City Orientation Walking Tour (Self Guided), Venice

Largely regarded as one of the most romantic places ever built by man, the city of Venice is spread across 118 islands collectively earning it the nicknames of the City of Water and the City of Bridges. Other than the bridges, though, the city abounds in museums, basilicas and other historic sights. For a chance to visit some of these and learn more about Venice, embark on this self-guided walk!
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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
Author: greghasleft
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 building of its era in Europe, having served as the residence of the doge, as well as the home of all of Venice’s governing councils and law courts. Additionally, it housed a sizeable number of the Venetian Republic's civil servants and even prisons.

The palace dates to the 14th century, though a 16th-century fire destroyed much of the original building, reducing many of its masterpieces to ash. Some of the greatest Venetian masters of the time contributed to the restored palace, replacing the works of the old masters with gilded stuccowork, sculptures, frescoes, and canvases – among these, Tintoretto, Veronese, Titian, Bellini, and Tiepolo.

The architecture is a combination of Byzantine and Gothic, whereas the courtyards and much of the interior are based on Classical forms – a blending of influences that led art critic John Ruskin to declare it “the central building of the world”.

The regular tour of the palace is interesting enough, showcasing lavish rooms of a splendid scale. The furnishings and paintings are spectacular and visitors gets to explore the various administrative salons and marvel at the ceilings. The most outstanding feature is found in the Grand Council chamber – namely, Tintoretto’s “Paradise”, said to be the world’s largest oil painting. The second grandiose hall, which you access from the grand chamber, is the Sala dello Scrutinio or “Voting Hall”, with paintings telling of Venice’s past glories. On the other hand, Titians paintings are found all over the palace, even lining staircases and in minor rooms.

Towards the end of your visit to the Palazzo Ducale, you cross the Bridge of Sighs by which prisoners were led to their cells on the other side of the canal. In complete contrast from the splendor of the palace, the cell-blocks confront visitors with the grim remnants of the horror of medieval justice. The “sighs” in the bridge’s name stem from the sad laments of the numerous victims forced across it to face certain torture and possible death at the hand of state inquisitors appointed by the city.

If you don't want to miss out on the importance of much of what you’re seeing, seek out the infrared audio guide at the entrance that gives the fascinating history of the 1,000-year-old maritime republic, and the intrigue of the government that ruled it.

***Casanova Tour***

Casanova was sentenced to five year in prison for his libertine behavior which is considered dangerous to society. He was taken to Doge's Palace on the night of 25 July 1755 and put in a cell under the roof of palace. The cell was covered with sheets of lead. But Casanova managed to escape by making a hole in the ceiling and descending his way to freedom with bed sheet ropes. Casanova was the only person ever to escape from the prison of Doge's Palace.

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 and the torture chambers where prisoners were interrogated.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 8:30am–7pm, last admission 6pm (Apr-Oct); 8:30am–5:30pm, last admission 4:30pm (Nov-Mar)
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 belltower, and was continually modified up to the 16th century, when the golden angel was installed on the summit. Each of its five bells had a distinct function: the largest, tolled the beginning and end of the working day; another one rang midday; two separate bells either proclaimed a session of the Senate or called the members of the Maggior Consiglio to council meetings; and the smallest bell gave notice of an execution.

Galileo Galilei famously demonstrated his telescope to the Doge of Venice on 21 August 1609 from the Campanile, and there is a plaque commemorating this event at the viewing area of the tower. However, the Campanile’s most dramatic contribution to Venetian history was made on July 14, 1902, the day on which, it fell down after giving a warning sound that sent the fashionable coffee drinkers in the piazza below running for their lives.

The Venetians rebuilt their Campanile “where it was and how it was”, and it is now safe to climb to the top. Unlike other bell towers, where you have to brave narrow, steep spiral staircases to reach the top, this one has an elevator so that you can easily get a pigeon’s-eye view against a fee.

