When you think of Italy, what comes to mind? The Colosseum? Or maybe the Vatican? But there’s another side to this country that’s just as fascinating – Venice. This unique city is built on a network of canals, and it’s home to some of the oldest buildings in Europe.
Venice is full of history, from centuries-old churches to palaces that have been passed down through generations. And with some research, you can find hidden gems that most tourists don’t know about. So if you’re looking for something a little different on your next trip to Italy, add Venice to your list. You won’t regret it.
How Old Are Venetian Buildings?
Venetian buildings date back to the Middle Ages, with some structures as old as 900 AD. These buildings are often grandiose and ornate, featuring Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque architectural elements. Venetian palazzos (mansions), in particular, are known for their grandeur – from intricately carved doorways to grand staircases and marble floors.
There is something truly special about Venetian buildings, which you must experience in person. So come explore Venice and take in all its oldest buildings, restaurants, and churches. You won’t be disappointed!
Why not take a gondola ride of the grand canal so you can see the buildings firsthand?
5 of the Oldest and Most Famous Buildings in Venice
Venice is home to some of the world’s most famous landmarks and ancient buildings. The structures below may not be the oldest in existence, but they are certainly among Venice’s historical gems!
|Building Name||Original Construction Date||Address|
|Palazzo Cavalli-Franchetti||1565||S. Marco, 2847, 30124 Venezia VE, Italy|
|Ca’ d’Oro||1428||Calle Ca’ d’Oro, 3934, 30121 Venezia VE, Italy|
|Doge’s Palace||1340||P.za San Marco, 1, 30124 Venezia VE, Italy|
|St Mark’s Campanile||887 (estimated)||P.za San Marco, 30124 Venezia VE, Italy|
|Saint Mark’s Basilica||829||P.za San Marco, 328, 30100 Venezia VE, Italy|
The Palazzo Cavalli-Franchetti
Original Construction Date: 1565
Address: S. Marco, 2847, 30124 Venezia VE, Italy
If you’re looking for one of Venice’s oldest, most striking buildings, then the Palazzo Cavalli-Franchetti is a must-see. This magnificent palace dates back to the 16th century and is located on the Grand Canal, steps away from some of the most famous churches in Venice.
Marvel at its stone facade, intricate detailing along the windows, and impressive arches, which have witnessed the march of time and inspired many a Venetian artist over the years. While it may not be as elaborate or grandiose as some of Venice’s other historic palazzos, the Venetian Gothic styling is well worth viewing.
Original Construction Date: 1428
Address: Calle Ca’ d’Oro, 3934, 30121 Venezia VE, Italy
If you’ve ever been lucky enough to visit Venice, you know how special and magical the architecture is. One of the oldest buildings along the grand canal is Galleria Giorgio Franchetti alla Ca’ d’Oro; an awe-inspiring architectural marvel which lives up to its name (“golden house”).
Ca’ d’Oro features a combination of intricate Gothic and Byzantine designs. You’ll have a view of this ancient and beautiful city from the terrace. A truly humbling experience.
Since the 1960s, there has been a lingering fear about Venice flooding and the Ca’ d’Oro sinking further into the soil. Thankfully, the MOSE project appears to be keeping the rising tides at bay.
The best way to reach Ca’ d’Oro, is to travel to the Cannaregio district and get off at the Ca’ D’Oro water bus terminal.
While visiting Venice, it’s hard to ignore Doge’s Palace, one of the city’s oldest and most visually stunning buildings. Initially built in 1340 as the residence and government center of power for the Doge (the highest magistrate of Venice), this palace still stands, majestically overlooking Piazza San Marco.
We took a palace tour, including access to the famed Bridge of Sighs, the Hall of the Great Council, and Cassanova’s prison cell.
One truly cannot appreciate Doge’s Palace without exploring every corner of its grandiose facade.
St Mark’s Campanile
Nestled among the oldest buildings in Venice is the Campanile di San Marco – a striking structure that has watched over the piazza of San Marco for hundreds of years.
Venice was the first city I visited during my initial trip to Italy, and the Campanile was unlike anything else I had seen before. It stands tall and proud, framed by grand arches and made with brick and limestone, casting an intimidating shadow over the cityscape.
San Marco Square is one of those places that makes you stop to take it all in. The beauty of this landmark and its history are majestic; visitors will be mesmerized by the square and can’t help but feel the old-world charm emanating from the centuries-old structures. Relive your childhood fantasies of being a prince or princess here at the foot of the Campanile, a place steeped in historical depth that never fails to impress!
While the original wooden Campanile di San Marco was destroyed around 1517, a new one was erected in 1519. It was made from red brick and marble. That second structure was also destroyed, and a replica was put up in 1912 (the version we see today). Read more about the history of St. Mark’s Campanile.
Saint Mark’s Basilica
The Basilica of San Marco is one of the oldest buildings in Venice, and it has seen more history than most places. I was incredibly intrigued when I heard of the ancient mosaics and grandeur of architecture encompassing the Basilica – and to say my amazement only grew over time would be an understatement.
