Dreamy, romantic Venice with its canals and narrow alleyways is an easy city to navigate. Know that you will not be taking any kind of transport on wheels: this is a city of 100 small islands in the Adriatic Sea where there are no roads and water taxis are your friend. The capital of the Veneto region in Northern Italy (pop. 262,000) is filled to the brim with Renaissance and Gothic architecture. Among its most popular attractions are Piazza San Marco (where you’ll see St. Mark’s Basilica), Doge’s Palace (impressive Gothic-style architecture), and Grand Canal ( gondola rides steered by men in black-and-white striped shirts). A day trip to Murano means witnessing the world’s most revered glass-blowing techniques.
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Stretch your legs after a long day of travel with a stroll that includes walking over Rialto Bridge, spanning the Grand Canal. This is one of four bridges that crosses over and serves as the perfect picture-taking spot. Bridge of Sighs, tiny as it may be, is a famous bridge as well. It’s crafted from white limestone and, although enclosed, is connected to Doge’s Palace.
The Doge of Venice’s former residence, this palace dates back to 1340. Since 1923, it’s been a museum and a destination to showcase Venetian Gothic architecture. Watch the website for news of events and exhibits, including art shows with works borrowed from other institutions.
The Venetian Ghetto
If you’re looking for some unstructured time to enjoy the fresh air while getting in a walk, check out the Venetian Ghetto. This is where Jews were sent to live when they fled the Spanish Inquisition in 1541. To learn more, visit the Museo Ebraico, open since the 1950s, which does a good job of exploring the neighborhood’s history as well as Jewish contributions to Venetian culture.
St. Mark’s Square (Piazza San Marco)
Pigeons flutter around this square, which is marked by St. Mark’s Basilica, opened in 1094. You’ll likely have to elbow your way through the crowd, but it’s worth it. Climbing the basilica’s bell tower affords stunning views of Venice. Right on the plaza is Caffe Florian, Italy’s longest continually-running coffee shop, since 1720.
This is the Venetian canal you’ve seen in films and replicated at The Venetian in Las Vegas. Your gondola’s “sailor” is likely wearing a striped shirt and paddling while standing up. There are also motor boats available and water taxis to get you where you want to go but, at least once, you should hire a traditional gondola driver.
Shop for gorgeous decorative glasswares in Murano and, if time permits, take a class in the ancient, world-renowned art of glass blowing. Pop into Museo del Vetro (Museum of Glass) to learn about this region’s interesting history and why it attracts artists from around the world for in-depth training.
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How Many Days to Spend in Venice
Between three and four full days in Venice allows you time to linger over coffee and take more gondola rides than you ever thought possible, while still visiting cultural attractions like Doge’s Palace and taking a day trip to Murano.
Where to Stay in Venice
While you can find excellent chain hotels here, like the new AC Hotel Venezia. Venice also thrives in offering boutique hotels that are of smaller size but are big on design and are a smart value. With a rooftop terrace, the 12-room AD Place Venice is a four-story hotel near St. Mark’s Square serving a breakfast buffet and early-evening tea. Access Ca Maria Adele, within a 16th century palace turned boutique hotel, right from the water in the artsy Dorsoduro district.