At 99 meters, the Campanile is the tallest structure in the city; a particularly good vantage point for viewing the cupolas of the San Marco basilica, as well as the city and surrounding lagoon. Sometimes in the evening, the lagoon is so clear that one can see for miles! Even if you don't go up to the top, it's worth just standing at the base of this historic bell tower and staring up trying to get a peek at its very top.
Basilica di San Marco

3) Basilica di San Marco (must see)

The monument which draws the largest crowds in Venice, the Basilica di San Marco was built in 832 AD to house the relics of the city’s patron saint brought here from Egypt. Legend states that two Venetian merchants took the holy man’s body from its shrine in Alexandria and hid it in barrels of pork as they knew that the Muslim guards would not touch anything having to do with swine. This was seen as a stroke of genius, since it allegedly prevented the precious relic from being desecrated by the Muslim rulers of Egypt. St Mark himself was 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”. The legend inspired many works of art, but it’s at least as likely that the theft was ordered to raise the prestige of Venice as one of the world's greatest cities, with one of the holiest relics.

As two more centuries went by, a new sumptuous church was built on the foundations of the earlier one and was consecrated when St. Mark’s body was placed in a tomb beneath the high altar. This new basilica was modeled after the celebrated Church of the Apostles in Constantinople; as such, for all intents and purposes, it was a Byzantine church. To enhance its opulence, the structure was subsequently clothed in marble and mosaic depicting stories from the Old and New Testaments and the lives of Christ, the Virgin Mary and St Mark. The best time to visit, then, is around midday when all the golden mosaics adorning the vaults, walls and cupolas are illuminated and at their most magnificent.

Entry in the basilica is free but you can pay the small fee to skip the line and book a time slot. Inside, there are a number of things that you can pay separately to see – namely, the Golden Altar, the Museum, the Treasury, and the Crypt. It's also definitely worth paying to go up to the first level just to see the interior and the square outside from a higher vantage point, or you might want to visit on a night tour when the basilica is closed to the public and you can pretty much have the entire space 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.

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)
Piazza San Marco

4) Piazza San Marco (must see)

A visit to Venice – even not the first – is not complete without Piazza San Marco, and it's hard not to be overwhelmed by the sense of history and art here. Long before the tourists arrived, it was the city’s religious, commercial and political nucleus from where the Venetian Republic reigned for centuries. When the founders of Venice settled on the islands of the lagoon, this area was where the first rulers built their citadel – the Palazzo Ducale – and where they established their most significant church – the Basilica di San Marco. Over the succeeding centuries, these two great edifices developed into a public space so noble and majestic that no other square in Venice was considered fit to bear the name “piazza” – all other Venetian squares are named “campi” or “campielli”.

Nowadays the Piazza San Marco is what keeps the city running, having the highest concentration of plush hotels, elegant and exorbitant cafés, the most extravagantly-priced seafood, and the most luxurious shops in Venice. Evenings with mood lighting and live music are especially romantic, so if you're happy to pay €15 for coffee or €25 for a cocktail, then take your time over it and sit and enjoy the ambiance. If that is outside your budget, then there is plenty of action nearby, in the side streets of the San Marco quarter, animated with colorful boutiques, bars and food outlets which, as usual, are more affordable for everyone.

Otherwise, enjoy this famous square for what it is and try to breathe in and out. You're in Venice!

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.
If you are going to do your gondola ride, it is best to avoid getting a gondola parked outside the square. Look for gondoliers outside the main touristy areas and you will get much more of the side-canal views that look better in pictures – plus the experience is more romantic as a whole.
Torre dell'orologio

5) Torre dell'orologio (must see)

In a Piazza 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 an aid to the astrologer, matching the zodiac signs with the position of the sun. A gruesome legend relates that the makers of the clock slaved away for 3 years at their project, only to have their eyes put out so that they couldn’t reproduce their engineering marvel for other patrons. To compensate, however, it is said they have received a generous pension from grateful Venetians.

Above the clock face you will see, against a field of golden stars, the winged lion of St Mark, which is the symbol of Venice, to be found virtually everywhere across the city. On the level below the winged 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 one of the most characteristic Venetian scenes. They originally represented two European shepherds, but after having been reproduced in bronze, they’ve grown significantly darker as time went by and, as a consequence, they came to be called “Moors” by the locals. If the movement of the Moors seems slow in today’s fast-paced world, remember how many centuries these unfortunates have been at their task without a day off.

