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The post about Venice attractions is finally live after it slowly cooked in my head for months. That is probably why the famous tourist attractions of Venice became even more romantic in my memory which is understandable given how the town itself is an impossible endeavor built in seemingly impossible conditions and adorned with an impossible architecture.

VENICE ITALY

Venice Italy is situated in the northeast of the country and is the capital of the province of Veneto. it was built on 118 islets connected by a network of canals. It is thus known as a Floating City. The population in the historic center was 51k a couple of years ago while the city is visited by an astonishing 20 million tourists annually.

Venice attractions

A wonderful view of gondolas

Venice was named after the Veneto people who inhabited the area in the 10th century BC. It was the capital of the Republic of Venice for almost 1,000 years and the main trade center during the Middle Ages and Renaissance. Silk, grain, spices, and artwork came here from all over the world between the 13th and the 17th centuries. The city fell into Napoleon’s hands in 1797 and became a part of the Kingdom of Italy in 1866. UNESCO enlisted it as a World Heritage Site in 1987.

History of Venice

The settlement existed here even at the time of the Ancient Romans and was later invaded by the Visigoths, Huns, and Lombards. The first Doge was elected at the end of the 7th century and the town increasingly developed between the 9th and 12th centuries. At its 13th-century peak, the Republic of Venice provided 36,000 sailors and 3,300 boats that dominated the Mediterranean trade.

Venice waterfront

One of the monuments in the city

The state’s glory started to decline after the Ottomans conquered Constantinople in 1453 and the maritime route around Africa was opened by Vasco da Gama about 50 years later. The plague that became known as the Black Death hit the town a few times during the 14th, 16th, and 17th centuries when about 200,000 died.

 

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The main problems of Venice today are related to climate change, increased flooding risks, and mass tourism. The city gets flooded several times a year when the sea level naturally increases. While people from all over the world are surprised when seeing Venetians in rubber boots at the very city center, locals are used to these conditions. Still, they get more serious every year.

Grand Canal Venice

The main mean of transport

How was Venice Italy built?

When Rome fell and barbarians invaded in the 5th century, locals took shelter in nearby marshes around the islets of Torcello, Jesolo, and Malamoko. Given how the place was only accessible by water, the settlement remained partly isolated. To ensure it would endure, locals began building platforms by digging wooden pillars into sandy soil.

Danijela Cirovic in Venice

VENICE ATTRACTIONS: A marvel on the water

Just imagine – the base for building Santa Maria della Salute Church took more than 1,1 million pillars which were four meters long. It took two years to bring the wood from Slovenia, Croatia, and Montenegro for its foundation. And here is an interesting fact. A wood would decay due to the microorganisms from the air but salty water gives it a petrifying property – and this is what the foundations of modern Venice are.

St Mark's Bell tower view

Petrified pillars

Venice Bridges

Did you know that there are 438 bridges in Venice? They are the famous Venice attractions. You won’t be able to see them all of course but there are a few things one should know and a few bridges one shouldn’t miss.

Venice attractions

A romantic sight

TIP: Take your Google Maps and go for a walk. You will almost certainly get lost among all the narrow canals and alleys but this is the best way to see some of the cute small bridges that are not on the frequent routes. Don’t panic if everything seems the same after a while because it probably is.

Venice small bridges

Small bridges gondolas can flow under

Can you believe that initially there were no bridges in Venice? They began to emerge as wooden passageways spanning the canals and were built by locals. Their main mean of transport were horses at the time. When buildings got erected at the edge of canals (Rii) and boats and gondolas became increasingly popular, stone bridges began to spring up. They were semicircular and high enough so that a small boat could sail underneath. Beginning in the 19th century, iron bridges were installed mostly by the Austrians during the city siege.

Small bridge in Venice

VENICE ATTRACTIONS: A bridge reflection

That is why one can now see all sorts of bridges – stone and wooden ones, small and large, decorated and “plain”, and even the ones that go sideways. The reason is that they were all built afterward so that the locals could walk over the canals to reach their homes.

Narrow Venice canal

One of the bridges which stand sideways

Venice bridges didn’t initially have any safety fences and holders. There was even a daily newspaper that posted the names of all the inhabitants who fell over the day before, that is how frequently it happened. You can still find one of those bridges over the San Felice Canal (Chiodo).

Gondola ride in Venice

Chatting on the bridge

Bridges of Venice are not just a way to crossover to the other side of the canal and reach your home but places to take a break, gaze at the sea and passers-by and rest for a few minutes. So make sure to see Rialto Bridge, Bridge of Sighs, and Academia Bridge, maybe the Bridge of Tits (Ponte de le Tette) where a brothel quarter was situated, or the Bridge of Fists (Ponte dei Pugni) where the 16th-century political rivals were challenged to prove who was the strongest. Winners were the ones who were still standing.

