Destination spotlight - Venice
Never was there a place quite so beautiful, dramatic and iconic as the city of Venice. The city was built on water, with lavish architecture and gorgeous marble palaces located within the city limits, along with some of the world’s most renowned attractions.
Venice is located in northeastern Italy, where a group of 118 small islands are joined together in a maze of canals and bridges. The entire city is a World Heritage Site, which is indicative of the incredible beauty and history in this wonderful place. The city is incredibly popular with tourists, and is widely regarded as one of the most beautiful places in the world. Many feel that there is an element of ‘elegant decay’ about the place, with some calling the entire city a living museum.
Within the city almost all forms of getting around are via canal or on foot, with Venice being Europe’s largest urban car-free area. Enjoy watching the beautiful adorned gondolas cruising along the many canals, or catch a ride on a waterbus to get a new view of this wondrous place. For many, the best part of exploring Venice is just aimlessly wandering; exploring the hundreds of little streets and alleys and getting totally lost in the history of this truly unique city. Don’t forget to stop for an espresso and a Venetian pastry!
When to Go
For many visitors the most popular time to visit beautiful Venice is between April and early June, and then from September to October. These times are not peak visitor months, meaning that it's easier to move around without the hoards of people who flock to the city during high summer months. During these times the weather is very pleasant, so don’t be put off waiting until slightly later in the year to visit. During autumn the weather is still very balmy, with an average of seven hours of sunshine each day even during October.
Although November is one of the quietest times of the whole year you may experience some slightly less favourable weather, with the possibility of flooding. During late autumn and winter Venice does flood from time to time, so it may be worth packing wellies!
What to Do
Venice is full of wondrous attractions, with plenty of things to see and do during your visit to the area. However, when it comes to iconic Venetian events nothing is more memorable than the incredible Venice Carnival. This annual event takes place during the period before Shrove Tuesday, as a pre-Lent celebration.
The Venice Carnival is known to have been celebrated as long ago as the 11th century, with a revival of this extravagant festival being seen from the late 1970s. Nowadays, tourists flock to the city during the carnival to watch as people don elaborate masks and bejewelled outfits, parading around the beautiful streets in all of their finery. As well as the impressive spectacle of costumes, the Venice Carnival sees live music float through the air from all of the main squares, with lots of other events hosted in open-air venues.
The Venice Carnival is the perfect way to dust off the dullness of winter and experience some masked magic in one of the most iconic cities in the world. If you want to take part in some of the most exclusive events then buy a ticket to one of the famous parties and balls that occur during the festival - the Valentine’s Grand Masquerade Ball is one of the most extravagant. Be aware that due to the popularity of the Venice Carnival it can become very busy around this time of year, so book well in advance to avoid disappointment.
Where to Stay
If you’re planning a visit to this enchanting city then working out where to stay is important. Venice as an area is larger than many anticipate, covering islands, the lagoon and the heart of the beautiful city. However, for most tourists you will probably want to be relatively close to the action, so choosing the right hotel is key. Historically, Venice is split into six sestieri, or districts. If you want to be closest to all of the main attractions then the San Marco area is for you, with famous luxurious hotels including The Gritti Palace residing in this area. However, if you want easy access to the train station or bus stops, in order to explore further afield than Venice itself, then head for south west Cannaregio, and one of the elegant, yet not extortionate, hotels like the Hotel Continental.
Some visitors may however choose to stay further afield, in order to save money or avoid some of the tourist crowds. The Lido, an island between Venice and the Adriatic Sea, is popular with those who want to stay outside of the centre of Venice - although the frequent ferries make sure that you’re not totally cut off.
Not to be Missed
- The Campanile. The Campanile is the tallest building in Venice, standing at almost 325ft. It was built between 888 and 912, before before being rebuilt in the early 1900s exactly the same as the original. Take a trip to the top on a clear day and the view is spectacular; you can see the Lido, the entire lagoon and the Dolomites far in the distance.
- The Grand Canal. One of the best ways to see the real Venice is by water. Head on board a vaporetto (one of the famous Venice waterbuses) and take a trip down the canal from the main railway station to San Marco for a great introduction to the city and its history.
- Piazza San Marco. The magnificent St Mark's Square is one of the highlights for many people visiting Venice, and a true tourist magnet. Set around the Piazza is the beautiful St Mark’s basilica, the Doge’s Palace and the Torre dell’Orologio clock tower; some of the city’s best attractions all in one place. Get there early, it gets busy fast!
- The Rialto Bridge. This bridge is the most famous of the bridges that cross the Grand Canal, built way back between 1588 and 1591. Today the bridge is lined with two rows of little shops housed within the arches, selling a selection of jewellery, linens and gifts. Take a moment at the top to enjoy the view.
- The Bridge of Sighs. The Bridge of Sighs was built at the beginning of the seventeenth century, connecting the interrogation rooms in the Doge’s Palace to the Prigioni Nuove (New Prison). The name was said to be due to prisoners sighing as they saw their last view of Venice before being convicted, although you can’t actually see much due to the stone grills over the windows. Couples who pass under the bridge are thought to be blessed with eternal love.
Getting to Venice: Direct flights to Venice take around 2 hours from the UK.
Visa requirements: European Union (EU) nationals don’t need a visa to visit Venice for stays of up to 90 days.
Currency: The currency in Venice is the Euro.
Time zone: Venice is within the Central European Timezone. This is GMT +1 hour.