The Grand Canal is the no-brainer must-do Venice experience, and the best way to explore the city's main thoroughfare is on a vaporetto, or water bus. For a great introduction to the area, ride the vaporetto from the railway station, at the edge of the lagoon on one end of the canal, all the way to its other end at San Marco’s basin. Along the two-mile trip the waterway makes a big reverse S-shape through Venice’s central districts and gives you a true feel for what makes this romantic, historically rich city tick. The banks of the canal are lined with Venice’s most expensive real estate. Here, you’ll find some 170 palazzi originally built for nobility between the 13th and 19th centuries. Today they house luxury hotels, private residences, and even art museums.
By Becca Blond, AFAR Local Expert
One of my favorite things about magical Venice is probably the same as many other people: the fascinating canals. You see pictures of the canals and you can imagine what it must be like living with a boat as your primary means of transportation, but even the best photos and most vivid imagination is nothing like actually seeing the amazing canal system in person. I loved the array of bright colors I found throughout this aquatic highway system: the dark green of the water, the bright blues and reds of the boats, the Tuscan yellows and greens of the homes. Labyrinthian Venice is one of my favorite European cities to explore on foot, with unexpected delights around every corner.
By Joan Wharton, AFAR Local Expert
View of the Grand Canal
When we arrived in Venice, we decided to take a vaporetto to San Marco Square and work our way back. This is the fabulous view you have going down the Grand Canal.
Grand Canal, Venice
I only got to spend one day in Venice, but in that one day I completely fell in love. The city, the people, the architecture, the food, the shops. Just amazing.
Along Venice's Grand Canal
Finally got to take my daughter to Venice, some place we had planned to visit for a while. I hadn't been there for many years and so it was great to return and see that nothing much had changed.
By Michael Adubato, AFAR Local Expert
Grand Canal in a Gondola
The best way to see Venice is from a gondola. Our gondola operator, Phillipo ("Not this 'Phillip,' Phillip-O!") was a lot of fun and by this point in the trip we were probably enjoying the prosecco a little too much. But when in Venice, right?
By Genevieve, AFAR Local Expert
The Amerigo Vespucci Ready to Sail
The Italian tall ship Amerigo Vespucci anchored in the Grand Canal just off St. Mark's Square. The piazza was filled with officers and naval cadets for graduation today.
By AFAR Traveler
The moonlight, the water, the gondolas, the ultimate romantic destination. Venice! A dream of the past that shimmers in its own beautiful reflection, La Serenissima. No matter how many times I have been to Venice, I fall in love all over again. Come, stay, spend several days without a map just wandering the city. The silence of the narrow streets and passages after dark are worth paying the outrageous hotel prices to experience. Eat truffle risotto at Da Ivo, stay in the tiny Hotel Flora, and walk walk walk- discover the places far from the crowds of the Piazza San Marco and the Rialto. Listen to the silence of life with no vespas and no cars. Travel back in time... and don't forget your Bellini at Harry's Bar (is there anywhere Hemingway didn't drink? LOL)
Gliding through the canals... perfect.
By Marc Einsele
Vogalonga: Paddling Venice
Vogalonga is a yearly festival that occurs in May and is a 30 Km race through the Grand Canal to the small lagoon island of Burano. The public water bus, the vaporetto, shuts down and you are left to either take the pricy water taxis or walk the island. There is no rush on this day and even a taxi will take twice as long so not to disturb the rowers' momentum. It is well worth taking a taxi to get to wherever you are going simply for the view - modern kayaks and paddle boats propelling themselves on the historic canal against a backdrop of crumbling 15th Century buildings. The festival celebrates the history of the gondolier when Venice used to pit the rowers against each other to determine who was the fastest and most talented rower and who was truly born to be a gondolier (rumoured to have webbed feet no less). There are no winners but participants. This year, 2013, the festival takes place on May 19th.
By Murissa Shalapata, AFAR Local Expert
We were extremely tired this afternoon. I'm not a huge fan of Venice, but just had to take this beautiful picture of the Grand Canal and it's busy water streets.
The Best Way to Enter Venice
Surprise the one you love by taking a private water taxi from the airport to your hotel. What could be more impressive than walking down the airport footpath and suddenly being welcomed aboard your own private boat in Venice. It is worth every Euro! Savor every moment as you approach the city because, like an entre to the main course, it just gets better. Entering the Grand Canal by boat and being dropped off at your hotel's jetty is magnificent. That, my friends, is traveling.
By Guy Needham, AFAR Local Expert
Exploring the "Side" Canals of Venice
Venice is all about walking.... everywhere. There are no cars, scooters or bikes even. Simply choose any side canal that snakes its way from the Grand Canal to discover the less traversed, often overlooked beauty of this floating city. Venice begs you to get lost. Stroll through the quiet streets in the Cannaregio district or evade the crowds and take in the Campo San Polo...It's nearly impossible to put a foot wrong anywhere in this exquisite city.
By Ross Chapman
Soaking in Venice at night
Venice is a notoriously expensive city. Tourist traps bedazzle endless droves of foreigners during the day, from overpriced restaurants to cheesy chotskies but at night, the city sheds its skin. For less than 10 euros grab a bottle of Prosecco and anchor yourself near one of thousands of quiet corners near the canals. Sometimes the best way to explore is to stop, stay still, and let the place unravel before you.
Content on the Canal
I spent 2 weeks exploring Italy with my Dad and Brother. Italy has so much to see you have to pick a few highlights and spend a few days there to really experience the pace and tone of each spot. The last city we spent some time in was Venice. Going in October assured us we wouldn't have the heat and crowds of summer. We soaked it up, we walked without aim in the narrow sidewalks and listened to the night bands in St. Mark's square. After a night of Cioppino, Gelato, & Jazz we stopped on the way back to our pension to "reflect" on our experiences together.
After doing research I found Arved Gintenreiter and arranged a private photo-walking tour for my family. He took us off the beaten path and spent hours teaching/reminding us how to use several of the basic functions on our cameras. He also pointed out different ways to take the same picture and small details that can make a picture "the" picture. Arved was very helpful, knowledgable and patient (!!!) which made for a picture-perfect day.
Venice - Italian Cooking Class
Learn to cook Italian food at the Palace Tiepolo Passi with Contessa Lelia Passi. The tour begins with a visit to a local market in Rialto Square before a short walk to the the Corte Tiepolo where cooking class commences. Learn to prepare dishes from a number of regions. which could include Venice, Naples or Sicily.
By Carrie Finley-Bajak, AFAR Local Expert
Wandering without a map is the best way to discover Venice. You can end up on tiny streets without tourists and have a more intimate experience of the place.
After a rainstorm
Impressive clouds after a rainstorm made it through Venice during early summer.