There are many incredible things to do in Venice. The city has so much to offer that it is easy to see why it is a top tourist destination – in Italy and in the world.

After Rome, Venice is the most visited city in Italy. Its rich history, culture, museums, winding streets, mouth-watering cuisine, art-filled palaces, stunning architecture, picturesque canals, shopping opportunities (such as the famous Murano glass) attract close to 30 million tourists annually. In other words, seeing Venice is a must during a trip to Italy.

Built on 118 small islands connected by more than 400 bridges, and canals, this city in northern Italy is a beautiful place to visit – so unique that it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site. If it is on your list of dream places to visit, I can suggest your holiday in Venice, which has many nicknames including “The Floating City,” “The City of Bridges,” and “The City of Canals,” will be absolutely worth it.

To ensure you get to see, and do the best things Venice has to offer, I’d thought I’d write a post on the things to do in Venice – which is especially useful to first-timers. I will also share a few tips that will help you organize your trip at the end of this post.

Make sure to also read this 3 days in Venice itinerary.

what to do in Venice

Piazza San Marco with high tide

22 Amazing Things To Do In Venice

Explore St. Mark’s Square

One of the unmissable things to do in Venice is visiting this impressive square, which is the largest and most popular piazza (public square) in Venice. For centuries most of the major events in the city have been held here, and it is named after Evangelist Saint Mark, Venice’s patron saint.

Called Piazza San Marco in Italian, this piazza has some of the city’s top attractions such as St Mark’s Basilica, Doges Palace and Torre dell’Orologio, which are all managed by the Fondazione Musei Civici di Venezia (known as MUVE). Make sure to get a museum pass (it costs €25) to access them all. You can get it directly on the foundation website.

It is the perfect place to begin your tour of Venice because you’ll tick off your travel itinerary several of the must-see attractions when you visit the public square. The best time to visit is early morning just after sunrise, at this time the square is not packed with tourists.

You’ll find lots of friendly pigeons, and you might be tempted to feed them, but don’t do that. Feeding the birds is banned and if you’re found doing that you could pay a hefty fine. Once you’re done taking in the sights you can go to one of the cafes found at the north end of the piazza for Italian espresso.

GOOD TO KNOW: You will find Caffè Florian on the square. Opened in 1720, this world-famous café (and the oldest in the world) is one of the most charming places in town you can go for a drink. The only downside? It’s very expensive. 

Tour St. Mark’s Basilica (Basilica di San Marco) 

Visiting St. Mark’s Basilica is one of the classic yet most rewarding things to do in Venice. As I mentioned above, this attraction is located in Saint Mark’s Square. It was built in the 11th century and is the most famous building in Venice. So, you must make a stop here, the church’s Italian Byzantine architecture is something to marvel at.

You can tour St Mark’s Basilica on your own or pay for a guided tour of the place. Entry to the basilica is free, but to access some of the spaces like the basilica’s museum, Pala d’oro, or Treasury, you’ll have to pay about $2- $6. When seeing the place, be sure to pass by the outdoor terrace for magnificent views of the square below.

Usually, the basilica is open from 9:30 am to 5:30 pm Monday to Saturday. On Sunday it opens from 2:00 pm after the Catholic mass service, which you can attend, and closes at 5:30 pm.

Being one of the top tourist attractions in Venice, you can expect to find long lines at St.Mark’s Basilica. To avoid waiting in line for hours to get into Basilica di San Marco go very early before it opens, so that you can be among the first in line, or late in the afternoon. You can also pay for a skip the line ticket or tour that will get you in swiftly.

These are the best guided tours and line tickets of Basilica di San Marco:

Piazza San Marco

A gorgeous view of Piazza San Marco

Walk up St. Mark’s Bell Tower

There is no doubt that one of the things to do in Venice is walking up the Campanile di San Marco, the famous bell tower. This is the tallest landmark in Venice and from the top, located right in Piazza San Marco and one of the symbols of the city that you will easily recognize from a distance. From there, you’ll enjoy an unforgettable view of Venice – easily one of the best things to do in Venice. There always are long lines to get in – and it’s easy to see why. So I recommend getting a ticket beforehand. You can find it here.

