The Ultimate Guide To Venice

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This is the ultimate guide to Venice and the Venice Lagoon. If you are going to visit, or are thinking about going, here you will find a wealth of information, advice, tips and loads more valuable incite to help prepare you for your Venetian vacation.

ultimate guide to venice

I absolutely love Venice. Specifically, I’m referring to the whole of the Venice Lagoon. It is so unique and there is no other place like it anywhere in the world. A fascinating and majestic city with a colourful and rich history, it has an undeniable charm that sweeps everyone off their feet. Yes, it’s romantic, captivating and enchanting, but it’s more than just those things. When walking around the centre of Venice, it’s like stepping back in time to the medieval ages. It is an experience like no other. Truly magical.

Venice clock tower and buildings along canalCanale Grande
aerial view of Venice lagoon

Aerial View of The Venice Lagoon


Venice is the capital of the Veneto Region and is located in the Northeast of Italy. The Venice Lagoon is what we refer to when we think of Venice. The unique formation of many islands close together, an archipelago in shallow, marshy water, spanning over an area of 550 square kilometres.

Getting to the Venice Lagoon

A bridge, Ponte della Liberta, connects the lagoon to Mestre on the mainland part of Venice in Italy. Cars and buses can drive over the bridge and stop at the Piazzale Roma but can go no further. This square is also close to Venice’s Santa Lucia Train Station. A train ride from Milan is about 3 hours long.

Venise Aero Pont de la Liberté Snazzy Trips travel blogPonte della Liberta – photo from wikimedia

Or you can fly directly to Venice Marco Polo Airport on the mainland part of Venice, which is how my family and I got there. Then we took a waterbus from the airport with all our luggage and we stepped out of the boat, straight into our hotel foyer at Liassidi Palace. Such a unique experience. What an exciting way to arrive in Venice! Worthy of any Bond movie.

Historic Centre

The main part of Venice is called the Centro Storico (historic centre), which is considered one island, made up of many islets (small islands). This is where most tourists congregate. The main thoroughfare through here, shaped like an ‘S’ in reverse, is the Canale Grande (Grand Canal) with 4 bridges crossing it. The most famous and recognisable bridge here is the one pictured below, the Ponte di Rialto (Rialto Bridge).

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Ponte Rialto on Canale Grande

In the past, everyone wanted to live on this main canal. From the 12th to the 18th century, huge homes were built along the Grand Canal called palazzi (palaces). They were built by the noble families to display their wealth, with fancy marble facades and ornate embellishments. These opulent palaces were also quite high for those days with several levels.


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The Grand Canal

Islands of the Venice Lagoon

It’s difficult to say how many islands there are in Venice because it depends on what exactly constitutes an island. Not all the islands are inhabited and some are tiny with just rocks. Officially there are 118 islands that make up the Venice Lagoon, but I’m not going to list them all.

They are all within easy access from the main centre, some only a few minutes away, others about half an hour by boat. I definitely recommend venturing out to visit some other islands.

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How did this unique city come about?

The first settlement in the lagoon was in the 5th century when people fled the mainland to escape attack from barbarians after the fall of the Roman Empire. They set up raft homes on the swampy lagoon with wooden stilts underneath for support and were connected by wooden walkways. Slowly a unique town grew on the lagoon, like no other in the world. It presented numerous challenges, as you can imagine. The people fished and traded in salt, as the lagoon is salt water connected to the Adriatic Sea.

‘La Serenissima’

When Venice was officially formed in the 8th century, it had its own ruler, the Doge (Duke) of Venice, and was a separate country, called the La Serenissima Repubblica di Venezia (The Most Serene Republic of Venice). A beautiful title, for a beautiful city. It was serene because the country was wealthy and prosperous.

But I’m sure it wasn’t always serene, as the Republic of Venice was involved in many wars and crusades throughout its history, albeit not on their territory. The Plague also devastated Venice which came to the lagoon via shipping and killed tens of thousands of people over the 2 outbreaks in history.

