Venice is often known as the European city of love, and it doesn’t take long to see why…
It had been the top of my bucket list for as long as i could remember and when we finally flew to ‘the floating city’ of Venice in November 2019, it was unlike any other European city i’d ever visited. I couldn’t work out why it felt so different and peaceful. Then you realise – there is not one single car or road throughout the whole main city. Transport is by water or foot – we even saw a young group of boys arrive to pick up a takeaway pizza on a boat!
We left the airport and got a private water taxi to the centre of Venice. It was such a surreal experience watching the whole city appear and open up right in front of your eyes. I recommend to pay a bit extra and get a boat into the centre, it was magical.
We stayed in a trusty AirBnB in the Cannaregio area. This is actually where a lot of residents live, so it was great to be staying amongst local Italians. From Cannaregio its around a 20 minute walk to Saint Marks Square and surrounding attractions. We never used the water taxi during our stay, choosing to walk everywhere. Getting lost in the little Venetian streets is all part of the fun of exploring, and 20 minutes walking seemed like 5 with so much to see!
One of the main reasons this trip was so special was a present we picked up in the Calle Large XXII area. This is actually the designer hub of Venice, housing every designer imaginable. As it was my birthday trip, my boyfriend surprised me with a pair of shoes i had been wanting for some time. Unfortunately with such an expensive price tag, they’re not something you can just buy on a whim.
The shops are so classy and elegant. Pair this with the Venetian gothic architecture lining the streets, it was stunning. It was just after sunset when we arrived and the twinkly lights paving the streets made it even more special. We were treat like absolute royalty in the shops and it was an experience i’ll never forget!
Aside from the shopping there is sooo much to see and do in Venice and our entire trip was packed out exploring.
Piazza San Marco
Probably the first thing you think of when you think of Venice. Piazza San Marco is the main public square of Venice and to locals is known as La Piazza. Its also home to St Marks Basillica and Campanile di San Marco. Entrance to the Basilica was free, however i thought the outer architecture was far more impressive than the inside.
The views from Campanile Di San Marco however, were well worth the €8 entrance fee each. The Campanile was built with the intention of being a beacon for sailors in the lagoon – meaning the views had to be clear and unobstructed and indeed they were! Being November and off season, the queue time was around 20 minutes – i can imagine in the summer it would be a lot longer. It was the best viewpoint in the city so even in busier months, it’d be well worth the queue.
Doges Palace (Palazzo Ducale)
Another attraction we really enjoyed was Doges Palace. The palace was the residence of the Doge of Venice. It is full of ornate gold ceilings and intricate designs – a real gothic masterpiece. Doges Palace actually changes colour throughout the day depending on how the sun is hitting it! It’s free entry into Doges Palace and well worth an hour or two wandering around.
Worth nothing that when you are entering the prison at Doges Palace, you get a view of the behind of the Bridge of Sighs. We were told on the tour that the reason it’s called the Bridge of Sighs is because, for many prisoners, looking out of the bridge would often be the last time they saw light & freedom therefore they would sigh in sadness. Really interesting!
You can also access the Bridge of Sighs from Piazzo San Marco in around 2 minutes walking.
Galleria Giorgio Franchetti Alla Ca’ D’Ora
We don’t normally do art galleries as a rule as its not something we are particularly interested in, but we heard the views of the Grand Canal from inside were wonderful. I was actually impressed by the exhibits in the gallery and pleasantly surprised to see a exhibition from Virgil Abloh – the creator of Off-White, one of my favourite designers! All in all a good experience, but i wouldn’t add it to my ‘must do’s’ in Venice. We paid €13 each for entrance fee.
Rialto Bridge & The Grand Canal
The Rialto Bridge is the oldest of the 4 bridges in Venice and sweeps over the Grand Canal. There is lots of little craft and gift shops surrounding it. Its well worth seeing simply for its history and its views looking out of Venice!
Just off the mainland of Venice is a little island called Burano. It is full of brightly coloured fisherman’s houses and is known for its production of lace. We got the vaporetto here which takes around 45 minutes and cost us €13 round trip. You only really need a morning or afternoon here, as there isn’t much to do except soak in the atmosphere. One thing we made sure we did here was visit Panifiero Pasticerria Garbo. One of the oldest bakeries on the island, making traditional pastries and sweet cakes. We tried the Bussolà buranello, peverini and cuki with chocolate!
One thing most people will do or feel they need to do in Venice is take a Gondola Ride. I was super excited to arrive and book one but i was disappointed. While the Gondolas were beautiful, so intricately designed and picturesque, every gondolier we saw were on their phones, not paying attention or making it a special experience for the passengers. For that reason i really couldn’t justify spending £60+ when we could see the same sights on foot and probably have a nicer time doing it. A real shame.
Our Favourite Food & Drink Picks
One of our favourite things to do when travelling is eating and drinking!! We love finding traditional dishes and restaurants and with italian food, you just can’t go wrong. We had some wonderful pasta dishes and pizzas here but the main thing we loved? the wine.
Where we were staying in Cannaregio, the canals were lined with intimate and dimly lit wine bars, oozing that italian charm! They were bursting with local wine lovers and we definitely found a favourite in Oficina Ormensi. The wine list was huge – I think we made our way through half of it! Everything about the place was just wonderful and we returned almost every night.
I absolutely love finding those one of a kind authentic restaurants while travelling, in fact we actively go looking for them! We found a total gem here called Bar Puppa. I think inside there was 3 or 4 stooled tables, it is tiny! It looks pretty inconspicuous from the outside but don’t let that put you off. You get a pasta dish and a drink for €15. The pasta menu changes every couple of days and is made fresh when you order. We were actually the only two in there when eating and so Puppa the owner was super attentive and made our experience that extra bit special.
We rarely eat in main squares, or around tourist attractions in cities as there is just no authenticity. Finding gems like these which you remember for a long time after, is to us, what travelling is all about.
I had longed to visit Venice for such a long time and it surpassed all my expectations. If any Italian City should be on your travel list it should be Venice. Special in so many ways, not least for the fact it is built entirely on wooden stakes. There is so much charm and authenticity to the City, you truly have to experience its magic first hand.