It’s not hard to fall in love with Venice. It’s one of the most spectacular cities on the planet. A place filled with colourful architecture, pretty waterways and a glittering lagoon. Where else in the world would you reach historic palazzos, churches and museums by boat, travelling along and endless maze of picturesque canals?
So, it’s hardly surprising to hear Venice is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Europe. It’s packed with unforgettable sights, art galleries, museums and restaurants… plus a charm like no other European city. While it may have suffered from over tourism in recent years, there are still ways to explore at your own pace, swapping peak season for the quieter months of the year.
When it comes to Venice, you might think you know it all already. Everyone’s heard of the iconic gondolas, the rambunctious carnival, and the magnificent bridges that cross the canals.However, there are plenty of secrets lurking beneath the surface of this intriguing city. Whether you’re planning a trip soon or simply want to gain a deeper understanding of this popular city, it’s time to reveal some interesting facts about Venice!
Venice is made up of 118 islands
The city of Venice is actually made up of a number of different islands, each with different characters and landmarks.Connected by 400 bridges and 170 waterways, these islands, nestled in a calm coastal lagoon, give Venice its unique charm. As you walk around, it’s easy to forget they are separate islands, as it feels like one city’s land mass. As you explore, I recommend pausing for a moment to appreciate just how much water there is around! It’s incredible to think these buildings have been constructed here really…
Venice’s Grand Canal is two and a half miles long
Did you know the city’s central thoroughfare, the Grand Canal, stretches for two and a half miles and is 16 feet deep?With no cars in Venice, 60% of the total city traffic passes along the Grand Canal, making it one of the most important waterways in Italy. Despite it being busy, it doesn’t have the intensity of driving down a busy motorway!
Venetian gondolas have to be black by law
One of the most interesting facts about Venice and its gondolas is that these historic boats have to be painted completely black. This archaic law was designed to reduce unfair competition between the city’s many gondoliers.
Venice was home to the world’s first public casino
Casino di Venezia is widely thought to be the oldest casino in the world, dating back to 1638. Having entertained rich and famous visitors to the city for centuries, the casino is now housed in a 1930s building, and its original site is the final resting place of the German composer Richard Wagner.
Some of the attractions of Venice
Venice is one of the world’s most beautiful and romantic cities, with good reason. Its skyline is composed of rows of magnificent historical palaces and tall church towers, while the gentle waves of its lagoon are stirred by gondolas whose traditions date back centuries.
Slow evening gondola cruises along the Grand Canal or kissing under a Venetian bridge are high on the bucket lists of many couples. The appeals of the so-called “City of Water” owes much to its collection of gorgeous spots like St. Mark’s Square, as well as different neighbourhoods to explore.
St Mark’s Square
Take in Venice’s iconic cityscape
Piazza San Marco (St. Mark’s Square) may not be Venice’s only piazza, but it’s one of the world’s most beautiful. St. Mark’s Basilica, the bell tower and the Doge’s Palace are all close by. Patio cafés and restaurants surround San Marco, from where you can enjoy the mesmerising view over a cappuccino or glass of wine. Don’t expect the best Italian food here – prices tend to be expensive. If you’re in for the experience, check out Caffe Florian. It’s among the world’s oldest cafés. Although tempting, never feed the pigeons in the square – you’ll be fined.
Location: Piazza San Marco, 30100 Venice VE, Italy
A unique shopping walk over the Grand Canal
Ponte di Rialto (Rialto Bridge) is one of Venice’s landmark footbridges. It crosses over the Grand Canal, where you can enjoy a great cityscape from its portico. Uniquely, both sides of the portico are lined with tiny boutiques selling fashion items and trinkets like Venetian blown glass and jewellery. A more vibrant shopping scene awaits at the Mercati di Rialto open market at the bridge’s base. The bridge is very popular and can get very crowded. It’s most beautiful from a gondola or vaporetto (water taxi) ride, especially in the evenings. Get there earlier to beat the crowds.
Location: Sestiere San Polo, 30125 Venice VE, Italy
Venetian Gothic architecture and heavenly painted rooms
Doge’s Palace houses a maze of rooms richly decorated in gold-painted panels and Renaissance art. From St. Mark’s Square, enter this Venetian Gothic palace via the ornate entrance near the waterfront. The magistrate’s apartment features a giant world map by Titian, and the wondrous Chamber of the Great Council is home to the world’s largest oil painting, Il Paradiso by Tintoretto. After visiting the armoury and prisons, end your tour by crossing the famous Ponte dei Sospiri (Bridge of Sighs). Go for the 1-hour special ‘secret itineraries’ tour, available in English, for access to private chambers.
Location: Piazza San Marco, 1, 30124 Venice VE, Italy
Open: April–October: Sunday–Thursday from 8.30 am to 9 pm, Friday–Saturday from 8.30 am to 11 pm. November–March from 8.30 am to 7 pm (Christmas and New Year’s Day from 10.30 am to 7 pm)
St Mark’s Basilica
A masterpiece of mosaics and sculptures
St Mark’s Basilica (Basilica di San Marco), with its unmistakable Byzantine-inspired aesthetic, offers an unparalleled visual and spiritual experience. Over 8,000 square metres of mosaics cover its walls, vaults and domes. Visiting this masterpiece is free, but you’ll need to leave suitcases and large bags at the storage area in front of Porta dei Fiori (Door of Flowers), on the northern side. Photography is not permitted inside the church. You’ll notice decorative sculptures adorning the building, a harmonious yet miscellaneous collection as only some were made onsite. Many come from different towns and feature different materials and styles. Want to soak up every detail with the help of an expert? Check days and times for guided tours in the vestibule next to the main door.
Location: Piazza San Marco, 328, 30100 Venezia, Italy
Open: Daily from 9.30 am to 5 pm (from 2 pm on Sunday and public holidays)
St Mark’s Campanile
For stunning panoramas over Venice
The Campanile (bell tower) of St. Mark’s Basilica dominates the skyline of its piazza. Towering 90 metres over the square, you can admire Venice’s superb cityscape and lagoon from above. Come early in the morning to beat the crowds (expect long queues in summer). For several euros, a lift takes you to the top. Cover your ears when the 5 large bells chime overhead at the turn of the hour – they can be deafening! It’s also a good idea to wear something warm as it can get chilly at the top.
Location: Piazza San Marco, Venice, Italy
Open: October–March: daily from 9.30 am to 5 pm. 1st–15th April: daily from 9 am to 5.30 pm. 16th–
San Giorgio Maggiore
Superb panoramas over Venice
Thinking of escaping Venice’s crowds? The island of San Giorgio Maggiore is a great daytrip that’s around 5 minutes’ ride by vaporetto no. 2 from Piazza San Marco. Its skyline is dominated by the basilica of the same name, built around the 16th century, with a campanile (bell tower) that you can take a lift to the top. Many consider the views from San Giorgio Maggiore’s campanile as better than St. Mark’s. The 9 bells inside the campanile hang lower compared to St. Mark’s, so it’s better to avoid visiting at noon – they’ll mark the hour for 12 long, ear-piercing chimes.