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Due to its unique geographic position, it flourished in the major trading route between east and west and became a powerful maritime nation. For more than 1,000 years it dominated the Mediterranean, trading in gems, silk, textiles, lace, spices, perfume and more. Venice became an extremely wealthy country. By the 13th century it was the most prosperous city in Europe. In the 14th century Venice acquired parts of the mainland and this was one of the high points in Venetian history.

Then in the 1860’s, Venice was forced to officially become part of the Kingdom of Italy, ruled by Rome. Needless to say, the Venetians weren’t happy about losing their autonomy that they worked hard to achieve and enjoyed for a thousand years.


Venice is also unique for the diversity in architecture, due to its complicated and long history, and trade relations with different parts of the world. I’m no expert in architecture, but I can certainly appreciate the beauty of historic monuments. Buildings of different architectural eras and styles line the canals, including Byzantine, Islamic, Moorish, Gothic and Renaissance styles.

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Here are some examples of amazing Venetian architecture:


Ca D’Oro (House of Gold) is a 15th century Venetian Gothic style palace and one of the most famous palaces in Venice built for one of the wealthiest families. Now a shadow of its former self, it used to have gold leaf embellishments, hence the name, on its marble facade. It is now a museum displaying Venetian art, paintings and sculptures.

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The stunning Basilica di San Marco is of Byzantine style architecture. Built in 1096, but took centuries to complete all the intricate decorations and gold mosaics. It’s the resting place of the Patron Saint of Venice and is famous for having one of the richest altars in the world with gold and 3000 gems!

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The Doge’s Palace is Venetian Gothic Architecture. Building commenced in the 9th century and took centuries to complete. It has lovely white and rose coloured marble on the facade. It’s now a Museum, where you can see the Doge’s residence and the prison that was attached.

Photograph of of the Doges Palace in Venice Snazzy Trips travel blog


Palazzo Contarini del Bovolo is a unique building combining several styles – Byzantine, Gothic and Renaissance. It is tucked away from the main canal amongst the small streets. It’s purely by accident I discovered this gem. The main feature of the building is this beautiful spiral staircase you can see on the outside.

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Iconic things to do in Venice

Today Venice is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. Everybody knows Venice and everyone wants to go to Venice, to visit this remarkable city and have all the quintessential experiences:

  • Take a romantic ride in a gondola,
  • Hang out in St Mark’s Square (Piazza San Marco)  with the pigeons, the ‘drawing room of Europe’,
  • Buy a Venetian mask,
  • Walk over the Rialto Bridge, and
  • Sigh ‘aah’ at the Bridge of Sighs (Ponte di Sospiri).

final 52 Snazzy Trips travel blogBridge of Sighs


Venice is of course, listed as a heritage city with UNESCO. However, the organisation is extremely concerned about the conservation of this historic city and has threatened to put it on the UNESCO Endangered List (yes, there is such a list) if things don’t improve. Normally, only war-torn cities and third-world places are on this list. This is a huge worry.

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Sinking buildings

The Venice Lagoon

Many factors are contributing to Venice’s decline. Rising sea levels, buildings are sinking, salt water damage, erosion of foundations and buildings crumbling. All of these serious issues threaten Venice into extinction. Some experts predict the Venice Lagoon could disappear under water by the year 2100. This is a very sad state of affairs.

The Venice Lagoon

Rising water levels

The ground floors of most buildings are in fact no longer habitable because they have water permanently, from the steady rise of sea level that has been occurring over many years. The sea level here has risen by 26cm since 1870.

The Venice Lagoon


The city has always been prone to flooding, as it is characteristic of its location being in a low lying lagoon. High tides that go in and out every 6 hours roughly, are normal. The ‘acqua alta’ rises and water sometimes inundates the lowest point of the lagoon, which unfortunately happens to be Piazza San Marco, and other low-lying parts of the city. However, this occurs a lot more frequently now than it used to in the past.

It has become somewhat of an attraction in itself, with tourists taking photos of the Piazza looking like a lake. Planks are installed across the flooded areas to walk on when it gets very deep.

