There are many things to do in Venice besides taking a gondola ride. The whole pensolon (municipality) of Venice is divided into 6 boroughs: Cannaregio, Castello, Dorsoduro, San Marco, San Polo, and Santa Croce. All have charming places to visit and delicious eats and drinks.
Honestly, you would need a lot of time to check it all off your list. We’ve been twice and haven’t scratched the city’s surface. We hope you find a few things to do in Venice that break away from the traditional tourist haunts. (Don’t worry, though, the things are great for a reason). Here are some attractions and activities that makeup Venice’s best things to do.
Best Things to do in Venice, Italy
Taxi Down the Grand Canal
Even if you only have two days in Venice, this should be at the top of your things to do in Venice. The public water taxis are a hard sell in Venice ambiance. It is certainly not a cheap experience, but Venice is an amazing sight to take in by water.
It’s also a much better value than a gondola as prices are comparable, and you cover much more water in a speedboat. The higher-end private water taxis will include sparkling wine and snacks, but you’ll have to pay around €125 an hour.
Celebrate the Carnevale Festival
We love to visit Venice in the offseason, and anyone in the travel know avoids the summer months throughout Europe. However, there is another busy period where it’s worth the crowds.
That is in February when the city celebrates Carnival. Nearly three million people dress in masquerade costumes and head to balls around the city. The festivities date back to the Renaissance, when Venetians would wear gilded masks, feathered hats, black capes, and gowns.
Explore the Residential Neighborhoods
If you’re looking for free things to do in Venice, just explore the neighborhoods! The residential neighborhoods of Venice are where the city shines its brightest in our eyes.
Once you pry away from the busier areas of San Marco, Cannaregio, and San Polo, you’ll find the neighborhoods of Castello and Dorsoduro. In a city that can feel crowded anytime, you finally get the chance to breathe in these neighborhoods. That’s why they are our absolute favorite areas of Venice.
It’s best to wander as you’ll find quiet canals, laundry air drying, food markets, and small independent shops. We even found ourselves exploring an old hardware shop full of brass fixtures from the city’s past one day.
Head to the Top of the Campanile
There are plenty of places to catch a view of Venice, but none are as grand as the view from the Campanile. From the top of the famed bell tower next to St Mark’s Basilica, you can see all of Venice unfold. Don’t worry about having to take the steps, as there is an elevator in the interior that takes you to the top.
The tower is 98.6 meters (323 ft) tall and dates back to the 9th century, when the original was constructed on Roman foundations. It went under several restorations and works until it took its present shape in 1514. However, the current tower is from 1912, after the original tower collapsed.
Catch the Views from San Giorgio Maggiore
One of the top things to do in Venice is catching views from San Giorgio Maggiore. It’s well worth the journey via water bus to the island of San Giorgio as it’s one of the best things to do in Venice, Italy. The church on the island is one of the few in Venice that does not charge an entrance fee. Inside the church, you can find several Renaissance paintings by Tintoretto.
The Venetian painter is an iconic part of the city, and his works can be found throughout the city, including St Mark’s and the Doge Palace. You can find his grave in Madonna dell’Orto in Venice. Aside from Tintoretto’s paintings, the church offers amazing views of Venice and St Mark’s Square from across the water with no crowds.
Photograph the Santa Maria della Salute
Still wondering what to do in Venice? The iconic Basilica Santa Maria della Salute has been seen worldwide in countless photographs and movies. It’s a baroque church constructed in the 17th century on the Grand Canal.
That location places it smack dab in just about every photograph of Venice, including the opening one of this article. The church is made of beautiful white Istrian stone, and over 100 unique statues decorate it. It’s all worth approaching the church and enjoying the impressive facade and scale.
The church was originally designed to commemorate Venice escaping the throws of the black plague and has since become an institution in the city. It houses notable works from Tintoretto and Titan.
The Peggy Guggenheim Collection
As former New Yorkers, we’re familiar with the Guggenheim in New York. However, most people don’t know there is a lesser-known Guggenheim museum in Venice. Peggy Guggenheim was the daughter of Benjamin Guggenheim and niece of Solomon R. Guggenheim, the American mining tycoon. She was an avid art collector and lived in Venice for nearly 30 years.