While famous for several reasons, including four ancient bronze horses plundered by Venetian pirates, for many, Basilica di San Marco stands out for holding the relics of Saint Mark the Evangelist, the patron saint of the city.
Our family took a guided after-hours tour of Saint Mark’s that helped us understand the structure. We covered what we learned in our guide to the 10 best things to do in Venice.
Of course, nothing quite beats standing in front of this long-standing monument and admiring the detail up close, but thankfully pictures do it some justice. Whether you’re visiting or simply dream about visiting one day, the Basilica of San Marco is something everyone needs to experience for themselves.
What is the Oldest Building in Venice?
The oldest building in Venice is Ca’ da Mosto – a 13th-century palace in the Cannaregio sestiere crafted in Venetian-Byzantine fashion. As the oldest building on the Grand Canal, bridging between Rio dei Santi Apostoli and Palazzo Bollani Erizzo, this stunning structure has stood for centuries as a testament to its enduring beauty and architectural brilliance.
What is the Oldest Part of Venice?
The oldest part of Venice is Castello, and it’s home to some of Italy’s oldest buildings. This sestiere (neighborhood) has been inhabited since the 9th century, making it one of Europe’s oldest continuously inhabited settlements. You’ll see a mix of architecture from different centuries here, from Gothic churches to Renaissance palazzos. The oldest building in Castello is the Church of San Pietro di Castello, initially built in 810 AD.
What is the Oldest Restaurant in Venice?
The oldest restaurant in Venice is Poste Vecie Restaurant in the San Polo district. This family-run establishment dates back to the 16th century and specializes in traditional Venetian cuisine. While there, you can enjoy dishes such as sarde in saor (sweet-and-sour fried sardines) or risi e bisi (rice and peas). Best of all, you can enjoy these delicious dishes while taking in the stunning views of one of the oldest cities in Europe.
Interested in learning more about traditional Venetian food and drinks? We wrote the guide on it.
What is the Oldest Church in Venice?
The oldest church in Venice is the Church of San Giovanni Elemosinario. Initially built in 1071, this Romanesque-style church is located in the San Polo sestiere. The oldest part of the church is its bell tower dating back to 890 AD. Inside, you’ll find a treasure trove of artwork, including St. John the Almsgiver by Titian and Saints Catherine, Sebastian, and Roch by il Pordenone.
Like most churches in Venice, the original structure burned down during a fire. So saying one church is older than another is difficult due to how many times they’ve been rebuilt over the centuries.
What is the Oldest Bridge in Venice?
The oldest bridge in Venice is the Ponte di Rialto (Rialto Bridge), which dates back to 1591. It was built on wooden posts from a previous structure dated between 1255 and 1266. This iconic landmark spans the Grand Canal, connecting two of Venice’s oldest sestiere: San Marco and San Polo.
The bridge’s design is remarkable and features two different levels for pedestrians and boats. During the day, you can appreciate its stunning architecture filled with ancient buildings, but the bridge comes alive at night as tourists flock from one side to the other. It’s a piece of history that needs to be experienced firsthand!
How Do Buildings in Venice Not Rot?
With utmost caution, the building materials were handpicked for their ability to withstand a marine environment. Alder tree wood was chosen for the underwater planks due to its abundance in nearby forests and how it hardens under saltwater with no risk of rotting from air exposure.
How Old is the Architecture in Venice?
Venice is celebrated for its long-standing architecture, most notably the Venetian Gothic style. This mode began in 14th-century Venice with a unique combination of influences from Constantinople’s Byzantine style, Islamic elements from Spain, far-off trading partners to the East, and early Gothic components brought forth by mainland Italy.
Who is the Most Famous Venetian Architect?
The most famous Venetian architect is Andrea Palladio, who lived from 1508 to 1580. He’s often credited with revolutionizing the city’s architectural landscape by synthesizing and perfecting the elements of Ancient Greek and Roman styles. His influence can be seen in many of Venice’s oldest buildings, including La Rotonda and Villa Barbaro to the south. His legacy, which is continued today by modern-day architects, has impacted the city’s skyline.
How Deep is the Water Under Venice Buildings?
With fluctuating depths and factors like dredging work and tidal levels, there is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. However, most of the Venice lagoon only measures a shallow 1.5 to 2 meters in depth.
When Did Venice Start Sinking?
Venice began to decline in the 20th century when industrialization caused artesian wells to be dug around its periphery for water extraction. It was soon established that this removal of groundwater from the aquifer was causing subsidence and displacement in the area. By banning these wells in the 1960s, however, this sinking has decreased drastically – proving a successful example of how introducing precautionary measures can immensely impact environmental change.
Click here to read our article called Why is Venice Flooding?
If you find yourself in Venice, Italy, be sure to check out some of these incredible old buildings. They are a testament to the strength and endurance of Venice as a city, and provide a unique glimpse into its vibrant past. And if you have any questions about these sites, the Venetian lagoon, or Venice in general, feel free to ask – we’re happy to help fellow travelers get the most out of their time in this beautiful city.