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Gondolier, Venice

Tourist guide to Venice


Venice (Venezia) really needs no introduction. The Serenissima has been a fabled destination for centuries. Just the name Venice is enough to conjure up a host of images, even for those who have not yet set foot in Italy: gondoliers in striped jerseys, the Rialto and the Bridge of Sighs, masked balls, golden barges, courtesans in gondolas and crumbling palaces facing streets made of water. The western world's most famous figures visited Venice, marvelled at the gold mosaics of St Mark's, admired art in churches, explored the city's maze of canals (or, in Byron's case, swam in them), and then proceeded to preach Venice's wonders to those unable to make the journey. In these days of budget airlines, however, Venice really is open to anyone. Both Ryanair and Easyjet run flights to Venice, so the city of lions and doges has never been so accessible.

What is Venice really like?

Venice is a glorious cliché, more romantic, more beautiful and more surprising than you could expect. No matter how many photographs or films you may have seen, it is still a jaw-dropping experience seeing Venice's canals and palaces for the first time. That first cruise down the Grand Canal - punctuated by exclamations and photo-snapping - is one of life's unforgettable experiences.

When to go to Venice

Venice's quietest season is winter. You're unlikely to find Venice empty of tourists at any time, but late autumn and the first part of the winter are the best times to come if you want to avoid the crowds and take advantage of cheaper hotel rates. This is the best time to see a (relatively) tourist-free Venice - but be prepared for icy temperatures and mists. In January and February the two-week-long Carnival is one of Venice's big attractions and the crowds flock in - it is even more important at this time to book a hotel well in advance. There are masks and parties; it's a bit tamer now, though, than the decadent excesses of the past. As the spring turns into summer, tourist numbers rise; and Venice in the height of summer is avoided by many; August can be swelteringly hot. The Venice Film Festival takes place in late August and early September.
> Venice calendar - our guide to Venice for visitors throughout the year
> Current and average temperatures for Venice (BBC)


Venice geography

Venice is composed of more than a hundred tiny islets, packed closely together around canals. The city is in a lagoon, protected from the sea by a long strip of land called the Lido. Venice is famously sinking. Every year high water levels (acqua alta) threaten the city's fabric, and it has long been feared that the beautiful city will one day disappear beneath the water. Many ideas (and funds) have been put forward to protect the endangered heritage site, but the problem is a complex one and 'solutions' such as those to construct a giant water-gate are controversial.
> Our interactive map of Venice

Venice history

For centuries Venice was a republic of immense power; controlling trade routes in the Adriatic, and waging successful wars with rival states. Ruled by a doge, who had his powers controlled by a cabinet, Venice was a proud and rich republic, known as la Serenissima, the most serene. Every year the Doge would take part in a symbolic ceremony, the Marriage of the Sea, to celebrate Venice's mastery over the ocean. Like most great powers, however, Venice's glory was followed by a decline. La Serenissima lost her chattels in wars, and the city's trade routes declined in importance. By the eighteenth century, Venetians was already seeking profits from the tourist trade, leasing fine palazzi to foreign travellers.

Venice travel information

It can be impressively cheap to fly to Venice from the UK. Budget airline Easyjet fly to Venice Marco Polo Airport, on the edge of the lagoon, while their competitors Ryanair operate cheap flights to nearby Treviso Airport (with a fast coach connection to Venice). Read our guide to Venice airport travel. Ca' da Mosto, Venice

Venice hotels

As befitting one of the world's major tourist destinations, Venice has large number of hotels and apartments. Accommodation in Venice is generally fairly expensive; and the city is busy for most of the year, so it's highly advisable to book a hotel well in advance.
> Our recommended Venice hotels
> Advice on where to stay
> Full Venice accommodation search


The Italy Heaven Guide to Venice is a conveniently portable way to get the most from a trip to Venice. The e-book guide has off-the-beaten-track walk itineraries, detailed guides to museums, galleries and churches, lots of background information and everything you'll need to plan your trip and enjoy your time in the Venice that residents know and love:
> Find out more/buy the guidebook

Top tips for Venice

1. Explore away from the main tourist thoroughfares.
2. Get an outdoors seat on a vaporetto travelling the length of the Grand Canal.
3. Always carry spare camera batteries (and perhaps a memory card).
4. Don't be afraid to get lost. You'll discover some of your favourite sights this way.
5. Investigate the city's range of discounts and tourist cards to see if you can save some money.

A taste of Venice

On this site


Where to stay

When to visit

Eating out

Good restaurants

Veneto art & architecture itinerary

Art Biennale

Acqua alta

A hip weekend in Venice

Honeymoons and romance

Hotels on the Grand Canal

Arriving in Venice


Cats of Venice

Important advice!

Free things to do

Venice books & films

Venice resources

Internet access

What's on

Video clips

Venice Film Festival



San Marco



San Polo

Santa Croce



Further afield

The Veneto



Useful external links

Venice travel journal

Italy car hire

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This site provides tourist and visitor information for Italy, from Piemonte to Sicily. Designed for travellers from around the world who want to plan a trip, take a holiday, book accommodation in Italy, or just learn more about the country: its geography, art, football, culture and entertainment options.