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Where to stay in Venice – a travel guide to Venice’s neighbourhoods

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Whether you’re looking for a Venice hotel in the heart of St Mark’s or arty Dorsoduro, this guide to the sestrieri, or districts, will help you choose where to stay in Venice.

St Mark’s Square

As water taxis, or vaporetti, approaching Venice slow down at the mouth of the Grand Canal, the elaborate Byzantine domes of St Mark’s Basilica come into view. The cathedral’s forecourt, St Mark’s Square, is a playground for pigeon-chasing and street orchestra. The arcade arches house elegant cafés like Caffè Florian with its mini-gallery of frescoes and porcelain cups of espresso. Cross the old prison footbridge, the Bridge of Sighs, from the flamboyant pink marble Doge’s Palace for Venice Lagoon panoramas.

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Dorsoduro

The wooden arch of the Accademia Bridge crosses the Grand Canal to the artistic haven of Dorsoduro. Narrow canals criss-cross the quiet calli, or little streets, which enclose palace residences and art collections. North-west of the bridge, the old school of Accademia Gallery safeguards Bellini masterpieces. Follow the canal hinterland east to the gallery-palace at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection for abstract garden sculptures. Further on, opposite St Mark’s Square, the octagonal basilica and rotund dome of Santa Maria della Salute punctuate the Dorsoduro skyline.

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San Polo and Rialto

As the Grand Canal curves northwards, the energetic sestiere, or district, of San Polo is tucked on the bend. Visitors swarm for gondola pick- ups and views from the Rialto Bridge’s stone archways. Squeeze through narrow lanes past shop windows dressed with Venetian masks and Murano glass trinkets to San Polo Square, Venice’s second largest square. Head west from here the brick edifice of the Church of the Frari to pay homage to Renaissance Venetian art.

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Santa Croce and Cannaregio

Arrivals at Piazzale Roma bus station are already in the heart of Santa Croce, which segues from San Polo’s north. Join the locals for pizza at pavement cafés on the quiet square around San Giacomo dell'Orio church. In sleepy, residential Cannaregio district, just north of Santa Croce, the square beside the perfectly proportioned, marble Chiesa di Santa Maria dei Miracoli is the perfect pick-up point for a romantic gondola ride south to Rialto. A wrought-iron bridge crosses the canal to the peaceful Jewish Ghetto. See the bronze Holocaust Memorial and homely synagogues built into the top floors of townhouses. 

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Castello

Explore pathways of palms at the leafy eastern tip of Venice at the Giardini Pubblici in the Castello district. Bridges connect the islet of San Pietro and its ninth-century, waterfront church, San Pietro di Castello, once the seat of Venice’s bishop. The classical lion statues of the Porta Magna gate guard the Venetian Arsenal shipyard and naval depot. While nearby, the Museo Storico Navale tells tales of Venice’s maritime past and houses Peggy Guggenheim’s personal gondola. 

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