Although some people love the Cipriani for its beautiful views of Venice across the Giudecca Canal, and others rave about the Danieli for its fantastic location right on the Grand Canal, to my mind you might as well go for a cheaper option, given that you will be out and about all the time. My latest preferred choices are the Metropole, on the Riva degli Schiavoni, and the Ai Reali, which I particularly like for its little secluded garden.
Getting to your hotel from the airport by water taxi is like a private excursion in itself, so although it's expensive, you should definitely do it, if only once. The alternatives (waterbus, taxi to the station then onwards by foot) are not straightforward, particularly if you have plenty of luggage with you.
If you've never been to Venice, the sightseeing options are somewhat overwhelming, with churches, palaces, museums and galleries at every turn. On the basis that you can never see it all, I would recommend choosing a couple of highlights for each visit, and spending the rest of the time walking - a diversion of two minutes will take you off the main drag and away from the crowds, exploring tiny alleys, stumbling upon walled gardens or finding a quiet table next to a canal to enjoy a coffee and watch the world go by.
Our 'one highlight per visit' strategy meant that despite numerous stays in the city we had never seen St Mark's, deterred by the long queues. The queue is jumped easily enough (call us to find out how) but I thoroughly recommend taking a private guide to enable you to get the most of this extraordinary cathedral.
When you are walking, don't miss the amazing market (turn right after crossing the Rialto Bridge), gondola museum and the Ghetto.
You might think a gondola ride is 'just for the tourists', but do it if you can, if only to admire the extraordinary skill of the gondoliers as they manoeuvre their heavy craft around the narrow waterways. Your perspective on the city is very different from water level, and on a quiet backwater you will be cast back to another age.
If you are staying for a few days, take time to travel outside Venice: take the vaporetto to the magical cemetery island of San Michele, travel on to Murano with its glass workshops, and on to Burano to admire the pretty pastel houses.
Or take a train to Padua, just 25 minutes away - pre-book your visit to the Scrovegni chapel where the Giotto frescoes will blow you away.
Music, Art and Food
Other key things to think about in advance: music, art, and food. Maybe a little opera at the newly re-opened Fenice, or a Monteverdi two choir mass? You need to plan ahead and book tickets. Venice is a great centre for art, so check what exhibitions are on so you can include them in your schedule. And don't leave it until the day itself to book a table in that restaurant someone recommended - good quality Venice restaurants are very busy.
Whatever you're thinking of doing, speak to us and we can assist you with all your plans.