Venice: The Guide

The city of 100 islands, Venice is one of the world’s most romantic destinations, and whether you’re floating downstream on a gondola ride for two, sharing pizza in a quiet Venetian ristorante, or getting lost in the maze of vicoli that connect all the stunning isles, this is one city that will never cease to amaze you.

First stop has to be the magnificent piazza San Marco, an experience in itself. Home to Doge’s Palace (once the centre of Venetian politics), St Mark’s Campanile (10th century clock tower), and St Mark’s basilica, the square is an unmissable city highlight. From St Mark’s Square there is so much to do, and whilst you’re on your adventure, keep an eye out for many of the infamous film locations. Casino Royale (2006), Indian Jones and the Last Crusader (1989), and The Merchant of Venice (2004) all made good use of Venice’s vast and dramatic feel.

Architecture fanatics, relic hunters, religious crusaders, and more will fall in love with the countless churches and cathedrals from waterway-to-waterway. They’ll definitely wow you, so be sure to dive into a few, or simply admire them from outside. Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute (known simply as the “Salute”, it’s 17th century and found in Dorsoduro), and Chiesa di Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari (known as “Frari”, 14th century and found in San Polo) are great starting points.

If taking to the water is the way you want to get around, take a vaporetto down Venice’s Grand Canal, the main water thoroughfare that runs right through the city, lined with impressive and colourful Renaissance palaces. Look out for Palazzo Grassi, now a modern art gallery, and San Giovanni e Paolo, one of the city’s largest churches. The Rialto bridge is also a top priority on your waterway journey, as the oldest bridge of the four that span the canal.

Of course, if it’s a romantic getaway you can’t miss sharing a kiss under the Bridge of Sighs, but make sure you get the timing right because local legend says that lovers will be granted eternal love and bliss if it’s done on the stroke of dusk. After your kiss, why not grab an authentic Italian meal, hidden away in the heart of Venice. Seafood, meatballs, or just an Italian red are all to die for in the City of Bridges.
If you want an enchanting evening and fancy a spot of Opera, the Musica De Palazzo offers a unique, intimate night out. You move from room to room in this old Venetian Palace, with each act moving with you. Even if you’re not an Opera fan, it’s experience that you will never forget.

Islands worth visiting in and around Venice include Murano, Burano and Giudecca. Murano is world-renowned for its glass, and there you can buy Murano glass on the island, but also watch the shaping, colouring and designing take place. If you’re headed straight from San Marco Square, gondolas run every 20 minutes! Burano is an island village known for its lace, and you can explore the museum and buy your own, though be sure to find out if it’s locally made. Giudecca is where the wealthy Venetians built their homes once upon a time, and now offers incredible views of Venice and, if you’re peckish, Hotel Cipriani offers a meal to rival the view!

A lot of the time your adventure can be all about hopping from landmark to landmark, but like many cities across the world sometimes you just need to fold up your map (or put down your iPhone) and set off on your own self-guided tour. So much of Venice is hidden away from the bridges, and the churches, and the avant-garde art galleries that many people flock to. Instead, take the opportunity to discover the scented flowerboxes that line the residential paths, or the tiny alley cafes where delicious food is made with passion. And take a moment to discover La Serenissima: the unexpected peace you’ll find in the city without cars.

Top Tip: It’s easy to spend a lot of money in Venice, but a lot of the time you can get around it. Ask about cover charges before eating in restaurants, and catch a gondola away from main docking areas, as you can almost always haggle prices with the guys around the corner.

Fancy exploring the City of 100 Islands? We have an amazing Venice & Greek Isles itinerary, with a 3 night stay in Venice, so you can really explore.