Venice, Italy's famous floating city is truly a sight to behold. With millions of visitors each year, it is one of the top European tourist destinations. It is a relatively small place and is comprised of over 100 small islands. Venice is rich in culture and history, and because of this, there is no shortage in what it has to offer to tourists. Venice is one of the most beautiful places in the world, and this is one of the most important reasons to visit Venice. Its centuries-old buildings are perched on more than ten million tree trunks, and these stilts function as the city’s foundations and prevent it from sinking into the marshy land beneath. Of course, it’s common knowledge that Venice is slowly sinking and even tilts slightly to the east. It’s one of the many reasons that tourists and cruise ships are now controlled so heavily in the city. If you’re wondering why you should travel to Venice and what you could do, here are a few suggestions.
Take a gondola ride.
There is a reason this is on every list of Venice must-dos. Gondolas are the symbol of Venice and are the most well-known method of transportation throughout the city. Seeing the city from the canal offers a different view point from walking through the streets. There are two main areas where you can ride a gondola- along the Grand Canal and in the lagoon. Where you choose to start is just a personal preference. Both routes provide some of the most beautiful views of Venice from the canals. Once used as the main form of transport by wealthy Venetians, all gondolas today are for tourist use only. There are only four hundred of them left in the city, so count it as a small privilege, even if it is one of the biggest tourist draws in the world.
They are expensive, but the prices are set at a standard price across the city. Gondoliers won’t negotiate with you as they’re not allowed to change the price. Currently, it costs 80 euros for a private 30-minute tour, with every extra twenty minutes priced at 40 euros. An evening ride is 120 euros for the same length
See the most famous view of Venice from the Rialto Bridge.
This area is the heart of the city. The bridge overlooks the Grand Canal and provides iconic views from both sides. From here, you can watch the hustle and bustle of the city below you. This location is extremely popular and you will join hundreds of people on the bridge at any given time.
Learn the history of the Bridge of Sighs.
The Bridge of Sighs is another well-known and photographed landmark in Venice. It is an enclosed bridge that connects the New Prison to the interrogation rooms inside Doge Palace. There is a legend that if couples kiss while passing underneath the bridge, their love will be eternal. But the history of the bridge is much less romantic than this legend. The name came from the sighs heard as the prisoners crossed the bridge and got their last views of Venice as they marched to their doom. Today, walking the bridge is only possible with a tour of Doge’s Palace; however, it's easy to take a picture in front of or under the bridge.
Visit the great museums.
If you love museums, visiting Venice is a dream. One of the best museums is Ca' d'Oro. This is a very old palace in Venice that's been there since 1430 and has now been turned into a museum. You will find beautiful artwork, paintings and sculptures here. Another great museum in Venice is Gallerie dell'Accademia. You will find Venetian paintings here from before the 19th century.
People-watch in Piazza San Marco.
There are so many sights in this square- St. Mark’s Basilica, St. Mark’s Clocktower, St. Mark’s Campanile, museums, and many cafes. With so many points of interest, the possibilities are endless. St Mark’s Basilica should be the main stop here. Set aside around two hours to explore the thousand-year-old church and try to get there early. It’s highly recommended to book in advance to skip some of the lines. Inside you’ll find a beautiful collection of treasures from the Byzantine era and beyond. History buff or not, it’s still worth a look. The view from the terrace is worth the entrance alone. The nearby Doge’s Palace is the perfect place to learn about the Venetian Empire. Once home to Venice’s Doges, the highest political position in the republic, the sprawling Gothic building was at the heart of Venice’s daily life for centuries until Napoleon’s troops took the city. It’s an excellent visit and a wonderful opportunity to learn about the impact Venice had on the world. Of course, the best part of St. Mark’s Square is enjoying the scenery itself. Just make sure you don’t sit anywhere you’re not supposed to, and definitely don’t eat on the steps of any buildings - you can expect a steep fine.
Get a birds-eye view of the city and lagoon from St. Mark’s Campanile.
Climb the stairs or take an elevator to the top of the bell tower to get the most unforgettable view of Venice. This is a popular attraction and it too has long lines, but the view is completely worth it.
Venice is very photogenic. If you love photography, this is one of the most important reasons you should visit Venice. Venice is the perfect city to visit if you want to take great photos. It has been said that Venice is one of the most photogenic places in the world!
View the architecture. In Venice, you can see many examples of Venetian Gothic architecture. This is an architectural style based on Italian Gothic architecture.
Venice is car free.
One of the things that makes Venice so unique is that it's free of cars. There are no cars on the islands of Venice at all, so the city is very peaceful. It feels a little bit like you're going back in time! There are water buses and taxis, but the best way to get around is on foot. Walking in the streets of Venice is fun and also fast.
Important Things to Know Before your Venetian Vacation
Venice is a very fragile city. Its many houses, palazzos, and cathedrals are built on wooden poles driven into the muddy ground of a lagoon. Studies have shown that the city of Venice is sinking on average about 0.04 to 0.08 inches per year. While a hundred years ago there were about 400 incidents of high water, flooding into homes and shops in the lower parts of the city, by the 1990s, there were 2,400 incidents. So in other words, you need to hurry up and visit the city while it’s still above sea level.
During the summer months, Venice is very hot and humid. Light clothing and comfortable walking shoes are highly recommended. Venice sees millions of visitors each year and the majority of tourists visit during the summer months. Be prepared for long lines and hundreds of people walking the extremely narrow streets. Venice could easily be a single-day trip, and I wouldn’t recommend spending more than two days here because the city is really small.
The best time to visit Venice, is outside the tourist high seasons. During the summer months, tourists can outnumber the Venetians by 600 to 1, and this definitely affect your experience in a negative way. Try to visit in February or March, or later in the year in September or October. It will still be busy, but not as much as during the peak season. Venice can be freezing in winter and hot during the summer, so anything in between should be preferable.
Avoid eating around the tourist center wherever possible. The meals are going to be super expensive and not great quality. If you can, avoid weekends.
In an attempt to curb some of the over-tourism in Venice, government officials have brought in a new system for day visitors to the city. Starting January 2023, day visitors will be required to make reservations for the day of their trip and pay a fee. The cost will vary depending on the time of year, time of day, and how far in advance you pay. The maximum is only around $10, but those caught without paying could be fined as much as $300. If you’re staying overnight, there’s no need to pay or reserve a spot.
Venice has over 2,000 hotels in every budget, so finding one won't be difficult. Obviously, the closer you want to stay to the city center, the more expensive it will be.