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Guide to Venice

Venice is a gem unlike any other city. With its famous canals and waterways, it's a remarkable place where you can experience a unique slice of Italian culture. The Venetian Lagoon sits between the mouths of the Po and Piave rivers, and its shallow depths allowed for the formation of a city on the small islands that cluster there. It was a major financial center during the Middle Ages as the gateway between Europe and Asia, and for many centuries was a powerful player on the world’s stage. All that wealth and power allowed for an incredible infrastructure to be built on the surface of the water and created a culture that is distinctly Venetian; you’ll hear a difference in the Italian that’s spoken here.

Venice is made up of more than 100 small islands, some of which are no bigger than a city block. Most of them are connected in what’s known as the historic city center, but others further out in the lagoon are worth a visit if you have the time: Burano is a bright patchwork of multicolored houses; Murano is known worldwide for its glasswork; and Lido di Venezia is a glamorous stretch of beach that’s where the international film festival is held. Many people just take day trips to Venice, but it's worth staying a few nights to get a true feel for the city if you have time. Like many popular destinations in Italy, the best time to visit is in September, right after summer vacation is over. Just note that the later into fall you go, the colder the weather will be—but it can be worth it to avoid the crazy summer crowds!

Getting Around

In the northern Veneto region, Venice’s closest international airport is in Milan. To get to Venice itself, take a train into Santa Lucia Station—this central station right on the Grand Canal welcomes trains from all over Italy, as well as other European destinations like Paris, Munich, and Vienna. There are no cars allowed on the islands, so once you arrive at the train station, you'll need to walk or take a boat anywhere you want to go. You can either grab a boat taxi—the most common and economical option—or hire a private boat, which your hotel may be able to arrange for you. You will see the boat taxis lined up outside the train station, so there is no need to book these in advance. Simply pick one and hop on! 

And while getting around is mainly done on foot, because Venice is made up of several smaller islands, there are water buses, called vaporetti, that travel regularly between them. Most vaporetto stops have a self-serve ticket machine, and a one-way ticket will cost about 10 Euros. If you plan to take a gondola ride during your visit—touristy, but worth it once for the experience!—don’t waste too much time looking for the cheapest option. They go for a set price of 80 Euros (100 if it’s during sunset) no matter where you are in Venice.

Eat

   Algiubagiò

Algiubagiò Restaurant in Venice Italy

On the edge of the lagoon, this restaurant is located farther from where the crowds throng for a relaxing dinner with great ambiance. Sit on the gorgeous terrace and enjoy dishes like nettle gnocchi.

Fondamente Nuove 5039
+390415236084

   Al Covo

This charming, rustic Venetian seafood restaurant makes a great effort to use as many local products as possible, including olive oils and wines.

Campiello de la Pescaria 3968
+390415223812

   Bar All'Arco

This tiny bar is a great locals stop for coffee, wine, and a few cicchetti, the Venetian bar snacks that are displayed in cases for a quick bite whenever you need it. 

Campo San Polo 436
+390415205666

   Harry's Bar

Giada de Laurentiis visiting Harry's Bar in Venice Italy

A national landmark, this historic bar has been here since 1931—the humble beginning of the Cipriani brand. It’s where the bellini was invented, and no trip here is complete without one! If you’re dining here, be sure to get the meringue cake for dessert.

Calle Vallaresso 1323
+390415285777

   Osteria Al Mascaron

A stone’s throw from the Renaissance-era church of Santa Maria Formosa, this small osteria is easy to spot by the traditional Venetian mask on the sign. It’s famous for its antipasti, and you can’t go wrong with any of the delicious options.

Calle Longa Santa Maria Formosa Castello 5225
+390415225995

   Osteria Da Fiore

This elegant, romantic restaurant is on the expensive side, but totally worth it for the atmosphere and wonderful food from chef Mara Martin. You will need to take a ferry to get there, which only adds to the experience.

San Polo—Calle dello Scaleter 2002
+39041721308

   Trattoria al Gatto Nero

Giada’s go-to restaurant on the colorful island of Burano. It’s known for its incredibly fresh seafood from the Venetian lagoon, such as razor clams and crab.

Via Giudecca 88
+39041730120

Do

A stroll down the Grand Canal is a must for any visitor to Venice, but the city is crowded with plenty of tourist attractions that aren’t worth your time. Here are my favorite stops in the city.

