Venice is one of the most fascinating cities in Italy, not only for its long history and beautiful buildings, but also for its stunning scenery and unique excursions.
Venice is actually made up of 118 small islands that are separated by canals and linked by over 400 bridges.
The name of the city is actually derived from the ancient Veneti people who lived in the region during the 10th century BC. The city was also the capital of the Republic of Venice from 697 to 1797.
It played a major role during the Middle Ages and Renaissance as a staging area for the Crusades, as well as an important center of commerce—especially silk, grain, and spice, and of art from the 13th century to the end of the 17th.
It became part of the Kingdom of Italy in 1866, following a referendum held as a result of the Third Italian War of Independence.
Venice is renowned for the magnificent architecture of its buildings and it remains a very popular tourist destination, and has been ranked as the most beautiful city in the world as well as one of Europe’s most romantic cities. People come from all over the world to walk around its winding streets and enchanting alleyways to explore the beautiful city.
So, if you’re planning on taking a trip to this majestic city any time soon, here’s a rundown of some of the sights and landmarks you cannot miss.
Piazza San Marco in the Center of Venice
Piazza San Marco (St Mark’s Square) is the main public square of Venice. The eastern part of the Square is dominated by the great church of St Mark (St Mark’s Basilica).
The Piazzetta San Giovanni XXIII is an open space on the north side of the church. The Clock Tower (Torre dell’Orologio) leads through shopping streets to the Rialto, the commercial and financial center of Venice.
To the left is the long arcade along the north side of the Piazza, lined with shops and restaurants at ground level. The restaurants include the famous Caffè Quadri.
Turning left at the end, the arcade continues along the west end of the Piazza, which was rebuilt by Napoleon about 1810 and is known as the Napoleonic Wing. It holds, behind the shops, a ceremonial staircase which was to have led to a royal palace but now forms the entrance to the Museo Correr (Correr Museum).
Basilica di San Marco
The Basilica of Saint Mark is the cathedral church in Venice and the most famous of the city’s churches for its Italo-Byzantine architecture. It lies within the Piazza San Marco.
The current building dates back to the late 11th century, but the original building was constructed around 828 to house Saint Mark’s relics which had been smuggled out of Alexandria. The gold mosaics that cover the interior took centuries to complete. In addition, the Basilica’s opulent design stands as a symbol of Venice’s wealth and power, which is why the building was also named Chiesa d’Oro (Church of Gold).
The Basilica now has over 4,000 square meters of mosaics.
Although the entrance to the Basilica is free, there are parts of the temple that require an entrance ticket, including the Museum, the Treasury and the Pala d’Oro.
The Museo di San Marco gives you the opportunity to observe the Basilica’s ceilings and mosaics up close, and to see the magnificent original sculptures of the Horses of St. Mark, among other notable artworks.
During the Fourth Crusade, the Venetians sacked Constantinople and brought with them a collection of gold and silver items that are now housed within the Basilica’s Treasury.
Like the Vatican, we suggest wearing clothes that cover your shoulders and are knee-length to access St Mark’s Basilica, otherwise you might not be allowed in. Moreover, you cannot enter the building with luggage. If you have a large backpack or suitcase you can deposit it in the free lockers in Ateneo San Basso (Piazzetta dei Leoncini).
The Basilica is open daily from 9:30 am until 5:00 pm, except on Sundays when it opens from 2:00 pm until 4:00 pm.
Entrance to the Basilica itself is free, but you’ll need a ticket to enter the St. Mark’s Museum (€5), the Treasure of St Mark’s (€3) and Pala d’Oro (€2).
Campanile di San Marco
The Campanile di San Marco is the bell tower of St. Mark’s Basilica. It is located in the Piazza San Marco and it is the tallest building in Venice, standing 323 ft (98.6 m) tall, and you can actually climb all the way up to see a superb view of Venice and the Venetian Lagoon from the observation deck, as well as a beautiful scene of St Mark’s Basilica, Santa María della Salute, San Giorgio and if it is sunny, you can even see the neighbouring island of Murano.
The original tower was used as a lighthouse for the sailors. At the top of the Tower you’ll find a golden statue representing the archangel Gabriel. The tower includes five bells, each had a specific purpose during the Republic of Venice: the “Marangona” rang twice a day, once at the beginning of the worker’s day and one at the end. The “Malefico” rang with every execution. The “Nona” rang at midday. The “Trottiera” would summon the members of the Maggior Consiglio and the “Mezza terza” would announce a Senate session.
