Top 10 Must-See Attractions in Venice

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Top 10 Must-See Attractions in Venice

As we venture out into the world once again, seeking to bring beauty into our lives, Venice comes to mind as one of the world’s top artfully historic destinations. Allow for enchantment and romance as you whisk through these top 10 sightseeing stops in Venice, the “City of Water,” where main streets are canals, Renaissance art is as ubiquitous as prosecco and la dolce vita is guaranteed.
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1. St. Mark’s Basilica
Standing out as one of the most recognizable churches in the world, St. Mark’s Basilica (or Basilica di San Marco) should top any must-see list for Venice travelers. Prepare to be wowed by the Byzantine artistry, gold-backed mosaics, decadently decorated altars and inlaid marble floors inside. The crown jewel is the golden altarpiece, the Pala d’Oro, awash in thousands of gems and precious stones. Notice the treasured biblical figures on the altar screen, which were first created in Constantinople in AD 976 and added to by Venentian goldsmiths in the 13th century.
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2. Grand Canal
Satisfy your romantic visions of gliding along the two-mile Grand Canal, the main thoroughfare in Venice. Whether this is your first or fifth trip to Venice, it’s worth the fairly steep price to hire a gondolier for a magical boat ride with a special someone. Another option is to join Venice residents on a vaporetto, essentially a water bus, for a less expensive, but truly authentic experience. For a quieter ambience, take your gondola ride in the evening after the rush of the day has subsided.
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3. Rialto Bridge
Another must-see for the romantics, the Rialto Bridge is the most famous span across the Grand Canal. It used to be the only way to cross the canal and is now one of four major bridges, but it continues to hold sway as the most photographed and sought-after. After former bridges collapsed due to faulty design, Michelangelo and Palladio both vied for the job to redesign it, yet that right ultimately went to Antonio da Ponte (his name literally translates to “Anthony of the Bridge”). He built the stone entirely out of Istrian stone and, thankfully, it still stands today. The best time to visit to avoid crowds is early in the day or after sunset.
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4. St. Mark’s Square
People watch, sip a cappuccino or linger over prosecco in St. Mark’s Square and you’ll start to feel like a true Venetian. This expansive square serves as the city’s parlor, a place to stop and visit during the day and into the evening, a place to shop the boutiques in the surrounding arcades and a place to soak up the elegant architecture of the surrounding buildings, including iconic St. Mark’s Basilica. For a bird’s-eye view, climb the Campanile di San Marco bell tower and look down on Venetian life as it unfolds before you.
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5. Teatro La Fenice
Just a short walk from St. Mark’s Square, Teatro La Fenice is a hot spot for opera fans. The theater has almost succumbed to flames several times since it’s 18th-century opening, but it lives on – and, in fact, its name translates to “Theater of the Phoenix” Take in a performance of classic Italian opera surrounded by the Old World design of the theater. If you don’t have time for a full show, take a tour of the plush theater during the day.
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6. Doge’s Palace
When viewed from the Venetian Lagoon, Doge’s Palace appears to be floating on water, an apropos look for a city of water. With its central location in St. Mark’s Square, the palace is one of the easiest Venice attractions to visit – and one of the most intriguing. History buffs particularly enjoy this site as the palace has been the site of countless significant moments during its reign as the seat of government and residence of the doge (leader). Consider a guided tour to get the inside scoop on the history of the building and its inner workings.
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7. Bridge of Sighs
If you’re taking a private tour of the Doge’s Palace, you’ll have the opportunity to walk across the famed Bridge of Sighs, which used to connect the palace to the dungeons. If you are skipping Doge’s Palace, you can find the bridge entrance on the eastern edge of San Marco, where it’s free 24/7. The story goes that the bridge got its name from the woeful sighs of the prisoners (such as Casanova) would breathe as they realized this was their last chance of the world before entering the dungeon. On the up side, it is believed that if two lovers kiss on a gondola passing under the bridge, they will be granted eternal happiness together.
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8. Galleria dell’Accademia
Art aficionados won’t want to miss the one-time academy that Napoleon turned into a museum. Full of Renaissance masterpieces from noble families, monasteries and churches, the museum boasts much Venetian art from the 14th to 18th centuries. Look up as you browse, so as not to miss the gilded 15th-century ceilings above you. Among the many treasures are St. George by Andrea Mantegna, Portrait of Christ by Vittore Carpaccio, St. John the Baptist by Titian and several pieces by Giambattista Tiepolo.
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9. Murano
Gaze upon the glass marvels of Murano and Burano and watch glass workers at their craft. Take a vaporetto to the island and spend hours visiting the various showrooms and studios along the canal’s edge. Stop by the Glass Museum inside the 17th-century Palazzo Giustinian, housing one of the world’s largest, most significant Venetain glass collections dating from Roman time to the 20th century. Go beyond glass – visit Santa Maria e Donato, noticing the 12th-century mosaic flooring and the 14th-century Venetian painting of St. Donato.
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10. Peggy Guggenheim Collection
Continue your quest for beautiful things throughout Venice with a stop at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection. Visitors are welcomed into her former home along the Grand Canal to see her personal art collections, from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance to the first half of the 20th century. Surround yourself with masterpieces by Picasso, Mondrian, Dali and Klee, all in a spare white building that belies the artistry within.

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