Most notably, she is credited as one of Jackson Pollock’s most fervent supporters and the reason he became an art sensation. The artist has an entire room in the museum. Tickets cost €14 and are well worth some wonderful pieces of modern artwork. After her death, her collection was passed on to the larger Guggenheim art foundation, and a rotation of new exhibits is displayed regularly. This is one of the best places to visit in Venice.
A must-see in Venice is San Sebastiano. The Chiesa di San Sebastiano is a 16th-century Roman Catholic church and is a good alternative (or addition) to San Marco. It’s here that some of Paolo Tiepolo’s best pieces can be found. If you are interested in art and history, it’s a fabulous thing to do in Venice.
Check Out the Mosaics Underfoot
Catching the mosaics underneath your feet is an easy must-do in Venice. The beautiful mosaics of Venice are some of those things to see in Venice that is easy to miss but are just under your feet.
Architecture, art, and history abound in Venice. It’s everywhere to the point where you can not escape it. While it’s easy to let your head get lost in the clouds staring at all of the architecture and art-adorned walls, don’t forget to look down.
Some of Venice’s most beautiful elements lie in the mosaics and tile work in her palaces, streets, and shops. In one of my favorite pieces on travel ever, this German photographer explores the floors of Venice. Read it here.
Teatro La Fenice
While in New York, Natasha and I were a rare exception of millennials and frequented the Metropolitan Opera on several occasions. We fell in love with the Opera and now attend a show at every chance.
You would be hard-pressed to find many places better to attend an opera than La Fenice. It’s a gorgeous theatre covered in velvet, gilded fixtures, and sparkling chandeliers. The interior, with its rows of box seats, is everything you’ve ever imagined in a grand theatre. Be prepared for a night of finery, history, and world-class talent.
It’s hard to consider this a thing to do in Venice, but Burano is a wonderful day trip from Venice. Homes on the island of Burano are painted in many colors, and you’ve likely seen the charming town in postcards and magazines before.
While on the island, enjoy some fresh seafood, risotto, or pasta before heading back to Venice, preferably around sunset, so you catch it on the water.
Take a Walk Down Venice’s Widest Street
Head to Via Garibaldi, which is Venice’s widest street. It’s a former canal that has since been filled and is now lined with bars, restaurants, and shops. The added space makes the street feel more at home in a small provincial Italian town than in Venice.
On weekday mornings, there’s an outdoor market where local vendors sell fresh vegetables, fruit, cheese, and fish.
Piazza San Marco
No trip to Venice is complete without a visit to Piazza San Marco. It’s one of those Venice landmarks that must be visited. This is the main public square in Venice and boasts stunning architecture from the Byzantine era. It is the center of Venice and the must-see attraction for every visitor to the city.
It’s honestly one of the most iconic locations in the world. Try to visit the square at night when all of the day visitors have left Venice and the restaurants have closed leaving it empty. Watching the lights twinkle throughout the square is one of my favorite things to do in Venice at night.
Museo del Merletto
If you want to learn about fine fabric manufactured in Venice for centuries, Venice Lace Museum is your calling. The museum has an extensive history of lace-making that dates back to medieval times. Leonardo da Vinci even bought lace for the main altar of Duomo di Milano here. Keep an eye out for the Church of San Martino that has a leaning campanile.
Ponte di Rialto
Venice is a city of bridges and has nearly 400 that connect the cities islands. Of course, the most famous happens to be Ponte Di Rialto, or Rialto Bridge. It was constructed in 1588 and offers amazing views of the Grand Canal.
The bridge connecting the San Marco and San Polo districts offers some of the best canal views in the city (although there are no bad ones, really). Most impressive are the large boutiques and jewelers that line the grand staircase.
Visit the Murano Glass Museum
Murano Glass is world famous, and travelers come from around the globe to buy it in Venice. Glassmaking is a thousand-year-old tradition that is from the Venetian island of Murano. The Murano Glass Museum is the perfect thing to do in Venice on your first day if you are interested in glass. It showcases the island’s unique glass history, and you can see impressive chandeliers and mosaic glass.
There’s also a studio showing how glass products are made. Before buying any glass in Venice, it’s important to buy it from the island of Murano or to know where the glass you purchase is from. There are many fakes around Venice.
