16 Unmissable Things to Do in Venice, Italy
Venice is one of the most romantic cities in the whole world, attracting tourist crowds all year long, and definitely one of my favorite places ever in Italy, my home country.
Even though it is mainly known for the famous canals, St Mark’s Square and the Ponte di Rialto, this city has countless attractions to offer, and if you are trying to find them, I have just what you need!
Since I’ve been there many times, I gathered all the best things to do in Venice. From the best tours to the top sights in the city and magical islands in the Venetian Lagoon, you’ll find all that and more in this detailed guide. And I’ve also included some hotels where to stay in Venice for any kind of budget!
Get ready to have a romantic gondola ride through the Grand Canal before winding your way through the smaller canals, visit museums like the Doge’s Palace, explore important religious buildings, and have delicious Italian food and aperitifs! Are you already excited?
Then let’s start exploring all the top things to do in Venice!
If you are in a hurry
If you don’t have time to read about all the best things to do in Venice, Italy, check out the main tours and top accommodations in the city:
Here are the main things to book in advance:
And here are the best hotels: The Gritti Palace (luxury), Hotel Mercurio (mid-range), Residenza Bistrot De Venise (budget)
1. Stroll around Piazza San Marco
Located on the Grand Canal, the huge Piazza San Marco (St Mark’s Square) is one of the most famous spots in Venice, framed by ornate buildings with beautiful arched walkways.
This is the perfect place to just stroll around, enjoy water views, sit in a cafe and do some people-watching or visit one of its incredible tourist attractions.
In fact, St Mark’s Square hosts many important buildings including the St Mark’s Campanile, St Mark’s Basilica, and the Doge’s Palace: let’s check out the first two here below (while you’ll find more info for the Doge’s Palace on section 8).
St Mark’s Basilica
The first thing you’ll see when you step into Piazza San Marco is the massive and stunning St. Mark’s Basilica, a sublime piece of Byzantine architecture from 1092.
The church is beautiful inside and out, ornate with sculptures and gold details of the front facade, and painted frescoes, mosaics, and Byzantine artworks inside on the domed ceiling… and it even hosts the St Mark’s Terrace for beautiful views over the square!
If you want to visit St Mark’s Basilica, the entrance is free, but you should either arrive early in the morning to avoid the lines (at around 9am), or you can buy skip the lines ticket in advance, either on the official website for €6, or this fast-track entry ticket with an audio guide for €20.
A visit to the St Mark’s Basilica lasts about 1.30h (excluding the lines), and the building is open every day from 9.30 am. and 5 pm.
NOTE: Make sure you avoid wearing skirts and shorts, or they won’t let you enter!
St Mark’s Campanile
The Campanile di San Marco is the bell tower of St Mark’s Basilica in Venice (99 meters high) dominating the skyline of Venice and offering breathtaking views of the city’s skyline, one of the best memories you can bring home from Venice!
To go to the top of the bell tower, you’ll need to take an elevator for €10. The attraction is open every day from 9.30 am to 9.15 pm but I suggest you go there in the late afternoon, during sunset time when the city and the sky light up with incredible colors.
2. Enjoy the views from the Rialto Bridge
The Ponte di Rialto is the oldest bridge crossing the Grand Canal, and the most iconic bridge in the city, ornate with beautiful details and design… so it had to be on this list of the best things to do in Venice!
This famous bridge connects the San Marco and San Polo districts of Venice, so you will for sure pass through it if you’re strolling around the city. You cannot miss it, it’s always full of tourists taking pictures with the Grand Canal in the background!
Fun fact: The Rialto Bridge was originally a wooden bridge until it collapsed in 1444 under the weight of a crowd celebrating the marriage of the Marquis of Ferrara.
The bridge is also perfect to do some souvenir shopping, hosting many stands and shops selling everything from jewelry to carnival masks, food, etc.
3. Take a walking tour of Venice
If you want to have a better idea of Venice’s history and a bit more of a local experience, explore the city on this ‘secret Venice’ 2 hours walking tour, for €39. It’s limited to 10 people so you’ll have a more intimate experience and relaxed pace.
Your local guide will bring you through some authentic areas that most tourists never see and past captivating hidden gems, like the Jewish Ghetto, Cannaregio, and San Polo districts. You’ll also stop to admire some artisan workshops selling handcrafted traditional masks and gondolas!
