Grand Canal after sunset, Venice - Ital

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Venice is a truly unique city that draws millions of visitors who are attracted by its stunning beauty. With ancient buildings, historic churches and world-class galleries and museums, all set against a background of canals, Venice has it all.

Why go?

Not surprisingly, the city is a UNESCO Heritage Site and it is made up of 118 islands with 177 canals winding their way between the beautiful Venetian buildings.

Around 400 bridges help connect everything together. One of the most famous is the Rialto Bridge, which is the oldest of the four bridges to span the Grand Canal, dating back to 1591. Venice is an easy city to explore on foot or on the water using water taxis and, of course, the famous and romantic gondolas.

The Grand Canal itself is well worth a trip down. You can take the vaporetto canal bus, soaking up the sights of the ornate buildings, which bring to life the famous Canaletto paintings of the city. Or take a gondola ride on the lagoon and enjoy the water in the unique Venetian style.   

Explore the many squares, churches, markets and piazzas. By day the city is very busy with huge crowds of day trippers. However, by the time evening falls, many have left, leaving the city to those who choose to stay over. And it is in the evenings you'll experience the real charm of the city and the romance with which it is associated.

If you want to escape the history and find some sun, sand and sea then the Lido de Jesolo is only a few kilometres or thirty minutes by ferry. With its long stretch of golden sands you can combine the culture of Venice with a more traditional day by the seaside, or stay in one of the many hotels that line the seafront. It makes a unique trip from the city.

Where to stay?

To experience the true heart of the city when the day trippers have left, make sure you stay in centrally located Venice hotels.

That way you can enjoy a more peaceful and less busy Venice in the evenings.

Venice's popularity means that there are plenty of hotels to cater for visitors. Many hotels are run and managed by local families, helping to ensure you experience the true Venice. A lot of hotels are located in traditional buildings and some are converted from old palaces.

The majority of hotels are comfortable two- and three-star premises. It's common for hotels in Venice to just offer bed-and-breakfast accommodation but eating in local restaurants is part of the joy of any trip, so this suits most people.

If you are looking for something grander then Venice does, of course, have its share of exclusive five-star hotels. Famous establishments include The Danieli and The Cipriani, which are in the centre of the city and favourites with the stars who attend the annual Venice Film Festival which is held at the end of August. This is a good time to come if you want to see film stars but hotels will get booked up in advance so plan ahead.

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What to see?

With so much to see on a trip to Venice, we have rounded up some of the top attractions we would recommend.

Major attractions in Venice include Piazza San Marco, also known as St Mark's Square and Saint Mark's Basilica, which occupies the eastern end of the square. The church is in the Byzantine-Gothic style of architecture and includes fine mosaics and three famous bronze horses which were stolen from Constantinople in 1204 and installed around 1254. Napoleon took the horses to Paris in 1794 but they were returned to the city in 1815.

Next door is the Doges Palace, which is well worth taking the time to explore on a guided tour, and the Torre dell'Orologio, which you can climb for amazing views across the lagoon and square.

Venice has many fine galleries, including the Peggy Guggenheim Museum which has a collection of works painted by some of the finest artists of the 20th century. Works by Dali, Picasso, Max Ernst and Pollock can all be found here. If you are in town during the bi-annual Venice Biennale, you can see all manner of modern art from across the globe exhibiting in this major arts festival.

Take a water boat and visit the small islands of Murano for glass blowing workshops and galleries, Torcello for Byzantine churches, and Burano for its brightly painted fishermen's houses lining the waterfront.

What's on?

If you are looking to make more of your stay in Venice, why not try visiting when one of these events is taking place?

Regata delle Bafane; January 6: Each year, this rowing race takes place along the Grand Canal, with five veteran rowers pressed into service to compete using a traditional Venetian boat and just one oar.

Carnival; February/March: The Venice Carnival is one of the best known cultural events in Europe, taking place over the 10 days in the run up to Shrove Tuesday. With masked balls and extravagant costumes, as well as the famous carnival masks, this is a truly unique experience to enjoy in one of the most magical settings on the planet.

Palio delle Antiche Repubbliche Marinare; May: A four-yearly boat race between galleons in the Venice Lagoon, with thousands watching in fancy dress from the Doges Palace.

Venice Film Festival; August: Probably the second most important film festival in the world, this major event attracts films and movie stars from across the world for premieres and celebrations. A chance for star spotting on the lido.