The Venice Rialto Bridge: everything you need to know
Visiting Venice and not stopping at the Rialto Bridge is a half-visit, from its market to the gondolas that cross it underneath, everything is worth it!
St. Mark's Square may be more famous, but the Ponte di Rialto (Rialto Bridge) is the true heart of Venice.
Known as the "Bridge of Lovers", the Rialto Bridge is one of Venice's beautiful pristine bridges. From it you can take a gondola ride, hop on one of the cruises that pass through the Grand Canal, contemplate the most important monuments of Venice, take a picture from the bridge, choose it as the starting point of your tour of Venice and the list goes on...
What to see on and from the Rialto Bridge
The Rialto Bridge is an elegant arched stone bridge made up of three sets of stairs divided by arcades. The central stairs are lined with stores and vendors to the point that it is easy to overlook the fact that you are crossing the Grand Canal. These stores pay a lot for being in that area, hence buying a souvenir on the Rialto Bridge itself may cost you dearly.
The other two staircases, on the north and south sides of the bridge offer iconic views of the Grand Canal, with gondolas, vaporettos, cruise ships and commercial boats passing by day and night ( I recommend going over the bridge after dark in Venice). While it is true that these stairs are always quite crowded, it is still worth a stop and take some pictures of this unforgettable scene, few places are as beautiful as the Rialto Bridge at sunset.
On the bridge itself, and under the footbridges, there are several gift stores aimed at those tourists who come to this famous bridge to get a view of the Grand Canal waterway full of gondolas and take back something for souvenirs. On both sides of the Rialto Bridge, you will find restaurants along the canal offering spectacular views of the bridge, but also with high menu prices. My advice is to walk a little further into the Rialto district (in the direction of San Marco) and look for some of the authentic taverns and restaurants located among the streets and alleys of the city.
Quick stroll around the Rialto Bridge
Just in front of the Grand Canal it doesn't hurt to visit the large Campo di Venezia (an open space surrounded by important buildings). You can also take a walk in the Cannaregio area and visit the ancient churches of the 7th century in Venice. The good thing is that wherever you are, on whatever street you are in Venice all signs will lead you to the Rialto Bridge, as the bridge is used as a central point, so it is hard to miss this landmark.
Don't forget to stop by Rialto Market
If you pass over the bridge from Piazza San Marco, you will come across the Rialto Market**, a colorful market** full of delicious fruits and vegetables (it also includes a fish market), and if you visit Venice in summer you will surely be tempted by the trays of fresh fruit on sale at some of the market stalls.
The Rialto Market is open daily from 9 am to noon both in the Campo della Pescheria and in its surrounding streets.This 700-year-old market is the most charming place on the bridge.The market is packed with grocery stores, meat market, goods stores.... It is full of life all day long.
Take a look at the architecture of the Rialto Bridge
The bridge is very recognizable by its silhouette in the shape of a circumflex accent (^),no doubt the Rialto Bridge is an architectural masterpiece. Built on marshy ground, the bridge rests on no less than 6000 piles. It is 48 meters long, 22 meters wide and 7.50 meters high. In addition, the bridge is formed by three pedestrian walkways: a central walkway lined with stores following the twelve symmetrical arches of the bridge, and two side walkways on each side of the main walkway. The decorations of the Rialto Bridge are simple and discreet; however, the figures of the two patron saints of the city(St. Mark and St. Theodore) give it a touch more artistic than architectural.
What is so special about the Rialto Bridge
The Rialto was built by Antonio da Ponte in 1180 and connects the two most popular squares in Venice: San Marco and San Polo. The Rialto Bridge is the oldest of the four bridges that cross the Grand Canal of Venice. It is also the most famous in Venice thanks to its peculiar history and design. For many years, the flyover was the most important financial center of Venice.
The current Ponte di Rialto was built in stone between 1588 and 1591 by Antonio da Ponte to replace a wooden bridge that had collapsed twice and had been partially burned in 1310.
