Not for nothing is Venice known as the City of Water. Yet despite the huge numbers of tourists, this unique destination – made up of 118 islands and more canals than you can shake a gondolier’s oar at – retains much of its original charm. With Venetian Gothic palaces and elegant medieval squares, this extraordinary Unesco World Heritage Site wows at every turn. Here’s our choice of the best places to stay.
To experience Venice like a local, there’s one thing you need to know: houses here are not arranged sequentially here; instead, they are numbered by district, so it can be confusing to find the address of where you’re staying. Luckily, there’s beauty on every canal corner, making it a great place to get lost, and you’ll find plenty of charming Venetians willing to point you in the right direction.
Formerly home to Giacomo Favretto, one of the most famous Venetian artists of the 19th century, Hotel San Cassiano has all the charm you would expect from a historic building in Venice. Now a four-star hotel, this elegant property offers rooms stuffed with Murano chandeliers and rare antiques. Enjoy continental breakfast in the dining room, where you’re also served with a splendid view over the Grand Canal.
Hotel San Luca, in the heart of the city, is close to many of the major sights, including St Mark’s Square. Known for their exceptional service, the staff are knowledgeable on all things Venetian and can give you recommendations on the attractions and restaurants that are worth a visit. You’re provided with a map upon check-in, which is particularly helpful when trying to find your way around the complex numbering system.
Despite being in the thick of things, Hotel Ala is set in a quiet square between Ponte dell’Accademia and St Mark’s Square, so it’s surprisingly peaceful. Housed in a typical 18th-century building, once the Maurogonato Palace, many of the rooms look out over the canals. Fun fact: the in-house American bar, Tarnowska’s, is named after Russian countess Maria Tarnowska who gained notoriety for plotting to kill one of her lovers in this ancient palace.
This historic building is a picture of grandeur, fitting the Venetian aesthetic and complemented by a traditional courtyard. Open year-round, the terrace is home to an “emotional” pool if it’s wellness you’re after, and a salt-water whirlpool to help alleviate stress. Enjoy a buffet breakfast in the botanical courtyard: highlights include a continental spread of croissants, eggs and bacon.
Located in the district of Castello, this is a fabulous base if you’re seeking peace, even though you’re within walking distance of Venice’s main attractions. This spacious apartment has been lovingly furnished with Italian touches, including decorative busts and Renaissance-style portraits. Meanwhile, host Michele has the insider tips that will make your trip unforgettable.
In the heart of Venice, a short walk from the Rialto Bridge and St Mark’s Square, this is an ideal place to base yourself for your exploration of the city. It’s on the fourth floor of a former palace (there is a lift) and sleeps up to four people. The open-air roof terrace will delight sun worshippers – or you might just want to sit under the awning and take in the views.
Perfect for families and groups, the Venetian House, in San Polo, Venice’s smallest sestiere, can sleep up to five adults and two children. It is near many of the main attractions worth visiting. The modern interior is done out in softer tones with an understated look, while the plant-filled terrace is a fabulous spot to enjoy early evening drinks.
This 18th-century residence, on the Canale di Cannaregio, has been designed with romance in mind, offering an authentic Venetian experience. Many of the rooms, named after local attractions, are decked out in traditional Venetian style, such as walnut wood finishings, and offer spectacular views of the passing gondolas. Luxuriate in your room before exploring the city on a gondola yourself.
Fancy seeing Venice’s vibrant side? Stay in the San Polo district. The snug Erbaria Boutique Apartment is in the thick of it, yet promises a relaxing stay; it’s the perfect place to wind down with a glass of prosecco. For a stress-free stay, there’s a food-delivery service, so if you email them your order at the time of booking, you’ll have a full supermarket shop waiting for you on arrival.
Formosa 5193 Apartment, in the historic Centro Storico old town of Venice, offers what you would call a room with a view: the sight in question is the San Severo canal. There is no better place to watch the world – and the gondolas – go by. Inside, the 1960s and 70s decor makes this pet-friendly apartment feel like it’s been pulled out of a time capsule.