Venice Holidays: An Overview

The city known as La Serenissima ('The Most Serene') has beguiled travellers for more than a millennium. Ever since a group of plucky refugees fleeing Atilla the Hun's rampaging hordes decided to make these marshy and (thankfully no longer) malaria-ridden islands their home, Venice has defied convention.

It takes a hefty dollop of audacity to build a city across 118 islands, with 170 canals and over 400 bridges connecting them, plus innumerable palazzi and campi (squares, only St Mark's is a piazza), in the middle a lagoon, and yet successive generations of Venetians have done just that. There are very few places in the world that can claim as spectacular a natural setting as Venice, which is only enhanced by the mish-mash of architectural and cultural influences - from Roman to Byzantine and Ottoman - that makes the city a living and breathing work of art. St Mark's Basilica, the Doge's Palace and St Mark's Square must be among the most visited spots in the world, and their breath-taking beauty is best appreciated at sunrise or after sunset once the hoards of tourists have returned to their hotels for the evening, safe in the knowledge that you're seeing something truly special. (Gentlemen - or, for that matter, ladies - if you're going to propose in Venice this would be the moment to drop to one knee!)

Romance aside, Venice is the ideal city for getting lost. Stray five minutes off the tourist trails and you will almost certainly be lost, but you'll most likely have found a deserted campo (so called because they were once grassy spaces for grazing livestock) which feels almost like it did 500 years ago. You will uncover churches that are works of art in themselves, and you might even get lucky and stumble across one with an Old Master behind an altar. Should you want to get even further under the skin of this magical city, we have a raft of local guides who are experts in art, history and architecture on hand, as well as local chefs who can arrange private cooking classes to learn the secrets of Venetian cuisine. Anyone lucky enough to have eaten at Russell Norman's popular Polpo restaurants in London will know quite how good the local food can get.

While we're on the subject of food (and this is Italy, after all), eating out in Venice can be more difficult than you'd imagine. Caffe Florian is iconic - and once the site of many an evening's drinking session for Hemingway and Fitzgerald - and drinking bellinis in Harry's Bar is probably just the right side of cliché, but both venues can be crowded and extortionately expensive. A better bet is to head away from St Marks to the tiny, blink-and-you'll-miss-them local haunts, where everything is fresh, and made from whatever looked best at the market that morning, according to the recipe nonna (grandma) passed down from her nonna. Our Concierge will give you an insider steer on the best of these secret spots. Start with some chichetti (Venetian tapas) and a couple of Aperols (everyone's favourite drink was invented in the Veneto) before whatever looks best from the menu and plenty of local wine and finally a late evening passeggiata around the labyrinthine streets until you eventually find yourself back at your hotel.

Away from the city itself, the outer islands, particularly Murano (famous for its beautiful hand-blown glass) and Burano (home to the brightly-painted houses of many an Instagram feed, and exquisite hand-made lace) are well worth a visit, if just for a late afternoon wander, and the Lido - where Venetians go for a day by the seaside - is great fun.

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If You Do Three Things
Visit Doge’s Palace

Visit one of the most famous landmarks in Venice - the beautiful Doge's Palace - and learn about the complex history of the doges (dukes) who ruled the city. Take a guided tour around this beautiful Venetian palace with a local historian and admire its grand halls abundant with Renaissance art works. Finish the fascinating tour in the inquisition chambers and the prison cells, where the infamous Casanova was imprisoned.

If You Do Three Things
Venice By Boat

Board a small boat to explore the narrow canals of Venice and learn how to navigate the intricate water system. With the help of local guide, discover the lesser known canals, listen to old tales of the city and admire the beautiful Sestieri (Venetian neighbourhoods). Join the Grand Canal and cruise past pretty palazzos and elegant churches - including Scalzi and Santa Maria della Salute - that are beautiful beyond words.

If You Do Three Things
Saint Mark’s Square

Piazza San Marco - in the heart of Venice - is the perfect place to begin a tour of the charming city. Visit the famous Basilica San Marco and captivating Correr Museum, cruise along small streets hugging the canal and sip a Bellini in one of the many terraces that occupy the square. Indulge in plenty of sublime gelatos and do some window shopping (or actual shopping) in the Italian designer boutiques.

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Murano glass blowing
Deeper Cuts
Head off the beaten track and uncover the little-known gems of a destination
Tour of Murano & Burano

Take a tour of the island of Murano, home to Venice's glass factories and artisans, with an expert in glass production as your guide. You can see glass artisans at work in the factories and learn how their craft has developed and what makes it so unique. Then visit nearby Burano to admire the colourful houses before going on to visit Torcello and its seventh century basilica.

Map of Venice

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A Note on Price

All of our holidays are completely tailor-made and prices will vary based on things like when in the year you will be travelling, how far in advance you book and the level of accommodation you choose. The guide prices shown across this website are designed to provide you with a broad indication of how much to budget for your trip.

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