Venice may be a (slowly) sinking city, but your heart will do exactly the opposite when you clap eyes on the iconic and picturesque city of lurve. Venetians are quintessentially passionate, with the raison d’etre (or should we say: ‘ragionare per l'essere’)of the Venetian being to suck as much life, beauty, art and culture out of every day in their (perhaps temporary) floating home.
Venice is a city of makers – whether its residents are making glass, shoes, handbags, art, poetry, music or love, it’s as though the possibility that their beloved city will not be around forever drives them to leave their mark in another way. Which is why, along with being architecturally beautiful, Venice is a city of beautiful things.
Venetian lace, exquisitely blown glass, jewellery, fashion and shoes (oh, the shoes!) line the winding and maze-like calli (alleyways), and while tourism has left its mark in the form of some incredibly gaudy souvenir items, it’s still possible to find quality, locally made and traditional wares.
There’s really no need to visit gallery after gallery; the city itself is art. Still, with the highest concentration of artistic masterpiece per square kilometre, we’d recommend popping into a few. Museums such as the Punta della Dogana or the Naval History Museum are definitely worth a visit.
Set around the famous St Mark’s Square (where you’ll find an alarming number of bold pigeons), you’re free to wander by foot or take a gondola in any direction across the Grand Canal – including under the Bridge of Sighs, with its romantic present but sad and sinister past. Take in the most impressive structures at the Doge's Palace (Palazzo Ducale), Campanile di San Marco Lido Island when the city becomes too much.
Venice’s Top 10
10. La Fenice Opera HouseSomething to look at for the under-60s, something to buy tickets to for the over-60s.
5. Campanile Bell TowerSmack bang in St Mark’s Square. You won’t miss it. Big crowds and a few suicide attempts, so keep an eye out for crazies and an ear out for ‘Heads!’
9.Gallerie dell' AccademiaThe official Venice Art Museum. They know their stuff and have some serious high art swagger.
4. Doge’s PalaceIt’s a PALACE! Dress up as royalty and take the guided tour. Or, hey, you could just cruise around and pose for photos.
8. Scuola Grande di San Roccoand Frari Church These two attractions are next-door neighbours. So while you’re there…
3. The Grand Canal You can’t miss it, really, but make sure to take it in. Get a coffee and gaze or succumb to the tourist inside and grab a gondola complete with operatic gondolier (that’s the driver-person).
7. Ca' Rezzonico Indulge your inner voyeur checking out these mansions along the Grand Canal. The Italian, classy and old-world version of MTV Cribs minus the irritating b-graders.
2. St Mark’s BasilicaWho is this Mark? And why does he get his name on everything? Non-Catholics can get educated in one of Italy’s best churches.
6. Rialto Bridge and MarketIt’s beautiful and all, but the real fun is looking over and listening in on people’s conversations as they float past underneath you.
1. St Mark’s SquareObvious, but a must-see. For a slightly different view, sneak out in the early morning for a rare sight – an empty St Mark’s Square (except for the pigeons)!
- Museo di Storia Naturale di Venezia – A small but lovely natural history museum in Venice.
- Museo Querini Stampalia – Library, art gallery and exhibition of beautiful furniture.
- Naval History Museum – Three floors of maritime artefacts.
- Museo Ebraico di Venezia – A lovely museum documenting the lives of Jewish people in Venice.
- San Michele – Stroll the grounds of this island cemetery.
Venice Art & Culture
- Tragicomica – The making of classic masks is truly a labour of love of art.
- Palazzo Ducale – Art, architecture and history all rolled into one.
- Saint Mark's Basilica – The beautiful church renowned the world over.
- Musica A Palazzo – Opera in an intimate setting.
- Teatro La Fenice – Opera on a grand scale, as well as other types of performances.
- Artigianato d'Arte di Vianello Mauro – Each piece of glass is unique and handmade.
- Ca'Macana – Venice is known for festivals in which people wear masks, and they get them here.
- Perle e Dintorni – A little bead shop that allows you to pick out beads for jewellery.
- Rialto Market – The vision of a perfect flea market.
- Rosa Salva – Is there anything better than chocolate? This shop does not think so.
Gay & Lesbian Venice
- Cantina – A traditional feel with food and wine.
- Centrale Restaurant Lounge – Boasts a private gondola entrance and 200 wine selections.
- Pixelle – Music, events and book readings for both sexes.
- Metro Venezia Club – A bar with saunas, a darkroom and massages.
- Porto de Mar – The only true gay club. You must have a membership card to ArciGay, and you can get that there.
- Grand Canal – Enjoy the canal with its amazing architecture.
