Venice is one of the most famous cities in the world to visit. Filled with so many attractions and history the best way is to see the city it to simply wander through its captivating little streets and passageways or to take a gondola ride along its canals. The Carnival of Venice is an annual festival that is world famous for its elaborate masks and held each year around February. It is a time when the city is full of colour and life. Venice will enchant you making you want to return time and time again.
St. Mark’s Basilica is definitely one of Venice's best known Churches, recognised worldwide. St. Mark’s Basilica was originally the Doge's private chapel, decorated with Byzantine art treasures that are part of the wealth brought back by Venetian ships after the fall of Constantinople. The gold backed mosaic pictures that grace above the doorways on the façade indicate a hint of what is inside, where 4,240 square metres of gold mosaics cover the domes and walls. The magnificent golden altarpiece, the Pala d'Oro, adorned with nearly 2,000 gems and precious stones is one of the finest in Europe.
Piazza San Marco (St. Mark’s Square) is Venice's largest square with a elegant uniformity of its architecture on three sides. The square is the central point of the city where people meet friends and drink coffee. Around its three sides you will find framed arcades, housing stylish shops and trendy cafés. For a great overview of this busy piazza just go to the top of the Torre dell'Orologio, where a pair of 'Moors' strike on the hour.
The Palazzo Ducale (Doge’s Palace) was built in a Venetian Gothic style and is one of the main highlights of Venice. Built in 1340 this Palace was the former residence of the Doge of Venice, the supreme authority of the former Republic. This awe inspiring Palace with its grandeur and extravagant decoration is where you can see works by all the Venetian greats including Tintoretto. The Bridge of Sighs is only open to visitors on a private tour basis where you can visit the dark cells of the Prigioni, the prisons where Casanova made his famous escape. For the best view of the Bridge of Sighs, go to the Ponte della Paglia on the Riva degli Schiavoni behind the Doge's Palace.
Built in 1588, the Rialto Bridge marks the spot of the island's first settlement, called the Rivus Altus (High bank). This world recognisable stone arch serves as a busy crossing point midway along the canal and is a favourite vantage point for tourists taking photos. On the San Marco side of the bridge, you will find the Church of San Bartolomeo and on the other a bustling food market, where Venetians and chefs shop for fresh produce and seafood.
The Grand Canal curves through the heart of Venice in a giant reverse S curve and is the principal Boulevard through the city, connecting Piazza San Marco to the Rialto Bridge and the arrival points of Santa Lucia Railway Station and the bridge from the mainland. Lined along the Grand Canal are Palaces of Early Renaissance and Venetian Gothic style leading it to be the choice address of anyone who claimed influence in Venice. These Grand Palace façades can be seen by a trip on a vaporetto along the canal and are still perfectly preserved today.
When visiting Venice your trip would not be complete without a visit to Murano and Burano. Murano is the home of the legendary glass workers. Here you will find the canals lined by glass studios and showrooms. The 17th Century Palazzo Giustinian is the Glass Museum, with one of the largest and most important collections of Venetian glass from the time of the Romans to the 20th Century. Burano is just a short trip away. This stunning fishing village with its brilliantly painted houses is traditionally known for its lace making. The Scuola dei Merletti (Lace School) and its small Museum will help you distinguish the real lace from the cheap imports you'll find in most shops.
Venice actually began on the outer island of Torcello, founded here as early as the 7th Century. Of its Palaces, Churches, shipyards and docks, only two Churches and a handful of houses remain. You can get some idea of Torcello's importance from its Cathedral, dedicated in 639 to Santa Maria Assunta. It is considered the best remaining example of Venetian Byzantine architecture with the 12th Century mosaics lining the interior, which are outstanding.
The Ca' d'Oro with its delicate marble filigree by Bartolomeo Bon seems too lace like to be carved of stone and you can only imagine the impression this façade must have made covered in its original paint and gold. Along with the Porta della Carta in the Palazzo Ducale, this is considered the most perfect example of Venetian Gothic. You can admire the interior as this palazzo is now an art museum.
Several other art galleries to visit while in Venice including the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, housed in her former home along the Grand Canal. Some of the permanent collections include works by Dali, Picasso, Léger and Braque. The Gallerie dell'Accademia (Fine Arts Museum) situated on the Grand Canal houses the most important and comprehensive collection of 15th-18th Century Venetian paintings in existence. The Ca' Pesaro and Galleria d'Arte Moderna with its impressive façade was inspired by the Sansovino Library that stands across from the Doge's Palace. This lavish Venetian Late Baroque interior contrasts sharply with the art displayed, which contains works from the 19th and 20th Century painters and sculptors including Gustav Klimt, Marc Chagall and Auguste Rodin.
The Lido or Venice Lido is a barrier island in the Venetian Lagoon. Home to the International Venice Film Festival held every year in August and September at the Palazzo del Cinema. Lido also has a 12 km strip of sand that separates the Venetian lagoon from the Adriatic Sea. It was one of Europe’s first real beach resorts and was a stylish watering hole for Royalty and celebrities. Today the grand hotels are still welcoming tourists to stay at their beautiful beaches at a cost.