by Katie McCabe | @awelltraveledpair | June 9th, 2016
There's no question that Venice is one of the most beautiful places in the world. The breathtaking canals, tangled streets, and unbeatable ambiance make this 'floating city' a true stunner. Once in awhile, while traveling, I encounter a place so stunning it literally makes my jaw drop. Venice is one of those places.
I still remember my first visit. I exited the Venezia Santa Lucia train station, walked down the stairs, and was greeted by the spectacular Grand Canal in all its glory. I was truly blown away. Soft waves gently lapped against the buildings, vaporettos zipped by, and locals and tourists were all engulfed in the intoxicating energy. I knew then and there that Venice was going to be one of my favorite places in the world.
Wander the Streets
One of the best things to do in Venice is wander around the quaint streets. Venice is car-free, therefore, the only two modes of transportation are by foot or boat. Of course you'll want to experience the city by boat, but be sure to explore on foot, too. The maze-like streets are truly captivating, leading you all around town, one winding street after the next.
The most beautiful view in all of Venice is from the top of the Rialto Bridge. Centuries ago, the only way to cross the Grand Canal was by the Rialto. Now, it is one of the most visited attractions in all of Venice. Stop by this amazing bridge for post card worthy sights, and take a gondola ride underneath it for a completely different view.
Take a Gondola Ride
A trip to Venice would not be complete without taking a gondola ride. Yes, they can be quite expensive, but what better way to soak up this city than by cruising down the Grand Canal listening to live Italian music and watching the stunning sights go by. Whether you're in Venice for a romantic getaway, a family vacation, or simply backpacking through Europe, a gondola ride is for everyone - and it will not disappoint.
Have an Aperol Spritz
Aperol is a bitter orange Italian aperitif. When combined with prosecco, sparkling water, and an orange wedge, you have a traditional Aperol Spritz. If you fancy a drink, this Venetian cocktail is a must. There are many lovely cafe patios where you can enjoy this refreshing beverage after a long day of sightseeing.
St. Mark's Square
St. Mark's Square, or Piazza San Marco, is considered to be the heart of Venice. Packed with people, this square is definitely the busiest spot in the city. Numerous restaurants, shops, cafes, vendors, and of course the famous St. Mark's Basilica are what attract thousands of tourists daily. This lively plaza is centrally located and is a great place to grab dinner or a glass of wine.
Located in St. Mark's Square, Doge's Palace is one of the most aesthetically pleasing buildings in all of Venice. Once the home of Italian leaders, government headquarters, and a palace of justice, Doge's has quite a bit of history. While the lines can be rather long, a tour of the inside is a must do while visiting Venice.
Bridge of Sighs
The Bridge of Sighs connects Doge's Palace to an ancient dungeon. As legend has it, prisoners being transported from the palace to the dungeon sighed as they took one last glance at the outside world from the bridge's windows. On a more positive note, Venetian folklore states that lovers who kiss under the bridge during a gondola ride are granted eternal bliss.
A vaporetto, also know as a water taxi, is the main mode of transportation in Venice. Hopping on one is easy, as there is an abundance of them throughout the city. There really is no better way to experience Venice than zipping along its ethereal waters by vaporetto.
There are two major train stations in Venice - Venezia Mestre on Italy's mainland, and Venezia Santa Lucia on the Venetian Lagoon. You must travel to the Santa Lucia train station in order to visit Venice proper. Trains run from the Mestre station every ten minutes, cost $1 to $4 USD each way, and take eleven minutes to get to Santa Lucia.
The best months to visit Venice are the shoulder months of April, May, September, and October. The weather is comfortable and the crowds are low. The summer months of June through August are hot and crowded. The off-season months of November through March are cold but the crowds are at their lowest.
Keep a map handy. The winding streets can get very confusing, and it is easy to get lost.
The San Marco neighborhood has the best, and most expensive, hotel accommodations in all of Venice. If you're looking for more affordable options, or if you want to stay closer to the Venezia Santa Lucia train station, look for accommodations in the Cannaregio neighborhood. Back on the mainland, hotels are plentiful and much more affordable near the Venezia Mestre station, and you're only an eleven minute train ride back to Venice proper.