Unveiling the Secrets of Venice: Ultimate Travel Guide to the City of Canals
Venice is one of the most beautiful and unique cities in the world. With its intricate waterways, stunning architecture, and rich cultural heritage, Venice is the must-see destination for anyone interested in art, history, and romance. Whether you're planning a romantic getaway or a family holiday, this is the extensive guide that does justice to the one and only Venice.
Getting to Venice
The easiest way to get to Venice is by flying into Venice Marco Polo Airport, which is located on the mainland about 8 miles from the city centre. From the airport, you can take a taxi, a bus, or a water taxi to Venice. Another option is to take a train to Venice's Santa Lucia train station, which is located in the heart of the city.
Exploring Venice: Venice Gondola Rides and Vaporettos
Venice is a city of canals, so one of the best ways to explore it is by taking a boat tour. You can take a gondola ride, which is a classic Venetian experience, but it can be quite expensive. Alternatively, you can take a vaporetto, which is a public water bus that travels up and down the Grand Canal and throughout the city. The vaporetto is much cheaper than a gondola ride, and it's a great way to see the sights and get around the city on water.
Venice gondola rides are one of the city's most iconic experiences, offering a romantic and picturesque way to explore the canals. Gondolas are traditional Venetian boats that have been used for centuries to navigate the city's winding waterways. On a gondola ride, floating beneath charming bridges and past historic buildings, all while being serenaded by a gondolier is one of the best things to do in Venice. While gondola rides can be expensive, they're a must-do activity for many visitors to Venice and provide a unique perspective on this stunning city.
Gondolas can be rented from various locations throughout Venice, including the Grand Canal, Rialto Bridge, and San Marco Square. The price of a gondola ride can vary depending on factors such as the time of day, duration, and the number of passengers. A typical gondola ride can cost around 80-120 euros for a 30-40 minute ride, and prices may be higher in the evenings or during peak tourist season. It's worth noting that some gondoliers may negotiate on price, so it's always a good idea to confirm the price beforehand and agree on it with the gondolier.
Venice Landmarks: Some of the must-see sights in Venice
- St. Mark's Basilica: This stunning cathedral is one of the most famous landmarks in Venice. Its Byzantine architecture and elaborate mosaics are a testament to Venice's rich cultural history.
- Doge's Palace: This magnificent palace was once the centre of Venetian political power. Today, it's a museum that showcases the city's art and architecture.
- Rialto Bridge: This iconic bridge spans the Grand Canal and offers stunning views of the city.
- The Grand Canal: This is the main waterway in Venice, and it's lined with beautiful buildings and palaces.
Gastronomy Paradise: Venetian Cuisine
Venice is famous for its seafood, so be sure to sample some of the local dishes. Some of the must-try foods include:
- Sarde in saor: This is a traditional Venetian dish made with marinated sardines, onions, and raisins.
- Baccalà mantecato: This is a creamy spread made from salt cod and olive oil.
- Risi e bisi: This is a risotto made with fresh peas and pancetta.
On the food front - things are getting serious. There are plenty of restaurants in Venice, but be aware that some of them can be quite expensive. If on a budget, look for places that offer “cicchetti” which are small plates of food that are typically served in bars and taverns. In fact, one of the best ways to truly enjoy the culinary culture in Venice is to make your way through the city eating cicchetti.
These little bites are on offer in Venetian wine bars all day—you can partake of them for a snack, for aperitivo, or eat enough of them that you’re satisfied for lunch or even dinner. They are wonderful and it is a truly unique Venetian experience. Do Spade, All’Arco and Al Merca’ are all good options around Rialto for very traditional cicchetti. Close to Rialto Bridge, Cantina Do Mori is the most ancient bacaro (tavern) of Venice. It was in fact founded in 1462. According to the legend, the young Casanova used to take his conquest right here for the first dates. Cantine del Vino Schiavi is an incredibly authentic spot famous for Crostini and Baccalà mantecato.
