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Discover Venice Italy - The 6 Essentials

There's so much to see in Venice you can become overwhelmed. Before you despair here is the list of the 6 sights you absolutely must see.

Enjoy Venice...

Where to Start?

First I suggest a visit to our Pictures of Venice page for an idea of just how wonderful the city is. If you get lost then visit and bookmark our maps page – the geography of Venice isn't always easy. 

For me the most magical moment is when you step out of the station. First you're in a normal crowded and bustling station... and then. The video explains it better than I ever could...

Exploring Venice

Let me start with the “must see” tourist attractions - the Big 6. Sometimes these are really crowded with tourists but they  are worth the effort.

Try to visit during the times of year when Venice is less crowded – further down the page I suggest the best months.

The good news is that most of the main sights are within walking distance of each other, so a couple of days is enough to see them all. If time is limited though don't waste hours standing in line.  Click here to see how you can avoid the lines and see the essentials in a day.

St Mark's Square, VeniceSt Mark's Square

The Venice Big Six

1) The Rialto Bridge

2) The Doge’s Palace

3) St Mark’s Square

4) The Grand Canal

5) St Mark’s Basilica

6) The Bridge of Sighs

Two other Venice attractions that are often considered as "must see" sights are the Saint Marks Bell Tower (Campanile di San Marco) and the Accademia Bridge.

In my opinion the bridge can be crossed off the "things you have to do in Venice" list as it is hugely overrated. The best thing about the bridge is the view out over the Grand Canal which is gorgeous.

The beautiful bell tower though is definitely worth the trip to the top and the view across Venice is breathtaking.

An interesting fact is that the bell tower collapsed in 1902 and was faithfully restored by 1912 - exactly a millennium after the foundations were first laid.

Venice Italy

Best Places to Stay in Venice

Like to feel as special as Venice itself? Make those Venetian dreams come true, simply stay at one of the wonderfully elegant hotels that best epitomize the history and style of the city.

If you are on a tighter budget then my advice is to stay in one of the outer sestriere (suburbs).

Luxury Hotels

Venice is full of splendid luxury hotels, hotels like the Cipriani, the Danieli and the Metropole Hotel. I once rated the Cipriani and Danieli to be the best hotels in Venice. Now I prefer the Bauer Palladio Hotel & Spa.

Three & Four Star Hotels

A really superb hotel, with very reasonable rates is the Foscari Palace Hotel (click to read more). The hotel is in Cannaregio, right on the Grand Canal and a short walk to all the main tourist attractions. The fact that you get to stay in a 16th century palace is just the cherry on top.

For an even cheaper hotel you could try the Hotel Abbazia which is also in Cannaregio.

Venice Italy by Alexander Strahilov

Walking Tours of Venice Italy

By far the best way of getting around Venice is on foot. Venice is not a big city and even if you aren’t much of a walker you should have no trouble making it.  

Walking is really the only way you can discover the secret places of Venice.

Walking tours of Venice can be done independently though some very good organized walks (sometimes combined with boat trips) are available.

Want to do it yourself? Then my advice is to just get completely lost. Venice is the perfect city to do this. You'll be amazed at how many interesting places you discover.

Also, make sure you explore Venice at night. Once night falls, the crowds melt away, lamps light up the streets and golden reflections dance upon the waters of the canals.

Especially wonderful is exploring on a misty night, when sounds are deadened and the splish-splash of water and your own breathe is all you hear; it is on nights like this that you can feel the centuries, the ghosts of the past. If you to would like to meet these ghosts of Venice on a winter's night try this tour.

Little Known Venice

These are the places I love. They are far less crowded and filled with authentically colorful Venetian life. I often just sit quietly soaking up the vibrant atmosphere of this the real Venice.

My favourite spots, ranging from the Hebrew Ghetto through to Dorsoduro, can be seen here.

Best Month to Visit?

Try to avoid July and August. The climate in Venice Italy is often hot and humid while the city is overcrowded.

November through February can be cold and the damp can get into your bones but apart from the high water in November.

I love Venice in winter (browse the photos here), the city is often misty, or occasionally covered with snow, and it really does feel magical.

You walk down empty alleyways, or sit alongside silent canals, and feel transported back to another age – quite wonderful. 

Visiting during Venice Carnival

A great occasion to make a trip Venice is during the Venice Carnival in February (read more here).The city gets very full for this and you need to book months beforehand but it is well worth it.

The atmosphere is second to none and this together with the Ivrea carnival is my favourite Italian festa. The gorgeous Venice Carnival masks worn for the occasion are an art form of their own.

