The Rialto Bridge was the first to span Venice’s Grand Canal (Canal Grande) between its two highest points above sea level. The original 12th-century wooden bridge was replaced in 1592 by a stone structure resting on wooden pilings—a bold design by Antonio da Ponte featuring a single central arch over the water that allow ships to pass. Today, the bridge is among Italy’s most famous, carrying an endless stream of tourists and locals across the canal while countless gondolas and vaporetto water buses pass beneath.
The Rialto is one of the most famous landmark bridges in Europe, and a popular and crowded Venice attraction connecting the San Marco district, home of St. Mark's Square, to the San Polo district, where Venice's famous fish market has stood for 700 years. The bridge is visited on nearly every walking tour through the "Floating City," along with other historic tourist attractions like the nearby Doge's Palace (Palazzo Ducale), Bridge of Sighs (Ponte dei Sospiri), and St. Mark's Basilica (Basilica di San Marco). For a unique view of the bridge far from the crowds, consider booking a Venice gondola ride or Venice Grand Canal evening boat tour to see the bridge from the water.
Things to Know Before You Go
- The bridge is lined with tiny shops and leads to the San Polo neighborhood, known for its market and gourmet stores; it’s an ideal spot for souvenir shopping.
- The Rialto is a pedestrian bridge but has stairs on each side, so it is not accessible for wheelchairs and strollers.
How to Get to There
The Rialto Bridge crosses the Grand Canal between the San Marco and San Polo districts, and can be reached by vaporetto water bus lines 1 and 2 via the Rialto stop. Along Venice's maze of tiny streets, there are signs and arrows painted on the walls at regular intervals pointing toward the Rialto.
When to Get There
The islands of Venice are crowded with tourists during the popular summer months, and it can be a challenge to navigate the crowds on the bridge. Take an early morning or late evening stroll if visiting between April and October, or book a private tour by boat along the Grand Canal.
The Grand Canal Bridges
The Rialto Bridge is one of four bridges that span the Grand Canal. The other three are the wood-and-steel Accademia Bridge (Ponte dell'Accademia), the modern Constitution Bridge (Ponte della Costituzione), and the marble ‘Bridge of the Barefoot’ (Ponte degli Scalzi).