All this is obviously for free; except if you climb the tower, in which case you may book one of the two daily English-language tours, each limited to 12 people. Your guide will show you the secret door, then you will climb the steps stopping at every level all the way to the top, which offers great views of the clock mechanism and the San Marco square.
Carlo Goldoni Monument

6) Carlo Goldoni Monument (must see)

Carlo Goldoni was born in Venice in 1707 in the Gothic palace called Ca' Centanni. He is one of the most famous playwrights of Italy, having transformed the more conventional “commedia dell’arte” of the time from a vehicle for semi-improvised clowning into a medium for sharp political observation. Goldoni took to himself the task of overriding masks and intrigue by representations of actual life and manners through the characters and their behaviors. He rightly maintained that Italian life and manners were susceptible of artistic treatment such as had not been given them before.

This dramatic revolution, though attempted, was never achieved before. Goldoni's importance lay in providing good examples rather than precepts, and he took for his models the plays of Molière, although his plays are gentler and more optimistic in tone than those of Molière. They are still the staple of theatrical life in Venice, and there’s no risk of running out of material – allegedly, he once bet a friend that he could produce one play a week for a whole year, and won.

His monument, made by the sculptor Antonio Dal Zòtto in 1883, still stands in San Bartolomeo Square, a stone's throw from the Rialto Bridge, though similar monuments can be found in Florence and even in Paris, where he eventually exiled himself. After his move to France, his plays took on a clear anti-clerical tone and often satirized the hypocrisy of monks and of the Church.

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

7) Fondaco dei Tedeschi (must see)

A huge building just before the Rialto bridge, Fondaco dei Tedeschi was once headquarters of the city’s German merchants. The German traders were the most powerful foreign grouping in the city, and as early as 1228 they were leased a building on this central site. After its destruction in a fire, the Fondaco's reconstruction between 1505 and 1508 has produced a very functional 4-floor building which surrounds a grand inner courtyard. Architecturally, it is typical of the Italian Renaissance style, but the basic concept (and the word 'fondaco' itself) is derived from a type of building in Arab countries. Just like Fondaco dei Turchi, the Fondaco dei Tedeschi was a palazzo, a warehouse, and a restricted living quarters for its population, in this case mainly Germanic merchants from cities such as Nuremberg, Judenburg, and Augsburg.

Nowadays, it is one of the largest, most well-refurbished shopping centers selling high-end luxury items. Unsurprisingly so, the prices here are pretty steep and the place is always full of tourists.

Don’t let the number of tourists put you off, because the rooftop views will blow you away. The 4th-floor Event Pavilion is an exhibition space where you have free access to the roof terrace providing one of the best panoramas of the Grand Canal as well as a downward view of the Rialto bridge. In addition, you can see the top of San Marco's Basilica some 1,000 meters or so away – quite a different perspective from being at ground level.

During the day you may need to pause to collect a free, timed ticket at the 4th floor, which keeps numbers manageable. A good piece of advice, therefore, would be to go the top floor, pick your ticket and in the meantime you can enjoy the shopping mall. Alternately, you could go onto the Fondaco's website, book your time slot, then show the security guard at the pavilion's entrance your code which you get by email when booking. If you can catch the sunset at the end of an afternoon, your efforts will be well rewarded.

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

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

There are only four bridges that span the Grand Canal and, if you’re exploring Venice on foot, you’ll find yourself crossing at least one of these 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, with the current stone version dating to the 16th century. The engineering was considered so audacious that some architects predicted future ruin; however, the bridge has defied its critics to become one of the architectural icons of Venice, remaining the only point at which the Canal Grande could be crossed on foot, until 1854, when the first Accademia bridge was built.

If you’re able to navigate your way through hordes of tourists crawling over the bridge, you’ll enjoy superb views of the canal in both directions. Beyond the souvenir market stalls are the centuries-old markets that traditionally have served as a major showcase for all the fruits and vegetables grown in the islands of the lagoon and also for the fresh fish from the bordering Adriatic Sea – you can even see boats from such islands as Burano and Pellestrina, arriving at the Rialto to unload their catch of the day. There are, of course, many shops and restaurants on and around the bridge area, overpriced as they usually are, but tucked in the interior so as to not ruin the exterior views. Just by the bridge are also the water bus stops, as well as groups of persuasive gondoliers who just happen to have an empty gondola with your name all over it!

