Venice City Guide
The ancient city of Venice that floats on a blue lagoon is one of the world’s most coveted vacation destinations. This Italian city is believed to be one of the most romantic destinations on earth and is renowned for its singing gondoliers, bustling piazzas, busy canals and elegant bridges and palaces.
Such is the appeal and magical charm of Venice that the city has been immortalized repeatedly in various works of art. Well known literary works (Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice and Othello, Voltaire's Candide), paintings by masters like Titian, Bellini, Giorgione and Tintoretto and numerous movies like (A little Romance, Three coins in the Fountain, Othello, Death in Venice, The Talented Mr. Ripley and The Tourist to name a few) along with various musical compositions have all paid homage and extolled the virtues of this fascinating city by the sea. Thousands of tourists thus flock to Venice every year in order to experience its exceptional allure as they cruise on its many waterways and explore its busy streets and historic quarters.
Venice is located on an archipelago of 118 islands, which are littered on Venetian lagoon at the northern end of the Adriatic Sea. The city is also surrounded by 150 canals and is connected by 400 bridges. This strategic location of Venice enabled it to function as a major center of trade during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance period so much so that it came to be known as ‘the City of Water’ or the "Queen of the Adriatic”.
Today however this much loved vacation destination is known primarily as a tourist magnet and it hosts many famous events like Venice International Film Festival, the oldest film festival in the world, the Carnival of Venice (renowned for its masked malls) and the Venice Biennale, all of which succeed in attracting scores of visitors to this ‘City of Canal’s’ shores.
Where to stay in Venice
The layout of Venice includes its historic center, which is divided into six quarters. These are San Marco, Dorsoduro, San Polo, Santa Croce, Cannaregio and Castello. The Grand Canal, which traverses the length of Venice from the railway station to San Marco, intersects each of these main districts in the city. The best way to explore the city of Venice is not to walk its many maze-like streets but to cruise on its many waterways onboard its popular motorboat buses known as vaporetti.
San Marco Hotels
The San Marco sestieri (section) of Venice contains its most prominent landmarks like Piazza San Marco, Basilica di San Marco, the Rialto Bridge and La Fenice Opera House. This central area is the most visited and most expensive area of Venice which hosts numerous, top notch luxury hotels. However if you choose to do your hotel bookings with Fare Buzz, you have nothing to fear as you assured of getting cheap hotel rooms even in Venice’s highly coveted San Marco area.
The neighborhood of Cannaregio is located on the same side of the Grand Canal as San Marco and it extends to north and south of the Santa Lucia train station to include areas around the Rialto Bridge. Cannaregio is home to most of the budget hotels in Venice. These one and two star hotel properties don’t usually offer modern day conveniences that most travelers are accustomed to like air-conditioning. However if they do include such an amenity, they usually charge more for it.
This Venetian neighborhood is home to the upscale stretch of Riva degli Schiavoni that hosts several high-end boutique hotels as well as many good restaurants and stores. This area is a popular accommodation choice with visitors on vacation to the city.
The Lido is a 7 mile long sandbar located in Venice. The Lido is home to nearly 20,000 residents and offers a resort like ambience The area plays host to the Venice Film Festival each year in August and is equipped with a few luxury and mid-range hotels. If you choose to stay in the Lido during your vacation to Venice, you should be prepared to commute into the city everyday for sight-seeing and other recreational pursuits.
Places to see in Venice
Trips to neighboring islands
The boundaries of Venice extend beyond its six main districts to include the islands of Murano, Burano and Torcello. These islands are known for their crafts like glass-making (Murano), lace making( Burano) while the island of Torcello hosts the Byzantine Basilica of Santa Maria Assunta. Day trips to these neighboring islands offer many sight-seeing opportunities.
The Grand Canal (Canalazzo)
The Grand Canal is the main waterway of Venice that divides the city. This long waterway is lined with the elegant facades of the many old world Venetian palaces like the gothic 'House of Gold' (Ca d'Ora), the Ca da Mosto, the Palazzo Corner-Spinelli, the Palazzo Grimani di San Luca and the Palazzo Corner amongst others. The best way to take in all these various sites while you are on vacation in Venice is to ride the city’s vaparetti network around the canal.
St Mark's Square
The Piazza San Marco is the epicenter of Venice, which hosts the city’s oldest citadel and church, the Palazzo Ducale and the Basilica di San Marco respectively. The Basilica di San Marco features an amalgamation of Byzantine Western European and Islamic architectural styles. Its star attraction is the Pala d’or, a gold relief embellished with precious stones. Other attractions on the Piazza include museums like the Museo Correr,(Archeological Museum) and the Museo del Risorgimento.
The Rialto is the main Commercial Square in Venice. It was here that the first bridge over the Grand Canal was built. The original structure however was a wooden one that was replaced by a stronger one, designed by Antonio da Ponte in 1588. Today, the area’s Mercatino di Rialto that started off as a fresh produce and fish market is a popular attraction offering many souvenir and gift shopping opportunities for tourists.
Basilica dei Frari
This gothic Franciscan was built in the 14th century and contains the last remains of artistic greats like Titian and sculptor Antonio Canova. The church’s interiors are adorned by famed works of luminaries like Donatello, Giovanni Bellini and Titian.
