Venice © Pedro Szekely
Venice is unique, its elegant buildings and palaces peering over an ancient maze of narrow streets and labyrinth of canals. Tourists here wake up to the morning calls of gondoliers before venturing out to lose themselves among the twists and turns of this famously romantic haven.

The city rests on one of 117 islands distributed throughout the Venetian lagoon. The aptly named Grand Canal splits the city, running from the Santa Lucia railway station past the famous Rialto Bridge to piazza San Marco, home to the cathedral of Basilica di San Marco, adorned with endless mosaics that sparkle at sunset.

The historic centre is divided into six quarters (sestieri): San Marco, Dorsoduro, San Polo, Santa Croce, Cannaregio and Castello. Countless waterways wind their way through the city. While some choose to pick their way over the more than 400 bridges, by far the most popular way to get around is to cruise the waterways onboard vaporetti boats, or on an iconic gondola.

Known for its inventive cuisine, lavish spreads of cicheti (Venetian tapas) can be found in bars around the city, while canal-side bistros offer spectacular fine dining experiences. Venice's penchant for outlandish fashion gave the world eyeglasses, dresses without corsets, and platform shoes, and the annual carnivale festival is renowned for the elaborate masks on display.

Venice extends beyond its six sestieri to the islands of Murano, Burano and Torcello. These are known for glass and lace-making respectively, and Torcello is noted for the magnificent Byzantine Basilica of Santa Maria Assunta that rests on its soil. Trips by boat to the islands provide a pleasant escape from the busier historic quarters.