15 Best Things To Do in Venice

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Vicky Del Moral

Vicky Del Moral

11 min read

15 Best Things To Do in Venice

Panoramic view of Venice | ©Tom Podmore

Venice is the capital of the Veneto region in the northeast of the country and one of its most beautiful and visited cities, with 50,000 inhabitants and a whopping 25 million tourists a year.

If you want to enjoy the city without falling into the typical tourist traps or getting lost in the overcrowding, I leave you with this list of must-sees for a unique trip that will serve you whether you visit Venice in one day or spend a week in Venice.

1. Visit the majestic Doge's Palace

Detail of the façade of the Doge's Palace| ©Roy Luck
Detail of the façade of the Doge's Palace| ©Roy Luck

Located in the great St. Mark's Square, the Doge's Palace is one of the most important monuments of Venice, symbol of its greatest era of power and splendor and residence of the powerful Doges for almost a century.

More than 120 dukes decided the fate of the city inside the Doge's Palace, in its majestic rooms and chambers decorated with works of art and paintings by Renaissance artists such as Titian, Veronese and Tintoretto, which you can admire today.

There are many ways to visit the Doge's Palace, but I recommend buying tickets for the Doge's Palace in advance to avoid the long lines at the entrance. I leave you a post about the prices of the Doge's Palace in Venice that will solve any doubt.

Buy tickets for the Doge's Palace

2. Enter the magnificent St. Mark's Basilica

St. Mark's Basilica| ©Pablo Fernández
St. Mark's Basilica| ©Pablo Fernández

The impressive St. Mark's Basilica is another must-see in Venice. Also located in St. Mark's Square, this one-of-a-kind Byzantine temple in Italy was erected in 828 to hold the relics of this saint.

If it is impressive on the outside, wait until you see it inside and, above all, to see the views of the square from its belvedere. I recommend you to take a guided tour of St. Mark's Basilica, but if you are short on time, booking tickets to St. Mark's Basilica will be enough.

And if you are looking for a place to eat after your visit, here are some restaurants near St. Mark's Basilica to enjoy Italian food as it deserves.

Book tickets to St. Mark's Basilica

3. Have a good coffee at St. Mark's Square

Evening concert on the terrace of a cafe in St. Mark's Square.| ©Mikel Iturbe Urretxa
Evening concert on the terrace of a cafe in St. Mark's Square.| ©Mikel Iturbe Urretxa

In addition to entering the Doge's Palace and St. Mark's Basilica, the imposing 9th century St. Mark's Square is home to some of the most important museums and buildings to see in Venice, such as the Clock Tower, the Campanile, the Correr Museum or the monumental rooms of the Sansoviniana Bookshop.

Many of these you will see when you book a tour of St. Mark's Square, which will help you learn all about its history.

Nicknamed 'The Most Beautiful Hall in Europe' by Napoleon himself when he stormed the city and was enraptured by its beauty, St. Mark's Square is a must-see for its lively day and night life and even to enter one of its historic cafes, such as Café Florian or Café Quadri.

The Acqua alta in St. Mark's Square

If you travel to Venice in winter you may be surprised by the rain and with it the rise in the flow of the canals. This phenomenon is known as Acqua alta and lasts only a few hours, but if you witness it don't hesitate and take out your camera.

It is very likely that you will see it if you visit the city in November or December, but practically impossible if you do it in August or September and unlikely but not impossible if you travel to Venice in October, January or February.

Personally I think it is quite an experience, but if you want to avoid it I leave you this post about the best time to travel to Venice.

Book a tour of St. Mark's Square

4. Take a gondola ride through the small canals of Venice

Gondola ride through the canals of Venice| ©Jack Ward
Gondola ride through the canals of Venice| ©Jack Ward

Taking a gondola ride through the canals of Venice is a romantic, super pleasant and already iconic activity in Venice.

I recommend you not to miss this once in a lifetime experience, but above all I advise you to book your gondola ride in Venice in advance and online to avoid wasting time there given its high demand and the difficulty to distinguish the 'official' gondoliers from the 'pirates', very common in the city.

Given the demand for this activity, there are different combinations with which you can hire your gondola ride along with a guided tour of the city or its most important buildings, which will mean a good saving on the trip, especially in special times like Christmas in Venice, when the gondola ride usually goes up in price.

