The Venice City Guide
Do & See
Venice is a city filled with tourist attractions, and it can be hard to know where to begin a visit of the city. A great way to begin is to get lost in its little streets and passageways keeping in mind you will not get truly lost because everything lies around Piazza San Marco and Canal Grande: Venice’s best-known landmarks.
The first thing to remember is that Venezia is divided into six sestieri. Sestieri are typical neighborhoods each with a unique atmosphere. In this city guide of Venice, you will find the best things to see and do when in the most iconic city of Italy.
A walk in Venice
Every visit of Venice should begin here! St. Mark’s Basilica is the best-known church of Venice. It is decorated with Byzantine art treasures and amazing gold-backed mosaic pictures. Visit the Basilica and let yourself be surprised by the beauty of the golden altarpiece, known as the Pala d’Oro. This magnificent altarpiece is adorned with 2,000 gems and precious stones. Take your time to discover the history of this Basilica, the gold reliquaries, and icons in the Treasury.
Historic Cafès in Venice
Just outside the Basilica, you will find St. Mark’s Square, the largest square in Venice. It is known for its elegant uniformity of its stunning architecture. Along its arcades, there are some of the most famous shops and cafès in Italy: the perfect spot to drink a coffee or meet friends. Look up at the sky to see the campanile with its red bricks. You can go to the top (or to the top of Torre del’Orologio) to see Venice from up high.
Walking close by from St. Mark’s Square you will arrive at Palazzo Ducale (Doge’s Palace). Prepare to be impressed by the extraordinary façade of this palace. Take a peek at the Porta della Carta, a perfect example of Venetian Gothic architecture and at the monumental Scala dei Giganti. From here you can see the famous Bridge of Sighs, the prison where Casanova made his famous escape.
The Grand Canal and Rialto Bridge
The Grand Canal is the principal boulevard of Venice, and it connects Piazza San Marco with Rialto Bridge. This was a powerful place in Venice where there were palaces of all the leading families. There are many of these grand palaces, and they are still well-preserved today. Take a tour by vaporetto or ride a gondola to see them. The only bridge across the Canal Grande is Rialto Bridge. It was built in 1588, and today it is one of the most Instagrammed places of Venice. From here you can reach and visit the beautiful church of San Bartolomeo.
On the other side of Rialto Bridge, you will find a special food market. Take your time to discover every shop in the neighboorhood along with the chefs and Venetian people. Walk through the narrow streets to find artisans’ shops and mask-making studios.
Campo del Ghetto Nuovo
In the Cannaregio district, in the northern part of the city, is where the Jewish community lives. The Jewish ghetto of Venice is the oldest in Europe: it was established in the early sixteenth century at the disposal of the government of the Serenissima. Walking in the streets of the Campo you will find many artisanal shops and excellent restaurants.
The Borges Labyrinth
This garden-labyrinth is dedicated to Jorge Luis Borges and its art. You can find it in the courtyard of the Cini Foundation, and it is a real and unique masterpiece. There is only one other like it in the whole world, in San Rafael, Argentina.
Libreria Acqua Alta
Libreria Acqua Alta is a charming bookshop perfect for bargain hunters. Here you can find new and used books, canoes, barrels and even a gondola. Don’t miss taking a look at the eccentric staircase made from old books.
The Ponte Chiodo (Spike Bridge) is located in the Cannaregio sestiere. The Chiodo Bridge crosses the Rio di San Felice and has a characteristic that makes it unique in Venice. This bridge does not have parapets or “spallette” like Venetians say. You can find it a few feet from the Scuola Grande della Misericordia, that is one of the masterpieces of the architect Jacopo Sansovino.
Even if it’s true that all of Venice is an open-air museum, here you can find some of the best museums in Italy. Where contemporary art meets opulent palaces, Venice’s museums offer much to discover. Here are the top museums you can’t miss when in Venice.
Venice Academy Gallery Museum of Art
The Accademia Galleries is in the center of the Scuola Grande of Santa Maria della Carità built by Andrea Palladio in 1560. The collection is rich, and you can view Venetian paintings from the Byzantine to Renaissance eras. Here you can fall in love with Bellini, Tintoretto, Tiepolo and the Vedutisti from the Eighteenth century. Take your time to see the magnificent masterpieces of Canaletto.
Ca’ Rezzonico is a magnificent palace on the Grand Canal in the Dorsoduro. Here you can discover the art of the 18th-century. The museum in an is an extraordinary environmental area where you can see works of one of the most fortunate periods of European art. Around the floor there are many paintings including masterpieces from Tintoretto and Tiepolo.
Correr Museum, Museo Civico Correr
The Correr Museum is located on the Piazza San Marco, and it is the perfect place if you want to see what ancient Venetian life was like for politicians and aristocrats. This museum is a must-see place for those in love with history!
