City Orientation Walking Tour (Self Guided), Venice

Although most experts agree that the Venetian lagoon emerged nearly 6,000 years ago, the area of today's Venice remained mostly uninhabited, except for a small population of fishermen, up until the 5th century AD when the hordes of Gothic barbarians, looting their way into Rome, drove many a people away from their homes on the mainland to take refuge on the coastal Venetian islands.

Those who fled the burning and plundering by the invaders founded a city which was officially recognized as such after the remains of St. Mark the Evangelist, brought from Alexandria, Egypt, were interred here some time around the 9th century AD. At that point, St. Mark became the patron of Venice and made it part of the Christian world.

Shortly afterwards, Venice had gained independence from the Byzantine Empire and, by the early 11th century, emerged as a powerful city-state successfully trading with the Christian forces during the Crusades. Two centuries later, Venice became a seasoned maritime republic, reigning supreme over the Mediterranean, stifling opposition from the Byzantine Empire.

The Venetian Republic was ruled by a Doge, an elected for life leader assisted by the Council of 10 and the Grand Council of 2,000 members. This form of government remained in force until the Napoleonic invasion of 1797 removed the Venetian Doge and Grand Council from power, thus marking the end of the Republic.

The ensued period of decline lasted until the turn of the 19th century when Venice emerged on the scene once again, this time as a fashionable vacation spot for the wealthy.

Reputed as one of the most romantic places ever built by man, Venice is nicknamed “the City of Water” and “the City of Bridges”. Other than the water and bridges though, the city boasts great art legacy manifested in numerous palaces, galleries, and churches of unparalleled beauty.

This self-guided tour takes you to some of the top landmarks of Venice, mostly the ones located along the Grand Canal and San Marco quarter. To obtain directions to the sights in question, tap the sight's name below this introduction and then tap it on the map at the bottom of the sight's information screen. The GPS navigation function will guide you to the chosen destination.

Getting to Sight #1. The first tour stop (Palazzo Ducale (Doge's Palace)) is on San Marco Square or can be reached by: Alilaguna Water Taxi: Blue (B), Rosa (R); Water Bus: 1, 2, 4.1, 10, 7, 4.2, 5.2, 2, 20 + N (Night line).
How it works: Download the app "GPSmyCity: Walks in 1K+ Cities" from iTunes App Store or Google Play to your mobile phone or tablet. The app turns your mobile device into a personal tour guide and its built-in GPS navigation functions guide you from one tour stop to next. The app works offline, so no data plan is needed when traveling abroad.

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City Orientation Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: City Orientation Walking Tour
Guide Location: Italy » Venice (See other walking tours in Venice)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 19
Tour Duration: 3 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 4.6 Km or 2.9 Miles
Author: greghasleft
1
Palazzo Ducale (Doge's Palace)

1) Palazzo Ducale (Doge's Palace) (must see)

Built on the foundations of a 9th-century fortress, this palace is unquestionably the finest secular European building of its time which, in the course of centuries, had served many purposes, including Doge residence, seat of the Venetian government, court of law, civil office, and even a prison.

First built in the 14th century, much of the original palace was destroyed by fire in the 16th century reducing to ashes most of the art treasures held inside. Some of the greatest Venetian masters of the time, such as Tintoretto, Veronese, Titian, Bellini, and Tiepolo, contributed to restoring the palace to its former glory, recreating gilded stucco, sculptures, frescoes, and canvases.

A blend of Byzantine and Gothic architecture on the outside, inside the palace is all Classical which, in turn, led the art critic John Ruskin to declare it “the central building of the world”.

The interior of the palace – spectacular furnishings and paintings, marvelously adorned ceilings – reveals lavishness on the scale that is hard to match. The most outstanding is the Grand Council chamber, featuring Tintoretto’s “Paradise”, reportedly the world’s largest oil painting. Running up to it, in terms of grandeur, is the Sala dello Scrutinio or the “Voting Hall” embellished with paintings depicting Venice’s glorious past.

A stark contrast to this splendor are the cell-blocks on the opposite side of the canal – grim remnants of the horror of the medieval justice – linked to the outside world by the Bridge of Sighs by which the prisoners were led to their cells. The word “sighs” refers to the laments of the numerous victims forced across the bridge to face certain torture and possibly death at the hands of the state inquisitors appointed by the city.

To get the most of your time at Palazzo Ducale, use the infrared audio guide available at the entrance and hear a fascinating story of the 1,000-year-old maritime republic of Venice and the intricacies of the government that once ruled it.

***CASANOVA TOUR***

On the night of 25 July 1755, aged 30, Casanova was arrested for affront to religion and common decency and was sentenced to five years imprisonment without having had a trial. He was taken to the Doge's Palace and put in a cell under its roof, which was covered with lead plates. In summer, the lead roof absorbed the heat and turned the place into an oven, but prisoners also suffered greatly from the "millions of fleas".

