Venice city guide

Venice city guide

Timeless Venice – a patchwork of islands floating off north Italy – is one of the most dreamy honeymoon spots. Here’s how to get the most out of this magical city...

Where? North-east Italy
Why? Magical, car-less city built on water and crammed with fairytale palazzi
When? Year round. Oct-Dec is atmospheric and foggy with possible floods; Jan-Mar is dry, chilly and often sunny; Apr-May is breezy and rainy. Heat and humidity (and annoying insects) build from Jun and continue to Sept.
Highest viewpoint: The 99m Campanile (belltower) in Piazza San Marco.

Before you arrive

A romantic ride in a gondola along canals lined with Renaissance palaces... wandering lost through squeezy narrow alleyways, emerging in a sun-bright square for a café aperitif... Venice is all the hype, and heaps more. And it's the perfect place to honeymoon, with a vast choice of romantic hotels and candle-lit waterfront restaurants.

The locals can be a bit standoffish but appreciate visitors who make an attempt at Italian. It's de rigeur to greet on entering a shop/restaurant (Buon giorno or Buona sera) as well as leaving (Arrivederci). The reply to grazie (thank you) is prego (you're welcome).

Venetians always look smart and well groomed, even if they're only popping out to buy groceries. That said, dressing up for the opera is not as formal as in London. Venice is all but crime-less though the usual common-sense rules apply. Leave valuables in the hotel safe and carry cash, cards and mobile sensibly on your person.

Planes usually approach from the south-west and fly over the margin of the vast lagoon where Venice is located. Sit on the right side of the plane to enjoy the view.

At the airport

The main airport, Marco Polo (www.veniceairport.it), is at Tessera, 11km north of the city. The marvellous light-filled terminal is usually stress-free and quick to get through. Most low-cost flights (Ryanair et al) land at Treviso airport, 43km north-east of Venice (www.trevisoairport.it).

Getting into town

ACTV bus 5 costs €5 and runs from Marco Polo to Piazzale Roma terminal daily until 1am, taking 20 mins. Buy tickets from the machine near the bus stop. ATVO runs a more direct service; buy tickets on board.

Scheduled ferries by Alilaguna (www.alilaguna.it )depart from the south edge of the airport - the line you take depends on where your hotel is. Tickets (€13) are sold at the landing stages.

Both water and normal taxis are faster, with fares around €120 depending on distance and time of day. If you land late, you may be at the mercy of unlicensed taxis; agree the fare before you get in.

Other ways to arrive

By ship is the finest way to arrive. Many cruises visit Venice, as do ferries from Croatia and Greece.  The railway station, Santa Lucia, is the terminus for long-haul trains from surrounding countries (www.trenitalia.com).

Best Deal

The Venice Card is a good deal for entry to museums and the rare public toilets (see www.hellovenezia.com); for multi-day ferry passes, with discounts for off-season travel, see www.veniceconnected.com.

First day's tour

Buy a boat pass and embark on a vaporetto (water bus). Boat line 1 runs down the Grand Canal with many stops en route. First is the massive Ponte della Costituzione, then the railway station. Get on anywhere and cruise past a string of magical palaces.

After the central Rialto market area, the canal curves past Accademia and to San Marco's piazza. Queue for the lift up the Campanile (bell tower), a good place to get your bearings (take a city map to identify landmarks). Next, head off in any direction for a wander.

One of Venice's most romantic experiences is a ride on vaporetto 2 after dark when the crowds have gone. Alight at the San Zaccaria landing stage and sit either front or back, al fresco. The boat enters the broad Giudecca Canal, then the Grand Canal, its dark surface alive with gentle ripples.

Where to sleep

With the exception of the area by the railway station, all of Venice is a desirable hotel zone. The six districts (sestieri) are Cannaregio, the northern edge, eastern Castello, then San Polo, Santa Croce and Dorsoduro (in the centre on the western margin of the Grand Canal), then San Marco in the south-east. When booking a room, be sure to specify that you desire a letto matrimoniale (double bed).

Top end: Palazzo Barbarigo (San Polo 2765; www.palazzobarbarigo.it) Lush intimate luxury in this gorgeous palazzo set right on the Grand Canal. Plan to arrive by water taxi. Doubles start from €200.

Mid-range: Oltre il Giardino (San Polo 2542; www.oltreilgiardino-venezia.com) Roomy and peaceful boutique hotel in a pretty flowered garden. A 10-minute walk from the bus station. Doubles from €180.

Budget: Locanda Leon Bianco (Cannaregio 5629; www.leonbianco.it) A friendly rambling establishment with spacious rooms overlooking the Grand Canal, a short walk from Rialto vaporetto stop. Doubles from €70.

Extend your stay

A stay in Venice is never, ever long enough; when you leave you'll be pledging to return. This is definitely a city to linger in and savour the atmosphere. There's plenty to see: the Punta della Dogana, the old customs warehouse, now a contemporary art gallery; the Frari, a vast Gothic church, home to Titian's Assumption; the pretty-in-pink Palazzo Ducale; the Accademia, an incredible repository of Venetian art; and the Grand Canal-side Ca'Rezzonico palace.

Away from the main hub of Venice, explore the isles of Murano (famed for its glass-blowing), Burano (a rainbow-coloured artistic hub), and the largely untouched Giudecca. A little further afield, Treviso (30km), Padua (37km) and Verona (51km) make romantic excursions, the latter the ultimate city of love, 'home' to Romeo and Juliet.

Inspired by this?

This guide is adapted from the 2013 issue of Unique Honeymoons magzine! The award-winning team behind Wanderlust have found romantic honeymoon breaks for all budgets (£100 to £10,000!), spas with soul, exotic itineraries in India, places to stay in the landscapes you love and ideas to add extra sparkle to your honeymoon.

Pick up your copy for £4.99 from WHSmiths, our online shop or download a digital edition from the app store.

And don't forget...

You can also check out more places and experiences the experts rate with our honeymoon advice and peruse handpicked honeymoon trips in our Honeymoon Finder. Or if you want tailor-made honeymoon recommendations straight to your inbox, check out our Honeymoon Wizard tool - romantic expertise, just like magic.

 

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