All in all, the Rialto Bridge is as picturesque as one would expect, but mostly a great place to view the Grand Canal and to just soak up the vibe of Venice and all its beauty.

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

9) Mercato di Rialto (Rialto Food Market)

Well, this is a place that you can not help but visit if you want to experience Venice in its entirety. Here as in mostly every other city, the market is one of the pulsating centers of the local community. The Rialto Market in particular embodies all the genuineness and joy of the Venetians and testifies to their vitality, which is especially important in a city too often mistaken for a sort of open-air theme park!

To characterize this market, one would have to start with the uniqueness of the context in which it is inserted, its many stalls giving directly out onto the Grand Canal since the early 11th century. Adding to that are the very unique descriptive signs born from the fantasy of the greengrocers; hence, as well as the origin and price, you will find yourself reading the characteristics of a product and sometimes its application tips – all written in a very colorful style.

Aside from admiring the colorful stalls and enjoying the daily life of residents, you can of course buy flowers, spices, seasonal produce, fresh meat and local seafood – which, by the way, looks quite amazing and is reasonably priced. While few common fishes like salmon are recognizable, most are an exotic sight. You'll find the cuttlefish used for the famous black ink pasta only available in Venice, and there is also a large variety of shellfish. Simply being able to see them is a feast for the eyes, and certainly gives many photo opportunities!

As a small note of tourist etiquette, however, do remember that this is a “real” market, where “real” residents come to do the “real” spending – so try to hinder their activity as little as possible. And keep in mind to ask before you touch the food!

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

10) Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari (must see)

The “Frari” is perhaps the church most worthwhile to consider visiting in Venice after Basilica di San Marco. It is slightly off the beaten path in a charming area with plenty of character, and there usually aren't lines to enter inside. The dimension and beauty of the place are extraordinary, covering several layers of Venetian history and art.

Founded by the Franciscan order in the late 13th century, the gargantuan edifice is one of Venice’s largest and its brick bell tower is the city’s 2nd tallest after San Marco's. One of the city's three notable churches still mostly retaining their Venetian Gothic appearance, it sports a rather plain exterior, even on the front facade. You’re unlikely to fall in love at very first sight with this mountain of brick, but the outside is a misleadingly dull lead-in to an astounding interior.

The Frari is among the few buildings in Venice with multiple first-rate works by Titian, and one of these, unprecedented at the time, called the “Assumption” you will see right away, as it soars over the high altar. The other Titian masterpiece here, the “Madona di Ca'Pésaro” was equally innovative in its displacement of the figure of the Virgin from the center of the picture.

Apart from its paintings, including other pieces by Vivarini and Bellini, the Frari is also remarkable for Donatello’s wooden statue of St John the Baptist, the beautiful 15th-century monks’ choir, and its wealth of extravagant tombs. Two of the finest such monuments mark the resting places of Doge Niccolò Tron and that of Doge Francesco Fóscari, respectively. Against the right-hand wall of the nave stands the monument to Titian, built in the mid-19th century on the supposed place of his burial. The artist died in 1576, in around his 90th year, a casualty of the plague; such was the esteem in which Titian was held, that he was the only victim to be allowed a church burial in the course of the outbreak. The marble pyramid on the church's opposite side is the Mausoleum of Canova, erected by pupils of the sculptor, and finally, you can’t fail to notice what is probably the most grotesque monument in Venice – the tomb of Doge Giovanni Pésaro, elevated by gigantic Moors and decomposing corpses.

To learn more about these artworks, take a guidebook or free pamphlet by the ticket office as an aid.

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.
Scuola Grande di San Rocco

11) Scuola Grande di San Rocco (must see)

Of all Venice’s religious fraternities known as “scuole”, none is as richly embellished as this one, filled with epic canvases by Venice's own Tintoretto. Born Jacopo Robusti, he became known for paintings of mystical spirituality and phantasmagorical light effects. Having won a competition to decorate this early-16th-century building, he began painting aged 46 and the work stretched on until his death in 1594, at the age of 76.

