Top Things to Do in Venice: Essential Activities and Must-See Sights

Melina Thalassinou
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Table of Content
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Key Takeaways

  • When considering the top things to do in Venice, take into consideration the type of travel you're after.
  • Prioritize St. Mark's Basilica and the Grand Canal
  • Enjoy gondola rides and explore hidden gems
  • Experience local cuisine and visit nearby islands

 Gondola ride veniceVenice - credits: Violeta Meleti/Shutterstock.com

There are countless enchanting experiences awaiting travelers in Venice, Italy.

This city, known for its labyrinth of canals, historic architecture, and rich culture, offers an array of activities for every type of visitor.

From iconic landmarks to hidden gems, Venice captivates with its unique charm and character.

Exploring St. Mark's Basilica and the Grand Canal should be at the top of your list to truly capture the essence of Venice.

Gondola rides offer a distinct way to see the city's stunning vistas, taking you through narrow waterways and beneath charming bridges.

The iconic Piazza San Marco and the Rialto Bridge are must-see attractions, perfect for soaking in Venice's vibrant atmosphere.

Delving into the local arts and history, you will find the city's storied past reflected in its museums and palaces.

Beyond the usual tourist spots, venturing into the lesser-known areas allows you to uncover the authentic Venetian lifestyle and avoid tourist traps.

Enjoy local cuisine, shop at markets supporting small businesses, and take a day trip to nearby islands such as Murano and Burano.

These experiences ensure that your visit to Venice is both comprehensive and memorable.

Explore Cultural Marvels and Iconic Landmarks

grand canal basilica santa mariaSaint Mark's Basilica - credits: ESB Professional/Shutterstock.com

Venice offers a rich tapestry of cultural marvels and iconic landmarks, each with its own unique history and architectural splendor.

Visitors often find themselves enchanted by the blend of art, tradition, and breathtaking views.

Visit St. Mark's Basilica

St. Mark's Basilica, also known as the Basilica di San Marco, stands as a beacon of Venetian history and culture.

This stunning church, with its opulent domes and exquisite mosaics, has been a focal point of the city since the 11th century.

The basilica's Byzantine architecture, adorned with gold mosaics depicting biblical scenes, draws tourists from around the globe.

Inside, visitors can marvel at the Pala d'Oro, an altarpiece encrusted with gems. Don’t miss the opportunity to ascend to the Loggia dei Cavalli for a panoramic view of Piazza San Marco.

Discover Doge's Palace

The Doge's Palace, or Palazzo Ducale, is a masterpiece of Gothic architecture and a symbol of Venice's political power.

This grand palace served as the residence of the Doge, the supreme authority of the former Venetian Republic.

Its pink and white marble facade and intricate details are captivating. Inside, visitors can explore grand chambers such as the Sala del Maggior Consiglio, adorned with paintings by Tintoretto and Veronese.

Walking across the famous Bridge of Sighs, which connects the palace to the prison, offers a historical and melancholic perspective.

For a more upgraded experience, make sure to book skip-the-line tickets a

Wander Through Piazza San Marco

Piazza San Marco, also known as St. Mark's Square, is the heart of Venice.

Surrounded by Saint Mark's Basilica, Doge's Palace, and the Campanile, this square is a vibrant hub of activity.

Tourists and locals alike gather in the square's historic cafes, such as Caffè Florian and Caffè Quadri, to enjoy a coffee while taking in the stunning architecture.

High tide can occasionally flood the square, creating a reflective water surface that adds to its charm.

Make sure to stroll through the square at different times of the day to fully appreciate its beauty and atmosphere.

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Climb the Campanile di San Marco

The Campanile di San Marco, St. Mark's bell tower, offers one of the best vantage points in Venice.

Standing at nearly 99 meters, this historical structure has been rebuilt several times, with the current tower dating back to 1912.

A climb to the top provides a sweeping view of Venice's red rooftops, canals, and distant islands. The tower also houses five bells, each with its own unique purpose in the city's history.

