City, sovereign state, tourist hub, living museum... whatever your impression of Venice, this place continues to defy all logic.
This audacious medieval masterpiece, perilously perched in the Adriatic lagoon, boasts some of the world's finest art and architecture. The City of Love almost sinks under the weight of its incredible past, yet stands tall as a fascinating window into a bygone age.
If you're flying to Venice from London City Airport, here's how you can make the most of your half-day, weekend or full week.
From your hotel, jump on the nearest vaporetto (water bus) with a 12-hour pass and head for the iconic Grand Canal. Relax on the water as you meander between the medieval palaces, churches and townhouses of the San Polo and San Marco districts. Get off at the imposing Rialto Bridge and explore the centuries-old food market on the banks of the canal. After grabbing a bite to eat, weave your way through the enchanting alleyways and backstreets to the heart of the city - St Mark's Square.
At Piazza San Marco, stand back and take in views of the stunning St Mark's Basilica, Doge's Palace, Campanile and clocktower, before seeking out views of the lagoon and iconic Bridge of Sighs. Join the queue to take in one of the square's world-class attractions, or enjoy a well-earned rest for a coffee and gelato.
Pay a trip to timeless Harry's Bar on Calle Vallaresso - a legendary 1930s establishment famed for its martinis and birthplace of the Bellini cocktail and beef carpaccio. Keep an eye out for famous faces in this world-renowned San Marco watering hole.
From St Mark's Square, head north back towards the Rialto Bridge and cross the Grand Canal into the vibrant cultural hub of Dorsoduro. Hit the cobbles of the Calle Lunga San Barnaba for your choice of evening cuisine and then round the night off with a gondola cruise under the stars.
Head straight for St Mark's Square to see the major sights before the crowds arrive. Book online to visit the basilica, or alternatively take a trip around the historic Doge's Palace. Once you've visited the Campanile and Bridge of Sighs, stroll east into Castello to inspect the Arsenale di Vicenza shipyard and the leafy Giardini park. From the peninsula, take the water bus back west onto the Grand Canal and alight at the ancient Rialto Bridge. On the Dorsoduro side, soak up the art at the Gallerie dell'Accademia or Peggy Guggenheim Collection, and then head for dinner at Calle Lunga San Barnaba or Campo Santa Margherita. Round off the evening by enjoying a classical concert at one of the district's churches or halls.
Rise early and use a water bus day-pass for a trip across the lagoon to sandy Venice Lido. From here you can paddle in the Adriatic and enjoy superb views of Venice's architecture from afar. After a coffee, continue your island-hopping by heading north to inspect the beautiful fisherman's houses on Burano. On the way back to Venice, stop in at Murano to visit the Venice Glass Museum. Landing in sleepy Cannaregio, take your choice from the many outdoor restaurants, and then settle into a gondola for a sunset cruise.
Day one Start your first day in Venice by exploring the main cultural sights in San Marco, including St Mark's Basilica, the Doge's Palace and the Bridge of Sighs. Take in the attractions from the square and then jump on the water bus to explore the Grand Canal. From the Rialto Bridge, wind your way through the maze of back streets, stopping to inspect the architecture, shops and cafés.
Day two Spend the morning relaxing on the beach at Venice Lido before returning across the water to Venice to visit the impressive Gallerie dell'Accademia. After dinner, relax at a classical concert in Dorsoduro before enjoying a glass of wine on the Campo Santa Margherita.
Day three Head back to St. Mark's Square for a tour of the basilica and then take the lift up the Campanile for a spectacular bird's eye view of Venice. Enjoy a leisurely afternoon exploring the parks and squares of sleepy Castello, before spending the evening on a gondola cruise on the Grand Canal.
Day four Hire a car to drive north into the spectacular Dolomite mountains. After an energetic hike and some stunning views, return to the Venetian Plain to spend the evening exploring beautiful, vibrant Padua.
Take the water bus north to the islands of Murano and Burano to learn about traditional life away from the hustle and bustle of the city. After dinner, head to Harry's Bar for a drink (a Bellini or dry martini if you want to go with tradition) and wander through the narrow streets to see the Rialto Bridge at twilight.
Day six Take a day-trip by train to see the famous Roman amphitheatre at Verona, returning to Venice for dinner and drinks in laidback Cannaregio.
Day seven Take a trip around the Doge's Palace and learn more about the former Republic of Venice. After lunch pay a trip to the Peggy Guggenheim Collection and spend a couple of hours kayaking in the lagoon for your final view of the islands.