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Venice is a city that is home to attractions both unique and beautiful. The wonderful quiet is at first disconcerting; there are no cars; just the lovely canals and narrow passageways. It is the most romantic city in the world; a city where lovers can stroll by moonlight or relax in a gondola as they enjoy an evening serenade. Just walk and walk… get lost; it’s a small island; you will find your way back.
Taking a gondola ride on the Grand Canal is very expensive; we have never done it. There are other ways to get a river boat ride such as the little motorized waterbuses (“vaporetti”) which have regular routes along the major canals and between the city’s islands. There are also many private boats. The only gondolas still used by Venetians are the traghetti, foot passenger ferries crossing the Grand Canal at points without bridges. These are definitely not as romantic, but we saved our money for a nice hotel and good food. Everyone has their priorities.
Don’t Miss: Our Editor’s Picks for where to stay in Venice.
Main Venice Attractions
San Marcos Square, Be sure to visit the square by day and by night. During the day, tourists and pigeons crowd the square. At night it is transformed into a musical dance square. Several orchestras play so you can enjoy fabulous music on a beautiful night in Venice. Be aware that to sit down at any of the little seating areas costs money. We ordered coffee and dessert one evening so we could just sit and enjoy the music. The bill was over $40, but to be honest, it was worth it.
San Marcos Basilica, which was built from 1063-1073 to house the tomb of St. Mark the evangelist. This is a most exquisite building with gilded Byzantine mosaics and grand arches. It was built as a symbol of Venetian wealth and power, thus its nickname Chiesa d’Oro (“church of gold”).
Be sure to note St Mark’s Clocktower (Torre dell’Orologio) in the clock tower on St Mark’s Square; it is the most famous clock in Venice. It was constructed to display of Venice’s wealth, and as an aid to sailors about to depart on a voyage.
The Campanile Tower where you can ride the elevator to the top to see the best view in Venice.
At one time the seat of government in Venice, The Doge’s Palace is steeped in history. The palace was the residence of the Doge of Venice and contained the offices of a number of political institutions, arranged around a central courtyard. The most spectacular room is the Grand Council chamber or Sala del Maggior Consiglio, once the meeting place for the legislature. This room is filled with paintings and portraits of the Doges, and notably Tintorettos’s Paradise, reputedly the world’s largest painting on canvas. The Sala dello Scrutinio, is another room containing more portraits, and Andrea Vicentino’s Lepanto. At the rear of the palace is the Bridge of Sighs that connects to the prison.
The Peggy Guggenheim Collection is the most important museum in Italy for European and American art of the first half of the 20th century. It is located in Peggy Guggenheim’s former home, Palazzo Venier dei Leoni, on the Grand Canal in Venice. The museum, inaugurated in 1980, presents Peggy Guggenheim’s personal collection of 20th century art, masterpieces from the Gianni Mattioli Collection, the Nasher Sculpture Garden, as well as temporary exhibitions..
704 Dorsoduro, I-30123 Venezia
Open daily 10am-6pm (closed Tuesdays and December 25)
The Grand Canal and the Rialto Bridge are worth discovering. The Rialto Bridge is the oldest bridge across the canal and probably the most famous in the city.
Ca’ d’Oro (Palazzo Santa Sofia) built between 1428 and 1430 , is one of the most beautiful palazzos in Venice. It has always been known as Ca’ d’Oro (golden house) due to the gilt and polychrome external decorations which once adorned its walls.
Festivals in Venice
Costume Balls, parades, celebrations and all-around fun mark the annual Carnival in Venice. Held just before lent, the Venice Carnival is world renowned; if you want to participate, you will need to plan ahead to secure your hotel.
Venice Film Festival
Also known as the Venice Biennale, the Venice film Festival is the oldest film festival in the world. It takes place yearly in late August, early September. The festival’s principal awards are the Leone d’Oro ( Golden Lion) awarded to the best film screened at the festival, and the Coppa Volpi (Volpi Cup), awarded to the best actor and actress.
