‘The Floating City’ contains 177 canals and 417 bridges which, combined with a feast of Renaissance, Baroque and Gothic architecture, make it one of the most picturesque places on the planet. Once an independent empire, it’s since become an iconic tourist destination, not least for couples seeking the ultimate romantic getaway. And with no cars in sight, but plenty of gondolas, some time in a city that dates back over 12 centuries will provide an immersively old-world experience. Here’s a selection of the grandest hotels to call home, while you’re visiting Venice.
Arrive via Aman Venice’s private jetty into the gardens that lead down to the water. Built in the 16th century, this was once the Palazzo Papadopoli, a grand Baroque masterpiece which retains its original frescoes to this day. The decor is Neo-Renaissance and very opulent, its 24 bedrooms balancing this period grandeur with the modern niceties like Bang & Olufsen flatscreen TVs and Nespresso coffee makers (as this was the first building in the city to get electricity, it’s fitting that it should include some cutting-edge gadgets). Aman Venice has a small spa, Arva restaurant, a bar and a library stacked with books, board games and puzzles.
The St. Regis Venice
Guest staying in the 130 guestrooms and 39 suites of the St Regis all benefit from the brand’s attentive take on butler service, while some also enjoy private terraces with plush furnishings and panoramic views. The building, just a few minutes’ stroll from the Piazza San Marco, is over 150 years old and avant-garde both inside and out. Its Italianate garden provides a backdrop in which you can eat, drink, or just relax, away from the tourist throng and features geometric patterning, curlicue topiary, rose planting and pathways. Or you can dine on modern Venetian cuisine in Gio’s Restaurant and sip cocktails in the Arts Bar.
Cipriani, A Belmond Hotel, Venice
Found on Giudecca island, the Cipriani is but a few minutes away from the tourist centre, accessed via the Belmond’s own luxe launch moored at the edge of its gorgeous gardens. Once on its grounds, you’ll find tennis courts, a 15th-century wing housing period bedrooms with butler service, a private marina and an expansive pool terrace that meets the Grand Canal. Offering lovely lagoon views as you sunbathe and swim, this area has an Olympic size pool, filled with seawater. Another highlight is its Michelin-starred formal restaurant, Oro. Those seeking a more laid-back ambience can dine lagoon or pool-side at two further eateries.
NH Collection Venezia Grand Hotel Palazzo dei Dogi
This 16th-century palace is now part of the slick and contemporary NH Collection. It’s an ideal choice for those wishing to escape the throng, yet still within walking distance of the main attractions, as it’s located in the peaceful residential quarter of Sestiere Cannaregio, surrounded by an 18th-century botanical garden. And when you do want a slice of the action, you can easily take a boat trip from the hotel’s private pier, or hop on the complimentary shuttle. 64 Venetian-style rooms are accommodated over five floors, along with its Il Giardino Segreto and La Loggia restaurants and La Voga Bar.
Hotel Danieli, A Luxury Collection Hotel
Stay in grand, empiric style in this 14th-century palazzo. Comprising three adjoining palatial premises (previously homes for nobility), the Marriott Collection hotel contains 210 bedrooms – some overlooking the Venetian Lagoon. High-value artworks and antiques are around every corner, reflecting the city’s rich heritage. Its jewel of a restaurant – Terrazza Danieli – lies on the hotel’s sun-soaked rooftop, proffering direct waterside views (of both the lagoon and Grand Canal). Gourmet multiple-course or tasting menus feature fruits of the lagoon and oriental spices. But breakfast and light lunches can be enjoyed here too.
Baglioni Hotel Luna
Located in the heart of Venice, and overlooking the San Marco Basin, this world-class 5-star hotel is elegant, sophisticated and offers the best of Italian luxury. All the romantic rooms and prestigious suites are decorated in luxe Venetian style and offer opulent comfort. The hotel is also home to the award-winning Canova Restaurant – with a cosy atmosphere and a menu that represents the elegance and finesse of the international food and wine scene. Artistic, culinary and cultural experiences can also be arranged for guests to enjoy – a fine choice for a historic and romantic escape!
Found close to Venice’s most famous square – St Mark’s – the Bauer Venezia also offers a spectacular lagoonside location. Established as a grand dame in 1880, the elegant palazzo underwent a renovation just before the millennium. A VIP wing with individually decorated suites and a private launch makes it popular with celebrities seeking exclusivity. A blend of regional and international dishes is served at De Pisis, plus there are two drinking establishments; Bar Canale overlooks the Grand Canal, with live music in the summer months, and there’s B-Bar cocktail lounge with live tunes and tipples during the winter.
Ca’ Sagredo Hotel
A National Monument, Ca’ Sagredo is housed in a 15the century pink palazzo. With incredible original frescoes, grand staircases, antiques, Murano glass, marble cherubs and sculptures, its detail is sufficient to rival many a museum. The very opposite of minimalism, its 42 rooms are plush and embellished in traditional Venetian style. Dishes at the hotel’s L’Alcova Restaurant are also traditionally Italian, with a selection of regional delicacies on the menu – and guests can join the executive chef in cooking classes. The hotel boasts a convenient location for sightseeing, right beside a Grand Canal Vaporetti stop.
The Gritti Palace, A Luxury Collection Hotel
The Gritti Palace dates back to 1475, although didn’t become a hotel until just before the turn of the 20th century. Opening right up onto the Grand Canal, with its own private jetty, the Luxury Collection property has 82 bedrooms. Inside, guests can enjoy the Sisley Paris spa, hammam and hairdressing services, or take cookery classes at the Gritti Epicurean School. Its Club del Doge restaurant serves an award-winning Venetian heritage-themed menu. These dishes are (in part) crafted using vegetables from the hotel’s private garden, which is hidden on an island in the lagoon. The resulting gourmet meals can be taken in the sumptuous dining room, or on the candlelit waterside terrace. And the Gritti Palace’s Riva Lounge – styled to reflect the mid-century design of the Monaco Yacht Club – is one of the most glamorous spots in town for late-night cocktails.
JW Marriott Resort and Spa
If you’d rather avoid the bustle of central Venice, escape to the olive groves of a private island resort – Isola Delle Rose. Accessed only via water shuttle, its 40 acres includes an extensive spa with a view, three pools, a kitchen garden, five places to eat and drink, an on-site deli and a culinary academy. Made up of 19 art-deco-era buildings, architect Matteo Thun has brought a contemporary edge to its sleek, airy interiors, setting it apart from the more traditional five-star hotels that dominate the Venetian skyline. It’s ideal for families and is pet friendly too.
Taking us back to the artery of Venice, PalazzinaG and its rooftop eatery, are perched alongside the Grand Canal. But, like the JW Marriott, it eschews antique interiors. Instead, guests will find chic French infused interior design by Philippe Starck. While displaying modern decor with many an artistic statement piece, the hotel nods to the building’s previous life as a Roman Spa (look out for the giant columns). Rooms come equipped with Bottega Veneto toiletries, nightly sweet treats and – if you bring your pooch – canine beds and bowls too.
Hilton Molino Stucky
So many of the city’s buildings have a story to tell. And while many of them were once grand palaces, this one used to be a flour mill. But the Neo-Gothic landmark creation was later reimagined for far more sophisticated purposes – now it’s the largest hotel in the area, retaining some of the original industrial features. Found on the island of Giudecca, it’s a way from the heart of the action, providing a tranquil space to house 379 bedrooms. Its rooftop pool, adjacent to the expansive spa is a highlight, offering panoramic views. There’s also a 24-hour fitness centre, three eateries, a bar and plenty to keep children occupied.