Top 10 Things to Do in Venice, Italy

Top 10 Things to Do in Venice, Italy

More than a century ago, it was the great American novelist cum travel writer Henry James who decided that there was “nothing left to discover or describe” about Venice, and that “originality of attitude is completely impossible.”

But, he said, “it would be a sad day indeed when there should be something new to say. I write these lines with the full consciousness of having no information whatever to offer. I do not pretend to enlighten the reader; I pretend only to give fillip to his memory; and I hold any writer sufficiently justified who is himself in love with his theme.”

And so I am.

Released from the burden of originality and the guilt of self-indulgence, here is my own To Do List for first-time visitors to Venice.


An interactive map of the sites recommended in this article:

#10

Ride a vaporetto down the Grand Canal

Whether you arrive in Venice at Santa Lucia railway station, at the bus depot in Piazzale Roma, or at the small airport across the lagoon, the glorious Grand Canal will be among the first sites you see, and invariably, it will look exactly as you imagined. It will feel at once foreign and familiar, as if you’ve stepped into an 18th century painting by Canaletto, only to find that the world around you has changed little in its substance.

To extend the illusion a little longer, board a public water bus—known as a vaporetto—and ride it the length of the canal, under the Rialto Bridge, by the colorful and crumbling façades of grand palazzos like the Ca’ d’Oro and the Ca’ Rezzonico, all the way down past the dome of Santa Maria della Salute, before disembarking at St. Mark’s Square.

If the Grand Canal seems heavy with traffic today, bustling with motor boats, water buses, and gondolas, remind yourself that it was even more crowded in the 16th and 17th centuries, during the golden age of the Venetian Republic, when it was a major thoroughfare for merchants who traded goods across Europe and the Far East.

BUYING TICKETS:  ACTV tickets can be bought: 1) Online; 2) On site from the Hellovenezia ticket office at the railway station; or 3) From the automatic ticket machines on some landing docks.

COST:  A single ticket on the vaporetto costs €7, so buying a tourist travel card is a wise decision. Cards allow unlimited access for a period of either 12, 24, 36, 48, or 72 hours, or for 7 days from the time it is initially activated. Prices vary accordingly, from €18 to €50. For further details, see one of the websites below.

NOTE:  For the purposes of sightseeing, board a vaporetto on Line 1 (map), or pay slightly more to board the special Vaporetto dell’Arte, which includes a multilingual audio and video system. Remember, you will need to swipe your travel card on the iMob validating machines located at the entrance to the ACTV loading docks before you board, or face a hefty fine.

WEBSITES:  ACTV, VeniceConnectedVaporetto dell’Arte

#9

Soak in the Byzantine splendor of St. Mark’s Basilica

At the eastern end of St. Mark’s Square lies the basilica that was built to house the remains of St. Mark the Evangelist, plundered from Alexandria, Egypt in 828 A.D. Legend has it that the Venetians hid the relics in a barrel under layers of pork to slip them past Muslim guards, a scheme they later depicted in a mosaic above the portal that is farthest left of the front entrance.

While Venice is replete with Baroque churches, St. Mark’s Basilica is an exotic outlier, with its massive marble columns, graceful arches, and onion domes clad in lead. Look carefully about and you’ll also see a hodgepodge of ornaments that were brought back piecemeal over the centuries by Venetian merchants who had sailed to the Orient and back.

To see the interior—a “glittering robber’s den” encrusted with gold mosaic tiles, set unevenly to better refract the light—you will have to survive the basilica’s infamous queue, as well as its strict rules for entry, but both are a small price to pay for the privilege of seeing one of Europe’s finest churches.

GETTING THERE:  For directions to Piazza San Marco from various locations, including the train station and Piazzale Roma, click here.

HOURS:  Summer hours for the basilica are from 9:45 AM – 5:00 PM weekdays and Saturdays, Sundays and holidays from 2:00 PM – 5:00 PM. Please check the website below for hours at other times of year.

NOTE:  Modest dress is required (cover those knees and shoulders!) and photography is not allowed, nor are large bags and purses. To avoid the maddening queue to get in, consider making a reservation online.

COST: Admission to the basilica itself is free, but small and very worthwhile charges apply to enter the chancel, treasury and loggia, areas which include the Pala d’Oro, a gold altarpiece constructed of enamel icons and encrusted with gemstones; an odd and extensive collection of chalices and reliquaries containing the blood and bones of saints; and the original gilded horses of St. Mark, the prize of so many lootings over the centuries.