If you don’t feel like dealing with the cold winter Venice weather, or the crowds of summer, then May/June and late September to October are good months.

Check out our weather in Venice page for more.

Grand Canal by Alexander Strahilov

Best Restaurants

Visit our Venice restaurant guide for the places my family and I eat at.

Shopping in Venice

This is where you have to be careful. Few places are easier to get ripped off in than Venice and prices can be ridiculously inflated.  However, there are some fabulous shopping spots around the city and our guide has everything you'll need from luxury to the Acqua Alta Bookstore - click here to read it.

Avoid buying anything at all in St Marks Square. Most of the Venice Murano glass items (view our guide to buying Murano glass here) and the Venetian carnival masks you find in St Marks cost double and many of them are of poor quality. Once you see the real thing you will easily spot a cheap imitation a mile away.

For more tips on Venice Carnival and buying carnival masks click here.

Getting Around

Venice Card & Public Transport

Aren't up to doing much walking? Then a good idea is to get the Venice Unica Pass Card.  It is basically a card that you can load with a whole range of things from waterbus tickets to tours and lots of other things like museum tickets etc.  

The important thing to remember is to create a separate card for each person travelling and then load the card with the necessary tickets etc. 

Once you've bought it they'll send you an email with a pin code that you then use to collect your tickets once in Venice by simply entering your pin code into one of the ACTV ticket machines.

Very Important: always validate your ticket before you get on-board. Here's how.

ACTV is the company that runs the public transport water bus service in Venice Italy and if you don’t have a Venice Unica Pass Card then tickets are available in newsagents, bars and tobacconists (tobaccai) displaying the ACTV / Venezia Unica logo. You can also buy them from the ticket machines at the main stations.

Some of the best routes, with great views, are those along the Giudecca canal and on the lagoon.

Taxis & Transfers

Taxis, which are beautifully maintained wooden boats, are a good way to get from A to B if you are in a rush and have plenty of money. Sometimes, particularly in July and August when the public transport gets really crowded, it may be worth considering. They are also a good way to get to your hotel from the airport, the journey into Venice is unforgettable - best to book before you leave home though.

A Gondola Trip

Gondoliers in a row relaxing by Paul Battinieri

Do take a ride on a Venice gondola. The gondolas are expensive but Venice’s gondolas are very romantic and they are an essential and lovely part of the history of Venice.

An affordable way to ride on a gondala, and experience the amazing experience of being on a little boat in the midst of the Grand Canal. is to take a "traghetto". The traghetto gondolas served as a way to get across the canal before the bridges were built. They only cost 4 Euros and leave at various points where there are no bridges.

The one in the video below is right next to the Rialto Fish Market, is the easiest to reach and the one that always runs. There are another six spots along the canal where they leave from. Head down streets called Calle del Traghetto, which are marked with a yellow sign showing a black gondola, and you'll find them.

Sadly, this great historical tradition is dying out - there used to be over 25 of these gondola crossings but only seven remain and few of these operate regularly anymore. Tourists seem to prefer to pay a fortune for the other "touristy" gondolas and ignore this real and genuine part of Venice's history... I know you won't do that ;-)

60 Seconds on a Gondola

To get a taste of what a gondola ride is like watch the video below...

Getting to Venice

First, have a look at Kayak  - you'll be amazed at the deals you can find on there. A lot of the flights are to Venice Treviso airport but the connection is pretty easy. Visit our guide on Getting to Venice for more.

Visiting Venice? Then don't miss these 6 bucket list destinations nearby.

P.S. Please subscribe to my free monthly newsletter. It's full of tips and insider information on the Italy I love. Click here to subscribe.

A Last Look at Venice

Visited Venice?

I would love to hear about your visit to Venice, your experiences in the city, travel tips, favorite things about Venice. Anything you can share would be really appreciated by me and I am sure by other visitors to this site.

What Other Visitors Have Said

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beautiful-venice Not rated yet
When I was 16 I went to Italy with my mother and sisters for the summer. I had a friend who had a car and we picked up a young couple from England …

Good Day Trips from Venice Italy Not rated yet
My wife and I have booked a week in Venice this September. And I have taken the advice I found on your site on where to stay in the city, having decided …

Living the Italian way in Venice and Learning Italian in Venice Not rated yet
Every weekday morning throughout the year, if you’re breakfasting in Campo Santa Margherita in Venice, you’ll see several dozen people enter an incongruous …

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