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Venice see + do

It's hard to believe, but it's true: The Venice you know from reading books and watching movies really is that magical, improbable water world—a timeless place where footsteps clatter along dark cobblestone alleyways, and gondolas glide through narrow canals. Of course, if you only stick to the main tourist tracks between St. Mark's and the Rialto Bridge, it can also be a place of annoying, slow-moving hordes and tacky souvenir shops. To glimpse the real Venice, where people shop raucously in markets and hang washing out to dry across the streets, where children scream through squares on bicycles, and older folks stroll elegantly arm in arm, you'll need to venture off the beaten path. Bring good walking shoes and a sense of adventure, and be willing to get lost.

Each summer, Venice becomes a center of the contemporary art and architecture scene when the Biennale swings into action (the Art Biennale takes place in odd years, the Architecture Biennale in even ones). And every year, for ten days in late August/early September, the Venice Film Festival fills the otherwise sleepy beachside Lido suburb with movie directors, producers, stars, and wannabes.

For a note on Venetian addresses, see our Fact Sheet.

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Basilica di San Marco, San Marco, Venice

Entering St. Mark's Square from its western end and suddenly confronting this glittering, magnificent Byzantine cathedral has been the oh-wow moment for...more

Editors' Pick
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Dominican + Franciscan Churches, Venice

When the Dominicans and Franciscans arrived in Venice at the dawn of the Renaissance, they enticed parishioners by filling their churches with art. The works in...more

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Gallerie dell'Accademia, Dorsoduro, Venice

Since 2005, this repository for centuries of stunning Venetian art has also been an obstacle course of scaffolding and builders' clutter. Ongoing renovations...more

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Gondola Rides, Venice

Hopelessly clichéd but utterly romantic, a gondola ride is something every visitor to Venice should do once. The experience doesn't come cheap (see...more

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Islets Around Venice, Venice

Punctuating the lagoons around Venice are a few islets that are well worth visiting—and they can all be reached by vaporetto. Torcello was a city long...more

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Palazzo Grassi & Punta della Dogana

The Venetian contemporary-art empire of French luxury-goods magnate François Pinault now covers the Grand Canal–facing Palazzo Grassi and the...more

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Palazzo Grimani, Castello, Venice

One of the most important stately homes in Venice was finally opened to the public at the end of 2008, after a huge restoration project that felt like it would...more

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Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Dorsoduro, Venice

When poor little rich girl Peggy Guggenheim's personal art collection was turned down by London's Tate Gallery in 1949, she brought it to Venice. It was a lucky...more

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Piazza San Marco, San Marco, Venice

When Napoleon and his army descended on Venice in 1797, the French general described this immense open public space—almost 40,000 square feet—as...more

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Scuola di San Giorgio degli Schiavoni, Castello, Venice

One of the most charming—and unsung—Venice attractions is the Scuola di San Giorgio. Scuole (schools) were charitable institutions, set up by trades...more

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Information may have changed since date of publication. Please confirm details with individual establishments before planning your trip.

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