There can be few cities in the world as beguiling as Venice. From the grandest churches and palazzos along the Grand Canal to the most charming of winding back streets, this atmospheric city has it all. Pile on world-class seafood, art and classical music and you’ve got a recipe for the perfect weekend break, at any time of year.
Where to stay
Those on a limitless budget should head straight for the Gritti Palace, one of the most iconic hotels in Europe. A 15th-century palazzo sitting on one of the most beautiful stretches of the Grand Canal, it enjoys views of the spectacular Salute church and is packed with beautiful antiques.
Culture Vulture You can find Renaissance art on every corner in Venice, but the city is also home to spectacular contemporary art collections. Heiress Peggy Guggenheim – whose father died on the Titanic – was one of the 20th century’s greatest collectors, and her canalside palazzo is now open to the public, brimming with works by surrealist, futurist and abstract expressionist artists ranging from Jackson Pollock to Salvador Dalí.
Retail therapy Venice is famous for many products, but particularly for masks, glass and marbled paper. There are plenty of tourist shops selling cheap imitations made abroad but if you do a little research you can find the real deal. ElleElle, for example, is a showroom which has been making modernist glass since the 1950s. Now on its third generation of glass designers, everything is hand-crafted and signed. Libreria Linea d’Acqua sells antique books, first editions and maps, and is a firm institution in Venice.
When to go The hordes of tourists desert Venice in spring and autumn, making it the perfect time to visit. However for something a little different, try Venice in winter. It’s such a moody and atmospheric city that grey skies and cold mists only add character. In winter, the city also has a decidedly local feel. You may even have the opportunity to see the iconic St Mark’s Square almost deserted.
St. Mark’s Square
Where to eat Given that it’s built on water, seafood is of course a specialty in Venice. Head to the world-famous Rialto fish market, which has been around for nearly a thousand years, and stock up on supplies or grab a snack on the go. Speaking of snacks, Venetians are rightly proud of another local favourite; cicchetti. The Venetian version of tapas, these small bites – crisp little discs of toasted bread with a myriad of toppings – are served standing up in packed bacari. All’Arco is one of the most famous spots to enjoy them.
See the sights If you’re the kind of traveller who loves to bag big-ticket sites, you’ll certainly be able to tick a few off your list in Venice. The Basilica di San Marco was founded in the 9th century and is home to over 8000 square metres of mosaics. Dotted with domes and clad in gleaming marble, it was originally the Doge’s private chapel, only becoming the city’s cathedral in 1807.
Off the beaten track Think of Venice and you might think of the famous, elaborate costumes worn during the Carnival. Head to Palazzo Mocenigo, the Museum of Textiles and Costumes, a gothic palace which displays a range of sumptuous ensembles. It’s also home to an exhibit on the history of perfume, exploring Venice’s role as the capital of perfume in the Middle Ages.
Take the kids One of the cultural capitals of Europe, Venice has a distinctly adult feel about it. However the city itself is straight out of a storybook, and as such will enchant young minds. If an entire city floating on canals doesn’t spark their imaginations, what will? Children and adults alike will love a tour of the Grand Canal on the Vaporetto, Venice’s public transportation system. Running from Piazza Roma to Piazza San Marco, the journey takes in glittering palaces while gondolas bob past.
How to get there Easyjet flies direct from Edinburgh to Venice from as little as £80 return. The most glamorous way to arrive in Venice itself is by water taxi. The journey takes around 25 minutes and costs over £100, however you can share your taxi to lower the cost a little.
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