Be careful that the tower is open at certain times of the year as follows:
From April to October, daily from 8:30 am until 9 pm.
November until March, daily from 9:30 am until 5:30 pm.
1st – 15th April: daily from 9 am until 5 pm.
Tickets are €8.
The Rialto Bridge (also known as Lover’s Bridge) is the oldest of the four bridges crossing the Grand Canal in Venice. It connects the districts of San Marco and San Polo, and was built in the 12th century as a wooden bridge but was constructed in stone in the 16th century. It has had many reconstructions since then. It is now, along with Piazza San Marco, a significant tourist attraction in the city.
Visiting the Rialto Bridge can be done at any hour of the day to watch the Grand Canal in its entire splendor day and night. It’s hard to miss the way to the Rialto Bridge as almost every sign in Venice points the way towards it.
If you pass over the Rialto Bridge from the direction of Piazza San Marco, you will come across the Rialto Market, which is a colorful market packed with delicious fruit and vegetables, as well as a fish market. The Rialto Market opens daily from 9:00 am until 12:00 noon on the Campo della Pescheria and throughout its surrounding streets.
Venice’s market has existed in exactly the same location since 1097.
Some of the most important products you can find around Venice are: glassware, such as beautiful Murano crafts that you can buy as souvenirs, the famous Venice carnival masks, beads, Italian wine, beautiful fabrics and Venetian materials, silverwork, and high fashion brands.
The Grand Canal
The Grand Canal is the major water channel in Venice where most of the city’s water traffic passes. One end of the canal leads into the lagoon near the Santa Lucia railway station, so you’re greeted with a magnificent view as soon as you exit the station when you arrive, and the other end leads into the basin at San Marco. It is 3.8 km long, and 30 to 90 m wide, with an average depth of 5 metres.
The banks of the Grand Canal are lined with more than 170 buildings, most of which date from the 13th to the 18th century. The churches along the canal include the basilica of Santa Maria della Salute. Centuries-old traditions, such as the Historical Regatta, a major boating procession, are held every year along the Canal.
Most of the palaces emerge from water without pavement. So, you can only tour past the fronts of the buildings on the Grand Canal by boat. You can either take the Vaporetto, which is the more affordable option, or the Gondola.
Gondola rides are pretty pricey and can run up to about 80 euros for a half hour ride through the Grand Canal and the narrower sub canals, but they are definitely an experience not to be missed.
Santi Giovanni e Paolo
Not to be confused with the one in Rome, the Basilica di San Giovanni e Paolo is one of the largest churches in the city of Venice, it has the status of a minor basilica. The huge edifice of the Basilica was designed in the Italian Gothic style, and completed in the 1430s. It is dedicated to John and Paul, not the Biblical Apostles of the same names, but two obscure martyrs of the Early Christian church in Rome, whose names were recorded in the 4th century but whose legend is of a later date.
Many artists notable contributed to the design of artworks ornamenting the interior of the Basilica, including Giovanni Bellini, Bartolomeo Bon, Lorenzo Gramiccia, Gregorio Lazzarini, Pietro Lombardo, Lorenzo Lotto, and many more.
The Basilica is open Monday to Saturday from 9 am until 6 pm. On Sundays, it is open from noon until 6 pm.
To enter, you may purchase a ticket for adults for €3.50 or students for €1.50.
The Venetian Arsenal is a complex of former shipyards and armories in Venice which is described “one of the earliest large-scale industrial enterprises in history”.
It was built around 1104, during Venice’s republican era and became the largest industrial complex in Europe before the Industrial Revolution.
The Arsenal’s main gate, the Porta Magna, was built around 1460 and was one of the very first works of Venetian Renaissance architecture. It was perhaps built by Antonio Gambello from a design by Jacopo Bellini. Two lions taken from Greece situated beside it were added in 1687.
Large parts of the Arsenal were destroyed during the Napoleonic era, and later rebuilt. It is also used as a research center and an exhibition that is open every day except Sundays during the Venice Biennale.
The Venetian Arsenal was in fact mentioned in Dante’s Inferno:
As in the Arsenal of the Venetians
Boils in winter the tenacious pitch
To smear their unsound vessels over again
For sail they cannot; and instead thereof
One makes his vessel new, and one recaulks
The ribs of that which many a voyage has made
One hammers at the prow, one at the stern
This one makes oars and that one cordage twists
Another mends the mainsail and the mizzen…
Another major historical figure tied to the Venitian Arsenal is Galileo who, in 1593, became a consultant to the Arsenal, advising military engineers and instrument makers and helping to solve shipbuilders’ problems.