The doges of Venice were elected officials by their peers. After which the state owned their lives. They lived in a lavish palace but could not own any property, foreign or domestic. There is no better place to better understand the former Venetian state than the Doge’s Palace. You’ll find countless Renaissance paintings, rooms, expansive halls, and narrow chambers.
The palace served as the administrative hub of the Republic of Venice as the Venetians controlled the Mediterranean waterways for nearly a millennium. While exploring the palace, take a walk across the famed Bridge of Sighs, where you’ll hundreds of tourists snapping photos when you peer out the window. Get your ticket here!
The Lido, Venice Lido, or Lido di Venezia is an island just a 30-minute boat ride away from San Marco. It’s here that there is an 11-kilometer sandbar perfect for sunbathing as it’s one of the great Venice beaches.
The Venice Film Festival is held here every September, so if you’re in Venice around the time, it’s well worth checking out. This island is particularly famous for the Hotel Riviera, where writers Ernest Hemingway, Lord Byron, and Thomas Mann stayed and wrote masterpieces.
Read a Book at Liberia Acqua Alta
This hidden bookshop/library was a unique find for us. It is off the beaten tourist path and tucked away in the Castello District. Many hours can easily be spent finding new and used books.
Inside the used bookstore, you’ll find stacks of old books, magazines, and cartoons. Old gondolas have been dragged into the bookstore and repurposed as books. I suppose it’s to help combat the Venice floods.
Mask Shop at Ca’Macana
Mask shops rule the streets of Venice, but most of these are cheaply imported masks marketing to tourists. Ca’Macana is a fabulous genuine mask shop in Venice that make all its own products.
You can even find masks used in Stanley Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut here, as this is where they were made. The nice shop owners allowed us a lot of fun by letting us try on many of the masks.
The Bridge Of Sighs
The Bridge Of Sighs is famous in Venice, made of white limestone, and passes over the Rio di Palazzo. The Bridge of Sighs connects the New Prison to the interrogation rooms in Doge’s Palace. It was built in 1600, and there is a reason behind its name.
Being a bridge leading to prison, this was ultimately the last sight Venice prisoners were able to see. Hence the “sighs.” If you take a tour around Doges’ Palace, you can walk through the bridge or easily see it from the outside. If you want to book a gondola ride, you can request they go under the bridge.
Sunset Gondola Ride
A gondola ride may very well be on your list of things to do in Venice. Why not make the most of it and take the gondola for a sunset ride? There’s nothing quite like sunset from the Venetian canals.
Where to Eat in Venice
Sip Coffee at Cafe Florian
This is said to be the oldest coffee shop in the world. Cafe Florian is set in the heart of San Marco Square and has been operating since 1720. Over the centuries, it has attracted celebrities, artists, writers, and even royalty.
Over time the interior has remained unchanged and feels like a time capsule. They’re well known for their sweets and coffee. During the summer, Venice’s patio is the place to relax and listen to live music in the sun.
We’ve stopped in the cafe twice now and could not stomach the €12.50 a cappuccino price. Just to note, a Cappuccino in Italy should cost €1.50, but in Venice, it’s a struggle to pay €2.50. Wondering how to order an espresso? Read our coffee guide to Italy.
This restaurant is tucked away, but finding it’s worth the effort. It’s a hip restaurant serving modern dishes in a modern candlelit atmosphere. Unlike many fine dining restaurants in Venice, there is no tablecloth here or stuffy feelings.
It’s wonderful food and wine at a price that won’t break the bank. They have several creative dishes and a nice selection for vegetarians. Don’t worry about the wine. They have plenty!
Bacareto Da Lele
Perfect local wine and cicchetti shop. The place is tiny, and there are no seats inside, but the wine is flavorful (and cheap), and cicchetti makes for a midday snack. You’ll find a smattering of patrons sipping wine and eating outside this corner shop.
Be strategic in your timing as the shop, like many great things in Venice, can draw a crowd.
Trattoria Bar Pontini
We popped into this little Trattoria the last time we were in Venice with my family and had a fantastic meal. It’s good Italian food at an affordable price. We were able to find great vegetarian food and delicious seafood linguine.
