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Venice Sightseeing Guide

venice sightseeing flowers canal header photo

Venice is one of the world’s most beautiful cities. It is located in north east Italy at the top of the Adriatic Sea. The city is one of Italy’s largest and is located in the region of Veneto. Many people who travel to Venice are embarking on a Venice cruise round Italy and down the Adriatic. Visit the Venice cruise page for more information about planning a cruise from Venice.

Venice is a romantic city. Couples walk across the Rialto Bridge and as tradition would have it proclaim their love. Another beautiful bridge is the Bridge of Sighs, which connects the Doge’s Palace to the jail. Its name comes from the sigh the prisoner makes at its look of beautiful Venice before heading into the prison forever. There are over 160 bridges in Venice.

To visit the Venice sightseeing attractions first you need to know how to get around Venice. The following are the Venice transportation hubs where you will arrive in Venice and depart from Venice:

  • Piazzale Roma when traveling to Venice by car or bus
  • Santa Maria Lucia when traveling to Venice by train
  • Marco Polo airport when traveling to Venice by air

From any of these points you will need to transfer to your Venice hotel.

You may find about more about Venice transfers from airport, train station, and Piazzale Roma by clicking here.

Settle in to your Venice hotel.  Then get out and enjoy the beauty that awaits you while sightseeing in Venice.


Venice Hotels

Click for more Venice hotel information.


Getting Around Venice

There are three primary ways to travel around Venice: foot, water taxi, and water bus. When entering Venice from the mainland by bus, car, or taxi you will end up in Piazzale Roma. From there you will travel into Venice by foot, vaporetto, or water taxi. When entering by train you will be at Santa Lucia, from which you will also set off to explore Venice by one of these modes of transportation.

Foot

Venice is unquestionably a fantastic walking town. You may stroll around the alleys marveling the beautiful architecture. You will find little bars serving local wines and finger food. The streets are well marked so that you’ll find your way using a map. You can walk for hours, days, or years and always find something new as you get lost navigating the alleys. Once away from the throngs of people in Venice’s back alleys you’ll hear birds singing and Venetians living.

Vaporetto

The Vaporetto is Venice’s water bus system. Noted by the yellow ACTV signs. The stops are easy to recognize by their yellow-and-white floating platforms. Vaporetto are an affordable way to travel through Venice. The Vaporetto #1 travels the Grand Canal to Piazza San Marco or to Piazzale Roma depending on your direction. This makes for a nice inexpensive sightseeing ride. It takes 40 minutes to travel between Piazzale Roma and St. Mark’s Square. Tickets may be purchased at the water bus major stops or inside the vehicle paying an extra charge. Always validate ticket once on the vaporetto. Click here to download Vaporetto line map.

Traghetto

Black boat that looks just like the gondola. These bring people across the Grand Canal from point to point for a few euros. The ride lasts about two minutes. There are no seats so you’ll have to stand during the crossing.

Water Taxi

Water taxi ride are classy brown wooden boats that travel anywhere you choose. This is a convenient way to travel and also expensive.


Venice Weather

Venice Average Temperature by Month

venice average temperature by month chart

Venice High and Low Temperature by Month

venice high temperature low by month chart

Average Venice Rainfall by Month

venice rainfall by month chart

 

 

 


Venice Sightseeing Walking Map


Top Ten Venice Sightseeing Attractions

  1. Use the Vaporetto #1 boat to ride up and down the Grand Canal. It is equivalent of city tour.
  2. Best time to visit Piazza St Marco is early in the morning or late at night.
  3. Private tour of St. Mark’s Basilica.
  4. Tour the Doge’s Palace, its priceless art and Bridge Of Sighs.
  5. Go to top of St. Mark’s belltower for awesome view.
  6. Rialto Bridge – use Vaporetto #1 to see it from water and go shopping around the area.
  7. Take a gondola ride through Venices canals.
  8. Go to Murano to see the glass blowing artists.
  9. Artisan shops: masks and other classic Venetian arts are fun to see and shop.
  10. Teatro La Fenice dated to 1789 try to see a show.

Guided Venice day tours include the famous gondola ride, visiting the drawing room of Europe St Mark’s Square, touring the Doge’s Palace and riding the boats to the islands of Murano for glass, Burano for lace, and Torricello for your soul.


St. Mark’s Square


Throughout its long history, Piazza San Marco has witnessed pageants, processions, political activities, and countless Carnival festivities. Visitors flock here in the thousands for two of the city’s most important historic sites, the Basilica and the Palazzo Ducale. These magnificent buildings complement the lesser-known but equally valuable Campanile, Museo Correr, and Torre dell’Orologio, gardens of the Giardinetti Reali, open-air orchestras, shops, and elegant cafes, notably Quadri and Florian.


Basilica di San Marco

Venice’s most famous Basilica blends the architectural and decorative styles of East and West to create one of the greatest buildings in Europe. The exterior owes its Oriental splendor to countless treasures from the Venice republic’s overseas empire. The famous bronze horses taken from Constantinople in 1204, and a wealth of columns, bas-reliefs, and colored marbles studding the main facade. Mosaics from different epochs adorn the five doorways, while some of Italy’s loveliest Romanesque carvings frame the main doorway.