The area emphasizes Venice’s long history as a center of commerce and conquest.
The Arsenal is open Monday through Saturday from 8:45 AM to 1:00 PM, so you’d better make sure to get there early.
San Polo is the smallest and oldest of the six districts of Venice, Italy, along the Grand Canal. People settled there before the ninth century, and it was named for the Church of San Polo.
The district has been the location of Venice’s main market since 1097, and it has also been connected to the eastern bank of the Grande Canal by the Rialto Bridge since the thirteenth century. Attractions in San Polo include the Rialto Bridge, the Church of San Giacomo di Rialto, the Church of San Polo, the House of Goldoni, the Church of Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari, the Church of San Rocco and the Scuola Grande di San Rocco.
San Giacomo di Rialto
San Giacomo di Rialto is a church in the district of San Polo, Venice. It is one of the few surviving examples of Gothic architecture in Venice.
In 1503, it survived a fire which destroyed the rest of the area, and was restored from 1601 by order of Doge Marino Grimani.
The church is open daily except Sundays from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm.
The Gallerie dell’Accademia is a museum gallery of pre-19th-century art in Venice, on the south bank of the Grand Canal.
The Gallerie dell’Accademia contains masterpieces of Venetian paintings up to the 18th century, for artists, including: Antonello da Messina, Lazzaro Bastiani, Gentile and Giovanni Bellini, Bernardo Bellotto, Giulio Carpioni, Domenico Fetti, Pietro Gaspari, Michele Giambono, Luca Giordano, Francesco Guardi, Charles Le Brun, Leonardo da Vinci, Pietro Longhi, and Lorenzo Lotto.
The collection includes Leonardo da Vinci’s drawing of the Vitruvian Man, which is displayed only rarely as it is fragile and sensitive to light. The work is on loan to the Louvre in Paris from 24 October 2019 to 24 February 2020.
Opening times are on Mondays from 8:15 am until 2:00 pm, and Tuesday to Sunday from 8:15 am until 7:15 pm. It is closed on 1 January, 1 May and 25 December. The ticket prices are €6.50 for adults, €3.25 for EU Citizens (aged between 18 and 25), and free entry for youths (aged less than 18) and seniors (aged over 65).
Ca’ d’Oro (House of Gold) is one of the most spectacular palaces on the banks of the Grand Canal in Venice. Built in the mid-fifteenth century, it has a breathtaking façade with remarkable external decorations.
The palazzo is a mix of Gothic and Renaissance style. The building was called House of Gold because its outer walls were once covered in gold leaf. However, it has all faded away, but the building’s marble still glistens in the sunlight.
The Ca’ d’Oro houses an art museum with an impressive art collection from all over the world.
The gallery is open on the following times:
Monday to Saturday: 8:15 am to 7 pm (Monday until 2 pm)
Sundays and public holidays: 9 am to 7 pm.
Closed 1 January, 1 May, 25 December
As for ticket prices:
EU citizens (aged 18 – 25): €5.50
Under 18s and over 65s: free entrance
First Sunday of every month: free entry
Basilica of Santa Maria della Salute
The Basilica of Santa Maria della Salute is one of the best known in Venice, strategically located near the entrance to the Grand Canal, its dome is visible from all over the city. Its fame comes from the fact that it was constructed to celebrate the end of the plague in 1631.
It is also considered to be one of the most important religious buildings in Venice. Its striking dome is depicted in most of the city’s postcards. It is most commonly known as Salute (health in Italian).
The architect, Baldassare Longhena, was commissioned to design the church and it took 56 years to build and was completed in 1687.
Although the church’s decoration may seem quite plain compared to other more impressive churches around the city, there are several striking paintings by Titian and Tintoretto.
Every 21 November, the Venetians celebrate the Feast of the Presentation of the Virgin (Festa della Madonna della Salute). It is one of the most popular festivals in Venice. It involves crossing an improvised bridge over the Grand Canal to the Salute Basilica in recognition of freeing Venice from the plague.
Entrance to the Basilica is free of charge and it is open every day from 9:30 am until 12:00 noon and from 3:00 pm until 5:30 pm.
Museo Correr in Venice
The Museo Correr is the most famous museum in Venice, housing objects and works of art that reflect Venetian culture, history and art from its foundation until the unification of Italy in the nineteenth century. It contains a collection of paintings, sculptures, antiques, navigation instruments and many other interesting items.
