Ah, Venice! Forget the ordinary; this is a city where gondolas replace cars and where history, culture, and an indomitable spirit of romance coalesce into an experience unlike any other.
With its winding canals, striking architecture, and captivating art scenes, Venice offers a feast for the senses, one that lures travelers from all corners of the globe.
Yet, even amidst its celebrated landmarks, Venice harbors lesser-known gems worth your time.
In this article, we uncover the 10 most interesting things to see in Venice, perfectly curated for the intelligent and experienced traveler.
1. The Grand Canal: A Waterway Like No Other
The Unmistakable Heartbeat of Venice
As the main artery that weaves its way through the city, the Grand Canal is quintessentially Venice. Far from being a mere waterway, it’s a living tableau, teeming with history and modern-day culture.
- Length: Approximately 3.8 kilometers
- Average Depth: About 5 meters
- Number of Bridges: Four main ones, including the renowned Rialto Bridge
While most travelers opt for a gondola ride, consider the Vaporetto (water bus) for an alternative and comprehensive view of the Grand Canal. This will give you a unique perspective of Venice’s architectural timeline, from the Byzantine and Gothic façades to Renaissance and Baroque marvels.
2. St. Mark’s Basilica: A Symphony of Architecture and Spirituality
The Divine Marvel
No trip to Venice is complete without stepping inside St. Mark’s Basilica, a masterpiece of Italo-Byzantine architecture. Beyond its religious significance, the Basilica is a treasure trove of art and history.
The interior is adorned with over 8,000 square meters of intricate mosaics, many made with 24-carat gold leaf.
- The Basilica houses the Pala d’Oro, an exquisite golden altar screen adorned with 1,927 gemstones.
- The four bronze horses on the façade are replicas; the originals are inside to protect them from the elements.
Arrive early or book a skip-the-line ticket to avoid the inevitable crowds, thereby enjoying the art and spirituality in relative solitude.
3. The Doge’s Palace: Power and Elegance Personified
The Epicenter of Venetian Politics and Society
The Doge’s Palace is another must-visit, particularly for history buffs. This architectural marvel was the residence of the Doge of Venice, the supreme authority of the Venetian Republic.
- The palace houses the Sala del Maggior Consiglio, one of Europe’s largest rooms, which could accommodate up to 2,600 people.
- The building connects to the infamous Bridge of Sighs, which led prisoners from the courtroom to their cells.
Walking through its labyrinthine rooms and grand halls, one can’t help but be struck by the sheer opulence and the intricate detailing of the ceilings, walls, and floors.
4. Bridge of Sighs: A Journey from Justice to Eternity
The Mysterious Passage
Though many view the Bridge of Sighs as a symbol of romance, it was originally anything but. Named for the sighs of prisoners who would get a last glimpse of Venice before their imprisonment or execution, this bridge offers an intriguing, if somber, narrative of Venice’s storied history.
- The bridge was built in 1600, making it one of the newer additions to Venice’s architectural portfolio.
- Legend says that lovers will enjoy eternal love if they kiss on a gondola under the Bridge at sunset.
While you’re exploring the Doge’s Palace, don’t miss the Bridge of Sighs. It provides an interesting counterpoint to the splendor and opulence you’ll encounter in the palace itself.
5. Peggy Guggenheim Collection: A Modernist Haven in a Classical City
The Confluence of Old and New
Nestled on the Grand Canal, the Peggy Guggenheim Collection houses one of the most important collections of modern art in Italy. It’s an unusual but delightful break from the historical norm you’ll find in Venice.
- The museum features works by Picasso, Dalí, Kandinsky, and Pollock among others.
- Peggy Guggenheim herself is buried in the garden, next to her beloved pet dogs.
Don’t skip the museum’s terrace cafe. With a stunning view overlooking the Grand Canal, it’s the perfect spot for some mid-day relaxation.
6. Scuola Grande di San Rocco: Venice’s Artistic Gem
The Underrated Showstopper
The Scuola Grande di San Rocco is perhaps one of the most underrated spots in Venice, yet it is a treasure chest of Renaissance art. Tintoretto, a Venetian painter, covered almost every inch of the Scuola’s walls and ceilings with his works, turning the building into a kind of three-dimensional storybook.
- There are more than 60 Tintoretto works in the building.
- The Scuola was established as a charitable society in 1478 and still functions as one today.
Take along a small mirror. The ceilings are so ornate that your neck will thank you for the chance to see them without craning upwards!
Fantastic! Let’s complete our list with the final attractions that make Venice an irresistible destination for any seasoned traveler.