It may sound like hyperbole, but Venice is one of the most distinctive and striking places in the world. So beautiful is the city’s iconic network of canals, islands and architecture, the sites have served as the inspiration for countless works of art, film and photography. This gives Venice a strange air of familiarity, even on the first visit. Here are five of the best places to discover the magic of Venice.
There’s no better introduction to this unique city than on a boat ride along its central waterway – the Canal Grande. Grab one of the coveted outdoor seats on a vaporetto for a front row view of colorful Venetian buildings and stately mansions, as well as some of the city’s most recognizable landmarks. The no.1 vaporetto leaves from Ferrovia station, passing under the gorgeous Rialto Bridge on its way to Piazza San Marco.
Piazza San Marco
Piazza San Marco is at the epicenter of tourist activity in Venice – and for good reason. While it can get somewhat crowded during peak seasons, this enormous open square is a must-see for any visit to the city. Lined with excellent, albeit expensive cafes and restaurants, the square is the perfect place to unwind and with a cappuccino and absorb the scenic beauty of the old-world Venetian architecture and the sea beyond. For a truly memorable view of St. Mark’s Square and the surrounding city, try climbing the winding staircase to the top of the Campanile di San Marco – a beautiful bell tower located on the square’s southeast corner.
Among the most recognizable sights on a vaporetti ride down the Grand Canal is the distinctive white 18th Century palazzo known as Ca’Rezzonico. Restored in 2001, this intriguing building actually houses one of the city’s finest museums, offering tourists a fascinating look at everyday life in a grand Venetian home during the closing years of the Venetian Republic. Visitors can marvel at the plush furnishings and artifacts, and admire the impressive collection of paintings from luminaries the period.
One of the most potent symbols of the city’s former glories, Doge’s Palace is quite possibly the finest tourist attraction in the city. This incredibly opulent Gothic-Renaissance building is the former residence of the Venetian “doges,” or dukes, who governed the city for over 1,000 years. The building was destroyed by a series of devastating fires and restored in 1340 and 1424 to its present form.
A visit to the Palace will begin in the courtyard, where magnificent marble statues adorn the white staircases leading up to the Doge’s Apartments and Government Chambers. Art works from prominent masters of the renaissance era are featured throughout the rooms of the palace, including Tintoretto’s 74-foot high painting, Il Paradiso. Try taking a guided or audio tour around the old Government Chambers for a fascinating insight into the rich and colorful history of the Venetian state.
Peggy Guggenheim Museum
In a city steeped in history, the Peggy Guggenheim Museum stands as one of the greatest tributes to the modern era. The breathtaking collection of painting and sculpture in this popular Venetian museum is widely considered to be one of the most comprehensive and significant collections of modern are in the world. This eclectic collection was amassed by the American expatriate Peggy Guggenheim who had a great love of early-20th Century movements such as surrealism, cubism, European abstraction and expressionism. Among the highlights of this comprehensive collection are works from modern masters like Jackson Pollock, Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dali, Max Ernst and Vasily Kandinsky. The building itself is a splendid 18th Century palazzo located directly on the banks of the Grand Canal, which contains a remarkably peaceful sculpture garden in its interior.