Exploring the best of Venice, Italy

A gondola on crystal blue waters in Venice, Italy

Zoe Macfarlane

Posted June 07, 2023

Thanks to its ancient canals, ornate bridges, and stunning architecture, Venice is one of the world’s most captivating cities. A visit to Venice is enchanting, romantic, and culturally rich, and perfectly complemented by the city’s traditional culinary fare.

The floating city of Venice was built over 1,200 years ago, uniting 100+ islands across the Venetian Lagoon and affording the city a strategic trading position during the Middle Ages. The building’s foundations are miraculously located on wooden poles driven deep into the clay, with close to 400 bridges uniting them all.

Whether you’re on a gondola exploring the intricate network of canals, winding your way on foot to explore Venice’s architectural wonders or admiring the city’s renowned art and culture scene, expect to be charmed at every stop.

A canal filled with small boats in Venice, Italy

The floating city of Venice is easily one of the world's most romantic locations. Image: Shutterstock.

On the water: Venice’s canals, bridges, and beaches

Venice, the ‘Queen of the Adriatic’, is inherently connected to water.  You’re never far from it, in fact, whether aboard a gondola, walking over the canals on a quaint stone bridge, or heading out of the centre to one of the city’s relaxing beaches.

Taking a gondola ride in Venice is a quintessential experience for visitors, offering a different vantage point for the city and a chance to travel as Venice’s upper class once used to. Escape the crowds on a gondola ride in the quieter back canals, away from the city’s most well-known attractions.

Crossing bridges in Venice is as common as drinking Aperol Spritz, the city’s signature drink. Two are standouts, including the Rialto Bridge, the oldest bridge of the four bridges across the Grand Canal. Watch gondolas glide beneath, enjoy views of the city, and marvel at the Renaissance’s engineering achievements. You’ll also want to visit the Bridge of Sighs, so named for the sighs of distressed prisoners marched from the Doge’s Palace to New Prison.

For a different kind of water experience, head to Lido di Venezia, an 11-kilometre-long barrier island home to Venice’s best beach. Stroll the Viale Santa Maria Elisabetta, grab a meal at a cosy restaurant, and enjoy Lido's contrasting ambience from bustling Venice.


Gondolas cruising under a bridge in Venice, Italy

Gondolas were once the transport of choice for rich Venetians but now anyone can hop aboard. Image: Shutterstock.

Explore iconic Venetian landmarks

Besides gondolas and canals, St Mark’s Basilica is one of the city’s most recognisable landmarks. Take your time to discover the ornate façade, intricate golden mosaics, and exquisite architecture of this decadent 9th-century cathedral.

Onwards to the gothic architecture of Doge's Palace, located in Venice’s main square, the Piazza San Marco. Once the residence of the Doge of Venice (the city’s ruler), it’s now a museum filled with intricate artwork and historical artefacts. Conclude your Doge’s Palace visit with people-watching from one of the square’s lively cafés or restaurants.

At the mouth of the Grand Canal, the breathtaking Baroque architecture of the Santa Maria della Salute stands proudly as the symbol of Venice. Constructed to celebrate the end of the plague, the Salute’s eye-catching dome fills the Venice skyline. Inside, explore the six chapels and array of artwork, including several by Titian and Tintoretto.

Taste-test the best of culinary Venice

Sampling authentic Venetian cuisine is an integral way to discover another layer to all that makes the city so special. With a rich culinary heritage, there are some must-try dishes to sample during your stay.

The most emblematic, perhaps, is Sarde de Saor is a traditional sardine, onion, and sweet vinegar dish. Typically served with polenta or bread, pair it with a Venetian wine to get the full taste sensation.

For a snack-on-the-go between sightseeing, stop for ciccheti. These are the small dishes, like crostini (open sandwiches), polpette (fried meatballs), and pickled or baked seafood and vegetables often found in wine bars and restaurants.

For a heartier meal, nothing is more Venetian than risotto al al nero di seppia. Squid ink creates the jet-black colouring of this flavourful seafood rice dish.

For dessert lovers, it’s impossible to stop at just one tiramisu while visiting Venice. This familiar coffee-flavoured treat originates from the Veneto region, therefore, there are countless places to taste-test a few for yourself.


An ornate building in Venice

Venice has spectacular architecture to admire, in addition to its canas. Image: Shutterstock.

Dive into Venice’s art and culture scene

Venice has long been associated with producing great works of art. Whether it’s gold mosaics, Renaissance paintings or modern masterpieces, there’s no denying that Venice inspires creativity.

While the Doge’s Palace has an impressive display of Renaissance art, Gallerie dell'Accademia has Venice’s most important collection, including Leonardo da Vinci’s impressive Vitruvian Man.

For modern art lovers, the Peggy Guggenheim Collection is a must to see the vast collection this boho art collector and socialite gathered over her 81 years. Seeing Picasso, Pollock and Magritte against the backdrop of the Grand Canal seems to elevate these iconic artworks.

Take a short boat trip to Murano Island to discover its famous glassblowing industry. Watch skilled artisans at work perfecting the 1500+-year-old craft.

For a truly Venetian souvenir, choose an intricate hand-made mask. Dating back to the 12th century, Venetians began to wear masks so the classes could mingle incognito. Today’s masks are embellished with feathers, crystals, beads, and exquisite fabrics ready for the annual Carnevale celebrations.


People wearing Venetian masks by a canal in Venice

Pick up a Venetian mask as a souvenir or visit during Carnevale to see everyone wearing them. Image: Shutterstock.

Celebrate as the Venetians do

For extra fun, time your Venice holiday with one of their lively annual festivals. The two-week festivities of Carnevale are a riot of colour, sound, creativity, and fun. Experience the vibrancy of regatta boat races, lively parades, and Venetian mask-making workshops. Held in February or March, be sure to book ahead for tickets and costumes for the iconic masquerade balls that make Carnevale so enchanting.

Movie buffs, celebrate all things cinema at the Venetian Film Festival, held in August and September. Being in Venice during the glitz and glamour of the world’s oldest film festival provides entertainment for both countless movie debuts and a chance for celebrity-spotting while you’re buying your gelato.

The prestigious contemporary art festival, the Venice Biennale, is on every two years from May to November, is a hit on the city’s event calendar. On the water, Festa della Sensa (May or June) and Festa del Redentore (July), and Regatta Storica (September) are great fun for visitors and locals alike.

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