This experience is a must for those looking to capture the essence of Venice from above.

Tour the Peggy Guggenheim Collection

For art enthusiasts, the Peggy Guggenheim Collection is an essential stop.

Housed in the Palazzo Venier dei Leoni, this museum showcases one of the most important collections of modern art in Italy.

Peggy Guggenheim, a prominent art collector, amassed works by artists such as Picasso, Pollock, and Dalí.

The museum's serene garden provides a beautiful setting for sculptures and contemporary pieces.

Visitors can explore both the temporary exhibits and the permanent collection that spans various influential art movements.

This tour not only offers insight into contemporary art but also a glimpse into Guggenheim's fascinating life in Venice.

Embark on Venetian Canal Adventures

woman in grand canal veniceWoman in Grand Canal in Venice - credits: RossHelen/Shutterstock.com

Experience the essence of Venice through its iconic canals.

Navigate the city's waterways to discover its rich culture, historic landmarks, and scenic beauty.

Explore the Grand Canal

The Grand Canal serves as Venice's main artery and pulses with life and activity.

Stretching for approximately 3.8 kilometers, it winds through the heart of the city from the lagoon near the Santa Lucia railway station to the basin at San Marco.

Lined with more than 170 buildings dating back to the 13th century, the Grand Canal offers a visual feast of Venetian Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque architecture.

Key landmarks include Ca' d'Oro, Palazzo Barbarigo, and the iconic Rialto Bridge.

Many visitors opt to explore the canal on a vaporetto, Venice’s water bus, which provides an affordable and convenient way to see the city’s historic buildings and vibrant life from the water.

Take a Gondola Ride

A gondola ride in Venice is more than just an activity; it's a romantic and timeless tradition.

Gondolas have been used in Venice for centuries, and today, they offer a unique way to experience the city's intimate canals and hidden corners.

Tours often include a journey through smaller, quieter canals, providing views of Venice that are otherwise inaccessible.

As the gondolier navigates, they may share stories and insights about Venetian history and culture.

Popular routes often pass by landmarks such as St. Mark's Basilica and under the Bridge of Sighs.

Gondola rides are especially popular at sunset when the city is bathed in a warm, golden light, creating an unforgettable experience for tourists.

Enjoy a Vaporetto Ride

The Vaporetto is Venice’s public waterbus service, offering an authentic and practical way to explore the city.

The Grand Canal route is one of the most popular, allowing passengers to see major sights like the Rialto Bridge and St. Mark's Square.

Travelers can purchase a Venice Travel Card, providing unlimited access to Vaporetto services and making it easier to hop on and off at different stops.

Besides the Grand Canal, Vaporetti also connect Venice to the charming Venetian islands, including Murano and Burano, known for their glassmaking and brightly colored houses.

The Vaporetto is an essential part of Venice's transport system and offers a comprehensive view of the city's iconic waterways and famous bridges.

Uncover Artistic and Historical Gems

Venice ItalyRialto Bridge - credits: S.Borisov/Shutterstock.com

Venice brims with artistic treasures and historical wonders that captivate visitors.

From rich collections of Renaissance art to iconic architectural landmarks, there's no shortage of cultural experiences.

Visit the Gallerie dell'Accademia

The Gallerie dell'Accademia is a cornerstone of Venetian art and culture.

Located on the south bank of the Grand Canal, this museum features a vast array of Renaissance masterpieces.

Art enthusiasts can admire works by Titian, Tintoretto, and Veronese.

Since its founding in 1750, the Accademia Gallery has become a preeminent repository for Venetian art.

Visitors are encouraged to explore its impressive collection of paintings and sculptures, which chronicle the evolution of Venetian artistic styles.

The distinct blend of Renaissance art and local influences makes this gallery a must-see.

The museum also holds temporary exhibitions, showcasing both historical and contemporary works, providing a well-rounded cultural experience.

The gallery's layout is designed to guide visitors through chronological sequences, making it easy to appreciate the progression of Venetian art.

