The City of Venice is truly like no other city in the world. The city consists of over 100 islands that are connected by over 400 bridges. The city is generally very walk able however to travel further distances the public transportation consists of bus boats called “vaporettos”.
We were lucky enough to arrive in the lovely city of Venice, right as the sun was setting and got to enjoy a beautiful taxi ride from the airport into the city. I was captivated from the very first moment we arrived. All of the buildings were bathed in this beautiful glow that just made them all the more perfect. And for the two days that we spent there, the city never lost it’s charm.
Unique to Venice:
- Ride a Gondola
- Get yourself lost on the many bridges and alleyways.
- Visit the sister islands of Murano, Burano, and Torcello to see handmade glass blowing and lace making.
- St. Mark’s Cathedral
- Doge’s Palace and the Bridge of Sighs
- Rialto Bridge
- Food – Seafood, Gelato, other Italian favorites
Visit the Sister Islands of Murano, Burano, and Torcello – There are several tours on the internet that will take you to the sister islands, however, I highly recommend doing the trip by yourself using public transportation. We used GPS and Google Maps and did not have any issues using the Vaporetto service. I’m glad we did not go with a tour because we thoroughly enjoyed walking around Murano and a tour would have cut our walk short. We also did not make it to the island of Torcello because we wanted to make sure we had plenty of time to get back to the city for our gondola ride. However, because we made it to the first two islands, I truly believe we could have made it to the third without any issues. I will note, that the vaporetto was incredibly crowded. We did not get a seat on the return trip, so be prepared to spend the boat ride standing. I also think getting an early start is important as it got visibly more crowded in the afternoon.
- Murano – Murano is the first island we visited and it’s also the closest to Venice. When you arrive the first thing you will notice is a white lighthouse right next to the dock (Unfortunately I did not get a great picture of it). We immediately set off down the main street and within about 100 yards saw our first glass blower. From the street we watched a man sit inside a building, behind a roped off area and worked with glass. We had a great time wandering around picking our souvenirs for our family and friends back home. (Note, there are several websites on line that discuss how to tell the difference between Murano glass and glass from China – my main takeaway was to look for a sticker of authenticity but also look for the shops where someone is actually making glass right in front of you.) We also stopped and took a picture outside the clock tower where the beautiful blue sculpture was located (see above) and we ate lunch at a cafe right next to the clock tower. Pretty much every store had a sign asking people not to take pictures, but we snuck one anyways just to show our families how impressed we were at some of the elaborate designs!
- Burano – After Murano we got back on the Vaporetto and headed to the next island, Burano. Burano is known for it’s handmade lace, but also it’s brightly colored homes. We weren’t really up for lace shopping so we did a quick loop around the island, took some pictures and got right back on the Vaporetto to head back to the main part of Venice. (Note, you should also be careful when purchasing lace as some is more authentic and other shops sell lace that is imported from China).
- Torcello – Torcello is the 3rd sister island in terms of distance from Venice. I had hoped to visit the island to see the Devil’s Bridge and to eat at one of their restaurants, but we just spent so much time in Murano, we didn’t have time.
Ride a Gondola – Our Gondola ride was one of the most memorable parts of our trip to Venice. We booked a shared Gondola ride through Viator for sunset. We actually probably should have booked a private Gondola ride, but we were saving money and it worked out for us. It worked out that we were 1st in line and therefore we got the best seats on the Gondola, the center couch! The other 4 individuals on our gondola had to perch on benches and chairs on the sides of the gondola which was definitely less romantic than our seats. One of the best parts of our Viator pass was that it included a serenade. I have to say I smiled the entire time. <3
Visit the Doge’s Palace and the Bridge of Sighs- If you are a history or art enthusiast you might find a visit to the Doge’s Palace interesting. We booked our tour through Viator again as a combination with St. Mark’s Cathedral. The palace was built to be the home of the Doge of Venice, who was basically the elected political leader of the city. Part of the palace consisted of a residence and the rest was an administrative office building, legislative rooms, and court rooms. I thought it was interesting that the building is built in two styles. The ground floor of the palace with it’s rounded arches is very different from the Gothic style of the second floor. Inside the palace the ceilings are covered every inch with paintings done by famous Renaissance artists and gold trim. Another thing I found interesting was how the painters used light differently in their paintings. If you don’t venture inside the Doge’s Palace, you should at least plan to take a picture of the Bridge of Sighs from the outside (I love how Brian was able to capture the gondola in our picture of the bridge!).