Canal view from the bridge

A view through a decorative fence

Venice Attractions

1. Bridge of Sighs Venice

Bridge of Sighs Venice or Ponte dei Sospiri in Italian connects the buildings on the opposite sides of the small canal – the Doge’s Palace and the so-called New Prison. It was constructed with a white limestone with bars over its small windows. It looks quite romantic being all white and semicircular. Nevertheless, that is not the reason it is called the Bridge of Sighs!

View of Venice

VENICE ATTRACTIONS: Don’t miss the Bridge of Sighs

They say that new prisoners who were just sentenced in the court passed over the bridge toward their prison cells. They were able to take another look outside into freedom, one last time – and sighed.

There is also an interesting story related to Casanova. This famous lover escaped the prison through a small hole in the roof and slid down his sheets to the floor below. When the guards found him locked in a room wearing civil clothes, they didn’t recognize him and thought the man was locked in by accident. They apologized and escorted him out of the building.

Romantic Venice bridge

A view from the neighboring bridge

2. St. Mark’s Square Venice

Piazza San Marco is the main square in the city housing the main Venice attractions. It dates back to the 12th century and can be reached from the Grand Canal. When one enters the square, one will notice two columns that no local will walk through because it brings bad luck. This is where prisoners were beheaded.

Venice square columns

Locals don’t walk between the columns

Walking into St. Mark’s Square, you will see the Doge’s Palace on your right and the St. Mark’s Church right next to it. The Clock Tower is right in front of you. If you turn left, you will find one of the oldest cafes in Venice Florian which was opened in 1720. Just imagine what this café has seen throughout history, all the political plots, Venetian masks, and millions of tourists he has witnessed! You will pay a bit more for your macchiato here but you will be thrilled by the cafe’s interior.

Venice Attractions

The famous cafe

TIP: Don’t be surprised if you see water across the square. The small plastic platforms are not there because any construction work might be underway but the way to avoid floods. The square is the lowest part of the city and is the first to be flooded. By the way, it is forbidden to feed numerous seagulls.

Venice Square view

A lovely view of the square

3. St. Mark’s Basilica Venice

The church was built in the first half of the 9th century as an extension of Doge’s Palace or Doge’s private chapel. Do you know that Venetians brought St. Mark’s body from Alexandria and it has been kept in this temple ever since? The saint’s body was hidden beneath the pork cargo. St. Mark’s Basilica Venice was modified a few times with Gothic arches, sculptures, and mosaics added throughout the centuries. Today, it is a masterpiece of a mixture of styles.

St Mark Church

VENICE ATTRACTIONS: St. Mark’s Basilica (Pexels)

So, this is one of the main Venice attractions. Pay attention to its facade and the 4,000 square meters of the 13th-century mosaics or the 3rd-century 500 columns. The important collection of Persian carpets and various relics can be found at its museum.

More than several hundred thousand tourists flock here every month from all over the world. It is understandable given how Venetian rulers were appointed here once.

TIP: If you are coming only for a day, Venice attractions that you have to see can’t really include waiting in lines for hours in front of the church even if you previously purchased a ticket online. You will also need at least a couple of hours to browse inside. Tickets are best to be obtained in advance but you can also buy them at the spot.

Rich church facade

The richly decorated church facade

4. St Mark’s Campanile

It was built in the 12th century and is 99 meters tall. On the top of Campanile as Italians call it there is a peak that once served as a lighthouse for ships. It is possible to climb up there today and enjoy the view of Venice from a different angle. The bell tower is closed only if there is a thick fog or strong wind.

St Mark's Bell Tower

VENICE ATTRACTIONS: Visit the Campanile

When it collapsed at the beginning of the 20th century, they say that seagulls as a symbol of the city flew all at once warning the people below so, nobody was hurt. (Still, you will hear a slightly different version of the event in the city.) It is interesting that medieval prisoners were punished here in a way that they were left hanging in cages, no matter the weather.

Square Church and Tower

A view of the tower and the church

TIP: Let me remind you, try not to walk between the two pillars near the bell tower as Venetians say it is bad luck. This is where prisoners were beheaded in olden times.

St Mark Tower from below

Prisoners were beheaded here once

5. Doge’s Palace Venice

Palazzo Ducale is also one of the main Venice attractions. Be prepared for waiting in lines but there is always a Skip the Line option with local agencies. This masterpiece of Gothic architecture is visited by two million tourists every year making it the second most visited Venice attraction after St. Mark’s Church.

Palace facade Venice

Decorative facade

Doge’s Palace Venice was built in a few phases since the beginning of the 9th century and got even more grandiose every time. If you go inside, you will be able to see a Doge’s secret treasure. This building was home to the Republic of Venice government up until the time Napoleon invaded.

