Venice is one of the world’s most beautiful and romantic cities, with good reason. Its skyline is composed of rows of magnificent historical palaces and tall church towers, while the gentle waves of its lagoon are stirred by gondolas whose traditions date back centuries. 

    Slow evening gondola cruises along the Grand Canal or kissing under a Venetian bridge are high on the bucket lists of many couples. The appeals of the so-called “City of Water” owes much to its collection of gorgeous spots like St. Mark’s Square, as well as different neighbourhoods to explore.

    What are the best things to do in Venice?

    1

    St Mark's Square

    Take in Venice's iconic cityscape

    Piazza San Marco (St. Mark’s Square) may not be Venice’s only piazza, but it’s one of the world’s most beautiful. St. Mark’s Basilica, the bell tower and the Doge’s Palace are all close by. Patio cafés and restaurants surround San Marco, from where you can enjoy the mesmerising view over a cappuccino or glass of wine. Don’t expect the best Italian food here – prices tend to be expensive. If you’re in for the experience, check out Caffe Florian. It’s among the world’s oldest cafés. Although tempting, never feed the pigeons in the square – you’ll be fined.

    Location: Piazza San Marco, 30100 Venice VE, Italy

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    2

    Grand Canal

    The main aquatic thoroughfare through Venice

    The Grand Canal is famous for its busy stream of gondolas and Renaissance palaces. In the morning, you’ll see barges carrying fresh fish, meat and produce to the canal’s many markets. Throughout the day, you can visit museums and order Venetian delights from traditional diners.

    The easiest way to catch a glimpse of the Grand Canal’s famous landmarks is to ride the vaporetto, Venice’s water-based floating public transport system. For a sightseeing journey, use Line 1, which stops at most palaces and museums along the canal. Top sites include Santa Maria della Salute, Palazzo Corner della Ca' Grande and Palazzo Grassi.

    Location: 30100 Venice, Metropolitan City of Venice, Italy

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    3

    Rialto Bridge

    A unique shopping walk over the Grand Canal

    • Couples
    • Families
    • History

    Ponte di Rialto (Rialto Bridge) is one of Venice’s landmark footbridges. It crosses over the Grand Canal, where you can enjoy a great cityscape from its portico. Uniquely, both sides of the portico are lined with tiny boutiques selling fashion items and trinkets like Venetian blown glass and jewellery. A more vibrant shopping scene awaits at the Mercati di Rialto open market at the bridge’s base. The bridge is very popular and can get very crowded. It’s most beautiful from a gondola or vaporetto (water taxi) ride, especially in the evenings. Get there earlier to beat the crowds.

    Location: Sestiere San Polo, 30125 Venice VE, Italy

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    4

    Doge's Palace

    Venetian Gothic architecture and heavenly painted rooms

    • Families
    • History

    Doge’s Palace houses a maze of rooms richly decorated in gold-painted panels and Renaissance art. From St. Mark’s Square, enter this Venetian Gothic palace via the ornate entrance near the waterfront. The magistrate’s apartment features a giant world map by Titian, and the wondrous Chamber of the Great Council is home to the world’s largest oil painting, Il Paradiso by Tintoretto. After visiting the armoury and prisons, end your tour by crossing the famous Ponte dei Sospiri (Bridge of Sighs). Go for the 1-hour special ‘secret itineraries’ tour, available in English, for access to private chambers.

    Location: Piazza San Marco, 1, 30124 Venice VE, Italy

    Open: April–October: Sunday–Thursday from 8.30 am to 9 pm, Friday–Saturday from 8.30 am to 11 pm. November–March from 8.30 am to 7 pm (Christmas and New Year's Day from 10.30 am to 7 pm)

    Phone: +39 041 2715911

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    5

    St Mark's Basilica

    A masterpiece of mosaics and sculptures

    • Budget
    • History

    St Mark's Basilica (Basilica di San Marco), with its unmistakable Byzantine-inspired aesthetic, offers an unparalleled visual and spiritual experience. Over 8,000 square metres of mosaics cover its walls, vaults and domes. Visiting this masterpiece is free, but you’ll need to leave suitcases and large bags at the storage area in front of Porta dei Fiori (Door of Flowers), on the northern side. Photography is not permitted inside the church. You'll notice decorative sculptures adorning the building, a harmonious yet miscellaneous collection as only some were made onsite. Many come from different towns and feature different materials and styles. Want to soak up every detail with the help of an expert? Check days and times for guided tours in the vestibule next to the main door.

