A living museum
Venice has long been regarded as a great proprietor of history and culture, fostering innovation in the arts for centuries. Just wander through the streets and you'll see what we mean – passing Renaissance, Gothic and Baroque architecture, strolls here are journeys back in time.
The classic Venetian activity of gondola boat rides are basically mandatory for the true Venice experience. The same goes for visiting Doge's Palace, constructed in the 14th century as the residence for the Doge of Venice in grand Venetian Gothic style. It's been a museum since the 1920s, providing visitors with a sneak peek at grand Italian living of the past.
Just across the way is another can't-miss landmark, St Mark's Basilica. Known for its ornate domes and highly-decorative turrets capped in gold, it's the top dog as far as Venetian churches go. It was seen as a status symbol back in the day, so opulent in decor with gold-ground mosaics that it became known as the 'Church of Gold'.
Venetian cuisine is characterised by its abundance of seafood, which probably comes as no surprise, considering the city's surroundings. And if you've come for classic Italian favourites, you're in the right place – the vast majority of restaurants in Venice dish up Italian food. Plates of pasta, pizza and cicchetti – the Italian version of tapas – dominate the menus and there are quite literally thousands of restaurants to choose from.
It's important to remember not to judge a book by its cover here. Many of the area's top restaurants are hidden down side alleys far from the public eye, or behind unsuspecting shopfronts in which the tables and chairs are no more than a few barrels gathered around the canal's edge. These tiny spots are usually where the food is freshest and the ingredients are taken the most seriously – it's also where the house wine is way more than just an old familiar.
Over the years, Venice has become legendary for its celebrations. Just take Venice's Carnival. Those elaborate masks and costumes aren't just in movies – they're the real deal, donned at the city's big festivities and grand balls in the lead-up to Lent in the springtime.
Venice is also known for its celebration of the arts. The Venice Film Festival is the oldest in the world, attracting actors and film-makers from all over the world. Venice Biennale is another long-standing tradition in the area, where the city turns its focus to the fine arts with massive exhibitions highlighting artists from around the world every odd-numbered year.
As the lights come up on the darkened canal waters, so too does Venice's energy and nightlife scene. It may not be on the global jazz map, but the city has a surprising number of jazz clubs where connoisseurs and budding enthusiasts alike can sit back with a glass of wine and enjoy live music.
Venice's historic district is largely limited to cool cocktail and wine bars, though there are a handful of places for dancing through the night. For especially late nights out, you'd be wise to head to the outskirts of town where the noise restrictions are low and the cocktails are strong. That's where you'll find neon lights, DJ sets and a whole lot of moving and grooving.
Take a look at our fantastic range of Venice holiday deals to discover more about this waterway paradise.