   Palazzo Ducale

The former residence of the ruler of Venice, ​​also known as the doge, this enormous gothic building has a layer-cake façade that is truly stunning. Choose your tour here among multiple galleries that cover different elements of Venice’s history, including the grim dungeons and the Bridge of Sighs, over which prisoners traveled.

San Marco 1
+390412715911

   Pastificio Giacomo Rizzo

Pastificio Giacomo Rizzo Venice Italy

This pasta maker has been open for nearly 120 years, specializing in multicolored pastas flavored with everything from squid ink to blueberry. If you have the suitcase space, their dry pasta makes a wonderful souvenir!

Salizada S. Giovanni Grisostomo 5778
+390415222824

   Piazza San Marco

Piazza San Marco Venice Italy

There are always lots of fun street vendors in this little square, and it’s a great place to stop for an espresso and some people-watching. Climb to the top of the 16th-century bell tower in the Basilica di San Marco for a bird’s-eye view of the city and the lagoon.

Piazza San Marco

   Peggy Guggenheim Collection

One of the most important patrons and champions of 20th-century art, New York–born Peggy Guggenheim purchased this unfinished 18th-century palazzo in Venice in 1949, and it served as her home until her death three decades later. Today, visitors can tour her personal collection of iconic works by artists like Marc Chagall, Jackson Pollock, and Salvador Dalì and admire the grand canal-front building. 

Dorsoduro 701
+390412405430

   Rialto Bridge

Rialto Bridge Venice Italy

The oldest and most iconic of the bridges over Venice’s Grand Canal, this covered bridge was built in the 16th century with an exaggerated arch to allow boats to pass underneath. To cross, take one of the three sets of stairs; the central stairs are lined with shops and fun local vendors, while the two side stairways allow for some incredible views (and photos!).

Sestiere San Polo 30125

   Rialto Market

Not far from the famous bridge, this farmer’s market sells fresh produce from around the region every day but Sunday. Make sure to walk through to the adjoining seafood market to see the amazing variety that comes from the waters mere feet away from where you stand.

Calle Prima de la Donzella 306

   T Fondaco dei Tedeschi Rooftop

Book ahead to get access to this stunning rooftop observation deck overlooking the Rialto bridge and the Grand Canal. On your way up, be sure to admire the building itself, a luxury shopping center built into a 16th-century market hall that has been painstakingly restored and updated with new additions from internationally renowned architect Rem Koolhaas.

Rialto Bridge, Calle del Fontego dei Tedeschi
+390413142000

   Venini

One of the oldest and most well-known glassmakers on Murano island, this shop makes exquisite handmade pieces that have to be seen to be believed. Here you can see pieces being blown in extreme heat to understand the care and precision that goes into this ancient art form for which the island is famous.

Fondamenta dei Vetrai 50
+390412737211

Stay

   Baglioni Hotel Luna

Just off the busy Piazza San Marco, the 12th-century building that houses this luxury hotel has lived many lives over the centuries, including as a convent, an aristocratic palace, and a shelter for the Knights Templar. Rooms are classically plush, with gilt-edged headboards and rich tapestries, and the restaurant is led by Michelin-starred chef Claudio Sadler. 

Piazza San Marco 1243
+390415289840

   Gritti Palace

Overlooking the Grand Canal, this luxury hotel in a 15th-century palazzo puts an emphasis on Venice’s colorful history, with rooms decorated in an over-the-top baroque style. With a terrace on the Canal for lunch or an evening aperitivo and a private speedboat available for personalized tours of the city, a stay here will leave you feeling like a guest of the doge himself.

Campo Santa Maria del Giglio 2467
+39041794888

   JW Marriott Venice Resort & Spa

On a private island to the south of the historic city, this luxurious resort is a welcome retreat from the crowds. Relax at the rooftop pool or get pampered at the spa, then take a complimentary boat shuttle to San Marco whenever you’re ready for more fun.

Isola delle Rose Laguna 39
+390418521300

   Palazzo Venart

The entry to this boutique hotel hides behind a lush green garden, setting a tranquil tone for a stay that’s still in the middle of the bustling city. Each of the 17 rooms is decorated in a grand, opulent style that feels truly palatial, and the hotel restaurant was awarded two Michelin stars for its tasting menu of creative Venetian cuisine.

Calle Tron 1961
+390687812893
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