Dilapidated. Decaying. Over-crowded. But to me, Venice is the most beautiful place in the world. Nowhere on earth can compare to this slowly sinking city. Sure, it’s teeming with tourists in the summer and yes, many of the crumbling buildings could use a little touching up (which I think is actually a huge part of the charm), but still Venice is a city of infinite postcard-worthy photos. I’ve been to Venice three times at different stages in my life, and each time I’ve looked at the city with a different perspective. I can’t wait to return in another decade to discover my thoughts then. Below are my top ten things to do in breathtaking Venice, Italy.
1) Visit the Piazza San Marco during the day and at night. This is a very obvious answer, but to experience the heart of Venice at different times of the day will give you a glimpse into two very different worlds. By day, even though it’s noisy and overflowing with pigeons and tourists, you can still admire the sumptuous architecture of the basilica, surrounding arcades and Torre dell’Orologio (Clock Tower). By night, when most of the crowds have left—especially after the cruise ships have departed—the piazza has an eerie, yet romantic quality about it. Take a seat at one of the outdoor cafés, sip an aperitivo or glass of wine and listen to the tuxedoed musicians performing beneath flowing, white awnings. To be surrounded on all sides by so much history is beyond words. When I was there most recently, the tide came in and the piazza slowly started to pool with water, creating the most gorgeous reflections.
2) Take the elevator to the top of the Campanile di San Marco. A trip to the top of the highest point in Venice is a no-brainer for the most spectacular of vistas. Gaze out at the terracotta roofs of the city below, the Venetian lagoon dotted with boats, and the sparkling Adriatic Sea in the distance. It’s truly remarkable to see the domes of the Basilica San Marco, grayed with patina, from high above.
3) Take a vaporetto to Murano. The island of Murano is world famous for its colorful and elaborate glass. You can wander the streets and even peek into a craftsman’s workshop to watch a glass-blowing demonstration. There are tons of shops on this petite isle where you can buy some glassware or keepsakes to bring home with you. Plus, the boat ride across the lagoon is a really enjoyable trip.
4) Catch some rays on the island of Lido. When you mention Venice, most people never think of the beach. However, the island of Lido—which faces the Adriatic Sea—features some fine sandy beaches that make for a great escape from the hustle and bustle of Venice proper. Although mostly residential, this narrow 6.75 mile (11 km) long island features many posh hotels and is also the location for the internationally renowned Venice Film Festival.
5) Take a gondola ride along the canals. This is a favorite among tourists to Venice; however, it’s quite expensive (roughly €100 for a forty minute trip.) A cheaper option if you want to ride in a gondola but not break the bank is to take a traghetto. For only about 50 cents, these stripped-down gondolas dart across the Grand Canal from seven locations along Venice’s main artery. You certainly won’t be serenaded, but it’s perfect for photos.
6) Window-shop on the Rialto Bridge. It would be nearly impossible to visit Venice without crossing Ponte de Rialto, located near the center of the city. Completed in 1591, its two inclined ramps lead up to a central portico. The bridge has three walkways: two along the outer balustrades, and a wider central walkway leading between rows of small shops that sell jewelry, linens, Murano glass, and other souvenirs.
7) Tour the Doge’s Palace. Called the Palazzo Ducale in Italian, the Doge’s Palace sits at the edge of St. Mark’s Square on the smaller Piazzetta facing the lagoon. This Gothic palace was constructed between 1309 to 1424 as the residence of the supreme authority of the Repubblica Venezia, known as the Doge. You can tour the interior for a glimpse at Venetian opulence at its finest. Facing the lagoon is the Grand Chamber Council, where the ruling elite of Venice once met. You’re sure to notice Tintoretto’s masterpiece Paradise, said to be the largest painting ever done on canvas.
8) Visit St. Mark’s Basilica (Basilica Cattedrale Patriarcale di San Marco) The lines to get in may be long, but it’s unquestionably worth the wait. Be sure to climb to the upper level for beautiful views of the church’s interior and to access the outside balcony. The basilica’s domed ceilings are gilded in elaborate Byzantine mosaics and the intricate inlaid marble floor is also quite spectacular.
9) Take a vaporetto down the length of the Grand Canal. One of the best ways to see Venice is from the water—on one of the ubiquitous water taxis, called vaporetti. The S-shaped waterway snakes its way through the city and is lined with many opulent villas and palazzi, including the Palazzo Venier die Leoni which houses the impressive Peggy Guggenheim Collection. You’ll pass under the city’s three oldest bridges, Ponte de Rialto, Ponte degli Scalzi and Ponte dell’Accademia and see sights that can only be seen from the canal.
10) Allow yourself to get lost! Venice is a cluster of over one-hundred islands, so you can’t truly get lost, but it’s sure fun trying. You can spend hours wandering the narrow labyrinthine alleyways, crossing over random footbridges, and admiring architecture steeped in history. Be sure to explore the other neighborhoods of Venice that are a little off the beaten tourist path too, like Santa Croce, Dorsoduro, and La Giudecca to experience a more “authentic” Venice.
How To Get There: Venice is an international city, with direct and non-stop flights from the U.S. and Europe. If you’re departing from London, enjoy savings of up to 60% off by taking advantage of pre-paid, hassle-free Heathrow Parking or Gatwick parking. Or if you’re traveling from the northern U.K., check out the affordable options for Manchester Airport Parking too!
|Here are some more tips for enjoying Venice:|
- A cheaper option for lodging is near the train station. Signs all over Venice say Ferrovia. Just follow the signs, and you’ll never get lost on your way back to your hotel.
- Ship your Murano glass home to prevent breakage while traveling.
- Don’t miss out on gelato! Favorite flavors include Cioccolato, Nocciola, and Frutti di Bosco.
Have you ever been to Venice? What were your impressions? Feel free to comment in the section below!
Michael Figueiredo is a freelance travel writer based in Los Angeles, California. When he’s not gallivanting around the world, he’s enjoying the laid-back lifestyle and perfect weather of Southern California. So far he’s visited forty countries and territories on five continents. His goal is to see at least one new country every year! . Read more from this author