Palazzo Ducale


The Palazzo Ducale (Doge’s Palace), was the official residence of each Venetian ruler (Doge) and was founded in the 9th century. The present palace owes its external appearance to work of builders back in the 14th and early 15th centuries. To create their airy Gothic masterpiece, the Venetians broke with tradition by perching the bulk of the palace (built in pink Veronese marble) on top of an apartment fretwork of loggias and arcades (built from white Istrian stone).


Scuola Grande di San Rocco

Founded in honor of San Rocco, a saint who dedicated his life to helping the sick, the Scuola started out as a charitable confraternity. Construction began in 1515 under Bartolomeo Bon and was continued by Scarpagnino until his death in 1549. The work was financed by donations from Venetians keen to invoke San Rocco’s protection and the Scuola quickly became one of the wealthiest in Venice. In 1564, its members decided to commission Tintoretto to decorate its walls and ceilings. His earliest paintings, the first of over 50 works, he eventually left in the Scuola, filling the small Sala dell’Albergo off the Upper Hall. His later paintings occupy the Ground Floor Hall, immediately within the entrance.


Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari

Franciscan church more commonly known as the Frari (a corruption of ‘frati,’ meaning friars). The Gothic church dwarfs the eastern area of San Polo. The first church on the site was built by Franciscan friars in 1250 to 1338 CE, but was replaced by a larger building completed in the middle of the 15th century. The airy interior is striking both for its sheer size and the quality of its artwork, including masterpieces by Titian and Giovanni Bellini, a statue by Donatello, and several grandiose tombs. The Pesaro Madonna, better known as the Madonna di Ca’ Pesaro, is a painting by the Italian Renaissance master Titian, commissioned by Jacopo Pesaro, whose family acquired in 1518 the chapel in the Frari Basilica in Venice for which the work was painted, and where it remains today. This is one of the most important pieces of art in Italy. It is another stunning Renaissance painting in Italy. This huge painting is over 16 foot high. Pesaro was the leader of the Papal Navy. He won a battle against the Turks thus it was seen as a Christian victory over Islam.  In the painting St George is giving thanks. This would be a very Western viewpoint showing the victory of good over evil.  St Francis and St Peter are also depicted. Click the video below for more about the art history related to this painting.


Santa Maria della Salute

The great Baroque church of Santa Maria della Salute, standing at the entrance of the Gran Canal, is one of the most imposing architectural landmarks of Venice. Henry James reputedly likened it to ‘some great lady on the threshold of her salon’. The church was built in thanksgiving for the city’s deliverance from the plague epidemic of 1630, hence the name ‘Salute’ which means health and salvation. Each November, in celebration, worshippers light candles and approach across a bridge of boats spanning the mouth of the Gran Canal for the occasion.


Rialto Bridge


Murano

Like the city of Venice, Murano comprises a cluster of small islands, connected by bridges. It has been the center of the glassmaking industry since 1291, when the furnaces and craftsmen were moved here from the city because of the risk of fire and the disagreeable effects of smoke. Some houses on the water date from this period.


Burano

Burano is the most colorful of the lagoon islands and can be distinguished from a distance by the tilting tower of its church. In contrast with the haunting Torricello, the island is densely populated, its waterways fringed with brightly painted houses, such as the Casa Pepi. The main thoroughfare is Via Baldassare Galuppi, named after the Burano-born composer. It features traditional lace and linen stalls and open-air trattorias serving fresh fish. The colorful houses were painted so the fishermen could spot their house when returning. And while the men were fishing the ladies made lace. Today bed linen and lingerie are among the favorite linens.


Venice Gondola

The Venice tour reviews are in! The Venice Gondola ride is a hit!! The voice, the accordion, the canals, the water, the gondola… It is one of the highlights of a Venice vacation. Here’s what you can expect on your Venice gondola ride with music.

The Gondola’s History

The gondola is a traditional, flat-bottomed Venetian rowing boat, well suited to the conditions of the Venetian lagoon. For centuries gondolas were the chief means of transportation. They were the most common watercraft within Venice. In modern times the iconic boats still have a role in public transport in the city. They serve as as traghetti (ferries) over the Grand Canal.  For a traveler looking for a nice view and quick Gondola ride the Grand Canal crossing on a traghetti is affordable and fun.  They are also used in special regattas (rowing races) held amongst gondoliers. The gondola is propelled by an oar. Their primary role today, however, is to carry tourists on rides at fixed price of about $65 per person per Venice Gondola ride. Venice Gondola can enter canals to show off Venice’s charm from the water.


Venice Restaurants

A Venice dining tradition is to visit bacari, which are bars, to enjoy cicchetti, which is finger food typically enjoyed with a glass of local wine from the Veneto region. Hop to multiple bacari in a sort of cichetti crawl to try various wines and foods. This is an inexpensive way to eat your way through Venice.