Casanova's physical distance from the opulence of Venice and the center of government was negligible, the psychological distance immeasurable. Eventually, after 15 months of torment and despair, he managed to escape by making a hole in the ceiling and descending his way to freedom with bed sheet ropes. The only person ever to escape from the prison of Doge's Palace, he first sought refuge in Munich, then Strasbourg, and completed the final leg of his journey by coach to Paris, where he would start a new life.

Tip:
Book in advance for the guided "Secret Itinerary" tour that takes you into otherwise restricted quarters and hidden passageways, such as the Doge’s private chambers, the torture chambers where prisoners were interrogated, and the two cells that Casanova occupied.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 8:30am–7pm, last admission 6pm (Apr-Oct); 8:30am–5:30pm, last admission 4:30pm (Nov-Mar)
2
Campanile di San Marco (St Mark's Campanile)

2) Campanile di San Marco (St Mark's Campanile)

The city’s tallest bell tower was originally constructed in the 12th century, as a combined lighthouse and belfry, and was continuously modified up until the 16th century, when the golden angel was installed on its summit. Back in the day, each of the five bells here had a distinct function: the largest bell tolled the start and the end of a working day; another bell rang midday; two other bells either proclaimed a session of the Senate or called members of the Grand Council to the meetings; while the smallest of the bells gave notice of a forthcoming execution.

It was at the top of this belfry that Galileo Galilei famously demonstrated his telescope to the Venetian Doge on 21 August 1609 – the event commemorated by a plaque at the tower's observation deck. Still, the most dramatic event associated with the Campanile took place on 14 July 1902, when the tower fell down shortly after giving a sound of warning to the leisurely coffee drinkers at piazza below, sending them run for their lives!

The Venetians put the Campanile back “where it was and how it was”, and the tower is now safe to climb to the very top. Unlike other belfries where you have to brave a narrow, steep spiral set of stairs to reach the top, the Venetian one has an elevator so you can easily get a pigeon’s eye view just for a fee.

Standing 99 meters high, the Campanile is the tallest structure in Venice; an ideal vantage point for observing the cupolas of the San Marco basilica and further afield, including the surrounding lagoon. Sometimes in the evening, the view is so clear that one can literally see for miles away! But even if you don't reach the top, standing at the base of this historic belfry and staring up at its summit can be just as exciting an experience.
3
Basilica di San Marco

3) Basilica di San Marco (must see)

By far the main draw for tourists visiting Venice, Basilica di San Marco was built in 832 AD to house the remains of the city’s patron St Mark. According to a legend, two Venetian merchants smuggled the holy man’s remains from its shrine in Alexandria, Egypt in the barrels of pork meat which they knew the Muslim guards would never touch. This proved to be a stroke of genius as it prevented the precious relic from being desecrated by the Muslim rulers of Egypt. St Mark himself is said to have been greeted by an angel who appeared to him on the night he took shelter in the lagoon, with the words “Peace be with you Mark, my Evangelist. Here shall your body rest”. Credible or not, but over the years this legend has inspired many works of art.

Two more centuries later, a new sumptuous church was built on the foundations of an earlier one and was consecrated when St Mark’s body was interred here beneath the high altar. This new basilica was modeled after the celebrated Church of the Apostles in Constantinople, and as such, for all intents and purposes, was a Byzantine church. To enhance its opulence, the structure was subsequently clothed in marble and mosaics depicting scenes from the Old and New Testaments, as well as the lives of Christ, Virgin Mary and St Mark himself.

The best time to visit the basilica is around midday when all the golden mosaics adorning the vaults, walls and cupolas are illuminated and are most spectacular. Entry to the basilica is free but you can pay a small fee just to skip the line and book a time slot.

Inside, there are also a number of things you can see for a separate fee, such as the Golden Altar, the Museum, the Treasury, and the Crypt. It is also definitely worth paying to go up to the first level just to gaze at the interior and the square outside from an elevated point, or you might as well want to come on a night tour when the basilica is closed to the public and have pretty much the entire place to yourself.

Why You Should Visit:
Exceptionally beautiful blend of Byzantine and Western art!
The grandiosity of the mosaics and the wealth of the 'treasure room' will make you realize how powerful Venice was in its golden days.

Tip:
The lights are on only for limited times during the day (11:30-12:30) so make sure you time your visit so you can see/appreciate the beauty of the mosaics.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 9:30am-5pm; Sun: 2-4pm (until 5pm during the summer months)
4
Piazza San Marco

4) Piazza San Marco (must see)

No visit to Venice – not even the recurring one – is complete without setting one's foot on Piazza San Marco, replete with the sense of history and art. Long before the tourists arrived, this was the city’s religious, commercial and political nucleus from where the Venetian Republic reigned for centuries. When the future founders of the city settled on the lagoon islands, this area was used to build a citadel – Palazzo Ducale – complete with the city's most precious place of worship, the San Marco Basilica. In the course of centuries, these two magnificent edifices have formed a public space so noble and majestic that no other square in Venice was seen worthy enough to bear the name “piazza” – hence, all the other Venetian squares are called either “campi” or “campielli”.

