15 Best Things To Do in Venice

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Vicky Del Moral

Vicky Del Moral

10 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 crowds, here is a list of must-sees for a unique trip that will be useful 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 grand Piazza San Marco, the Doge's Palace is one of Venice's most important monuments, a symbol of its greatest period of power and splendour and the 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 queues at the entrance. Here is a post about the prices of the Doge's Palace in Venice that will solve any doubts you may have.

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 Byzantine temple, the only one of its kind in Italy, was erected in 828 to house the relics of this saint.

If it is impressive on the outside, wait until you see it on the inside and, above all, 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 of 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 so you can enjoy Italian food as it deserves.

Book tickets to St. Mark's Basilica

3. Have a cup of coffee in St. Mark's Square

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

As well as 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 and the monumental rooms of the Sansovinian Bookshop.

Many of these can be seen 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 into the city and was enraptured by its beauty, St Mark's Square is a must-see for its lively day and nightlife and you can even pop into 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 get your camera out.

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

Personally I think it's 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 Venice's canals| ©Jack Ward
Gondola ride through Venice's canals| ©Jack Ward

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

I recommend that you don't miss out on this once in a lifetime experience, but above all I advise you to book your gondola ride in Venice in advance and online so as not to waste time there given the high demand and the difficulty of distinguishing the 'official' gondoliers from the 'pirates', which are very common in the city.

Given the demand for this activity, there are different combinations with which you can book 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 at 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 Venice's most important and oldest bridges

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 cruise.

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

  • The Ponte Rialto: it is the oldest and most famous of the four bridges that cross the Grand Canal and was built in stone between 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 stalls selling food, Venetian masks and Murano glass.
  • The Barefoot Bridge: also called the Station Bridge due to its proximity to the Santa Lucia railway station, it was built in 1932 in stone with a single arch.
  • The Accademia Bridge: built in wood, it is 48 metres long and was erected to replace the previous iron one and inaugurated in 1933.

Book a walk along the Grand Canal

6. Explore other major 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 important 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 ones 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 killed more than 80,000 inhabitants.
  • Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari: its ornate exterior displays great works by Titian, such as 'The Assumption', and houses his mausoleum and that of another genius, Antonio Canova.
  • Church of San Barnaba: located in the interesting neighbourhood of Dorsoduro, it became world famous for being featured in the film 'Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade'.

Some of these churches are included when you book the Venice Chorus Pass, a pass that gives you skip-the-line access to around 14 churches, 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 famous Murano glass factories and learning how it's made by a master glassmaker (especially interesting if you're travelling to Venice with children), wandering through the colourful 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, but if you want to make the most of your time and see all the sights of Murano, as well as all there is to do on Burano, I recommend an organised excursion.

Excursions from Venice

These islands are two of the must-do getaways from Venice whenever you get the chance.

If you're wondering how many days to spend in Venice, the city can be seen in a couple of days, but at most you can spend three days in Venice if you want to see it in depth. From a four day trip to Venice don't hesitate and book a trip to Murano and Burano among other nearby cities.

Book a tour to Murano and Burano

8. Use the Vaporetto whenever you can

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

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

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

Book a trip on the Grand Canal

9. See Venice's Jewish quarter

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 possible, more delicate and narrow than those of the rest of the city, and the history within its walls is worth knowing.

To get to know it, I recommend you book a tour of the Jewish Quarter of Venice, you won't regret it!

Book a tour of Venice's Jewish Quarter

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 Venice airport to the city centre and back can be a mere formality or leave you with a bad taste in your mouth.

Venice is an expensive and touristy city, so it's not uncommon for people to try to rip you off getting 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 in the best viewpoints in Venice

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

One of the most rewarding experiences to do in Venice is to climb 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 the churches in the centre.
  • St Mark's Campanile: this is the tallestbell tower in Venice and is located in St Mark's Square. It will give you the best views of the historic centre.
  • Campanile de 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 summer

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

Venice's Lido is an area unknown to tourists but 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 centre.

If you're on one of those hot summer days in Venice and fancy a more 'local' spot, you can reach it by Vaporetto and take a dip like a local. There you'll 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'll find it very close to St. Mark's Square itself and I recommend you see it both day and night. You will recognise it immediately because it is the target of the flashbulbs of tourists strolling through the area.

14. Have an aperitif and dinner in 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 can see how the 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 street terraces and groups of young people having an aperitif or a good pizza.

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

15. Have a cocktail with a view of 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 back to your hotel, I recommend that you treat yourself to a cocktail (or a coffee) on the terrace of one of the luxurious hotels at the end of the Grand Canal, which offer wonderful views of Santa Maria della Salute.

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