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Venice

Virtually unchanged for the last 600 years, Venice is one of the most charming destinations in the world. Built on a network of 118 islands in the Venetian Lagoon, Venice was once a prosperous city that had total control over Mediterranean sea trade, armed with a formidable navy. Today, this UNESCO Heritage-listed port city derives most of its income from tourism, with a reported fifty thousand tourists visiting every day.

Venice is famous for its gondolas, canals and historic architecture. While gondolas still ply the city's waterways, water buses – vaporetti – are now the preferred form of transport for getting from point to point. For exploring the inner part of Venice – the Rialtine Islands – the best method is to walk. Wandering aimlessly through Venice's winding alleyways is an invaluable travel experience and a few hours lost in the back streets will provide as authentic a snapshot of Venice as any guided tour.

Venice's architecture spans several centuries, from 12th-century Byzantine to 17th-century Baroque. The most famous structure in the city the immense Byzantine St Mark's Basilica, situated on the equally as grandiose St Mark's Square. The cathedral is noted for its intricate façade, opulent gold mosaics and majestic domed silhouette while the square acts as a meeting point for tourists and a venue for major public events. The Gothic Doge's Palace nearby is also a hotspot for tourists, connected to the prison next door by the famous Bridge of Sighs.

Outside the Rialtine Islands is the Lido – Venice's beach getaway. A short vaporetto ride from St Mark's Square, Lido is a narrow sandbar, one side of which serves as a private beachfront for hotels, with public beaches at either end of the island. Lido is the location of the Venice Film Festival and where many tourists base themselves to get away from the crowds of the inner islands when their sightseeing is done.

Venice's cobblestone lanes are for pedestrian use only, so visitors must surrender their cars either on the mainland or in the car park next to Stazione Santa Lucia, the train terminus.

For more information on hotels and landmarks in the different areas of Venice, click on the interactive Venice map on the left-hand side of the page.