Dubbed one of the most romantic cities in the world, Venice is a European jewel where history, culture and architecture serve as monuments to the splendour of the Renaissance. Known as the “Floating City”, Venice is a group of 118 islands separated by canals and linked together by bridges, where tourists and locals use water buses as the primary mode of transport.
The decline of Venice as a Western European trading hub in the 15th century is actually the reason for its exquisite charm, allowing the city to maintain the history and traditional aesthetics from its wealthy heyday. It’s unsurprising that the entire city is listed as a World Heritage Site and, as such, it is one of the most frequently visited tourist destinations in Europe. Venice is a destination you’ll truly want to experience with your senses wide open.
Exploring the narrow, cobbled alleyways by foot is an essential part of visiting Venice, so come prepared with sturdy walking shoes. The Basilica di San Marco is Venice’s signature church and a veritable architectural masterpiece to boot. The Palazzo Ducale is a Venetian palace dripping in Gothic and Neoclassical grandeur, which served as the seat of the government for almost 7 centuries.
The Arsenale, Chiesa di San Giorgio Maggiore and I Frari are other Venetian monuments you shouldn’t miss out on. For a touch of art, the city’s Gallerie dell’Accademia traces the development of Venetian art from the 14th to the 18th century and showcases the work of some true Italian greats. Lastly, a gondola ride on one of the city’s beautiful waterways is all but a rite of passage for any visitor to Venice.
Eat and Drink
Simple and flavourful ingredients are the order of the day in Venice, and you’d be hard-pressed to find fresher vegetables and seafood anywhere else in Europe. From high-end restaurants to tucked-away trattorias, Venice offers the pick of the European culinary bunch, regardless of taste or budget.
Leading the charge in Italian seafood cuisine, Venetians typically serve up a meal of fresh pasta or risotto with cuttlefish or squid, followed by meaty monkfish or simple trout. For a quick snack, cicchetti, the local version of tapas, is widely served at bars and cafés.
For nightlife, the Dorsoduro district is considered the most vibrant and plays host to some of the city’s biggest bars and nightclubs. Campo Santa Margherita is where students go for the brimming atmosphere and cheaper drink prices than the piazzas.
Where to Stay
To soak up the picture-postcard canals and be close to the hub of sightseeing opportunities, Central Venice is the place to stay. San Marco and Piazzale Roma are also great locations to ensure you’ll be right in the thick of it.
San Marco, fondly referred to as “The Piazza”, is an ideal area to stay in if you’re pressed for time and need immediate access to all the city hotspots. To experience Venice like a local, book a room at one of the city’s charming bed and breakfasts or rent an apartment in one of the city’s neighbouring suburbs.
Venice is renowned for its locally made craft items that you just can’t get anywhere else. Keep your eyes peeled for genuine glassware from Murano and exquisite lace from Burano – they are the perfect take-home souvenirs and gifts.
For vintage Italian jewellery, leather goods and cashmere, San Marco is the district to head to. San Marco is also the place for a dose of Italian fashion, as the district hosts some of the city’s most renowned designers and their boutiques.
Venice Like a Local
As with any Italian city, Venetians are crazy about soccer. Their stadium is located in the historic centre, and is probably the only stadium in the world where supporters arrive by boat. To really feel like a local, don your black and green and join the locals at a game, followed by a pub crawl along the Via Garibaldi.