Even though I’ve been to Venice before (previous post), as soon as I reached and heard the gondoliers singing, I couldn’t wait to explore the city once again! I’ve learnt that no matter how many times you come to Venice, it still manages to retain its charm and mystique. And as touristy as Venice can be, and believe me it is extremely touristy, there is still an element of authenticity that is hard to describe – you’ll have to come here and see for yourself!
Venice is so picturesque – if you’re visiting for the first time, just allow yourself to get lost, wandering through the city’s narrow alleyways and bridges that cross over the numerous romantic canals. On our first day, we dropped off our bags at our hotel, the Westin Europa Regina, and headed out to San Marco square, steps away from the hotel. The Westin has arguably the best position on the Grand Canal with views to die for, right opposite the Santa Maria della Salute church and the opening of the lagoon.
Venice has so much to offer – here are the top sights that you should definitely add to the list!
San Marco Square
This is the main piazza in Venice where St Mark’s Basilica is located as well as the Campanile and Museo Correr. It is the heart of Venice so is naturally always busy and lively.Palazzo Ducale (The Doge’s Palace)
This is a gothic style palace that was once the residence of the Doge of Venice, the main authority of the former Republic of Venice. The building itself is iconic and very recognisable as it’s right next to St Mark’s Basilica. Be sure to see the Bridge of Sighs which you’ll pass through whilst in the palace but the view from the outside is also worth seeing!Peggy Guggenheim Collection
This gallery has an excellent collection of modern art including works by Kandinsky, Dali and Picasso. It also has nice views of the Grand Canal from its terrace and you get to explore the other side of the canal, away from San Marco.Rialto Bridge
This is the most famous and oldest bridge on the Grand Canal and one of the few remaining bridges of its kind. Again, views of the canal are great and you get a real sense of how busy it gets, with gondolas, speed boats and vaporettos all fighting for space to get through. San Giorgio Maggiore bell tower
You should definitely see Venice from above. The last time I was here, I went to the San Marco Campanile where the views of the city were a lot more close up. If I were to choose, I would recommend going to this bell tower instead of San Giorgio Maggiore which is on a different island. The views from San Giorgio are a lot further away although you get to see the landscape a lot better. Both cost around €6-8. BUT if you’re really on a budget, head to Fondaco Dei Tedeschi which is near the Rialto Bridge. Going to the top of the building is free and the views looked amazing. I only discovered this place after I got back so didn’t get to go myself but I thought I’d share the love!Museo Correr
This is a museum/former palace in San Marco square which was once owned by the Austrian royal family and decorated by Empress Sissi – there are a number of state rooms to see and the museum also connects with others, including the National Archaeological Museum.
Top tip: Buy the ‘museum card’ (€24) which gives you free entry to some of the main museums, including Museo Correr, Ca’Rezzonica and the Doge’s palace (which is €20 just on its own).Ca’Rezzonica
Ca’Rezzonica is a Grand Canal palazzo that boasts great views of the Canal and gives you a real sense of how nobility lived here in a bygone era. If you are short on time, I’d go to Ca’Rezzonica rather than Museo Correr but obviously try to fit both in if you can 🙂 Grand Canal
There are numerous ways to explore the Grand Canal – via gondola (though this is the priciest option!), a speed boat tour (I saw some reasonably priced ones) or even on the No.1 vaporetto (public water bus) which goes all the way down the Grand Canal and is by far the cheapest way to see the sights (€7 one way). It takes about an hour but the downside is that it is really busy at all times and has a number of different stops on the way.
Top tip: try to get on the vaporetto a couple of stops before San Marco e.g. Arsenale. You’re more likely to get a seat at the front or the back where you can get some good views. Galleria Academia Bridge
Sunset from here is pretty special and it’s the first bridge on the Grand Canal that allows you to cross over to the other side by foot to visit the Peggy Guggenheim or the Galleria della Academia if you like classic Renaissance art.I was particularly lucky on my last day in Venice as I got to see the city in the fog – it was so atmospheric, mysterious and a bit creepy but all in a good way. I was amazed at how people were still travelling along the Grand Canal when I could barely see the boats only a few meters away!
We spent our last afternoon on the terrace of our hotel, enjoying the amazing views of the sunset through the fog. Check out my next post on Burano, which is a must see island and a photographer’s dream!