Today, Piazza San Marco remains the core of the city with the highest concentration of plush hotels, elegant and exorbitant cafes, most extravagantly-priced seafood, and luxurious shops. Evenings with mood lighting and live music here are especially romantic, so if you're happy to pay €15 for coffee or €25 for a cocktail, then take your time sipping it whilst enjoying the ambiance. However, if this is outside your budget, then head to the side streets of the San Marco quarter where there's just as plenty of action going on, and the colorful boutiques, bars and food outlets are more affordable.

Otherwise, enjoy this famous square for what it is and keep breathing its air... in and out. For you're in Venice!!!

Tip:
If your time permits arrive later on the afternoon before or while it gets darker. Charming, romantic... and pretty empty. During the day, however, some stalls are selling souvenirs, bags (and knock-offs) and other things at surprisingly fair prices.
Another word of advice: if you go for a gondola ride, avoid gondolas moored by the square. Look for those outside the main touristy areas as you will get much more of the side-canal views that look much better in the pictures – plus the whole experience will be much more romantic.
5
Torre dell'orologio

5) Torre dell'orologio (must see)

In a square filled with iconic Venetian buildings, this remarkable Renaissance clock tower holds its own. Its base has always been a favorite meeting point for Venetians as it marks the entrance to the ancient Merceria, one of the busiest streets in Venice, now home to both high-end boutiques and trinket shops.

The tower's clock itself was made the official timekeeper of Venice as far back as 1858. It notably not only tells the time but is also aid to the astrologer, matching zodiac signs with the position of the sun.

Above the clock's face, against a field of golden stars, you can see a winged lion of St Mark, symbol of Venice found practically everywhere around the city. Beneath the lion is a statue of the Virgin Mary and Baby Jesus who also seem to be watching over Piazza San Marco.

The two men striking the bell at the extreme top of the clock tower are some of the most peculiar Venetian characters. Originally, these were two shepherds who, but after being reproduced in bronze, grew significantly darker with time, and thus, got the nickname of “Moors”.

If you decide to climb the tower, you may want to book a tour. There are two English tours run every day, each limited to 12 people only. On this tour you will see a secret door and then stop at every level all the way to the top to observe the clock mechanism and other curious things within the tower, along with San Marco square itself down below.
6
Carlo Goldoni Monument

6) Carlo Goldoni Monument (must see)

Carlo Goldoni – one of the most famous playwrights of Italy who has transformed the more conventional “commedia dell’arte” from a vehicle for semi-improvised clowning into a medium for sharp political observation – was born in Venice in 1707 in the Gothic palace, called Ca' Centanni.

Goldoni's importance lay in providing good examples rather than precepts. He modeled his plays on those of Molière, although his plays are gentler and more optimistic in tone than the Molière ones. Goldoni's plays are still the staple of theatrical life in Venice, and ensure no risk of running out of material – allegedly, Goldoni once bet a friend that he could produce one play a week for the whole year, and won it.

A monument to Carlo Goldoni, made by sculptor Antonio Dal Zòtto in 1883, stands in San Bartolomeo Square, a stone's throw away from the Rialto Bridge, and is similar to the monuments found in Florence and Paris, where Goldoni eventually exiled himself. After his move to France, Goldoni's plays took on a clear anti-clerical tone and often satirized the hypocrisy of clergy and Church in general.

In his memoirs, Goldoni painted himself as a born comedian, careless, light-hearted and with a happy temperament, proof against all strokes of fate, yet thoroughly respectable and honorable.
7
Fondaco dei Tedeschi

7) Fondaco dei Tedeschi (must see)

Once headquarters of the German merchant community in Venice, Fondaco dei Tedeschi is a huge building standing just beside the Rialto bridge. Back in the day, German traders were the most influential foreign group in the city and had rented this centrally-located building from as early as the 13th century. After being destroyed by fire, the Fondaco was rebuilt in the 16th century into a functional 4-story edifice with a grand inner courtyard. While architecturally it is typically Italian Renaissance, the basic concept of the building (much as the word 'fondaco' itself) is typically Arabic. Just like Fondaco dei Turchi, the Fondaco dei Tedeschi comprised a palazzo, a warehouse, and restricted living quarters for the inhabitants – mainly merchants from the German cities of Nuremberg, Judenburg, and Augsburg.

Today, this is one of the largest and resplendent shopping centers in Venice specialized in high-end luxury stuff. No wonder prices here are a bit steep, but the place is still a popular hangout, always teeming with tourists.

But don’t let the crowd put you off, at least not before you check out the Fondaco's rooftop terrace for the views it provides, fit to blow anyone away. The 4th-floor Event Pavilion is an exhibition space with a free access to the terrace affording one of the best panoramas of the Grand Canal, the downward view of the Rialto Bridge, and the top of San Marco's Basilica a kilometer or so away – quite a different angle from what you can see at a ground level!