MORE:  If time permits, consider purchasing a Chorus Pass for €12, which grants admission to sixteen churches in Venice.

WEBSITE:  Basilica di San Marco

#8

Visit the Doge’s Palace to walk across the Bridge of Sighs and see the prison cell from which Casanova famously escaped

The Palazzo Ducale, which adjoins St. Mark’s Basilica, was once the residence of the Doge of Venice. To make the most your experience here, book a “Secret Itineraries” tour with a well-trained guide, who will explain the civic and political history of the city and its “Council of Ten.”

You will see where the most delicate administrative tasks were performed, in an attic space far removed from prying eyes, then you’ll continue through the Chancellery, where walls of cabinets once contained secret documents, before arriving in the torture chamber in which prisoners were hung by their arms from ropes. You’ll even get to cross the infamous Bridge of Sighs and enter the prison itself to see the cell once occupied by Casanova, and from which he made his daring escape.

Along the way, be sure to keep your eye out for centuries old graffiti scratched into the window panes by bored clerks.

GETTING THERE:  If arriving by vaporetto, chose either the Vallaresso or San Zaccaria stop. For more information, click here.

HOURS:  From April to October, the Doge’s Palace is open daily from 8:30 AM – 7:00 PM, and from April-March, daily from 8:30 AM – 5:30 PM. “Secret Itineraries” tours in English run at 9:55 AM and 11.35 AM and should be reserved in advance.

COST:  A full-price ticket valid for the Doge’s Palace as well as the Museo Correr, Museo Archeologico Nazionale, and the Monumental Rooms of the Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana costs €16. The “Secret Itineraries” tour is €20. For those tourists who intend to visit many of the city’s churches and museums, purchasing the Venice Card (€39.90 for adults) may be a worthwhile option.

MORE:  In addition to the Doge’s Palace,Venice offers an array of enticing museums. If time permits, or foul weather forces you indoors, consider visiting the following: Gallerie dell’Accademia (pre-19th century Venetian art); Peggy Guggenheim Collection (contemporary art); Museo Correr (collections focus on the art and history of Venice); or Ca’ Rezzonico (a museum of 18th century art).

WEBSITE:  Palazzo Ducale

#7

Gaze out across the rooftops of Venice from the top of the campanile in St. Mark’s Square

While most ancient bell towers in Italy require a sturdy pair of legs, the campanile in St. Mark’s Square has a large and speedy elevator. Ride it to the top for the sheer pleasure of the view. From a height of 324 feet, you can easily see the entire city, with a rim of coastline in every direction. Look for the iconic church of Santa Maria della Salute at the mouth of the Grand Canal. If you scan the red tiled roofs carefully with a camera lens or a telescope, you might also spy the elegant spiral staircase of the Palazzo Contarini del Bovolo.

Rest assured, while the original 15th century campanile collapsed into rubble quite suddenly in 1902, the reconstructed tower won’t fall again because Venice recently completed a multi-year engineering project to shore up its foundation.

LOCATION: Piazza San Marco

HOURS:  Summer hours for the campanile are from 9:00 AM – 9:00 PM. Please check the website below for hours at other times of year.

COST:  A ticket to ride the elevator to the top of the campanile costs €8.

MORE:  For another extraordinary view of the city of Venice, take a vaporetto out to the island of San Giorgio Maggiore and take the elevator to the top of the bell tower there.

WEBSITE:  Basilica di San Marco

#6

Visit the Rialto Market to experience the vivid sights, sounds, and smells of Venetian life

In the morning, the open-air Rialto Market is a feast for the senses, as local farmers and fisherman unload trays of fresh squid, cuttlefish, crabs and clams, as well as baskets of whatever produce is in season, from cherries and grapes to peas and asparagus.

If the old adage about eating with your eyes first is true—mangiare con gli occhi, as the Italians would say—you will stroll about and leave feeling very full and very happy.

LOCATION:  San Polo, Campo de la Pescheria (fruits and vegetables) and Campo de le Becarie, Loggia Grande and Loggia Piccola (fish)

HOURS:  The markets open around 7:00 AM. Note, the produce market is closed on Sundays and the fish market is closed on Sundays and Mondays.

WEBSITE:  Mercato di Rialto

#5

Go shopping anywhere and everywhere for Murano glass

While the fame of Venetian glass extends back to the Roman Empire, all of the furnaces and foundries were moved to the island of Murano in 1291 out of fear that a fire would consume the city’s wooden buildings. Today, the art, craft, and tradition of Murano glass continues and local boutiques sell a dizzying array of whimsical sculptures and ornate chandeliers.

