Rialto Bridge on the Grand Canal – Image courtesy of W. Lloyd MacKenzie/Wikimedia Commons
Major Attractions in Venice
Known as La Serenissima (the most serene one), Venice is one of the world’s most romantic cites and offers several must-see attractions: savour an espresso in Piazza San Marco, cruise the Grand Canal in a gondola past pastel-coloured palaces, discover the treasure-filled Basilica di San Marco and explore the floating city along its fascinating maze of canals and lanes.
Ponte di Rialto (Rialto Bridge)
Seal your love with a lingering kiss on the crest of Ponte di Rialto in the emotional heart of Venice. Climb one of the outer stone passageways or the wider central passage and browse the rows of cramped little shops that sell jewellery, linens and Murano glass, as well as other souvenirs.
One of the city’s most famous sights, this beautiful arched bridge spans the Grand Canal and was built on approximately 12,000 wooden pilings that still support it more than 400 years later.
Piazza San Marco (St Mark’s Square)
Absorb the timeless elegance of St Mark's Square, which Napoleon described as the “most elegant drawing room in Europe”.
Nibble on cicheti, (delicious Venetian seafood bar snacks) over a glass of prosecco, (a local white champagne-like wine) as you enjoy the spectacular view over St Mark’s Square from the romantic and elegant surrounds of the world famous Gran Caffè Quadri.
Founded in 1775, this centuries-old café is just one of many chic sidewalk cafés around the lively piazza from which to people-watch or take a break from browsing the nearby boutiques.
Take a tour of the glittering gold- and mosaic-embellished Basilica di San Marco and the fresco-filled Palazzo Ducale, once the residence of the Doges. Once inside, don’t forget to stroll across the famous Bridge of Sighs.
Cruise the Grand Canal, past numerous opulent cream- and peach-coloured palaces dating from the 14th to the 18th centuries. Hop on the number 1 vaporetto (the waterborne equivalent of a public bus) at Piazzale Roma or at Piazza San Marco, for one of Venice's must-do romantic experiences.
Aim for late afternoon and try to get a good outdoor seat in the prow or stern to avoid the crush midship. Pass beneath the romantic Ponte dell' Accademia and the Bridge of Sighs, and admire stunning mansions along the way such as the Fondaco dei Turchi and Baroque Ca' Pesaro.
Explore the canals
Relax in the arms of your sweetheart as a charming gondolier navigates the narrow canals and serenades you as you float along in a gondola – what could be more romantic? Aim for late afternoon or evening to best capture the romantic spirit of Venice.
Glide past canal lamps and shimmering reflections of ancient palazzos under a canopy of Venice’s loveliest bridges. Although quite expensive, this quintessential Venetian experience is worth it for the memories.
For a romantic two-some (sans gondolier), hire a Venetian topetta open boat and explore the Grande Canal and the minor canals for an hour or a day. Glide along the tranquil backwaters of Santa Croce and Dorsoduro, past the elegant façades of palazzos in various stages of picturesque dilapidation, moor up alongside a tiny waterside café for a prosecco and nibbles, or head out into the lagoon and return with the sunset.
Campo Santa Margherita
Soak up the late-night Venetian nightlife at Campo Santa Margherita, a bustling open campo halfway between the train station and Ca' Rezzonico, in Dorsoduro.
A longtime favourite with locals, the old district offers a range of bars with pretty terraces, and in nearby Calle Lunga San Barnaba, you’ll find a range of restaurants offering everything from authentic pizzas to fine cuisine.
Drop into this preferred retreat for everyone from Hemingway to Woody Allen. Head to the elegant front room and act like a local: order a couple of Bellini’s (a mix of champagne and peach juice) and while here, try the carpaccio, a dish of thinly sliced raw beef (famous throughout Italy and invented at Harry’s). Located at the San Marco-Vallaresso vaporetto stop on Calle Vallaresso.
Dance a waltz with your sweetheart in the most dazzling ballroom in Venice, located inside this huge Baroque mansion, which is also home to the Museo del Settecento Veneziano, where you can view a series of frescoes by Tiepolo.
Antiche Carampane Restaurant
Discover one of Venice’s most distinguished and romantic restaurants, located in the heart of Venice, only steps away from the Rialto. Enjoy classic Venetian cuisine in a warm and intimate ambience, despite the restaurant’s name being old slang for the prostitutes who prowled Venice’s centre as far back as the 1300s.
Galleria Dell' Accademi
Stroll through this amazing gallery and discover one of the world’s finest collections of Venetian art. See renowned works such as 'Pieta' by Titian, 'The Tempest' by Giorgione, Veronese's 'Christ in the House of Levi' and Bellini's 'Madonna Enthroned'.
Campo dei Santi Giovanni e Paolo
This centuries-old piazza is lined with outdoor cafés: sip on a caffè macchiato while pondering the beauty of the equestrian statue of Bartolomeo Colleoni by Andrea del Verrocchio, one of the most important pieces of Renaissance art.
After a visit to the Guggenheim, famous for its early 20th century masterpieces, head to the Palazzo Grassi, a stately 18th century marble palace housing some of the best modern art Venice has to offer, including works by Andy Warhol. Or head over to Baroque Ca' Pesaro, once a nobleman's mansion and now a Gallery of Modern Art housing works by Matisse, Klimt, Kandinsky, Tiepolo, Chagall and Klee, among others.
Teatro La Fenice
Enjoy the drama at this world famous opera house. Burned to the ground twice, it has since been rebuilt to ensure its continued place among the most celebrated monuments in Italian history.
Explore the narrow streets of Giudecca and enjoy a delicious lunch on the waterfront, where you can look over to the Dorsoduro with its wonderful churches, the beautiful island of San Giorgio and to San Marco and the Ducal Palace. Later climb to the top of the bell tower of San Giorgio Maggiore for panoramic views over Venice and the lagoon.
Lagoon day trips
Take a short vaporetto ride to Murano, the birthplace of Venetian glass; to Burano, known for its candy-coloured houses and fine lace; and to Torcello, site of two lovely 11th century churches and plenty of romantic picnic spots.
Best buys in Venice
Classic Venetian items such as Murano glass, lace, marbled paper and outrageous Carnevale masks.