It’s a cozy little trattoria, but I’ve since read reviews, and it looks like the secret has gotten out. You may need a reservation or face a long line in the high season.
Osteria Al Squero & Cantina del Vino Già Schiavi
These are two great options for cicchetti and their neighbors. It takes a bit of journey from the center of Venice as they’re located deep in Dorsoduro. However, if you make the journey, you end with cheap cicchetti, wine, and spritz.
All of this unfolds in the street, and you can mix and match here as the different cicchetti options are endless. Small shop, but there is enough room to sit inside or at the bar.
A perfect option for mouthwatering Gelato with a great view. Located around the corner from Osteria Al Squero. It’s been open since 1937 and serves some of Venice’s best gelato. On a hot day, it’s really hard to beat gelato by the waterfront.
For the best tiramisu in the city, head to Tre Mercanti. A lovely specialty shop with a decadent collection of original tiramisus, macaroons, and wine. Standing room only, so don’t come with sore feet from walking all day. We’ve made three trips to Tre Mercanti, and it’s been worth it every time.
Enjoy a Spritz
A Spritz Veneziano is a wine-based cocktail served as an aperitif in Northeast Italy. You can’t miss the endless signs for them around Venice, and I would consider enjoying a Spritz a must-do activity in Venice. Our favorite Spritz was located at Bacareto Da Lele for a mere €1.50. It’s the most Venice thing to do, and we couldn’t imagine a day in Venice without this drink.
Things NOT to do in Venice
DON’T Buy a Cheap Mask
There are only a few shops left in Venice that craft true Venetian masks. We shared Ca’Macana earlier in this post, but don’t be fooled into buying the cheap knock-offs you’ll find around the city. Most of them are imported from China and far from the real thing, which only encourages the death of a beautiful art form. If it’s cheap, you know, it’s not real. The same goes for Murano glass!
Don’t Visit in the High Season
The best time to visit Venice is NOT in the summer. The summer is our least favorite time to travel almost anywhere in the world. Venice is the shining example of why we avoid these months and why the city gets a bad rap.
In the summer, the heat arrives, and so do millions of other tourists venturing around Europe. The heat brings mosquitos and awful smells from the older sewer system incapable of handling the massive number of tourists.
To make matters worse, you’ll find long lines for museums and popular restaurants while paying more for accommodation and tours. We recommend visiting in late September, October, February, March, and April for the best experience. You can also see the best time to visit Italy in general here.
Don’t Explore Midday
Venice is her best before the crowds. Personally, I love getting up and seeing Italian cities come to life as the sun rises. It will start to get busy through the Venice streets by 10 am, and those crowds will stick around till after nightfall.
Don’t Just Spend One Day in Venice
Venice is a sprawling museum with centuries of history, art, and architecture. To give one day to the city is a shame. At the very least, you should spend one night in the city to allow yourself an evening to explore Venice.
Don’t Order Pizza
Eating pizza in Venice is discouraged, as wood-fired ovens are banned from the island. This is key in creating a great pizza, but we’ll give the Italian staple a skip in Venice with no proper pizza ovens. If you want a real Italian pizza, you’ll need to head to the city of Naples on your Italian tour.
Don’t Be Fooled by Restaurants
There. are. so. many. bad. restaurants. in Venice. Full stop. Venice has never been part of the “amazing world-renowned food” clump that the rest of Italy is in. That’s not to say you can’t get good food out in Venice. Just recognize the signs of bad touristy places.
Is an employee waiting outside the restaurant calling people in? Avoid. Is the menu in 20 different languages? Avoid.
Do your research, ask, and look at reviews before choosing a place to eat. I also like to look at menus before I commit to sitting down so I know the prices, as Venice can get very expensive.
Don’t Buy Candy
I’m only placing this in here because of my sister. Despite my warnings, she still went to a touristic candy shop in Venice. €10 later and a light bag of bad gummies, she admitted she may have made a mistake.
Don’t Feel Pressured to Take a Gondola Ride
Riding in a gondola while a gentle Italian sings you sweet nothings through the Venice canals is a bucket list item. Just be aware that gondola rides cost €80 – per half hour!
