The most romantic bars in Venice, from the best place to sip a Bellini to the spot locals love for sundowners
- Harry’s Bar is where the Bellini was invented by founder Giuseppe Cipriani
- Dial up pure Venetian glamour and head to Bar Longhi in the Gritti Palace Hotel
- A local favourite for sunset drinks (and super meaty dinners) is Al Timon
Every week our Holiday Hero Neil Simpson takes an in-depth look at a brilliant holiday topic, doing all the legwork so you don’t have to. This week: the most romantic bars in Venice.
Venice is one of the most beautiful cities in the world, especially when summer crowds disappear and autumn mists start rolling up the canals at sunset.
Here are my favourite places to share a romantic drink by candlelight.
Irresistible: Bellinis at Harry’s Bar, which has been the place to be since 1931
Can anyone resist the lure of a Bellini in Harry’s Bar? The bar may be small and the interior underwhelming, but it’s been the place to be since 1931.
Everyone from Hemingway to Hitchcock and from Charlie Chaplin to George Clooney has raised a glass here.
It’s where Charles and Sebastian drink in Brideshead Revisited and where the Bellini was invented when founder Giuseppe Cipriani first mixed fresh peach juice with sparkling wine. Book a table (and dress smartly) if you want to eat. Or sip a Bellini at the bar for about £20 (cipriani.com).
Dial up pure Venetian glamour and head to Bar Longhi in the Gritti Palace Hotel on the Grand Canal. Sink into a sofa beneath a Murano glass chandelier and alongside museum-quality 18th Century art. Cashmere rugs are provided to keep you cosy should you choose the waterside terrace, where you can watch gondoliers go by and try the signature tipple – the Longhi, a heady mix of campari, vermouth and orange liqueur, again about £20 (thegrittipalace.com).
Opulence: Bar Longhi in located in the Gritti Palace Hotel on the Grand Canal
It’s only really in Venice where a humble-sounding cafe can resemble a palace. One example is Caffè Florian in St Mark’s Square which is preparing to celebrate its 300th birthday and is famous for opulent interiors, waiters in white jackets and exorbitant prices.
Cocktails average £35 and a bottle of water can cost £30. You will pay the highest prices should you sit outside, as there’s a fee for the privilege of listening to the musicians who play till midnight (caffeflorian.com).
Moments from St Mark’s Square is the waterside Caffè Centrale, which was a grand palace in the 16th Century.
Today candles dance in front of red-brick walls and couples toast the future with a Rossini, a mix of fresh strawberry juice and prosecco for £8.50.
Go the full George and Amal Clooney and arrive by water taxi at the Centrale’s private dock (but book a table first so you’re not turned away if it’s full) (caffecentralevenezia.com).
Right in the heart of Venice, the 150-year-old Caffè dei Frari is a picture-perfect spot for morning coffee. But visitors rave about it at night when it turns into Il Mercante, serving some of the most imaginative cocktails in the city. Drink them on the upper floor, looking out at the ancient Gothic Basilica dei Frari next door (ilmercantevenezia.com).
AND WHERE THE LOCALS GO
The Cannaregio area is perfect for a passeggiata – an Italian evening stroll
Locals are hard to find in Venice – but many of those who can afford to stay in the city live in the Cannaregio area.
It’s perfect for a passeggiata – an Italian evening stroll. Stop for a drink anywhere you see candles on canalside tables, or head for Vino-Vero (true wine) or Birreria Zanon for craft beer and black bread bar snacks.
Another local favourite for sunset drinks (and super meaty dinners) is Al Timon, where you can drink in the tiny bar, at the water’s edge, or, if there’s space, on the canal boat moored in front (altimon.it).