Celebrated for cocktails, carpaccio, risotto and American clientele, Harry’s Bar is famous throughout Venice and world-wide. Founded in 1931 by the late Giuseppe Cipriani, it was financed by a Bostonian called Harry who thought Venice had a lack of decent bars. They chose a storeroom at the Grand Canal end of the Calle Valleresso as their location, conveniently close to the Piazza San Marco.
Since then, the bar has seen a steady stream of American visitors, among them Ernest Hemingway, who used to come here after shooting in the lagoon. The bar became the most popular venue in Venice, patronized by royalty, film stars and heads of state.
These days, there are far more American tourists than famous figures, often there to sample the Bellini cocktail that Cipriani invented. Aesthetically, the place is unremarkable, and there is no terrace for meals alfresco.
Sitting with a drink in the Piazza San Marco is as much a part of the Venetian experience as visiting the Basilica or sailing down the Grand Canal. Café life has been an essential part of the city since the 18th century and remains so today, whether you’re sitting at a table in the sunshine, or relaxing in the warmth of one of the charming rooms in winter.
Caffè Florian, the most famous Venetian café, is the most ancient place in Europe to serve coffee and hot chocolate. A popular spot for a discreet rendezvous in Venice since 1720, its orchestra plays a more classical repertoire than the other cafés.
The outside tables are the main attraction, but do walk inside, through the richly-decorated 18th century rooms where Casanova, Lord Byron, Charles Dickens and Woody Allen have all paid too much for a drink.
Founded as early as 1638, not long after the introduction of coffee into Venice, the coffee house known as Il Remedio was purchased in 1775 by Giorgio Quadri, who quickly established it as a popular meeting place that attracted society figures and politicians alike.
It was the first Venetian café to serve the super-concentrated caffe alla turca, the forerunner of today’s espresso.
During the Austrian occupation, it was a favourite with officers from the occupying army. The then owners, the Vivarini brothers, sought to win back a Venetian clientele with the opening of the upstairs restaurant rooms and the fashionable redecoration of the café itself.
Today, the décor remains light, bright, and elegant, with clear colours and charming stucco and fresco decoration. Outside tables give superb views over the Piazza, the perfect place to view the square while listening to the orchestra and enjoying a drink.
Many celebrities have frequented Quadri over the years. Today’s visitors range from Pierce Brosnan, Claudia Schiffer and Brad Pitt to heavyweight Italian political players such as Silvio Berlusconi and Giulio Andreotti.
Venice’s favourite hangout for theatre-goers is situated next door to La Fenice. It comes alive before and after the opera. It is situated in Campo San Fantin in San Marco.
Less glossy than its neighbours on Piazza San Marco, this 250 year-old institution has nonetheless been the favourite of Richard Wagner, Gabriele D’Anunzio and generations of Venetians.
Vitae has chic surroundings and expertly poured cocktails that appeal to a well-heeled younger crowd. It is located in Calle Sant’Antonio in San Marco.
One of Venice’s most popular hangouts, Margaret Duchamp, keeps the campo animated well into the wee hours. It is in Campo Santa Margherita in Dorsoduro.
The dart board and London ‘phone box’ are a hit with English speakers, but this cozy pub is most popular with locals who linger over beers and games of chess.
Guinness is, of course, on tap and taken seriously at this Irish outpost, as are the soccer matches shown on the large screen. It is situated in Corte dei Pali gia Testori in Cannaregio.