Though old and decaying, Venice is truly like no other city we’ve ever visited, and we are constantly captivated by its beauty. At every turn, we were greeted by yet another eye-catching, photo-worthy view. Understandably, Venice is one of our favorite destinations and one we think everyone should visit at some point in their lives.
From its iconic Venetian Gothic architecture, gondola-filled canals, and picturesque bridges, to the quaint neighboring islands, there is so much to see and do while here. Take a stroll through Piazza San Marco, or tour the city by vaporetto (canal bus), step into the centuries old Basilica, or visit any number of museums, many of which inhabit old casas and palazzos. Or, just wander the city’s maze of narrow walkways – Venice is virtually car-free – and enjoy its delicate elegance.
Benvenuti a Venezia!
Click the thumbnails below to read more about what to see, where to eat, things to do, and getting around in Venice.
A brief history of Venice
Taking its name from the ancient Veneti, inhabitants of the surrounding region (Veneto), Venice is believed to have been settled by refugees fleeing invaders from the north and east, and was formed from about a hundred tiny islands joined together by bridges. Like the much younger Dutch city of Amsterdam, Venice is a city of canals lined with houses built on wooden pilings. Officially founded in the first half of the 5th century AD, though inhabited since the Roman Era (perhaps even longer), Venice flourished under the leadership of a succession of elected chief magistrates, bearing the title of Doge, and for almost a thousand years, served as the capital of the powerful Republic of Venice. During much of the Middle Ages, Venice was the center of trade and commerce, controlling sea trade between Western Europe and the East.
Known as the birthplace of merchant/explorer Marco Polo (a claim also made by Croatia), Renaissance painter Tintoretto, Baroque composer Vivaldi, and writer/adventurer Giacomo Girolamo Casanova, known simply as Casanova, Venice is a city with a vibrant and colorful history. And, its contributions to art and architecture, as well as the remnants of the massive wealth accumulated during its golden years, can still be seen today – from the extravagant Palace of the Doge and neighboring San Marco’s Basilica, to the many other elegant buildings lining the canals. Venice and its lagoon are listed jointly as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.