The Venice Lagoon

Saint Mark’s Square flooded

One of the most innovative ways to try to save Venice and its heritage is the multi-billion dollar MOSE system. This enables protective flood gates in 3 locations, which are fitted underwater, to be activated when needed to protect the city from flooding tides entering the Lagoon from the Adriatic Sea. After much anticipation the barriers commenced operation in 2020 and have proven to be successful in helping to prevent further damage to Venice.


Approximately 20 million tourists visit Venice each year, about 10,000 tourists per day! What…?I know. These figures are staggering. I don’t know where they all fit. Venice is small in size, with very narrow walkways, narrow bridges and no roads. It very quickly gets overcrowded, especially in the popular Summer months. It’s not easy to get around, with limited access and steps everywhere too.

The Venice Lagoon

It’s no wonder some locals get a bit cranky whilst trying to go about their daily lives amongst the congestion. However, the tourist trade is what the city survives on these days. So the locals also need to be tolerant and a little more accommodating.

The Venice Lagoon

But tourism has got so huge here, it is crippling Venice. It struggles to cope with the numbers flooding in (pardon the pun) and the damage it causes – overcrowding, pollution, and destabilising the natural ecosystem of the lagoon from all the ships and water taxis constantly ferrying people around.

The Venice LagoonCrowds in Venice


Once upon a time, large ships couldn’t reach Venice. That’s one of the reasons why the early Venetians chose this location to settle, for its hidden location and inaccessibility by ships.

But since a shipping channel was created in the lagoon years ago so ships could enter and dock at the pier, cruise ships have easy access to Venice directly from the open sea.

They have become a threat to the city causing huge waves in the water which are felt for hours after they leave. In the photo below you can see how massive some of the cruise ships are, compared to the city buildings. These ocean liners come precariously close to the floating city. Passengers and other day trippers disembark in large herds and descend on the Venice Lagoon causing all sorts of problems for the city and it now struggles to cope.

cruise ship in the Venice lagoonOcean Liner in Venice – Photo by ABC


As tourist numbers continue to rise, the opposite is happening with the number of local inhabitants, which is currently half what it was in the 1970’s. Sadly, they are packing up and leaving. “Ciao Venezia.” Just over 50,000 Venetians remain in the lagoon area now.

gondola in canal

They are moving away for many reasons – the rising cost of living, housing owners prefer to rent to tourists for more money, difficult living conditions, not enough jobs, damage occurring to the buildings, climate change, rising sea-levels, slow sinking of the buildings, frustration, corruption and more. Many of them have had enough and have been protesting with slogans of ‘Venexodus’. It’s a huge problem, because at this rate, no one will be left. It could turn into a ghost town! This makes me very sad.

large white hands on building in the Venice Lagoon

Sculpture titled ‘Support’ in 2017 used to be on the side of this 14th century building.

Tourist Tax

As this art sculpture depicts, Venice needs propping up, desperately. And that’s why Venice is now implementing a Tourist Tax for day visitors only, starting from 3 euros, as of May 2019. This is to help pay for cleaning and much needed restorations. There are some exemptions. Overnight stayers already pay a levy included in their accommodation charge.

The Venice Lagoon

Tips for tourists

1. It’s important to be respectful of the locals who are living there. In such a small city with so many people trying to get around, we need to be considerate when visiting. So don’t block the passages.

2. The best way to get around Venice is by walking and taking water buses (taxis), which run all day.

3. Don’t just stick to ‘Piazza San Marco’ and ‘Ponte di Rialto’ where the crowds are because the food and souvenirs are overpriced. Venture out a little to other beautiful, less busy parts of Venice where prices are a little cheaper, the food more authentic and there’s lots of hidden gems to appreciate.

night time in the Venice lagoon

4. The historic centre can really be enjoyed best in the early mornings before day trippers arrive and in the evenings when they have all departed, especially in the warmer months.

5. You must visit some of the other islands of Venice. There are many gorgeous spots waiting for you to explore and are less crowded. All of which you can get to by taking a vaporetto (waterbus/ferry). Alternatively you can hire motoscafi (private water taxis), just like normal taxis. Walking around these islands is free. So I thoroughly recommend visiting some of them.