Cantina do Mori
Cantine del Vino Schiavi
Da Ivo, which has a charming interior space with hanging copper pots and red-and-pink checked tablecloths and napkins will be a divine moment as well.
Take a stroll along the Fondamenta Misericordia in Cannaregio and stop at any café or restaurant you see. There is a low possibility that it will go wrong, but to play it safe, Enoteca Ai Artisti, La Sete, Antica Mola dai Costa, Ormesini or Vino Vero are fantastic. In the mood for something sweet? When in Venice, Bacaro del Gelato.
Venice is a city that makes travellers completely surrounded by history, as anywhere else in Italy. To this day, Venetians celebrate holidays, birthdays and special occasions at Harry's Bar, where Ernest Hemingway used to hang out, following hunting expeditions on Torcello.
Inside Harry's Bar Venice
Certainly another quintessential Venetian symbol is Caffè Florian, on the Piazza San Marco where you pay for elegance, history and charm. Not to skip one of Florian’s neighbours, the wonderful Lavena. Carlo Lavena acquired his San Marco coffee house in 1860 and transformed it into the elegant Caffè Lavena. Musicians and composers like Franz Liszt and Richard Wagner were its patrons, earning it the nickname “caffè dei musicisti” – the musicians’ caffè. In fact, when looked carefully at the caffè’s 18th- and 19th-century décor of marble tables, velvet-upholstered wooden chairs and vintage mirrors, Wagner’s seat marked with a commemorative plaque will be visible.
For a proper sit down, the restaurants in Castello are also rightly famous: Al Covo, CoVino, Local, Wildner Venezia. Do not miss the pizza at Aciugheta.
Venetian Art: Museums to Visit in Venice
These are just a few of the many museums and galleries that Venice has to offer, and travellers should definitely do some research and decide which ones they are most interested in visiting based on their personal interests and preferences.
- Peggy Guggenheim Collection: Located in the Dorsoduro district, this museum is home to a stunning collection of modern art, including works by Picasso, Dalí, and Pollock.
- Palazzo Ducale (Doge's Palace): While not strictly a museum, the Doge's Palace does feature a number of art and historical exhibits that showcase the rich cultural heritage of Venice.
Did you know? One of the most famous historic legends in Venice is the story of the Doge's Palace and the Bridge of Sighs. According to the legend, the Bridge of Sighs was so named because it was the last view of Venice that prisoners would have before being taken to their cells in the Doge's Palace.
The Doge's Palace, located in St. Mark's Square, was the residence of the Doge, the chief magistrate of Venice, and the centre of Venetian government for centuries. The palace was also a notorious prison, and the Bridge of Sighs was built in the 17th century to connect the palace to the prison across the canal.
According to the legend, prisoners would sigh as they crossed the bridge, knowing that they would likely never see the outside world again. Some versions of the legend also claim that the bridge was designed to prevent prisoners from seeing the beauty of Venice and becoming too attached to the city.
Today, the Doge's Palace and the Bridge of Sighs are popular tourist attractions in Venice, and visitors can take guided tours of the palace and cross the bridge to experience the haunting beauty of this historic legend for themselves.
- Gallerie dell'Accademia: This museum, located in the Dorsoduro district, is home to an extensive collection of Venetian art from the 14th to the 18th century, including works by Bellini, Titian, and Tintoretto.
- Ca' Rezzonico: This museum is housed in a beautiful 18th-century palazzo on the Grand Canal and features exhibits on Venetian art and culture from the 18th century.
- Museo Correr: This museum, located in St. Mark's Square, is home to a vast collection of art, artefacts, and historical documents related to the history of Venice.
- Palazzo Grassi: This contemporary art museum, located near the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, showcases works by contemporary artists from around the world.