Church dome Venice

VENICE ATTRACTIONS: Doge’s Palace close to the church

6. Grand Canal

The central traffic route in Venice is Canal Grande shaped like an upside-down letter S. Although 4 kilometers in length, the canal has only four bridges. Make sure to walk up to Academia Bridge or Rialto given the lovely view of the Grand Canal. Even when it is cloudy, the view is like painted on a canvas.

Busy canal Venice

Grand Canal view

The thing you will most likely love is a view of colorful Venetian villas along the canal. Not only are they vivid and colorful but also adorned with typical columns and windows that look more like the architecture of Andalusia or the medieval Orient than a city in Europe. This is another important footprint of the glorious trade that flourished during the Republic of Venice.

Venice villas

VENICE ATTRACTIONS: Beautiful villas

There are more than 170 villas along the canal that mostly date from the period between the 13th and 18th centuries. Some of the most popular are Ca’ Foscari, Palazzi Barbaro, Ca’ Rezzonico, Ca’ d’Oro, Palazzo Dario, etc. They can mostly be accessed from the sea. Along the Grand Canal, there is also one of the most popular Venice attractions – Santa Maria della Salute Church.

Gondola ride in Venice

Don’t skip a gondola ride

If you come on the first Saturday in September, you will be able to see the Historic Regatta, a gondola competition along the canal.

TIP: You can take a group gondola ride from St. Mark’s Square to Santa Maria della Salute Church which is quite cheap even though renting one for yourself is a unique experience. The first just spans the Grand Canal while the latter will take you through smaller, picturesque canals.

Colorful Grand Canal ride

A ride toward Rialto

7. Clock Tower

Try not to miss the Clock Tower or Torre dell’Orologio which is also known as the Moors’ Tower and overlooks St. Mark’s Square because this is a small technical wonder of the 15th century. It shows hours, Moon phases, and Zodiac signs. The story goes that a doge liked it so much that he ordered the engineer to be blinded so that he couldn’t repeat the marvel anywhere else. Craftsmen who built the Clock Tower occupied small premises inside with their families so that they could look after it.

Next to St Mark's Church

Clock Tower next to the church

Two bronze statues are hitting the bell every hour. Initially, they were designed as giants but were called the Moors afterward due to their dark skin. The flying lion as a renowned symbol of Venice, is placed on the open book below the Moors. The clock is designed to be tall, not only to be protected from water from the bay but also to be seen from the canal. If you are planning on visiting it, make sure to book in advance and will be able to be accompanied by a special guide.

TIP: Walk through the arch at the foot of the Clock Tower all the way to Rialto Bridge. This is a great way to see the narrow alleys of Venice cut by small canals.

St Mark's Square passageway

An archway beneath the tower

8. Ponte Rialto Venice

Ponte di Rialto is a must when talking about the Venice attractions as it looks as mesmerizing in person as it does in the photos. Rialto Bridge is the only stone crossing spanning the Grand Canal. It is situated at the very city center connecting the San Marco and San Polo districts and is well-known as a Renaissance architectural and engineering marvel. It seems gentle and fragile given its white and round lines and numerous arches on both sides.

Venice Attractions

Rialto Bridge even prettier in person

Before today’s 16th-century bridge was built, there was a similar wooden version in the 12th century. There are shops on both sides of the bridge just like you will see on Ponte Vecchio. (Check out the post Florence Things to do.) Although locals predicted it would surely collapse when it was erected, Ponte di Rialto defies time as one of the best-known Venice attractions today.

View from Rialto

Canal Grande from Rialto

TIP: If you come early in the morning before crowds flock to Rialto, you might get a discount on a gondola ride. Instead of Euros 100, you will be asked for about 60 and you can always take a few fellow travelers along and split the money. The ride goes under Rialto but make sure to walk over the bridge afterward due to a pretty Grand Canal view. Stop by the old market nearby.

Gondola ride

VENICE ATTRACTIONS: Take a ride through the small canals

9. Santa Maria della Salute

There is no entry fee for Santa Maria della Salute Church but you will pay a few Euros to see the sacristy. The name of the church means the Holy Mary of Health and is simply known as Salute. This Catholic church occupies the tip of the Punta della Dogana islet.

White church Venice

Santa Maria della Salute Church

When Venice was struck by a plague in 1630, local authorities pledged to build a church and dedicate it to the Lady of Health. Most of the artwork inside bears some symbolism related to the Black Death. Still, this Baroque construction represents a prestige piece of architecture today with its elegant facade which is visible from the sea and a few bridges. Pay attention to the floor tiles inside, the main altar, and the Descent of the Holy Ghost by Titian.

