Guide to Venice's Canal District

4th January 2022

The Venice canal district is a historic canal district, renowned for its beauty. Known as the city of romance, many people dream to visit this scenic city and sail on a beautiful gondola. The Centro Storico of Venice is made up of islets and canals, forming one large island. Venice is divided into six districts named the Sestieri…

The Grand Canal – Venice

The Grand Canal is also referred to as the Canalazzo, and is the biggest waterway in the whole of Venice. On both sides of the canal, you can marvel at some of the greatest buildings, as well as beautiful bridges. This canal is not your usual; it is wide and bustling with boats – with businesses, restaurants and so much to see and do.

History of Venice Canals

Venice is renowned for its canals, but have you ever wondered why this city was built on water? It all started in the 5th century, when people needed to flee their homes from conquerors. At this time, Venice was just a marshy lagoon - however as more people needed to flee, communities decided that Venice was a good place to take refuge. Communities started to drain the marshes and building wooden platforms on which they could create homes. Et voila! The city of Venice was born.

With the Venetian canals still in full swing today, many tourists travel from all over the world to see and explore the six districts:

San Marco

Perhaps the most popular part in the whole of Venice, San Marco contains the most famous landmarks. This historic square has been a known centre of judiciary and politics for over a thousand years. The Golden Church is a monument so grand, it is adorned with beautiful mosaics that date back to the 14th century. Yet the sights don’t stop there! For true splendour, you must visit Doge’s palace – this pinnacle of gothic architecture. 

San Polo

San Polo is remarkable and draws people in for many reasons – for some, they are allured by the Rialto Area which is home to the oldest church in Italy. For some, it’s the Rialto Bridge, a centre of trade since 1594 which is now one of the most photographed spots in the world!

However, for many tourists, the best part about San Polo is the bacari – where there are plenty of Venetian snacks. You can indulge in the tiny sandwiches, olive plates, seafood, meats and polenta. A trip to San Polo is an adventure for your tastebuds, as well as the sites. 


This is the biggest Sestieri, although not as popular as the other districts. Castello is historically known for being a naval dockyard in the Napoleonic era and was important during wartimes. This district is also home to the Church of San Pietro di Castello, situated on the island of San Pietro, is known for being home to St Peter’s throne. The church was once the official church of Venice, is an impressive display of renaissance architecture.


Cannaregio is known as one of Venice’s liveliest areas, with buzzing nightlife and many tourist attractions. There is much to see and do, you can marvel at the Colour Library – which is just a hub for new art projects. You can also try the traditional Venetian Street food such as a fritoìn - this is a paper cone filled with fried fresh seafood, not only is it ridiculously scrumptious, but they are also easy to eat on the go!

Santa Croce

Interestingly, Santa Croce is the only area in Venice where cars can travel! This area is home to interesting museums and art galleries, as well as fantastic local restaurants. Visit the Palazzo Mocenigo – home to the former Mocenigo family, you can really see how the other half lived. The Mocenigo family built the impressive San Stae – a church dedicated to San Eustachio. San Stae faces the Grand Canal and was actually built in the 1670s with the purpose of being a family crypt. 


Dorsoduro is well known for its atmospheric side streets, eateries and small shops. Visit the Peggy Guggenheim Collection one of Venice’s biggest modern art galleries, there is so much culture to enjoy. If you are looking for artworks from the Venetian greats, then you most definitely will want to visit the Gallerie dell’Accademia – here you will see artwork from Titian, Veronese, Tintoretto and Tiepolo!

All this talk about Venice may leave you inspired to go on your own waterway adventure. If you are looking for something more closer to home… then why not explore our canal holidays? Contact our helpful team for more information. 

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