Venice is one of those cities that is hard not to adore. It certainly falls up there as one of the most magical and romantic cities in the world. A few weeks ago, I was lucky enough to get to visit Venice again.
Last year I stopped off for a fleeting 24 hours with my toddler in tow. This time we were toddler free and planned to spend a very romantic few days in Venice. Little did I know, there would be a BIG surprise for me…
Venice is one of my favourite cities in the world. There’s something about the bustling waterways and the ancient buildings that makes this a very surreal, movie-like holiday destination. It’s a city that draws you in and makes you fall so in love with the architecture, the food and the culture.
Just like last time, we hunted around for a central AirBnb. We found one down a peaceful back alley, just a ten minute walk from the Rialto Bridge and a ten minute walk from the main bus station that takes you back to the airport.
Although our accommodation was up the very long flights of stairs, it was oh so worth it for its feature point, the little outdoors terrace.
Inside, the apartment was perfect. The bedroom was so spacious and light and was adjoined to a clean and bright shower room.
One thing I was very grateful for were the mosquitos nets across every window. Mosquitos seem to love my legs and give me such grief when I go away. This is the first apartment that’s ever had nets in it and the difference it made was amazing! (Probably my first non bitten holiday).
The kitchen was also so lovely. It wass completely modern and had everything we needed for a comfortable few days stay.
Then there was our favourite spot, the little outdoors terrace. We could have sat out here all day and into the night, if we didn’t have so much that we wanted to see in Venice.
But, ever morning we made the most of our little terrace and tucked into a delicious breakfast of croissants and sweet pastries, bought from the local bakery.
After breakfast each morning, we made it our daily mission to head out and explore and fall even more in love with beautiful Venice.
Venice – Things To See
There are so many beautiful things to see in Venice and we managed to squeeze in a lot in our few days break. We were lucky enough to get an early plane from Bristol airport and arrived in Venice just before midday. That gave us plenty of time to quickly check in and dump our bags and spend our first day exploring and finding our bearings.
Our first stop was the Rialto Bridge. The last time I was here the bridge was bordered up and was being renovated. Although you could walk up the outer steps, you couldn’t see any of the shops or walk up the centre.
They did such an amazing job of the renovation though. It looked like a completely brand new bridge and we loved getting to see all the little shops that now sit in the centre.
Although the bridge gets very busy, we didn’t have to wait long at all before we could get a spot to take beautiful pictures and selfies with the Grand Canal back drop.
Even though I’ve seen it before, I couldn’t help being blown away by just how beautiful Venice is. The busy canal, with colourful waterside buildings as far as the eye can see, really is as enchanting as you see in pictures and paintings. A trip to see the ‘Rialto Bridge’ is a must if you’re ever in Venice.
Alongside the Rialto Bridge are tons of ‘touristy’ restaurants that all have canal side tables. If you’ve never been to Venice before you might want to try one of these out just for the experience and the views. But, the last time I came, even though the views were lovely, I found the canal side restaurants a little on the pricier side for food that was beyond average.
This time we decided to step back a couple of streets and for our first lunch in Venice, we found a restaurant that was aimed a lot more at locals and was a lot cheaper than those on the canal.
The menu had a variety of local cuisines as well as a few ‘tourist’ options. We’d not long got off the plane and weren’t really feeling like indulging just yet, so we both opted for a simple Spaghetti Bolognese. I have to say though, this was hands down the most delicious spaghetti I’ve ever tasted and we both cleaned our plates and found it hard not to ask for more.
St. Marks Square
After lunch we headed over to St. Marks Square. This is only a ten minute walk fro the Rialto Bridge and also a must see in Venice. We visited in the height of August and I fully expected it to be unbearably busy. Although it was packed, it really didn’t feel that overwhelming. I visited last year in October and to be honest it was actually a little busier then.
Although we didn’t go in any of the attractions, we couldn’t resist taking a pictures of all the beautiful buildings and studying them in person. The architecture in Venice is one of my most favourite in the world. The buildings are so grand and the colours and details on them are exquisite.
We especially loved the picture on this archway which was handmade with 1000’s upon 1000’s of individual mosaics. It’s so incredible that they managed to build something like this and it makes you wonder why we don’t put this much detail into buildings anymore.
We really loved the atmosphere of the square and after taking in all the buildings and the waterfront, we became the ultimate tourists and sat down with a tiramasu and an aperol spritz at one of the St.Marks Square restaurants.
The restaurant we sat at overlooked Doge’s Palace and a man was playing a white grand piano accompanied with a few other musicians. It was such a delight to spend the afternoon people watching and soaking in all that makes Venice popular. The atmosphere was so lovely.
After our snack and drink we walked along the water front more and took way too many pictures before heading off to find some more local areas.
One thing you’ll notice about Venice is that it is pumping with tourists. It’s so hard to avoid mass crowds and tour groups. They are everywhere and it can get very crammed walking through the narrow streets and around the attractions.