Explore the Rialto Bridge and Market

The Rialto Bridge stands as one of Venice's most iconic structures.

This stunning example of Venetian Gothic architecture is situated close to Venice's central post office and spans the Grand Canal, connecting the San Marco and San Polo districts.

Visitors can enjoy breathtaking views from the bridge and take photos of the bustling canal traffic below.

Adjacent to the bridge is the Rialto Market, a hub of local life and commerce.

The market is renowned for its fresh produce and seafood, with vendors offering a wide variety of goods.

It's an excellent spot for those interested in experiencing the everyday culture of Venice.

The market dates back to the 11th century, making it a significant historical site.

Visitors can walk among the stalls, savoring the vibrant atmosphere and sampling local delicacies. This part of Venice provides a unique blend of shopping and historical exploration, making it an essential stop on any tour of the city.

Shopping and Culinary Delights

venice picnicWoman enjoying the culinary delights of Venice - credits: BLACKDAY/Shutterstock.com

Venice offers a rich experience for those who savor authentic food and enjoy unique shopping adventures.

From tasting traditional dishes to discovering exclusive boutiques, visitors can truly immerse themselves in local culture.

Savor Authentic Venetian Cuisine

One of the culinary highlights in Venice is Cicchetti, small plates of finger foods often enjoyed with a glass of wine or Spritz.

Popular venues and wine bars across the city serve these tasty bites, making them a must-try for any traveler.

For a more substantial meal, Trattoria al Gatto Nero is renowned for its exquisite seafood and friendly atmosphere.

As you sit along the canals, relish dishes like risotto with shellfish or pasta with seafood.

Food markets are another vital aspect of Venetian cuisine .

Rialto Market is among the oldest markets in the world, bustling with locals seeking fresh fish, fruit, and vegetables.

The market's vibrant environment is worth exploring, especially in the early morning when vendors are most active.

Discover Unique Shopping Spots

Venice is a haven for those looking to buy unique and memorable items.

One standout location is Libreria Acqua Alta, a quirky bookstore where books are stacked in bathtubs and gondolas to protect them from flooding.

This shop offers a unique shopping experience and a chance to find rare literary treasures.

For those interested in local crafts, Venice offers numerous shops selling Murano glass, intricate lacework, and handcrafted masks.

These items make for perfect souvenirs and give insight into the city's artisanal traditions.

Rialto Market not only offers culinary delights but also a range of other local products.

It's an ideal place to pick up fresh produce and one-of-a-kind items that reflect the local culture and lifestyle.

Whether hunting for a special gift or indulging in Venetian cuisine, this city provides an enriching experience wrapped in history and tradition.

Venture Beyond the Beaten Path

dorsoduro veniceDorsoduro district, Venice - credits: goga18128/Shutterstock.com

1. Exploring Hidden Neighborhoods

Cannaregio is a neighborhood that offers an escape from the crowds.

Known for its authentic atmosphere, visitors can discover charming alleys and local shops. The Jewish Ghetto, an integral part of Cannaregio, is steeped in history and culture.

Dorsoduro provides another retreat.

Housing Venice's best museums like the Accademia Gallery and Peggy Guggenheim Collection, it also boasts quaint cafes and art studios.

2. Secret Spots

Discover Santa Maria Formosa, a quieter square with a beautiful church and a blend of historic architecture.

Nearby, hidden gems like the Scala Contarini del Bovolo offer unique views of the city.

3. Exploration Tactics

Getting lost in Venice can be rewarding.

The city’s maze-like streets often reveal unexpected treasures. Each canal and bridge has its own charm, encouraging spontaneous exploration.

4. Unusual Finds

In the San Polo area, the Assassins' Bridge and adjacent Calle dei Assassini offer a glimpse into Venice's mysterious past.

Once notorious for crime, this spot now fascinates visitors with its intriguing history.

5. Local Life

Staying in neighborhoods like Cannaregio or Dorsoduro allows travelers to experience Venice from a local perspective.