Book your gondola ride

5. Set off in search of the most important and oldest bridges in Venice

The Rialto Bridge from the gondola| ©Vincenzo Landino
The Rialto Bridge from the gondola| ©Vincenzo Landino

With over 400 bridges, it's impossible to walk around Venice without crossing many of them or even passing under the vast majority by booking a Grand Canal ride.

But a Venice Grand Canal cruise is not the only way to get to know the different must-see bridges in Venice whose history you can discover thanks to some of the guided walking tours of the city. These are the most important bridges:

  • The Ponte Rialto: it is the oldest and most famous of the four that cross the Grand Canal and was built in stone between the years 1588 and 1591. At sunset you will enjoy the best sunset in Venice. From one of the streets leading down from the bridge, you can discover the Rialto Market, with dozens of food stalls, Venetian masks or Murano glass.
  • The Barefoot Bridge: also called the Station Bridge due to its proximity to the Santa Lucia railway station, was built in 1932 in stone and with a single arch.
  • The Accademia Bridge: built in wood, it is 48 meters long and was erected to replace the previous iron one and inaugurated in 1933.

Book a walk along the Grand Canal

6. Explore other main churches in Venice

Sunset at Santa Maria della Salute| ©kuhnmi
Sunset at Santa Maria della Salute| ©kuhnmi

In addition to the majestic St. Mark's Basilica, Venice has other relevant temples that you can visit through some of the tickets that include guided tours of Venice and that stand out for their architecture and the artistic treasures hidden in their interiors. Some of the most important are:

  • Santi Giovanni e Paolo: one of the most beautiful churches in Venice and the largest of all, housing the remains of 27 dukes and remarkable works of art.
  • Santa Maria della Salute: it has works by Tintoretto and others by the brilliant Titian. This church was built after the tragic plague epidemic that struck the city and killed more than 80,000 inhabitants.
  • Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari: its ornate exterior exhibits great works by Titian, such as 'The Assumption', and houses his mausoleum and that of another genius, Antonio Canova.
  • Church of San Barnaba: it is located in the interesting neighborhood of Dorsoduro and became world famous for appearing in the movie 'Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade'.

Some of these churches are included when you book the Venice Chorus Pass, a pass that gives you access to about 14 churches by skipping the lines at the ticket office, allowing you to enjoy Venetian art and architecture while making the most of your time in the city.

Book the Venice Chorus Pass

7. Discover Murano and Burano from Venice

Murano Canal| ©kevin charit
Murano Canal| ©kevin charit

If you spend at least two days in Venice, I recommend you save half a day for an excursion to the islands of Murano, Burano and Torcello.

Visiting one of the many factories of the famous Murano glass and learning how it is worked at the hands of a master glassmaker (something especially curious if you travel with children to Venice), getting lost in the colorful fishermen's houses and handmade lace stalls of Burano and discovering the architectural and historical heritage of Torcello, are unforgettable experiences.

Getting to the islands of Murano and Burano from Venice is easy, although if you want to make the most of your time and see all the tourist attractions of Murano, as well as enjoy all there is to do in Burano, I recommend an organized excursion.

Excursions from Venice

These islands are two of the must-do getaways from Venice whenever there is an opportunity.

If you are wondering how many days is recommended to spend in Venice I will tell you that the city can be seen in a couple of days, at most you can travel three days to Venice if you want to see it very thoroughly. From a four day trip to Venice do not hesitate and book an excursion to Murano and Burano among other nearby cities.

Book an excursion to Murano and Burano

8. Use the Vaporetto whenever you can

Vaporetto in Venice| ©Trollinho
Vaporetto in Venice| ©Trollinho

Walking around Venice can be exhausting, but fortunately the Venetian Vaporetto is at the service of citizens and tourists to take you from one side of the city to the other in comfort while enjoying the views of the majestic palaces that surround its canals.

A tip when visiting Venice? Take an entire route along the Grand Canal. It is definitely the cheapest way to cross it by water and although the experience is not as exclusive as the gondola, the views are the same and it is one of the main ways to get around Venice.

Book a ride on the Grand Canal

9. Get to know the Jewish quarter of Venice

The Venice Ghetto| ©richard evea
The Venice Ghetto| ©richard evea

Often overlooked by visitors to the city, this Jewish quarter is one of the best preserved ghettos in Europe today. Its streets are, if anything, more delicate and narrow than those of the rest of the city and the history that is breathed within its walls is worth knowing.

