Venice is a romantic and charming city. Everything here has a soul, from the canals snaking around the city, the old brick houses with Arabic-style windows to the black wooden gondolas carrying loving couples. But if you ask what I love the most about Venice, here are my top five:

1/Get lost in the tangle of canals, bridges and streets of Venice 

Being a simultaneous traveler I love taking aimless walks and surprising myself. A small and secluded church that looks so plain from the outside but houses strikingly beautiful frescoes inside? A seemingly abandoned house covered with Virginia creeper? Or a shopping boulevard packed with people? You never know what awaits you behind that tiny ‘street’ corner. After all it’s a very walkable city, and it took me only a few hours to walk from one side of Venice to another.

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2/Venetian street food

Acqua e Mais was a great choice for some light Venetian snacks. Situated at Campiello dei Meloni in the heart of the main shopping area, the store invited tourists in with appealing window food displays and irresistible smell of the city’s signature dishes. G and I lined up a bit for some fried squid and shrimps, and it was worth the wait. Our food was nicely wrapped in paper cones, tasted crunchy and very fresh.

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3/Visit Piazza San Marco during daytime AND at night  

Dubbed by Napoleon as ‘the finest drawing room of Europe’, Piazza San Marco is a huge open space in the heart of Venice, where you can sit for hours and leisurely watch the world go by. We first came here late at night when the square had been gloriously illuminated and the outdoor orchestra was playing chamber music. It was tender and sensational. The tourists would fill up that space in the morning, but then we got to see the facade of Basilica di San Marco under the sun with beautiful arches, marble decoration and the Romanesque carvings round the central doorway.

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4/ The Grand Canal

The Grand Canal is an icon of Venice and definitely a highlight of my trip. Dozens of ancient buildings were lined on two banks of the waterway, surviving World War I and centuries of nature weathering. It’s best observed from the Rialto bridge which might be a little packed but prepare yourself for the awe and amazement of the bustling waterway with elements that make the city so special.

5/ Carnival masks 

Venice is also known as the city of masks. We wandered through lots of souvenir shops in the city center to admire colorful and beautifully crafted masks that portray different characters on Venetian ancient stages. Some of the most popular types here include the full-face Volto, the half-face Colombina and the Pantalone with the bizarre hook nose. I was looking for something to wear at Halloween-themed parties and decided to try on the black masquerade half-masks which only cover the eyes. But they are not cheap. Some would cost up to 150-200 euros.

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5*/ Hope on a gondola or water-bus (vaporetto)

It was so pleasant walking through the tiny but vibrant streets of Venice we did not even take gondola or vaporetto. But this star sign here is to remind myself that a visit to the islands and around the lagoon would be a must next time!

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