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First Timer's Guide To Venice, Italy

26 Apr 2018

Hew Lee Yee

Klook Travel Curator

First-time in: Venice

To say that Venice is charming, would be an understatement. A city of immense beauty, rich history and unique landscape, it’s unlike any city in Italy or anywhere else in the world. With surrounding Venetian Lagoon islands connected by a series of canals and bridges, there’s so much to discover.

As one of Italy’s most famous destinations, here are some of the must-see, must-do and must-eat when you’re in Venice!

Klook activities in Venice

Guided Day Tour Murano & Burano & Torcello

  • Stop at a glass factory in Murano Island and watch expert master glass blowers create art!
  • See Torcello Island where Ernest Hemingway wrote "Across the River and Into the Trees"
  • Wonder at the wonderful Byzantine Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta and the Church of Santa Fosca
  • Marvel at the beauty of Burano Island, with houses painted in bright colors
  • Experience the beauty of the Venetian Lagoon on a boat as you enjoy the Mediterranean sun

Tour inclusive of:

  • Multilingual guide (English/French/Spanish/Italian/German)
  • Round trip transportation by boat
  • Visit to glass factory

Meet up time: 15 minutes before 9:30am/2:30pm

Meet up location: Yellow desk located in front of Hotel Danieli Excelsior

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Best Of Venice Walking Tour

  • Experience the most ideal way for a first time visitor to truly get to know this beautiful city
  • Get exterior views of important landmarks such as the Doge's Palace, the Procuratie and the Basilica
  • You'll be accompanied by a local guide who is an art enthusiast for an enlightening information-rich tour

Meet up time: 9:00am

Meeting point: "Yex" Exchange Office, under the clock tower in San Marco Square

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Venice Gondola Ride

  • Discover the city from a different point of view while aboard the gondola, the most famous Venetian means of transportation
  • Fall in love with the view of palaces floating on the water
  • Float in a gondola accompanied by local musicians as you cruise along the fascinating Grand Canal
  • Enjoy a romantic sunset while floating on waters of Venice

Activity inclusive of: 30 minute gondola ride

Time slots: 11am, 3pm, or 5:15pm From 1 November-31 March, only the 11am and 3pm time slots are available

Meet up location: Calle Larga dell'Ascensione in front of the Post office of St Mark (close to Correr Museum). Please be at the meeting point 15 minutes before the ride begins

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Venice highlights

1. Grand Canal

This monumental waterway is synonymous with Venice. Without the Grand Canal, there is no Venice. Visitors travel from all over the world just to witness the unique beauty of the canal. Connected by a network of smaller waterways and bridges, this is what makes the city so interesting.

Surrounding the Grand Canal, you will find lively streets lined with shops, restaurants and ports for water buses. Watching the busy water traffic at the canal is an absolute joy and a top must-do when you’re there is to embark on a lovely gondola ride!

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2. Rialto Bridge

As much as the Grand Canal is the symbol of Venice, the Rialto Bridge is the landmark most closely associated with the iconic waterway. Also known as Ponte di Rialto, it’s the main bridge that connects San Marco to San Polo, the Venetian districts on either sides of canal.

Not only serving as a pedestrian passage, this famous bridge is also a major tourist attraction. The view of the Grand Canal from the atop the bridge is also one to remember!

3. St. Mark’s Square

This expansive square, also known as Piazza San Marco, is the largest in Venice and well-known for being the city centre. All around the piazza, you’ll find several historical sites such as the Doge’s Palace, St. Mark’s Basilica, and St. Mark’s Campanile.

Serving as a hub for different activities, the square is always vibrant and full of action. You can also find numerous shops and restaurants where you can grab a bite or drink while people-watching and taking in the surrounding views.

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4. St. Mark’s Basilica

This intricate church located in the popular St. Mark’s Square is one of the more renowned buildings in Venice. Standing as a monumental architecture that stood the test of time, Basilica San Marco remains as one of Northern Italy’s most prominent religious site.

