Basilica of San Marco and Piazza San Marco – half a day
Napoleon described Piazza San Marco as “the finest drawing room in Europe” and this spectacular square, with the magnificent cathedral on one side, is unmissable.
The Grand Canal – 2 hours
The main water thoroughfare through Venice is an extraordinary sight, lined with Renaissance palaces and packed with gondolas and vaporetti. A trip along the Canal is one of the best ways to see the city’s most incredible architecture, particularly at night when the buildings create amazing reflections in the water.
Palazzo Ducale (Doge’s Palace) – 2-3 hours
Cross the Bridge of Sighs to the Palazzo Ducale, a waterfront palace that is a stunning example of Gothic architecture and is packed with masterpieces from the likes of Bellini, Picasso and Titian among many others.
Boat tour – 3-4 hours
The best way to see Venice is by foot – or by boat. So take an organised island tour and see Venice as visitors have for centuries. Daily tours run from April to November from near Piazza San Marco.
Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute – 30 minutes
The incredible white dome of this 17thcentury church towers over the Grand Canal, its baroque architecture reflecting in the water.
Campanile di San Marco – 1 hour
Built as a lighthouse for sailors navigating the lagoon on which Venice stands, today the bell tower of San Marco is a fantastic tourist attraction, whisking visitors by elevator to its top to enjoy magnificent views of the city, the lagoon and, in the distance, the Alps.
WHERE TO BE
In the heart of Venice, is the Rialto Bridge, set in the oldest quarter in the city. Lined with shops, the bridge is surrounded by souvenir stalls, fruit, vegetable and fish markets, giving the area an unmistakable buzz of activity. From the Rialto to Piazza San Marco are the Mercerie and Calle dei Fabbri, the main shopping streets in Venice with upmarket and designer stores alongside more affordable gift shops. Look for leather goods, beautiful shoes and wallets, and traditional, colourful Venetian slippers.
Bars, clubs & music
From every bar on every square of the city, but particularly on Piazza San Marco, comes music of every kind, from jazz to traditional Italian folk songs. And, of course, no trip to Italy would be complete with sampling opera – in Palazzo Barbarigo Minotto, you can enjoy opera in less grand but still compelling surroundings, a great choice if you’re new to this form of music. Jazz clubs are popular throughout the city while Hemingway fans may feel the need to pay homage to the writer in his Venetian drinking den, the legendary Harry’s Bar, also home of the Bellini cocktail.