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Discover Venice Italy - The 6 Essentials

There's so much to see in Venice, Italy, that you can easily become overwhelmed. Before you despair, here is a list of the six sights you absolutely must see.

Enjoy Venice...


🚩 Stroll across the Rialto Bridge, take a ride on a traditional gondola along the Grand Canal, see St. Mark’s Basilica, Doge’s Palace and other magnificent places in just a day!

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Where to Start?

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.


🚩 Stroll across the Rialto Bridge, take a ride on a traditional gondola along the Grand Canal, see St. Mark’s Basilica, Doge’s Palace and other magnificent places in just a day!

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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 Gritti Palace.

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.

Early morning in St Marks Square in VeniceEarly morning in St Marks Square in Venice

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.

Venice at Night

Day-trippers to Venice miss out on one of the most incredible experiences you can have in Venice: exploring by night. Once darkness falls, the crowds melt away, lamps light up the streets, and golden reflections dance upon the waters of the canals. St. Mark's Square becomes filled with a gold and silver glow, and its palaces and spires are spectacular to see.

Exploring on a misty night is especially magical, sounds are muffled and all you can hear is the gentle splish-splash of water in the canals and your own breath. It is on nights like these that you experience the centuries and the ghosts of Venice past.

Is it safe to walk around at night though?

Venice is one of the safest cities on earth, so nowhere is off-limits, and even as a woman on my own, I have never felt any fear. Of course, always be alert to your surroundings as you would in any city. 

 If you 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 favorite spots, ranging from the Hebrew Ghetto through to Dorsoduro, can be seen here.

When is the 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. 


🚩 Stroll across the Rialto Bridge, take a ride on a traditional gondola along the Grand Canal, see St. Mark’s Basilica, Doge’s Palace and other magnificent places in just a day!

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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

Gondolas in Venice

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.

They are expensive, though, so if you cannot afford the full experience, we've got a great alternative that is in everyone's budget, offers an affordable way to ride on a gondola, and allows you to experience the amazing sensation of being on a little boat in the midst of the Grand Canal.

So, what do you need to do? Well, take a "traghetto".

The traghettos are a version of the gondola that served as a way to get across the canal before the bridges were built. They only cost 2 euros a person (less for residents of Venice) and leave from various points where there are no bridges.

The traghetto in the video below is right next to the Rialto Fish Market, is the easiest to reach, and is the one that always runs. There are another six spots along the canal where they leave, but not all are always operational. 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 them 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.

An Important Message from the People of Venice

Venice is struggling with litter, much of it caused by water bottles being dropped into the canals.

I was so shocked to see the number of plastic bottles dumped in Venice this summer. A few months back, at 5 a.m. and just before the cleaners arrived, my family and I took a walk around the St. Mark's Square area; the amount of plastic bottles lying around was absolutely incredible. Then we went to the water's edge, and there were literally hundreds of bottles bobbing about.

We knew that something had to be done, and we are now involved in supporting a campaign to solve the problem.

We hope to encourage people to leave their bottles at home and rather drink the crystal-clear water from any of the 126 water fountains spread throughout the city. The campaign will raise awareness of the problem and publicize the map below, which shows where the drinking fountains in Venice are located.

Please support Venice with this if you do visit.

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

Visit and bookmark our maps page – the geography of Venice isn't always easy. 

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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