The Best Things To Do In Venice

Written By: Chris Manning

It has come down through the ages as one of Europe’s most enchanting and intriguing cities. And today, it’s very special allure continues to draw crowds of tourists in search of the city famed for its gondolas and canals, its intricate glasswork and the lovely operatic music it is famous for. Situated in northern Italy, the City of Masks is distributed over a cluster of tiny islands on the Adriatic coast and sits east of Verona and north of Ravenna, Bologna and Ferrara.

A vacation in this floating city is a treat which will prove to be the experience of a lifetime. You will be able to view its breathtaking architecture, enjoy a ride in a gondola, and even participate in the festivals which bring the magic of the city alive in a special way. Compared to the vast, modern fashion capital Milan, Venice offers a completely different experience and will bring you face to face with some of the most alluring aspects of Italian culture. And if you intend to exchange the trendy shops of the former for the sights and sounds of the latter you will be able to arrive in a little over two hours by train. The capital city itself is also a few hours’ journey away and connections are also available from the city of lights, Paris via overnight trains. One of Venice’s peculiarities is the fact that it is a pedestrian city since no vehicles or bikes are permitted. Water buses and water taxis are however available and are an enjoyable means of exploring the city.

One of the very best ways to start off your vacation in Venice is by taking a guided tour of the Doge’s Palace which will bring you face to face with the opulence in which the rulers of the city lived centuries ago. A visit to the Ca’ Rezzonico museum will also bring you up close with the lifestyle of the Venetian upper-class while Murano’s Museo del Vetro is the best venue for admiring some of the most beautiful glasswork created in the city. One of the most enduring images of Venice is of its many canals and gondolas and it is definitely worth taking ride on these famous watercrafts. Sampling the delectable specialties of each city is always a great idea too and while you are in Venice you will be able to visit the i Tre Mercanti which is filled with a variety of really delicious offerings.


The Grand Canal

Most large cities have a main street or highway; Venice has the Grand Canal – a major thoroughfare for the transportation of people and goods. Take a gondola and glide past the palazzos – the beautiful mansions from another era. Or, walk the banks and buy some fruit and vegetables form a moored boat – you’ll really understand how important these canals are to the city! Then, from the bridges that cross the Grand Canal, stop for a while and take in the history and beauty of this waterway – it’s all so very beautiful!


Doge’s Palace (Palazzo Ducale)

As trading ships visited Venice in the seventeenth century, one of the first landmarks they saw was Doge’s Palace (Palazzo Ducale) – an impressive reminder of who ruled the Venetian Empire. Today, you can visit this seat of power, and as you study the magnificent architecture, you may notice that every column is slightly different. Explore the interior and see the opulence of this bygone era on display through art, soaring staircases, and apartments. Not so luxurious are the prison cells, but nonetheless well used!


Saint Mark’s Basilica (Basilica of San Marco)

As you visit Venice, you will see many examples of beautiful architecture, but St Mark’s Basilica (Basilica of San Marco) will stand out from them all. As you approach, the mix of architecture will strike you – Gothic, Byzantine, Romanesque and Renaissance styles are all to be seen. The magnificent domes and turrets tower over St Mark’s Square. The beauty of the interior must be seen, so take your time and meander through the crowds to absorb it all. Perhaps make the tour extra special and enquire about an after-hours tour!


Saint Mark’s Square (Piazza San Marco)

There is plenty of space – but likely also plenty of people – when you visit St Mark’s Square, the symbolic heart of Venice. It’s a great place to sit and watch the hustle and bustle of the city, as you wait to visit landmarks such as St Mark’s Basilica. If you have finished sightseeing for the day, take a seat at one of the cafes that line one border and have a snack and a drink. As you leave, in one direction, you can choose to stroll along the river, and in the other direction dive into the narrow streets that are full of shops.


Rialto Bridge (Ponte di Rialto)

When you stand on the Rialto Bridge (Ponte di Rialto), you are standing on the location of the first bridge ever constructed over the Grand Canal. The original was built in 1180, and the current structure was built in 1588 – there’s been a lot of water under the bridge since then! Being the first bridge, it naturally became a central hub for the city, and today you will see that history, mostly in the form of shops. Not far away you will find the markets – operating now for more than 700 years – where you can watch the water traffic glide by.


Venice Islands

Take some time to visit the Venice Islands, and mix an exploration of the history of craft skills, with the appreciation of the oldest architecture in the city. Burano is the place to seek out exquisite samples of lace, Murano is famous for the artisan skills, and Torcello – being one of the first areas populated – has examples of very early architecture. The islands are small but packed with interest!


The Dolomites

Located in north-eastern Italy, the Dolomites are some of Europe’s most pristine mountain ranges. Some come for the skiing and some come for the mountain climbing, but activities aside, it’s worth coming just to soak up the views and explore the quaint villages scattered throughout the region.

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