There are so many iconic images that come to mind whenever one thinks of Venice. The sleek gondolas, quietly passing through the winding Grand Canal with a happy couple on board. The grand bell tower in St. Mark’s Square, which towers over everything on the low-lying island. The orange roofs of the tiny houses lining the water, with artfully-decorated windows serving as the only way to tell them apart.
It’s no wonder that ‘Venezia’ is one of the most and sees millions of tourists every single year, many of which come in on the dominating cruise ships. The city is truly a marvel that’s a must-do in Italy, that everyone needs to see once in their lives—especially if the predictions are true that it will one day sink! Despite being overrun with people, it is still easy to find yourself on some forgotten back lane, stumbling into a café packed with locals sipping espresso at the bar. Of course it will be an expensive espresso as Venice is by no place for a frugal traveller…but it’s worth it for the experience, right?
Another great thing about Venice is you really don’t need a guide.
Chances are you’ll get lost on some side street anyway, so put down the map and just go with it! Cross one of the hundreds of tiny bridges that connect the streets, duck into a boutique or order a chilled Prosecco to sip on a patio while people watching. If you get tired of walking through the narrow, twisted streets, hop on a vaporetto (Venice’s version of a bus, but on the water) to shuttle you down the canal or hire a water taxi. Vaporetto travel cards cost 18-50€ depending on how many days you’re using it. There is also a youth pass available for those aged 14-29 who show their Rolling Venice Card (4€), which gives you three days of unlimited rides for 18€.
Only have one day in Venice? No problem, just make sure you do the following three things:
Visit St. Mark’s Square
Piazza San Marco is the central hub of the entire city, a huge plaza that is home to stunning St. Mark’s Basilica, the clock tower, the Campanile (bell tower) as well as a number of restaurants. Just steps away from the Grand Canal, it also affords a fantastic view of the city skyline. You could easily kill an hour just wandering around taking it all in, or brave the queue and try to get inside the basilica. This architectural wonder features opulent gold accents, statues fixed atop the roof, domes and a grand mosaic.
The basilica is open from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Sundays. Admission is free, and you can book a visit in advance if you have an idea about when you’ll arrive. If you fancy a gondola ride, St. Mark’s Square is also a great place to get on board.
Walk over the Rialto Bridge
I might be a bit biased as this is where my hubby popped the question (on a gondola no less…yup he’s pretty romantic) but it’s safe to say the Rialto Bridge is the most beautiful and impressive bridge in the entire city—if not in Europe. Straddling the Grand Canal, ‘Ponte di Rialto’ is made of bright white stone and features a number of arches. It’s also quite large, which is perfect for hosting the throngs of tourists who make sure to stop by. Grab a cold, creamy gelato from a nearby vendor before heading over to the bridge, then spend a lazy afternoon watching the boats float by.
Go on a gondola ride
Even though they are tres expensive, you MUST go on a gondola ride! I mean, how can you go all the way to Venice and not see it from the water? There are a number of areas throughout the city where you can hop into one, though most visitors catch one from St. Mark’s Square, where dozens of them are lined up. If you’re travelling with your sweetie, it’s well worth the cost to hop on board as it doesn’t get much more romantic than this!
Another bonus? Venice is best seen from the water.
Keep the following in mind:
- The official price is 80€ for 40 minutes, and an extra 40€ for an additional 20 minutes. You should also tip.
- Gondolas seat six, so your costs will be lower if you are part of a group. Of course, this doesn’t help lovebirds much!
- Rides are cheaper during the day than at night
- Most trips last between 40 minutes and an hour, depending on what you and the gondolier agree on. Sadly, while we paid for the one hour ride, our trip only lasted about 40 minutes.
- You’re welcome to bring champagne on board, or your gondolier may be able to wrangle up some for you. If you arrange your ride as part of a tour package, you may even get a meal out of it.
Currency: The euro
Where to stay: Skip the overpriced Venetian hotel room, and hop on a vaporetto over to the picturesque, quiet island of Lido. It’s only 20 minutes away and features quaint bed and breakfasts, a lovely boardwalk and even a white sand beach.
Getting there: Venice is easily accessible by both air and rail. The main train station is called Venezia Santa Lucia, while flights should be booked into Venice Marco Polo Airport.
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