Winston Lee's Travel Black Book

Why Venice is my fairy tale city: Dr Winston Lee

Dr Winston Lee (above) recommends the Carnevale di Venezia, which takes place around Lent, when partygoers are all dressed up (left).
Dr Winston Lee recommends the Carnevale di Venezia, which takes place around Lent, when partygoers are all dressed up (above).PHOTO: WINSTON LEE
Dr Winston Lee (above) recommends the Carnevale di Venezia, which takes place around Lent, when partygoers are all dressed up (left).
Dr Winston Lee (above) recommends the Carnevale di Venezia, which takes place around Lent, when partygoers are all dressed up.PHOTO: WINSTON LEE

There is no place like Venice, with its romantic gondola rides and quirky street performers

Who: Dr Winston Lee, 33, medical director of South Bridge Aesthetics Clinic

Favourite destination: Venice, Italy

Why: It is truly a fairy-tale, mediaeval city with no cars, cobblestone streets, quirky street performers and romantic gondola rides. It's beautiful, affordable and utterly original. Other places such as Bruges, Belgium; Wuzhen, China; and Tonle Sap, Cambodia, claim to be the Venice of this and that, and Macau and Las Vegas have their man-made versions. But really, there's no place in the world like Venice.

Favourite place to stay

Ca'Gottardi Hotel (2283 Cannaregio 30121 Venice; tel: +39-041-275-9333; The rooms are colourful and chic and the prices affordable, starting at €170 (S$267) a night during peak summer season. Service is tip-top and they serve the best coffee.

If you want a five-star hotel, I recommend Ca'Sagredo Hotel (Campo Santa Sofia 4198/99 - Ca' D'Oro, 30121 Venezia; tel: +39-041-241-3111;

This 15th-century palace has a grand staircase, views of the canals, fresco painted ceilings and elaborately decorated rooms. Service here is great and I think it is the most beautiful of all the five-star hotels in Venice, and also the most reasonably priced. Rooms start at €300 during peak season.

Favourite restaurant

I love the sandwiches and coffee at Caffe Florian (Piazza San Marco, 57 - 30124 Venezia; tel: +39-041-520- 5641; This is one of the world's oldest cafes, opened in the same spot at Piazza San Marco in 1720. It has beautiful interiors with painted ceilings, gilded walls and velvet chairs, and is probably the grandest cafe in Europe. A lot of people come here dressed in European historical costume during Carnevale, an annual festival where thousands of people wear 18th-century clothes and elaborate masks. It looks like something out of a Hollywood movie.

The cafe also hosts contemporary art events and talks, so it still plays a part in daily Venetian culture. Wear something nice when you go there, or you'll feel out of place.

Favourite place for shopping

Check out the shops around Piazza San Marco where prices for most designer goods are 30 to 40 per cent lower than Singapore prices even without a sale. There are some really nice paper and stationery stores. The leather-bound photo albums are extremely light and good buys.

Also, check out the stores that sell papier mache Venetian masks, marionette toys and non-branded Italian-made shoes and handbags which are beautiful and reasonably priced.

Favourite bookshop

Libreria Acqua Alta (5176/B Sestiere Castello, 30122 Venezia; tel:+39- 041-296-0841), one of the world's most famous and beautiful bookstores, located in an old building along one of Venice's many canals.

The decor is unique, where old and new books are strewn all over the store; weathered, unsold encyclopaedias are used as staircases; and books are placed on and inside a gondola and bathtub, so when the shop gets flooded, the books stay dry.

Best place to watch the sunset

Definitely San Giorgio Maggiore, an island across the Grand Canal from Piazza San Marco. This is where many famous photographs of Venice are taken. From here, you can see the sun setting against Piazza San Marco and Basilica and the views are out of this world.

If you want a photo of yourself in Venice, this is the place to get it.

Event to bookmark

Venice hosts a few memorable events each year. The most famous is the Carnevale di Venezia (, which takes place in the two to three weeks around Lent and features parades and masquerade balls. The next Carnevale di Venezia is from Jan 23 to Feb 9. Ideal length of stay

At least three days. If you want a guided tour, join a day trip which starts around Piazza San Marco. It should cost no more than €50 a person and will take you to the city's highlights.

One of the best parts about Venice is getting lost in its back streets. Just remember to get the card of your hotel and know how to get from your hotel to Piazza San Marco.

If you get lost, any policeman or shopkeeper will be able to point you in the direction of the Piazza and you can find your way from there.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on August 16, 2015, with the headline 'Fairy tale city'. Print Edition | Subscribe