Venice! “The city of Canals”, “The floating city“, “Serenissima”! People have given a lot of names to this city out of love and admiration. So, when we think about Venezia, what instantly pops into our minds are its beautiful canals, gondola rides, architecture, and picturesque bridges.
As the city has been a trading and military centre in the past, its rich history is also why tourists keep visiting Venice. This article will introduce you to insider tips on things to do, in Venice.
In Venice, you need a properly planned tour so you don’t get lost in crowds that cover almost every inch of the city.
Once you know “where to go” and “what to see”, it becomes easy to navigate through tourist crowds and experience real Venezia (Itali name). Once I got introduced to the city, everything in the city seemed like deja vu.
Venice was beyond and far better than what we see in movies. From riding the feather-weight gondolas floating effortlessly on the grand canal to the overwhelming historical experience of visiting the Bridge of Sighs, the city transports you to another world.
Venice: Queen Of The Adriatic
Venice is a romantic, serene city in Italy, and it is often called the capital of the Veneto region. It is spread across 118 small islands separated by narrow canals and linked by almost 400 beautiful bridges. The islands seem to be floating on the Venetian lagoon, a bay lying between the mouths of the Po and Piave rivers. Venice lagoon is also declared a world heritage site.
The city’s list of popular attractions and things to be done is too long. So, I recommend you take your time exploring the city and seeing all the colours Venice offers. The best time to visit Venice is between spring and autumn, but visiting during carnivals can be exempted.
Venice is beautiful in every way possible, and once you explore the city with your whole heart, you will see that there is nothing about this place; you won’t fall for. Beautiful bridges, quaint streets, and little souvenir shops seem to be calling for you. So let’s start our journey to this amazing city and discover everything we can explore here.
1. Cruising The Grand Canal
There are numerous tiny canals that run through Venice, touching the buildings, almost touching themselves in the process. The grand canal is the vast expanse of water busy with reverberating water taxis, or “motoscafi” in Italian.
The grand canal is an “S-shaped” water expanse that runs through the two islands of Venezia and connects the entry point into the city, Saint Lucia Railway Station, to St. Mark’s square.
Hiring your water taxi and taking a tour of the grand canal at night is a must. The tour gives a tourist a new point of view to look at the city. All the lit-up palaces and buildings along the canal banks seem to transport you to another world.
2. Start From St. Mark’s Square
Also known as “Piazza San Marco” is your first stop to see during your Venice visit. The square gives a unique Venetian vibe. St. Mark’s square houses some of the most famous Venice attractions like St. Mark’s basilica, Doge’s palace and St. Mark’s campanile.
A bustling square, St Mark’s Square is perfect for people and bird watching. One can reach the square by waterways or by walking for an hour from the railway station. However, the attraction is colossal area-wise but seems to shrink during the day because of the vast number of tourists. Visiting the same at night is a better way to appreciate the beauty of the square.
3. St. Mark’s Basilica
Also known as Basilica di San Marco, St. Mark’s Basilica is situated on the eastern end of St. Mark’s Square. Saint Mark’s Basilica is an excellent example of Byzantine architecture and one of Italy’s most important religious buildings.
The Basilica di San Marco is also one of the significant Venice attractions and one of the most impressive cathedrals in and around the world; hence, also the most crowded place in Venezia. Booking the tickets to the basilica in advance is a must, or you can also book a guided tour to avoid the hassle.
4. Doge’s Palace
Doge’s Palace is the perfect masterpiece of gothic architecture situated right at St. Mark’s Square, which overlooks the grand canal and features white stone arches and diamond patterns on the walls. Built-in 1340, the palace was home to the Doge of Venezia, the high authority of the former republic.
You can visit the palace just after crossing the bridge of Sighs. With beautiful interiors and exteriors, Doges Palace is an important landmark representing Venetian history.
5. Visit The Horological Clock (St. Mark’s Clock)
Quite near St. Mark’s square is St. Mark’s clock tower, also known as Torre Dell Orologio, which is the first sizeable astronomical clock built in Europe.
The two floors on the lower level of the bell tower join into an archway that reaches out into the main street called the Merceria, which links St. Mark’s square to the Rialto.
6. Rialto Bridge
The oldest and the most famous bridge among the only four bridges that cross the grand canal in the city, the Rialto bridge, famous in Italy as the Ponte di Rialto, offers the best views of the canal while crossing it.
Remember to visit before hours and arrive early so you can take up the best spot if you are interested in taking many pictures. There are some shops and boutiques on the bridge where you can buy stuff like Italian leather shoes and handbags.
