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Entering Venice feels like something from a movie. The Grand Canal leads you past the crumbling facades of Renaissance and Gothic homes, hotels, and churches. You’ll see gondoliers and vaporetti (water taxis) passing by as you take in the history of this magical place. The city was built on 118 islands and has over 400 bridges connecting them within a lagoon in the Adriatic Sea. Once a mighty trade empire with silk and spices passing through, Venice is now a tourist haven and is consistently ranked one of the most beautiful cities in the world. I’ve been fortunate to travel there six times to date and find something new each time.
Here are five things you can’t miss on your visit.
5. St. Mark’s Basilica and The Doge’s Palace
When you venture into St. Mark’s Square, you’ll be able to hit up several of the city’s biggest attractions across from each other. St. Mark’s Basilica is the cathedral church of the Catholic Patriarchate of Venice. It was consecrated in 1094 and became the episcopal seat in 1807. The Doge’s Palace was built in the Venetian Gothic style in 1340 and it became a museum in 1923. This was the residence of the Doge of Venice who was the supreme authority of the Republic. It’s a huge, ornate building and worth the time to visit. Take a moment and go around the side away from the square to take a photo of The Bridge of Sighs, which Lord Byron wrote about in his 1812 book, Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage.
Can’t Miss: Behind the Doge’s throne you’ll find the longest canvas painting in the world. It’s titled Il Paradiso by Tintoretto.
Address: Piazza San Marco, 328, 30100 Venezia VE, Italy | Piazza San Marco, 1, 30124 Venezia VE, Italy
4. Climb The Campanile di San Marco
The good news is that unlike a lot of other towers, there is no climbing here. The only way to the top of the Campanile di San Marco is via elevator. The current bell tower was reconstructed in 1912 after the previous one collapsed in 1902. It’s almost 325 feet high and the tallest structure in Venice. From the top, you’ll be able to see the all of the lagoon and the alps in the distance.
Can’t Miss: Look up and try to see the golden angel that tops the tower.
Address: Piazza San Marco, 30124 Venezia VE, Italy
3. Eat Some Cicchetti
Think of cicchetti like Italian tapas. You will find these bite-sized treats everywhere in Venice. Check out Cantina Do Spade or Cantina Do Mori, which are two of the oldest (having opened in 1488 and 1462) and near the Rialto Bridge. Bites include everything from anchovies to cheese to cured meats and vegetables.
Can’t Miss: You don’t need a table for these snacks. Pick a few and scarf them down at the counter.
Address: Various locations in Venice
2. Murano, Burano, and Torcello
Hop on the vaporetto running on line 12 to get to these three islands and away from the crowds. Each has its own charms. Murano is home to handblown glass and colorfully painted homes. Burano is the place to buy handmade lace. Finally, Torcello is home to the Santa Maria Assunta church and its impressive mosaics. Torcello is the quietest of the islands with few residents (many left in the 14th century due to malaria outbreaks and never returned).
Can’t Miss: Take time to watch one of the glass blowing demonstrations that take place throughout the island in the many showrooms and factories. Look for authentic glass and not the cheap Chinese imports.
Address: All three islands are in the Venetian lagoon.
1. Follow the Signs Per Rialto and Then Wander
Throughout Venice you’ll see yellow signs that say “Per S. Marco” or “Per Rialto.” These will lead you to St. Mark’s Square and the Rialto Bridge. Head towards the bridge, which was built in 1588. Check out some of the shops and climb its steps. Then take some time to wander the narrow, winding streets and cross the many bridges. There is no harm in getting lost in Venice. If you happen to, you’re in a lagoon on a series of islands and will find your way back. Once away from the crowds, you’ll see how the ever-dwindling number of locals live and get a true taste of Venetian life.
Can’t Miss: Take a selfie on the steps before beginning you fare una passeggiata (take a walk around the city).
Address: Sestiere San Polo, 30125 Venezia VE, Italy
Come for the the beauty and stay for the history. With buildings dating back as long as 800 years, you’ll marvel at the architecture of this jewel of the Adriatic. These are my can’t miss picks for Venice.
Bonus Hotel Pick: My favorite hotel in Venice is the Hotel Danieli. But, it recently left Marriott and will become a Four Seasons in 2025. I’ve stayed here multiple times, but will likely go with my other top pick in the future, The Gritti Palace, a Luxury Collection Hotel. This former palace was built in 1475 and it’s only an eight-minute walk to St. Mark’s Square. I love the old world elegance and it’s prime views from the restaurant.
Address: Campo Santa Maria Del Giglio, 2467, 30124 Venezia VE, Italy
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