- St Mark's Square – Napoleon Bonaparte called it the drawing room of Europe.
- La Laguna – Many of the islands are here in this body of water, and many are famous.
- Torcello Island – Take the waterbus and spend the day exploring this pretty little island.
- Rialto Bridge – The heart of Venice. You will know this bridge as soon as you see it.
- Boating and Regattas – Venice is a city of water, and several times a year the canals are filled with boats. La Sensa is a boat race for gondoliers that takes place in May.
- Pierluigi Penzo Stadium – Home to Venezia, the city's professional football team.
- Alberoni Golf Club – Home to one of the finest clubs in Italy and open to everyone. If you are unsure of your game, you can use one of the practice greens.
- Canoa Club Mestre – A kayak club and host of winning rowing teams that offers classes to both children and adults.
- Tennis Club Cai Del Moro – Practice your game when you can tear yourself away from the art and architecture of the city.
Venice LocalMurano Island
This is where you’ll find many of Venice’s best glassblowers, and it’s a very cute place to wander around. Explore the Museo Vetrario (glass museum) solo or take a tour, including a look at the Canale San Donato. Here you’ll see art displays and learn about the history and processes of glass blowing. If you get a chance, stop at one of the glassblower’s stores and watch the mesmerising process – if you’re lucky, you might even get to try it yourself.
The island is also home to the Basilica dei Santi Maria e Donato, one of the city’s most famous churches, and its little sister Chiesa di San Pietro Martire. There’s also a load of shopping to be done (and not just for glass!) or you could settle in for some pasta, prosecco and people watching at one of the many cafés or restaurants.
Lido is essentially the beach of Venice. It was once just an entry point into the city but has since grown into a bit of a tourist hub. It’s easy to see why when there are so many activities available from golf, tennis and horse-riding to clay-pigeon shooting (after spending some time in St Mark’s Square trying to protect your lunch from the sky-rats, you’ll wish they were the real thing).
While you’re here, visit the Church of San Nicolò and marvel at how old it is. After a bit of ghost-hunting in the church, take a stroll down the Lungomare D’Annunzio to take in the beach views and marvel at the sleek, chic local fashion.
This is a fairly small district, but it’s nice and close to the city centre – just off the Grand Canal. Marked by a multitude of secretive little lanes and alleyways, getting lost is practically compulsory.
San Polo is also home to the Rialto Bridge and the Rialto Markets, both of which you’re sure to stumble across while you’re circling around trying to found your way out of those pesky little lanes. There’s also the Casa di Goldoni, home of the famous playwright Goldoni, the Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari and the Scuola Grande di San Rocco.
Venice Eat & Drink
La Zucca Literally means The Pumpkin, and you can tell that from the pumpkin-themed artworks. Good, traditional grub.
Vino Vino Any restaurant that feels the need to have the word ‘vino’ not just once, but twice in its name is OK by us. The pick of the bunch in a very expensive area, it’s near the La Fenice opera house.
Ostaria al Garanghelo Fresh pasta or bigger meals and tasting plates to share. Good value for money.
Brek Great option for travellers on a budget. Self-service, canteen-style but excellent hearty food and a cool place to meet other backpackers.
Osteria San Marco Right on St Mark’s Square so it’s a bit pricey, but a great place to sample traditional local food.
Ae Oche This is a local chain of pizza restaurants. Don’t be put off by the American-style décor, it has a massive range of fairly good pizzas (some with chips on top!). Popular with Venice’s student population.
Birraria La Corte: Popular with the locals, and easily the best pizza in town.
I Figli delle Stelle New, posh and with some of the best views in town. Featuring food from each region in Italy.
Osteria – Enoteca Ai Artisti Great little wine bar that serves a delicious drop and lovely snacks from the bar menu. Campo San Barnaba
Bar dei Tedeschi Huge salads and buckets of fresh seafood or pasta. Extremely cheap wine to keep you entertained.
St. Mark’s Square spills over with friendly freaks in Commedia del Arte masks and costumes. Featuring masked balls and public parades, the Carnevale takes in February, during the 10 days leading up to Shrove Tuesday (which is the day before the beginning of Lent, for those who need a brush-up on their Catholic feast days).
The Festa della Sensa celebrates the relationship between Venice and the sea (like any good Italian love affair, it’s a complex, passionate and tempestuous one). It involves a procession of boats led by the mayor, who throws a wreath into the waves. The event follows Ascension Day in May.
The Vogalong is a huge rowing event in May or June. Thousands of participants row around a 30km course, reclaiming the lagoon from motorised boats.