Galleria Giorgio Franchetti alla Ca d’Oro
The Byzantine and Moorish architecture made the Ca’ d’Oro Gallery one of the most beautiful palaces in Venice. The Palazzo here hosts Baron Giorgio Franchetti’s impressive art collection including the San Sebastiano from Andrea Mantegna and the Venere allo Specchio from Tiziano.
Peggy Guggenheim Museum of Modern Art
The Peggy Guggenheim Museum is the most complete collection of modern and contemporary art in Italy. The collection is principally based on the personal art collection of Peggy Guggenheim, and it includes paintings (among others) from De Chirico, Duchamp, Dalí, Miró, Kandinsky, and Mondrian.
Punta Della Dogana Museum of Contemporary Art
Punta della Dogana Museum of Contemporary Art divides the Giudecca Canal and the Grand Canal in Venice. The Museum exhibits artworks from the Francois Pinault Foundation, known as Palazzo Grassi, which is arguably the largest collection of contemporary art in the world.
The Prada Museum is in The Palazzo or Ca’ Corner della Regina. This is a Baroque style palace in the Sestiere Santa Croce. Here you can find temporary exhibitions of contemporary art.
A trip to Venice wouldn’t be complete without a day trip to Murano. This is the city of Venice’s fabled glass workers. Here you can find some of the best glass artwork of the world and this village is filled with glass showrooms and studios. In Murano, you will find everything made with glass from cheap trinkets to exquisite works of art. Don’t miss a visit to the Glass Museum, inside the 17th-century Palazzo Giustinian.
Not so far from Murano and with a quick ride on a vaporetto you will arrive at the next island, Burano. This is a fishing village with stunning and brilliantly painted houses. One the best-known products of Burano are the merletti (lace), and you can learn its history at The Scuola dei Merletti with its small museum.
Padua is an amazing city of the Veneto region. Walking down its streets, you will see the Renaissance grandeur of the squares and beautiful palaces. This is the city of the Prato della Valle square, the Giotto frescoes and the romantic spot of Orto Botanico. Padua is also a gay mecca thanks to the Padua Pride Village and the many gay clubs around the city.
The Veneto Region is one the best places in Italy to discover the magnificent opulence of the Palladian Villas. These villas are UNESCO World Heritage sites, and they are concentrated mostly in the province of Vicenza. Built from the 16th-century commissions of the local upper-middle-class families, these buildings are a real wonder. Make sure to visit Villa Contarini and Villa Pisani.
Nightlife starts early in Venice. When the sun goes down, the city begins its best ritual. It’s time to start drinking aperitivos like a local. Happy hour kicks off officially at 6 or 7 pm and lasts until about 9:30 pm.
In Venice, you can drink some of the best Prosecco in Italy, but you should try the king of Venetian Drink: the Spritz.
In Venice, every district has its own style to have fun, and there are many options to choose from. Tons of bars and pubs follow each other among the canals of Venice.
Before your trip
Venice has one main airport, (Marco Polo Airport) and it is located just 4.9 miles north of the city. You can easily arrive in Venice with trains from all over Italy.
Getting around the city is extremely easy by foot or with the typical vaporetto or gondola. Venice has a very efficient public transport system serving all destinations throughout the city by boat through the canals.
Festivals and main events in Venice
There are several festivals, holidays and events celebrated in Milan each year. Here are the main ones:
- January: New Year’s Concert at La Fenice Opera House
- February: Carnival Festival
- April: Easter, St. Mark’s Festival (25 April)
- May: Venice Art Biennale
- June: Venice Art Biennale, Pride Week,
- July: Festa del Redentore, Venice Art Biennale
- August: Venice Art Biennale
- September: Regata Storica (Historic parade and competitive regattas), Venice Film Festival, Biennale of Architecture, Venice Art Biennale
- October: Biennale of Architecture, Venice Art Biennale, Venice Marathon
- November: Biennale of Architecture, Venice Art Biennale
- December: Christmas
At Venezia Unica you can get in touch with local tourism professionals to help organize your stay in the city.
This is the main tourist office in Venice. Here, you can find practical information and useful recommendations (accommodations, restaurants, public transport, festivals, cultural events, etc.).
Is Venice a gay-friendly city?
Safety: Venice is a city that is extremely welcoming to diversity. Here you will feel exactly like you are in northern European or North American cities. In the city center of Venice, it’s common to see gay couples holding hands or kissing. 8/10
Gay life: Gay life in Venice is beautiful, but there are not many gay bars. Mestre and Padua are the best places to discover gay life in the Veneto Region. 5/10
Gay only: In Mestre (just 15 minutes by car from Venice) you will find a lot of clubs and saunas that are gay-only. If you are looking for fun, you are in the right place! 7/10
Venice is definitely a good place for LGBT people to have an excellent quality of life. 7/10