Venice is captivating. It draws visitors in with the beauty of its canals, its architecture, and the artwork that it houses within its churches and galleries. It seduces with its superb craftsmen, who create masterpieces with leather and glass, and it enchants with its food and drink. There's nowhere like it on earth.
Made up of hundreds of islands in the Venetian Lagoon, the city can only really be navigated on foot or by boat. Motor vehicles are rare, giving Venice a kind of peaceful atmosphere that allows visitors to focus on enjoying the sights and tastes of the city.
Venice is a city for lovers, with its intimate gondolas and sublime artworks. But it's more than that. It's a city for everyone. If you have an interest in art, cinema, music, or architecture, or just want to be swept away by a magical destination, Venice is a city you will adore.
What could be more romantic than gliding underneath the bridges of the Grand Canal, a glass of prosecco in your hand as you rest on the soft cushions of a gondola with the one you love? Venice has long been associated with lovers, ever since the days of Casanova, and it's still a wonderful destination for a romantic escape.
Venice is one of Europe's most fascinating cities. For centuries, the small, former republic on the Adriatic dominated the Mediterranean, developing a sophisticated culture and creating architectural masterpieces like the Basilica San Marco and the Bridge of Sighs. Walking or boat tours with companies like Venice Escapes will make it all come alive in front of your eyes.
If you love art, you'll love Venice. See masterpieces like Titian's "Assumption of the Virgin" in the church of I Frari or frescoes by Tiepolo at the Santa Maria della Pietà, or visit during the city's much more modern Biennale, when the whole artistic and architectural world comes to Venice to display their accomplishments.
Venice is as much of a delight for your taste buds as it is for your eyes. Whether you want to try roasted rabbit, polenta, a traditional risotto, or a plate heaped high with ravioli, Venetian restaurants like Trattoria Dalla Marisa will satisfy you. Combine your meals with prosecco, one of the surrounding Veneto region's local specialties.
Venice and classical music go together like Milan and fashion. Whenever you visit, the Teatro La Fenice will almost certainly have a program of classical concerts featuring works by famous Venetians like Vivaldi. You could also time your trip to coincide with the Venice Film Festival - one of the world's most prestigious cinema contests.
Symbol of Venetian wealth, the square most famously gathers Venice's tall Campanile tower, the gold-adorned St Mark's Basilica, and the Doge's Palace. The latter offers a fascinating secret-itinerary tour, across the Bridge of Sighs into the quarters of the city's rulers, where Casanova was once jailed.
A constant show of sleek maneuvers and argumentative skills, the Grand Canal is the central thoroughfare of the Floating City. The public Vaporetto boats cruise past the private docks of opulent palaces, such as the Ca' d'Oro, with direct stops the Accademia and Peggy Guggenheim Museums, home to international masterpieces.
The jewel of the Grand Canal is the Rialto Bridge, one of the 400 connectors needed to cross the endless waterways of Venice. Built in the 16th century to provide access to the market of the same name, the stone steps are now lined with stalls offering trinkets and jewels. The peak of the bridge offers views of the over the Grand Canal for the obligatory photo-op.
Away from St. Mark's and the Rialto lie Venetian islands off the beaten canal. The center for lacemaking, Burano is even more beloved for its brightly colored houses lining the water. Even more famous, Murano is famous for impeccable glass blowing but might feel a bit overcrowded. Torcello is the farthest of the three and one the oldest settlements of the laguna, its ancient church boasting unparalleled mosaics.
Three times risen from the ashes, this opera house has retained all of its reputation and atmosphere. One of many venues partaking in the city's continuous, touristy-yet-genuine schedule of concerts and musical medleys, La Fenice should serve as a strong reminder: if you're ever going to listen to Verdi or Vivaldi live, do it in Venice !
If you want to have the canals to yourself and view the churches in peace, visit Venice in the fall or early spring. September and October see bright, usually warm weather, and the same applies to April and May. Summer brings blazing sunshine, but also heavy crowds, and booking restaurants and attractions can be tough.
Venice Marco Polo Airport (VCE) is conveniently located for reaching the main islands, lying about eight miles away from the city's historic center. One route into town is to take the Alilaguna water taxi, which takes around an hour and costs EUR15. Alternatively, you can take bus number 5, which costs EUR8 and takes around 30 minutes to reach San Marco.