Art critic John Ruskin called the Scuola Grande “one of the three most precious buildings in Italy”, and it isn't too hard to understand why he resorted to such hyperbole, as its overall effect can be quite overwhelming.

From its foundation in 1478, the special concern of this particular scuola was the relief of the sick – a continuation of the Christian mission of its patron saint, Saint Roch of Montpellier, who in 1315 left his home town to work among Italy's plague victims. The Scuola had been going for seven years when the body of the saint was brought to Venice from Germany, and the consequent boom in donations was so great that in 1489 it 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 levels as gifts poured in from people hoping to secure San Rocco's protection against the disease. The fattened coffers paid for both building and Tintoretto’s amazing cycle of over 50 major paintings.

The narrative sequence begins with the first picture in the lower room – the Annunciation – but to appreciate Tintoretto’s development one has to begin in the smaller room on the upper storey – the Sala dell’Albergo dominated by the stupendous Crucifixion, perhaps the most condensed image of the biblical event ever painted, showing the painter's dramatic scope and sense of grandeur. “Surely no single picture in the world contains more of human life; there is everything in it”, once famously claimed American-British author Henry James.

Other highlights such as the New Testament scenes around the walls of the main upper hall defy every convention of perspective, lighting, color and even anatomy, a feat of sustained inventiveness that has few equals in western art. Though Tintoretto was in his late 60s when he came to paint these scenes, there is no sign of artistic fatigue, and they are among the finest he ever created.

Nowadays, Scuola Grande hosts an unbelievable quantity of Christian art – from lithographs to paintings, frescoes, sculptures, and stained-glass.

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.

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
Campo Santa Margherita

12) Campo Santa Margherita (must see)

Located right in the center of Dorso Duro district, Campo Santa Margherita is one of the liveliest corners of Venice. It has a high concentration of clubs that are frequented both in winter and in summertime thanks to the tables placed outside the bars, pubs, restaurants, and pizzerias. You can still see Venetians minding their daily lives, as well as watch the children playing in the afternoon and on Sundays.

Santa Margherita is one of the larger open places in Venice after St. Mark's Square and Campo San Polo. This square is celebrated for its nightlife, with plenty of 'spritz' (a local drink) being consumed during happy hour and beyond. For this reason, along with Campo San Giacometto at Rialto, it is the favorite place in Venice for young people, but also for many tourists that appreciate its friendly atmosphere.

Why You Should Visit:
If Piazza San Marco is the tourists center of Venice, then Campo Santa Margherita may be the local's center!
Due to it being away from the popular Rialto-San Marco route, you won't find many tourists and many shops here are catered for locals.
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.

Keep this place in mind for when you'll need food late at night.
Ca' Rezzonico – Museum of 18th-century Venice

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

Visiting Ca' Rezzonico grants a rare opportunity to see one of the most magnificent Grand Canal palaces. Most of its interior was carefully and meticulously renovated and is filled with a fascinating collection of 18th-century paintings and decorative art, including works by Tiepolo, Tintoretto and Canaletto in addition to tapestries, porcelain, and period furnishings. This 17th- and 18th-century palace was bought in 1934 specifically to display objects designed for great palaces; thus, the contents and the container harmonize in a way not experienced elsewhere.

First, you enter the enormous Ballroom with chandeliers and paintings on the ceiling that have a genuine 3D effect, then proceeding through lavishly embellished rooms with brocaded walls, tapestries, gilded furnishings, and touches of chinoiserie. Eventually, you come to the Throne Room, with its allegorical ceilings by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo.

On the first floor, you can walk out onto a balcony for a view of the Grand Canal as the aristocratic tenants of the 18th century saw it. Another group of salons follows, including the library with some curious drawings to marvel at. Some of the artwork in the rooms may come as downright bizarre; one, for example, depicts half-clothed women beating up a defenseless naked man, while in a different painting, another woman is hammering a spike through a man’s skull.