The church is also accompanied by a proud bell tower, the San Marco Campanile, which was constructed back in the early 20th century.

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5. Doge’s Palace

Just beside St. Mark’s Basilica is Doge’s Palace. Also known as Palazzo Ducale in Italian, this building is also equally grand and impressive. The architecture and artwork featured in the palazzo are so remarkable that it’s not a surprise to find the queue to enter snaking all around the building.

It’s home to secret passageways, secret doors, and over 6 centuries of history. With so much to uncover about this place, it’s worth to join a guided tour for an all-encompassing experience.

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6. Bridge of Sighs

From afar, this small and unassuming bridge might not look like much but it’s one of Venice’s top historic landmark which draws in throngs of visitors. The only access to the bridge now is through Doge’s Palace.

The bridge, Ponte des Sospiri in Italian, served as a way to connect Doge’s Palace to dungeons where prisoners were kept centuries ago. Legend has it that when prisoners were being transported, they would sigh as they take one last look at Venice. Hence, the name was born.

7. Rialto Market

In the district of San Polo, a famous spot for locals as well as visitors, is the Rialto Market. There, you will find mountains of produce on display, from juicy stone fruits to fresh vegetables and daily seasonal catches.

As you browse along, you can also see restaurateurs and fellow Venetians shopping for food. Lively and interesting, this market is not to be missed!

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8. Murano

An island in the Venetian lagoon, you can catch a water bus or vaporetto from the main area of Venice. Known for the craft of glass blowing and glass sculpture, the island is teeming with live demonstrations for visitors.

Generally less crowded than the main part of Venice, Murano also has several other attractions like Basilica dei Santa Maria, the Campo Santo Stefano and the Palazzo Da Mula.

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9. Burano

Further away from Murano, sits another island worth visiting, which is Burano. The picturesque, vibrant colourful buildings alone makes the trip there worth it! Make sure to wander across the many bridges in this quaint and interesting island town.

When you get to the island’s main street, you’ll find a number of restaurants, souvenir shops, bars and pastry shops. If you have the time, explore the island by getting lost in the many small alleyways.

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10. Torcello Island

Considering how Torcello Island is one of the more popular islands in Venice, it’s surprisingly peaceful and serene. The main draw of Torcello Island is the stunning Byzantine mosaics in the Church of Santa Maria Assunta.

Many parts of Torcello are also nature reserves that are great for hiking and being away from the crowded tourist attractions. It’s certainly a piece of oasis in captivating Venice.

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Must-try food in Venice

Sarde in Saor

This sweet and tangy appetizer or antipasto is the perfect start to your meals in Venice. Typically made with fried sardines fillets (or sometimes broiled ones) marinated in vinegar, softened onions, raisin and pine nuts, this is a dish well-loved by fellow Venetians.

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Squid ink risotto or pasta

As black as coal, this dish might look too scary to consume but don’t let its exterior deter you from trying it. You can find this seafood-based dish in the form of risotto or pasta and the usual suspects include squid and its ink, wine, onions and tomato.

Also, referred to as spaghetti in nero di seppia (pasta base) or risotto al nero di seppia (risotto base), this is a must-try Venetian staple. The briny squid goes well with the tomato and wine base, creating a dish that will please even the most skeptical diner.

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Bigoli in Salsa

Easily regarded as Venice’s signature dish, bigoli in salsa is a whole-wheat bigoli pasta tossed in onions and salt-cured fish in the form of sardines or anchovies. Not to be confused with the spaghetti, the bigoli pasta is made with whole wheat flour and has more bite to it.

Used to be served only on Good Friday and Christmas Eve, this simple but delicious dish can now be found throughout Venice all year round.

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Surrounded by a selection of crustaceans, Venice is an excellent place for indulging in seafood. Moleche, better known as fried soft shell crabs, are especially cherished. These crabs are harvested only during the springtime, so if you happen to visit in that season, definitely try it out!

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