Photo compliments of Fototeca ENIT

Known as the queen of the Adriatic, Venice is a city of narrow canals, arched bridges, and impossibly romantic gondolas.

One of the most romantic cities in the world, Venice is on every cruiser’s wish list. The ship’s grand entrance (or sailaway) along the Giudecca Canal – where even mid-sized ships tower above the medieval palaces and bell towers – provides stunning views and an unforgettable experience.

The city itself is clustered across more than 100 islands separated by a spider’s web of narrow canals. There’s no need to stray far from the centre, and getting lost is all part of the fun.

What to see and do

Most ships dock at the main cruise terminal, Venezia Terminali Passeggeri, served by regular waterbuses that will whisk you to Piazza San Marco quickly and cheaply (some cruise lines provide a shuttle offering the same service). Smaller ships line up along the waterfront at Stazione Maritime, a little closer to the centre.

Photograph compliments of Fototeca ENITBrace yourself for huge crowds in San Marco. There will invariably be queues to get into the magnificent Basilica, the Campanile (bell tower) and the Palazzo Ducale (Doge’s Palace). All three are worth waiting for; a guided tour may get you in quicker. The Secret Passages tour (book in advance) takes you through the attics, hidden corridors and cells of the Palace, where Casanova was imprisoned.

The two top art galleries are the Gallerie dell’ Accademia, featuring Venetian art from the 14th to 18th centuries, and the contemporary Peggy Guggenheim Collection, housed in a magnificent palace on the island of Sestiere Dorsoduro.

The best way to see the Grand Canal from the water is to ride on a water bus, or vaporetto, taking line 1 – cheap and easy provided you avoid rush hour. Gondoliers are everywhere, plying their trade with panache. Sunset is a great time to book a ride: the mellow light reflecting off the terracotta and ochre of the palaces is perfect for photos.

Shopping tends to be expensive and gimmicky, but for a bit of fun, visit some of the Carnival costumiers to admire the lavish costumes and masks. Atelier Marega (marega.it) and Stefano Nicolao (nicolao.com) both rent and sell extravagant outfits.

Had enough of the crowds? Take the waterbus to Murano and Burano, two nearby islands with glassblowing and lace workshops, as well as pretty waterside cafés for an unhurried meal.

Where to eat and drink

Photo compliments of Fototeca ENIT
The nearby island of Burano

Anywhere on San Marco, like the famous Caffè Florian, will cost a fortune – you pay for the location. Instead, try Trattoria Da Fiore (dafiore.it) for superb fish and local specialities in the evening. The iconic Harry’s Bar (cipriani.com) near San Marco is a must for a Bellini (the peach juice and prosecco cocktail was invented here) but overpriced otherwise. The terrace of the Bauer Hotel (bauervenezia.com) is gorgeous, also just off San Marco and right on the Grand Canal, but dress smart as it’s a posh hotel.

Where to stay

Good five-star hotels include the Bauer (bauervenezia.com) and the historic Luna Hotel Baglioni (baglionihotels.com), both of which have fantastic locations just off San Marco. For something slightly cheaper, try Hotel Canal (hotelcanal.com), a three-star hotel overlooking the Grand Canal near Piazzale Roma.

Fact File
Population 270,000
Language Italian
Climate Hot all summer, often humid and sometimes thundery. Occasional high tides flood Piazza San Marco, which is quite a sight.
Currency Euro
Time Zone GMT+1
Dialling Codes +39
Useful Websites www.turismovenezia.it