Venice is, in my opinion, easily the world’s most breathtaking historic city. I really don’t think any other city comes even close. It’s unique, and at every corner you turn, a new, jaw-dropping sight awaits. Amazing photos can be taken anywhere. Dead-end alleyways, narrow streets, hidden squares and photogenic canals make it a fantastic place to explore on foot. If you’re ever going to get lost when traveling, Venice is the best place to do that!
While the city gets absolutely flooded with tourists during the day, all-year long, it is actually delightfully quiet in the early morning and late in the evening. I strongly recommend getting up before dawn to take a memorable walk. Piazza San Marco (St. Mark’s Square), for instance, is virtually deserted around sunrise, which, incidentally, happens to be the best time of day to take pictures. In the evening, when all day visitors have gone home, the city’s streets and canals get surprisingly quiet—so quiet that even that the general atmosphere becomes almost eerie. There are hardly any street lights and the darkness speaks of hidden, historic secrets and breathes passion, deceit and betrayal—all things that used to be common in Venice during its republican heyday.
Nowadays, however, Venice is one of the most peaceful cities on earth. The only things to watch out for are occasional pickpockets and high food prices. The greatest threat to Venice today is rising sea levels. While it is an absolutely stunner of a city, a visit needn’t take longer than two or three days. You can easily get a feel for the city by spending your first day wandering around the city—with a map, of course—and visiting some of the attractions on your way.
Dedicate another day to visiting some of the tourist highlights, such as the Basilica di San Marco (St. Mark’s Basilica) and the Palazzo Ducale (Ducal Palace). Those are just two of the star attractions in the city. But, if you’re on a tight budget—prices for accommodation and food in Venice are through the roof—so you may want to settle for admiring those buildings from the exterior. Also, take the time to see the Ponte di Sospiri (Bridge of Sighs), one of Venice’s most iconic bridges, and the Rialto, arguably the most striking bridge of the four that cross the Grand Canal. A tip: the best views of the Grand Canal are enjoyed from Ponte dell’ Accademia.
Take a Vaporetto in Venice
Your third day in Venice should be spent traveling around in the typical Venetian way—by boat. Everything in Venice happens by boat. Deliveries are done by boat, trash is picked up by boat, getting around is done by boat, and mail is delivered by boat. So, let the boat be your method of transportation on day three. Get into a so-called “vaporetto” and head toward a couple of other islands in the Venetian Lagoon, which is, by the way, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Two islands that are recommended for a visit are Murano and Burano. Murano is the first stop en-route and is famous for its glassworks. Murano glass is displayed all over Venice and on the island you can visit a local glass factory or the Museo del Vetro (Glass Museum). The main destination, however, is Burano . This tiny island is filled with some of the most colorful buildings you will ever find. The variety of colors you will experience in Burano will be one of your most cherished travel memories—trust me. Additionally, Burano is also famous for its lace-making. Lace shops dot the center of the island, along with many restaurants.
If you have budgeted properly, you should have some spare money to do what you can only do in Venice…taking a gondola ride is the perfect way to end a few days in Venice. Watching the sun set over the Grand Canal from a gondola is yet another experience you’ll carry with you for the rest of your life—again, trust me. It may be expensive—up to 100 euros—but the experience is worth the money and, because a gondola can transport up to six people, you can split the cost between other travelers. It’s one of those now-or-never kind of activities.
Let me conclude by saying that, if you find that accommodation is too expensive on the island of Venice, there are plenty of cheaper options on Mestre, the mainland. There are several AirBnbs, for example, that offer pretty good value for money. The bus ride from the mainland to the island doesn’t take longer than 25 minutes.
Written by and photos by Bram Reusen for EuropeUpClose.com