Venice, a floating city is one of the world’s most magical of places. A city of contradictions—sensual, romantic and architecturally significant while at the same time fragile, overcrowded and very expensive. One of the most unique places to visit, go and see the sights, but leave time to wander; getting lost is half the fun! Venice’s charms and treasures are too numerous to experience in just a weekend, so plan your time well and make the most of your day.
Venice’s beautiful opera and concert house, Teatro La Fenice, reopened after a catastrophic fire in 1996 that destroyed it completely. Click here to see the schedule while you are here. The theater is usually open for daily tours, check ahead to be sure.
For beautiful marbleized stationery and journals stop by Legatoria Piazzesi at 2511 Campiello della Feltrina. It’s the oldest paper shop in Italy where the tradition of Italian handmade paper began.
The tiny boutique of Cristina Linassi sells hand-embroidered nightgowns and sheets made in its own workshop. This is an ideal place to pick up something extra special as a present. They also have exquisite bed and table linens...with the prices to match.
Off the beaten track - visit Cemetery Island, Isola di San Michele, to see the tombs of Igor Stravinsky, Joseph Brodsky, Segei Diaghilev and Ezra Pound.
Venice has a great hot weather aperitif that you definitely want to try--the Sgroppino, which is Prosecco mixed with vodka and topped with a small scoop of lemon sorbet.
Before dinner head to a Bacaro, stand up snack bars resembling Spain's famous tapas bars. Cicchetti are little snacks, good for a bite before dinner with a glass of wine. Cantina do Mori and Bancogiro. both are good places to try near the Rialto Market.
Near St. Lucia train station visit the very old neighborhood of Campo del Ghetto, the world's oldest Jewish ghetto. Still an active community to Venice small Jewish population (approximately 500) with two synagogues still in use today. The Museo Ebraico offers guided tours every hour starting at 10:30.
Stay: The Bauer Il Palazzo, housed in an 18th century palace, overlooks the Grand Canal and is close to St. Mark’s Square. Two boutique hotels, both on the Grand Canal, include Ca Maria Adele and Ca’Sagrado. Feeling extravagant, there’s nothing better than the new Aman, a grand, historic, 24 room hotel housed in a renovated 16th century palazzo right on the Grand Canal. The legendary Gritti Palace just reopened after an extensive renovation. For those who want a more resort like feel, stay on the island of Giudecca. Belmond’s Hotel Cipriani or Bauer’s Palladio Hotel and Spa are a 10-minute boat ride from St. Marks.
Breakfast: Start the day at Café Florian on St. Mark’s. Dating back to 1720, this Neo-Baroque café is beautiful, sit outside and watch the crowds go by.
Morning Sights: For first time visitors, or those who can’t remember the last time they were in Venice, Piazza San Marco, or as the English say St. Marks’s Square is a must do. It’s sure to be filled with tourists so go early. Ride the elevator to the top of the Campanile for a great view of Venice from up high. Go inside St. Mark’s Basilica, the most famous of Venice’s churches and one of the best examples of Byzantine architecture. Book the Secret Itineraries tour in advance for the Doges Palace, and walk right past the long line with your guide. Inside you’ll see two very different sides of the building—first the magnificent rooms with walls of Venetian masterpieces, and then the hidden secret prisons and torture chambers behind those walls. All of these sights are within a few hundred yards—you can cover a lot of ground quickly! Set off in directions off the square and wander, you will discover a much quieter city.
Shop: Il Prato at San Marco has a great selection of Venetian handicrafts all handmade...from antique fabrics to leather goods, fine papers to old carnival masks.
History Buffs: Visit the Correr Museum at St. Mark’s Square dedicated to the art, culture and history of Venice.
Lunch: Ristorante Quadri on San Marco serves delicious contemporary Italian. Near the Rialto Bridge dine at popular Antiche Carampane. Make sure to order the order the pasta with spider crab and fritto misto. Or head to Ai Gondolieri in the bustling Dorsoduro neighborhood.
Art Afternoon: Venice is an exciting place for modern and contemporary art even when the Biennale is not in season. Many museum quality collections can be seen at extraordinary palazzos throughout the city. One of Venice’s most popular attractions is the Peggy Guggenheim Collection. During her life Peggy Guggenheim was a pioneer of many artists, giving many their first shows. This is a personal, intimate museum in what was once her former waterfront home in the Dorsoduro neighborhood. Francois Pinault is one of the most influential art collectors in the world today. In 2009 he opened his second venue of contemporary art, Punta della Dogana, located at the tip of the Dorsoduro. It hosts temporary exhibitions, mostly with works belonging to the François Pinault Collection. (Pinault’s first venue, Palazzo Grassi, a palace built on the Grand Canal in the 18th century is also worth a visit!)
Old World Art: Not into contemporary art… head to the Gallerie dell'Accademia to see 5 centuries of classic Venetian painting.
Time Travel: The Palazzo Rezzonico is also in Dorsoduro. The interior offers you the truest sense of life in 18th century Venice.
Apertif: Fans of Hemingway must have an Aperol spritzer at Bar Longhi. Located at the Gritti Palace this was one of his favorite haunts; sit on the terrace overlooking the canal. Another favorite Hemingway haunt, Harry's Bar has been a fixture of Venice since 1931. It's on most everyone's list to visit, asthe birthplace of the Bellini, a mixture of white peach juice and proseco, invented by Giuseppe Cipriani and named after a painting by 15th century artist Giovanni Bellini.
Late Night: Venice is not a late night city, but Centrale is an exception if you're looking for a night cap. Just steps from St. Mark's the hip, stylish interior contrasts with the historic, 16th century building it calls home, a winning combination.
Dinner: Off the beaten track is Vini da Arturo. However, this under the radar restaurant is worth finding! Arturo's dishes never disappoint. Don't miss the Venetian pork with vinegar or the radicchio pasta. Arturo's only seats 22, so book ahead. Enjoy one of best meals in Venice at Da Fiore, this Michelin starred restaurant is tops for fresh local fish and seafood. Al Covo uses only the freshest ingredients to showcase the traditional Venetian cuisine from Chef Cesare Benelli. A friend recently loved her meal at Hostaria Da Franz.
Early Market: Foodies can’t miss a visit to the Rialto Market to see the freshest fish and vegetables.
Islands: Spend a half-day touring the neighboring islands of Murano, Burano and Torcello. Watch the glassblowers at work and visit the workshops along Fondamenta dei Vetrai. Bring your camera to snap great shots of the rainbow rows of houses in Burano. Stop at the Burano Lace Museum, located at the historic palace of Podestà of Torcello, in Piazza Galuppi, which was the seat of the famous Burano Lace School for 100 years up to 1970. Here you will find rare and precious pieces showcasing the history and artistry of the Venetian and lagoon’s laces.In Torcello, visit Santa Maria dell Assunta, Venice’s first Cathedral.
Peaceful: Escape the crowds and take a late afternoon launch to Giudecca Island, a small island in the lagoon just across from the Grand Canal. Once home to Jewish merchants in the 12th and 13th century, though never a ghetto as the name implies. This is a lovely neighborhood for a stroll along the waterfront with lovely views of the Grand Canal and city. Walk around the narrow streets and admire the old houses and churches.
Dinner: Dine at Cip’s Club in Giudecca for a romantic dinner with an incredible view. Or head back and go to casual Aqua Pazzo for delicious Neapolitan pizzas, great fish and must order sorbets. Arrive by gondola or foot to tiny, cozy Da Ivo on the canal not far from St. Mark's. Order the Florentine Beef and be sure to check the daily specials.