Cover photo full
Wikipedia | Google | Google Images | FlickrWith its wonderful cuisine and stunning canals threading through a honeycomb of stone passageways, Venice is truly something special. The city consists of small islets and more than 400 bridges over its 150 canals.
The Grand Canal is like main street, cutting through the center of the city. The city is in a lagoon, protected from the sea by a long strip of land called the ‘Lido’. Venice's small and traffic-free streets along the winding canals are great for walking. Getting lost in the narrow alleyways is a perfect way of exploring Venice, but at some point you'll almost surely end up in Piazza San Marco , where visitors congregate for a coffee or an aperitif.
But beware that occupying just about any of the outdoor tables in the Piazza comes with a price tag. Head to the residential quarter around the Ormesini and Sensa canals at the northern end of Cannaregio , where you can still enjoy a real slice of genuine Venetian life.
Nightlife in Venice is not very various. The city has a strong tradition of classical music and opera and you’ll easily find fine music concerts, especially in churches and theaters. To enjoy some late night entertainment it’s probably better to act like locals and head to Mestre. You can also travel to nearby islands like Lido for the beach, Murano for the well-known glass and Burano for its lace.
Piazza San MarcoVenice's largest piazza is the city's main meeting place. Lined by cafés and shops, here is the place to get a glimpse of Venice's glorious architecture and the sea. Besides the Basilica di San Marco, the square houses, the Campanile, the Torro dell'Orologio, the Palazzo Ducale, and other architectural beauties. You should be able to avoid the heaviest crowds by visiting in the late afternoon or evening.
Basilica di San MarcoAlthough the original church was built in 828, St. Mark's Basilica was rebuilt in 1094 after a fire in 976. Dominating the Piazza San Marco with its fairy tale facade, the basilica is the symbol of Venice's former glory, and the domed interiors are marked by breathtaking intricate mosaics. Be aware though, that once inside, there are fees if you want a tour of St Mark's Museum, the Treasury, or the lustrous Pala d'Oro. Modest attire is required and photography is not allowed, nor are large bags and purses. Come early to avoid crowds.
Bridge of SighsCenturies ago, the Bridge of Sighs, which connects the Doge's Palace to dungeons, was used to transport prisoners from the courtroom to the prisons. Legend has it that the bridge got its name from the fact that the condemned who crossed it, on their way to the prison cells or executions, would sigh as they caught their last glimpses of the world.
Canal GrandeAlways busy with boats and gondolas, this wide canal is the main waterway of Venice. The best way way to explore the Grand Canal is by vaporetto . The Grand Canal begins at Piazetta San Marco and ends at the rail station. Halfway down the Grand Canal is the Rialto, the shop-lined 16th century bridge that became a byword for Venice itself.
Doge's PalaceThe city’s most famous building, Doge's Palace, it is a masterpiece of Gothic architecture. The gorgeous palace lies at the very heart of Venice, between Piazza San Marco, the Piazzetta and the lagoon. For centuries, the Doge's Palace had three fundamental roles: as the Doge's residence, the seat of government and as the palace of justice. The palace now houses a fine collection of Byzantine art with paintings, sculptures and bronzes.
MuranoThe island of Murano is the biggest of the three major islands in Venice's northern lagoon, famous for its glass factories. Murano became Venice's glass making center in the 13th century. Today, artistic and industrial fornaci continue to make glass products that range from glass beads and mosaic tiles to large, elaborate chandeliers and works of art. Some glass factories allow visitors or tours and there are many shops selling glass creations and souvenirs.
Ca d'OroThe Golden House, built in the 15th century, is a splendid Gothic palace. The principal facade faces the Grand Canal and is one of the most photographed buildings along the waterway. The facade was once covered by gold and for this reason, it resulted in the name of this building. Inside the Ca’ d’Oro you can get a good impression of the lifestyle of rich Venetian patrician families from the late Middle Ages.
Food & DrinkSeafood is a big part of Venetian cuisine as are polenta and rice. Take the opportunity to sample some of the traditional dishes such as 'risi e bisi'. Usually, restaurants placed in St. Mark's Square and Rialto areas are the most expensive ones. To get a taste of real Venice, and take a break from sightseeing, pop into a bacaro, one of the small bars where locals go for a glass of wine and a quick snack. Cicchetti, little appetizers, are found in the bars in Venice and are often eaten before lunch or dinner. A glass of prosecco, which is a local specialty, or a spritz (a mix of prosecco and Aperol or Campari) is a must-try.
Where to stayLike everything else, hotels are more expensive here than in any other Italian city. As well as summer, try to steer away from Carnevale, regattas, and Biennale events and important religious festivities including Christmas and Easter. It is advisable to book in advance, even in the off-season. On the other side of the Grand Canal, in the sestieri of Dorsoduro, Santa Croce, and San Polo, there are chic little hideaways for those who seek style without the glam trappings. But if you crave flash and buzz, then stay in San Marco, especially at the Gritti Palace, or near the Rialto Bridge. Expect most of the least expensive suggestions to be in or near the train-station neighborhood, an area full of trinket shops and budget hotels.
ShoppingThe city has two major shopping districts, the Mercerie, connecting the Piazza to the area around the Rialto Bridge; and Calle Larga XXII Marzo, running west from the Piazza, and these areas are full of Italian mega-brands such as Dolce & Gabbana, Gucci, and Prada. However, it is the glass and lace vendors which really steal the focus of the Venice visitors, along with a number of stylish shops specializing in traditional and modern interior design. The narrow Frezzeria, also west of the Piazza and not far from Piazza San Marco, offers a grab bag of bars, souvenir shops, and tony clothing stores. On the island of Murano you’ll find a lot of showrooms selling local glass, look for the “Vetro Artistico Murano” trademark, the sign of authenticity.
When to goNumbers of visitors peak in summer, despite the heat and humidity. Spring and autumn are much more pleasant months, but the best is late autumn when, if you're lucky with the weather, it can still be warm enough to have a coffee outside or winter, a time when tourists are few and far between, rooms are cheap and the city is reclaimed by Venetians. An exception is winter Carnevale which brings in hordes of visitors and sends accommodation prices through the roof.
Getting aroundVenice is not a big city and the best way to visit it is walking through its streets and alleys. The streets are clearly labeled and you’ll easily find the right direction for the major tourist attractions. The main public transport in Venice are the vaporetti (waterbuses). Line 2 travels the Grand Canal, making fewer stops than Line 1, so is usually less crowded. Water taxi and the traditional Venetian boat - Gondola, are also available, but it’s extremely expensive
Do you see any omissions, errors or want to add information to this page? Sign up.
Author: Ayda. Last updated: Jan 30, 2015