The low-ceiling rooms of the 3rd and 4th floors house a private donation of Venetian art from the 15th century onward, but the main point of clambering upstairs is to see the pharmacy, a sequence of wood-paneled rooms heavily stocked with glass bottles and ceramic jars. Plus, of course, there is a tremendous view across the rooftops to enjoy.

Not too large or too small, and not too crowded either, this palace is the place to go to after you've hit the main Venice highlights, especially if wanting to get a taste of how the city's lords lived back in the day. The audio guide is good, and you would be able to make use of the on-site bookshop, as well as the café with a terrace directly facing onto the Grand Canal. Moreover, the quiet little side garden is free to access and has some shade with seats for a welcome break from walking Venice.

Advance tickets can be purchased from Ca' Rezzonico's website.

Opening Hours:
Wed-Mon: 10am-6pm (Apr-Oct); 10am-5pm (Nov-Mar)
Closed on Tuesdays, December 25th, January 1st
Gallerie dell'Accademia

14) Gallerie dell'Accademia (must see)

The pomp and glory that was Venice live on in the Accademia's remarkably extensive collection of paintings spanning from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance. The hallmark of the Venetian school is color and more color. From Giorgione to Veronese, from Titian to Tintoretto, with a Carpaccio cycle thrown in, the Accademia has some of the best work of its most famous sons.

Among the highlights, you will first see works by such 14th-century artists as Paolo and Lorenzo Veneziano, who bridged the gap from Byzantine art to Gothic. Next comes Giovanni Bellini’s “Madonna and Saint” and Carpaccio’s fascinating yet gruesome work of mass crucifixion. The Madonnas and bambini of Giovanni Bellini, an expert in color blending, are the focus of another room, while Giorgione’s “Tempest”, displayed nearby, is the single most famous painting at the galleries, depicting a baby suckling from the breast of its mother, while a man with a staff looks on. The tempest seems to be in the background, far away from the foreground figures, who are unaware of the approaching danger.

Rooms 6 to 8 mark the entry of Tintoretto, Titian, Veronese and Lotto, the heavyweights of the Venetian High Renaissance. These works would be the prize of many other collections, but here they are just appetizers for what’s to come in the huge room 10, one whole wall of which is needed for “Christ in the House of Levi” by Paolo Veronese.

In room 11 a major shift into the 18th century occurs, with pieces by Giambattista Tiepolo, but also Giambattista Piazzetta’s extraordinary “The Fortune-Teller”, as well as Guardi’s impressionistic views of Venice, and a series of portraits by Rosalba Carriera, one of the very few women shown in the collection.

Also displayed is the cycle of narrative paintings that Vittore Carpaccio did of St. Ursula, especially fascinating to the modern viewer as a meticulous record of domestic architecture, costume and the decorative arts in Venice at the close of the 15th century. Finally, on the way out, look for Titian’s wonderful “Presentation of the Virgin” – a fitting farewell to this galaxy of great Venetian art.

Why You Should Visit:
Vast amount of early masterpieces! The collection is the best in town for Venetian art from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance.
Beautiful, large, spacious and clean – the rooms are well planned and the layout beautiful.

The charge for entry is reasonable, however it is free for some of the major festivals happening in Venice.
If you do buy a ticket, hold on to it as it also allows access to the recently renovated Palazzo Grimani located a short distance away.

Opening Hours:
Mon: 8:15am-2pm; Tue-Sun: 8:15am-7:15pm
Palazzo Cavalli-Franchetti

15) Palazzo Cavalli-Franchetti (must see)

Just opposite the Accademia and next to Palazzo Barbarigo, this palace is quite simply one of the most beautiful ones that line the Grand Canal, adorned with lavish Gothic tracery and a large, beautifully tended garden. Built in the 16th century, it incorporates a stunning mix of Gothic and Byzantine influences, and today is the headquarters of the Venetian Institute of Science, Letters and Art.

The palazzo was internally modernized and externally enriched in Venetian Gothic style in the 19th century, with rich window framing, by a series of grand owners. The first neo-Gothic improvements were made after 1840 when the young Archduke Frederick Ferdinand of Austria embarked on a complex project intended to give a more prominent Habsburg presence along the Grand Canal, as Austria-Hungary had been awarded the territories of Venice after the Napoleonic Wars. The Archduke lived here until 1878, when the palace was bought by Baron Raimondo Franchetti who also commissioned restoration, but never actually made the palace his personal residence.

