Delve into the rich history of Venice, discovering its astonishing beauty by foot, gondola or by vaporetto. Begin by feasting on the many sights and sounds of St. Mark’s Square. Historically, St. Mark’s Square was the political and cultural heart of Venice – today it is an important stage for performance art, festivals and public gatherings. Wonder at the city’s glittering architectural jewel, the lavishly gilded Basilica of St Mark, before climbing to the top of the Campanile bell tower where you’ll be rewarded with a breathtaking panorama.
Be sure to stop for an espresso at the elegant Café Florian. Located under the arcades on St Mark’s Square, this café dates from 1720, and is a real institution in Venice.
Next, discover the Doge's Palace, the former headquarters of the ruling body of the Republic of Venice. Within this striking Gothic palace that looks out across the lagoon, you’ll find several rooms decorated with historic and mythological episodes painted in rich hues by Venetian artists including Veronese, Tintoretto and Bassano. The palace is connected to "the prison well" by the Bridge of Sighs, built in the seventeenth century. This small, covered stone bridge was traversed by prisoners walking to their cells after sentencing.
Standing proudly on an island opposite the Doge's Palace, the church of San Giorgio Maggiore is a monument to the religious history that has informed Venice’s cultural heritage. One of Palladio’s greatest architectural masterpieces, the church affords visitors a magnificent view from its bell tower. The Latin cross and tripartite apse inside are adorned with paintings by Tintoretto and Carpaccio.
The Grand Canal, Venice’s main artery, snakes 3.8 km through the city. A boat ride by gondola or vaporetto will take you past an array of sumptuous palazzos with dazzling marble facades and ornate balconies. Some have been converted into museums such as the Ca' d'Oro (Galleria Giorgio Franchetti) or Ca' Pesaro (International Gallery of Modern Art).
With so many things to do in Venice, you’ll be spoilt for choice. A highlight is the triumphantly baroque Santa Maria della Salute church, built in thanks for salvation from the plague. A must-see among Venice tourist attractions, the Accademia Gallery presents a host of masterpieces by Titian, Canaletto, Tintoretto and Tiepolo. Just a little way off the beaten path, you will find the island of Murano, famous for its artisanal glassblowing ateliers. An explosion of color, the nearby island of Burano is renowned for its brightly painted houses and for its lace-making tradition.