The insider guide to Venice

Palazzo Cristo.
Palazzo Cristo.
  • Places to stay and eat, things to do and how to get around the 'lagoon city'


Palazzo Cristo Luxury Apartments

If you’re looking for a private, chic Venetian hideaway for a romantic escape, then Palazzo Cristo should probably top the list. This collection of four gorgeous serviced apartments are found in a 16th-century building overlooking the square of Campo Santi Giovanni e Paolo and its ornate Basilica (to the north of the island).

Created by husband and wife designers Frederic Tubau and Anna Covre, these sumptuous private boltholes are a refined oasis of calm in Venice. Expect a spacious living area, sleek high-end kitchen, luxe bathroom with travertine marble shower and deep, free standing Devon & Devon bath, and a bedroom with a four-poster dressed in Frette linens. Underfoot oak parquet and silk carpets contrast with striking white Venetian and black nero marquina marble floors. Each element, fixture and furnishing are bespoke.

This is exclusive self-catering accommodation (you can visit the local markets, delis and bakeries to create seasonal meals, accompanied by refreshing local Veneto white wines). A genuine alternative to the city’s five-star hotels. Prices from 450 euro per night.

Il Palazzo Experimental Hotel

Il Palazzo Experimental.

Il Palazzo Experimental.

Il Palazzo Experimental is one of the new hotels in town; a uniquely styled four- star property in the iconic Adriatica building, looking out over a broad canal to the island of Guidecca.

Il Palazzo Experimental, in the artsy Dorsoduro district of the city (where you can walk to some of the finest galleries, including The Peggy Guggenheim Collection, and Galleria dell’Accademia) has a delightful secret garden that runs down to a quiet canal where you can hop onto a water taxi or gondola; a magical place for evening cocktails and cicchetti, sharing company with not only with fellow guests but local Venetians too. I’d recommend dinner here. The cuisine, explains Food & Beverage manager Guillaume Pinault, showcases “local and slow food products, including seafood from the lagoon and Adriatic Sea, vegetables from Sant’Erasmo island, as well as cheese and meat from the Venetian mainland and nearby mountains.

French group Experimental made their name bringing the contemporary cocktail scene to Paris and have since branched out into stylish, design hotels with interiors by French designer Dorothée Meilichzon. Expect an art deco feel with recurring Venetian motifs from arches to stripes; wall colours of blues and greens that reflect the lagoon, while the bold reds, pale pinks and buttery yellows mirror the neighbourhood houses.

Great value for stylish accommodation, with prices from 160 euros a night.


San Clemente Palace Kempinski Venice

Spectacular setting for lunch or dinner, the Kempinski Venice hotel is found on its very own island of San Clemente, that offers outstanding views over the lagoon towards the renaissance towers and domes of Venice, with the striking Dolomites behind. There’s a free shuttle boat that collects you from a private pier at San Marco, making it easy to experience a unique perspective of Venice. Start off your culinary experience with a classic spritz and enjoy fine seafood, risottos, pasta and fresh lagoon produce from fish to seasonal vegetarian dishes. Service is sophisticated and friendly.

San Clemente Palace.

San Clemente Palace.

The island’s church that dates to 1131 stands beside the dining terrace so take a moment to see the ancient frescoes and paintings inside. If you decide to spend the night, the guest rooms have high ceilings, are filled with natural light and have the signature Kempinski style of classic elegance.


Gran Caffè Quadri on the northern side of Saint Mark’s Square has a relaxed, fairly-priced bistro restaurant on the ground floor serving simple Venetian dishes bursting with summer flavours from the Michelin star kitchen of chef Max Alajmo (the posh, pricey restaurant is upstairs on the first floor with a dining room designed by Philippe Starck). Head waiter Roberto Pepe has plenty of charisma to spare, he’s both entertaining and a very welcoming host. The cold tomato soup with pistachio and black olives was so refreshing - lighter than Andalusian gazpacho, and more intense and aromatic too.

Lagoon-to-table dining is a trend here so the seafood risotto ‘primi’ is a good choice. Homespun Italian dishes like ravioli are transformed into gourmet surprises.

Gritti Palace – Riva Lounge

Travelling to Venice at this time of year means seeing and being seen at the Riva Lounge, on the Grand Canal. This terrace deck, resonant with 60s chic thanks to decking, tables and white leather seats evocative of Riva boats and yachts, is the epitome of Italian style.

Martinis at the Gritti Palace.

Martinis at the Gritti Palace.

Order a Classic Martini, and it will be prepared by your table, on the terrace, your glass chilled with dry ice and the Martini expertly mixed by head barman Andrea.

Signature cocktails include the Gritti Special (China Martini, Campari, Martini Dry), the Dogeressa (Absolut Currant, Chamboard, lime juice, pineapple juice) and Doge Gritti (Old Tom Gin, Carpano Antica Formula, Maraschino, Orange Bitter).

Ristorante Local

New Venetian cuisine by sister and brother team Benedetta and Luca Fullin. Look out for their good value pop-ups in Venice, including at Hotel Pensione Wildner on Saint Mark’s Basin.


Edipo Re gastronomic yacht

Navigate the culinary and cultural delights of Venice’s lagoon aboard Edipo Re (Oedipus Rex), the yacht that saw romance blossom between Italian film director Pier Paolo Pasolini and singer Maria Callas. Enjoy a day exploring the lagoon islands and indulging in lagoon-to-table cuisine created by chefs from some of Venice’s best kitchens.

The Peggy Guggenheim Collection

Venetian cuisine.

Venetian cuisine.

Probably one of Venice’s top cultural attractions, this collection of contemporary art, from Pollock to Kandinsky, was curated by Marguerite “Peggy” Guggenheim, niece of Solomon R. Guggenheim. It is housed in the Palazzo Venier dei Leoni - an 18th-century aristocratic property with striking 1930s waterside frontage and terrace that looks out onto the Grand Canal, which Peggy made her home for three decades until her death in 1979. Works are displayed in an intimate setting of the house, so it doesn’t feel like an impersonal gallery space. There’s a beautiful courtyard sculpture garden too. Advance booking highly recommended. Tickets 16.50 euros.


Colombina – Private Water Taxi

This family water taxi business is run by Luca Vidale and his son, offering private airport transfers and lagoon tours aboard an immaculately maintained vintage 1950s wooden Riva boat. These iconic ‘motoscafi’ are the luxury limousines of the lagoon, and truly the most stylish way to get around.

Book directly via WhatsApp – English spoken - +39 320 6128921

Alilaguna Blue Line

This public waterbus leaves the airport each hour, on the hour, providing an efficient (although long at 90 minutes) transfer service between Marco Polo Airport and Murano, Venice and Lido. The pier is about 10 minutes’ walk from the airport arrivals terminal. Tickets from the office or onboard, 13 euros in cash.