Venice has been called "the most romantic city on earth." And it's true... there's something about Venice. Sure the gondolas are for the tourists, but when in Rome, er, Venice, you simply have to ride in one.
Venice is also known for its beauty, history, architecture, art, and food. You don't need to spend a lot of time here - when in Northern Italy you are better off saving more time for art and architectural marvels in Rome and Florence. One day is OK, but 2 is ideal.
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Piazza San Marco
This piazza is located right in the center of Venice, Italy. It is uncomfortably crowded, so it's best to go early or do the reverse and show up late to avoid the heaviest crowds. I get claustrophobic touring places that are really busy, so I highly recommend getting in and getting out with a skip-the-line guided tour.
St. Mark's Cathedral
St. Mark's Cathedral is one of the most beautiful churches in the world. The Byzantine domes alone make me swoon when I see them. In the crypts, below the altar lay the remains of the apostle St. Mark. There are a lot of details both in and outside of this gorgeous church such as the storied brass horses (replicas are outside, the real ones are inside) that were taken possibly from ancient Greece and then later stolen by Napoleon and returned in the 1900s by France.
The Doge Palace
The Doge Palace is the former resident of the Doge of Venice that ruled the former Republic. It was built in 1340 in Venetian Gothic style. In 1923, it became a museum and today it is well-known for its artworks.
Piazza San Marco and the Doge Palace are close to one another so you could navigate them on their own. I recommend booking a private tour that enables you to skip the line and gain a richer experience by learning more about the significance of the art and artifacts at Doge Palace and Saint Mark's Cathedral.
The Grand Canal and Rialto Bridge
You will see the grandest canal in the world, the Grand Canal. This waterway was once the main thoroughfare of Venice. Today, it's still one of the most popular tourist attractions in the city.
The Rialto Bridge was originally constructed in 1340. It has been rebuilt several times since then. Today, it is still used for its original purpose. It connects the Piazza San Marco with the Grand Canal.
The best way to see the canals and the
bridge is by taking a water taxi to several places or renting a gondola. They aren't cheap, but they are fun.
Murano and Burano Islands
Make sure that you don't miss these beautiful islands. They are often considered the highlight of a trip to Venice. Murano is well known for its glass and there are many glass companies that will welcome you in, show you the process and in some cases, allow you to make something to take home.
Burano is famous for its lace and often you will see women making lace as they talk outside at tables. The houses are painted different, fun colors.
You can easily get over to each of these islands with a water taxi, but if you want to gain a deeper appreciation of the process and want someone else to do the hard work of navigating, finding a good store, and then communicating what you are hoping to learn, then I recommend leaving it to a guide. This tour comes very highly recommended and is what I will use when I next return.
If you end up booking one of these tours, please let me know your experience!