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- All meals included
Never was a thoroughfare so aptly named as the Grand Canal, reflecting the glories of Venetian architecture lining its banks. At the end of Venice’s signature waterway, the Palazzo Ducale and Basilica di San Marco add double exclamation points. But wait until you see what’s hiding in the narrow backstreets: neighbourhood churches lined with Veroneses and priceless marbles, Tiepolo’s glimpses of heaven on homeless-shelter ceilings, and a single Titian painting that mysteriously lights up an entire basilica.
Garden islands and lagoon aquaculture yield speciality produce and seafood you won’t find elsewhere – all highlighted in inventive Venetian cuisine, with tantalising traces of ancient spice routes. The city knows how to put on a royal spread, as France’s King Henry III once found out when faced with 1200 dishes and 200 bonbons. Today such feasts are available in miniature at happy hour, when bars mount lavish spreads of cicheti (Venetian tapas). Save room and time for a proper sit-down Venetian meal, with lagoon seafood to match views at canalside bistros and toasts with Veneto’s signature bubbly, prosecco.
An Artful Lifestyle
Pity the day trippers dropped off at San Marco with a mere three hours to take in Venice. That’s about enough time for one long gasp at the show-stopper that is Piazza San Marco, but not nearly enough time to see what else Venice is hiding. Stay longer in this fairy-tale city and you’ll discover the pleasures of la bea vita (the beautiful life) that only locals know: the wake-up call of gondoliers calling ‘Ooooeeeee!’, a morning spritz in a sunny campi (square), lunch in a crowded bacaro (bar) with friends and fuschia-pink sunsets that have sent centuries of artists mad.
Eyeglasses, platform shoes and uncorseted dresses are outlandish Venetian fashions that critics sniffed would never be worn by respectable Europeans. Venetians are used to setting trends, whether it be with controversial artwork in the Punta della Dogana, racy operas at La Fenice or radical new art at the Biennale. On a smaller scale, this unconventional creative streak finds vibrant expression in the showrooms of local artisans where you can find custom-made red-carpet shoes, purses fashioned from silk-screened velvet and glass jewels brighter than semi-precious stones. In a world of cookie-cutter culture, Venice’s originality still stands out.
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Introduction to the city
The Morning Tour is an introduction to the city. You will learn about how the city was built and how it works today. You will see the gondola boatyard, several interesting churches and palazzos. It passes through Dorsoduro district ending in Campo Santa Margherita.
This tour covers St. Mark’s Square and districts of S.Marco and Castello. The tour will last 3 hours and it will take you through 10 centuries of Venetian history and architecture. You will learn about St.Mark’s square buildings, legends, events, conquests and governments.
See our Aerial Venice guide, which is packed with large overhead and close-up aerial views of the city with text descriptions. (Topics include squares and other sights, bridges, waterfront promenades, transportation hubs, and more.)
Piazza San Marco
The Piazza San Marco, or St. Mark's Square, is one of the world's great squares. It's also a honeypot for swarms of daytrippers and other tourists, but don't let that bother you: The square is vast, the crowds are good-natured, and backpackers coexist peacefully with the well-heeled tourists who enjoy overpriced drinks and orchestral music at the café tables. Some Venetians claim that pigeons outnumber the tourists. Certainly there are plenty of them, although their numbers have dwindled since the city began enforcing an ordinance against feeding the birds. (Note: Rick Steves suggests letting pigeon poop dry before brushing it off; this may work on clothing, but it's less effective when the poop is sliding down a balding scalp.)
Basilica di San Marco
The Basilica di San Marco (in English, St. Mark's Basilica) is both a house of worship and a monument to plunder: It was built to house the bones of St. Mark, whose remains had been stolen from Egypt by a pair of Venetian merchants, and the building is filled with sculptures, religious objects, and other booty that was hauled back from Constantinople and other faraway places during the Christian Crusades.
The Canal Grande, known to English-speaking visitors as the Grand Canal, is the main aquatic thoroughfare in central Venice. The S-shaped waterway follows an ancient riverbed from the Tronchetto parking island, the Piazzale Roma transit center, and the Santa Lucia railroad station station to Piazza San Marco and St. Mark's Basin. The canal is about 4 km or 2.5 miles long, with a width that varies from 30 to 70 meters (98 to 230 feet).
The Ponte di Rialto, a.k.a. the Rialto Bridge, has been the main pedestrian crossing between the two banks of the Grand Canal since 1591. In fact, it was the only bridge across the Canal Grande until a predecessor to today's Accademia Bridge was built in 1854. You might think that, with Venice being a city of traders, the shopping arcade in the center was built to separate tourists and locals from their money. In fact, the shops have a structural purpose: The rows of covered arches that run up the center of the bridge and over the top help to stiffen the bridge, making piers unnecessary and allowing 7.5 meters or 24 feet of clearance for boats (including the galleys that existed in the 16th Century, when the current stone bridge was built).
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Since the fall of the Venetian republic in 1797, the city has held an unrivaled place in the Western imagination and has been endlessly described in prose and verse. The luminous spectacle of ornate marbled and frescoed palaces, bell towers, and domes reflected in the sparkling waters of the lagoon under a blue Adriatic sky has been painted, photographed, and filmed to such an extent that it is difficult to distinguish the real city from its romantic representations. The visitor arriving in Venice is still transported into another world, one whose atmosphere and beauty remain incomparable.
Today Venice is recognized as part of the artistic and architectural patrimony of all humanity, a fitting role for a city whose thousand-year economic and political independence was sustained by its role in global trading. The situation of the city on islands has limited modern suburban spread beyond the historic centre; its framework of canals and narrow streets has prevented the intrusion of automobiles; and its unmatched wealth of fine buildings and monuments dating from the period of commercial dominance has ensured a keen and almost universal desire for sensitive conservation. This concern for conservation is now extended not just to the city’s monuments but to the very city itself, as rising water levels and subsidence of the land upon which Venice is built threaten the continued existence of the city in its present form. In 1987 Venice and its lagoon were collectively designated a UNESCO World Heritage site. Pop. (2009 est.) city, 59,984; (2011 est.) comune, 270,884.