On one of my visits to Venice, the shop window at Pauly & Co. in St. Mark’s Square displayed a series of balloon animals that would surely pass for the real thing, in addition to a green fedora for €7,500, and a folded shirt, complete with buttons, for €8,100. A craftsman even made what would appear to be Cinderella’s glass slipper, although at nearly €11,000 most women would need to marry Prince Charming to be able to afford it.

For a far less expensive option and one that’s easy to slide into a suitcase already bulging with Italian souvenirs, shop for jewelry instead.

RECOMMENDATIONS:  Personally, I like the jewelry collections at Antica Murrina and Le Perle. Here are some other suggestions from Lonely Planet.

NOTE:  If you spend enough and you’re a non-EU citizen, consider applying for a VAT refund.

#4

Escape the crowds for a day and go island hopping

Eventually, even the most ardent admirer of Venice will want to escape for the day to the nearby islands of Murano, Burano, or Torcello. The first is best known for glassmaking, the second for lace, and the third—I suspect—for being seldom visited by tourists.

Start with a short boat ride to Murano, where you can any number of glass factorys for a free tour. In the heat of the furnace, the craftsmen work quickly and deftly with molten glass that is roughly the texture of salt water taffy, just be wary of the salesmen who will follow you afterwards into the showroom. They can turn the subtle art of browsing into an uncomfortable, high stakes game of cat-and-mouse.

Next, make your way to Burano, a tiny fishing village where the streets are a riot of color, lined with houses that are painted in improbable shades of blue, orange, green, purple, and red. Flower pots rest on window ledges, laundry hangs to dry, and in the summer nearly every front door stands ajar, covered only with a striped curtain that catches the breeze, as a sail might on a boat.

If time remains, consider one last jump to Torcello. There is a brick walkway that leads away from the dock, but much of the island consists of open fields and undisturbed wetlands. Follow the path to a cluster of old buildings that includes two magnificent churches side-by-side—Santa Fosca, which is low and round, and the more conventional Santa Maria Assunta, with its solitary bell tower. Both are primitive, peaceful and calm, far removed from the opulence of Venice and its madding crowd.

GETTING THERE:  The islands of Murano, Burano, and Torcello are easy to reach using public transportation. Vaporetto line numbers 12, 13, 14, 4.1, and 4.2 make the journey to Murano from Fondamente Nove (on the north side of Castello), and line number 12 continues on to Burano and Torcello.

COST:  Travel to the islands is included with a standard ACTV ticket

WEBSITES: Murano, Burano, Torcello 

#3

Be indulgent and hire a gondolier

Yes, it is cliché, and it is expensive, but you have traveled long and far to come to Venice, and you really should ride in a gondola.

Henry James once wrote that “little mental pictures rise before the collector of memories at the simple mention, written or spoken, of the places he has loved.” When he conjured an image of Venice, it was not Piazza San Marco that he thought about, nor was it the basilica, or the dome of the Salute church, or even the Grand Canal. Instead, in his mind’s eye he saw:

“…a narrow canal in the heart of the city—a patch of green water and a surface of pink wall. The gondola moves slowly; it gives a great smooth swerve, passes under a bridge, and the gondolier’s cry, carried over the quiet water, makes a kind of splash of stillness. A girl crosses the little bridge, which has an arch like a camel’s back, [and] you see her against the sky as you float beneath… On the other side of this small waterway is a great shabby façade of Gothic windows and balconies… It is very hot and still, the canal has a queer smell, and the whole place is enchanting.”

I rest my case.

LOCATION:  Gondolas depart from nearly every dock in Venice, so wander about and pick a neighborhood that appeals to you. Most itineraries will include at least a short piece of the Grand Canal, but it’s often a ride along the quiet side canals that is most enchanting.

COST:  The rates for gondoliers are fixed by the city of Venice. During the day, expect to pay €80 for a 40-minute ride for a maximum of six people, and €40 for each additional increment of 20 minutes. In the evening, the rate increases to a base price of €100. If you would like to be serenaded by your gondolier, that fee is additional and must be negotiated.

Too expensive? Here are some affordable alternatives:  1) Share a gondola ride with others at Santa Maria del Giglio; or 2) Take a traghetto across the Grand Canal. For a list of crossing points, click here.

