Venice, the capital of northern Italy's Veneto region, is built on more than 100 small islands in a lagoon in the Adriatic Sea. It has no roads, just canals - including the Grand Canal thoroughfare - lined with Renaissance and Gothic palaces. The central square, Piazza San Marco, contains St. Mark's Basilica, which is tiled with Byzantine mosaics, and the Campanile bell tower offering views of the city's red roofs.
Venice is one of our favourite spots in Italy. Why? It is small and compact, perfect to be explored with just a few days time. Venice is romantic, historic, and gorgeous. The canals, the gondolas, the architecture, the colourful towns of Murano and Burano...what is not to love?
The list of sites to visit in Venice is long. So long, in fact, that it would take days to see all of them. Most people have just a few days in this magical city. Here is a short list of our favourite experiences in Venice, a good starting point for having the best holiday here.
Just Wander... Get Lost in Venice
Put down your map and just wander. Forget the big, popular sites (we will get to those soon). The smaller canals off of the main tourist trail are perfect for wandering. The main city of Venice is small enough that you can walk it in several hours. Explore the canals, sit and relax in the small squares that punctuate the city, go cafe-hopping for coffee or wine, and just enjoy this city without feeling like you have to check a bunch of sites off of your to-do list.
St. Mark's Square
St. Mark's Square is the heart of Venice. From here you can easily visit most of the other main sites. The best things to do here? Take a 360° panorama photo, feed (or run through) the pigeons, and go people watching.
Climb the Campanile di San Marco
The Campanile is the bell tower that dominates the skyline of Venice. The only way to the top is by elevator. From the top, your reward is one of the best views of the city.
View Venice from the Rialto Bridge
Spanning the Grand Canal, the Ponte di Rialto is Venice's most popular bridge. From the top of the bridge, enjoy another fantastic, iconic view of this city. See it at sunrise, see it at sunset, join the crowds of tourists in the middle of the day. Watching the gondolas, vaporettos, and ferries travel up and down the Grand Canal from this spot is mesmerizing. Expect to share this space with a lot of other travellers. Find a spot, take lots of selfie photos, and smile because you are in Venice!
Is the Gondola ride through Venice worth it?
Yes, it may be cliche and super-touristy, but in our opinion, a visit to Venice would not be complete without a gondola ride through the canals.
For Unique Views of Venice, visit the Doges' Palace
The Doges' Palace is a palace built in Venetian Gothic styles. For centuries, this building served as the residence for the Doge, the seat of the government, and a palace of justice. Now, it is a museum. Without a doubt, a visit to the Doges' Palace is a must-have experience in Venice. The history that took place here is incredible. Again, expect large crowds of people and even a long wait in line just to get in. You can tour the Palace on your own or book a guided "Secret Itineraries" tour. As you tour the Palace, you will have more fantastic views of Venice. Yes, we love great views of the cities we visit, especially those that are unique or from a high vantage point. The Doges' Palace has some great views of Venice.