Arriving in Venice is like stepping into a surreal never-never land. Where most cities have car-choked roads and impenetrable one-way systems, Venice has gondolas, vaporetti sestieri (water buses) and a labyrinthine network of canals. With quaint little streets, narrow footbridges, colourful houses and grandiose buildings, you could spend days wandering around and still be captivated and enchanted at every turn!
Did You Know?
- Venice’s origins date to the 5th and 6th centuries, when barbarian invasions forced the Venetian inhabitants to seek refuge on the lagoon & islands. The city was initially ruled by the Byzantines from Ravenna, but in AD 726 the Venetians elected their first doge (duke).
- Over successive centuries the Venetian Republic grew into a great merchant power, dominating half the Mediterranean, the Adriatic and the trade routes to the Levant. It was from Venice that Marco Polo set out for China in 1271.
- Decline began in the 16th century and in 1797 the city authorities opened the gates to Napoleon who, in turn, handed the city over to the Austrians. In 1866 Venice was incorporated into the Kingdom of Italy.
1. Piazza San Marco
Piazza San Marco is the main square in Venice with some of the most visited and must see sights in town. The history of the buildings date back to the 9th century, but the more beautiful of all is the13th century San Marco Basilica. In Italy you must cover up your shoulders and knees to go inside a religious building, so make sure you do before attempting to go inside or you wont be allowed. Entry is free, so there is always a long queue to go inside, but don’t be put off by that as it moves fairly quickly.
Next door to the basilica is the Doge’s Palace, which was the seat of government and the palace of justice during the Venetian Republic. Across from the Palace is the Campanile Bell Tower that is nearly 100m tall. There is an observatory at the top, which you can get to by elevator to get a great view over all of Venice.
2. Grand Canal
Venice is made up of many canals and bridges, with the main canal called the ‘Grand Canal’. The Grand Canal is busy and runs from the Santa Lucia Railway all the way to Saint Mark Basin. Traveling up and down the Canal is a great way to see the city and its sights.
Through the middle of the Grand Canal you’ll find the heart of Venice, the Ponte di Rialto or Rialto Bridge. Built in the 16th century, it is the oldest bridge and also one the only bridge in town to have be covered in shops.
These slim lined wooden boats that sail quietly through the canals of Venice are the symbol of this city. The boats that are perfectly designed to get through the shallow waters and have been a part of the Venetian life and culture for centuries. Nowadays gondolas are mostly for tourists to experience the old culture and the skippers in the striped shirts will charge an arm and a leg to go for a ride, but when in Venice right? Generally the minimum fare is around €80 per gondola, seating up up to 6 people for a 40 minute ride, but depending on the skipper, and the time of day (generally after dinner, the price goes up), prices do change. If you’re on a tight budget, you can jump on a Traghetto, a gondola ferry, which shuttles you back and forth across the Grand Canal. It lasts a few minutes, but only costs around 2 Euros.
4. Ponte dei Pugni / The Bridge of Fists
For one Autumn in the 17th century, the locals turned to fighting to solve any problems in the city; from clashing romantic interests to trade conflicts. The men would meet on the local neighborhood bridge to settle their conflicts with their fists. The most famous of the bridges to fight was the Ponte Dei Pugni, which has been named the Bridge of Fists. You can see the four white footprints made out of marble that mark the position of where the fighters would begin their fights.
Famous for its glass making warehouses, Murano is a must see island, not too far from Venice. To get there, simply jump on a vaporetto or water bus to explore the island. Once there, you can wander the many glass shops, see free demonstrations and buy some unique souvenirs. There are also a few beautiful buildings on the island such as San Pietro Church with its tall Byzantine tower or the Glass Museum to check out.
1. All Arco
The best spot in town to try the local cinhetis – Venice’s version of the Spanish tapas. These tasty snacks are made from fresh ingredients sourced from the Rialto market. Grab a stool, some cichetis and a glass of prosecco and you’ll be set for the evening.
2. Osteria alla Staffa
Some of the best Italian cuisine in the area is served here and it shows, as the place is packed with locals. The meals are extremely affordable compared to Venice’s standards and you can expect to try dishes that are a perfect blend of tradition and invention. Save room for dessert as the owner’s mum does all the cooking and it’s amazing!
3. Casin dei Nobili
This former brothel makes a unique setting for a restaurant that serves up some extremely delicious food. Try the olive ascolane (olives covered in sausage meat and fried) for starters, followed by a delicious pizza.
Alfredo’s is a very popular takeaway pasta joint that has lines out the door. They make all the pasta fresh each day, so all you need to worry about is what pasta to pick, what sauce and topping, then you’re set to go.
Every city in Italy has its must go to gelato store and Venice’s is Suso! The gelato is all natural with no artificial colours and made from seasonal products.
1. Harry's Bar
Harry’s has been a popular spot with the young travelers and locals ever since it was opened in 1931. The bar has seen a lot of famous patrons through the years such as Charlie Chaplin, Earnest Hemingway, Alfred Hitchcock and Orson Welles. They serve pub style food, but the best thing is to come for the drinks as the Bellini cocktail was invented here.
2. Baraco Jazz Bar
Not too far from the Rialto Bridge, the Baraco Jazz Bar is a sophisticated late night hot spot that plays electronic music, golden oldies and of course jazz. p>
3. Devil’s Forest Pub
An English style pub that’s hugely popular with locals to meet travellers and speak English. For English speakers, this pub is a good place to grab your favourite beer and watch one of the sporting events on television.
4. Beast Club
Compared to other bars and clubs in Venice which are generally just restaurants playing music, Beast Club lives up to its name pumping house music till the early morning.
Click the coloured pins to find out how to get here
It was really good staying away from all the hustle and bustle of the centre and the shuttle was an added bonus."