Grand Canal – Venice’s renowned main waterway, its banks lined with exquisite palaces. One of the best ways to see this is from front seats on the circular vaporetto line no. 1.
Piazza San Marco – Venice’s most famous square, where one can fully appreciate the splendour that was ‘La Serenissima’. See it in early morning, or late at night, when all but deserted.
Basilica San Marco – dominating the Piazza, this breathtaking Byzantine cathedral is famed for its sumptuous mosaics.
Palazzo Ducale (Doges Palace) – a magnificent combination of Byzantine, Gothic and Renaissance architecture which was home to the Doge and seat of the government, law courts, prisons and offices for the civil service – the hub of the Venetian Republic. The palace contains many fine paintings and sculpture. Try the ‘Secret’ tour.
Gallerie dell'Accademia – Venice’s top museum is home to a superb collection of Venetian art, displaying the complete spectrum of the Venetian school, which spans five centuries from the medieval Byzantine period through the Renaissance to the Baroque.
Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari – the huge 15thc Gothic church of the Lesser Friars of the Franciscan Order, known as Frari. The inevitable focus of the church is Titian’s soaring ‘Assumption of the Virgin’, while the sacristy houses Bellini’s beautiful ‘Madonna and Child with SS Nicholas, Peter, Mark and Benedict.
Rialto Markets – fruit and vegetable market and the Pescaria (fish market), from around 7 a.m. until 1p.m. Nearby specialist cheese and meat shops too.
Scuola di San Giorgio degli Schiavoni – Carpaccio’s beguiling cycle of pictures depicting the lives of the Saints George, Tryphone and Jerome make this tiny building an essential sight.
Peggy Guggenheim Collection – wonderful cross-section of art of the most famous artists of the first half of the 20th century, set in what was once her private villa facing the Grand Canal.
Torcello – an almost deserted island in the northern lagoon and Venice’s ancient ancestor. The serene cathedral with its Byzantine mosaics and the view from the campanile are unforgettable.
But perhaps the best thing of all is just to wander the streets at random……