Bell Tower (Campanile di San Marco)
This 97 meter bell tower was built in the 9th century and is the highest structure in Venice offering awe-inspiring views of St Marks square, the lagoon, the islands and other attractions. The original tower collapsed in 1902 and was replaced by an identical structure, which in fact hosts one of the five bells which was salvaged from the original tower.
Clock Tower (Torre dell'Orologio)
The Clock tower is a prominent attraction of the Piazza San Marco that towers above the Procuratie Vecchie. This clock tower was constructed in 1496 and continues to keep perfect time until today.
Best time to visit Venice
Venice experiences a climate that is characterized by cool winters and very warm summers. The average temperatures in Venice during summers usually range from 86F to 91F (30C to 33C), while winter temperatures range from 32F and 37F (0C to 3C). The city also receives much rain and experiences thunderstorms during the seasons of spring and fall. Venice is a year round destination that attracts hordes of tourist all throughout the year and its peak tourist season usually extends from April to November.
Many frequent visitors to Venice seem to think that the best time to visit Venice is during the winter months as hotel rates are somehow lower during this time though if you are traveling to Venice with the aid of Fare Buzz, you really don’t need to worry for it offers attractive hotel and flight deals for Venice all throughout the year. In fact if you are in the market for cheap air tickets for Venice, you should connect with Fare Buzz on Facebook and Twitter so that you are always ‘in the know’ about cheap air flights to Venice and various other destinations.
Getting around in Venice
Venice is served by its Marco Polo Airport that is located 5 miles to the north of the city on the mainland. This airport receives a whole host of full service and low cost carriers from around the globe, which make getting to Venice incredibly easy.
As for transport to the city, cars are banned in Venice and most modes of transport in the city use the city’s extensive waterways to get around. From Venice’s airport you can use bus or taxi services to get to the Piazzale Roma, which is located near Venice’s Santa Lucia station (the closest point to Venice’s attractions accessible by land taxi or bus). To get to your hotel from Piazzale Roma, you will probably have to take a water bus called vaporetto (water bus).
An alternative way of getting to the city from the airport is via a boat service called the Alilaguna, which is available at the airport. This service connects the airport to the Piazza San Marco after making stops at Lido and Murano. If you want to splurge on your Venice vacation, you can even hire a private water taxi to transport you to your hotel. The ride may cost you a tidy sum but it is well worth the experience.
Most visitors associate Venice with romantic gondola rides but these rides can be more expensive than you think. To truly get a sense of Venice’s incredible network of waterways you should use the city’s Vaparetti to get around. These waterbuses make scheduled stops and offer the best way to get around the city. If you are staying in Venice for a while you can even consider getting a stored value card to help you save on vaparetti fares. For a cheaper transport option you can even hitch a ride on a traghetto, which is similar to a gondola but is used by mainly by local Venetians to cross the Grand Canal.
Where to shop in Venice
Venice is renowned as the center for exquisite handicrafts in Italy. The city for centuries has been associated with products like glassware, lace, fabrics, masks and more. However, nowadays it’s getting increasingly harder to find genuine Venetian wares for the city is a major tourist epicenter and is consequently overrun by the availability of much China-produced touristy tack.
One way to separate the grain from the chaff is to bear in mind that the genuine handcrafted wares produced by Venetian artisans is usually very expensive and if you are offered products cheap, then they are probably fakes not genuine Venetian fare. Most shops in Venice are open for business from 10 am to 1pm and then from 4pm to 7.30 pm. The city’s main shopping hubs are located in the districts of San Marco, San Polo around Rialto Bridge and in Cannaregio parallel to the Grand Canal. A popular spot for souvenir shopping in Venice is the market located at the foot of the Rialto Bridge. However, for upscale, Venetian handicrafts, visitors to Venice generally head to individual ateliers or specialty stores like Mondonovo (masks), Orsoni (mosaic tiles), Emilia on the island of Burano (lace), Givonna Zanella (shoes), Mazzon le Borse (Leather goods), Valese (door knockers), Costantini (glass animals), Fortuny (textiles) and the Murano factories on Murano island (glassware).
Where to eat in Venice
Venice is one of the most romantic places on earth that attracts hordes of tourists to its shores. However, unfortunately the city like most popular tourist destinations abounds with tourist traps. A point to remember when choosing a restaurant in Venice is that a good Venetia restaurant is usually closed on Sundays and Mondays. The markets are closed on those days so it means no fresh produce is supplied on these two days. Recommended restaurants in Venice include La Cantina Corte Sconta in Castello, Da Ivo in San Marco,La Zuca in Santa Croce, Al Arco in Rialto, Da Fiore in San Polao Cantinone Gia Schiavi in Dorsoduro, Osteria alle Testiere in Castello and Alla Vedova in Cannaregio.
Nightlife in Venice
The nightlife scene in Venice may not be as vibrant as in Rome or Milan, but the city of canals features a good selection of bars (including some great jazz bars) and clubs that offer visitors ample opportunity for a fun night on the town. Highly ranked nightlife haunts in Venice include Al Vapore, Aurora, Ai Postali, Al Chioscetto, Dogado Lounge, Il Café, Harry’s Bar, and La Mascareta.