Where to stay in Venice
A favorite of artists and royalty for generations the Hotel Bauer offers its guests warm hospitality, impeccable service and a genteel atmosphere.. Located in the heart of Venice, the Hotel Bauer’s main entrance is on Campo San Moisè, just a five-minute walk from St Mark’s Square and the most elegant shops in Venice. The hotel also benefits from a canal entrance in Rio di San Moisè, a small canal off Venice’s Grand Canal, frequented by gondoliers throughout the summer. The Hotel Bauer offers 97 spacious and luxurious guest rooms and 18 suites, appointed in a classic 20th-century style with many Venetian accents. All the rooms and suites are equipped with king-size or twin beds, Italian marble bathroom, hairdryer, mini-bar, individually controlled air conditioning, international direct dial telephone, satellite TV, PC outlet and walk-in closet.
San Clemente Palace Hotel & Resort
Set on the 17-acre private island of San Clemente – an untouched retreat on the Venetian lagoon dating from the 12th century – the centrally located San Clemente Palace Hotel & Resort is just 12 minutes away from St.Mark’s Square by 24 hour complimentary shuttle boat. With 117 rooms and 83 suites the San Clemente Palace Hotel & Resort offers every amenitiy and a health and fitness center.
Isola di San Clemente 1
Venice, 30124, Italy
Tel: (+39-041) 244-5001
The Colombina is centrally located in just a few steps from St. Mark’s Square. The Venice hotel faces one of the world’s most famous gondola serenades canal and boasts a breath-taking view on the Bridge of Sighs and the spires of San Marco Basilica. The rooms are spacious and furnished in an elegant Venetian style. All 32 rooms are equipped with a private bathroom, mini-bar, hair dryer, air conditioning, telephone with direct line, safe, Satellite TV, radio and internet outlets. Guests enter the Hotel directly from a boat, using the hotel’s private water landing.
Calle del Remedio
Tel: 041 277 0525
Hotel Papadopoli Venezia
In the city where art and legend go hand in hand, this fully-renovated hotel is located on the Tolentini canal in the historic center, close to the Grand Canal, the car park and terminal and the train station. Hotel Papadopoli Venezia in Venice has been recently completely renewed: all rooms combine modern comfort with the 18th Venetian style, and are equipped with satellite TV, radio, mini-bar, direct dial telephone, and hair dryer.
Santa Croce 245
Tel : (+39)041 710400
Relive the magic of ancient times, in the atmosphere of Antonio Vivaldi’s House. Located few steps from St. Marks Square, the ancient House of the Red priest is now completely restructured. This charming small Venice hotel is a pearl in the heart of the city of dreams. Rooms have Jacuzzi style bath tubs or showers, satellite TV, safe, mini-bar, and air conditioning.
Hotel La Commedia
Located in one of the most lively, interesting areas of Venice, Hotel A la Commedia is just few steps from the Rialto bridge and San Marco Square, The elegant building was beautifully restored in 2006. The hotel features state-of-the-art facilities in all the rooms: advanced air-conditioning system, mini-bar, safe, telephone, wi-fi broadband internet, LCD flat TV with cable and satellite channels, radio, cd player and hair-dryer.
4596/A Corte Del Teatro Goldoni
Tel. 041 2770235
Three-Star Hotels in Venice
The Montecarlo, situated in the heart of town, is just 50 meters away from St. Mark’s Square. This Venice hotel, recently renovated, offers all the comforts of a large modern hotel. Rooms with bath, air conditioned, telephone, safe, sat TV and hairdryer.
Calle degli Specchieri
Tel: 041 5207144
The Hotel Olimpia is situated in the historic center of Venice. It has been completely renovated; all the 37 rooms are furnished in elegant 18th century Venetian style and are equipped with private bath-room, hairdryer, air conditioning, safe, satellite TV, radio, mini-bar, telephone. The breakfast room has a view on one side overlooking a typical canal of Venice and on the other there is a private garden with fruit trees and flowers.
