Today I will try to show you around Venice. The Italian city, famous for being the city of lovers for its romantic side with its many canals, was founded in 528. It now has 270,000 inhabitants for more than 23 million tourists a year, which makes it one of of the most visited cities in Italy but also, unfortunately, one of the sites most threatened in the world by mass tourism.
Visit Venice: What to do and what to see?
Let’s start our tour of Venice with the essentials, the places not to be missed during your visit to Venice. I will therefore introduce you to the main places, knowing that Venice has many squares, basilicas, bridges, Campanile and small islands to see. This is sort of my “top 10” places to visit in Venice.
Saint Mark’s Square
Piazza San Marco is the main square and the only large square in Venice. Indeed it forms a rectangle 83 meters wide for nearly 175 meters in length.
This square is surrounded by monuments with very particular architecture. To the north and south are respectively the Procuratie Vecchie with the clock tower and the Procuratie Nueve with the archaeological museum and the Marciana library.
To the east of Saint Mark’s Square you will find the famous Saint Mark’s Basilica, the Doge’s Palace and the Campanile of Saint Mark. I will introduce you to these three monuments a little further down. On the other side of the square, facing the basilica is the Napoleonic wing which closes the square and connects the Procuratie Vecchie and Nueve.
Another emblematic place of the place, known all over the world, the Café Florian, since 1720 and its symphony orchestra. This cafe has been copied all over the world, a real tourist spot of this square.
Now let’s take a few steps towards the Doge’s Palace, between it and the Marciana Library. You are then on the Piazzetta San Marco. You will find two columns in its center, decorated with statues. It was between these columns that the executions took place at the time. A tradition wants that the native Venetians never pass between these
Last celebrities of this place, the pigeons. And yes this place is literally invaded by pigeons, it was also, until 2008 the only place in Venice where it was authorized to feed them. Since then, feeding the pigeons in Venice will cost you a fine of €500.
Note that depending on the period in which you visit Venice, the square may be flooded. Indeed every year between the end of autumn and the beginning of spring, part of the city is flooded. The Venetians call this “acqua alta”.
Saint Mark’s Basilica
Saint Mark’s Basilica is the most important church in Saint Mark’s Square. It was built in 828. This imposing building has an impressive architectural richness. Built under Byzantine influence, this basilica is decorated with numerous sculptures and mosaics. The interior of the basilica is absolutely beautiful.
The visit to the basilica begins from the outside with an impressive facade. The imposing doors and the mosaics that overhang them make the particularity of this facade. More difficult to see, the 4 impressive domes that cover the basilica are to be seen by moving away somewhat from the building.
You will have the opportunity to climb on the terraces of the basilica to enjoy a beautiful view of Place Saint-Marc.
Inside the basilica you can contemplate the golden marbles and mosaics, the choir of the basilica and the baptistery, but it is undoubtedly the famous Pala D’Oro that attracts the crowds. The Pala D’Oro is an altarpiece adorned with gold and precious stones.
If you want to know more about Saint Mark’s Basilica, don’t hesitate to take a look at our article dedicated to visiting Saint Mark’s Basilica.
The Campanile or “El paron de casa”, as the Venetians call it and one of the emblematic places of Venice. Located on Saint Mark’s Square, this imposing tower of more than 98 meters was built in 888. At the base this building was to serve as a watchtower. Its construction had many ups and downs. After almost 80 years of construction, the ground collapsed under the weight of the tower, demolished, moved then rebuilt, the campanile collapsed again in 1902. Rebuilt in 10 years, it was inaugurated on April 25, 1912.
You can climb to the top of this campanile, and enjoy a breathtaking view of Venice and the roof of Saint Mark’s Basilica. You can admire the bell tower of this campanile which after a watchtower role served as a bell tower to warn isolated citizens of the time of prayer. If you are not afraid of heights, do not hesitate to climb to the top of this impressive monument.
