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Venice Travel Guide

About Venice

It might be nicknamed La Serenissima (the most serene) but there’s little that could be described as calm about Venice. Home to some of the most iconic architecture on the planet, its ancient colonnades and meandering canals are very much part of a truly modern city.

Built across 116 islands set in a formerly blue lagoon (now verging on brown), Venice benefits from a fascinatingly colourful past with scores of spectacular buildings and a sprinkling of stardust. The birthplace of Tintoretto and Titian has no shortage of artistic and cultural treats either, although the inspiration for many of their works - the city itself - is just as compelling.

Despite its reputation for canals, Venice is a never-ending maze of tiny cobbled courtyards and winding back streets, linked by arched bridges and dotted with osterie (simple bars serving food and drink), traditional trattorias and frequently tacky souvenir shops. But its real beauty lies in its unique waterways and striking bridges, such as the iconic Rialto.

Away from the canals, the city is dominated by the Saint Mark's Basilica and for good reason: it’s truly one of the most impressive pieces of Renaissance architecture on the planet and its byzantine golden horses are nothing short of spectacular. Castello, the surrounding area, is just as magnificent with some eye-wateringly expensive palazzo hotels.

San Polo, with its beautiful Santa Maria dei Frari church, is also worth making time for, not least because it is also home to the Scuola di San Rocco, noted for its collection of Tintoretto paintings.

Quiet Santa Croce and arty Dorsoduro are not to be missed either, while Campo Santa Margherita is the place to go for late nights and interesting locals.

You might be amid ancient buildings, but in bustling modern Venice, serenity is the last thing you’ll find.

Key facts

260.897 (2018)

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Featured Hotels


JW Marriott Venice Resort and Spa

With the largest spa in Venice, this resort on a private island boasts a complimentary shuttle service to St Mark’s Square, 250 contemporary rooms and suites designed by architect Matteo Thun. This is an exclusive getaway set in acres of private garden with a rooftop pool overlooking the lagoon.

Hotel Saturnia and International

Situated on one of Venice’s smartest shopping streets, this sophisticated hotel is very good value. Run by the same family since 1908, you will get a friendly welcome, a good-sized room with elegant antique furniture and a plentiful breakfast. The suntrap roof terrace is an excellent retreat.

Hotel Monaco and Grand Canal

Modern design has been brought to this palatial old building with stunning results. On the banks of the Grand Canal, and within a stone's throw of St Mark's Square, its setting is convenient. There are only 100 rooms and most of them tend to be booked up well in advance.

Charming House DD724

This characterful hideaway by the Guggenheim Museum only has six rooms in the main buildings as well as three more nearby. The decor is design-led with muted browns and creams complementing the work of local artists that hangs in all rooms. The chic modern rooms and suites boast plasma TVs and free Wi-Fi.

Ca Maria Adele

Just minutes from the Salute Vaporetto stop, this lush boutique hotel has Old World Venetian charm. Its beamed ceilings meet lavish furnishings as part of its eastern theme. In the evening, it's possible to have drinks on the terrace while listening to opera music.

Hotel Santa Lucia

This cheap hotel might not win any awards, but it's trim and well run and enjoys a handy location a few minutes walk from Santa Lucia train station. The rooms all have TVs and are cleaned daily; some also have their own bathrooms. Breakfast is served on the small garden terrace outside.