Visit St. Mark’s Cathedral- After visiting the Doge’s Palace, our tour went next door to St. Mark’s Cathedral. I had a hard time taking a good picture of the outside of the cathedral due to the shadows from the buildings next door to it. Also, they don’t allow pictures inside the building, so that was a bit disappointing. The main thing that makes St. Mark’s so unique is the use of mosaic tiles to decorate the inside the church. It’s really quite unique and impressive and I’m bummed to not have a picture to share.
Rialto Bridge- On our way out of the city we walked to the Rialto Bridge and snapped a quick picture before catching the Vaporetto. The area was full of tourists, but I love how Brian’s iphone captured the white of the bridge and the beautiful blue sky behind.
You can book the same tours as us by clicking on the logo below:
Note: We are an affiliate of this vendor, but only recommend tours that we love!
Next time I visit Venice:
- Make it to the island of Torcello
- Return to the island of Murano, I could’ve watch the glass blowing all day long.
I think that if you want to get the full Venice experience, you should really try to arrive to the city by boat. Therefore, we booked a “taxi” to pick us up right from the airport (see picture at right of our taxi boat). You other alternative is to arrive by train. We booked our airport transfer taxi via the Viator.com website. I selected the shared transfer which was a cheaper options. If you have the time, I think it’s a great choice to book a shared ride because we were the 2nd drop off and we saw more of the city just from riding along. In order to meet our taxi, we just followed the instructions and arrived at the counter in the airport where they were expecting us. After meeting with the representative, we had to walk a short distance from the airport to the pier where the taxi was waiting. I would estimate the walk to be no more than 1/2 mile across a flat surface, however, I supposed if you had a lot of luggage it could be frustrating (it was for the people who were also in our taxi who did not appear to expect the walk).
After we arrived at our hotel, we relied on just walking and the public Vaporetto service to get ourselves around the city. You can purchase a Vaporetto ticket at an electronic kiosk right in front of the bus (boat) stop.
We had GPS on our phones and used Google Maps to identify the shortest routes and the nearest Vaporetto stations. If you are short on time and don’t want to spend time getting lost, I recommend arriving to Venice with GPS.
The taxis are too expensive to use for short distance, so I highly recommend learning the Vaporetto and also wearing your walking shoes.
Hotel Concordia – We stayed at the Hotel Concordia right next to St. Mark’s Square and loved it. Our hotel was a bit older and definitely decorated in an older style, but that’s one of the reasons that I picked it. I wanted to stay somewhere that felt authentic and it met that criteria. Our room had a beautiful window balcony that looked right out onto the street. It also had a Murano glass lighting fixture on the ceiling that was really neat. I also loved how centrally located our hotel was. We were right next to St. Mark’s Square and an easy 10 minute walk to tourist locations in all directions. We also stored our bags with the hotel concierge on the day of checkout in order to see some sights and it worked really well.
Restaurants/ Meals & Drinks:
Venice is probably most known for it’s seafood dishes as it’s located right on the water. Therefore, we’re not going to be experts in Venetian food. However, I can tell you two stops that we really liked.
Da Raffaele – We stumbled across this restaurant when we journeyed across the city to ride on the Gondola. It’s got an inside dining room that looks really nice, but the weather was good so we elected to sit outside right along the canal where we could watch the Gondolas go past. At the restaurant we had two different pasta dishes including a tomato gnocchi, spaghetti bolognase, and a caprese salad.
Gelato Fantasy – My husband consumed a ridiculous amount of gelato on this trip (seriously, he had it probably twice a day while we were in Italy). But, we did a ton of walking, so I don’t think the calories did any serious damage. If you’re looking for a snack, Gelato Fantasy is located about half way between St. Mark’s Square and the Rialto Bridge and has about 20 different flavors of gelato and italian ice. I loved the dolce du leche and salted caramel flavors.
I generally try not to write bad reviews, so I will say two vague things. First, I did not love the restaurant across the street from our hotel. Their menu specifically stated that the food was frozen and re-heated. So I think that turned me off. Second, the restaurant that we ate at in Murano was just so-so. If I went back, I’d rather try to make it to Torcello and try one of their Tratorrias that sound pretty popular.
Note – Venice is also where we perfected the art of “Breakfast Cannolis”. Basically we bought a cannoli or other pastry treat from a bakery the night before and saved it to eat for a quick breakfast the next morning in order to get more sleep. 🙂
Tips/ Things to Know:
- If you book tours with Viator, you might want to bring your own headphones such as a pair of Bose headphones or even your iPhone headphones. The ones they provided were large and didn’t stay in my ears so I had a hard time hearing our tour guide.
My Time Spent in the City of Venice:
- 2 nights in April 2017, at the Hotel Concordia