There are some cities which are so hyped up you can’t help but be disappointed on arrival, the views and atmosphere failing to live up to the high standards set in advance. This was not the case with Venice…
Reported to be one of the world’s most photographed, most popular, most architecturally stunning cities it would be easy for it to also fall into the trap of being one of the world’s most overhyped as well. In fact, it was hard not to fall in love with Venice. Meandering canals, narrow cobblestone streets, beautiful bridges, views out to sea…the city simply exudes a kind of magic.
There are quite a few things to see and do in Venice: these were the ones we managed to fit into a quick 2 day trip to the city!
1. The Bridge of Sighs
One of Venice’s most famous, iconic and photographed bridges, it’s the history surrounding this little walkway across a narrow canal which makes it so fascinating. Connecting the New Prison to the interrogation rooms in the Doge’s Palace, the view from its small windows is said to be the last glimpse of freedom prisoners got before they were locked up. You can see it from the outside, or walk across it yourself if you choose to visit the Doge’s Palace.
2. Doges Palace and the St Mark’s Square Museums
Venice is famed for its architecture and a trip to the city wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the beautiful Doge’s Palace. Built in Venetian Gothic style, it was established in the 1300s and still stands today, looking proudly out over the water. You can walk across the Bridge of Sighs, visit the prison itself and admire the building from its stunning courtyard. Tickets for the Doge’s Palace are sold as a combined ticket to all the St Mark’s Square museums: we also visited the Museo Correr, but your ticket will allow you entry into the Museo Archeologico Nazionale and the Monumental Rooms of the Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana. Don’t worry about fitting it all into one day: your ticket is valid for three months.
3. Aqua Alta Bookstore
We were led to this amazing little bookshop on a free walking tour we went on. Venice is prone to flooding, when the aqua alta fills parts of the city with water. There are raised foot bridges and platforms for this eventuality, but the Aqua Alta Bookstore has another solution. Books are kept in bathtubs and boats, ensuring that when the aqua alta arrives, the books are safe from the water. There’s also a book staircase outside, from which you can check out views over the canal. Oh, and there’s a resident cat.
4. The Rialto Bridge
Venice’s most popular – and therefore crowded – bridge, its worth braving the scores of people gathered here for the view over the Grand Canal. Once you manage to get close enough to see it, it’s truly beautiful and makes for a great photo op. Plus, you’ll likely need to cross the bridge at some point anyway. Might as well make the most of it!
5. Get Lost
This is the perfect city to put down that map, forget any plans you might have had, and simply get lost. With so many narrow streets, bridges and waterways it’s an easy thing to do (even when you aren’t trying to!). You’ll discover a city brimming with charm: get pastries from the local pasticceria, marvel at how each bridge looks so similar yet so different, and see where you end up. Since this is Venice, it’s always going to be somewhere beautiful.
6. Explore After Dark
It may not have a lively nightlife or tons of bars and clubs, but Venice is beautiful once the sun goes down. Romantic, peaceful, safe (from what I experience) this is a great city to explore by night.
7. See Venice From Up High
Finding awesome viewpoints is a bit of an obsession of mine when it comes to seeing new cities and Venice was no exception! For €8, you can head up to the top of the Campanile Saint-Mark (St Mark’s Bell Tower), but we managed to discover the roof terrace of Venice’s Fondaco Dei Tedeschi department store. When we went they were holding an event which allowed free entry to the top of the store, from which there’s a beautiful view over the Grand Canal and Venice in its entirety. Keep an eye on their website for future events – the view is spectacular.
With a Friday arrival and Sunday departure, we had one full day and two halves. This was a perfect amount of time for an initial taste of Venice. If I visited again, which I really hope to do in Spring when the warm weather and sunshine have returned, I’d add a day onto my stay to allow time for a trip to colourful Burano which looks like an Instagram dream!
Have you ever been to Venice? What would you add to the list?