    Location: Piazza San Marco, 328, 30100 Venezia, Italy

    Open: Daily from 9.30 am to 5 pm (from 2 pm on Sunday and public holidays)

    Phone: +39 04 1270 8311

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    6

    Bridge of Sighs

    A 17th-century bridge with a dark history

    • Photo
    • Couples
    • Budget
    • Unusual
    • History

    The Bridge of Sighs is an enclosed limestone bridge that connects the Doge’s Palace to the former prison across the canal. Legend has it that the bridge got its name from the sighs of the prisoners catching their last glimpses of Venice – or their loved ones – as they were shuttled off into their prison cells or execution chamber.

    There are various ways to see the bridge. You can stand on either the Bridge of Pagli or Canonica. The other option is to book a gondola ride and pass directly underneath the bridge while kissing your loved one – as is tradition. If you want to cross the bridge, you’ll need to go on a tour of Doge’s Palace, which takes you inside the palace and across the bridge.

    Location: Municipality 1 Venezia-Murano-Burano, Venice, Metropolitan City of Venice, Italy

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    7

    Ponte dell'Accademia

    A wooden bridge with scenic views

    Ponte dell’Accademia, aka Accademia Bridge, links the San Marco district with the Accademia Gallery in Dorsoduro at the southern end of the Grand Canal. While the bridge isn’t as famous as other ones, you can enjoy stunning views of the canal and the Santa Maria Della Salute Church a little further south.

    It’s also a convenient place to cross if you’re heading from Piazza San Marco to the Galleria dell’Accademia or the Church. There is less foot traffic in the evenings, allowing you to find a peaceful moment to take in the sights and sounds around you.

    Location: 30100 Venice, Metropolitan City of Venice, Italy

    Open: 24/7

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    8

    Peggy Guggenheim Collection

    Visit a modern art museum

    • History

    The Peggy Guggenheim Collection is a modern art museum where you'll find a massive collection of works predominantly by futurists and modernists. Both Italian and American artists are on display here, though you'll find a few others as well within the cubism, abstract expressionism and surrealism genres.

    On display here, you'll find works from legendary artists like De Chirico, Severini, Metzinger and even Picasso. You'll even be able to see a room dedicated to works created by Peggy Guggenheim's daughter Pegeen Vail Guggenheim. It's all located along the Grand Canal in the eastern Dorsoduro district.

    Location: Dorsoduro, 701-704, 30123 Venezia VE, Italy

    Open: Wednesday–Monday from 10 am to 6 pm (closed on Tuesdays)

    Phone: +39 041 271 5911

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    9

    Burano

    A quiet historical fishing village

    The small fishing village of Burano lies 40 minutes north of Venice and is a magical place to explore. It is less crowded than the rest of Venice and offers an authentic feel. With brightly painted houses, it's among the most colourful cities in the world. But its rainbow houses, boat-filled canals, and quiet atmosphere aren't the only draw.

    Burano's claim to fame is handmade lace. There are only a couple of traditional lacemakers on the island, so take care when buying some. If it costs less than $50, it is likely fake or cheap imitation lace made outside Italy. You can easily get around the island on foot or by bicycle. You can also travel around the canals on water taxis and gondolas.

    Location: 30142 Venice, Metropolitan City of Venice, Italy

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    10

    St Mark's Campanile

    For stunning panoramas over Venice

    • Families

    The Campanile (bell tower) of St. Mark’s Basilica dominates the skyline of its piazza. Towering 90 metres over the square, you can admire Venice’s superb cityscape and lagoon from above. Come early in the morning to beat the crowds (expect long queues in summer). For several euros, a lift takes you to the top. Cover your ears when the 5 large bells chime overhead at the turn of the hour – they can be deafening! It’s also a good idea to wear something warm as it can get chilly at the top.