WHAT TO EXPECT:  Gondola Rides in Venice: How to Get the Most from your Venice Gondola Experience

WEBSITE:  Gondola Venezia

#2

Spend a lazy evening under the stars listening to the orchestras play in Piazza San Marco

It’s said that when Casanova escaped from prison in 1756, he stopped off for a cup of coffee at Caffè Florian before fleeing to Paris. It’s easy to understand why when you see how lively and pleasant Piazza San Marco becomes at night, once the crowds have slipped away.

There are three restaurants in the square, each with neat rows of tables and chairs, and awnings under which an orchestra plays. Take a seat at Caffé Florian, Ristorante Gran Caffé Quadri, or Caffé Lavena, order a cocktail, lean back and relax as you are serenaded with sentimental waltzes and lively folk dances.

No one will blame you if you get up and dance.

LOCATION:  Piazza San Marco

HOURS: 

  • Caffé Florian is open daily from 9:00 AM – 11:00 PM in the summer, and closed Wednesdays in winter (menu)
  • Ristorante Gran Caffé Quadri is open Tuesday through Sunday for lunch from 12:30 PM – 2:30 PM, and for dinner from 7:30 PM – 10:30 PM
  • Caffé Lavena is open daily from 9:30 AM – 11:00 PM

NOTE:  To avoid an unhappy surprise when the bill arrives, please know that there is a supplemental charge per person whenever the orchestra is playing.

WEBSITES:  

#1

Put away the map and get lost

In a city built of islands, where there are 150 canals and 400 bridges, maps are of little use, and modern gadgets like cell phones with GPS, even less so. For that reason, it can be genuinely difficult to find things in Venice, so resolve to discover them instead. The lack of intention makes all the difference in the world. It allows frustration to give way to serendipity.

In exploring the city’s labyrinthine streets and canals, you may find comfort in periodic signs that read “Per Rialto and “Per San Marco,” but notice how they often they point in two directions at once, creating endless combinations.

Right, left, right.

Left, left, right.

Follow your fancy and see what pleasures await. On one of my tramps around Venice I was treated to shop windows that had exotic spices stacked into powdered pyramids, papier-mâché masks formed into the fanciful faces of cats, hedgehogs and owls, and tiny gold fish suspended in blown glass aquariums of every size and shape.

Walk on, and soon you’ll find yourself wondering what more there is to see just around the corner, and you’ll be tempted to devote the entire day to finding out.

It will be a day well spent.

LOCATION:  It matters not.

HOURS:  Unlimited.

COST:  Nothing.

MEMORIES:  Priceless


Where to stay when in Venice

My personal choice is always the Hotel Al Ponte Mocenigo at Santa Croce 2063, but don’t just take my word for it. Check out their reviews on TripAdvisor.

Hotel Al Ponte MocenigoHotel al Ponte MocenigoDSC_3323c


A Photo Gallery of Venice

 

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Places to Stay

Here is a list of some of my very favorite hotels in Europe:

Rome, Italy

Hotel Hosianum Palace (Centro Storico)

The Hotel Hosianum Palace is a snug and sunny place with yellow stucco and green shutters, tucked away on a tiny street near Piazza Venezia. I’ve stayed there three times—in 2008, 2010, and again in 2013. The rooms I booked were small but cozy, classically furnished, impeccably clean, and surprisingly quiet, with tall double-glazed windows. From here, nearly all of the historic center of Rome is within walking distance, even Vatican City which is no more than a pleasant thirty minute stroll. Even better, a right turn out of the hotel lobby takes you far away from the bustle of the city into the maze of narrow alleyways that spill unexpectedly into charming piazzas with wonderful shops and restaurants.

My only reservation in recommending the hotel is their reluctance to make use of a stunning rooftop terrace. Some of my fondest memories of the Hotel Hosianum Palace in 2008 were of having breakfast high among the church spires and the winged chariots that perch on top of the Vittorio Emanuele monument. When I returned two years later, the terrace was closed and when I inquired as to the reason, I was told that it was “too cold,” while it was, in fact, quite perfect. In June 2013, the terrace was closed once again and this time the manager explained that it was “too wet,” even though it had not rained in weeks. It’s perplexing, really, and just a bit maddening given that few hotels in Rome have such a pretty view, but depending on the season, it may be little more than a minor inconvenience.

Click here to read my journal entries about the Hotel Hosianum Palace in Rome.

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Florence, Italy

Hotel Davanzati (Centro Storico)

I’m a creature of habit and when I travel I like having a neighborhood to call my own. When I’m in London, I live—temporarily, at least—in South Kensington. In Paris, the 5th Arrondissement is my home. And when I’m in Florence, I stay at the Hotel Davanzati. It’s as simple as that.

