Known as one of the most romantic cities in Europe. Venice is known as the floating city or the city of canals. With no roads for cars to drive on, you must take to the water or foot to travel anywhere in this city. The beauty of Venice can be experienced in a couple of days but make no mistake, it will easily be one of your favorite visits in Italy!
Top 5 Things To Do
- Piazza San Marco – The center of it all. Piazza San Marco is the main city center with several attractions within. Take it all in with some amazing people watching to begin with. This area is a full day within itself. Start your early morning at the Campanile Bell Tower, head over to St. Mark’s Basilica and end it with a wonderful night tour of Doge’s Palace. A wonderful day in Venice.
- Gondola ride – The bucket list item for many people. What can be more romantic than drinking Champagne as you’re whisked away on your private gondola? There are many places to hire a gondola right outside of Piazza San Marco. Stop in a shop before and grab some glasses and a bottle of Champagne and you’ll be the envy of the canals!
- Burano – Our favorite island to visit outside of Venice. Known for their lace and colorful houses. Everywhere you turn, there are picture worthy locations! Take the water taxi and tour both Murano and Burano for the day.
- Walk the city – One of the best things you can do in Venice is to simply walk! It’s an extremely walkable city and without getting on the water, you have no choice! There are no cars within the Venice city so walking is a way of life. Walk and get lost down one of the many pathways that hide between the canals of this floating city.
- Ponte Di Rialto – This famous bridge is on everyones list for good reason. It’s quite a spectacle to look at. View it both in the morning and the evening to see the city progress and come alive through the day! A hot spot for locals around the area and there are many different cafes to stop and grab a bite.
- Piazza San Marco
- A Beccafico
We entered Venice at 11am and first went to switch our SIM cards over in our phones and get some euros. It was very convenient that there is a mobile phone place right outside the luggage carousel. Over the last few trips to Europe, I’ve found it’s extremely easy to get a SIM card and use this for an affordable price as opposed to international rates on your cell service. It’s easy to set up, but make sure you make calls needed beforehand as it can take up to 2 hours to activate the service.
An easy bus service takes you across to Venice from the airport and it’s fairly simple to figure out the water taxi service from there. I will say that it should only take you a couple of rides to understand that the water bus system is very efficient and quite timely. We stayed next to the San Samuele stop and it was walking distance from everywhere you would like to go.
Murano: After taking it all in and grabbing a quick meal close to the grand canal, we were quickly off to the close by island of Murano. The island of Murano is known for glass blowing. They also have beautiful artwork around the island. We didn’t spend a lot of time on the island and we missed the opportunity to see a glass blowing demonstration. If you have a bit more time on Murano, I would recommend staying to see one of these demonstrations.
A Beccafico: As we made our way back to Venice from Murano on the water taxi, we were still trying to acclimate from jet lag. We were also very hungry! As we walked through the city we stumbled upon a place where we saw musicians in a square playing. It was beautiful classical music and we stopped at a cafe to have a drink and relax for a bit. As we looked over, we saw what looked to be a very nice restaurant across from us. It was A Beccafico. That night we made our way back to A Beccafico. The experience we had was outstanding and really showed us what Italian dining can be. The food was terrific, the service was even better. It honestly felt like we were family joining them for a meal. After we ate our delicious meal, they then gave us free limoncello to wash it down with. We learned later that this seems to be a tradition at most Italian restaurants.
- Piazza San Marco
- Campanile Bell Tower
- St. Marks Basilica
- Gondola Ride
- Doge’s Palace
- Ponte Di Rialto
*Piazza San Marco: Our first day we took a walk towards Piazza San Marco and St. Mark’s Basilica. WOW! A beautiful view and to see the basilica and Doge’s palace for the first time is a surreal experience. This is a people watching place for sure. It’s also the main area for a lot of the attractions within Venice. So as we started our second day, we decided to hit the high tourist areas in the early morning right when they opened. It also gives you a much clearer view of the square and basilica without the people everywhere. I would recommend this for most trips as people overall on vacation love to sleep in. If you make your way to high traffic attractions early, it makes the day go much smoother.