Even the shopping districts are heaving with people looking for souvenirs and memories of Venice.
We made it our afternoon mission to try and find some quieter local areas, to try and get a feel of what it’s really like for people who actually live in this beautiful city.
About a half an hour walk from St. Marks Square and past the gardens that are home to the famous ‘Le Biennale De Venezia’ we spotted a little green spot, full of trees in the distance. As we were walking along, instantly we noticed the canals were a lot quieter and were mostly full of local boats.
Also the streets were quieter, if not empty and washing was strewn up going from window to window across the streets. This was the Venice we really wanted to see. The real, local Venice.
When we finally reached the tree area we really loved what we found. An open little wooded area full of locals lounging in the sun. A few were picnicing on blankets with their kids running around them, some more were resting on the benches reading books and in the centre was a bunch of lads of all ages playing football together.
One of the walls just behind the trees had big graffiti on saying ‘tourists stay away’ which was understandable. Living in a busy touristy seaside town myself I know all too well how frustrating the crowds can get. But, we still were glad we’d got to peek at this peaceful area.
We didn’t linger too long, but the most beautiful thing was seeing a little box attached to a tree. An older man was looking so intently in the box and when we took a closer look we noticed it was a little book exchange where locals could swap books to read in the sun by the canal.
This was the part of Venice we really fell in love with. The greenery, the big open waters, the quiet walk, the crowd free spaces and the little canals full of local boats. We were sad to turn back, but the sun had started to go down and we were a very long way from our apartment.
One thing I’ve wanted to do for so long is visit Burano. I always see the beautiful vibrant buildings of Burano plastered on Instagram and in any travel piece I read about Venice.
On our 2nd day we woke up to yet another day of beautiful sunshine, so we made the most and hopped on a boat ride (passing more architectural delights like the Peggy Guggenheim museum below) and travelled an hour or so over to the little Island of Burano.
There are several islands close to Venice. Murano is famous for its glass and Burano is famous for both its colourful, vibrant buildings and its lace. I was so excited to get pictures of us against the houses.
Unfortunately my camera got splashed on the boat on the way to Burano. We didn’t find out until we got back home to look at our photos and every single picture I took of this vibrant, beautiful island has turned out grainy and blurry.
I am still so gutted about this and if anyone knows and editing trick to fix this I’m all ears. Despite our poor photos, I’m so glad we got experience the colour and vibrance in real life. From the moment we stepped onto the island we were blown away.
We caught the main water taxi/ferry to Burano from a stop just outside of St Marks Square. The boats do run often but be sure to check which one you get on. Ours stopped at Lido and we had to get off to change and get a new boat. It made our journey so much longer and it us over an hour to get there. To be honest though, it was oh so worth it.
From the minute you get off the boat you are met with the most beautifully painted buildings. Each house is a different colour, from bold pinks, to blues, to reds, to purples. It is the most photogenic place in the world, hence my annoyance at my splashed camera.
The shops are equally beautiful. Famous for its lace, many of the shops sell lace products as well as little touristy goods and food.
We planned to stop off at ‘Al Gatto Nero Da Ruggero’ for lunch. Apparently it’s one of Jamie Oliver’s favourite places to eat, but when we arrived for a table the staff were so unexpectedly rude so we decided to walk away give it a miss.
Instead, reservation free, we stopped off at RivaRosa, situated just in the corner off the main street. Within seconds of walking in we were greeted by a wonderfully friendly waiter who directed us to a riverside table.
We ended up having one of the best meals of our entire holiday. Aitan had a homemade seafood gnocchi and the rich flavours running through it were absolutely divine.
I opted for sea bass with some vegetables and the fish tasted so fresh, light and it was perfectly cooked. The whole atmosphere of the restaurant was lovely and if you are ever in Burano I cannot recommend it enough.
After lunch we went on a photo walk (oh the irony) and spent a few hours finding our favourite coloured buildings to pose in front of, as well as taking moments out to indulge in gelato and more Aperol Spritz.
The island isn’t that big, but so worth a couple of hours of exploring. If you’re coming in the height of summer and are wanting lunch, we fully recommend making a reservation somewhere. We were very lucky to get a table when we did.
After a few hours exploring the island (it’s all you need here) we headed back to Venice and little did I know I was about to get a HUGE surprise.
After we arrived back from Burano, you would have thought that we’d had enough of boat rides for one day. But, we’d knew that it wouldn’t be Venice without a Gondola ride. I wanted to do this so badly the last time we came.. For the first two days we walked up and down so many steps, past some very smelly canals and some seriously cute and beautiful canals.
We kept walking over one particular canal stretch that we fell in love with. When we decided to go on a gondola, we re-found this canal stretch and went in search for a gondola.