The religious celebrations of Festa del Redentore are held on the third Sunday of July. The night before is a great party with feasting followed by fireworks and a gondola regatta.
The Biennale started as an art show every two years, and has grown to become a major player on the Venice festival circuit, covering a huge range of events including the Venice Film Festival in September.
When To Go
Winter (November to February) sees chilly temperatures of 3-8°C (37-46°F), and while it’s a much quieter time to see the city, it’s not particularly pleasant riding around in a gondola with hypothermia.
Spring (March to May) sees the mercury rising, with temperatures from 10-21°C (46-70°F). It’s warm and quite sunny, and you may just beat the tourist rush.
Summer (June to August) gets nice and steamy, with temperatures from 17-27°C (63-81°F) and very high humidity levels. Summer is busy across Europe and Italy in particular, so prepare for crowds.
Autumn (September to October) is mostly crisp and clear with temperatures of 16-19°C (61-66°F). With the summer crowds dissipating, this can be the perfect time to explore Venice.
What To Miss
Tourist restaurants in Venice are over-priced for food you’d often eat at home. Make the most of Venice with pizza, pasta and anti-pasto, but watch out for extra charges thrown in, like sitting down (instead of snacking at the bar) or very high corkage fees.
Solo gondola rides: If you’re all alone on your trip, consider bunking with another solo tourist for your gondola ride. Sure, you may feel fine riding solo at first, but once the love song starts up and you spy all the other loved-up couples in their cosy boats, your gondola’s going to start feeling pretty un-cosy and you’ll going to want to throw that warbling fool overboard. Just sayin’.
If you want to avoid the throngs of tourists, avoid the two main strips: Strada Nuova and Scalzi Bridge. Sure, have a look and a wander, but it’s much nicer to explore the backstreets.
Water Buses & Water Taxis: Buses are just as convenient and a lot cheaper than taxis. You can buy a card for unlimited rides or just get a ticket when you get on. Taxis are more expensive but nice for a private trip. Both are safe.
Traghetto: This is the cheap version of a proper gondola ride. You’ll usually stand for a few minutes, but it’s a good way to tick the gondola ride off your to-do list if you don’t have a lover to sit and laze with.
Walk: The best, cheapest option for exploring. Be careful and get a bus home late at night.
Located on the northeastern part of Italy, Venice is a city of over 150 canals and 400 bridges connecting 116 scattered islands, a unique destination which was once the trading post between east and west. Venice was called La Serenissima or “most serene”, as this city definitely looks calm afloat in the Venetian lagoon along the Adriatic Sea.
And yet with this calm air around her, the city used to be Christianity's strong fortress in the time of the Crusades. And being a major trading port in the bygone ages, there are remnants of east and west influences seen around the city's architecture which is a mixed bag of Byzantine, Renaissance and Gothic styles.
They say that Venice continues to sink especially when the occasional high tides sweep the whole city. And add to this, the touristy crowds can be quite a dampener. But this romantic city has not lost its charm altogether. Venice still ranks as one of the best holiday destinations for where else can drifting away in a fancy gondola and passing by antiquated bridges and buildings is the norm and not a novelty?
Tourists flock to Venice to sample the Italian's city's renowned romance and beauty - which can seem quite familiar on arrival - since the Italian cityhas been used as a setting for films and photographs a multitude of times over the years. Venice offers beautiful piazza, elegant buildings and Venetian palaces aplenty, and is one of the most popular destinations in the world for honeymooners enjoying a romantic break, or for tourists on a cultural and sightseeing holiday. On a trip to Venice be prepared for crowds during the high season which runs from July to September - and even out of these times Venice is likely to be reasonably full of admirers.
Venice is laid out in a maze style, the centre of which is divided into six quarters. The main artery is the Grand Canal which passes through all the six districts. Should you get tired of riding gondolas, opt for the pedestrian pathways through the three bridges from the station, Rialto and Accademia.
St. Mark's Square is the most popular landmark of Venice next to the Grand Canal. This is the heart of the city from which stands the Basilica di San Marco and Palazzo Ducale. The Basilica is a daunting figure in the Venetian skyline with its domes and arches jutting in and out. Maritime treasures are on display inside and the altar is laden with gold (apart from the golden mosaics above the doorways) and precious jewels. The square is a jampacked promenade with cafes filled to the brim and pigeons joining in the fray!
The city still has a few more interesting attractions on offer. Another famous area is Rialto in which the bulk of commercial activities continues to flow. Basilica dei Frari holds the burial grounds of famed Venetians Antonio Canova and Titian. It also has a good range of art pieces adorning the church's interiors. To sample more of Venice's art, visit the Peggy Guggenheim collection inside Palazzo Venier dei Leoni and the Academia Gallery as well.
