Venice barely needs an introduction. Once you’ve accustomed yourself to the fact that there’s water where the streets should be, resigned yourself to its bewildering topography and donned your comfortable shoes for endless walking, you’re ready to take on the city’s huge selection of unmissable sights.
In Venice, attractions abound. The obvious ones – St Mark’s Basilica, the Doge’s Palace, the Accademia Gallery, the Peggy Guggenheim Collection – should be ticked off your list first. They are famous because they are marvellous. After these, you can get down to some of the lesser-known sights in a city where every church has a superb Madonna by a maestro in a side chapel, and every campo is a potential film set.
If you’re here between June and November, there’s the added attraction of the Biennale – contemporary art in odd years, architecture in even – when latest trends are displayed in spectacular (and otherwise inaccessible) settings: the Arsenale, the pavilions of the Giardini and countless historic palazzi around town. The rest of the year, when crowds thin out, you have this magical place much to yourself, except of course during Carnevale (preceding Lent) when the masked masses descend on the city for two weeks of spectacle.
Sightseeing in Venice
If it’s your first time in Venice, there’s a lot you should do. If you want to see just how much in one jaw-dropping glance, start by taking a look at the city spread beneath your feet from the top of the campanile (belltower) of the church of San Giorgio Maggiore, across the lagoon from the Piazza San Marco.
Venice is not a cheap place for anything – including sightseeing – so use the little help you’re given to see some minor gems along with the better-known attractions. The ticket for the Doge’s Palace also takes you into the fascinating Museo Correr, which documents the history of the Venetian Republic. The ticket for the Accademia Gallery, with its peerless collection of great Venetian art, grants you a visit to overlooked Palazzo Grimani, a beautiful frescoed 16th-century palazzo north of the Piazza San Marco. When you drop by to see Titian’s glorious ‘Assumption of the Virgin’ in the Basilica di Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari, pick up a €12 Chorus Pass for entry to 18 of Venice’s greatest churches. For something more contemporary, a two-stop ticket covers Palazzo Grassi and Punta della Dogana, galleries owned by magnate François Pinault and refurbished by architect Tadao Ando; part of Pinault’s own immense collection is displayed on a revolving basis, alongside themed shows.
St Mark’s Basilica San Marco 328, 041 270 8311.
Accademia Gallery Dorsoduro 1050, campo Carità, 041 522 2247.
Peggy Guggenheim Collection Dorsoduro 704, 041 240 5411.
Doge’s Palace San Marco 1, piazzetta San Marco, 041 271 5911.
Museo Correr San Marco 52, piazza San Marco, sottoportego San Geminian, 041 240 5211.
Palazzo Grassi San Marco 3231, campo San Samuele, 041 523 1680.
Palazzo Grimani Castello 4858, ramo Grimani, 041 520 0345.
Punta della Dogana Dorsoduro 2, campo della Salute, 041 523 1680.
San Giorgio Maggiore 041 522 7827.
Basilica di Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari San Polo campo dei Frari, 041 522 2637.