Bridge in front of the church Venice

A bridge in front of the church

TIP: Take a walk from Rialto to Academia Bridge and the church, and take a group gondola ride to St. Mark’s Square. Did you know that all gondolas are obligated by law to be black? That was one of the Doge’s orders after seeing how rich owners tended to flaunt their wealth by even decorating gondolas with gold.

Ride through narrow canale in Venice

Why are gondolas black?

10. Academia Bridge in Venice

If you are into art, take some time to enjoy Gallerie dell’Accademia. This museum is often neglected because of the proximity of Academia Bridge with its magnificent view of Grand Canal and Santa Maria della Salute Church but it houses 800 pieces of artwork dating between the 12th and 18th centuries.

Small Venice street

A flower stall in front of the museum

It was established as an art academy in the second half of the 18th century but nowadays holds artwork spanning the styles from Byzantine paintings to Gothic and Renaissance art. These are the works of great Venetians who influenced the art of Europe. The best option is to visit the museum with a guide.

Like millions of other tourists, you will also take dozens of photos from the Academia Bridge. You won’t be able to help it – the Grand Canal looks as though it was painted!

Grand Canal view

VENICE ATTRACTIONS: View of Santa Maria della Salute from Academia Bridge

11. Try Bigoli in salsa

One can try typical Italian dishes in Venice like pizza or pasta. Nevertheless, every region in Italy has its own specialties and even every town is best known for one or two dishes or drinks. So, there are a few bites that are specially related to Venice. One of them – Cicchetti. This is a starter resembling Bruschetti or Tapas in Spain and is not expensive.

Venice food

A lunch break – Bigoli in Salsa

If you like wine, stop by bars called Bacaro and enjoy Ombra meaning a shadow and a glass of wine at the same time in the local dialect. Make sure to try Tiramisu, Risi e Bisi, or Lasagna with Squid Ink. I walked from one restaurant to the next trying to find the so-called Bigoli in Salsa. I knew that it was typical for Venice even though I never heard of it before. Venetians eat it as a starter like any other pasta. The sauce is made with anchovies.

Venice cake

Try the local Tiramisu

TIP: You don’t have to skip touristy places just try to taste different bites in various trattorias. Tiramisu is not the same when you try it at a restaurant or local bakery. I also loved the cannolis at local pastizzerias.

Venice pasticceria

Mouth-watering site…

12. Venice souvenirs

While walking along the narrow alleys of Venice, one can get overwhelmed by souvenir shops. These are the places to buy gondola magnets, renowned Venetian masks for the February Carnival, Murano glass figurines, or Burano lace. If you want items made of Italian leather, stop by shops selling gloves, wallets, and bags.

February Festival

The famous carnival masks

TIP: You will certainly get a discount if you buy more items. I went in with a few fellow travelers and we all bought a bag each. In the end, I got a large woman’s leather bag for less than 50 Euros – in the middle of Venice.

Rialto market

VENICE ATTRACTIONS: Shops nearby Rialto

Venice Entry Fee

If you are coming to Venice and planning on staying only for a day, starting with April 2024 you will have to pay a city entry fee on certain dates. They say that Venice is visited by at least 20 million tourists a year with a majority of them spending only one day in the city. So, local authorities decided to charge Euros 5 for city entry between 8h30m and 16h to everyone older than 14. This doesn’t include citizens, tourists at local hotels, students, relatives, etc. The ticket is an experimental attempt to deal with mass tourism.

Cloudy weather in Venice

Come early in the morning

Here is what you should do. Log in to the official site and pay the fee in advance. The QR code you get will allow you to visit the historical center in case of a random control. These are the dates (mostly weekends) the entry fee applies to: April 25 to 30, May 1 to 5, May 18 and 19, May 25 and 26, June 8 and 9, June 15 and 16, June 22 and 23, June 29 and 39, July 6 and 7, and July 13 and 14.

Venice villas

No wonder the city is so popular (Pexels)

Once you get to St. Mark’s Square and all the Venice attractions, it will be clear why this measure was necessary. It is almost impossible to take a photo without dozens of tourists.

View of Rialto from gondola

Another view of Rialto…

Accommodation in Venice

When you book a trip to Venice with travel agencies, you will most certainly stay in one of the surrounding towns. The main reason is the price of course. In order to sell the tours, agencies must go for cheaper options. (That is why most tourists come here for a day.) But this can also be practical if you are traveling on your own.

Venice canal with charming villas

Look for a hotel away from the city center

It is easy to book accommodation via Booking according to your liking and situated for example in the nearby Lido di Jesolo (click the link for more). If you want to see the options in Venice, here is the link to do so. You may be surprised how not all the hotels are expensive, especially if they are not overlooking the famous canals.

 

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Danijela ćirović

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