I’ve been fortunate enough to visit Florence three times in the last five years and, if anything, each of my stays has been more pleasant than the last. I’ve stayed in several different rooms on different floors at the Davanzati and I’ve always found them to be warm, inviting, sparkling clean, and well-equipped (with DVD players, laptops, and reliable wifi). The location on Via Porta Rossa is likewise superb—just a short stroll from Piazza della Signoria and the Ponte Vecchio—but the most important reason I return time and again is to enjoy the hospitality of this family-run hotel. Fabrizio and his sons are friendly and enthusiastic hosts with a deep knowledge of their city and a genuine kindness for their guests. They are always on hand and eager to make restaurant recommendations, shopping suggestions, and reservations for museums and guided tours. They also host a lively Happy Hour every night with music, candlelight, and complimentary drinks, which is a relaxing way to meet fellow travelers and to unwind after a busy day of sightseeing.

To those who follow online reviews, none of this will come as a surprise. The hotel is a perennial favorite on Trip Advisor, but it is nice to know that some things never change. Florence will always be a captivating city well worth a return visit, and the Davanzati will always be the perfect home away from home.

Click here to read my journal entries about the Hotel Davanzati in Florence.

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Venice, Italy

Hotel al Ponte Mocenigo (Santa Croce)

I’ve stayed at the Hotel al Ponte Mocenigo three times in the last five years, and I would never consider staying anywhere else in Venice. The furnishings are elegant, the artwork unique, and the property overall spotless and well-maintained. A hearty continental breakfast (with amazingly good warm croissants) is served either indoors or in the hotel’s courtyard garden. I was equally impressed by the location, just steps away from the San Stae vaporetto stop on the Grand Canal. While I watched a great many tourists heave luggage over the city’s small canals and bridges, the hotel’s main entrance along Fondamenta Rimpetto Mocenigo required few steps, and the secondary entrance off of Calle dei Preti none at all. Walking to and from the hotel was an equal delight. The immediate neighborhood is quiet, charming, and largely overlooked by the hoards of visitors who congregate in St. Mark’s Square, and yet that vibrant piazza, and the Rialto Bridge and market you cross along the way, are just a fifteen minute stroll by foot. It really is the best of both worlds.

As always, my thanks go out to Walter and Sandro and the rest of the staff for their warm hospitality!

Click here to read my journal entries about the Hotel al Ponte Mocenigo in Venice.

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Cinque Terre, Italy

Hotel Margherita (Monterosso al Mare)

The Hotel Margherita in the old town district of Monterosso al Mare is a friendly place, painted in shades of tangerine with green shutters. The rooms are well air conditioned, but if the weather cooperates in the summer, it can be nice to open the louvered windows, to draw in the scent of the lemon trees and fresh basil growing in the garden below.

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London, England

The Millenium Bailey’s Hotel (South Kensington)

I stayed at the Millennium Bailey’s Hotel in South Kensington for one week in August 2006, and for three separate one-night stays in 2007. The staff were prompt and efficient, but also unfailingly pleasant at all times. The public areas of the hotel, including the lobby and winding grand staircase, were breathtaking in their Victorian opulence. The space featured ornate crown moldings, wrought iron railings, and original stained glass windows. On my first stay, I reserved a non-smoking Club room, which was enormous, but their standard double rooms are also clean, comfortable, quiet, and attractive.

The location of the hotel is also very convenient. The surrounding neighborhood offers every possible amenity, including restaurants, a grocery store, ATM machines, a pharmacy, and internet café. The Gloucester Road tube stop is directly across the street and joins the District, Circle and Piccadilly lines, the latter of which goes directly to Heathrow airport. As a result, I found that many major sites in London were just 10-20 minutes away. The hotel is also within walking distance of Kensington Gardens, the Royal Albert Hall, and several museums.