DID YOU KNOW? During the Middle Ages and the Italian Renaissance, Venice was a major financial and military center in northern Italy, as well as a cultural and artistic city renowned worldwide.
And if you want to visit the most typical spots of Venice, check out this 3-hour guided tour through the most famous monuments and colorful buildings, like Piazza San Marco (St Mark’s Square), St Mark’s Basilica, the Rialto Bridge and Market etc.
The walking tour also includes a picturesque gondola ride on the Grand Canal (Canal Grande) for €45, so you get 2 experiences in one!
Book Your Walking Tour in Venice
4. Take a romantic gondola ride on the Grand Canal
An absolute must among all the best things to do in Venice (especially during summer months) is taking a romantic gondola ride through Canal Grande and the other narrow canals, so you can explore the city from another perspective!
Since it’s a pretty touristy thing to do, taking a gondola tour in Venice can be quite pricey, costing around €80 for a 40 minute ride and up up to €100 after 7 pm (but you’ll most likely have to negotiate the price with the gondolier before the ride).
If you want to save up some money, I suggest you book your gondola ride online in advance. This gondola tour, for example, will bring you through all the charming Venetian canals for around 1 hour, while you enjoy the live commentary of all the beautiful attractions you’ll see.
Each gondola ride can hold a maximum of 5 people, and costs €40 per person (half of the price you get if you pay on-site!).
And if you want to have the ultimate romantic experience in total privacy, check out this 30-minute private tour through the entire grand canal, including a delicious meal in an enchanting Venetian restaurant for €102 per person, one of the best things to do in Venice for couples!
5. Visit all the old churches
Even if most visitors only check out St Mark’s Basilica, there are many important religious buildings in Venice that are definitely worth a visit and that will make you travel back in time. Below you find the main ones:
Santa Maria Della Salute
Located east of the Grand Canal, close to the Peggy Guggenheim Collection (check out section 10 to know more about it), Santa Maria Della Salute is one of the best churches to visit in Venice for history buffs, dating back to the 1600s.
In fact, the Santa Maria Della Salute church was built during the plague period and dedicated to Our Lady of Health (Salute means health in Italian), so all the art and frescos you will find inside showcases people struggling against the pandemic.
You can just gaze at Santa Maria Della Salute exteriors from outside, decorated with four statues of the apostles and tall dome towers above the skyline, or even climb the baroque cupola to admire some of the best views of the city… and the best thing is that is completely free to enter!
Santa Maria dei Miracoli
If you love Renaissance architecture, you cannot leave Venice without checking out Santa Maria Dei Miracoli church, also known as the “marble church“, being completely covered in marble.
With its colored marble interiors, pilasters on the exterior walls, and a semicircular pediment, this church is one of the best examples of the early Venetian Renaissance in Italy!
The location of the church is just perfect, lying only 10 minutes from St Mark’s Square, in the Cannaregio neighborhood, one of the most unique and local parts of the city hosting the Jewish Ghetto.
Santa Maria Assunta
Also known as Gesuiti, Santa Maria Assunta church is another church located in the Cannaregio area, dating back to 1729.
This religious building is just beautiful, featuring a front facade with many stone columns, ornate statues of religious figures, and a huge bronze door as an entrance, and the interiors are as stunning, containing several artworks like the Martyrdom of St. Lawrence by Titian.
To enter Santa Maria Assunta, you will need to leave a small donation (just a few euros), and when you are inside, look up at the ceiling: you will see beautiful artwork, frescos, and gold details!
And if you don’t like crowds, Santa Maria Assunta is the attraction for you, since it is not as popular as other churches like St Mark basilica the place is always super quiet.
Price: free donation
6. Explore San Giorgio Maggiore Island
Located on the opposite side of St Mark’s Square and close to the Grand Canal, San Giorgio Maggiore is one of the smaller separate islands in the Venice area, which is not connected to the main canals of the city.
This is the perfect place to stroll around the small harbor and enjoy some tranquility far from the tourist crowds of the main island of Venice, but this doesn’t mean there’s nothing to do here!
In fact, San Giorgio Maggiore island hosts many attractions, but the main ones are the Church of San Giorgio Maggiore, dating back from the 8th century, and the huge campanile, that you can both access by paying an entrance fee of €6.