Fondamenta delle Burchielle
395 S. Croce
Tel: 041 711041
Hotel Violino D’oro
The Hotel Violino D’oro offers a grand view over the Rio San Moise’, which is enlivened by the passage of gondolas. The elegance of this Venice hotel with its eighteenth century Venetian style furnishings, offers a pleasant stay in a prestigious tradition. All rooms are furnished with shower or bath, direct telephone, individually controlled air conditioning, mini-bar, wire broadcasting and satellite TV.
San Marco 2091
30124 Venice, Italy
Tel: 041 2770841
Venice Restaurant Recommendations
Cip’s Club $$$$
Take the Hotel Cipriani’s complimentary private launch from San Marco, then ask at the hotel’s front desk to be directed to Cip’s, its casual – though not inexpensive – restaurant. The ambience is clubby, with a menu of local classics, seasonal specialties, and some of the best pizza in Venice. Conclude with Cippamisu, the hotel’s version of tiramisà¹, topped with a chocolate gondola. Dine outdoors when the weather is inviting. But, you are here for the view; the vista of Venice is from here is one of the best views in the world.
Fondamenta de le Zitelle 10
Closed January to March
Harry’s Bar $$$$
Harry’s Bar is conveniently situated on the periphery of the Piazza San Marco, Venice’s legendary grand plaza boasting the Basilica di San Marco, Doges’ Palace, and several cafés with outdoor orchestras that compete against each other in performing the Italian classics. Harry’s is a favorite with tourists and Italians alike. (Ask to sit upstairs by the window for a terrific vista over the Canal Grande.) This place is expensive, but the food is wonderful and the reputation is unparalleled. Lunch and Dinner. Closed on Monday.
San Marco 1323
Fiaschetteria Toscana $$$$
Fiaschetteria Toscana, in spite of its name, is pure Venetian and serves some of the city’s best risotto, made with aged organic rice. The menu is a long one, with a wide selection of seafood, fish, and local vegetable dishes.
San Giovanni Cristostomo
Closed all day Tuesday, and Wednesday for lunch
Locanda Cipriani $$$$
Owned by the Cipriani family, who also own Harry’s Bar, the Locanda Cipriani is located on the serene little island of Torcello, a half-hour ride by vaporetto (public waterbus) from Venice. In 1938, Giuseppe Cipriani opened this locanda (inn), which now is managed by his grandson, Bonifacio Brass. The Locanda boasts a guestbook of past visitors that includes Ernest Hemingway, Paul Newman, Charlie Chaplin, and the entire Royal Family of England. Excellent food and service.
Torcello Piazza S. Fosca
Lunch and Dinner. Closed Tuesday; closed November through February.
Osteria Vecio Fritolin $$$
Osteria Vecio Fritolin (“Old Fry Shop” in Venetian dialect), is located close to the Rialto market. It is a traditional Venice restaurant that has taken a new direction under owner Irina Feguia. She shops for the freshest fish and seasonal vegetables from the region, providing chef Adriano Rubelli with ingredients for traditional and tasty dishes such as spaghetti with razor clams and scallops, vegetable risotto, and mixed fried fish and seafood (an homage to the name of this osteria). The pasta and bread are homemade. The well-chosen wine list is especially strong on whites from Veneto and Friuli, with a fine selection of reds that will satisfy anyone.
Calle della Regina
Closed Sunday evening and Monday
Ristorante Al Covo $$$-$$$$
Look for the freshest seasonal fish, seafood, and vegetables from the Venetian lagoon. Try the catch of the day, spaghetti with carpet-shell clams, or gnocchi sauced with seafood or tomato. sample the Pear tart with grappa sauce or the yummy chocolate cake. The wine list is extensive and holds some unknown gems.