The Venice Lagoon

Island of Torcello

architecture-baroque-building-161101Basilica of Santa Maria della Salute


Islands to visit

canal between buildings

  • Murano is world famous for its glass making industry. For centuries Venetians had a monopoly on glass manufacturing and furthermore, were the only ones in the world who could make mirrors. Here, you can watch the artisans at their craft and shop for all sorts of artwork made out of coloured glass.
  • Burano is known for its beautiful pastel coloured houses and traditional needle lace making, which was exported throughout Europe. There is Lace Museum here showcasing rare and precious pieces.
  • Chioggia is like a mini Venice with little canals and gothic ‘palazzi’ buildings.
  • Lido is a beautiful beachy area, deserted most of the year except for July, August and early September when locals go to their holiday cabins and when the Lido Film Festival is held. On Lido there are cars, yes cars, so don’t get a shock!

There are so many islands to explore with beaches, vineyards, ponds, orchards, gardens, resorts and even flamingoes!

colourful buildings along canal


boats in canal


Interesting facts about Venice

I love trivia facts, so my ultimate guide to Venice has to include a few:

  • Houses are numbered by district, not streets.
  • San Marco’s Bell Tower was built in the 12th century, then rebuilt after it collapsed in 1902.
  • Marco Polo, the famous explorer, was born here.
  • There are colonies of flamingoes in the lagoon near the islands of Burano and Torcello.
  • Occasionally Bottle-Nosed Dolphins enter the lagoon.
  • The 1st casino in the world was built in Venice in 1638.
  • the Italian word for greeting, ‘ciao’ comes from the Venetian dialect for ‘schiavo’ (slave), pronounced as s’ciao, meaning ‘I am your slave’, the formal greeting.
  • Sunglasses were invented here in the 14th century to wear while riding in a gondola in hot summer, called ‘gondola glasses’, and were made on the glass-making island of Murano.

Shall I stop now? Or do you want more?

cafe in the Venice Lagoon

Cafe Florian in Piazza San Marco

Ok, if you insist.

Here’s more facts:

  • The Bellini cocktail was invented in Venice, by a bartender at Harry’s Bar, named after a Venetian artist.
  • The waterways have speed limits, just like roads.
  • Don’t walk between the 2 columns in Piazza San Marco, as this is where public executions used to take place, thus it’s considered bad luck.
  • There are apps you can download for Venice’s high tide information.
  • The Prosecco wine region in Italy is near Venice.
  • Having your espresso standing up at a cafe window is cheaper than having it sitting down inside, and finally
  • The Cafe Florian in Venice is the oldest cafe still in business since 1720. However, a coffee here will cost a small fortune, if you have it sitting down whilst enjoying the orchestra in the piazza. Best go round the corner where it’s cheaper. You’re welcome.

Carnivals and festivals

Lastly in my ultimate guide to Venice, I have to mention some of Venice’s world famous events, that I would absolutely love to attend.

The Annual Venice Carnival

Held 40 days before Easter for 18 days. One of the biggest carnivals in the world, which attracts 3 million people each year. Many events are held around the city, some free and some very pricey. Events include the famous Regatta on the Grand Canal, water parades, costume parades, food events, handcraft events, parties, balls and heaps more.

black and white carnival mask

The costumes are simply amazing. As you can imagine, costume shops and mask makers do a roaring trade at this time of year. This event is steeped in tradition and has been celebrated on and off for hundreds of years. I believe the masks were to hide people’s identity, which meant they could get away with breaking a few rules without anybody knowing who they were. Perfect for aristocrats of the time to let their hair down! but not the mask (ha).

person in fancy costume in front of gondolas

Carnival of Venice Mask & Costume – Photo credit

boat festival

Carnival of Venice Water Parade – Photo credit

The Venice International Film Festival

Held on the island of Lido at the Palazzo del Casino every year usually in early September. If you love films and parties, this is a very popular event, similar to the Cannes Film Festival in France, drawing many celebrities to Venice. In 2018 Lady Gaga stole the show here in a beautiful feathered Valentino pink pelican-inspired gown.

small bridge and steps over canal

Wherever you go in Venice you will see beautiful, interesting, amazing things on every walkway, canal, corner or bridge. Venice will stay with you for life.

