Venice is one of the most magical places in the world. Beautiful, sensual, and mysterious, La Serenissima — the Serene Republic, as it’s known in Italian — never fails to captivate. Wandering the narrow streets or punting down one of the canals in a gondola is an unforgettable journey through time, as well as place.
If ever there were a place worth splurging, Venice is it. And since many of the luxury hotels in Venice are in the renovated palaces of Venetian nobles, you can experience the city’s incredible artistic heritage in an intimate way.
Like most hotels in Italy, less expensive rooms in Venice hotels are quite small. And you’ll likely need to pay more for a heart-stopping view. But throwing open the shutters to a Veronese-blue sky and the sight of gondolas bobbing on the canal is one of the great travel moments.
Although getting lost is all part of the charm here, you probably don’t want to do it on the way to your hotel. There are no cabs, so if your hotel can’t be reached by water taxi, you’ll be on foot. Have precise directions before you set out.
The top Venice luxury hotels.
Not far from the Piazza San Marco, Hotel Bauer is actually two properties — a basic 1950s hotel, and il Palazzo Bauer, which is the preferred hotel. Extensively remodeled in 1998, il Palazzo is a 10th-century palazzo located right on the Grand Canal. The best rooms look across the canal at Santa Maria delle Salute. Rooms are furnished with 18th-century antiques and have ornate plaster work, frescoed ceilings, luxurious fabrics, Murano glass chandeliers, and marble bathrooms. Guests can enjoy breakfast on the rooftop, where there’s also a hot tub with incredible views. Suites here are very expensive it, but no one is ever disappointed.
Gondolas in Venice Italy
Gondolas along the Grand Canal
On the other side of the Grand Canal, in front of the Rialto Market, Ca’Sagredo dates from the 15th century. A member of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World group, it is decorated with paintings by Tiepolo, Longhi, and Ricci. The restaurant, l’Alcova, is on a terrace overlooking the Grand Canal, and the property has a small fitness center. Staying here is a bit like staying in a museum, and service is more formal than many Americans are used to. You’ll likely be happiest in one of the better rooms.
The Cipriani — AKA, The Chip — has been the top Venice hotel for celebrities, dignitaries, and other movers and shakers, drawn by the isolation of its location at the tip of Giudecca, across the lagoon from Venice. Piazza San Marco and all the attractions of Venice are just a boat ride away. But many guests prefer never to leave the three-acre property. Opened in 1959 by Hemingway buddy Giuseppi Cipriani of Harry’s Bar fame, the Ciprini is simultaneously old-world and au courant. The Palazzo Vendramin annex provides the privacy, discretion, and service that celebrities crave. The tennis courts, Olympic-size pool, and gardens are a rarity in Venice.
Steps away from the Doge’s Palace, the Hotel Danieli was originally the 14th-century palace of one of the Doges. It was transformed into a hotel in 1822, and it’s been one of the best Venice luxury hotels since then. With its Gothic arches, palms, pink marble, and stained glass, the four-story lobby will take your breath away. And the rooms are equally splendid. The rooftop terrace restaurant and lounge have some of the best views in Venice. Guests of the Danieli can use golf, tennis, and beach facilities at a sister property on the Lido.
Located in the residence of a 16th-century Doge, the Gritti Palace offers its guests every possible amenity — from Bang and Olufsen stereo equipment to hand-painted 18th-century furniture. The suites that overlook the Grand Canal are the most desirable in Venice. A palace hotel in every sense of the term, the Gritti is sumptuous, refined, and elegant. Cocktails in the Longhi Bar and dinner at Club del Doge are first rate. And service is among the best in town. Cooking classes are a fun way to pass an afternoon.
For unsurpassed views of the lagoon and San Giorgio Island, Londra Palace sets the bar. The pedigree of the 19th-century palazzo is interesting too. Tchaikovsky composed his Fourth Symphony here. The public areas were designed by the architect of the Versace stores, but it’s the wall of windows that steals the show. The restaurant is one of the best in town, and it also features wonderful views. The neighborhood can be noisy at night, so choose your room wisely.
Westin has two luxury hotels in Venice. Located on the Lido, The Excelsior is a popular choice for celebrities attending the Film Festival or world-class artists in town for the Biennale. It’s built in the Moorish style with ornate arches and lush gardens, which provide nice views for the rooms that don’t face the water. Rooms here are some of the largest in Venice, and there’s a large outdoor pool and terrace overlooking the beach.
A recent renovation brought the Westin Europa and Regina back to luxury status, and now it combines the best of old and new. The views of Santa Maria delle Salute can be enjoyed from the terrace restaurant on the Grand Canal. And the rooms are spread across five historic buildings that have been meticulously restored. In-room spa treatments and a Westin Workout Gym help guests stay fit. Guests of the Europa are welcome to enjoy the facilities at The Excelsior.
If you’re traveling during high season, be sure to book well in advance. The best deals are usually available through the hotel web sites. But Venezia Si is another good resource.
1) Il Palazzo Bauer
2) Ca’ Sagredo Hotel
3) Hotel Cipriani
4) Hotel Danieli
5) Gritti Palace
6) Londra Palace
7) Hotel Excelsior
8) Westin Europe & Regina