The very word "Venice" is one of the most evocative in the language. Immediately thoughts of winding waterways, elegantly dishevelled old buildings, and bobbing gondolas come to mind. Luckily, the real Venice lives up to even the most romantic visitor's preconceptions: there really is no other place like this on Earth, with its magnificent Renaissance, Baroque, and Venetian Gothic architecture, the sweeping splendor of the Grand Canal, and landmarks like the Ca'Rezzonico. Drift along the Grand Canal, poke around the markets, feast on traditional dishes like cuttlefish in its own ink and salt cod whipped up with olive oil and garlic – this is a city break with a difference.
Things to see
St Mark's Square is the heart of Venice, so vast yet curiously intimate-feeling, perhaps because of the crowds it draws, and the many cafes and bars to sit at. It's the best place to relax and people-watch, and you can also look up at famed landmarks such as the winged Lion of Venice on its tall column, the Campanile bell tower, and of course St Mark's Basilica. One of the greatest churches on the planet, bedecked with ornate domes, this Byzantine masterwork is just as staggering on the inside with its gold mosaics and rich artworks. Elsewhere in Venice, seek out the Rialto Bridge, its iconic arches crossing over the Grand Canal, and the Bridge of Sighs, carved from white limestone (it's said that if lovers kiss beneath it at sunset, eternal bliss will be theirs). Then there's the Lido, perhaps the most glamorous part of the city, with sweeping beaches and proud hotels, known the world over as the setting for the Venice Film Festival.
Hotels in Venice
What with its architectural wonders, its unique waterways, and its reputation as a romantic getaway, there is certainly no shortage of hotels in Venice. Many of which can be on the pricey side, it has to be said. Then again, you'll be rewarded with an experience to remember: views over the canals, exquisite on-site restaurants serving up freshly prepared seafood, and modern conveniences like free WiFi. Of course, there are cheap hotels in Venice to be found as well – have a good look around online to compare deals.
Where to stay
The area round St Mark's Square is a magnet for visitors and it's true that if you really want to be immersed in Venice at its most characteristically picturesque, booking a hotel in this area will do the job nicely. That said, it's also worth looking at places in other areas. Cannaregio is just as ravishing, for example, and also happens to be where the old Venetian Jewish ghetto was based – it's a must for history lovers. For proper pampering, though, the Lido is the place to be – staying at one of these hotels will also give you access to the private beaches beloved by Hollywood stars during the Film Festival.
How to get to
There are two main international gateways to Venice. One is Marco Polo Airport, which is only a few miles from the city and has flights to and from a conveniently wide variety of cities across the world. From here you can get to Venice by water taxi or on one of the public boats. Meanwhile, budget airlines fly into Treviso Airport – the only downside being it's slightly further out. You can also get into Venice by train, with Venezia Mestre Station being your last stop on the mainland before pulling into Venezia Santa Lucia amid the gorgeous buildings and waterways of old Venice.