Floating like a fabulous spun-sugar confection above the languid waters of the Lagoon, Venice almost defies description. Explore it on a sunset gondola ride. Wander the historical passageways and admire the stunning architecture while checking out some of our recommendations so you can make the most of this remarkable city.
Take in the beauty around the Grand Canal
Considered as the main ‘street’ in Venice (although don’t try to park here. You’ll get water in your glovebox), this very busy but beautiful thoroughfare is a must see, and the photograph you must take when visiting Venice (main image above).Lined with palaces and town houses from the 13th to the 18th century, it’s an aquatic history lesson in the city-state’s rise and fall.
Take a morning walk across the Rialto Bridge
Cross the bridge for great views and great photo opportunities, the bridge gets extremely busy (as you can imagine), but the early you visit the more chance you’ll have to admire its slender beauty. Alternatively take a gondola under it for a different perspective. It used to be the best way to get to the city’s busy Rialto market – now it’s just a destination in itself!
Explore the Basilica of St Mark
Located just off the Grand Canal, the gleaming basilica overlooks the Piazza San Marco (St. Mark’s Square) The interior of this building is so exquisitely ornate, it almost hurts your eyes – and with its five huge Byzantine domes, it’s spectacular from the outside as well. Book tickets online beforehand for a better experience or miss the crowds try a night tour, it can be more expensive but worth it!
Take a Gondola Ride
Take a trip on the icons of this romantic city and see the views from the water, we recommended going at sunset for the ultimate experience. Renowned for romance, gondolas can be expensive too, so agree the cost , the route and the duration before hopping on, if you ask for a shorted trip you may be able to negotiate a better cost. Gondolas hold six people and can be shared – which is another way to save money, but perhaps a little less romantic!
Step back in history at the Bridge of Sighs
Once the route to torture and imprisonment for enemies of the state, the bridge is now the location for more cheerful pastimes. Folklore says its name comes from the sighs of prisoners condemned to life sentences as they took in their last view of Venice. But when the bridge was built there were very few people being condemned to life sentences. Maybe the sighs are just sighs of pure joy at the view of the city.
Be intrigued at Palazzo Ducale
A beautiful and extremely interesting place where everything from execution orders to the affairs of Venetian leaders was carried out. Admire the opulent décor and sprawling works of art and explore many rooms used for councils and courts and where sentences were passed. Prisoners passed over the Bridge of Sighs, the city’s only covered bridge, to the prison beyond. As part of a tour you are able to follow their path across the bridge and visit the prison. Booking online is advisable unless you don’t mind a long wait.
Have the Original Bellini at Harry’s Bar
It’s probably not a good idea to spend the whole day here – you’ll regret all those world famous Bellini cocktails in the morning! As will your bank balance. But it is worth a visit to soak up the atmosphere, check out the photos of the world famous clientele and to ‘see and be seen’, if that’s your thing.
Ride the Vaporetto
A sort of inter-island ferry – for the best value trip around the islands. You can always take an organised tour, but this way you can plan your own route, and hop off and on as you please. Just make sure you know when the last ferry back from the outlying islands is – don’t want to be stranded! (A day pass is good value, and in Venice, anything that’s great value should be seized upon eagerly!)
Check out the Glass in Murano
Visit one of the glass factories and watch glass being modelled, creating beautiful pieces, instantly recognisable as ‘Murano’ ware. You can even book a private session with a glass master should you choose to and have a go at glass blowing yourself. Complete this great experience with a memento of your visit from one of the factory shops but do shop around for the best deal as prices do vary. Exercise judgement – and look for Vetro Artistico Murano on the underside, for assurance that this is the real deal.
See the brightly painted houses in Burano
Situated in the Venetian Lagoon (close to Murano) visit this famous island simply to stroll along its streets lined with brightly painted houses. Take a sightseeing cruise or hop on a water bus and explore by yourself, but be sure to take your camera! Hey, this is Venice, that’s a given, right?
Combine a trip to the islands of Burano, Murano and Torcello and finish here to sample its excellent restaurants (at a fraction of the price you’ll pay in Venice). Try Villa 600 or Osteria Al Ponte del Diavolo. Trowel is a peaceful retreat from the sometimes overwhelming crowds – and sometimes that’s exactly what the doctor ordered!
Stop off for Cocktails at Skyline Rooftop Bar
If you’re looking for Venetian views with style stop off in the evening at Skyline Rooftop Bar. Yes, it’s pricey but with great views and nibbles included, we think it’s well worth it, plus you’re on holiday, and you’re in Venice. We’re guessing a budget break wasn’t exactly your top priority anyway?!
Cool off with a Gelato
A tasty, cool gelato is the perfect pit stop when wandering the busy streets of Venice, try Suso Gelatoteca, tucked away down an alley this gem offers delicious flavours such as strawberry cheesecake, caramel, Raspberry Dark Chocolat and our favourite Pistachio Nutella. What is a gelato? It’s ice cream without the cream – although you wouldn’t know it, as they’re so rich and, well, creamy!
Beat the crowds and grab a great view
The tower at San Giorgio Maggiore, one of the little islands just off the coast of the main island of Venice, has a great view of the city and is much quicker to climb up than the tower at St Mark’s (cheaper too). Just don’t be surprised when the bell chimes at midday (get ready to cover your ears! It’s loud!).
We’d recommend grabbing the best of both worlds and staying at our Adriatic parcs offering beaches and city with its close proximity to Venice.