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The Rubens at the Palace (Victoria)

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Edinburgh, Scotland

Apex Waterloo Place Hotel (New Town)

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Paris, France

Hôtel des Grand Hommes (5th Arrondissement)

I spent seven memorable nights at the Hôtel des Grands Hommes during my first trip to Paris in July 2007. I chose a “superior” room facing the Panthéon, booked months in advance on the hotel’s website at a special summer rate. It did not disappoint! While small in size, the room was exquisitely decorated with fine furniture, an open beam ceiling, and upholstered walls in a Toile de Jouy pattern. This was a boutique hotel in the truest sense of the word. There was none of the bland and uniform decoration typically found in chain hotels. Instead, there was sheer style that constantly reminded me that I was in Paris! The hotel’s location on the Place du Panthéon was ideal for exploring the city by metro or on foot. It was just a five minute walk from the Luxembourg RER station, which traveled directly to Charles de Gaulle airport, and a fifteen minute stroll to Notre Dame cathedral. The hotel was also well situated for dining out. There were many delightful places to eat nearby, including inexpensive sandwich shops and creperies, ethnic restaurants, and those that served traditional French cuisine, such as Le Coupe Chou. There was a fabulous boulangerie around the corner, an Amorino ice cream shop, and a patisserie called Dalloyau which made wonderful macarons. Along the Rue Soufflot, I also found basic but vital amenities such as a 24-hour internet café and an ATM machine.

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Bayeux, France

Churchill Hotel

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Amsterdam, the Netherlands

The Toren (Jordaan)

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Munich, Germany

Platzl Hotel (Marienplatz)

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Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany

Romantik Hotel Markusturm

The Romantik Hotel Markusturm, located in a former toll house that dates from the year 1264, is pretty as a postcard, situated alongside the Markus Tower and Röder Arch in Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany. Inside, there’s a rustic parlor with an oak paneled ceiling and fanciful fretwork chairs, and the halls are filled with antiques, including an old butter churn and a doll carriage, all of which give the place a warm and cozy feel. I suspect that Hansel and Gretel would be very much at home here! I certainly was.

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Füssen, Germany

Hotel Sonne

The Hotel Sonne in Füssen is a charming place awash in salmon pink, where the corridors are lined with costumes and memorabilia from the local stage production of a musical based on the life and death of “Mad” King Ludwig II. It’s the perfect home base for exploring the castles nearby.

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Books to Read

travel-books_1422409cIf our lives are dominated by a search for happiness, then perhaps few activities reveal as much about the dynamics of this quest—in all its ardours and paradoxes—than our travels.

— Alain de Botton, The Art of Travel

Here is a select list of books that will get you in the mood to travel:

General Interest

  • Alain de Botton, The Art of Travel
  • Nancy Pearl, Book Lust to Go: Recommended Reading for Travelers, Vagabonds, and Dreamers
  • Bill Bryson, Neither Here nor There: Travels in Europe
  • Alice Steinbach, Without Reservations: The Travels of an Independent Woman
  • Mark Twain, Innocents Abroad and A Tramp Abroad

England

Travelogues
  • Helene Hanff, 84 Charing Cross Road
  • Bill Bryson, Notes from a Small Island
  • Anna Quindlen, Imagined London: A Tour of the World’s Greatest Fictional City
Non-Fiction
  • Bill Bryson, Shakespeare
  • Helen Simpson, The London Ritz Book of Afternoon Tea: The Art & Pleasures of Taking Tea
Novels
  • Rachel Joyce, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry: A Novel
  • Ian McEwan, Atonement
  • Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
  • Jane Austen, Persuasion
  • Charles Dickens, David Copperfield and Great Expectations

France

Memoirs
  • Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast
  • Peter Mayle, A Year in Provence
  • Frances Mayes, Under the Tuscan Sun: At Home in Italy and Bella Tuscany: The Sweet Life in Italy
Non-Fiction
  • David McCullough, The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris
  • Ross King, The Judgment of Paris: The Revolution Decade the Gave the World Impressionism
  • Jill Jonnes, Eiffel’s Tower: The Thrilling Story Behind Paris’s Beloved Monument
  • Antonia Fraser, Marie Antoinette: The Journey

Italy

Travelogues
  • Henry James, Italian Hours
  • Mary McCarthy, The Stones of Florence
  • Mary McCarthy, Venice Observed
  • Beppe Severgnini, La Bella Figura: A Field Guide to the Italian Mind
Non-Fiction
  • Ilaria Dagnini Brey, The Venus Fixers: The Remarkable Story of the Allied Soldiers who Saved Italy’s Art during World War II
  • Ross King, Brunelleschi’s Dome
  • Ross King, Michelangelo and the Pope’s Ceiling
Novels
  • Jess Walter, Beautiful Ruins
  • E.M. Forster, A Room with A View
  • Henry James, The Wings of the Dove and The Aspern Papers and Other Stories

Germany

Memoirs
  • Elie Weisel, Night
Non-Fiction
  • Lynn H. Nichols, The Rape of Europa: The Fate of Europe’s Treasures in the Third Reich and the Second World War
Novels
  • Markus Zusak, The Book Thief