The skyline is an exotic jumble of plump Byzantine church domes and slender Renaissance cupolas, while the canals are lined with a colorful patchwork of pastel facades.
But far from being a museum piece; Venice is a living and breathing city, and there's no better way to experience it than by leaving your guidebook on the bedside table and loosing yourself in the atmospheric labyrinth of backstreets where every aspect of daily life is theatrically played out in public.
Once described by Napoleon as 'the finest drawing room in Europe ' St Mark's Square is at the top of most visitors' 'must see' lists. Overlooking the piazza are two of the city's other 'big hitters': St Mark's Basilica and the slightly over the top doge's palace Palazzo Ducale. Art lovers will want to make a beeline for the Accademia, which houses one the most impressive collections of masterpieces in the country with canvases by Guardi, Titian and Tintoretto. More modern artistic appetites are catered for in the Guggenheim collection.
Hop on a vaporetti and it's a short trip across the lagoon to the outlying islands of Murano, Burano, and Torcello, where life continues oblivious to the bustle of the 21 st century. Tourism is still the economic mainstay, but visitors come to see the traditional crafts which have been passed down family lines for generations; Murano is the home of Venetian glass blowing, Burano is famous for lace making, while Torcello finds its way onto itineraries as the site of Venice's first cathedral.
Year round Venice makes for one of Europe's most memorable city breaks (although things can get crowded during the peak summer months), but you had better not leave it too long as 25 cm of the 'sinking city' are disappeared beneath the waterline during the last century.