The entrance ticket to the Museo Correr is also valid for the National Archaeological Museum of Venezia and the Marciana National Library. The three museums are connected to each other and can be visited one after the other.
The National Archaeological Museum features a large amount of sculptures made of marble, bronze and raw materials.
The Marciana National Library has two halls that are open to the general public. The main hall is decorated by Veronese, Titian and Tintoretto.
The museums are open from 1 November to 31 March: 8:30 am until 5:30 pm and from 1 April – 31 October: 8:30 am until 7 pm. Ticket prices are €20.
Palazzo Ducale (The Doge’s Palace)
The Doge’s Palace is one of the symbols of Venice. It has had multiple uses over the years, such as residence of the Doge or prison of the Venetian republic.
The Palazzo Ducale, situated in Piazza San Marco, was originally a fortified castle founded between the 10th and 11th centuries. The palace’s structure combines different architectural styles, including Byzantine, Gothic and Renaissance. The interior of the building includes paintings by renowned Italian artists, such as Titian, Tintoretto and Bellini.
As you walk in, you will see the impressive golden staircase that leads to the second floor called Scala d’Oro. Inside, you can visit the Doge’s Apartments, the courtyard, the Institutional Chambers, the armoury and the prisons.
The Doge’s Apartments are beautifully decorated with works of art by Veronese, Titian and Tintoretto that depict the city’s history.
After that, you can walk to the Maggior Consiglio hall, where over 1,000 people would go to vote. This hall contains the world’s largest painting called “Paradise” by Tintoretto. The armoury comprises a vast collection of weapons from different historical periods. The visit concludes with the dungeons where you can see the prison cells.
Giacamo Casanova, the famous lover of Venice, was the only man to escape the Doge’s Palace prison by climbing onto the roof of the palace in 1756.
The palace is open daily from 8:30 am until 5:30 pm (while April to October until 7 pm).
The ticket price is €20.
Bridge of Sighs
During your visit to the Doge’s Palace, you can actually cross the famous Bridge of Sighs. The bridge was built in the baroque-style during the 17th century to give access to the prisons of the Palazzo. The melancholic name comes from when the men condemned to death would cross the Bridge and see the Lagoon for the last time.
It was built in 1600 and was designed by Antonio Contino, whose uncle, Antonio da Ponte, designed the Rialto Bridge.
Castello District in Venice
The Castello area is named after the castle built there in the Roman era. Half of the neighborhood is taken up by Venetian Arsenale.
Castello is the largest of Venice’s six districts and it is divided into various areas, including the touristy San Marco which includes the Doge’s Palace. It is also home to the Venetian Arsenale.
The rest of the neighborhood is very authentic, home to various landmarks, including the Basilica of Santi Giovanni e Paolo, the city’s largest temple, and the Naval Historical Museum.
Lido di Venezia
If you’re lucky enough to visit Venice in the summer, then you can’t pass the opportunity to visit the Lido di Venezia, an 11-kilometre-long island where crusaders, on their way to the Holy Land, once set up camp on the very same beaches we see today, and in the 19th century, the island slowly became popular with the elite crowd of the rich and famous writers, filmstars and even royals.
It is also the location where the Venice International Film Festival takes place in late August/early September. The first festival held in 1932 was actually attended by prominent figures, such as prince Umberto di Savoia, the wife of the Prince of Wales, Winston Churchill, Henry Ford and film stars Greta Garbo and Clark Gable.
The Lido di Venezia has a long stretch of sandy beach and provides a great break from all the sightseeing in Venice.
The beach is only a few minutes from Venice’s historic center, which makes it popular as a summer resort for tourists.
Hotels on the island tend to be cheaper than hotels in Venice’s city center or mainland and the atmosphere on the island is definitely more relaxed than the overcrowded streets of the city itself.
Teatro La Fenice
One of the most famous opera houses in the world, the Teatro La Fenice burned down three times over before it was rebuilt for the last time in 2004. Designed by Italian architect, Giannantonio Selva, La Fenice Opera House was first founded in 1792. Throughout the 19th century, the theatre hosted world premieres of numerous operas of renowned artists, such as Rossini, Bellini, Donizetti and Verdi.
The name of the theater (The Phoenix) pays homage to its ability to rise from the ashes, and its interior is absolutely stunning with detailed ornamentation and intricate motifs. Watching a performance at La Fenice is an experience not to be missed and is definitely worth checking out when in Venice.