Tip:
To enter the roof terrace you need a ticket – offered for free, but issued for a certain time in order to regulate visitors' numbers and to prevent overcrowding. A word of advice is to pick up your ticket at the top floor first, and then explore the below shopping mall. Otherwise, you can book the ticket online at Fondaco's website. And if you're really lucky to catch a sunset while up on the roof, your efforts will be well rewarded!

Opening Hours:
Daily: 10am-8pm
8
Ponte di Rialto (Rialto Bridge)

8) Ponte di Rialto (Rialto Bridge) (must see)

There are only four bridges in Venice spanning the Grand Canal and, if you’re exploring the city on foot, you will find yourself crossing at least one of them sooner or later. Ponte di Rialto is the oldest and certainly the most famous of the four, linking the Eastern and Western quarters of Venice – the districts of San Marco and San Polo.

It was originally built of wood in the 12th century, followed by the current stone modification four centuries later. The engineering solution seemed so audacious at the time that certain architects predicted its future ruin. However, the bridge has defied critics to become one of the architectural marvels of Venice which, until 1854, remained the only foot crossing of the Grand Canal before the Accademia bridge was erected.

And if you’re comfortable steering through the hordes of tourists crawling over the bridge, you may enjoy the spectacular views of the canal opening in both directions. Beyond the souvenir stalls are the centuries-old markets that traditionally showcase the abundance of fruits and vegetables harvested on the lagoon islands, as well as the fish freshly caught in the bordering Adriatic Sea – you can even see boats from the Burano and Pellestrina islands unloading their daily catch here.

There are plenty of shops and restaurants within the Rialto bridge area as well, usually overpriced, but masterly tucked in so as not to disturb the heritage exterior. Also by the bridge are waterbus stops, not to mention persuasive gondoliers who just happen to have a vacant gondola with your name on it, in case you're in for a boat ride.

Tip:
Evening is by far the best time to visit – much quieter and looks stunning.
9
Mercato di Rialto (Rialto Food Market)

9) Mercato di Rialto (Rialto Food Market)

If you seek to experience Venice in its entirety, then head to the Rialto Market! Just as in most any other city, this food market is a pulsating center of the local community. Among other things, the Rialto market epitomizes the sincerity and joyfulness of the Venetians and their love of life, in part due to which this market is often mistaken for a sort of open-air theme park!

To characterize the Rialto Market, one has to start with its location directly overlooking the Grand Canal since as early as the 11th century. Another distinctive feature are the explicit product signs born out of the grocers' fantasy which, apart from the origin and price, always provide extensive product characteristics and sometimes even cooking tips – all presented in a very artistic style.

The entire place is as much colorful and lively as it is practical – here you can buy flowers, spices, seasonal produce, fresh meat and seafood – quite rich in terms of range and, what's most amazing, reasonably priced. While some of the fish here, like salmon, you may find recognizable, the remaining majority would be quite exotic. For example, here you can find cuttlefish used for the famous black ink pasta available only in Venice, plus a huge variety of shellfish. A mere watching all this is a feast for eyes and a grand source of photo opportunities!

Tip:
As part of tourist etiquette, please keep in mind that this is a regular market, where regular people come for regular shopping – so try and be as little hindrance as possible. Also, don't forget to ask permission before you actually touch anything on sale, so as not to annoy anyone.

Opening Hours:
Tue-Sat: 7:30am-1:30pm
10
Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari

10) Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari (must see)

After Basilica di San Marco, this is probably the second most notable church worth visiting in Venice. Located slightly off the beaten path in a charming area with a great deal of character, the Frari church is rarely, if ever, assailed by visitors. Though the building itself is quite extraordinary and is a true monument to the Venetian history and art combined.

Founded by the Franciscan order in the late 13th century, this gargantuan edifice is one of Venice’s largest, and its brick bell tower is the 2nd tallest after the San Marco's. It is also one of the three Venetian churches to retain Gothic appearance – rather plain on the outside, including the facade. Contrary to its misleadingly dull “mountain of brick” type of exterior, the interior is quite astounding.

Few buildings in Venice can boast multiple first-rate works by Titian, especially the likes of the “Assumption” painting, unprecedented at the time, soaring over the high altar. Another Titian's masterpiece here is “Madonna di Ca' Pésaro” – equally innovative in the displacement of the figure of the Virgin Mary from the center of the picture.

Alongside these and other paintings by Vivarini and Bellini, the church is also home to the wooden statue of St John the Baptist by Donatello, the beautiful 15th-century choir, and the wealth of extravagant tombs. On the right-hand side of the nave stands a 19th-century monument to Titian, marking his grave. The artist died in 1576, aged nearly 90, from a plague. Such high was his esteem, that Titian was the only plague victim to be allowed a church burial during the outbreak. On the opposite side, there's a marble pyramid – mausoleum of sculptor Antonio Canova erected by his students, and a rather controversial, if not say grotesque, tomb of Doge Giovanni Pésaro – the monumental composition supported by gigantic Moors and featuring, among other figures, some decomposing bodies.