Campanile Bell Tower: The first stop was the bell tower in the square. We took the elevator up to the top of the campanile to have a beautiful aerial view of the city. If you get there around the hour mark, you also get to hear the bells chime from right underneath them! It’s a nice stop and gives you a wonderful view of the entire city and surrounding area.
St. Mark’s Basilica: As we got down from the tower, we started to see a line build for the Basilica so we went here next as it opened at 9:30. What an amazing experience and the architecture is fantastic. The church is considered Italo-Byzantine architecture and was completed in 1092. Take your time and walk through the history museum up above and get an education of how this basilica has made it’s way through history. Also, as you work your way thought the museum, you will come to an opening to the outside that gives you a wonderful view of the square from another angle.
Gondola Ride: As we left we decided that we should take our cliche gondola ride. It’s fairly easy to barter for a ride with the gondoliers and they are all located close to Piazza San Marco. After deciding on a price, we then stopped quick at a local wine shop and got a bottle of champagne and glasses to go. I don’t have to tell you that this is a must when in Venice, but I was very impressed in how the gondoliers are so trained in maneuvering their boat through the canals! He takes you into the depths of the city through the canals, telling of the history of the city along with pointing out major landmarks along the way. We were the talk of the gondola’s as every group that passed us was envious of the idea of bringing champagne for the ride.
Doge’s Palace: We got back from the island and ate another wonderful meal before heading off to Doge’s palace. We ended up touring the museum at 8-9pm and we definitely would recommend doing this. There were very little crowds while we toured. Now they do close some exhibits at night but they do keep the main ones open. I would say that the freedom you get without crowds is well worth missing a couple of artifacts! Doge’s Palace has one of the largest rooms in Europe and a canvas painting across that is absolutely massive. The palace is also attached to an old prison and it’s interesting to see the connection between the two. Overall the palace has some wonderful artwork and is worth the visit.
Burano: We made the choice after eating at a very mediocre restraurant with not so great service (A Roberto), to head out to Burano. We were so glad we did! Burano is one of the most picturesque places I have been. Houses of every color imaginable fill the canals and it makes you feel as if you are in a Disney movie! If you have only time for one island, I would choose Burano over Murano in a heart beat! This island is also known for its lace and the detail of the work is fantastic. As we took a stroll through the shops, I had to to get my first taste of an Italian spritz. Aperol makes a spritz that you will see everywhere in Italy! If you’ve been to Venice and watched people all around you drinking an orange concoction, it was probably this. It has an interesting taste to it, a mix between sweet and bitter. I originally wasn’t as fond for this drink but after having them several places all over Italy, it grew on me. Take a look at my blog posting on Aperol Spritz to get a bit more detail on this.
*Ponte Di Rialto: To finish the night off we walked over to the famous Ponte Di Rialto. The people swarming for photos on the bridge are unreal. It was a Saturday night and it felt like around this area is the place for school kids to hang out. The bridge is beautiful and is set over the Grand Canal of the city. There are many restaurants surrounding this area and you could spend half of a day in the area. Be careful as there are some tourist traps around the area that could easily snag someone that isn’t paying attention to a scam. If we had to do it again, I would say that we would visit again early morning instead of at night and get more of a daytime experience with the shops being open.
- Catch the train
We woke very early in the morning and what I will tell you is a small secret. If you want to see a city, see it in the morning before every tourist alive wakes up! The two mornings we stayed in Venice, I got up early, grabbed a cafe at a local shop and just watched the local people start their days. If you love photography, this is also the time to get up and get shots before they are crowded with people.
As we woke on our third day, we were ready to head to the train station to move on to Florence. From our experience, there is no easy way to get to the train station if you leave early morning. Our train left at 8am which is too early for the water busses in the area we stayed so we hoofed it! It was around a 1.2 mile walk with our luggage in hand and it can be a bit much depending on the size of your luggage. To constantly be pulling luggage up stairs as you make your way through the narrow streets of the canals can be a challenge. Luckily we found our way to the train station with plenty of time to spare!
Thank god for GPS! It’s so easy to get lost in Florence and you’ll likely want to! It’s a beautiful city to experience pure randomness. Get lost! These alleys are so cool to stroll through and there is always a wonderful view of the canal.
*Top people watching spot