Campiello della Pescaria
Closed Wednesday and Thursday
Bancogiro $$- $$$
Locals stop off at Bancogiro (in the heart of the Rialto market, under the arched, 16th-century portico) and sit at the counter or outdoor tables for a glass of superb wine and cicchetti between meals. They also dine upstairs (more expensive than snacking outdoors, but still not too expensive) off a menu that features fish dishes such as steamed seafood salad (perfect crustaceans and mollusks, dressed with superior olive oil and parsley) or a sea-bass carpaccio. Andrea will help snackers choose an appropriate wine from the vast wine list.
Campo San Giacometto 122
Closed Sunday evening and Monday
Cavatappi $$- $$$
Cavatappi is a tiny bar with a few tables outside. Clients snack on crostini, triangular tramezzini sandwiches, fantastic artisanal Italian cheese, and salami, paired with dozens of fine wines from all over Italy, by the glass. At lunch, hot dishes are served – risotto, soup, or braised meats. Dinner is more expensive, with fish options such as tuna tagliata (cut in a thick steak) with balsamic vinegar. The fixed-price menu at lunch is a bargain
San Marco 252
Campo della Guerra
Closed Sunday evening and Monday
Osteria al Mascaron $$- $$$
Mascaron (boat) is a casual trattoria that’s always crowded with a devoted following of Venetians as well as tourists. Owners Gigi Vianello and Momi de Momi bustle between tables, helping to explain their handwritten menu, which is not always easy to decipher. It includes octopus salad, pasta (listed by the sauce – mixed seafood, cuttlefish, or clams), grilled or baked fish, and simple desserts. There is dessert wine and the house wines are from Veneto, but there’s also a small selection of fine wines from Italy’s northeastern regions as well.
Calle Lunga Santa Maria Formosa
Vini da Pinto $$- $$$
Vini da Pinto is easy to spot – tables are set for diners in a small piazza with a view of the Rialto fish market. There’s an indoor counter for snacking and more tables in a backroom for sit-down meals. this is not a cute or charming venue, you are here for the cicchetti like whipped salt cod or portabella mushroom on bread rounds. The wine is not notable.Lunch is more expensive than just ordering snacks.
San Polo 367
Closed Sunday and Monday
Hot spots in Venice
Bentigodi (Osteria da Andrea)
Bentigodi, also known as Osteria da Andrea is a great choice for vegetarians. It offers fresh seasonal vegetables such as Sant’Eurasmo artichokes, Treviso radicchio, winter squash, or asparagus from the nearby Rialto market, treated with the same respect usually reserved for fish and seafood. Look for these Venetian classics: pasta with squid, gnochetti with fish sauce, braised cuttlefish, liver with onions, or sausage – all paired with polenta. Try ricotta with berries and chestnut honey or panna cotta for dessert. The decor is rustic and understated. The wines are mainly from Veneto and Friuli.
Wine Bars in Venice
Maschereta (Small Venetian Boat) is a quirky wine bar with sommelier Mauro Lorenzon playing the audience like a violin. He loves to chop off the tops of Champagne bottles with a saber, to the delight of the customers. You can snack on Maschereta’s cold food, including oysters; raw, smoked, or marinated fish; artisanal cheese; or salami. The wine selection is, like Mauro Lorenzon, a delight.
Calle Lunga S.M. Formosa
Closed Wednesday and Thursday
Aciugheta is a wine bar that is popular with restaurateurs and enophiles (neither eat at the adjoining restaurant – wine and snacks are what it’s all about ). They hang out at the bar in the front room, feasting on cicchetti. Enjoy the first-rate anchovies or peppers stuffed with the anchovies and a caper, and be sure to sample the phenomenal selection of wines by the glass. Host Gianni Bonaccorsi, in a leather apron behind the counter, will help choose something lively. Gianni has a bed-and-breakfast nearby, with a few bargain-priced (if not chic) rooms.
Campo SS. Filippo e Giacomo
Open every day
Written by Terri Fogarty for EuropeUpClose.com