To learn more about these and other artworks within the church, feel free to grab a guidebook or a free pamphlet by the ticket office as an aid.

Tip:
Pay cash – no credit cards accepted.
Modest dress code required (covers provided).

Opening Hours:
Mon-Sat: 9am-6pm; Sun/Holidays: 1-6pm
Visiting hours may vary according to liturgical celebrations, concerts and events.
11
Scuola Grande di San Rocco

11) Scuola Grande di San Rocco (must see)

Of all the religious fraternities of Venice known as “scuole”, none other is as richly decorated as Scuola Grande. Back in the early 16th century, Venice's own Tintoretto, then 46 years of age, won a competition to decorate the building. The job took him several decades until his death in 1594, aged 76, over which period he had created more than 50 epic canvases.

Art critic John Ruskin used to call Scuola Grande “one of the three most precious buildings in Italy”, and it's not hard to imagine why he resorted to such hyperbole, given the overwhelming effect it produces.

The relief of the sick had been the main goal of the fraternity right from the outset in 1478. It had been going for seven years till the body of St Roch or Rocco was brought to Venice from Germany, and the ensued boom of donations was so great that in 1489 the fraternity acquired the status of “scuola grande”. In 1527 the city was hit by an outbreak of plague, and the Scuola’s revenue rocketed to record highs with the money pouring in from the people hoping to secure St Rocco's protection against the disease. This financial intake eventually paid for both the construction of the building and the amazing cycle of Tintoretto’s paintings inside.

Although Tintoretto cycle begins with the “Annunciation” picture located in the lower room, to appreciate his progression as an artist, it is best to start in the smaller room on the upper floor – called Sala dell’Albergo – housing the “Crucifixion” painting which truly reveals the full magnitude of Tintoretto's masterhood.

Among other highlights here are the New Testament scenes, in the main upper hall, defying every convention of perspective, lighting, and color – a feat of relentless inventiveness that has very few equals in the Western art. Although Tintoretto was in his late 60s when he came to paint these scenes, they prove to be some of the finest he had ever created.

Why You Should Visit:
Rarely busy or crowded – an oasis of peace, culture, Venetian history...
Photos don't do it justice. You can't help but be overwhelmed by it.

Tip:
Make sure to get an audio guide as there are no descriptions.
Wear warm clothes (it gets quite cold inside) and take your camera.
The mirrors in the chapter room allow you to study the ceiling art without having to strain your neck.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 9:30am-5:30pm
Ticket office closes at 5pm
12
Campo Santa Margherita

12) Campo Santa Margherita (must see)

If Piazza San Marco is a tourist center of Venice, then Campo Santa Margherita may well be regarded as the main gathering spot for locals and hip young crowd. Ringed by 14th-century buildings, this vast, elongated square is a social heart of the Dorsoduro district, many of whose inhabitants come here in the morning to stock up on vital provisions at a local farm and fish market. As such, this is a great place to see Venetians go about their daily lives. Due to its remoteness from the popular Rialto-San Marco route, you won't find many tourists around and the shops here cater mostly to the locals.

Students from the nearby university hang out at the numerous bars scattered in the vicinity, and the whole area has quite a bit of an alternative culture feel. There is also a high concentration of clubs frequented all year round. Especially at night, local restaurants offer good value for money, as compared to the more touristy spots, with plenty of Venetian Spritz being drunk at outdoor terraces.

Why You Should Visit:
Even if you do not intend to eat/drink here, take a detour to people-watch – fortunately, there are many benches for you to enjoy the scene.

Tip:
Keep this place in mind for when you will need food late at night. One of the best eateries and watering holes around is Al Bocon DiVino, sitting on the corner of Calle de Magazen, serving small fish snacks, called “cicchetti,” plus a good choice of desserts and spritz in a relaxed atmosphere.
To the south are a bunch of lively bars offering music to various tastes and genres, not least of which is the Venice Jazz Club hosting live shows by the in-house quartet, as well as guest acts.
13
Ca' Rezzonico – Museum of 18th-century Venice

13) Ca' Rezzonico – Museum of 18th-century Venice (must see)

Visiting Ca' Rezzonico offers a rare opportunity to see one of the most magnificent Grand Canal palaces. Meticulously renovated, the building houses a fascinating collection of 18th-century art, including Tiepolo and Tintoretto paintings, tapestries, porcelain, and period furnishings. In fact, the palace was acquired specifically to hold the collection and, as such, its contents are in perfect harmony with the outside appearance that is rarely seen anywhere else.

Upon entering, the first thing you see is the enormous Ballroom with chandeliers and ceiling paintings with a genuine 3D effect, followed by a range of other lavishly embellished rooms en route to the Throne Hall with the allegorical ceilings painted by Tiepolo. From the first floor balcony, you get a view of the Grand Canal similar to that the aristocratic residents of the palace had a privilege to enjoy back in the 18th century.

