The Grand Canal in Venice is one of the most striking locations in the world. Up to 90 metres wide and approximately 5 metres deep, it forms a 'S' shape through the heart of Venice, stretching for 3,800 metres from the Santa Lucia railway station at one end to St. Marks basin at the other. On the way it passes more than 170 buildings, some of them extremely lavish, designed to show off the wealth and prestige of the noble, venetian families. It is the largest of the 177 canals in Venice, which connect the 117 islands of the city with 455 bridges.
Until the 19th century, only the Rialto bridge crossed the Grand Canal. Now there are three more, 'Ponte degli Scalzi', the 'Ponte dell'Accademia' and the 'Ponte della Costituzione', which the locals call 'Ponte Calatrava' after its architect, Santiago Calatrava.
The main method of transport down the canal is by Vaporeto, the famous venetian water bus. You can also hire a private water taxi or even travel by Gondola. Many colourful events take place around the Grand Canal. One of the most spectacular is the 'Regata Storia' (Historic Regatta) that takes place on the first Sunday of September. Large crowds gather on the banks, or on floating pontoons, to watch a spectacular parade of boats travel down the Canal, following the 'Bucentaur', the Doge's state galley. This procession is followed by a series of competitions involving large numbers of venetian vessels.