The edifice now has multiple uses, being mainly dedicated to displaying changing contemporary exhibitions – which is quite great, because with all the massive Renaissance art in the surrounding churches and museums, this provides a breath of fresh air. Each room is lit by Murano chandeliers, some of which are monumental; particularly important being those in the rooms that overlook the Grand Canal. The first “noble floor” has an area of about 500 m² and is equipped with air-conditioning, as well as with supports for hanging paintings or other types of works.

The views of the Grand Canal can't be beaten, and the pretty cafeteria is excellent for a healthy and tasty lunch menu which, by the way, is also fantastic value!

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

16) Santa Maria del Rosario (must see)

The Záttere, a broad quay running along the Giudecca Canal, is one of Venice’s most intriguing promenades, with cafes, trattorie, and pensioni abounding in the area. It was formerly the place where most of the bulky goods coming into Venice were unloaded onto floating rafts called záttere; nowadays the quay is accessible either on foot or by a ride on vaporettos.

The first building to break your stride for in the Záttere is the church of the Gesuati, also known as Santa Maria del Rosario. Rebuilt in the first half of the 18th century, after it was taken over from the order of the Gesuati by the Dominicans, this was the first church designed by Giorgio Massari, an architect who often worked with Giambattista Tiepolo. It should come as no surprise, then, that Tiepolo painted the first altarpiece on the right and the three exquisite ceiling panels of "Scenes from the Life of St Dominic", which are seen to best effect in the afternoon. There is a lot of interesting detail to look at – from outstretched arms and legs and body positions, to facial expressions, to clothing details – and a floor mirror is available to view these. Visitors can also gaze at a tragically intense "Crucifixion" by Tintoretto on the third altar, which is the oldest painting inside the church, and "The Martyrdom of St Laurence", another masterpiece by Titian.

Farther into the district is one of Venice’s more fascinating elements, Squero di San Trovaso, a small 17th-century shipyard where passersby can watch workers construct and repair gondolas in their open workshop. One of the few still in existence in Venice today, this workshop includes a small wooden house typical of the Cadore area in Belluno, not seen anywhere else in the city.

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; Sunday & holidays: 10am-6:30pm
Palazzo Barbarigo

17) Palazzo Barbarigo (must see)

Originally built in the 16th century, Palazzo Barbarigo is distinguished by its mosaics of Murano glass applied in 1886. Owned at the time by the proprietors of one of the city's largest glass factories, it is said that they drew inspiration by the exterior mosaics on the facade of St Mark's Basilica to apply similar ones to their palace.

When the mosaic front was completed, it did not impress Palazzo Barbarigo’s more aristocratic neighbors at all. The then-new owners were accused of being the “nouveau riches” with a garish taste that was out of keeping with the genteel decay of the neighboring buildings. This was an 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 which added to their splendor.

On the central frieze, the mosaic scenes show 35 cherubs pursuing various artistic endeavors including painting, drawing, sculpture and architecture. The two individual murals commemorate 16th-century royal visits to Venice including Holy Roman Emperor Charlemagne speaking to Titian on the scaffolding of St Mark's Basilica. The second mural shows the future French King Henry III in 1574 on the Doge's barge along with a team of glass-makers.

Portraits of arguably the two most famous Venetian painters – Titian and Tintoretto – are located above each scene. St Mark's lion – the symbol of Venice – tops one of the two individual portraits, while the back rooster – the symbol of Murano – crowns the other.

Today Palazzo Barbarigo stands as one of the more opulent palazzi on Venice's Grand Canal.
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 also happens to be 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, and still an enviably prime piece of real estate on the Grand Canal. In the tradition of her family, she was a lifelong patron of contemporary painters and sculptors. In the 1940s, Peggy founded the avant-garde Art of This Century Gallery in New York, impressing critics not only with the high quality of the artists she sponsored but also with her methods of displaying them.