That singing man? Well, he will cost extra as well. If you decide to enjoy a gondola ride in Venice, just be sure you are actually enjoying it. About 80% of the people I see at the gondolas are on their phones, either Instagramming, taking countless photos or just scrolling. Kinda pointless, in my opinion.
Don’t Take a Cruise
We are not big fans of cruises. I won’t lie and say that they do not seem alluring with their ease, affordability, and ability to see several places in a short time. However, they’re terrible for the environment and the cities that host their guests.
Venice and Dubrovnik are two cities experiencing terrible growing pains attempting to deal with the burden of cruises. To make matters worse, they leave a minimal economic impact compared to visitors who stay in the location.
Transport To and Around Italy
With budget airlines such as RyanAir operating out of many Italian cities, getting to Italy has never been cheaper. If you are flying from a different continent, the main hubs are Rome, Florence, and Milan.
Once in Italy, the best way to get around is via train. For long-distance routes, booking beforehand with Trenitalia is best, and reserving a seat. You can show up at the train station and buy a ticket if you travel shorter distances. Or get around Europe with a Eurail.
We’ve rented a car numerous times in Italy, and it’s a great way to get around on your own schedule. An automatic rental car can go for as low as €15 a day in the low season up to €45 a day in the higher seasons and will ensure you get to all the best places in Italy. Driving a manual car will often get cheaper rates in Europe. If you’re traveling as a group, it is worth your while to hire a car for your trip. Here is our ultimate guide to renting a car in Italy!
We traveled around Italy for one week and paid about $300 for a car rental in Italy, which was a pretty decent deal, in my opinion! I generally like to check comparison sites to get the best prices. My favorites to look at are:
Search and Compare Prices for Rental Cars
- DiscoverCars.com – We personally use them to search and compare rental car prices around the globe.
- Auto Europe – Compares the best rates!
Where to Stay in Venice
Every time we visit Italy, we stay in at least one Airbnb. Most apartment rentals in Italy feel very Italian, and staying in someone’s home can enhance your travel experiences. To feel more at home, we use Airbnb. Here, you can check out some tips and read more about getting an Airbnb coupon code.
Hilton Molino Stucky Venice
The Hilton is one of the best properties to stay at in Venice. It’s set along the banks of Giudecca Island and was once a former flour mill. Now it is a beautiful Venetian masterpiece with the largest spa in town.
Other Places to Stay in Venice
Hotel Antico Doga: This is a 12th-century property just 300 meters from Rialto Bridge. It’s not as fancy or expensive as Gritti Palace, but it’s still one of the best and highest-rated properties in the city at an affordable price.
B&B Art Dreams Venezia: This is the first place we stayed on our first trip to Venice. It was affordable, comfortable, and had a fantastic location. Great for those on a budget.
What to Pack for Italy
What to wear in Italy is one of the first things to consider once you plan the basics of your first trip to the country. Packing can be simple. Generally, Italians are stylish, and we recommend dressing casually so that you’re comfortable when hanging out with locals.
We love to have a guidebook when traveling. We spend enough time attached to our phones in everyday life and planning our trips. Once we reach a destination like Italy, we put the phone away and pick up a guidebook to help with our trip.
We don’t travel without travel insurance, and neither should you. You never know what can happen in a foreign country, and it’s best to be prepared. Heymondo provides a lot of great travel insurance options.
Plan For Your Trip
- Protect Your Trip: We don’t travel without travel insurance, nor should you. You never know what can happen while traveling, so it’s best to be prepared. HeyMondo provides excellent short-term and long-term travel insurance plans.
- Find Cheap Flights: Sign up for Going (formerly Scotts Cheap Flights) to get notified when prices get ultra low.
- Travel Adapter: Make sure you find a good adapter to keep your personal electronics charged. Otherwise, you may be paying for a cheap one once you land. Purchase one here.
- Travel Backpack: We like the Nomatic Travel Backpack for our travels. Check the price here.
- Our Favorite Travel Shoes: Our answer to this question is always ALLBIRDS! Check them out on their site!
- Get a Travel Credit Card: We travel worldwide for free because we have leveraged our spending into points. See why you should get a travel credit card and how you can do the same with our favorite travel credit cards.
1 thought on “38 Best Things To Do In Venice, Italy”
Next time you re in venice, go to bar 5000, unbelievable.