If you only have one day in Venice, it would be a shame, but you might want to take this one-day tour.

Check the Venice Tourism website for up to date information.


I hope you have enjoyed my ultimate guide to Venice, the most unique place in the world.

Have you been to Venice? I’d love you to leave me a comment below.


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52 thoughts on “The Ultimate Guide To Venice

  1. Hassan says:

    I had no idea that Venice was being threatened like that. Wow, it could be gone?? I haven’t visited there (yet)…only Rome but I do want to have all of those experiences particularly the gondola ride and the Rialto Bridge!

  2. Delphine says:

    Venice is such a wonderful place! It’s very touristy but I still managed to feel there was a local life there. The neighbourhoods away from Piazza San Marco are actually really nice to stay in because there are less tourists. One of my dreams is to go to Venice for the carnival!

  3. Martino says:

    Hi, this is a good article.

    But there is a small inaccuracy.

    “in the 1860’s, Venice was forced to officially become part of the Kingdom of Italy, ruled by Rome”.

    Venice was forced to become part of the Austrian Empire in the 1797 after an agreement with the French republic of Napoleon that had occupied the area that same year.
    In 1848 the Venetians expelled the Austrians after a revolt. However, they were forced to surrender to the empire the following year after a long siege. In 1866 the kingdom of Italy allied with Prussia fought against the Austrian empire and after the war it obtained the region of Veneto including Venice.

  4. Emma says:

    How fantastic, stepping off your boat right into the hotel foyer! What an experience. I loved reading about how the Lagoon all started out as an escape plan, really fascinating.

  5. Smita says:

    I visited Venice a few years ago and absolutely loved the place. It was fun to relive it through your article and get to know about many historical details that I had missed the last time. Loved the section on facts, especially the origin of Ciao, so interesting!

  6. April Key C. Rode says:

    I enjoyed reading this Tania and there are lots of information to learn. Venice is in my top lists for international travel and I’m glad to read this article. Thanks for putting this all together and sharing this with us.

  7. Rudy says:

    I have not been in Venice for 15 years, but even 15 years ago, Venice was packed with tourists. We enjoyed some of the outer islands who where not that touristy. 15 years ago, they asked for $300 for a gondola ride and eventually got down to $150. We thought that was still a rip-off and declined. I wonder how much they charge today?

  8. sana says:

    The Aerial view of Venice lagoon is so cool. ‘Ponte di Sospiri’ – Bridge of Sighs seems interesting. Venice has always been on my to visit list. Saving your post for reference.

  9. Catherine says:

    I’d love to take my kids to Venice! I know they would absolutely love the gondola ride. It’s really sad to hear about the flooding – I hope things get better for the city. Thanks for sharing all this valuable information.

  10. hayleyjones98 says:

    I have heard such mixed reviews about Venice but love this guide that you’ve given! Your photos are so beautiful and I definitely want to visit. I would love to experience the Venice carnival – sounds like such a fun and interesting event.

  11. Pia BeckerPia says:

    It´s such a long time that I visited Venice! Too long ago! You´re article brought up some very nice memories! And it seems that I need to visit again to refresh them and make some new onces 😀

  12. Eric Gamble says:

    Being from New Orleans, the Venice Lagoon has always intrigued me as if it was a long lost relative with similar attributes like being built on swamp and water, having a massive Carnival, and tourism being the main source of income for the area.
    But there are so many unique aspects that definitely intrigue me, especially the architecture and all the history. I mean any city where the greatest explorer of all time, Marco Polo, is from is a city for me!
    It does make me sad that so many locals have departed and I couldn’t believe the flooding issues that they still have. I guess it makes sense since we have similar issues here. I guess we all need to hire the Dutch to save us from sinking!
    Personally I would love to check out those Basilicas and oddly enough I really want to see the sunken first floors. By the way that Aerial view is amazing. Definitely makes me better understand the system and issues they have. Perhaps, they really need to ban Cruise Ships for now to lessen the effects to the area.