The low-ceiling 3rd and 4th floors house a Venetian art collection received from a private donator, dating back to the 15th century, but the main highlight there is the pharmacy – a sequence of wood-paneled rooms heavily stocked with glass bottles and ceramic jars. Complementing this is a tremendous view opening to the rooftops of Venice below.

Neither large nor small, and not too crowded either, this palace is a place to go after you have had your share of Venice's main highlights and have a taste for lavish living that the local high society afforded themselves back in the day. Advance tickets can be purchased from the official website.

Tip:
The on-site audio guide is quite good, much as the bookshop and terraced cafe directly facing onto the Grand Canal. Further to that, there's a quiet little side garden free to walk in with some seats in the shade that you may want to use for a welcome break after long hours of walking in Venice.

Opening Hours:
Mon, Wed-Sun: 10:30am-6pm (Apr-Oct); 10:30am-4pm (Nov-Mar)
Last entry: 30mins before closing time; closed on Tuesdays
14
Gallerie dell'Accademia

14) Gallerie dell'Accademia (must see)

The pomp and glory of Venice live on in the remarkably extensive collection of paintings, known as Accademia, spanning from the Middle Age to the Renaissance periods. The hallmark of the Venetian painting school is color and more color. From Veronese to Titian to Tintoretto, the Accademia gallery houses the best of Venice's glorious sons.

Also among its highlights are the works of 14th-century masters like Paolo and Lorenzo Veneziano who bridged the gap between the Byzantine and Gothic art; Giovanni Bellini – author of the “Madonna and Saint” and “Madonnas and Bambini” paintings; Vittore Carpaccio’s gruesome yet fascinating depiction of mass crucifixion and narrative paintings of St Ursula – amazing to a modern eye with the meticulous detailing of domestic architecture, costumes and decorative arts of Venice at the end of the 15th century; as well as Giorgione’s most famous painting “The Tempest” depicting a baby suckling from its mother's breast overlooked by a man with a staff.

Rooms 6 to 8 are all dedicated to the heavyweights of the Venetian High Renaissance such as Tintoretto, Titian, Veronese, and Lotto. Although fit to embellish any art collection in the world, these works are mere “appetizers” to what awaits visitors in the huge room #10 one of whose walls is fully taken by a single canvas, called “Christ in the House of Levi” by Paolo Veronese.

Finally, on your way out, make sure to see Titian’s “Presentation of the Virgin” – a fitting farewell to the galaxy of great Venetian artists.

Why You Should Visit:
Large, spacious and clean – the rooms are well planned and the layout beautiful.

Tip:
The entry charge to the gallery is reasonable or none at all if you happen to visit during a major local festival. However, if you buy a ticket, be aware that you can also use it for the recently renovated Palazzo Grimani, just a short walk away.

Opening Hours:
Tue-Sun: 8:15am-6:50pm (all year round); Tue, Thu: 7-10pm (Jun 4–Sep 26)
15
Palazzo Cavalli-Franchetti

15) Palazzo Cavalli-Franchetti (must see)

Situated opposite the Accademia gallery, next to the Palazzo Barbarigo, this palace is quite simply one of the most beautiful along the Grand Canal, lavishly adorned with Gothic tracery and a large, beautifully tended garden. Built in the 16th century, it represents a stunning mix of Gothic and Byzantine influences, and today accommodates headquarters of the Venetian Institute of Science, Letters and Art.

In the course of centuries, the palazzo changed hands many times during which it was internally modernized and externally decorated in the Venetian Gothic style with its signature rich window framing. The first round of neo-Gothic renovation took place in 1840 – by the young Archduke of Austria, Frederick Ferdinand, who embarked on this complex project in a bid to make the Hapsburg presence in Venice more prominent. The Archduke lived in the palace until 1878, after which it was sold to Baron Raimondo Franchetti who also undertook renovation, but never actually made the palace his personal residence.

The edifice now serves multiple purposes but is mainly dedicated to hosting changing exhibitions of contemporary art which, in turn, give it a breath of fresh air amid the massive dominance of the Renaissance art all around. Each room within the palace is fitted with Murano glass chandeliers, some of which are quite monumental.

Tip:
Apart from the art and the unbeatable views of the Grand Canal, visitors to the palace can also enjoy a pretty on-site cafeteria with a fairly good lunch menu!

Opening Hours:
[Cafeteria] Daily: 9am-6pm
16
Santa Maria del Rosario

16) Santa Maria del Rosario (must see)

Záttere, a broad quay stretching along the Giudecca Canal, is one of Venice’s most popular promenades lined with numerous cafes, trattorias, and guest-houses. Back in the day, this was the place where most of the bulky cargoes coming into Venice were unloaded onto floating rafts, called záttere. Today, the quay is accessible either on foot or by vaporetto – Venetian public waterbus.