As her private collection increased with more and more masterpieces from the Cubist, Futurist, Metaphysical, Surrealist, and Abstract Expressionist schools, she decided to find a larger showcase and selected Venice. Her husband, Max Ernst, was one of her early favorites, as was Jackson Pollock, for whom she provided a farmhouse where he could develop his technique. Displayed here are works not only by Pollock and Ernst but also by Picasso, Duchamp, Chagall, Mondrian, Brancusi, and Dalí, plus a garden of modern sculpture with works by Giacometti and Paolozzi surrounding Peggy’s resting place.

Since her death in 1979, the collection has been administered by the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, which also operates the Guggenheim Museum in New York. Visitors can wander through and enjoy top-quality 20th-century art in an informal and relaxed way, or even arrange for a 90-minute private tour to get a 'behind-the-scenes' scoop on all the art and Peggy's history. The well versed multilingual people found mostly throughout the property are bubbling with free information and are fascinating in their own right.

In the new wing are a museum shop and a cafe overlooking the sculpture garden that allows for breaking one's visit in order to reflect on what has been seen and heard.

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.

Opening Hours:
Wed-Mon: 10am-6pm
Closed Tuesdays and December 25
Last ticket issued 30 minutes before close
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 parish of the Gesuati and is the most recent of the so-called plague-churches. In 1630–31 Venice was devastated by a plague that exterminated nearly 100,000 of the lagoon’s population – or roughly one of three people. As a votive offering for the city's deliverance from the pestilence, the Republic of Venice vowed to build and dedicate a church to Our Lady of Good Health (or of Deliverance; Italian: Salute). 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 the 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 (wherein the painter himself appears an an Apostle), along with allegorical ceiling paintings by Titian and a highly symbolic high altar where the Virgin and Child rescue Venice (depicted as a kneeling 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 – an admittedly very scenic one at that, since La Salute stands right at the mouth of the Grand Canal and visitors get great shots all around.

Do get tickets in advance to skip the long lines. Once inside, you will be treated to very special views of the adjoining plaza from the balcony and perhaps also a 30-minute organ recital after some services... so check the listing of events if you can – and enjoy!

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

Opening Hours:
Daily: 9am-12pm / 3-5:30pm

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.
Jewish Ghetto Tour

Jewish Ghetto Tour

Founded in 1516, the Jewish Ghetto in Venice was the oldest of its kind in Europe. At the time, Venice received order from the Pope to expel all Jews from the city, but the city government opted to lock them onto a small island in the district of Cannaregio. Since then this small area has been the center of Jewish life in Venice, comprising several synagogues (divided by ethnicity) and homes for...  view more

Tour Duration: 1 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 0.3 km
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
Piazza San Marco Walking Tour

Piazza San Marco Walking Tour

Piazza San Marco is the main square in Venice. This is a place that enriched the cultural, social and economic life of Venice in the course of its history. The square is the host of the famous Venice landmarks such as the Doge's Palace, Basilica San Marco and the Procuratie. This self guided walk shows you the best known places around this historic square.

Tour Duration: 1 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 0.5 km
Romantic Spots

Romantic Spots

Venice is one of the most romantic cities in the world. It is the perfect destination for honeymoons, proposals and romantic trips. All the streets, canals and corners of this city are filled with romance, passion and love. This self-guided walk takes you through the most romantic places where you can enjoy the perfect moment with your beloved.

Tour Duration: 1 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.8 km
Religious Edifices Walking Tour

Religious Edifices Walking Tour

A country like Italy, especially a city like Venice, has a lot of sacred sites. It would be a pity not to take a look at some of the wonderful buildings built by humans in the name of the Lord. Glorious artists, architects and their disciples have given their lives and talent for our pleasure for centuries. Follow this self guided walk to visit some of the most significant religious edifices in...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.4 km
San Marco Souvenir Shops

San Marco Souvenir Shops

It would be a pity to leave Venice without having explored its specialty shops and bringing home something truly original. We've compiled a list of gifts and souvenirs that are unique to Venice. Pop into the specialty shops of San Marco suggested in this tour to find the most beautiful and original items.

Tour Duration: 1 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.5 km

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...