1. Souvenir hunt in style on Rialto Bridge

1. Souvenir hunt in style on Rialto Bridge
This beautiful crossing is the rial thing / Credit: Getty Images

A peerless masterpiece of symmetry and romantic grandeur, the Rialto Bridge deservedly ranks among the loveliest spans anywhere on earth. Built in the late 16th century after a much older wooden bridge embarrassingly collapsed into the Grand Canal, the Rialto is one of the main crossings in the city, so you’ll likely wander over it at some point even if you don’t mean to. It’s crammed with teeny shops, perfect for nabbing gifts, and there are a few cutesy bacari (teeny wine bars) in the nearby Rialto Market, where you can pore over your purchases with a glug of the good stuff.

San Polo

2. See clearly at the Murano Glass Museum

2. See clearly at the Murano Glass Museum
A window into the ancient art of glass craft / Credit: Alamy

Among Venice’s many museums, there’s one that stands out as a clear favourite. The Murano Glass Museum – situated a little away from the city proper, on Murano island – is a beguiling tribute to one of Venice’s oldest artisanal trades. Marvel at the impossibly lovely 600-year-old blue Barovier Cup (once a wedding present), a 150-year-old chandelier and a dainty glass garden. Museum staff insist, quite fairly, you leave your backpack in the lockers provided. You’ll have a smashing time. Please, not in that way.

8 Fondamenta Marco Giustinian, Murano
museovetro.visitmuve.it
General entry €12

3. Chomp on cicchetti

3. Chomp on cicchetti
It's not a trip to Venice without an aperitivo / Credit : Getty Images

Cicchetti is often compared with tapas, in that it’s all about big flavours, small plates and an accompanying glass of something lush. Places that serve it are often packed, so expect to stand up – it just adds to the informality and fun. For a representative sample, bosh down a dinky slab of porchetta (stuffed pork roast) or a few acciughe (anchovies) on crostini at Osteria all’Arco (on Calle Arco), then make your way over to Cantina do Spade (on Calle Do Spade), one of the city’s oldest and reputedly a haunt of famous local loverboy Casanova. 

4. Behold the beauty of the Basilica

4. Behold the beauty of the Basilica
This Byzantine-inflected banger is a must see / Credit: Getty Images

All right, St Mark’s Basilica isn't exactly under the radar. But it’s really quite magnificent, and free, so it's a no-brainer when you're in town. Originally conceived in the 9th century to store relics pinched from Alexandria, the present structure dates back to 1071. With five mighty Byzantine domes it dominates the skyline with angelic statuary, a gold lion – symbol of Venice – gold horses (cos why not) and a gold altarpiece studded with 1,300 pearls, 300 sapphires, 300 emeralds and 400 garnets. It’s well fancy, is what we’re saying.

328 Piazza San Marco, San Marco
basilicasanmarco.it 
Free entry

 

5. Go nocturnal on the Grand Canal

5. Go nocturnal on the Grand Canal
These waterways are best seen without the hordes / Credit: Getty Images

Bit of a pro tip – as lovely as the Grand Canal is by day, it can get a little cramped in high season. And not just by the hordes of (mostly) respectful visitors, but also by everyday commuters who use the waterway to get about. Because of the scrum, nighttime is where it’s really at. The world’s most beautiful city gets an extra coat of gloss in the starlight – all the towers and basilicas light up, and there's the added bonus of peeking through the windows at all the magnificent frescoes and twinkling chandeliers inside.

6. Look at a Leonardo in the Gallerie dell’Accademia

6. Look at a Leonardo in the Gallerie dell’Accademia
Painterly big-hitters abound at this institution / Credit: Alamy

Founded in the 18th century by Venetian bigwigs – who decided the city deserved an institution to celebrate its artistic output – the Gallerie dell’Accademia has expanded over the centuries to incorporate three separate (but conjoined) buildings. Browse dramatic canvases from the likes of Titian, Bellini and Vivarini in the Scuola della Carità, Chiesa di Santa Maria della Carità and Convento dei Canonici Lateranensi halls. The real showstopper is Leonardo da Vinci’s world-famous Vitruvian Man sketch, which hangs in the Sala delle Riduzioni Accademiche and awaits you with open arms.

Campo della Carità, Dorsoduro
gallerieaccademia.it
General entry €12

7. Loosen up on the Lido

7. Loosen up on the Lido
Lido Island is a genteel flipside to the bustle of Venice proper / Credit: Getty Images

You probably don’t associate Venice with beach holidays. But the Lido – yes, outdoor swimming pools like the ones in the UK are literally named after this island – boasts an 11km sandbar, some groovy art deco architecture and endless places to pause for a cooling gelato. This serene isle also has a highbrow side – noted scribblers like Lord Byron and Ernest Hemingway famously loved it here; every year the Venice Film Festival lends the place a frisson of sexy Hollywood panache.

8. Play it cool at Gelateria Nico

8. Play it cool at Gelateria Nico
Creams come true at this waterside sweet shop / Credit: Alamy

Widely regarded as the best ice cream stop in town, Gelateria Nico has a lot going for it. There's the gelato, of course, which is beyond special – special shout out to the gianduiotto with black cherry and cream, or pistachio and coffee if you’re feeling a bit nutty. But the setting isn’t too shabby either, with some dreamy outdoor seating on the Fondamenta Zattere waterfront that catches the coral-hued Venetian sunsets just right. It also whips up a perfect negroni, if you fancy something harder after the soft stuff.

922 Fodamenta Zattere al Ponte Longo, Dorsoduro 
gelaterianico.com

9. Colour yourself surprised on Burano island

9. Colour yourself surprised on Burano island
The multicolour waterfront on Burano / Credit: Getty Images

Things are really popping off on another island in the lagoon. Colour-wise, that is – Burano is a mad, multicolour feast for the senses. The island’s dinky, tightly packed cottages are decorated in a range of vivid hues, and the famously chilled locals are usually found sat outside playing cards or chattily working on the lace that pays the bills around here. It’s about 45 minutes by water bus from downtown but well worth it for the pretty surroundings and friendly vibe. They even have their own leaning tower – you might say they’re taking the Pisa.

10. Sup with the cool kids at Café Noir

Looking for a boozy joint that isn’t overrun with tourists? Students, fresh out of the university just up the road, love Café Noir for its gritty, boho vibe, banging soundtrack and (mostly, let’s face it) its array of cheap fizz by the glass. Inexpensive panini seal the deal, as do the ultra-friendly bar staff who actually seem to care if you have a lovely nigh or not. Meet locals, sup cocktails and eat well for next to nowt? Just when you think you know Venice, it never fails to surprise.

3805 Dorsoduro, San Polo
facebook.com/cafenoirvenezia

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