Climbing the campanile is definitely worth it to enjoy stunning views of the island, Venice, and its main highlights like the Doges Palace, St. Mark Campanile, and St. Mark’s Basilica.
If you don’t want to think about transportation and you prefer to have a guided tour of the San Giorgio Maggiore island, I suggest you check out this tour including priority access to the church and a multimedia guide for €20.
- Water bus: catch the Vaporetto Water Bus (ACTVLine No. 2) from Venice Train Station to San Giorgio Maggiore church for 45 minutes.
NOTE: You will need to buy 2 one-way tickets in Venice (for about €10 each) because you cannot buy them on San Giorgio Maggiore Island.
- Tour: Join this tour, including priority access to the church and a multimedia guide for €20.
Go on a Tour of Giorgio Maggiore Island
7. Take a picture from the Bridge of Sighs
An absolute must-do on your things to do in Venice bucket list is to pass through the small Bridge of Sighs, crossing over the Rio di Palazzo river, famous for its tiny window from which you can have one of the most picturesque and framed views of the city!
This lovely Bridge of Sighs connects the Prigioni Nuove (new prisons) to Doge’s Palace (check out the following section), and legend says it was once the place where criminals were taken from the Palace to have one last glimpse of Venice before their imprisonment!
Today, just pop over to Ponte della Paglia, enjoy the great view and make sure you take a picture!
8. Check out Doges Palace
Located in Piazza San Marco, Doge’s Palace is home to the Venetian government, and hosts many ancient rooms with stunning fine art that are centuries old. If you are fond of history, you need to go explore them!
From the outside of the Doges palace, you can admire its beautiful 14th-century waterfront façade and as soon as you enter through the Porta del Frumento, you will visit the Museo dell Opera and its temporary exhibitions on the ground floor.
On the upper floors, you will find the extraordinary courtyard, the Loggia (where the Doge’s Apartments are located) and the Institutional Chambers, to finish with a visit to the Armoury and Prisons.
If you want to visit all this, I would allow yourself around 1.30h, and the visit will cost you €31, but if you want to avoid the long queues at the entrance, book these skip-the-line tickets online in advance, for €43
9. Go on a day trip to Murano
Murano island is part of the Venice district, an area made up of many small islands connected together by canals and bridges (like in Venice), and is one of the most famous ones for its long tradition of glass-making.
The main attraction here is the Museo del Vetro museum (€11), where you can learn about the story of the Murano glass, but this quiet island is perfect to just stroll around and buy some crafted souvenirs in the local shops and see some live demonstrations of glass blowing at the various factories.
The best way to explore all these unique things to do in Venice is to join this cruise to Murano (€30), during which you will visit a glass factory, go to a glass beads jewelry workshop to watch a glass blowing demonstration, and make your own piece!
With many other touristic sights like the Basilica di Santa Maria and the Campo Santo Stefano square, Murano is perfect for a day trip, and to make the best out of your time you should combine it with other islands of the Venice district!
This full-day excursion will bring you to discover the islands of Burano (famous for its colorful buildings), Murano and the historic Torcello from Venice San Marco, for only €25 including live comments, your own guide and boat transportation!
Tour price: €25
How to get there:
- Water bus/taxi: catch the Vaporetto Water Bus (ACTVLine No. 4.1 or 4.2) for 20 minutes from Fondamente Nove stop to Murano via San Michele, a small island in between. The ferries run about every 15 minutes and a ticket costs €13 one way.
- Private water taxi: You can hire a private boat (water taxi) to Murano and back, that will pick you up at your hotel or other designated spot. Private water taxis usually carry 4 people maximum and costs go around €100 depending on the route, check all the prices here!
- Tour: This full-day excursion will bring you to discover the islands of Burano, Murano and Torcello from Venice San Marco, for only €25 including a live guide and boat transportation!
Take a trip to Burano Murano & Torcello
10. Peggy Guggenheim Collection
If you love modern art, you need to go check out this museum set in the Palazzo Venier dei Leoni, an ancient palace dating back to the 18th century.
In the Peggy Guggenheim Collection you will find incredible artworks from famous painters from the twentieth century, like Picasso, Dalí, Miró, and Kandinsky, as well as sculpture gardens and a beautiful terrace on the Grand Canal, where you can have a lovely view of Ponte dell’Accademia.
