Like most Italian cities, Venice is synonymous with immense beauty and historical significance, but it’s unique geographical makeup of tiny islands makes it a destination unlike any other in the country.
The romantic city of Venice — which Lonely Planet perfectly describes as “a floating masterpiece” — is the capital of northern Italy’s Veneto region and is built on more than 100 small islands in a lagoon in the Adriatic Sea. It has no roads, just canals – including the famous Grand Canal thoroughfare that is fringed with striking Renaissance and Gothic palaces.
As one of the most visited tourist destinations in the country, there is an abundance of sights, culinary delights and history to experience, but we’ve rounded up the Venetian hotspots you really do not want to miss.
And, it of course wouldn’t be a trip to Venice without experiencing the magic of the annual Venice Biennale — one of the most prestigious art and culture exhibitions in the world — so we recommend timing your trip to fall between May and September when the event is held each year. Travellers, The Floating City awaits you.
Run by the renowned Italian hoteliers, the Romanelli family for over fifty years and three generations, Hotel Flora is located inside a seventeenth century Palazzo right by the iconic St. Mark’s Square. Its atmosphere is best described as peaceful and refined, and it’s 40 charming rooms are filled with original period furniture, damask tapestry and Murano Glass chandeliers. It’s here that the interior is just as impressive as its exterior thanks to its internal courtyard that is home to an enchanting, verdant garden that its owners have been cultivating with love for over fifty years.
What’s more, it’s located just a stone’s throw from some of the city’s most symbolic locations — the Grand Canal, the Fenice theatre, the Gallerie dell'Accademia, the Church of La Salute and the Peggy Guggenheim Collection. Location, location, location.
Set in a converted 16th-century Venetian palazzo on the edge of the Grand Canal in one of the city’s most exciting districts, Smith Hotel’s Palazzo Barbarigo is one of Venice’s most celebrated stays. Its furnishings are glamorous, its ceilings are overwhelmingly high and its address is unrivalled. The 18 guestrooms merge modern elegance and 1920’s opulence – think luxurious velvets, feathered lamps and romantic lighting. This hotel embodies everything the Veneto region’s capital is famed for — waterfront location, romance and sheer delight.
Osteria del Bancogiro
When it’s on Vogue Italia’s shortlist of favourite eats in Italy, you know you’re in for a culinary experience that you won’t be forgetting anytime soon. Osteria del Bancogiro is canal-front restaurant offering modern Venetian fare in the heart of ancient Venice. The hotspot — that sits next to the Rialto Bridge — prides itself on quality produce and seasonality by following the offering of products in the nearby Rialto Market. Go for the fine food, stay for the postcard-like setting.
As a favourite amongst A-listers such as Natalie Portman, Salma Hayek, Bill Murray and Yoko Ono, Antiche Carampane must be on your culinary to-do-list. Founded by a fish wholesaler’s son, the family-run trattoria offers up some of the best seafood in town and has been previously dubbed Venice’s finest fresh fish restaurant. It’s cosy, brimming with historic photos and antiques, and the vibe is always joyful — there’s nothing not to love at Antiche Carampane. Seafood lovers, be sure to book — and well in advance!
If you’re a fan of the Bellini, Harry’s Bar is very likely to be your favourite Venetian hotspot. Owned by the Cipriani group, Harry’s Bar was founded in 1931 and is famed as the place where the Bellini was invented. With a clientele that has ranged from Ernest Hemmingway to Trueman Capote, you’ll be enjoying a piece of history just as much as your fresh peach juice and sparkling wine refrshment. In short, Harry’s Bar is an institution in Venice and no trip to Venice is complete without paying it a visit.
The 2019 Venice Biennale, better known in Italy as “La Biennale”, is this year the organisation’s 58th International Art Exhibition (the official name of the event) and will take place May 11 to November 24, 2019. The event will highlight a general approach to making art and a view of the social function on art, which embraces both pleasure and critical thinking. As a result, the event curator Ralph Rugoff has entitled the event ‘May You Live In Interesting Times’.
With 79 artists from all over the world at the ‘May You Live in Interesting Times’ exhibitions, 90 national participations and 21 collateral events, the Biennale has plenty for art lovers visiting Venice not only in 2019, but year-after-year.
The main sites for the exhibitions and pavilions are, as usual, Giardini and Arsenale. There are however 35 national pavilions, 19 collateral events and 1 special project which are spread across the historic centre of Venice, Giudecca, San Servolo and Forte Marghera. Art enthusiasts, prepare to be completely wowed.
Peggy Guggenheim Museum
As both one of the most visited and most important attractions in Venice, The Peggy Guggenheim Museum should be at the very top of your sights-to-see list. American art collector, bohemian and socialite, Peggy Guggenheim — who was born to the wealthy New York City Guggenheim family — was one of the world’s most renowned collectors and gallerists. In 1947, Guggenheim purchased the prestigious Palazzo Venier dei Leoni on the Grand Canal — the now home of the museum — and opened her expansive art collection to the public in 1951. She donated her home and her collection — some three hundred works — to the Guggenheim Foundation in both 1970 and 1976, respectively. Today, the museum is one of Europe’s most significant museums. It is home to Guggenheim's personal collection of 20th-century art — from Cubism and Surrealism to Abstract Expressionism— masterpieces from the Hannelore B. and Rudolph B. Schulhof collection, a sculpture garden and temporary exhibitions. Art enthusiast, add Venice to your bucket list purely for this.
The arched Rialto Bridge, or Ponte di Rialto as it’s known to locals, is the oldest of the four bridges spanning the famous Grand Canal. It has become one of the most famous bridges in Venice since it was built in the late 1500’s when it was the only way to cross the canal on foot until the Accademia Bridge was built in 1854.
The bridge has three walkways — two along the outer balustrades, and a wider central walkway leading between two rows of small shops that sell jewellery, linens, Murano glass, and other gift-like items. Shoppers, go central and those who are after a water view or a quick commute, go outer. It's hard to miss the Ponte di Rialto — from the train station or the Piazzale Roma, simply follow the signs to "Rialto."