Venice is filled with luxury, glamour, and class at every turn. Built on 100 different islands linked together through a network of bridges and canals, the city floats on top of the Adriatic Sea. As part of my broader 7 days in Italy, we had the opportunity to explore this amazing place! There is so much to see and do across all of these different islands. This Venice travel guide outlines my top 5 things not to miss, as well as how to get to the island and where to stay to make the most out of your trip!
Throughout my travels I have continuously heard that certain cities were the “Venice” of their countries. Amsterdam is the “Venice” of the Netherlands. Zhouzhuang is the “Venice” of China. The list goes on and on (just google it and you come up with countless results). However, none can compare to the real Venice in Italy. This travel guide highlights all the essentials to see & do in this luxurious city …
Where to stay in Venice:
Location is key when we travel (remember from my Seattle Travel Guide). We would rather pay a little extra to be in the best area than have to hike to all the best sights. Similarly, for this Travel Guide of Venice, the same holds true. For our short stay in Venice we choose the Metropole Hotel. This hotel was in the prime location, being only a short walk away from Doges Palace and St. Mark’s Basilica. They had free breakfast in their beautiful garden and the rooms were decorated for the period, but with modern amenities.
There were numerous other great options in this central area as well, such as Hotel Danieli (at a higher end price point if you are willing to slurge) or Ca’ dei Dogi (at a more budget friendly price point).
How to get to Venice:
There are many options for how to get to Venice. We were coming from Milan (after a quick stop in Lake Como) and the easiest way was by train (Similarly, you could also come from Florence, Rome, etc. easily by train). It was a little over an hour train ride from Milan to Venice.
Once we arrived in Venice, we got tickets for the vaporetto (Venice’s version of a bus service except they are boats that go through the canals). This was super easy as the train station has an area where you can buy your tickets before you board the vaporetto. The lady we purchased from also explained to us the different pick-up points, locations, & how to board the boats. The vaporettos are not only a cheap way to get from point A to point B, but also an awesome way to see all the sights by water (including the Grand Canal and the Rialto Bridge). We got a 2 day pass and used it throughout our stay to see all of Venice and the surrounding islands.
What to do in Venice:
Built in the 12th century, Doge’s Palace was the head of the Venice Republic. The luxurious palace is located in St. Mark’s Square and offers self-guided tours to explore the history, architecture, & artwork of the palace. You can even explore the dungeon by passing through the Bridge of Sighs.
Built in the 12th century as the Doge’s church, St. Mark’s Basilica is one of the most beautiful churches throughout Europe. With its golden mosaics and domes telling biblical stories, it’s architecture is something to marvel at. Also the floor mosaics have warped over time with flooding and tides. Skip the lines for both the basilica and campanile (bell tower), by arriving early in the morning. Being first in line for the bell tower offers spectacular views of the city and canals just as the city starts to come alive. With the morning light reflecting off the gold mosaics and domes, the church sparkles in the morning light.
Venice is notorious for gondola rides throughout its canals. It’s one of those things that you can’t miss in Venice! They are a bit pricey though, but well worth the money, especially if you are with a group of people (~80-100 Euros for a 40 minute ride). You can pick them up throughout the city as you explore the side streets. We picked ours up by heading toward the Grand Canal from St. Mark’s Square and found a bunch huddled at one of the canal openings (read more about our gondola experience here). Regardless of where you pick up a gondola, you will at some point end up at the Grand Canal; however, gondola rides allow you a different perspective on the city. They let you see into the back of businesses, catch a glimpse of local houses and apartments, and experience what it is like to live in Venice.
Rialto Bridge & The Grand Canal:
Built in the 16th century, Rialto Bridge is the oldest bridge spanning the Grand Canal. It has cute little souvenir shops throughout the inside of the bridge and offers amazing views of the canal. We found a cute little outdoor cafe to have lunch at that was very close to the bridge and offered amazing views of the canal. It was the perfect spot for a lunch in the sun watching all the boats and gondola’s ride by.
Glass Blowing Demonstration:
Venice is known for its deep history of glass blowing. No visit is complete without at least a visit to one of the many glass shops; however, if you are able to make it to Murano, your experience is even better. Murano is where it all started. Murano is a short vaporetto away from the main Venice island. On the island, you can take in a glass blowing demonstration and learn from the masters all about traditional venetian glass.