Further outings beyond the tourist path will lead to Murano and Burano islands. You can watch the local artesans here as they go about creating exquisite glass beads, baubles and fancy lace crafts.
The Basilica di San Marco is a magnificent stone structure featuring 12th Century marble floors and 11th-15th Century mosaic domes with millions of glass tiles glittering in the sky. Legend has it that St Mark was smuggled into Venice in 878, a story which is depicted in the mosaics on the left of the church's façade - dated 1270. In order to gain admittance to this attraction no short skirts, bare shoulders or large rucksacks are allowed. The waiting time for this attraction can be long so it is recommended to buy a reservation ticket. The basilica is free to enter but there is a museum upstairs as well as the high altar and treasury which charge a small fee.
The Peggy Gugehnheim Collection is a an inspired collection of the works of well known and less well known contemporary artists including Jackson Pollack, Max Ernst (her former husband), Picasso, Kandinsky, Klee and Dali. Also located here are works by Moore, Giacometti and Arp, as well as Venice's own Emilio Vedova in the Sculpture Garden, where Peggy is buried alongside her pet dogs. There is also a café and bookstore located here. The collection is housed in the Palazzo Venier dei Leoni - Peggy Guggenheim's exquisite palatial home.
The School of St Roch features one of the finest collections of 14th to 18th Century art in the world. There are 50 Tintoretto's painted between 1575 and 1587, as well as a magnificent ceiling panel for the School or 'Scuola'. A spectacular staircase takes visitors to the Sala Grande Superiore - where Tintoretto painted scenes from the Old Testament on the ceilings. Other featured works include those of Titian, Giorgione and Tiepolo, as well as a breathtaking Renaissance façade by Scarpagnino.
La Museo Ebraico and the 'Jewish Ghetto of Venice' feature five synagogues, and there are plenty of restaurants and shops in the vicinity. During the 16th to 18th Centuries, Jewish artisans and lenders kept Venice's commercial centres well stocked during the daytime, but at night they were restricted to the Ghetto Nuovo (Jewish Ghetto).
The Gallerie Dell'Accademia contains works of art dating from the 14th to the 18th Century, including Carpaccio's 'Crucifixion and Glorification of the Ten Thousand Martyrs of Mount Ararat', Bellini's 'Madonna and Child' and Tintoretto's 'Creation of the Animals', as well as many other dramatic classical paintings.
Doge's Palace is located in San Marco Square and has an excellent guided tour which is termed the 'Secret Itinerary', taking visitors around the parts of the palace in which the administration worked. Casanova's jail can also be seen, and the impressive structure of the roof which is 500 years old.
The Glass Museum, located on the isle of Murano, Goldoni's House (Venetian playwright), the Lace Museum and the Leonardo da Vinci Exhibition are other attractions worth visiting during a stay in Venice.
Carnival of Venice in February paints the town red as merry-making fills the whole city with parades, magic shows, puppeteers and masquerade balls attended by people from all parts of the world dressed in elegant costumes. The Feast Day of The Redeemer is a religious festival in July commemorating the lives felled during the plague that hit the city in the Middle Ages.
The canals of Venice have seen quite a few regattas here and there. The biggest one is Historical Regatta, a long procession of colourful gondolas kicking off on the first Sunday of September. This celebrates one of the Venetian victories in the early days, its conquest over Cyprus.
The Voga Longa, the annual equivalent of a marathon on water rather than land, is held in May. Competitors need to row 20 miles in less than three and a half hours in order to receive a certificate at the finish line. All manner of vessels are invited to take part - and it's not unknown for teams to take over ten hours to complete the race.
The Regata 'Storica' or Historical Fleet Event is held in September. This impressive regatta showcases nearly one hundred types of historical Venetian boats from replicas of Roman and Medieval vessels to huge oarships. The boats are towed along Canal Grande, by small boats. Visitors can watch the races which include riding solo in brightly coloured gondolini.
The Carnevale takes place in the Piazza San Marco during February and is the largest masked ball in Europe. Visitors from all over the world turn up in ornate costumes to join in the celebrations.
The Venice International Film Festival takes place in August/September along the Lido esplanade and is a major draw, attracting the jet set from all over the world.
Leisure and Recreation
Those who love to shop will find many places selling beautifully crafted leather goods, handmade paper and fine velvet scarves - as well as Venetian glass in the Atelier Marega quarter of the city. Venice is also renowned for its mask-making and unique costumes which make excellent souvenirs, and it's quite possible to watch the masks being painted and prepared. The majority of city shops close for an extended lunch - and if you have had a busy day shopping and sightseeing then this could be the perfect time to pop back to your hotel for a siesta, after all 'when in Rome', or should it be 'when in Venice'.
