With its winding canals, gliding gondolas and beautiful bridges, the Floating City is top of many travellers’ list of must-see destinations. Spread over 118 islands, and boasting some of the world’s most stunning architecture (not to mention art), the Unesco world heritage site is genuinely one of the most romantic destinations on Earth. The best way to enjoy Venice is just to wander and get lost – after all, this is a city with no cars – but sometimes it helps to have a destination in mind, especially in a town where the tourists outnumber locals each year by a ratio of 370 to one. Of course, there is fun to be had being serenaded by a gondolier, but there are also plenty of hidden gems where you can settle in for a plate of cicchetti or an evening of live music as the waters of the world’s most famous lagoon lap at your feet. Dive in!
Brought to you with Aperol
Suonica Festival Jesolo When you think of festivals in Venice, most likely the biennale or the annual film festival will spring to mind, but in July and August the Suonica Festival in the town of nearby Jesolo draws music-lovers to the Floating City. This year a host of Italian and international artists, including singer-songwriter Tananai and hip hop duo Coma Cose will play at Jesolo’s beautiful Pegaso Park, which is just a short boat ride from La Serenissima. A sunset concert series like no other.
Laguna Libre The sound of gently undulating waves against ancient stones is part of the romance of Venice, but for a slightly livelier waterside experience, Laguna Libre is the perfect spot. Grab yourself a drink and enjoy live music from local and international acts. Plus, with an extensive fresh menu that sources its ingredients from within a zero-kilometre radius, this is a great evening to settle in with friends for an evening of good friends, great vibes and chill tunes.
Terrazza Aperol According to the Italian Harper’s Bazaar, “Venice is an Aperol Spritz”. It is easy to see how the magazine came to that conclusion, given the city’s luminous sunsets and sparkling spritzes. So what better place to enjoy the Number One cocktail in Italy than Terrazza Aperol? The bar is the quintessential expression of what Aperol is all about, with its perfectly made drinks and freshly prepared cicchetti. The decor of the bar is also a love letter to the City of Water, with chandeliers made by local glassmakers and other gloriously Venetian elements. Some historians even believe that the tradition of aperitivo may have started in Venice! So do like the locals do, grab your Aperol Spritz and your cicchetti and then head out onto the terrace, which sits on the lively Campo Santo Stefano, to watch the locals drift by from one canal to the other – a glorious Venetian tradition that dates back hundreds of years.
Birreria Zanon This unconventional bar, situated in the outskirts of Cannaregio, is filled to the brim with wonderfully kitsch décor, including playful signs and fishing nets. It is a popular spot with young Venetians who come here to enjoy Aperol Spritzes, but the best seats in the house are the handful of tables by the canal, which are the ideal spot for a relaxed evening of cicchetti (including plenty of delicious vegan and vegetarian options).
Osteria al Squero Venice is not a big city. In fact, you could walk across it from head to tail in about an hour. So unsurprisingly, in a city this compact, plenty of bars and restaurants can be a pretty cosy experience. This local neighbourhood bacari in Dorsoduro is true to form and is definitely best described as a standing-room-only kind of place. But for food this good, it is worth getting up close and personal with the crowds of Venetians who flock here nightly to enjoy some of the best cicchetti and panini the city has to offer. Just sharpen your elbow a bit before you come.
Libreria Acqua Alta There are plenty of attractive bookshops the world over, but it is hard to argue with the title the Libreria Acqua Alta has bestowed upon itself: “the most beautiful bookstore in the world”. Its name literally translates to “High Water Bookstore” because the shop is subject to flooding when the city’s tides begin to rise. The owners’ ingenious solution to this problem is to pile their books, magazines and other items into bathtubs, waterproof bins and even a full-sized gondola. The effect is a photogenic literary wonderland that bibliophiles will dream of forever.
Squero di San Trovaso Gondolas are the boats that have launched a million dreamy afternoons, but where do the gondolas themselves launch from? The answer to that question is the Squero di San Trovaso, a traditional boatyard that dates back to the 17th century and remains one of just three functional boatyards in Venice today. The squero is not open to the public but it’s possible to sneak a peek – and snap a perfect pic – of the boat builders in action from the opposite bank of the San Trovaso Canal. Plus you can stop off at Osteria Al Squero for some delicious (and also quite photogenic) crostini.
Private gondola ride with a photo shoot Ok, a photo shoot on a gondola is cheesy. But if there is one place you have licence to embrace your inner cheeseball, it is surely Venice. The tour from Viator takes you on a two-hour trip around some of the most scenic parts of the city, with your very own photographer on board, which means you can put down your phone and just enjoy the sights. Then just one week after you get home, your own digital photo book will arrive. So go on, give yourself permission to be a proper tourist, just for one afternoon.
Kayaking through the canals Experience the floating city from a whole new point of view and at your own speed with kayak tours from Venice Kayak. Paddling around the city makes for a contemplative experience, is good exercise and is an ecologically sustainable way to see the city. It is also a great way to see some of the less touristy parts of the city, with a guide who can take you to some places popular with local. Plus paddling around the canals of Venice really is so much fun it feels like it should be illegal.