Venice is an incredible destination for a luxury experience, and not just because the city boasts some of Italy’s most expensive hotel rooms. The traditional definition of “luxury” is not hard to come by in Venice, but in my experience, most travelers aren’t looking for VIP-red-carpet treatment. They want to maximize their vacation time in comfort and through unique experiences. And that, they tell me, is money well-spent.
Having access to experiences that are unique and authentic, while also enjoying above-and-beyond service and relaxing in maximum comfort, is an ideal recipe for a luxury vacation in Venice.
Five star hotels abound in Venice. Splurging on one of Venice’s top hotels means budgeting at least $1,500 per night, per room (and note for families, 4+ person rooms are not common). Maybe you don’t want to spend that much, or maybe you can spend more. But a comfortable hotel where you can relax and recharge is money well spent. For those rates, expect opulent decor, the best views, a centrally located oasis away from the tourist fray, and of course, impeccable service.
On a recent trip to Venice, my kids and I stayed at the Londra Palace Hotel, where I’ve sent many thrilled clients in the past. We arrived by private boat to the hotel’s dock about midnight, and when we awoke the next morning and opened the windows, we were greeted by this view:
Ahh, our own private spot to relax in comfort, smack dab in the center of the city and right on the water. While we ate the plate of cookies and chocolates left by the hotel (before breakfast! said the kids) and enjoyed our private view, here were the crowds just underneath that window:
With its Byzantine history, hotels in Venice often reflect that unique style of decor. I think the word opulent best describes Venice’s classic hotel decor, as you can see from our suite at the Londra Palace. There are of course hotels with modern design but for anyone who wants to experience the quintessential Venetian style, it’s easy to find rooms with heavy drapes made from luxurious fabrics, rooms with gilt details, and glass chandeliers.
The Aman Hotel had recently opened, so after a large buffet breakfast on the terrace, we headed over to visit. The self-proclaimed “seven star hotel” is right on the Grand Canal and has since made headlines as the location of George Clooney’s wedding. It has a beautiful peaceful inner courtyard, ornate chandeliered ballroom-style-yet-modern lounges, and incredible original frescoes by 18th century artist Giambattista Tiepolo in the common areas and even in some guest rooms.
Even if you’re a down-to-earth traveler, there’s no good reason to spend your valuable vacation time in Venice waiting in lines, fighting crowds, figuring out ticket machines, or jostling for standing-only room on Venice’s public boats, called vaporetti. Take a private water taxi directly from the airport to your hotel’s dock for about 100 euros. Hire a private boat for about 120 euros per hour in high season to take you on a tour of the islands of the lagoon, including Murano, Burano, and Torcello.
Visit St Mark’s Basilica after hours, taking your time to explore the details, with in-depth explanations from your own private guide. If you’re a guest at the Londra Palace, escape the crowds along Riva degli Schiavoni by booking lunch or a sunset aperitivo on their private rooftop terrace, which has 360 degree views of the city. Here’s my video from the top of the Londra Palace rooftop terrace.
The hotels are expensive, but there are lots of authentic experiences Venice has to offer that don’t cost much. If food and drink are a highlight of your trip, set aside time every day to partake in Venice’s pre-dinner culture. Don’t miss Venice’s iconic pre-dinner drink, the Bellini, especially if you’re there in high season when the peaches are ripe. I love Bellinis but my favorite pre-dinner drink from Venice is the Aperol spritz (it’s an acquired taste, though). I also recommend hiring a local food expert to take you on a tour of Venice’s small bites, or cicchetti, which are a uniquely Venetian experience and are much enhanced, in my opinion, with some explanation.
Or hire a personal shopper for a few hours, who can lead you through Venice’s maze of tiny streets, past the tourist shops selling glass, past the crowds of tourists snapping photos in front of Prada — to more artisanal stores, where you can meet paper makers, glass makers, wood workers, shoe makers and more. These artisanal stores are becoming rarer, unfortunately, and so are more difficult to find among the ever-growing selection of stores geared to tourists.
Go behind-the-scenes with local experiences: hire a private guide to take you to the glass-blowing island of Murano for private showings with glass-blowers for a more behind-the-scenes look, while everyone else watches the famous glass-blowing demo of the horse.
Luxury in Venice is not necessarily about spending your life savings or about getting VIP treatment 24/7. It’s about spending your time, money, and energy well. It’s about having access to good advice and excellent local guides in order to create a top-notch experience. [And, if you agree with these sentiments, you’re our ideal client! Let Italy Beyond the Obvious create a luxury Italy itinerary for your family or friends.]
In the interest of full disclosure: our stay at the Londra Palace Hotel was offered by the hotel.
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