A visit to the museum will take you approximately 2 hours and cost you €16, but make sure you book your tickets online in advance so you don’t have to lose some precious time waiting in line!
Book Your Peggy Guggenheim Tickets Online
11. Take a food tour to explore the tastes of Venice
Needless to say, you cannot leave Venice without trying the delicious and traditional cuisine from the Veneto Region, where I am from (and where the city is located).
During this 3 hour street food walking tour, you will follow your foodie guide and try local dishes in the city’s eateries, as well as exquisite street food in the historic Rialto Market alongside the Grand Canal, while seeing historical monuments along the way, for €42.
But Venice is very famous in Italy for its traditional “cicchetti“, small tapas that we usually accompany with an aperitif (Aperol spritz or Campari) before dinner or lunch, and you will find countless bars called Bacari where they offer that.
So if you prefer something a little more formal than the street food tour I recommended above, the best way to explore all the best Bacari’s is with a local guide on this alternative food tour with Cicchetti tastings and wine. You will have a stroll around the characteristic Cannaregio neighborhood and take a traghetto gondola through Canal Grande to Rialto, where the food-tasting can begin!
Here, get ready to immerse yourself in the culture of ‘bacari’ and cicchetti. This is really a big tradition in Italy and is part of local daily life… maybe after the tour it will become part of yours too! The tour costs €99 and lasts about 3 hours, I am sure you will love it!
12. Enjoy the panorama from Fondaco Rooftop Terrace
The Fondaco Terrace is located in the Fondaco Dei Tedeschi building (which was once the headquarters of the Central Post Office in Venice) right next to the Rialto Bridge and offers the best views of the Grand Canal.
So if you want to take some good pictures, or just enjoy a breathtaking panorama and not think about anything else, this is the place to be. Watch the lazy gondolas, water taxis, and other boats going back and forth along the Grand Canal, it can’t get any better!
The entrance is free but you need to book tickets online before arriving (they sell out quite fast so make sure you do that at least a week in advance!).
NOTE: You can only stay on the terrace only for a 15-minute time slot. So be there on time or you could lose your visit!
13. Relax at the Venice Lido
The only downside of Venice is that it’s always super crowded with tourists, so if one day you want to escape the hustle and bustle of the city and just spend a day relaxing, Venice Lido island is the place to be!
This calm and laid-back island creates a barrier between Venice’s main city and the Adriatic Sea and hosts a long stretch of beautiful beach where you can chill and soak up some sun during the summer months.
And when you’re not lying on the beach, you can buy some souvenirs in the many local shops, have a delicious meal in the restaurants while enjoying the water views, and have a coffee or an aperitif in a bar.
This is definitely one of the best things to do in Venice if you’re traveling with the family!
Getting there – catch the Vaporetto Water Bus (ACTVLine No.1) from S. Marco-San Zaccaria “F” to Lido S.M.E. “D”, leaving every 15 minutes. A ticket costs €4 one way, and the journey takes around 30 min.
14. Climb the Palazzo Contarini Del Bovolo
The Palazzo Contarini del Bovolo is a small (and beautiful) palace located right between Doge’s Palace and the Rialto Bridge, famous for its spiral helicoidal staircase sitting outside the building which leads to a big observation terrace.
Climbing its staircase is definitely worth it if you want to admire some of the most beautiful views of the basilica of San Marco dome and its campanile.
You may recognise the staircase from Orson Welles’ film adaptation of Shakespeare’s Othello!
This attraction is perfect if you’re short on time but you still want to visit an ancient palace and get some breathtaking city views at the same time. As I said the site is quite small and you can easily visit it in 20-30 minutes.
P.S.: Make sure you book your tickets online in advance, so you can skip the line on-site!
Otherwise, this Veneto-Gothic palace is beautiful also to just be seen from the outside, featuring two different facades: the one with the staircase overlooking Calle del Bovolo, and Rio de San Luca-Rossini which can be seen from the Verona Bridge!
15. Catch an opera performance at Teatro La Fenice
If you want to have a unique and special experience in Venice, you should definitely go see an opera performance in La Fenice Theater, one of the most famous and historic opera houses in the whole world!