    • snazzytrips says:

      Thanks for your great feedback. I would love to see the floors underwater too. There are so many fascinating things about Venice. There’s always more to learn. And yes I agree cruise ships should be banned from the Lagoon.

  13. Medha Verma says:

    I find Venice to be quite a charming city although many people say it is overrated. I loved the canals, the islands on the lagoons, walking around in the laneways, crossing the many little bridges, taking the water taxi and simply getting lost! Murano and Burano are also excellent islands, I love the colorful buildings there. I remember on my trip, I had two days, and I still didn’t feel like I had enough time. I will probably go back someday!

  14. Delphine Mignon (@danine_sydney) says:

    Venice is so unique! It’s so amazing that a city with this peculiar geography would be still here with its unique characteristics. I went there years ago and I loved the fact there was so much activity on the lagoon, with the vaporetti, the gondolas and other work boats. I do hope they manage to get rid of the cruise ships though!

  15. The Holidaymaker says:

    What a wonderful walk (or shall I say gondola ride) down memory lane. Venice is incredibly unique and photogenic and I recognized so many of the areas in your photos!
    I loved how thorough and detailed you were in your post, you offered great tips, history and facts (which I especially love to read about), and ideas of things to do. This makes for a great reference for first timers or repeat visitors alike. I have pinned for my future reference.

  16. Danik says:

    I was here for my second visit two weeks ago and oh god, I wish I hadn’t. Venice is beautiful, but even by 9am, it was overcrowded with visitors and to see cruise ships docked, was horrible. I even took the boat to Burano and even now as the word is out about the colourful buildings, it was overcrowded and I came away from the area with a feeling of a wasted time. I can see the attraction why people want to go but I think the city is right about curbing visitor numbers now.

  17. Anna Schaeffer says:

    Great post! I especially love the “interesting facts” section, I love learning fun facts about the places I’m visiting, and some of those facts are really important to know!

  18. xxvallixx says:

    The last time I was in Venice was last summer and it always amazes me to see how beautiful this city and the other little islands are. I recommend visiting also Torcello and San Francesco del Deserto 😉

  19. Albína Mrázová says:

    I love that you are writing about the festivals because that is something that personally I would love to see. Also the other islands around looks really beautiful and not so crowded with tourists.

  20. Ann says:

    Great post, really well written. Thanks for the read!
    Venice is a beautiful city, lived the architechture when I was there. Did you visit Treviso aswell when you were in the neighborhood?

  21. pinkcaddytraveloguegmailcom says:

    I LOVE Venice. I only got to spend one day there a year ago, but I definitely want to go back and explore more, and maybe make it out to Murano!

  22. Sinjana says:

    Your love for Venice is clear in the post. Thanks to this vivid description and fluid narrative , I am now longing to visit Venice. The Venic lagoon looks so romantic . The festivals are also beautiful and pompous.

  23. SecretMoona says:

    I love how detailed and informative your post is. Venice has been on my list for a long time but I’m not really interested by the romantic side of the city. I like the history part, architecture, art and food. I have not yet found the time to go but will get things rolling before it’s too damaged with the amount of tourists.

  24. Carmen Edelson says:

    This post is so in-depth and one of the best I’ve read about Venice! I totally agree with you and don’t think there’s any place in the world like it. So unique and beautiful. I hate that those big ships can access it though…

  25. Ketki Gadre says:

    Venice Lagoon could disappear under water by the year 2100 – like really? Wow! I need to go before that. It is indeed sad that locals are leaving the city due to all those reasons. It is a sad reality of overtourism and something need to be done to curb it.

  26. trimmtravels says:

    I had no idea that Venice was being threatened like that. Wow, it could be gone?? I haven’t visited there (yet)…only Rome but I do want to have all of those experiences particularly the gondola ride and the Rialto Bridge!

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