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I like to mix my sightseeing up with very popular places that could be crowded with out of the way places for the simple reason who wants to be in a crowd all day.
My top pick is the Doge’s Palace. The palace was built between 1172 & 1178 then in 1340 construction began to add space to the palace and added a wing facing the lagoon and again around 1424 adding a wing facing the square. The Doge's Palace was the home of the ruler of Venice and was the seat of the government of Venice for a few centuries. The Palace had many functions some being Venice's courts of law and normal government administration and at one point in time was also the city jail. I like the Doge's palace because of the magnificent and ornate ceilings which are all carved and painted with different pattern. The Palace also houses many works of art but not all rooms have artworks in them.
My second pick is the bell tower in St Marks square. There isn't much in the tower but the bells and the mechanism that makes them work but the views you get of the entire city of Venice is what you are there to see. When I was there I couldn't take enough pictures of the city and the view in every direction was fantastic. The only reason I didn't stay in the tower longer was it was coming to the top of the hour and I didn't want to be there when the bells were ringing.
My third pick is the church Gesuiti, which is located on the street Campo dei Gesuiti which is on the north side of the island and is a few blocks away from the waterbus stop that takes you to Murano. Originally a different church stood in this location but after a few fires one around 1214 and another around 1514 which meant the church had been rebuild several times with the last rebuild starting in 1715 and was the last major rebuild of the church. Along the way a large monastery was added to the church. I am not a religious person but the beauty and splendor of this church is a prime example of what people can do in the name of their religion.
My next pick would be the Rialto bridge. About half way down the grand canal from where it starts near the train station and where it ends near Saint Marks square. The Rialto bridge was built in 1181 and like so many thing built that long ago the bridge has had many rebuilds over the years with the last major rebuild taking place in 1591. The bridge is a beautiful piece of work and not a normal bridge as it is at least 30 feet wide and not only connects the business districts on either side but also houses many different businesses on the bridge itself. A wonderful place to take pictures and have pictures taken of you.
The last of my top five is the church St. Mary of the Friars or just Frari depending on who you ask. The church is located on Campo dei Frari which is about in the middle of the island. The church started being built in 1222 and over the years with many additions everything was finely finished in 1442. The exterior of the church like so many in Venice is nothing to speak of. The interior is what everyone comes to see with 12 huge pillars holding up the roof is a site to see in itself. However the collection of artwork and sculptures in the church is some of the best on the island.
As I said I like to mix up the type of sites I like to see and although my next sites aren't on the top of my list they are still things everyone wants to see. San Marco square is one of those sites and since you have to pass buy it on your way to other sites you might as well see it. It is a huge square with shops and restaurants around. On one end often there will be stage erected for concerts on the other end is the entrance to Saint Marks Basilica. Depending on the time you visit the square it could be very crowded but because there are many places to eat there are many places to sit, but don't expect of have an inexpensive lunch because the restaurants are a little on the pricey side.
My last pick here is Saint Marks Basilica. I myself didn't care much for the Basilica for a number of reasons. You had to go to a separate building where you had to leave your back pack or any large bag you were caring I believe you could keep a camera bag but weren't allowed to take pictures. The other thing I didn't care for was the inside of the church itself which was very dark. I don't know if they don't have lights or if they just weren't turned when I was there but it made it difficult to see the paintings and sculptures inside. I also felt a little rushed while I was in there as well but as I said I didn't much care for the experience.
All the sites I went to I walked to and did on our own but most of the sites I went to are available as a tour for those who wish to not look for these places by themselves or who want to know more of information about what they are seeing. To see a list of tours in Venice I work with Viator the largest tour company in Europe, you can either follow this link to Viator or you can go to there banner on the side of this page.
There are very many more things to see and do in Venice and I saw a lot more than just my top pick one of them is to just wonder the streets because there are wonderful surprises everywhere.
To decide what your favorite sights in Venice are, all you need to do is plan your trip to Italy and see.
Bell Tower St Marks Square
St Marks Basilica
St Marks Square
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