Sampling cuisine at family-run trattorias or browsing through artisan shops provides an authentic taste of Venetian life.

By venturing off the beaten path and embracing the city's hidden aspects, visitors can uncover layers of Venice often missed by typical tours.

Seize Outdoor Experiences and Day Trips

Burano housesBurano aesthetic - credits: Korzhonov Daniil/Shutterstock.com

Lavish outdoor opportunities expand beyond Venice's canals and city life.

Visitors have a variety of activities and day trips to choose from, all infused with the charm of Venetian culture.

Explore the Venetian Islands

The Venetian islands of Murano, Burano, and Torcello offer unique experiences.

Murano, famous for its glass-making, showcases centuries-old craftsmanship. In Burano, vibrant houses and intricate lace-making capture hearts. Torcello features ancient churches and serene landscapes.

Beach Time at Lido

For a refreshing break, Lido provides an excellent beach day.

Swim, sunbathe, or enjoy beachside cafes. The Lido's sandy shores are just a short Vaporetto (waterbus) ride away from central Venice.

Stand-Up Paddleboarding and More

Outdoor enthusiasts can engage in stand-up paddleboarding (SUP) on Venice's canals.

Renting a paddleboard or joining a guided tour offers a blend of exercise and immersive sightseeing.

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Cycling Through Scenic Routes

Though Venice itself is not bike-friendly, nearby areas encourage cycling.

Take a ferry to the mainland or hop over to Lido for a leisurely bike ride along scenic routes.

Day Trips to Neighboring Islands

Organized day trips make it easy to explore multiple islands.

A typical tour might cover Murano, Burano, and Torcello, ensuring that visitors get ample time to appreciate each island's unique charm.

These islands, beaches, and activities invite visitors to experience Venice's diverse offerings beyond its historic heart.

Final Thoughts

hand in hand in veniceHand in hand in Venice - credits: oneinchpunch/Shutterstock.com

Visitors to Venice often seek information about family-friendly attractions, maximizing short visits, unique experiences, budget-friendly activities, authentic cuisine, and less crowded spots.

The city offers a wealth of experiences, making it a treasured destination for travelers.

Venice's unique architecture, historic landmarks, and vibrant cultural scene provide a captivating backdrop for exploration.

When you visit Venice, you should not miss Piazza San Marco, featuring the majestic St. Mark's Basilica and the towering Campanile. The square's centuries-old cafes add to its enchanting atmosphere.

The canals of Venice are essential to the city's charm. A gondola ride or a Vaporetto trip lets travelers soak in the picturesque waterways and historic buildings lining the banks.

The Bridge of Sighs stands out both architecturally and historically. Connecting the Doge's Palace to the prisons, it's a significant monument.

Food enthusiasts will relish the local cuisine, from fresh seafood at markets like Campiello de la Pescaria to traditional Venetian dishes in quaint trattorias.

The art and culture scene is equally compelling. From the Gallerie dell'Accademia to contemporary exhibitions at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice boasts a rich artistic heritage.

Exploring neighborhoods like Dorsoduro offers a more intimate look at daily Venetian life. Quaint squares, artisan shops, and lesser-known museums reveal the city's quieter side.

Enjoying a coffee or wine in a small square provides a peaceful moment amidst the city's hustle. Venice's ambiance is felt deeply during these relaxed times.

The city's events, such as Carnival and the Biennale art exhibition, add a dynamic layer to its allure. Each event brings fresh energy, drawing visitors worldwide.

In sum, Venice's blend of history, culture, and scenery makes it an unforgettable experience. Each corner holds a story, waiting to be discovered by those who wander through its enchanting streets.

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Hop on a quick call with a local expert from our team
Receive a tailor-made itinerary for your journey
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Frequently Asked Questions

What are the top attractions for families visiting Venice?

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How can one enjoy Venice without spending money?

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What are some less crowded spots in Venice for tourists to explore?

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