Guide to Venice Tourist Attractions

The big attraction in Venice is the canals, and the sight of the gondolas.  But there is more, a lot more.  Venice was the center of a very wealthy, very powerful city state that could afford to build elaborate public buildings, churches, and private residences (called palaces, but they're smaller than what you might imagine a palace to be). 

First, some strategy.  Whether you are visiting Disneyland or Venice, wherever there are lots of people, you need a strategy.  Here it is for Venice -- the city is very crowded during the day, but the crowds begin to thin out and virtually disappear each day around 5:00pm.  Why?  Because a lot of tourists stay on the mainland (many in Mestre, Italy), where hotel rates are much lower.  They head back en masse around dinnertime each day, so they can have dinner and settle into their hotels by early evening.  And that means the tourist attractions are fairly empty.  This is very important to you if you are staying in Venice, because you can visit tourist attraction after tourist attraction in a minimum amount of time, with a minimum of hassle. 

As an example, when we were in Venice, during the day the Doge's Palace had a long line of people in the hot sun, waiting to get in.  We arrived at the palace right at 5:00pm, and literally walked right in.  There were less than ten people in the entire palace.  And we visited the bell tower at 6:00pm, and again walked right in, and immediately took the elevator to the top. 

During the day, while others are waiting in line in the hot sun, spend your time wandering through the shady, narrow streets, and browsing the shops and stores.  Or take a traghetto ride across one of the canals, or visit one of the other islands. 

Of course, to maximize your visit to Venice, we recommend that you stay in the city.  See our "Venice Hotels" link below for a suggestion on where to stay.

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Favorites in Venice

  1. The city itself -- Sort of trite, but true.  Take some time to wander through the streets, up and down the bridges, and along the canals.  Even if all of the tourist sites were closed (they won't be), Venice is a knockout destination.  Don't just "do" Venice - take the time to absorb it, to enjoy it.
  2. The gondolas -- They're everywhere, on the big canals and on the side canals.  Especially during peak tourist times, you'll see gondolas all over Venice.  Snap some photos of them, because they are unique and will be one of your lasting memories.
  3. The Doge's Palace -- It's ornate, and very interesting.  This was where the Doge (the Duke, the ruler of Venice) lived.  Don't miss it.  You can wander at will through the palace.
  4. St. Mark's Basilica -- Here's a travel tip -- visit here at noon, when the interior lights are turned on for an hour.  You'll have to wait in line for this one, but you will have the best view of the ornate interior.  The rest of the time it's sort of dark and gloomy.
  5. Watch the sunset from the bell tower -- It's worth the ride up in the elevator, it won't be crowded, and you'll have some unforgettable photo opportunities.  See our Venice photo page for our shots.
  6. Listen to the bands in St. Mark's Square -- This is one of the best, most memorable experiences of visiting Venice, especially after dark when the crowds have thinned out.  There are two sidewalk cafes, the Cafe Florian and the Cafe Quadri, each with an outstanding band, that are situated across from each other in St. Mark's Square.  This isn't oompah music -- these are extremely good professional musicians playing classical music and some pop hits.  You can sit and enjoy a drink, a meal, or dessert, and listen to the band.  Or, you can stand at the rear of the seating area, and enjoy the free concert.  When one band takes a break, walk over to the other.  Or do what we did, and sit on the stacked-up risers that are used when the square floods. What a wonderful way to spend an evening.  Unforgettable, and free.



It's been called the "Venice of the North" and with good reason.  Amsterdam is full of tree-lined canals, graceful bridges, and an old European city look that is captivating.  It has more canals than Venice, and more bridges than Paris.  It's also counter-culture, which will appeal to veterans of the 1960's.  And overlying everything else is a big city atmosphere with energy and diversity. 

Photos of Amsterdam








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