    Location: Piazza San Marco, Venice, Italy

    Open: October–March: daily from 9.30 am to 5 pm. 1st–15th April: daily from 9 am to 5.30 pm. 16th–30th April: daily from 8.30 am to 9 pm

    Phone: +39 (0)41 270 8311

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    11

    Murano

    An island with an enduring centuries-old art form

    The centuries-old glassblowing heritage on the island of Murano gave birth to the intricate art form known as Murano glass. Get a behind-the-scenes look at the creation process on a guided tour at a glassblowing factory on the island. The Vetreria Artistica Colleoni is a fine choice. 

    Kids can watch in awe as masters swiftly blow, cut, and sculpt delicate and colourful works of art from glowing hot slabs of molten sand. Hopping on the Diretto Murano vaporetto from Venice will take you on a direct 20-minute ride to Murano.

    Location: Fondamenta S. Giovanni dei Battuti, 12, 30141 Venezia VE, Italy

    Open: Daily from 9 am to 5 pm

    Phone: +39 041 527 4872

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    photo by Joe deSousa (CC0 1.0) modified

    12

    Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute

    Admire great works by Titian and Tintoretto

    Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute (Saint Mary of Health) is among Venice’s more iconic landmarks. It’s free to visit and offers wonderful sightseeing in one of Venice’s quieter hubs. Be sure to enter the basilica from the majestic staircase by the Grand Canal for the best experience.

    A series of statues adorn the basilica’s main façade. Inside, look up at the vast and brightly decorated interiors under the huge central dome. Look carefully and you can find treasured Renaissance masterpieces: 12 works by Titian and Tintoretto.

    Location: Dorsoduro, 1, 30123 Venezia VE, Italy

    Open: Daily from 9 am to 12 pm and from 3 pm to 5.30 pm

    Phone: +39 041 274 3928

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    13

    Dorsoduro

    Watch gondolas being built

    • Couples
    • Families

    Dorsoduro is one of Venice’s six main neighbourhoods, where you’ll find a more urban and less touristy face of the city. It’s home to some of Venice’s finest museums, such as the Galleria dell’Accademia, the Punta della Dogana, and the Peggy Guggenheim collection. Dorsoduro is a 10-minute ferry ride across the Grand Canal, west from San Marco’s Piazza. Take a pleasant walk along the scenic promenade of Zattere to the boatyard of Squero di San Trovaso. It’s where you can witness gondolas being built or repaired from across the canal.

    Location: Sestiere di Dorsoduro, 30100 Venice VE, Italy

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    14

    San Giorgio Maggiore

    Superb panoramas over Venice

    • Couples
    • Families
    • History

    Thinking of escaping Venice’s crowds? The island of San Giorgio Maggiore is a great daytrip that’s around 5 minutes’ ride by vaporetto no. 2 from Piazza San Marco. Its skyline is dominated by the basilica of the same name, built around the 16th century, with a campanile (bell tower) that you can take a lift to the top. Many consider the views from San Giorgio Maggiore’s campanile as better than St. Mark’s. The 9 bells inside the campanile hang lower compared to St. Mark’s, so it’s better to avoid visiting at noon – they’ll mark the hour for 12 long, ear-piercing chimes.

    Location: Isola San Giorgio Maggiore, Venice, Italy

    Open: April–October: daily from 9 am to 7 pm. November–March: daily from 8.30 am to 6 pm.

    Phone: +39 (0)41 522 7827

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    15

    Venice gondola rides

    Cruise the Grand Canal to a gondolier's barcarolle

    • Couples
    • Families

    Gondola rides can seem cheesy and a bit touristy to most, but everyone seems to have a photo or selfie taken with a gondolier and the canal in the background! Rides aren’t cheap. Bargain upfront, with rides for about 40 minutes (as a family or group, a single gondola can carry up to 6). Evening rides are also available at higher rates. There are many starting points around the canal. Popular spots include the waterside of the Doge’s Palace and Riva del Vin, near the Rialto Bridge. Be very clear on your agreed price and ride duration.

    Location: Traghetto di Riva del Vin, Venice, Italy

    Open: Daily from 10 am to 7 pm

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    Ari Gunadi | Compulsive Traveller

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