9. Venice: St. Mark’s Basilica with Terrace & Doge’s Palace
Combine the top two sights in Venice on one extraordinary tour led by a local guide. With pre-reserved tickets and skip-the-line access, head straight into St. Mark's Basilica and the Doge's Palace for a guided experience. Select the 8 AM tour to enjoy exclusive early entry to the Doge's Palace and have the door opened exclusively for your group an hour before the general public arrives. First, step inside Venice's most important church—St. Mark's Basilica—and gain a full appreciation for its east-meets-west architecture and breathtaking gold mosaics. In the company of a local guide, get up close with some of the basilica’s greatest treasures, such as the millennia-old Quadriga of four gold horses. Have the once-in-a-lifetime chance to admire beautiful views from the balcony over St. Mark's Square. At every step of the way, you’ll hear the fascinating story of how most of the basilica's prized possessions ended up here by less-than-honest means. The second stop on your itinerary is no less beautiful. The Palazzo Ducale, or Doge's Palace, was home to the doge, or duke, of Venice and his seat of government. Skip the long line with pre-reserved tickets and walk straight inside to explore huge council chambers, incredible audience rooms, and a stunning ballroom with larger-than-life works by renowned Venetian masters such as Veronese and Tintoretto. Hear the intriguing history of this building that housed the world's oldest republic—as well as its fascinating government and even an incarcerated Casanova. To finish your morning of discovery, walk in the footsteps of many a less-fortunate Venetian from centuries past. Head over the Bridge of Sighs from the inside and into the grim New Prisons—a stark yet fascinating contrast to the opulent halls and galleries that lie within the palace just across the narrow canal.