The ticket allows you to access the foyer, the Apollo rooms and the parterre. From the Royal Box, you’ll have a great view of the stage and the entire theatre. You may also request an audioguide which gives you a lot of information about the history of the building, its restoration, the architects who helped build it and recreate it after its destruction more than once. You also get to learn about the operas and composers that took part in shaping its artistic history. The audioguide is available in 7 languages: Italian, English, German, French, Spanish, Portuguese and Russian.
Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari
The Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari (more commonly known as Frari) is one of the most important religious buildings, located in the Campo dei Frari, in Venice. The church is built in the Gothic architectural style with a stunning interior that is home to some wonderful pieces of art, including Titian’s Pesaro Madonna.
Completed in 1338, Frari’s ornate tombs, gorgeous paintings, and elegant statues make it well worth a visit.
San Giorgio Maggiore
San Giorgio Maggioreis one of the islands of Venice, and its Palladian church is an important landmark of the city. San Located across the lagoon from St. Mark’s Square, the church on the island was designed by the great Renaissance architect Andrea Palladio and built between 1566 and 1610, with a façade of white marble.
Visitors can ride an elevator to reach the top of the church’s bell tower to enjoy a spectacular panoramic view of Venice.
San Giorgio Maggiore Church’s beauty even inspired renowned novelists such as EM Forrester, who mentions it in the chapter “On Beauty” of his novel A Passage to India, where the novel’s hero Cyril Fielding compares the lack of equilibrium in Indian buildings with the perfection of Italian architecture:
“and then came Venice. As he landed on the piazzetta a cup of beauty was lifted to his lips, and he drank with a sense of disloyalty. The buildings of Venice, like the mountains of Crete and the fields of Egypt, stood in the right place, whereas in poor India everything was placed wrong. He had forgotten the beauty of form among idol temples and lumpy hills; indeed, without form, how can there be beauty? Form stammered here and there in a mosque, became rigid through nervousness even, but oh these Italian churches! San Giorgio standing on the island which could scarcely have risen from the waves without it, the Salute holding the entrance of a canal which, but for it, would not be the Grand Canal!”
World renowned artist and painter Claude Monet painted a series of paintings of the island-monastery of San Giorgio Maggiore in 1908 during his visit to the city. One of the best known is San Giorgio Maggiore at Dusk.
The San Giorgio Maggiore island is now the headquarters of the Cini Foundation arts centre and library, and the Teatro Verde open-air theatre.
Entrance to the church is free during the following times: April – October: daily from 9 am until 7 pm, November – March: daily from 8:30 am until 6 pm.
Ca’ Rezzonico is a palazzo on the Grand Canal in Venice. It is an amazing example of 18th century Venetian baroque and rococo architecture and interior decoration, with artworks by Francesco Guardi and Giambattista Tiepolo.
What makes it interesting is that it was also used as a setting for the 2005 film “Casanova” starring Heath Ledger. The palace’s Grand Ballroom hosted numerous parties for more than 200 years. English poet Robert Browning was one of the last to call it home. Today, it is open to the public.
Walking through its halls is similar to walking through the history of Venice through the ages.
It is open from 1 November – 31 March: 10 am – 5 pm, and from 1 April – 31 October: 10 am – 6 pm. It closes on Tuesdays and 1 January, 1 May, and 25 December.
Ticket prices are €10.
Murano is actually a series of islands linked by bridges in the Venetian Lagoon. It lies about 1.5 kilometres north of Venice. If you’ve ever talked to anyone who’s been to Venice, then you must have hear about their trip to the twin islans of Burano and Murano. A trip to Venice wouldn’t be complete without hopping on a vaporetto for a ride across the lagoon to Murano, home of Venice’s glass workers. They were sent here in the 13th century in hope of decreasing the risk of fire from one of the glass furnaces sweeping through Venice’s center. It was decreed by the Council of Ten decreed in 1454: “If a glass-blower takes his skill to another country to the detriment of the Republic he shall be ordered to return; should be refuse, his nearest relatives shall be thrown into prison so that his sense of family duty may induce him to return; should he persist in his disobedience secret measures shall be taken to eliminate him wherever he may be.”
While the mainland in Venice is lined with shops selling Murano trinkets, the real artwork can be found on the actual island where they are made. Inside the 17th-century Palazzo Giustinian is the Glass Museum, with one of the largest collections of Venetian glass from the time of the Romans to the 20th century.
So, enjoy your time and walk around the island to buy some of the best glass souvenirs in the world!
Another great island that should not be missed is Burano in the Venetian Lagoon, near Torcello. This island is known for its lace work and brightly colored homes. It is just a 40-minute Vaporetto ride away from Venice’s mainlan