7. Explore Rialto Markets
Just underneath the Ponte di Rialto are the Rialto markets or Mercado di Rialto, a 1000-year-old fresh food market. If you are an early bird, then catch a dawn tour to these markets and experience busy stall holders, setting up for the day.
Bon appetite! On this tour, you can try different foods and enjoy the Venetian flavours on the streets. Have time to dig in prawn Cicchetti.
8. Bridge Of Sighs
Bridge of Sighs is a small bridge compared to other bridges in Venice but can be seen as an important landmark in Venetian history, made of white limestones. It is built over Rio di Palazzo and connects the new prison to Doge’s palace.
As the legend goes, the small windows on the bridge were used by prisoners going for their final judgement to have one last glimpse of the city.
9. Climb Up The San Marco Campanile
One of the tallest buildings in Venice, St. Mark’s Campanile, is also known as Campanile di San Marco. This is a bell tower to the St. Mark’s Basilica, which earlier served as a lighthouse to the lagoon and offered the best panoramic views.
Though Campanile di San Marco may be a turn-off as it may keep you forever in its queues, the views are amazing.
10. Admire The View From The Accademia Bridge
Though this wooden bridge is not as famous as other bridges in Venice that cross the grand canal, like the bridge of sighs and Rialto bridge, it offers a fantastic view of the city.
This bridge, also known as Ponte dell’Accademia, connects San Marco to The Academia Gallery.
11. Visit The Accademia Gallery
Located just opposite Ponte Dell’Accademia is Gallerie dell’Accademia that features a pre-19th century renaissance art collection that includes “the Vitruvian Man” by Da vinci. It also features paintings by Titian, Tiepolo, Giorgione, Canaletto, Veronese, and Tintoretto.
12. Visit Canareggio
Another sestieri in Venice is Canareggio, a Jewish district home to the Jewish ghetto. Unlike other parts of the city, it is a district that is flooded with tourist crowds.
While you enjoy food and drinks like a local in this district, do not miss to visit Chiesa di Santa Maria Assunta, a church with impressive interiors.
13. San Giorgio Maggiore
Suppose you love the views of the city from Saint Mark’s clock tower. In that case, you should know that the best views of Venice are offered by the bell tower in San Giorgio Maggiore, opposite the St. Mark’s Basilica, and can be seen by the tourist entering Venice by sea.
To catch the best of the view, you need to climb up the bell tower (well, not precisely a climb) by just taking an elevator to the top of the tower.
14. Take A Gondola Ride
When you visit Venice, taking a gondola ride seems cliche, but it is an experience. A gondola can accommodate almost 6 people at a time, and the ride rate is charged per 40 minutes basis. You can take a private gondola tour or go for a shared one, which is comparatively cheaper.
Although the city of Venice determines the official rates for a gondola ride, don’t expect the actual rates to be the same. You can always negotiate the charges with gondoliers before you take the ride to save an extra Venetian penny.
15. See Peggy Guggenheim Collection
This 18th-century art collection is a private collection of American modern art collector Peggy Guggenheim. Peggy Guggenheim’s collection includes impressive works of the most influential European and American artists of the 20th century.
16. Visit Teatro La Fenice
Burnt and re-built over the years, enjoying an opera in Teatro La Fenice is an absolute delight. The stunning building and the opera will be a proven “once in a lifetime experience” for you.
17. Wander Around Castello
Get a break from the busy streets of Venice and visit a quieter Venetian neighbourhood of Castello, which is just a 15-minute walk away from St. Mark’s square.
Here you can enjoy the best gelatos and hop on one of the gondolas to tour the grand canal, away from the hustle-bustle of the central city.
18. Basilica Di Santa Maria Della Salute
Although Basilica di Santa Maria Della Salute is not as famous as St. Mark’s Basilica, this beautiful tourist attraction is located on the other side of the grand canal to San Marco.
19. San Sebastiano
Yet another church where will you find the works of Tiepolo. The best thing about the church is not only its impressive architecture, but it is also quieter and less touristy than Saint Mark.
20. Other Exciting Stuff One Must Try
When you visit Venice, the best places to visit are the top tourist attractions like St. Mark’s Square, St. Mark’s Basilica, The Bridge of Sighs and Doges Palace. But suppose you have already witnessed these beautiful masterpieces of architecture and have some time left on your hands. In that case, you can involve yourself in some of these activities to make your trip even more memorable.
1. Wander Around
Like almost every city in Europe, Venice is best explored on foot. I would advise you to head out, click pictures, grab a drink, walk along the grand canal and feel the authentic vibe of Venice.