Personally I think that any time is a good time to visit the Rialto Bridge, I even recommend crossing the bridge at different times of the day to appreciate the Grand Canal in all its splendor both under natural light and artificial lights.
How to get to Rialto Bridge, Venice?
Getting to the Ponte di Rialto is a relatively easy mission given the countless signs indicating its location.
If you start from the train station or Piazzale Roma you should look for the signs to "Rialto" and follow the route. The same applies if you are walking from Piazza San Marco, simply head for the clock tower, cross the arched passageway and follow the upscale shopping streets known as Mercerie until you reach the Grand Canal, then turn right and walk two blocks to get straight to the bridge.
Another option is to approach the bridge by vaporetto, or water bus. Line 1 of the vaporetto stops right next to the Rialto Bridge, for more information about vaporettos, prices and routes I recommend you visit this post about the Venetian vaporetto.
Get a painting of the Rialto Bridge
While walking along the Rialto Bridge in Venice you can choose your favorite Rialto Bridge paintings from the many available there. The Rialto Bridge paintings are world famous and you can take one home with you. The Rialto Bridge, in its various forms, has been in paintings and photographs as one of the central attractions over the years.
You can buy the paintings of the bridge in the gift stores near the Rialto Bridge, or even on the stairs of the bridge where many artists take advantage of the influx of tourists to promote their work and sell beautiful handmade paintings at good prices. It is certainly one of the best ways to remember your trip to Venice and having been on this iconic bridge.
The best night walk from the Rialto Bridge
Walking at night on the Rialto Bridge is something not to be missed, the lights, the sound of the flowing water, the flashing lights of the vaporettos and cruise ships on the Grand Canal all happening at the same time!
Opting for a gondola ride to get to the other side of the canal and relax while enjoying spectacular views of Venice at night is something you won't regret. The gondolas can carry a maximum of six people at a time, so it's perfect if you're going with family or friends and looking to save. To learn more about their routes, prices I recommend you this post about Venetian gondola prices.
The gondola rides from the river bank of the Rialto Bridge are also recommended if you are with your partner. You will also enjoy a tour away from the hustle and bustle and in a quiet and cozy atmosphere, the truth is that it is nice to disconnect a little from the bustling center.
Take a picture on this symbolic bridge
The best thing to do is to take a picture of the bridge from the two paths leading to it. There are also some wooden planks floating in the canal from which you can take pictures. If you are looking for a photo of the Grand Canal, I recommend taking it from the bridge itself, as you will get a picture of the canal, the typical Venetian houses and the Venetian gondolas sailing by. For the most impressive photo of the bridge, the best option is to ride a gondola so that you have a photo that includes the Rialto Bridge in front and the canal in the background. If you are also lucky enough to find yourself at sunset, the pictures you will capture will be of another level.
Where to eat near the Rialto Bridge
On both sides of the bridge, there are some bars and excellent food places where you can buy take-out food at a good price and with a rich taste. Remember that the restaurants in this area are relatively expensive, as they include the incredible views of the bridge in the price. Therefore, I recommend heading to other less busy areas if you are looking for cheaper places to eat in Venice.
There are also many pizzerias on both sides of the bridge, you have to try the Venetian pizzas! They usually offer a thin crust pizza but with a lot of flavor, I recommend their ham and cheese pizzas.
Near the bridge there are also bars to have a beer or other cold drink while enjoying the lights of the surroundings and the fresh air of Venice.
Some tips when visiting the Rialto Bridge
Be aware that there will be many tourists on the bridge, either shopping on the main path or trying to take pictures from the railings. Be prepared also to be immersed in the crowds, especially at rush hour, and more so in July and August in Venice! When using the water buses, or vaporettos, keep in mind that Rialto is one of the main stops, so you can use this bridge as a reference.
There are many restaurants and cafes near the Rialto Bridge, but be aware that the views from there do not pay for themselves. If you're on a budget, use the bridge as a starting point and dive into the labyrinths of Venice to find eateries that serve more variety and at a lower cost. To enjoy the best of Venetian food, you don't have to pay that much.