Venice can be easily reached by train from other Italian cities or European destinations. For example, you can pick up tickets from London or Paris to Venice via Milan. The main station (Santa Lucia) is on the northern edge of the city, but has excellent water bus connections to other parts of town.
Although driving in central Venice isn't an option, driving to Venice is. The city is reachable via the E70 from Milan and the A13 from Florence, and you can park your car at Park and Ride garages on the mainland before catching the boat to Venice itself.
Buses are a popular way to reach Venice, and companies serving the city include Baltour and Flixbus, providing connections to Milan, Florence, Rome, and European cities like Berlin and Paris. The main bus station is at Piazzale Roma, at the start of the Grand Canal.
The most exclusive accommodation options in Venice tend to be located on the main island in neighborhoods like Dorsoduro and San Marco, where some of the leading options include the Duodo Palace Hotel and the Hotel Giorgione. If you are looking for cheaper accommodation, Mestre is the place to stay, where the Hotel Venezia and the Novotel offer affordable lodging in pleasant neighborhoods. There are also plenty of charming family-run guesthouses like Antico Fiore, which tend to have lower prices and offer a more authentic Italian experience.
The Sestieri - the heart of Venice is its main islands, where neighborhoods like San Marco and Santa Croce are collectively known as the Sestieri. This is where you'll find most of Venice's beautiful religious buildings, including the Basilica San Marco, the Bridge of Sighs, and the Grand Canal.
Murano - named after its community of masterful glassmakers, Murano is a cluster of islands to the north of Venice's center. Although there are plenty of beautiful churches in Murano, it's the family-run restaurants and stores that make this area so special. You can still purchase locally made glass ornaments, while the Glass Museum is a must-see.
Giudecca - south of the Sestieri, but far less touristy, Giudecca is an upscale area that is characterized by small art galleries, fabric showrooms like Fortuny, and the tiny fast-food kiosks on the Fondamenta, the island's promenade. If you love boutique shopping and want a taste of the real Venice, Giudecca is a great place to visit.
What sets Venice apart from most cities is its reliance on water buses to get around. Known locally as vaporetti, these boats ply the city's canals and are a convenient way to get around. However, at EUR7 per journey, they aren't cheap. If you intend to use them regularly, buying a Tourist Travel Card makes sense, and costs EUR20 for one day or EUR60 for a week. Outside of the islands, land-based buses cost EUR1.50 per ride and 10-journey tickets cost EUR14.
Conventional taxis aren't much use on Venice's islands, but every visitor should arrange a ride on their aquatic equivalent: gondolas. The cost of gondola rides is fixed by the city at EUR80 for every 40 minutes and EUR40 for every 20 minutes after that, but individual gondaliers can charge extra for additional services, so the total cost could work out higher. Motorized water taxis are also available, and also charge high prices. Expect to pay around EUR70 for a short inner city journey.
Although driving around central Venice isn't an option, visitors can still rent a vehicle and use it to explore the wider Veneto region. Avis, Sixt, and Europcar all have branches in the city, and rental rates can be as low as EUR12 per day for economy vehicles.
Venice has a huge variety of places to shop, and where you go depends on what you are looking for. If glass jewelry and ornaments are what you want, Murano is the place to go. The Mercatino dell'Antiquariato is the town's major antiques market, while shoemakers like Mori e Bozzi can be found in Cannaregio. San Marco is a good area to look for leather accessories at stores like Raggio Veneziano, while Atelier Marega offers unique Venetian ball masks that make excellent souvenirs.
Venice isn't the best place to shop for groceries, but there are some supermarkets on the major islands, including a few Coops and Conad branches. The Mercato di Rialto is a good place to hunt for fresh fish, meat, and produce on Fridays and Saturdays. Don't expect rock-bottom grocery prices. A gallon of milk will cost around EUR6.70, while 12 eggs will cost EUR3.
Food is one of the things that Venice is most famous for. If you love Italian cuisine, there are few better cities to visit. Some of the finest restaurants in town include Antico Martini and La Caravella near San Marco, but you don't have to pay the earth for great food. In Castello, Trattoria Alla Rampa serves the freshest fish imaginable, Le Spighe specializes in healthy vegetarian spins on Italian favorites, while the roast rabbit at Trattoria Dalla Marisa is a real treat. Expect to pay EUR20 for set lunches and more than EUR30 for main meals in the evening. Street food can also be found for much less, and check out the cicchetti bars, where small portions of food can be had for as little as EUR2.