SightsYour hotel should be able to supply you with a map, helpfully marking its location to aid your wanderings but there is a tourist information office right by the Giardinetti vaporetto stop close to the Piazza San Marco and you should be able to get one there, as well as any detailed information you need. There are also tourist information offices at Marco Polo Airport, Santa Lucia railway station and on the Lido.
Basilica di San Marco, Palazzo Ducale, Campanile, Museo Correr and associated buildings so your time and budget will be the deciding factors. You can walk through some of the parts of the Basilica without having to pay and there’s a little postcard kiosk at the exit door of the Basilica with lots of good value postcards, calendars and small souvenirs. You cannot take any large bags into the Basilica and you will be directed up a side street nearby where you can deposit your bags for free. You can visit the museum on the first floor (via a steep staircase, admission charge) where the originals of the magnificent sculptures of the Horses of San Marco live (they are breathtakingly realistic) and, from there, get out onto the Loggia where more robust copies of them preside over the Piazza. The Campanile does have an admission charge (around €8) but there is a lift to take you all the way to the top and the views are great.
The lack of anywhere to sit for free in the Piazza is frustrating. Having a picnic in the Piazza is frowned upon, even if you find a perch. Be prepared to be moved on if you try. If you sit outside one of the big cafés you will pay over €15 for a coffee and if their orchestra is playing there'll also be a surcharge!
Palazzo Ducale has plenty to hold the attention and you will see the crowds along the Riva degli Schiavoni and on the Ponte della Paglia straining for a sight of the Bridge of Sighs (Ponte dei Sospiri). Entrance to the Palazzo is about €16 and it takes a fair time to see it all. I do think you’ll get more from a visit if you’ve read a bit about the Venetian empire.
Secret Itineraries tour that takes you to places in the Palazzo not accessible, otherwise such as Casanova’s cell in the piombi.
I could go on for hours (and sometimes do) about the architecture, paintings, churches, galleries, museums and other highlights of this city. Despite my many visits I still haven’t visited every museum and church as sometimes I enjoy just wandering around admiring the architecture.
Apart from the Basilica and the Palazzo Ducale here are a few of my Venice highlights...
Gallerie dell’Accademia - DorsoduroIt’s just about the finest art collection in the world if you love Venetian art. There are few works by Titian in his own city as he priced himself out of the local market towards the end of his life. Revel instead, as John Ruskin did, (although he wasn’t that much of a reveller) in the St Ursula cycle of paintings by Vittore Carpaccio in Room 21.
Scuola di San Giorgio degli Schiavoni - CastelloA cycle of seven panels by Vittore Carpaccio painted in the early 16th century, are displayed on the ground floor of this small building in which they were originally hung.
Scuola Grande di San Rocco - San PoloThis is an amazing building with magnificent paintings by Jacopo Tintoretto (he’s not my cup of tea but really you can’t help but be stunned by their scale) that sits beside the church of the same name and is close to the Frari.
Campo Santi Giovanni e Paolo (San Zanipolo) - CastelloAs well as a massive church, rich in paintings and containing monuments to many doges, you'll find the old Scuola Grande di San Marco (now the hospital) and the impressive equestrian statue of Bartolomeo Colleoni a medieval gun-for-hire employed by the masters of Venice to win their land battles.
Chiesa di Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari - San PoloThis is another huge church with wonderful paintings including the Assumption of the Virgin and Ca' Pesaro Madonna by Titian and a small altarpiece by Giovanni Bellini. Both Titian and the sculptor Antonio Canova have monuments here.
Chiesa di Santa Maria dei Miracoli - CannaregioBeautifully restored (thanks to the Venice in Peril Fund), this marble-faced church is a little masterpiece. Sit outside the bar in Campo Santa Maria Nova and admire the sheer artistry. There are usually a couple of gondoliers by the bridge touting for trade.
Peggy Guggenheim Collection - DorsoduroGreat 20th century art in Peggy’s own house and garden right on the Grand Canal. There's a good café and regular temporary exhibitions too.
Chiesa di San Sebastiano - DorsoduroThis was Paolo Veronese’s local church, where he’s also buried. It contains some great paintings by all the usual Venetian suspects. It’s off the main tourist drag but worth seeking out in this charming corner of the city.
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