The first sight in the Záttere worth breaking a stride for is the Santa Maria del Rosario church, commonly known as Gesuati. Named so after the Jesuit order it was once part of, this church was later taken over by the Dominican order and rebuilt in the first half of the 18th century by Giorgio Massari, an architect who often worked with Giambattista Tiepolo. Ensued from their collaboration are the first altarpiece on the right and three ceiling panels depicting Scenes from the Life of St Dominic painted by Tiepolo, best viewed in the afternoon when they are particularly impressive. For visitors' convenience, there's a mirror on the floor allowing to study the figures, facial expressions, and clothing of the characters without having to crane one's neck. Visitors also take interest in the exploring of the tragically intense “Crucifixion” by Tintoretto, on the third altar, the oldest painting inside the church.

Further into the district there is another local landmark – Squero di San Trovaso, a small shipyard specialized in building and repairing gondolas. Operational since the 17th century, this is one of the few remaining workshops of this kind in Venice. Its main attraction, perhaps, is the small wooden house featuring a style unseen anywhere else in the city, typical of the Cadore region in the northern province of Belluno.

Tip:
This is one of about 20 churches that can be visited by purchasing the Chorus Pass available at any of the churches or online. The churches on the Chorus Pass, like the Santa Maria del Rosario, often hold wonderful works of art in their original setting.
The five bells of Santa Maria del Rosario's bell tower play together on Saturday at 5pm and have an impressive evocative sound.

Opening Hours:
Mon-Sat: 10:30am-4:30pm; (last admission: 4:20pm)
17
Palazzo Barbarigo

17) Palazzo Barbarigo (must see)

Once owned by the proprietors of one of Venice's largest glass factories, Palazzo Barbarigo, originally built in the 16th century, is distinguished for its exterior clad in Murano glass mosaics. The mosaics were added in 1886 and are said to have been inspired by the similarly adorned facade of St Mark's Basilica.

Nonetheless, when the front mosaic was completed, it didn't quite impress the aristocratic neighbors who accused the then-new owners of the palace of being “nouveau riches” with a garish taste completely out of touch with the genteel decay of the neighboring buildings. Needless to say that this was unfair criticism as many of the Renaissance palazzi on the Grand Canal were once also covered in polychrome and gilt decorations, with elaborate plaster and stucco work that only added to their splendor.

Today, Palazzo Barbarigo stands as one of the most opulent pieces of architecture on the Grand Canal. The mosaic on its central frieze depicts 35 cherubs actively engaged in various artistic activities, such as painting, drawing, sculpture and architecture. Two separate murals commemorate royal visits to Venice: one in the 16th century by the Holy Roman Emperor Charlemagne during which he is depicted speaking to Titian on the scaffold of St Mark's Basilica; and the other one by the French King Henry III, in 1574, arriving on the Doge's barge along with a team of glass-makers.

The portraits of two most famous Venetian painters – Titian and Tintoretto – are found right above these scenes. The lion of St Mark – symbol of Venice – tops one of the portraits, while the back rooster – symbol of Murano – crowns the other.
18
Peggy Guggenheim Collection

18) Peggy Guggenheim Collection (must see)

Described as one of the most comprehensive and brilliant modern-art collections in the Western world, this is also one of Venice’s glossiest museums – the second most popular after the Accademia and a prime venue for touring exhibitions. The collection is housed in the Palazzo Venier dei Leoni, the former Venetian home of Peggy Guggenheim on the Grand Canal. Pursuant to her family tradition, Peggy was a lifelong patron of contemporary artists, impressing critics not only with the high quality of their works but also with the ways she presented them.

As her private collection continued to grow with more and more masterpieces from the Cubist, Futurist, Metaphysical, Surrealist, and Abstract Expressionist schools, Peggy Guggenheim decided to find a larger showcase and, for that purpose, selected Venice. Her husband, Max Ernst, was one of her early favorite artists, as was Jackson Pollock, for whom she provided a farmhouse where he could develop his technique. Displayed here are the works not only by Pollock and Ernst, but also those by Picasso, Duchamp, Chagall, Mondrian, Brancusi and Dalí, plus the modern sculpture works by Giacometti and Paolozzi placed in the garden in which Peggy’s own ashes are laid to rest.

Since her death in 1979, the collection has been administered by the same foundation operating Guggenheim Museum in New York. Visitors are free to wander around and explore the collection in an informal, relaxed way, or to take a 90-minute private tour for a 'behind-the-scenes' scoop on all the art and Peggy's history. The regular multilingual crowd of well-versed individuals bubbling around the property with free information are quite fascinating in their own right.

Why You Should Visit:
To see a treasure trove of works up close and personal – all in one fabulous mansion on the toniest stretch of the Grand Canal.

Tip:
In a new wing of the museum, there is a shop and a cafe in case you want to take a break and reflect on what has been seen and heard.

Opening Hours:
Wed-Mon: 10am-6pm
Closed Tuesdays and December 25
Last ticket issued 30 minutes before closing time
19
Santa Maria della Salute

19) Santa Maria della Salute (must see)

San Marco may be Venice's most famous church by name, but Santa Maria della Salute may well be its most famous by image and silhouette! Commonly known simply as La Salute, this grand historic church is largely recognized as the pinnacle of the city's Baroque movement.