And if you’re not really into operas, you can buy a ticket to visit the theater during the day for €11 (the admission fee includes an audio guide tour) or with this guided tour so you can learn more about the history and legends of this decadent Baroque opera house, for €20.
PRO TIP: Tickets on the official website are restricted to a specific time slot, while if you book them on GetYourGuide (€13), you can stay for the whole morning or afternoon!
Have a Guided Tour of Teatro La Fenice
16. Attend a Festival in Venice!
Venice hosts many cultural events during the year, but there are 2 that you absolutely cannot miss if you’re in town during a specific time of the year…
The Venice Carnival takes place in the whole city of Venice for over ten days in February (exact dates change every year) and is one of the world’s biggest and most popular celebrations, dating back to the 11th century.
During the carnival, people dress up in seventeenth-century Venetian dresses (every Venetian costume has its own personality) and enjoy colorful parades and processions on the street.
I honestly suggest you to just walk around the city as locals do and enjoy the joyful atmosphere, dances and music, which is completely free, otherwise, you can join one of the many private events like this Gala dinner with a show, for €100.
Join a Carnival Gala Dinner with a Show
Venice Film Festival
The Venice International Film Festival is organized by the Biennale di Venezia and is the world’s oldest film festival, happening every year during late August or early September and taking place in the picturesque Lido section of the city.
The Festival promotes international cinema in all its forms as art, entertainment, and industry, and organizes retrospectives and tributes to major cinema figures for a better understanding of the history of cinema.
This festival became very popular among the elite of the film industry, so you will probably see your favorite actors there! Prices change depending on the ticket, check out all the options here!
|🤩 Range of activities:||Large|
|🏛️ Best museum:||Doge’s Palace|
|💸 Top paid attraction:||St Mark’s Basilica|
|🚶🏽♂️ Best free activity:||Bridge of Sighs|
|👧 Best place for kids:||Venice Lido|
|🍕 Must try food:||Cicchetti|
Where to stay in Venice
If it’s your first time in the city or you want to have access to Venice’s most iconic landmarks, you should definitely stay in St Mark’s Square or anywhere in the San Marco District: one of the best areas to stay in Venice!
I gathered below the top hotel in the area, including an option for any budget, check them out:
- Luxury (€300 and up): The Gritti Palace – This luxury hotel lies right on the Grand Canal, near St. Mark’s Square, and is perfect if you want to splurge a little during your holiday in Venice! Here you will wake up with a delicious breakfast on the rooftop terrace with breathtaking views.
- Mid Range (€160 – €250): Hotel Mercurio – This charming, family-run accommodation is beautifully decorated with Venetian antique furnishings and has a super convenient location at 400 m away from Rialto Bridge… What else could you ask for?
- Budget (up to €150): Residenza Bistrot De Venise – If you are looking for a hotel where to stay on a budget in Venice, stop here! This accommodation is located in the heart of Venice, and features rooms with a Venetian décor and free Wi-Fi access.
FAQs about things to do in Venice, Italy
🤩 Which are the best things to do in Venice, Italy?
👨👨👧👧 Which are the best things to do in Venice, Italy, for families?
The best things to do in Venice for families are crossing the iconic Ponte di Rialto, taking a picture of the Bridge of Sighs, exploring San Giorgio Maggiore Island, or chilling at the beach of Venice Lido.
🗓️ How long to stay in Venice, Italy?
2 full days are enough to do all the best things to do in Venice, but you can even stay more than 3 days if you want to enjoy the slower Italian pace of life!
🛶 How to get around Venice, Italy?
The best and cheapest way to go around Venice is walking since you cannot use the car in the city, but if you want to reach specific sites and islands, you will have to take a water taxi (Vaporetto Water Bus) or join a boat tour.
We finally reached the end of this useful guide about the best things to do in Venice, one of the gems of northern Italy, my home!
We saw attractions and activities for any taste, from tours to magical islands in the Venetian Lagoon, to important buildings such as the Doge’s Palace, romantic bridges like the bridge of sighs and much more, and I also included some hotels where to stay in Venice for any kind of budget.
I hope you found my guide useful, and if you have any questions or suggestions for me please don’t hesitate to share them in the comments below… I will answer you as soon as possible!
Have a magical holiday!
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