Venice is built on more than a hundred small islands in a lagoon in the Adriatic Sea. You’ll find no roads, just canals lined with timeless Renaissance and Gothic palaces, with an endless amount of things to do.
Venice is divided into six ‘sestieri’, or neighborhoods, all with uniquely different characters. The central square, Piazza San Marco, lies in the neighborhood of San Marco serving as the epicenter of the city. Across Rialto Bridge is the artisan neighborhood of San Polo, and across the Grand Canal to the south is the more stylish Dorsoduro, with fancy art museums and open squares.
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1) Rialto Bridge
Rialto is the city’s most famous historic and primary bridge that separates the two sides of Venice. The bridge crosses the Grand Canal, or “Canalazzo“, the most important waterway stretching over 12,000 feet long through the middle of the city.
Tip: Recommended to visit the bridge early in the morning as crowds begin to congest the bridge making it difficult to cross.
2) San MarcoSan Marco is the city’s most popular square, and always packed with tourists during the daytime hours. The large square is a meeting place of historical significance and grand buildings, including the famous Saint Mark’s Basilica.
Saint Mark’s, the city’s most well-known basilica, lies on the far end of the square and serves a great architectural masterpiece that reflects Italian-Byzantine design.
Tip: Located directly in front of St. Mark’s Basilica, you can climb the Campanile Bell Tower tower to get beautiful panoramic views of Venice.
3) Doge’s Palace
The Doge’s Palace (home to the older rulers of Venice) is one of the city’s renowned landmarks, and home to many important pieces of art. When the Doge’s Palace was built, it had a design similar to a castle, and today the façade of the Palace is considered a Gothic masterpiece. The Palace changes color depending on the time of day, from a pinkish to white color.
Tip: When you visit the Doge’s Palace, don’t miss the famous 15th century work, ”the Staircase Of the Giants”, where the Doge’s were crowned.
4) Accademia Gallery
The fascinating art collection at Accademia Gallery showcases works from the best regional painters in Europe’s history. Works range from the Byzantine and Gothic periods right up to the genre of Renaissance painters, including Longhi, Guardi, Bellotto, and Canaletto.
5) Gondola Ride
A private gondola ride is the perfect way to visit the impressive water-city of Venice, but be careful as not all gondola rides are created equal and many will take advantage of unknowing tourists.
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6) Bridge of Sighs
This ornate limestone bridge has distinctive windows, built at the beginning of the 17th century. It is perhaps the most famous bridge in the world, and is known by residents as ‘Ponte dei Sospiri’, the Bridge of Sighs, because it linked the Doge’s Palace to the the 16th century prisons.
7) Ca Rezzonico
This venue is a museum showcasing the ‘heyday’ of 1700s Venice. Originally a palace, it was conceptualized by the city’s famous architect Baldassare Longhena, although work had to be stopped due to the high costs, and was later completed by the rich Rezzonico family (hence the current name).
Murano glass is famous around the world, and the island of Murano, not far from the center of Venice, is the place to go. You can take a ferry to reach the island and visit Museo del Vetro for an informative look at the history of Italian glass, and purchase some authentic Murano glass, handmade here by local artisans since 1291.
9) Peggy Guggenheim Collection
The Peggy Guggenheim is one of the most important museums of European and American art of the 20th century in Italy. Learn about this important gallery’s place in world history and see works by Picasso, de Chirico, Dalí, Pollock, Kandinsky, and Magritte. Explore Cubism, Metaphysical painting, works of Futurism, European Abstractionism, Avant-garde sculpture, Surrealism and others.
10) Ca’ d’Oro
The Grand Canal is surrounded by resplendent buildings, and the ‘house of gold’ is surely one of the most stunning. The Ca d’Oro Palazzo is home to some excellent paintings by artists from the Venetian school of art, such as Andrea Mantegna’s “San Sebastiano” work. You can also find Flemish and Tuscan artworks and sculptures from the Renaissance period.
11) Church of San Giorgio Maggiore
San Giorgio Maggiore is home to a Benedictine church which shares the same name as the island. It was built over several decades from 1566 until 1610, and was based on a design by Andrea Palladio.
Tip: You should consider climbing the bell tower during your visit for more excellent views of Venice and the surrounding waterways!
12) Teatro La Fenice
One cannot complete a sightseeing list of Venice without mentioning the age-old arts tradition. Venice is known for its festivals and mask-wearing parades, as well as its word-class theatre performances. The Teatro La Venice local opera house is a vital element to the history of opera and serves as a staple of Venetian culture.