Hidden Europe: unique experiences in Europe's cities
8920 · By Katie Shaw
Europe’s cities are treasure troves of culture, teeming with iconic, must-see sights to enthral even the most seasoned of tourists.Read more
Venice lends itself to idle wandering, and possibly the best way to enjoy its captivating charms is to let yourself get lost in the myriad of winding alleys and twisting lanes that make up the city centre.
Basilica di San Marco
This unique landmark is renowned for its magnificent exterior and interior covered in spectacular encrusted mosaic marble carvings. St Mark's Basilica dominates the Piazza and is a symbol of Venetian glory. Embellished and enriched over the centuries from the East, it is a huge, complex and mysterious edifice - as much a museum as a church. For those who prefer a bird's-eye view, take the opportunity to climb the Campanile di San Marco, which offers incredible vistas over the buildings clustered around the centre, and shimmering lagoons further out.
St Mark's Square
Wander through the bustling square and soak up the atmosphere and entertainment; Piazza San Marco has undoubtedly been the heart and soul of the city for centuries with its blend of intriguing architecture.
One of the highlights of any escorted Italy tour to Venice is a ride along the canals on board one of the city's famous gondolas. However, gondola rides can be expensive, and it is essential that you negotiate the price. The 'official' fare for a gondola ride is €80 for a 40 minute tour. However, gondoliers will always try to charge considerably more, usually for less time. For the best price, avoid gondolas waiting in the busiest areas of Venice, such as St Mark's Square. Also worth noting is that, while many consider a gondola ride to be about romance, the gondoliers will actually perform the role of a tour guide, pointing out famous houses along the way. Up to six people are permitted in a gondola for the standard fare (or whatever you have negotiated), making it a considerably cheaper option.
Doge's Palace overlooks St Mark's Square and the Venice Lagoon and is the former residence of the Doge of Venice - the supreme authority for the once hugely powerful Republic of Venice. The palace was constructed over the course of more than a century, from 1309 to 1424, and was used to house the main political institutions for the Republic, as well as being the residence of the leader. Today the palace is preserved as a museum.
Bridge of Sighs
Connecting the old prisons with the interrogation rooms in the Doge's Palace, the Bridge of Sighs is a raised, enclosed bridge which was often the last sight for convicts prior to their imprisonment. The name 'Bridge of Sighs' was coined by Lord Byron, describing the reaction of prisoners on seeing beautiful Venice for the final time.
San Giorgio Maggiore
Visit the nearby island of San Giorgio Maggiore, south of the main island, with its lovely basilica. The basilica's bell-tower offers unbeatable views of Venice.
Dining in Venice
Venice presents an enticing selection of dining options, with most restaurants offering a mouth-watering array of Mediterranean dishes and seafood. The Venetians even have their own version of tapas called Cicchetti - delicious snacks which they wash down with a glass of wine.
No visit to Venice would be complete without a trip to the world-famous Gallerie dell'Accademia. The art gallery, originally created as an art school, is home to some of the world's greatest pre-19th century art.
Famous for glassmaking, Murano is an island (actually a series of connected islands) in the Venice Lagoon. The island has produced highly regarded glass, particularly lampwork, since the foundries were moved from Venice in 1291 - Venetian authorities feared the risk of fire, as most of the buildings were wooden constructions. The 'Museo Vetraio' is Murano's glass museum, which is certainly worth a visit (closed on Wednesdays).
The island of Burano is famous for both the brightly painted fishermen's houses and for lace-making. The island is hugely popular with photographers, thanks to its picturesque, colourful buildings. The island has a lace-making museum (Museo del Merletto) and it is certainly worth enjoying a relaxed stroll to find the perfect photo opportunity; the streets in Burano are as narrow and winding as they are in Venice.