I would recommend walking around the major attractions like St. Mark’s square, Doges Palace and the Bridge of Sighs after visiting hours and witnessing their beauty under a starry night without any crowds present. Trust me, doing this will give you a whole new perspective to look at Venice.
2. Go To The Beach
People don’t generally consider visiting a beach while visiting Venice, but these golden sand beaches act as your break from bustling Venice crowds.
Most beaches are just within an hour’s travel from Venice, among which Venice Lido is the easiest to reach.
3. Visit Skyline Rooftop Bar
A perfect way to spend your remaining time in Venice is to check out some Venetian bars like Skyline Rooftop Bar, where you can enjoy your drink luxuriously while looking at the sunset. The bar opens late, so you can just sit back, relax and enjoy whatever time you have left in Venice.
4. Book A Walking Tour
After getting booked for a guided tour of all the major attractions in Venice, booking a walking tour is best. Several walking tours are available with different agencies that you can choose from depending on your area of interest, ranging from food to living like a local.
5. Try Venetian Cuisine
Whenever you visit a place, you should try to eat local food; the same goes for Venice. Head onto the streets, find a local restaurant and try Venetian cuisine like goose and lobster with Prosecco.
6. Hire A Water Taxi
We talked earlier about taking a gondola from the Jewish ghetto and getting a tour of the grand canal.
An alternative to that is you can hire a water taxi after hours, when there is no rush, and ride down the grand canal to enjoy the sun setting in the sparkling waters of the canal.
7. Visit Harry’s Bar
Visiting Harry’s bar can be a cliche experience, like taking a gondola ride for some people, because Harry’s bar that invented the Bellini is long gone. When you visit Harry’s bar, you can ponder that you are sharing the space that was once visited by celebrities.
8. Enjoy At Venice Jazz Club
Another hub if you love jazz that you can visit is Venice Jazz Club, where you can sit back, relax, have a drink and listen to great music far from the bustling crowds of Saint Mark and San Polo.
21. Take A Day Trip
If you have more time to spend in the city and you’d like to explore more, there are some day trips to the surrounding islands that you can take from Venice and enjoy the beauty of the whole Veneto region.
These islands are not as crowded as Venice, and you can enjoy a bit of peace away from town. Let’s look at some of these trips.
1. Lido Island
To escape the crowds of central Venice, take a day trip to the Lido islands, which separate Venice lagoon from the Adriatic sea. The island has excellent shops, restaurants and hotels and is much quieter, unlike the bustling streets and waterways of the grand canal.
2. Murano Island
A day trip to Murano islands is a must if you are a fan of Venetian glass. Venetians have had a great skill in glasswork for ages, and hence Venice became one of the leading producers and exporters of glass throughout Europe in the middle ages.
You can visit the Murano glass museum to learn more about the artistry and buy some glass souvenirs on your way back.
3. Burano Island
If you have become a fan of Central Venice and its beauty, wait until you visit the colourful islands of Burano, which are located at the northern end of the Venice lagoon.
The island is famous for its embroidery and lace and features a museum that exhibits traditional art in the town.
4. Prosecco Region
A day trip to a declared UNESCO World Heritage site, Italy’s Prosecco region, is just an hour from Venezia if you are willing to ride a train from the central train station. The Prosecco region is where grapes for Italy’s most popular sparkling wine- Prosecco, are grown. Prosecco is a white, clear, sparkling wine that is original from Italy.
5. Torcello Islands
Away from the busy crowds of Venezia, the Torcello Islands are located behind the Burano Islands and is just 45-minute away if you travel by a ferry.
The islands are famous for their canals, architecture, classy restaurants and shops.
While you focus more on what to do in Venezia, where to stay in Venezia is also among the things you should consider before visiting the city. With a drawback of sky-high charges in centrally located hotels and Airbnbs, you can conveniently get around the city as they are close to the grand canal.
If you don’t care much for your Venetian dime and are a fan of luxury, have a look at Gritti Palace, located in the centre of the city, with luxurious and spacious rooms and beautiful views of the grand canal.
You can go to the hotel Olimpia Venezia located in Santa Croce for mid-range accommodation. It is near to a train station, bus station and parking garages.
For a budget hotel in the city, you can consider Combo Venezia in Cannaregio, which is well connected by water taxis to major attractions and the surrounding islands.
For a budget hotel outside the city of Venice, Villa Antica Graziela is a good option located on Italy’s mainland. While there are several better options available on the mainland, you should also pay attention to the availability of public transport from the hotel.
Hope at the end of this article, you can better understand your visit to Venice and efficiently plan your Venetian trip.