A weekend break in Venice will no doubt deliver culture and history in spades. It is not only one of the most romantic destinations in Europe but the Floating City is tightly packed with museums and galleries as well. Its vast collection offers everything from ancient palaces and iconic century-old collections of art to more contemporary exhibits. Here are the real best places to visit in Venice are so that you don’t miss anything – especially if you only have a weekend.
Let’s have a look at the best things to do in Venice:
St. Mark’s Square & Basilica
Whilst St. Mark’s Basilica is the most famous building in Venice, St Mark’s Square is the most famous piazza.
Located on the grand canal, opposite the island of San Giorgio Maggiore, this square holds huge importance in Venice and is a truly spectacular place to visit.
Surrounding the Piazza is a series of ornate buildings with arched walkways that frame it perfectly.
Furthermore, several important buildings are located on the square including St Mark’s Campanile, St Mark’s Basilica, Doge’s Palace and Torre dell’Orologio.
This square really is the perfect place to start your tour of Venice and tick off some of its most impressive sights. You can hear the music for free as you walk around, but sitting at a table is usually very expensive. Take a peek at the famous Caffe Florian, popular since 1720, and visit Basilica San Marco, Saint Mark’s Cathedral, an impressive Byzantine style monument.
Easily the most renowned and famous building in Venice, St. Mark’s Basilica is a sublime piece of architecture that has stood the test of time since its creation in 1092 and remains one of the most important religious buildings in Northern Italy.
Every aspect of this church is fantastic – From the ornate detail, sculptures and artwork of the front facade, to the beautifully painted frescos and Byzantine works of art on the inside of the domed ceiling.
The copper horses at the top of St mark’s Basilica are replicas. The real ones, which are thought to be the oldest on earth at about 2,000 years old, are located inside the terrace. The original four horses have moved over the centuries from Constantinople to Rome and Paris (where they sat on top of the Arc de Triomph after Napoleon stole them).
Located in the Piazza San Marco, this basilica is easily accessible from the grand canal and is one of the best-known surviving examples of Italian Byzantine architecture.
Venice has literally hundreds of canals that connect the various islands that make up the city – the largest of which is the Canale Grande.
This monumental canal is more like a river and it passes from one side of Venice to the other and snakes through the centre in a large S bend shape.
Over 170 buildings dating from as early as the 13th century line the banks of the canal and it has served as an important waterway in the city for hundreds of years.
Only four bridges span the grand canal as generally people and tourists travel along the canal, not over it.
You may consider walking along sections of the canal, admiring the buildings that line it, and watching the busy water traffic of Venice.
Pricey it may be, but the iconic and compelling gondola ride is part of the Venice ritual. Choose a gondola you like the look of at one of the stands around the city, pay only the going rate (set by regulatory Ente Gondola) and remember that you’re not obliged to go on the gondolier’s standard circuit – you can choose your route. Bacino Orseolo is a popular starting point. Alternatively, instead of a gondola you may take a 2-hour board ride down the Grand Canal, under the Rialto bridge and out towards the smaller islands. Let the guide point out the old custom house that used to tax every boat coming in to trade with the Merchants of Venice; see where the house of Prada sits; and sail past the hotel where George Clooney got married.
Ponte di Rialto
As one of the bridges that spans the impressive Grand Canal, the Ponte di Rialto is undoubtedly the most famous and iconic.
Connecting the San Marco and San Polo districts of Venice, the bridge is an important pedestrian thoroughfare, but also a hugely popular tourist attraction.
Originally a wooden bridge, this culmination stood for hundreds of years until it collapsed in 1524. After this incident, an ornate stone bridge was built that still stands today.
The detail and design of the bridge is simply beautiful and its symmetry perfectly frames the grand canal.
Furthermore, the is also a series of shops on the bridge that sell a range of wares from souvenirs to jewellery
Located opposite the Ponte dell’Accademia on the Grande Canal, this museum hosts a fine collection of pre-19th century art and features works by artists such as Bellini, Canaletto and Titian.
The building of the gallery was formerly a convent and was converted to the museum in the 1700’s.
For those who love Renaissance art and iconic masterpieces, this gallery delivers.
Possibly its best known piece is the Vitruvian Man by Da Vinci which shows the ideal proportions of man.
Other notable works include the Resurrection by Tintoretto, Virgin and the Child by Titian, and the Battle of Lepanto by Veronese.
One of the most renowned buildings in Venice aside from the Basilica and Campanile, Doges Palace also sits in St. Mark’s Square but looks out onto the grand canal.
This palace is simply stunning and its front facade features a beautiful arched design with series of diamond patterns.
Inside, the palace is just as impressive and there is a series of immensely decorated rooms that all have original details, furniture and artwork.
Tours of the palace are available and it is advised to spend some time viewing both the exterior and interior in detail to truly capture a piece of the history of Venice.
San Giorgio Maggiore
The best views of the San Marco Campanile aren’t from the top of the San Marco tower they’re from across the water, looking at the campanile.
Instead of climbing up the San Marco tower, head over to San Giorigo Maggiore for the best views in Venice. Once you climb the bell tower across the way, you get panoramic views across the whole of Venice island, including the famous campanile.
You don’t have to pay to peruse, but you’ll want to bring some cash in case you see something that whets your appetite. The market is generally open from around 6 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturdays.
BONUS – Bridge of Sighs
Although only a small bridge in the relative scheme of Venice, the Bridge of Sighs is one of the most viewed structures in the city and is an important historic landmark. Passing over the Rio di Palazzo, the bridge connects the Prigioni Nuove to Doge’s Palace.
Legend has it, that as criminals were taken from the Palace over the bridge, they would have one last glimpse at Venice and sigh; considering their forthcoming punishment and imprisonment.
The usual touristic way to observe the bridge is to go over the opposite bridge which is increadibly packed with the tour groups, selfie-stick wielding couples and people trying to squeeze. The whole significance of the bridge of sighs is the views it gives out over Venice. So, we would suggest instead of sticking with the crowds, take a tour of the Doge Palace and the prisons and actually walk through the Bridge of Sights to take a look out over Venice (ignoring the crowds gawking in), sigh and be grateful you’re not off to be beheaded!.