9 Oct 2023
An extraordinary archipelago of piazzas, canals and bridges, packed with art and culture, delicious cuisine and plenty of romance, a long weekend in Venice is time well spent.
Read on to find out how to make the most of your time.
Start in St Mark’s Square
Venice is packed with jaw-dropping sights at every turn that you will want to tick off your bucket list. The best place to start is the beating heart of Venice: St Mark’s Square in the San Marco district.
Cover the main attractions of Doge’s Palace, St Mark’s Clocktower, the Library of Saint Mark and St Mark’s Basilica, before branching out into other districts, including Cannaregio, Dorsoduro, San Polo, Santa Croce and Castello.
We recommend pre-booking entry to the city’s major sights to skip the queues, particularly during busy periods.
Splurge on a gondola ride
If you splurge on one thing in Venice, make it a 30-40 minute gondola ride from the Grand Canal to some of the city’s smaller waterways. Sail under the Rialto Bridge and Bridge of Sighs on one of the waterways’ pristine black rowing boats as your gondolier offers titbits on passing landmarks and tales of famous passengers. Gondola rides are a fixed price of 80 euros, though serenading and evening voyages are typically more.
Tour Venice’s history of art and architecture
Venice is crammed full of wonderful architecture in its churches, palaces and galleries, displaying contrasting Gothic, Ottoman and Byzantine styles. Soak up the city’s buildings on a walking tour before exploring Venice’s most impressive art collection at Gallerie dell’Accademia on the south bank of the Grand Canal.
If you plan on visiting a handful of museums, invest in a museum pass and add the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Museo di Palazzo Grimani, Museo Correr and Punta della Dogana by the Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute to your itinerary.
Put down the map
Veer away from the main piazza and allow yourself to get lost in the city’s medieval streets. Take in smaller squares, winding alleys, bridges and canals where you will discover neighbourhood cafés, independent restaurants, chic bars and boutiques – particularly in the districts of Dorsoduro, San Polo and Santa Croce.
Shop for souvenirs
From Venice’s speciality of Murano glassware to Carnival-style masks, it is unthinkable to leave Venice without picking up a souvenir or two. The city’s streets are filled with art, textile and antique shops, plus independent boutiques selling quirky fashion.
Explore Venice’s outdoor stalls, including those leading to the Rialto Bridge and on the San Polo side at Mercato di Rialto, where locals go about buying fresh produce and fish.
Dine like a local
From candlelit restaurants offering contemporary plates to arty bars serving cicchetti (tasty tapas-style dishes), Venetian cuisine is outstanding. Aim to avoid venues in and around St Mark’s Square and hunt out local restaurants in the smaller squares of Castello and Dorsoduro.
Dine on fresh dishes of seafood, such as fritto misto (mixed deep-fried fish), spaghetti in nero di seppia (squid-ink spaghetti), sarde in saor (fried sardines topped with crispy onions) and polpetto (octopus), washed down with a regional wine such as Prosecco or a spritz.
Spend the night at the opera
Take in a performance at the gilded Teatro La Fenice, Venice’s stunning opera house that has been home to more than two centuries of ballet and opera, famously holding the world premier of Verdi’s La traviata in 1853.
The theatre first opened in 1792, though it has been rebuilt three times – most recently reopening in 2003 – because of fires destroying the building. It’s one of the world’s greatest opera houses with five tiers of beautiful boxes surrounding the stage.
If you can’t squeeze in a performance, book a guided tour, which take place daily.
Escape to a private island
Retreat to San Clemente Island, a private island in the heart of the Venetian Lagoon, and check into the luxurious pink-hued San Clemente Palace Kempinski hotel. San Clemente Island has a fascinating history. Home to a church built in 1131, which still stands today; the hotel itself is housed in a centuries old former monastery that was overseen by Augustine canons.
Savour the hotel’s five bars and restaurants, including the waterfront Acquerello restaurant and the beach-club style Buddha-Bar Beach. While the hotel’s luxurious bedrooms are palatial like with tall ceilings, classic décor and sweeping views over the lush gardens or inky lagoon.
San Clemente Palace Kempinski is an oasis of the Venetian Lagoon. Once you’ve explored the island’s grounds, relax at the hotel’s Merchant of Venice Spa and heated outdoor pool. The hotel also offers guests complimentary water taxis to St Mark’s Square, which is a glamorous 10-minute jaunt across the lagoon.