Venetian Islands: A Trip to Murano and Burano, and Lido di Venezia
Every time one travels to Venice, it is possible to discover something new. However, after exploring Venice’s main attractions, also consider taking a day trip to the nearby islands of Murano and Burano. Murano is famous for its glass blowing industry and visitors can watch artisans create intricate glass pieces. There are also several glass museums on the island. Burano is known for its colourful houses and lace-making tradition. The island's picturesque canals and charming streets make it a popular destination for photographers and artists.
Trattoria da Romano in Burano makes the most famous bowl of risotto in the world. On the Lido di Venezia, try La Tavernetta owned by the wine sommelier Ottavio Venditto.
Staying in Venice: Venice Accommodation
These are just a few of the many luxury boutique hotels that Venice has to offer, and travellers looking for a truly indulgent experience should definitely consider staying at one of these.
- The Gritti Palace - This opulent hotel, located on the Grand Canal, offers luxurious rooms and suites that feature elegant décor and modern amenities. The hotel also boasts a rooftop terrace with stunning views of the city.
- Ca Maria Adele - This intimate boutique hotel, located in the Dorsoduro district, features beautifully decorated rooms and suites that are inspired by different regions of Italy. The hotel also has a private courtyard and a rooftop terrace with panoramic views of the city.
- Palazzo Barbarigo - This luxurious hotel, located on the Grand Canal, offers spacious rooms and suites that feature classic Venetian décor and modern amenities. The hotel also has a private courtyard and a rooftop terrace with beautiful views of the city.
- Palazzina Grassi - This luxury boutique hotel, located in the San Marco district, offers stylish rooms and suites that feature contemporary design and modern amenities. The hotel also has a private courtyard and a rooftop terrace with stunning views of the city. Palazzina Grassi is designed by Philippe Starck, one of the world's most famous designers. Each room features unique decor that combines traditional Venetian elements with contemporary furnishings. The hotel also has a Michelin-starred restaurant, a bar, and a spa, making it a perfect retreat for travellers who want to indulge in some luxury and relaxation.
- Hotel Metropole - This historic hotel, located near St. Mark's Square, features beautifully decorated rooms and suites that combine classic Venetian style with modern amenities. The hotel also has a private garden and a rooftop terrace with views of the city and the lagoon.
- Hotel Danieli - Hotel Danieli is a luxurious 5-star hotel located in the heart of Venice, Housed in a beautiful 14th-century palace, the hotel boasts stunning views of the Venetian lagoon and is just steps away from the city's most famous landmarks, including St. Mark's Square and the Doge's Palace. The hotel celebrated its 200th birthday only last year, however the oldest part of the hotel, the Palazzo Dandolo, dates from the 14th century. Staying in the historic part means walking through its Venetian Gothic grand noble floors. But there are actually two other palaces that make up the hotel—Palazzo Casa Nuova (formerly the city’s treasury) and Palazzo Danieli Excelsior, which was beautifully redesigned by Jacques Garcia, and offer views of the Grand Canal.
There are plenty of hotels and other accommodations in Venice, but be aware that they can be quite expensive, especially if you're staying in the heart of the city. For a budget travel in Venice, consider staying on the mainland and taking a vaporetto or a train into the city each day.
Final Tips: What is the best time to visit Venice?
Venice can be quite crowded, especially during peak tourist season (June-August). If possible, try to visit during the shoulder season (April-May or September-October) when the crowds are smaller and the weather is still pleasant.
- Be prepared to do a lot of walking in Venice. The city is not car-friendly, so you'll need to be comfortable walking or taking public transportation.
- Dress appropriately for the weather. Venice can be quite hot and humid in the summer, so be sure to wear light, breathable clothing. In the winter, it can be quite cold and damp, so be sure to bring comfortable clothes to keep warm.
The good news is that Venice is one of the only places that has managed to preserve its history and personality over the years. Therefore, it is possible to put the aforementioned museum, restaurant or general recommendations into practice for years to come. Buon viaggio!