We happened to get there just as the three gondolas that were anchored were clocking out for the day. We begged two of the drivers for a ride and one of them agreed he’d go out one last time. Climbing into a gondola feels so special, and I think they are definitely worth trying out at least once if you visit Venice.
We were so chuffed with the gondola route we ended up with. We weaved in and out of the cutest canals, passing so many restaurants and beautiful buildings with flowers and lamps on the walls outside them. It was so magical. The sun had also started to set and the way the light made everything glow was stunning.
And then the most unexpected thing happened. Aitan stood up and got down on one knee. To say that I was shocked was an understatement. I was pretty much rendered speechless, especially seeing him open the little black box to reveal the most beautiful diamond ring I’ve ever seen. It was the most surreal moment of my life and of course I said yes!
Aitan sat back down and we were both shaking with emotions and excitement. Then within minutes our gondola pulled out of our little side canal and we found ourselves sailing down the busy, majestic grand canal at sunset. It made the whole moment even more incredible and Aitan was amazed how he’d timed it so right (neither of knew the gondola took this route).
We ended our ride by heading under the Rialto Bridge before turning back into a little side canal and ending our trip. It will always be the most memorable, magical boat ride of my life.
Shopping Day + Lunch
The next day we decided to take it really easy. We’d spent the first two days cramming everything in so wanted to spend our last day mooching around the shops and soaking up the Venitian atmosphere. We left the camera at home and found a few beautiful little streets that had a mixture of touristy shops, high street shops and designer shops.
We went with the intention to buy souvenirs for our family but ended up kitting out our wardrobes a little bit more. Shopping was also made all the more fun by our little stop offs for espressos and treats along the way.
We also made it our mission to find somewhere beautiful for lunch and stumbled across ‘Taverna La Fenice’ We shared a homemade baked cannelloni with baby spinach and ricotta and also a ragu with meatballs
Four our main we opted for a veal fillet to share. We could have had a large or a small portion. We went for the small and we’re so glad we did. The sauce, mixed with truffle, was so rich. It tasted absolutely incredible, but if the dish had been any bigger, it would have been a little bit too much.
The dish came accompanied with foamy mash potato. It was so light and fluffy and melted like aero chocolate would in your mouth.
After lunch we asked for our bill and we were bought over these little delicacies. Little things like this make such a difference to your experience of these restaurants and makes the little extras you have to pay for like ‘cover charge’ (each restaurant you go in charges you a small amount per person eating) and ‘tip’ oh so worth it.
Our Last Night
After lunch we spent the afternoon looking around some more shops, walking along the canals a little bit more and then spending an hour or so resting on our little apartment terrace.
When the sun started to set we headed out for our ‘last supper’. Around the corner from our apartment was a little restaurant called ‘Osteria Al Cantinon’. Trip Advisor raved about it and we’d walked by it everyday on our way to all the attractions. It sat along the waters edge on a quiet derelict local canal and outside had little bistro tables next to a fence filled with fairy lights. It looked uber romantic.
Unfortunately we really were not impressed with the food. We ordered a prosciutto ham antipasti to share and it was really laking in flavour.
For my main I ordered the tuna pasta but it was overrun with dill which I absolutely hate. It had no mention of this on the menu otherwise I never would have ordered it.
Aitan ordered vongole because he’d not yet tried it in Venice and it came out tasting so salty you could barely eat it. I’ve eaten vongole in Venice before and I have to say, this was such a disappointment. To make matters worse, we found it difficult to the complain to the server who was working by himself in a full restaurant. He barely had time to get to us and it took us over an hour to order food and another half an hour before our drinks even arrived.
For our mains we shared a fish dish with vegetables and again, although the presentation was nice, the flavours didn’t live up to our expectations. Our of everywhere we ate in Venice, this had to be the worst for taste, despite such a perfect location and beautiful presentation. It was such a shame! We were grateful for the lovely atmosphere of the location, but not so happy with the food or service.
Venice – We Are Coming Back
Despite a disappointing last dinner, we couldn’t fault the rest of Venice. We fell so deeply in love. Our 3 day romantic trip to Venice was one of the most magical of my entire life. It’s not everyday you get whisked away for your birthday and then proposed to on a sunset gondola ride.
A piece of my heart now lies in Venice and with so many fond memories of this gorgeous city, it won’t be long before my little feet will be returning soon. When we do we plan to explore a lot more. Since returning I came across this post by A Crazy Tourist (I wish I saw it before!) – 15 Best Things To Do In Venice. I love some of her suggestions and will definitely be adding most of them to our ‘Venice Bucket List’.
I’ve never been so sad to fly back to the UK and the next morning we moodily dragged our cases to the airport bus. Venice is certainly a city that steals your heart and makes you want to stay for a lot longer. We have already made plans to return one day soon and are hoping to make it our ‘anniversary’ tradition.
Have you ever been to Venice before? Or is it on your bucket list? Let me know below!