Venice, called the most beautiful city in the world, is on everyone’s bucket list. It’s just everyone’s dream to go through the canals in gondola, stand on the Rialto bridge or go around St. Mark’s square. It has been doomed to failure for centuries because of its unusual location. Yet isn’t it the spot, where the lavish carnivals or local Film Festival takes place?
Venice has been built on separate islands, connected with bridges. It’s 118 islands linked by 417 bridges. It’s place like no other and I don’t think it can be compared to any other city in the world. It’s spectacular, but the mass tourism makes it really hard to enjoy it.
There’re just 60 thousand inhabitants, who live in the center of Venice and more than 200 000, who live in Mestre. It must be pretty difficult to live in such an overcrowded city, I guess locals know the exact places and hours to avoid.
WHEN NOT TO VISIT?
Avoid high season – Mid June, July and August because it gets really crowded. Following months should be okay. Spring is also an alternative. We’ve been in April, during Easter and during certain hours Venice is unbearable – you just flow with the crowd. If possible be an early riser and get a bit of Venice for yourself.
HOW TO MOVE AROUND VENICE?
By Vaporetto of course. Tickets are expensive, I know, but if it’s once in a lifetime, why not? One-way ticket valid for 75 minutes cost 9,50 Eur , while 24-hour ticket cost 25 Eur or 48-hour ticket costs 35 Eur. It’s the best option if you stay for a weekend. Take water tram –vaporetto number 1, which sails down the grand canal. You can get a different perspective of the city and move around between islands quicker.
WHAT TO SEE IN VENICE?
The main attractions like Rialto bridge, St. Marco square or Doge’s Palace are possible to see within half a day, but I do not recommend to do so. It’s the evening in Venice that’s the most magical time. If you don’t have an accommodation directly in Venice, try to stay till the last Vaporetto leaves. Have a late dinner in one of many restaurants and enjoy. During the day visit those places:
ST. MARK’S SQUARE
St Mark’s Square is home to some of Venice’s most magnificent buildings. Among them are St Mark’s Basilica and the Doge’s Palace and the bell tower (Campanile). You may also notice two huge columns on the square – one with St. Mark’s lion and the other one with St. Theodore accompanied by a strange creature. St Mark’s Square was often flooded, although now – with the dam system in place – this should finally change. At the St. Mark’s Square you will also find one of the oldest cafe in the world: Caffè Florian. Caffè Florian has been operating here continuously for three centuries, and in December 2020 – during the coronavirus pandemic – tit celebrated its 300th birthday.
ST. MARK’S BASILICA
Venice’s most important monument, which is also the tomb of St Mark. A basilica that from the very beginning was intended to be “the most beautiful ever seen”. The church combines different styles and has numerous ornaments, decorations and architectural details. Furthermore, the Basilica is a symbol of the permanence and power of the Venetian state – the longest-lasting republic in the world.
TIP: It’s cheaper to buy tickets online. It also allows you to skip the queue. Remember about appropriate outfit, it’s a place of worship after all.
Next to St Mark’s Basilica you’ll find the Doge’s Palace, or Palazzo Ducale, which is easily recognised by its distinctive Gothic façade. It is the second most important building in Venice, on which work began in the 11th century but, after many extensions and alterations, was not completed until the 15th century. Some elements were even finished in the 16th century.
For almost 1000 years the palace was the seat of Venice’s reigning doges, secret police and court. In addition, there was also a prison and a torture chamber. You may see the interiors if you have enough time.
There is one ticket for all four museums located in St Mark’s Square:
The Doge’s Palace (Palazzo Ducale);
Correr Museum (Museo Correr);
Archaeological Museum (Museo Archeologico);
St Mark’s Library (Sale Monumentali della Biblioteca Marciana).
Right in front of the basilica stand 98.5 metres high St Mark’s Bell Tower (Italian: Campanile di San Marco), which is the tallest building in Venice. The tower was built in 912 as a bell tower for the basilica and a beacon for ships. The structure had only 20-metre-high foundations. Due to the wind, floods and storm lightning that struck the tower on 14 July 1902, the structure collapsed. There were fortunately no casualties in the disaster. After several hours of deliberation, it was decided that the ower will be rebuilt. As so in 1912 a new, lighter tower erected above the city.
TIP: A ticket bought at the ticket office costs €10. However, at the price of €12, you can book a ticket online with entry at a specific time and skip the queue – tickets available on the official website.
BRIDGE OF SIGHTS
Doge’s Palace and the prison is connected by the Bridge of Sighs. Its construction was completed in 1614. Inside the bridge there are two corridors separated from each other. Convicts were led to the cells where they would serve their sentence. The bridge owes its fame to 19th century Romantic writers, who imagined convicts crossing the bridge longing for freedom, and having the last look at beloved ones and Venice. Casanova himself also crossed it. Today, the interior of the bridge is open to the public at the Doge’s Palace.
SAN MARCO DISTRICT
Follow the labyrinth of Venetian streets in the San Marco district. There’re sign directing to different attractions, but why not try to allow yourself for a bit of spontaneous action? Who knows, maybe in the narrow streets, you will find the best snack bar in Venice.
Venice’s most recognizable landmark and one of the world’s most famous bridges is the Rialto Bridge. It is located in the centre of Venice, over the Canal Grande, and is the oldest of all the bridges over Venice’s main canal. It was built between 1588 and 1591.
Really close to the Rialto bridge , there is a free viewing point at the roof of the Fondaco dei Tedeschi department store, where German merchants traded as early as the 13th century.
TIP: Entrance to the terrace can only be booked online for a specific day and time on the official website a visit to the roof can last a maximum of 15 minutes.
BASILICA OF SANTA MARIA GLORIOSA DEI FRARI
After St Mark’s Basilica, it is the second most important historic church in Venice. The Basilica of Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari was built in the 13th century in Gothic style, but was still rebuilt in the 14th and 15th centuries. The basilica’s vaulted ceiling is supported by 12 massive columns. The church is in the shape of a Latin cross and has three naves, with six chapels on the sides.
It’s really big, more than 100 meters long. It was originally intended for the Franciscans. The interior of the church contains a very large number of sculptures and paintings, which somewhat contradicts the Franciscans’ preached commitment to poverty and modesty.
BASILICA SANTA MARIA DELLA SALUTE
One of the most characteristic elements of the Venetian landscape. Construction of this Baroque church began in 1631 and work continued for the next 50 years. Today, the basilica’s dome towers over the very centre of Venice. The church is approached by an impressive staircase that, from the perspective of the Canal Grande, looks as if it leads into the water itself. Numerous sculptures can be admired on the basilica’s façade.
BOOK STORE AQUA ALTA
It is a specific bookshop that has already become one of Venice’s tourist attractions. Some write about it that it is the most beautiful bookshop in the world. This is not true, but certainly the Libreria Acqua Alta is the only bookshop of its kind. Books here are housed in a boat and even in a bathtub to protect them from being flooded by the acqua alta. Old encyclopedias form a staircase in the courtyard, where local cats have their home. It’s a bit smelly, but all in all, it’s kind of strange and therefore interesting.
Don’t forget to take vaporetto to the nearby islands. The most interesting of them all are Burano and Murano. Each known for sth else. Murano for its glass factory and Burano for the colorful buildings. But in order to fully enjoy it, don’t rush – you should have at least one more day to do so.
We stayed at Cavallino Treporti, which has a great connection to Venice via Vaporetto from Punta Sabbioni. Water tram leaves every 15 minutes to Venice. Cavallino is definitely quieter than Venice itself, plus is has long, sandy beach.