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Venice is one of Europe's most charming and photogenic destinations, perfect for short breaks away. It is a city filled with intricate neo-gothic architecture and handfuls of museums, displaying everything from artwork, sculpture and glass, to buildings dedicated to the history of Venice. Everything is unique here and you will want to have a camera handy to capture all the memories than Venice has to offer. The city is an attraction in itself, and with its many winding waterways and narrow streets, it’s easy to lose yourself in Venice and explore what the city has to offer. For most attractions in Venice, particularly the popular guided tours, it is advisable to book in advance with the local tourist office to guarantee a place. Please note that between June and September the city is extremely busy and often home to more visitors than locals. Venice however, is not all churches, museums and monuments, and is home to some of the most beautiful parks and riverside gardens in Italy. These relaxing places allow visitors to soak up the atmosphere and experience the real Venice.
Read more on this destination in The AA Key Guide to Venice.
Must-see attractions in Venice
Rialto Bridge: Venice's most famous bridge, spanning the Grand Canal at one of the city's longest settled areas. Take a walk across the bridge itself and enjoy the view, or perhaps take a gondola and admire the view from the water. The Rialto area itself is also home to one of the oldest and most vibrant markets in Italy, and is home to the ancient church of San Giacomo, dating back to the 12th century.
Basilica di San Marco: This great Venetian basilica is one of the finest medieval buildings in the world - a reflection of Venice's historic role as a bridge between East and West. It is the spiritual heart of Venice and the focal point of Piazza San Marco. Be sure to ascend the loggia before you enter the church, for amazing views of the Piazza, as you cannot backtrack once you are inside. Guided tours are available here, although the Basilica itself is free, so it's advisable to arrange your own trip.
Murano Island: Commonly referred to as a miniature Venice, this small island community is home to the heart of Venetian glass blowing. It is a 10 minute trip across the lagoon from Venice and places of interest here include the numerous glass blowing factories, where you can experience the art of glass making. Also the church of Santa Maria e Donato is located here the Museo Del Vetro (glass museum - entry €5.50).
Palazzo Ducale: the political and judicial hubs of the Venetian government. The biggest, grandest and most opulent civic building in Venice. A dream-like Gothic palace - one of the architectural highlights of the city. Entrance costs €12 with a museum card which will allow you access into other places too, such as Museo Correr and Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana.
Peggy Guggenheim Collection: An art gallery on the edge of the Grand Canal, home to one of the world's most beautiful collections by Guggenheim. It displays an array of modern 20th century art, from surrealist, abstract and cubist artists. The museum also houses a beautiful sculpture, showcasing works from Henry Moore and Giacometti. Entry is €10, with under 12's free.
Piazza San Marco: The historic heart of Venice, incorporating some of the city's finest Byzantine, Gothic and Renaissance architecture. It is bordered by compelling museums and chic Venetian shops. The Campanile (bell tower) and St. Mark's Basilica both run alongside the Piazza, and it is the perfect setting to absorb the atmosphere of Venice in one of the many outdoor cafés.
Il Ghetto: An atmospheric square on a separated island in Cannaregio, home to the world's first Jewish ghetto, where you can trace the history of the Jewish community through its ancient buildings and synagogues. This area is also home to Museo Ebraico (the Jewish Museum), displaying a rich collection of silverware, religious ceremonial objects, textiles, prayer books and documents dating back from the 16th - 19th centuries. Prices are €8.50 for adults and €7 for children under 12).
Museo Correr: A museum overlooking the Piazza di San Marco, tracing the history of the city of Venice. Its huge range of sculpture, paintings and historical objects provide an insight into city life in the great days of the Republic. A museum card must be bought to view this attraction. They cost €12 and allow you access to other places such as Doge's Palace and the Museum of Architecture.
Riva Degli Schiavoni: A broad quayside with a procession of palazzi, historic hotels, stalls and cafés. It has some of the best views in Venice and is an ideal place for an evening stroll. Be sure to have a drink in the Danieli Hotel to catch a glimpse of its wonderful interior.
The Lido: An narrow sandbank island between the Adriatic sea and the lagoon, with hotels, beautiful beaches and outdoor pursuits such as tennis, golf and cycling. The Lido is full of art-deco buildings such as the Hungaria Palace and Villa Monplasir which are both worth a visit. The small ancient church of San Nicolò is also situated on the island, just a 10 minute vaporetto trip from central Venice.