To get to know it, I recommend you to book a tour of the Jewish quarter of Venice, you will not regret it!

Book a tour of the Jewish quarter of Venice

10. Book an airport transfer

Runways emerging from the lagoon at Marco Polo airport| ©Hindol Bhattacharya
Runways emerging from the lagoon at Marco Polo airport| ©Hindol Bhattacharya

The city of Venice will probably grab you so much that you won't want to leave it, but as unfortunately all good things come to an end, you have to go to the airport.

Transfers from the Venice airport to the center and vice versa can be just another formality or can leave you with a bad taste in your mouth.

Venice is an expensive and very touristy city so it will not be uncommon for them to try to rip you off to get to and from the airport. To avoid this and, of course, to make the most of your time in the city, my advice is to book your Venice airport transfer in advance.

Book your Venice airport transfer

11. Take a look at the best viewpoints in Venice

View of the rooftops of Venice from the Campanile of St. Mark's.| ©Kristina D.C. Hoeppner
View of the rooftops of Venice from the Campanile of St. Mark's.| ©Kristina D.C. Hoeppner

One of the most rewarding experiences to do in Venice is to ascend to its spectacular viewpoints, located on terraces or ancient towers, to get wonderful photographs of the panoramic view of this beautiful city. I especially recommend:

  • Scala Contarini del Bovolo: the famous spiral staircase of this Venetian palace is another of the most beautiful spots from which to appreciate Venice, with unique views of the city's reddish rooftops and downtown churches.
  • St. Mark's Campanile: it is the tallestbell tower in Venice and is located in St. Mark's Square. It will give you the best views of the historic center.
  • Campanile of San Giorgio Maggiore: to appreciate the Venetian lagoon. Inside, this church houses masterpieces by Tinttoreto such as 'The Last Supper', 'The Deposition' and the 'Gathering of the Manna'.

12. Visit the Lido beach in the summertime

Lido Beach| ©Serge Le Strat
Lido Beach| ©Serge Le Strat

The Lido of Venice is an area unknown to tourists and loved by the citizens of Venice for being the beach where they escape to on weekends (especially in good weather) to disconnect from the hustle and bustle of the city center.

If you are in one of those hot summer days in Venice and you want to know a much more "local" corner, you can reach it by Vaporetto and take a dip like a Venetian. There you will also find a residential area with bars and restaurants where you can spend a relaxing afternoon.

13. See the Bridge of Sighs

Bridge of Sighs| ©Jorge Franganillo
Bridge of Sighs| ©Jorge Franganillo

The Bridge of Sighs deserves a special mention, not only for its beauty but also for the history behind it, as it was the bridge that led to the dungeons of the prison of the Doge's Palace.

You will find it very close to St. Mark's Square and I recommend that you see it both day and night. You will recognize it immediately for being the target of the flashes of tourists strolling through the area.

14. Have an aperitif and dinner at Canareggio.

Terrace of a pizzeria| ©Paul VanDerWerf
Terrace of a pizzeria| ©Paul VanDerWerf

Canareggio is one of the most authentic areas of Venice. Walking through its streets you will see how Venetians really live, what their houses are like and even the workshops where they repair their boats.

At night the Venetian streets always have a festive atmosphere, with lots of terraces on the street and groups of young people having an aperitif or a good pizza.

Believe me if I tell you that you don't want to miss this part of the city. Here I leave you a list of cheap restaurants to eat in Venice.

15. Have a cocktail overlooking Santa Maria della Salute

Santa Maria della Salute| ©Ștefan Jurcă
Santa Maria della Salute| ©Ștefan Jurcă

Here comes the treat of the day: if after hours of intense sightseeing you need to rest but are reluctant to go to the hotel, I recommend you to treat yourself to a cocktail (or a coffee) on the terrace of one of the luxurious hotels at the end of the Grand Canal that offer wonderful views of Santa Maria della Salute.

The Palazzo Gritti (which, as a building in itself, is worth seeing) or the St. Regis are my favorites. But if you prefer to have the view from the opposite side, you will love the terrace of the Sina Centurion Palace. The terrace has incredible views and is right on top of the water.