The City on the Water is not just one of the most popular cruise ports in the world but one of its most celebrated cities, offering an atmosphere all of its own and some truly unforgettable landmarks and experiences to enjoy.
6 hours in… Venice
If you’re in Venice for the day, you won’t have time to do everything, so it’s important to prioritise. As far as landmarks and attractions go, the biggest concentration can be found in and around St Mark’s Square, while a gondola ride is also a must.
Napoleon famously called it “the drawing room of Europe” and it’s not difficult to see why. It’s a fantastic place to be, brimming with atmosphere and also the place to go to explore both St Mark’s Basilica and the Doge’s Palace. Queues are always lengthy, so to make the most of your time, book a shore excursion or book ahead to jump the line. Even then, if you want to enjoy a gondola ride and a quick bite too, there’s really only time to explore one of them in-depth. If you love religious architecture and history the basilica’s a must, while if equally compelling architecture with a fascinating dose of political intrigue is more to your liking, don’t miss the palace.
If you’re visiting Venice again and have yet to visit one of the above attractions, be sure to make that a priority. Aside from that, the celebrated square is also home to the Campanile, a lofty tower which offers the ultimate view, but also lengthy queues, so again book tickets early.
Elsewhere in the city, culture-vultures shouldn’t miss Teatro La Fenice, which is Venice’s most celebrated opera house and home to some beautiful, faithfully restored interiors. If you enjoy opera, this is the place to watch one. Amazingly, Venice consists of 118 different islands and if you’re visiting again, Murano and Burano are the two most popular. Murano is the most popular, best known of course for its famous export, the glass of the same name. There are numerous shops selling all manner of glass goods and it’s also possible to watch a glass-blowing display at the factory/museum. A welcome escape from the tourist hustle bustle, Burano is all pastel-coloured houses and offers a glimpse of the Venice of old with its lace-making heritage and traditional restaurants.
Can’t keep away?
If you’re a return visitor but still haven’t visited both Murano and Burano, make sure you do. Aside from that, there are plenty of other islands to discover. Torcello is a beautiful leafy escape which is actually a nature reserve, as well as being home to the beautiful 7th century Cathedral of Santa Maria Dell’Assunta. Sant’Erasmo Island is perfect for those who like to ramble and twitchers too and is also home to a 19th century fort.
Back in the city itself, you’ll never run out of shops and boutiques to browse and if you explore some of the smaller alleyways off the tourist trail, you’ll discover more than gondola fridge magnets and Venetian masks. Libreria Acqua Alta is one such gem, and can be found in the Castello district. It’s a quirky bookshop which features thousands of books stacked and stored everywhere including in old gondolas and there’s even a stairway made of books! Venice’s Jewish Ghetto is also a fascinating place to spend time. It’s the historical and present-day home of the city’s Jewish community and was made famous by Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice. Aside from the Jewish Museum, don’t miss the chance to try some top-class kosher cuisine and enjoy a little time off the beaten tourist trail.
Don’t even bother!
The Gondola ride is of course the iconic Venice experience and don’t worry, we’re not telling you to avoid one! What you should do however, is avoid booking a gondola ride which begins on the Grand Canal itself, as you’ll pay more than you will booking one that starts its journey on one of the city’s smaller waterways.
A coffee on St Mark’s Square is notoriously expensive and you’ll pay a premium just for the honour of it! Food is even more costly, so be sure to take a seat at one of the numerous cafes just a short distance from the square or buy coffee or pizza on the go.