Venice is more like a marvelous film set than a real live city, with its criss-crossing canals, gondolas and water buses, arched bridges, and palaces. They don't call this the city of romance for nothing. We arrived in the evening by boat, had a late dinner, spent the whole next day looking around and exploring. It was plenty of time to soak up beautiful Venice. But seriously, the best way to explore Venice is losing your way to discover the charms of this mesmerizing city.
Venice was that dream you never want to wake from. Every corner you turn, you walk deeper into some real-life watercolor painting that a camera can never do justice. It's like no place else we’ve ever been. It's (quite literally) a maze of canals and small streets, whimsical bridges, and colorful buildings. And as with all mazes, you should prepare to find yourself lost a time or two.
Rialto Bridge, the oldest bridge on the Grand Canal and is one of the famous pictures taking spots in Venice. There are little tourist shops all across the bridge. We don't care much for the tourist shops, but it's a fun place to take some pictures and get a great view of the canal. You will also see (and probably go under) this bridge if you take a Grand Canal Tour.
I briefly mentioned this earlier but want to elaborate a bit more, YOU WILL GET LOST in Venice. It is inevitable that you will get turned around at least once (but most likely fifteen+ times) There is very little, if any, method to the madness of their streets and alleyways.
The best tip we can give you is to try and keep a sense of what direction you need to move. Eventually you'll get somewhere, because it's really not that big. And in the tourist heavy areas they will often have signs with arrows pointing to "Rialto Bridge" or other big landmarks.
Also note, we had an international phone/data plan, so I did have Google maps the whole time, we still got lost many times. So even if you're thinking "oh, we'll have data, we'll be fine". Think again & just be ready to get yourself all sorts of lost. However, there is a plus side of getting lost and that is that you may possibly come across hidden book stores and boutiques in the small alley ways.
I should also mention that there are so many galleries, museums and church/cathedrals you could wander through all day long throughout Venice. There are certain passes you can buy to get into a lot of them that have an entrance fee. We were on a tighter schedule, so we didn't purchase one of the passes, but if you time I imagine it would be amazing!
The Palazzo Ducale/ Doge's Palace, was not cheap, I think it was roughly $20-$30/per person, but you can probably get better deals if you buy ahead of time online We didn't regret our decision not to fork out money, and if you have the time it’s well worth to take the audio tour as well. There is so much to see and so much history to be heard.
Make sure you take a Gondola Ride or Water Taxi. We have a confession to make; we didn't take a gondola ride. Before you judge, let me explain why. For starters, we tried to talk a few of the Gondola drivers down a bit and none of them would budge (we've heard of people successfully doing this, especially during the off-season when we went, but we had no luck, so if you try and succeed, let me know your tricks.
One of the main reasons we decided not to it was because even though we had a few blue skies throughout our stay, it was little coldish. We felt like we'd basically be paying $100 to sit and freeze on the water for 45 minutes. We didn't regret our decision, but if the weather is good and you don't mind paying, I'm sure it is as magical as it looks.
Up next, Saint Mark's Basilica, probably one of the most popular tourist stops in Venice, and it is a must. The architecture alone is enough to go and just stare at, but even better you can go inside. Oh, and I have to mention, it's FREE. We love when we get to do cool stuff for free. There was a small line, but it only took us about 5 minutes to get inside, so don't let the line scare you away.
And then of course, St. Mark's Square (Piazza San Marco) is really a breathtaking scene. Take time to stop and admire the architecture and enjoy some people watching. No matter what time of the year, this place will be bustling with tourists, so if you don't like large crowds you may need to hurry through this one, but it's definitely worth a stop.
I'd also like to give a shout-out to my favorite food stop in Venice was Alfredo's Fresh Pasta-To-Go. When you visit, please make sure to stop in for me, and honestly you can't really go wrong with any pasta/sauce combo that you choose, but I do highly recommend the Creamy Broccoli Alfredo Sauce with the Fettuccini noodles.
Overall, Venice was one of my favorite stops in Italy! It is such a magical, romantic place with so much to do and see.