 Venice, Metropolitan City of Venice, Italy


    Cannaregio Canal

    Baroque palaces and historic canal bridges

    The Cannaregio Canal runs from the Cannaregio district to the Grand Canal. Its 800-metre length is lined with historical buildings and churches like the 15th-century Church of St Job and the 18th-century Santa Maria dei Penitenti complex. You’ll also see Venice’s largest bridge, the Guglie Bridge, and the only Venetian multi-arched bridge that remains standing, the Three Arches Bridge.

    While exploring the streets off Cannaregio Canal, we recommend checking out the Baroque palaces of Palazzo Labia, Palazzo Priuli Manfrin and Palazzo Savorgnan. The easiest way to see this canal’s most notable architectural masterpieces is to take the Line 1 vaporetto.

    Location: 30100 Venice, Metropolitan City of Venice, Italy


    Venetian Lagoon

    Home to small islands bursting with culture

    The Venetian Lagoon surrounds the city of Venice and is home to numerous small islands that are worth visiting. These include the historic Torcello and the quiet island of Mazzorbo. If you want to experience the local culture, visit a glassblowing workshop on Murano or a lace shop on the colorful island of Burano.

    The cheapest way to visit the lagoon’s islands is to jump on a vaporetto waterbus. If you’d prefer a more exclusive tour of the Venetian Lagoon, you can hire a private water taxi cab, but be prepared to splash out on the privilege.

    Location: Metropolitan City of Venice, Italy


    Canal of Saint Peter

    A small canal in Venice’s quiet east

    The Canal of Saint Peter (Canal di San Pietro) is located toward the east of Venice and close to famous landmarks. Among the notable sights are the Basilica di San Pietro di Castello and the Palazzo Patriarcale. It’s also near the Pier Luigi Penzo Stadium, Venice’s largest sports facility. As a quiet canal, it’s best explored by gondola.

    The Canal of Saint Peter is home to numerous small boatyards with views of Venice that go unnoticed by many visitors. We recommend setting aside at least 2 hours to explore this waterway and its surrounding landmarks.

    Location: 30100 Venice, Metropolitan City of Venice, Italy


    Rio del Greci

    A quaint canal away from the sightseeing masses

    The Rio del Greci is a short canal that cuts through the east of Venice. Along this waterway, you’ll see many historical buildings, some beautifully restored and others showing signs of decay. It’s one of the best places to observe one of the less touristy neighborhoods of Venice. You can also reach the Grand Canal by riding a vaporetto waterbus.

    You won’t find many shops or restaurants along the Rio del Greci, but you’ll get an amazing view of the Venetian Lagoon while sailing under the Ponte del Sepolcro bridge. After exploring the canal, head to the nearby district of Castello to visit some of Venice’s best museums.

    Location: 30100 Venice, Metropolitan City of Venice, Italy


    Rio della Misericordia

    A romantic canal that runs through the Cannaregio district

    Rio della Misericordia is one of the most picturesque canals in Venice. It runs from the former 16th-century Jewish Ghetto to the busy shopping street of Strada Nova in the lively Cannaregio district. It’s an excellent place to enjoy an aperitif in a quaint tavern. You’ll also find vintage goods and crafts for sale along its surrounding streets.

    If you’re searching for romance in Venice, we recommend sailing along the Rio della Misericordia at night, when lights bouncing off the water bring out the best in the city’s historic architecture. You’ll see a cluster of canalside restaurants toward the center of the waterway.

    Location: 30100 Venice, Metropolitan City of Venice, Italy


    Rio San Barnaba

    One of the most picturesque canals in Dorsoduro

    The Rio San Barnaba is a narrow canal in Venice with a length of just over 400 meters. It connects the Grand Canal to the small canal of Rio dell'Avogaria. It’s named after the famous Campo San Barnaba, which you may have seen in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989). It’s also one of the best starting points for exploring the district of Dorsoduro.

    If you want to catch a glimpse of local life, head to Rio San Barnaba in the morning when you’ll see fresh fruit and vegetables being sold on floating market stands. Head to the Ponte dei Pugna bridge for the best views of the canal and its historic buildings.

    Location: 30100 Venice, Metropolitan City of Venice, Italy


    Rio di San Marcuola

    One of the main canals in Cannaregio

    The Rio di San Marcuola connects the Rio della Misericordia to the Grand Canal, with the closest vaporetto stop being San Marcuola Casino. Its most notable nearby landmark is the 12th-century Chiesa di San Marcuola, which is famous for its unusually plain facade. We also recommend crossing the Ponte de l'Anconeta for excellent views of the Rio di San Marcuola with the Grand Canal in the distance.

    The Rio di San Marcuola is located in the Cannaregio district, where you’ll find historic attractions such as a 16th-century Jewish Ghetto and shopping destinations like the Strada Nova. For a bit of evening entertainment, head to the 16th-century Casino of Venice.

    Location: 30100 Venice, Metropolitan City of Venice, Italy


    Rio Della Toletta

    A photogenic canal in Dorsoduro

    The Rio Della Toletta is a small canal that runs through a quiet section of the Dorsoduro district. You can either explore the canal by gondola or by walking along the fondamenta walking bank that runs beside it. Notable landmarks include the bridges of Ponta della Toletta and Ponte del Squero. You can also expect to see buildings with elements of rusting wrought iron and crumbling stucco that highlight the city’s history.

    If you want to spend an evening by this postcard-perfect canal, head to the Osteria Enoteca Ai Artisti, which is a traditional Venetian tavern that serves a range of meat, seafood and vegetarian dishes.

    Location: 30100 Venice, Metropolitan City of Venice, Italy

    Joshua Saunders | Contributing Writer

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