A visit to Venice, composed of over 100 small islands within a lagoon in the Adriatic Sea, often feels like entering into a fairytale – one that began in the 5th century AD. With gondolas guiding tourists through a maze of canals amidst ancient homes, this capital of Italy’s Veneto region exudes endless romance within each of its six sestieri, or neighborhoods. Even the cicchetti bars and artisanal shops look like they are plucked from another era. From Piazza San Marco where the Campanile bell tower offers bird’s eye views, to the glass-making island of Murano, it’s impossible not to become smitten with “The Floating City.”

Art & Culture Immersion

While it’s possible to spend aimless days wandering along the canals and peering over stone bridges, art and culture loom grandly in this celebrated city. Established in the 9th century, Palazzo Ducale, or Doges’ Palace was once the seat of the Republic’s government, bureaucracy, and even housed prisoners. This regal palace presents a lesson in Venetian history while showing off one of the world’s largest oil paintings in the Grand Council Hall – Paradiso by Tintoretti. Take a step back as far as the 13th century when visiting one of Venice’s most venerated churches, the Basilica di Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari. For a modern art fix, head to the Peggy Guggenheim Collection and the Palazzo Grassi, also known as the Punta della Dogana, set within a former customs building.

Fashion Fix

From a one-time trading post for German merchants to a custom house under Napoleon and finally a post office, the Fondaco dei Tedeschi dating back to 1228 has lived many lives. Opened in 2016, this luxury shopping mall at the foot of Rialto Bridge on the Grand Canal redesigned by OMA and Rem Koolhaas harmonizes antique details with modern minimalism. A well-curated assortment of authentic Venetian crafts includes handmade Murano glass vases, embellished Venetian masks, and high-end gondolier hats and striped shirts. You can also shop luxury fashion and accessories from over 300 global brands including Valentino, Fendi, Gucci, Burberry, and Saint Laurent. Take a shopping break to enjoy dazzling city views from the rooftop. Another leading spot for artisanal souvenirs is Paolo Olbi’s paper shop. A bookbinder since 1962, Paolo more recently added photo albums, frames, and agendas to his collection.

Drinking & Dining

Dining in Venice is often a return to history. Neo-Baroque Caffè Florian with its vast terrace on Piazza San Marco first opened in 1720 and continues to invite for a nostalgic coffee or an aperitivo. Once favored by Casanova, Venice’s oldest cicchetti bar Cantina Do Mori dates back to 1462. Among the countless bars serving these traditional Venetian finger foods, Osteria Al Squero and Al Timon are trusted haunts buzzing with locals. For a more decadent meal blending traditions from both land and sea, dine at the helm of chef Agostino Doria at Ostaria Santa Marina. A hotspot where dishes creatively combine with seasonal produce is Ostaria da Rioba, while inventive Corte Sconta spares nothing when it comes to fresh seafood.

Where to Stay in Venice

Translated to the house of God in the local dialect, hotel Ca’ di Dio recently opened its noble doors in the Arsenale district, famous for the Venice Biennale. Overlooking a canal and the island of San Giorgio Maggiore, this former Venetian palace whose origins date back to 1272 has been soulfully redesigned by Spanish architect Patricia Urquiola. Custom crafted furniture, Murano glass light fixtures, and preserved frescoes decorate the space, from the sunlit lobby with its original porticoes to the 57 extra-spacious suites and 9 rooms. High above the three courtyards, two of the suites unveil traditional Venetian balconies with hypnotic views. A deeper dose of relaxation can be found at PURA spa. From the expert mixologists at Alchemia bar to Executive Chef Raimondo Squeo at restaurant VERO where traditional flavors mingle with playful innovations, prepare for 5-star drinking and dining, maybe even beneath a starry sky.