La Salute is part of the Gesuati parish and is the most recent of the so-called “plague” churches. In the early 1630s, Venice was devastated by a plague that exterminated nearly 100,000 people, roughly one-third of the lagoon’s population. As a votive offering for deliverance from this pestilence, the Republic of Venice vowed to build and dedicate a church to Our Lady of Good Health (or Deliverance) which means “Salute” in Italian. Resting on a platform of more than 100,000 wooden piles, the church was designed in the then fashionable Baroque style by Baldassare Longhena, who dedicated half a century to working on this project and lived just long enough to see it finished in 1681.

Surmounted by a great dome that soon became emblematic of the city, the basilica makes for an interesting visit: it houses a small art gallery in its sacristy, which includes a Marriage Feast of Cana by Tintoretto, along with the allegorical ceiling paintings by Titian and a highly symbolic high altar where the Virgin and Child rescue Venice (depicted as a kneeling young woman) from the plague (depicted as an old woman).

Each year on November 21st, a pontoon bridge spans the Grand Canal to the church for a religious procession commemorating the deliverance of Venice from the plague. Far from a minor event in the Venetian calendar, this procession turns the church into a pilgrimage site – and admittedly very scenic one at that, since the La Salute stands right at the mouth of the Grand Canal and the visitors can get great shots all around.

Whenever you choose to visit, do get your tickets in advance to skip the long lines. Once inside, you can treat yourself to a unique view of the adjoining plaza from the balcony and, perhaps, also a 30-minute organ recital after the service... so do check the events program in advance – and enjoy!

Tip:
Bring a drink with you as there are hardly any cafes around.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 9am-12pm / 3-5:30pm
During festive Masses, times may be subject to change

Walking Tours in Venice, Italy

Create Your Own Walk in Venice

Create Your Own Walk in Venice

Creating your own self-guided walk in Venice is easy and fun. Choose the city attractions that you want to see and a walk route map will be created just for you. You can even set your hotel as the start point of the walk.
Romantic Spots

Romantic Spots

Venice is one of the most romantic cities in the world, a perfect destination for honeymoons, proposals and romantic trips. Most if not all streets, canals and quiet corners of this city are pervaded with emotion, sentiment, and passion. If you are traveling with your loved one, follow this self-guided walk that covers some of the best places where you can enjoy a magic moment together.

Getting...  view more

Tour Duration: 1 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.8 Km or 1.1 Miles
Dorsoduro Walking Tour

Dorsoduro Walking Tour

Dorsoduro is one of the six districts of Venice, whose name translates as “hard bridge” from Italian, due to the area's relatively high terrain. The city's highest spots, along with Giudecca Island and Isola Sacca Fisola, are found here. Dorsoduro is home to some of Venice's most picturesque canals, historic locations and cultural venues, including Basilica di Santa Maria della...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.2 Km or 1.4 Miles
Grand Canal Walking Tour

Grand Canal Walking Tour

The main channel in Venice, the Grand Canal snakes in an "S" shape through the center of the city, dividing its main districts. On both sides of the Grand Canal are the most beautiful buildings dating from the 12th to the 18th centuries that tell the story of a thousand years of Venetian splendor. While one can view the buildings from water buses, this self guided walk offers the...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 4.1 Km or 2.5 Miles
Murano Island Walking Tour

Murano Island Walking Tour

Murano is often called the Glass Island, since it is home to the most impressive and renowned Venetian glass factories. The master craftsmen here have preserved their centuries-old techniques, and the island is full of shops where you can admire and purchase their adorable glass items. Some factories have special showrooms where you can see the full process of glass-making firsthand. Follow this...  view more

Tour Duration: 1 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.3 Km or 1.4 Miles
San Marco District Walking Tour

San Marco District Walking Tour

San Marco is one of the six districts of Venice, set in the very heart of the city. It is known primarily as the home of the eponymous Piazza San Marco (St. Mark's Square) and other notable locations, such as Saint Mark's Basilica, the Doge's Palace, Harry's Bar, the Palazzo Dandolo, San Moisè, the La Fenice Theatre, the Palazzo Grassi and several churches. Once the seat of...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.7 Km or 1.7 Miles
Titian's Paintings Walk

Titian's Paintings Walk

Tiziano Vecelli, also known as Titian, was one of the greatest painters of all time. He represents the Venetian school of the Italian Renaissance. His works are well-known for their realistic interpretation of biblical episodes. Titian had a style of his own that cannot be compared with that of the other artists of his period. This self-guided walk will guide you through the most important places...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.7 Km or 2.3 Miles

Useful Travel Guides for Planning Your Trip


15 Distinctively Italian Things to Buy in Venice

15 Distinctively Italian Things to Buy in Venice

Venice has been a tourist mecca for over a century now, with millions of visitors flocking in every year to see this unique place on the face of the Earth. Many, if not all, of these people seek to obtain something memorable as a token of their stay in this city. By far, not all of them know which...