Take a trip to the islands if time permits, especially those of Murano, Burano and Torcello. Boats operate a frequent service - but there may be long queues. Burano is a highly picturesque isle with pastel coloured houses and Torcello is a tranquil experience, and a welcome break from bustling Venice.
Eating 'al fresco' in San Marco Square is a highly recommended idea for a night out, where there are a number of restaurants serving up classical Italian food.
Venice isn't the place to head for if you enjoy a lively night life - most locals are in bed by around 9pm. However there are a few bars just north of the Ghetto Nuove Bridge which stay open until late and the cafes and bars on C. Santa Margharita cater for the local University students.
Winter (November to February) 3-8°C; the city is quieter with temperatures generally fairly mild but is prone to flooding and cold winds.
- Spring (March to May) 5 - 21°C; warm and quite sunny
- Summer (June to August) 17 - 27°C; still pleasant but can reach high humidity levels with some thunderstorms
- Fall (September to October) 16 - 19°C; weather mild and generally good
The summer can get very hot and humid in Venice - plus it's the height of the tourist season, so the best time to pay a visit is Spring or Autumn, when temperatures average at around 5-15 o C. During the winter it can get very cold with temperatures dropping to below freezing at times. Also, in Venice flooding has become more and more common, and this can happen many times a year, when the squares and streets become inaccessible. Sirens sound to alert residents that the city is about to flood - and its possible to get maps which will direct you to higher routes, as well as the footpaths which have walkways to take you to dryer areas.
More Info On Getting Around
The closest airport is Marco Polo Airport which is 16 miles from the city, and has a bus connection to the Piazzale Roma. The airport has a shuttle service - or travellers can opt for the water bus which takes 75 minutes to San Marco. If money is no problem then the water taxis can get you to Venice centre in around 30 minutes.
The main form of transport in Venice is of course boat - commonly by a 'vaporetta', or water bus, which make scheduled stops, just like a normal bus. During a stay in Venice it's almost compulsory to hire a gondola - usually as a one-off - because a gondolier's services do not come cheap. For a reasonably hefty fee he will serenade you as he directs the gondola around the myriad waterways. The only other way to get around Venice is on foot, since cars are banned right across the city. For many tourists the lack of traffic makes a welcome break from the noise and pollution of everyday life.
Top 6 Free Things to Do
The Rialto Market and the Rialto Bridge on San Polo is a must see, and shoppers at the market will find that things cost considerably less here than in the pricey, touristy Piazza San Marco. The bridge is an iconic structure in Venice, and dates back more than 800 years. The bridge which can be seen today was finished in 1591.
The Madonna dell'Orto - otherwise known as the Tintoretto Church, was dedicated to St Christopher which is why a splendid statue of the saint stands over the main door. The beautiful church contains numerous works by Tintoretto, who was supposed to have started decorating as penance for insulting a doge.
La Zecca or the 'Mint' is where Venice's gold ducats (later zucchini) were coined. It is now home to the Civic Library. Located on Piazzeta San Marco, its open 10am until 7pm, Monday to Saturday.
La Pieta is a church which is renowned for its musical past. Antonio Vivaldi was the violin and choir master in the 18th century, and he wrote some of his best works for his young students here. The church is open for services at 6.30pm on Saturday, and is located in the Castello district.
The Monument to Bartolomeo Colleoni (dated 1488) is also found in the Castello district. Colleoni was a soldier who would only leave a legacy to the Republic, if a statue of him were erected in St Mark's Square. Instead the Venetian rulers decided to put his impressive statue in front of the Scuola de San Marco.
San Giorgio Maggiore is a church which was built by Palladio. Its white Corinthian columns and arches are beautiful and well worth seeing, and there are some excellent works of art here, such as the Adoration of the Shepherds, by Jacopo Bassano as well as two huge paintings by Tintoretto.
Money and Costs
Tipping is not generally expected in Venice since a service charge is usually included in the bill - of around a generous 20%. Money should always be changed in a bank while on holiday in Venice, since other exchanges rates will be high. The best time to visit Venice is out of tourist season when the price of accommodation is far cheaper, sometimes up to 40% cheaper - plus the weather is just right for sightseeing.
Rialto and Piazza San Marco are expensive areas to eat out in - for good budget meals Venice's Dorsoduro quarter is the place to head for, plus, it's where the locals eat.
The unit of currency in Venice is the Euro, as it is in most other European countries.
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