June 22, 2015

The 6 Neighbourhoods of Venice

From this old map of Venice you can see that the city is shaped like a fish with the Grand Canal winding through its centre. The city is composed of 118 islands, more than 400 bridges and a complex network of canals. And the whole is divided into six neighbourhoods, or sestieri.

Map of Venice, Vatican Museums

1.  Santa Croce

Many visitors start their visit at the mouth of the fish in Santa Croce. It's always a thrill crossing the two mile long causeway that connects this city of islands to the mainland. The causeway ends at the Tronchetto parking lot and Piazzale Roma bus station, where the People Mover monorail shuttles passengers to the cruise port.

The Causeway

The People Mover

2.  Cannaregio

Serene and residential Cannaregio forms the back of the fish. This neighbourhood doesn't offer a lot in the way of sightseeing but visitors arriving in Venice by train disembark at Santa Lucia Station. Walking through the doors of the modern station to find the historic Grand Canal in front of you is like stepping through a looking glass. From here you can take a water taxi or vaporetto (the Venetian version of a bus) to your hotel. Walking is another option but keep in mind that those picturesque bridges come with plenty of stairs.

Santa Lucia Train Station

The Grand Canal
Bridges in Venice

3.  Castello

Forming the tail of the fish, the neighbourhood of Castello is also more residential. It's worth a stroll along the waterside promenade Riva degli Schiavone to see the impressive main gate, Porta Magna, of the Arsenale, the Venetian Republic's naval shipyard.

Riva degli Schiavone

Porta Magna, the Venetian Arsenale

Arsenale Lion

4.  San Polo

Within the first great loop of the Grand Canal is the market area of Venice. This is where you'll find the city's first and most famous bridge, the Ponte di Rialto (Rialto Bridge). There are also a number of notable churches in the neighbourhood, such as the Frari where Titian is buried and San Giacomo, believed to be one of the oldest churches in Venice.

Rialto Bridge

Frari Church

San Giacomo Church

5.  San Marco

No visit to Venice is complete without seeing Piazza San Marco, nestled in the second loop of the Grand Canal. This is the heart of the city where crowds gather on the square to listen to grand old caffe orchestras play or ponder the city's other well-known bridge, the Ponte dei Sospiri (Bridge of Sighs).

Piazza San Marco

Caffe Orchestra on Piazza San Marco

The Bridge of Sighs

6.  Dorsoduro

My favourite neighbourhood in the belly of the fish is less congested than San Marco but there are still plenty of sightseeing opportunities – especially if you're an art lover. The Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Accademia Gallery and Ca' Rezzonico are all located here.

Peggy Guggenheim Collection

Accademia Gallery

Ca' Rezzonico

Next:  My Venetian Palazzo


  1. I have Venice on my 'return bucket list'. Only trip there was in 1969 ans it looks like some things have changed. I did arrive by train and walked to my hotel in the San Marco area.

    1. Yes, there have been some changes but the core of Venice probably has changed very little in centuries.


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