Venice is regularly named as the most beautiful and romantic city in the world. One of the best ways to experience its magic is to moor up and get lost in it: the winding streets, snaking canals and hidden campi can surprise and delight for hours. However, if you’re looking for some must-see spots, a leisurely journey along the Grand Canal encompasses some wonderful sights.
Rialto Fish Market
The Rialto Bridge is always a draw for tourists, but make sure you don’t miss the adjacent Pescheria, Venice’s thriving fish market that has been there for centuries. Browse the stalls of wonderfully fresh sea food – locally caught seafood is labelled as ‘Nostrano’ – and even try your hand at a bit of haggling with the fish sellers. Make sure you arrive early because the fish has usually all been sold by noon.
Peggy Guggenheim Collection
The Peggy Guggenheim Museum is located overlooking the Grand Canal in the Palazzo Venier dei Leoni. The palace, which has a classical façade to match Palazzo Corner opposite, was started in the 1750s but never fully completed.
Peggy Guggenheim lived in the palace from 1949 until her death in 1979 and the museum mainly showcases her personal collection, including major works of twentieth-century art. Note that it is open from 10am to 6pm every day of the week except Tuesdays.
The Doge’s Palace, built in the Venetian Gothic style, is a magnificent building. It sits next to the Basilica of St. Mark in St. Mark’s Square and looks out over the gleaming waters of the Grand Canal.
This beautiful palace was formerly the residence of the Doge, the highest authority over the historic Republic of Venice. Since 1923 it has been a museum. When visiting, it is best to allow 2-3 hours to give yourself time to appreciate this stunning building inside and out, perhaps by private tour with a knowledgeable guide.
Bridge of Sighs
This world-famous bridge connects the Doge’s Palace with the New Prison, spanning over the Rio di Palazzo. It got its name because the view of Venice from its stone-barred windows was the last that convicts saw before they were imprisoned.
The best way to appreciate the bridge is to see it by gondola. According to legend, a kiss on a gondola under the Bridge of Sighs at sunset as the bells of St Mark’s Campanile toll will grant a pair of lovers eternal happiness.
Just a stone’s throw from the hustle and bustle of St. Mark’s Square is the peaceful district of Castello. It is the largest and one of the most varied of Venice’s six sestieri.
The west side of the district is home to many medieval churches and scuole(fraternity houses), while in the east side you will get a feel of modern, residential Venice. You can see some of Vittore Carpaccio’s finest paintings in the Scuola di San Giorgio degli Schiavoni.
A short walk eastwards through the Castello District will bring you to the Arsenale, Venice’s historical shipyard. Like all of Venice’s museums, the Naval Historical Museum exudes history from its very walls. It was built as an oars workshop and storage facility in the mid-sixteenth century, and now houses a wonderful collection of historical vessels.
There is no doubt that the city of Venice with its rich cultural history, romantic architecture and maze of canals, has all the elements for a magical experience.