  • Antico Pignolo, San Marco, Venice. Dine on pitch-perfect renditions of classic Venetian cuisine served in a 13th-century spice shop; when the weather’s warm, nab a table in the garden.
  • Al Covo
  • Alle Testiere, Castello, Venice. The food is as sophisticated as the atmosphere is informal at this tiny, five-table trattoria.
  • Antica Ruga Rialto
  • Bancogiro, Santa Croce, Venice. This osteria with contemporary flair takes full advantage of its location next to the Rialto market.
  • Bottega ai Promessi Sposi – Romantic favorite for couples.
  • Birraria la Corte
  • Trattoria Ca’ d’Oro, Cannaregio, Venice. Settle at one of the long tables for a meal of Venetian specialties and hearty pastas.
  • Cantina Do Mori, San Polo, Venice. Workers from the Rialto market have been refueling at this bacaro for more than 500 years.
  • Cantinone, Dorsoduro, Venice. You won’t find cicheti here; the specialty is panini — sandwiches made with top-quality meat and cheese.
  • Enoteca la Mascareta, Castello, Venice. This bacaro is a favorite evening haunt for locals.
  • Il Muro San Stae
  • Impronta Café – Romantic favorite for couples.
  • La Zucca – Romantic favorite for couples.
  • Osteria Mocenigo
  • Osteria Enoteca Ai Artisti – Romantic favorite for couples.
  • Osteria da Fiore, San Polo, Venice. A gastronomic temple that bloomed in the city’s back streets, Da Fiore tops the list of Venice’s fine fish restaurants.
  • Osteria Da Riobo- Try to get outside table
  • Ristorante Quadri – table by the window facing St. Marks
  • Venissa
  • Vini da Gigi – Romantic favorite for couples.

Venice Carnevale

Venice’s Carnevale is the most famous and one of the oldest in Europe. It started around the year 1000 when the public began a celebration with masks. The masks provide social leveling for nobles and peasants alike rubbing shoulders hidden behind masks. Additionally, wearing a mask created a freedom for the person behind the mask.

In the early years Venice Carnevale included parades, banquets and all night dancing. Carnevale was an effort to promote freedom and play. In the early years Venice Carnevale festivities went on for 6 months. In a way Venice resembled modern day Las Vegas with entertainment and even loss of morals by visitors and inhabitants.

The elegant Carnevale started after the 16th Century and ran until Napoleon and subsequently the Austrians banned Carnevale. Carnevale began again in the 1960s. The word refers to the time leading up to the beginning of lent, and may be derived from “carne levare“, which means to remove meat.

In the 17th Century, Giacomo Casanova created his own Carnevale legend, which was love of woman. He celebrated year round embracing all manner of disguise. As the legend goes, no woman could deny his charm.

Today elements of the local culture are mixed into Carenvale around the world. Rio di Janiero has its famous party. New Orleans in the United States is known for its Mardi Gras. And Venice is known for its masks and masquerade balls.  Venice is more relaxed than Rio and New Orleans. It runs for 10 days before lent and is notably upscale with high priced parties. You may also wander the canals with a one of a kind ambiance.

The most revered events is the opening of Carnevale in St Mark’s Square. The Festival of the Maria’s tells the story of 12 ladies kidnapped by pirates. The Flight of the Angel is the highlight when the angel flies down from the bell tower to the Doge, which marks the beginning of the festival. In the middle of the square is the grand theater where there are daily masked parades and entertainment.

The Carnevale Grand Ball is located in 16th Century Palace along the Grand Canal. There you’ll journey to a land of dreams in an atmosphere of royalty. This is an event where all the attendees participate not watch. Upstairs the Gala Dinner is extravagant. During dinner music and entertainers enhance the masquerade party. After dinner the DJ plays music for a full night of dancing and partying to sunrise.

Hotel Luna Baglioni Masquerade Ball

Held in the Marco Polo ballroom, guests learn to dance the Minuet. Known for its distinctive pose like gestures. During a six course meal spread through the night with unlimited prosecco, the 17th century inspired ball is a night of fun and revelry.

Carnevale Masks

Carne Sole is one of the largest mask shops. There is a huge selection of masks.  The plague doctor mask with the huge nose beak is very popular, which was used by doctors. They stuffed the beak with herbs to keep out the plague. Another popular mask is the Comedia. Often made out of leather. Then there is the Casanova mask, which was traditionally used to go meet secret lovers. Authentic masks are made from paper machete and are painted. They require enormous work and typically cost between $50 and $400.

The mask allowed people to hide while simultaneously be more themselves. People can take on an identity behind the mask which is the allure.

Carnevale Costumes

Tragi Commica is one of the largest costume shops in Venice. Arrangements to rent or buy are typically made six months before Carnevale. Here every woman’s fantasy may be met with a beautiful costume. They are not cheap but certainly they are well made and gorgeous.


Day Trips from Venice

Scrovegni Chapel, Padua

Art lovers may like a day trip from Venice to Padua to see the Scrovegni Chapel. This is certainly one of the most important works of art in Italy.  For more information about the Scrovegni Chapel and the frescoes there painted by Giotto visit this page.