Venice
Photo Courtesy of Peter Dench

All corners of Venice have cultural significance and intrigue, from the ad hoc bridges linking the city's 118 separate islands to iconic public spaces like Piazza San Marco and Rialto. If pressed for time, it's a good idea to see at least one or two treasures from each neighborhood. In Castello, check out the Arsenale district and the Museo Storico Navale di Venezia to learn about the city's maritime empire. In San Marco, the Museo Correr holds a bevy of fascinating Venetian art and rotating international exhibitions. Santa Croce would be a shame to miss, and visiting the Scuola Grande di San Rocco is a must. The same applies to the new Prada Foundation in San Polo. The Accademia Museum in Dorsoduro, though usually very busy, is an absolute gem, and since its restoration by the nonprofit Save Venice Inc., it's now one of Venice's hottest tickets.

Venice is a hive of cultural activity and offers a seemingly unending lineup of festivals, fairs, and street parties. The Venice Film Festival, Carnival, and the art and architecture Biennales are the most famous, and tend to last between two weeks and four months. But other less-frequented though equally entertaining events include the feast day Festival of San Marco in April, and the September Regatta Storica, a procession of ornate boats throughout Venice's main waterways.