The Doge’s Palace
The Doge’s Palace, also located on Saint Mark’s Square, like the campanile and Saint Mark’s Basilica, is one of the most beautiful palaces in Europe. Built during the Republic of Venice, in 1340, this palace had an eventful life, and suffered several fires, some of which were very important. It was built to accommodate the Doges of the republic. The Doge being the first magistrate of the republic at the time. It was then used as a prison for many years until a new prison was built next door. We will talk about it in the next paragraph because it is the famous Bridge of Sighs that connects this same prison to the Doge’s Palace. This palace has, today, three main uses, communal palace, courthouse and Ducal residence.
For the record, each pillar of the palace is adorned with sculptures telling a story. Spend some time and take a good look at the stories the palace has to tell you.
It is possible to visit the interior of this mythical palace, in view of the number of tourists visiting this palace every day, we advise you to opt for skip-the-line tickets which will allow you to save precious hours.
The Bridge of Sighs
The Bridge of Sighs is one of the most famous and touristic bridges in Venice, it is one of the must-sees in Venice. It spans the Rio de Palazzo o de Canonica. The Bridge of Sighs connects the Doge’s Palace, where the detainees were heard, to the old prison of Venice. Its name would come from the sighs uttered by the prisoners when they crossed this bridge. It was built in 1602 and measures 11 meters. This bridge is totally closed so that prisoners cannot jump off the bridge.
The visit to the Bridge of Sighs is included in the visit to the Doge’s Palace.
The Rialto Bridge
The Rialto Bridge is a real monument of Venice. One of four bridges spanning the Grand Canal in Venice. It was the first built, in 1591, and was the only bridge to cross the Grand Canal for many years. Its shape makes it original. The Rialto Bridge, built of stone, has a circumflex accent shape.
Gondola ride on the Grand Canal
Who says Venice, says gondola! The most romantic city in the world can also be visited by gondola. It is one of the must-sees in Venice, taking a tour of the city and its Grand Canal by gondola will allow you to observe the city from another angle.
There is a multitude of offers to make this small cruise. You will have the choice between the gondola ride of 30 minutes or one hour, in group or private including, or not, a meal.
Visiting Venice also means visiting the islands that surround the city. The island of Murano is a small island located north of Venice. It is one of the islands on which I strongly advise you to visit during your visit to Venice. Indeed this island has the particularity of bringing together all the glassworks of Venice. The glassworks of Venice have an international reputation because the glass is blown there by hand. For the record, all the glassworks are located on this island following a decree signed in 1201. At that time the glassworks were spread all over the Venice and caused numerous fires. The houses being built of wood, the fires could quickly become devastating. It was therefore in 1201 that this decree forced glassmakers to settle on the island. You will also find, on the island of Murano, very beautiful gardens. A visit to this island and in particular to these glassworks is a must in Venice.
The island of Burano is a small island, or rather a group of 4 small islets, of 3,000 inhabitants, located north of the lagoon. This island is famous for its lace as well as for its very colorful houses bordering the canals. On this island you will find the San Martino church as well as the lace museum. The island of Burano is accessible via vaporetto.
The island of Torcello is a historical island of Venice. Indeed this island was the first populated island of the lagoon in the 6th century. The island of Torcello was for a long time the most populated island of Venice until malaria led the island to be gradually completely deserted. This island now has about sixty inhabitants. An island almost deserted nowadays but its history makes it an island rich in monuments to visit. First of all we find the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta, one (see the) of the oldest cathedrals in Venice, rich in mosaics. On the island of Torcello, there is also the Santa Fosca church with its particular architecture. Legend has it that this island is home to Attila’s throne, used during his visit to Italy in the Middle Ages.
Lido beach is one of the few beaches in Venice. This beautiful beach is located between the dikes of San Nicolo and Alberoni. This natural beach of fine sand and clear water is bordered by natural dunes. This is a step that I strongly recommend during your visit to Venice. Certainly you will not spend your entire stay there, especially if you are traveling in winter, but a short stop on this beach is worth it.