Visit Doge’s Palace (Palazzo Ducale)

Visiting Doge’s Palace is perhaps the nicest of the things to do in Venice. This centuries-old palace served as the home of the Doge, a supreme leader who was elected by Venetian nobles to govern Venice. Located at Saint Mark’s Square (the nearest vaporetto stop is San Zaccaria), you can go to admire the buildings Venetian gothic architecture and opulent interior.

The palace is also full of history about how Venice was ruled in its earlier years because all its affairs were run from here including imprisonment and executions of those found to have wronged the state.

It is is open from 8:30 am. to 7:00 pm from April to October and 8:30 am to 5:30 pm from November to March. Tickets cost about $25. But honestly, the line to get in is so long and there is so much to see that it’s probably better to invest in a tour which will take you in more swiftly.

These are the best guided tours:

Ponte dei Sospiri

One of the most beautiful sights in Venice

Admire the Bridge of Sighs

Among the unmissable things to do in Venice, walking through or simply admire the Bridge of Sighs is definitely worth a mention. This bridge used to be were prisoners passed as they left the dungeons to go to courtrooms in Doge’s Palace. It’s a lovely sight, it makes for some of the most iconic photos of Venice and it definitely is one of the nicest Venice attractions.

Enjoy an evening at the opera at Teatro La Fenice

Teatro La Fenice is one of the most popular opera houses in Italy, and you can catch an opera show here when in Venice. Opened in 1792 the opera house has survived three fires hence the name Teatro La Fenice, because like a phoenix the theatre has risen from the ashes a couple of times.

It goes without saying that watching a show at La Fenice is one of the things to do in Venice. However, getting tickets to catch an opera is not easy, so if you plan to go for one during your trip to Venice you’ll need to buy tickets months before your trip. You can look at the planned events and concerts and buy tickets on the official website here.

The opera house has daily tours you can take if you’re unable to get tickets for a show.

The tours start from 9:30 am., and end at 6:00 pm. You can go for a tour to admire the Teatro La Fenice magnificent architecture, gold interiors, plush red velvet chairs and et a feel of the opera closed boxes. This attraction is located 5 minutes from Piazza San Marco and tour tickets cost about $12 for adults and $8 for students. The tour can be booked here

Opera tickets are pricier and performances usually take place from 5.30 pm or 7:00 pm.

Explore Cannaregio

The largest and most populated sestiere in Venice is cut across by the Canale Cannaregio – the only one that, together with Canal Grande, is big enough for vaporetti. It’s a lovely part of town that you should definitely take the time to explore, where you will find plenty of shopping opportunities, nightlife with bars and restaurants, and the narrowest alley in Venice (Calletta Varisco). It’s also where Palazzo Ca D’Oro (a beautiful Gothic building) and the Jewish Ghetto is located. 

One of best-known churches in Venice, Chiesa di Santa Maria dei Miracoli, is located in Campiello dei Miracoli, in this sestiere. It is known as “the marble church.” It is an exquisite example of early Venetian Renaissance and the use of colored marble is incredible. It was built between 1481 and 1489 and restored in the 1990s. 

GOOD TO KNOW: If you want to get away from the crowds, opt to visit Dorsoduro. Taking its name from the more stable land (compared to the rest of the lagoon), Dorsoduro is home to Santa Maria della Salute church; the Gallerie dell’Accademia, where you can admire paintings by Titian and Tintoretto among others; and of Peggy Guggenheim Collection, the city’s main modern art gallery.

Walk around the Jewish Ghetto 

If you want to get acquainted with one of the nicest parts of town, visiting the Jewish Ghetto definitely is one of the things to do in Venice.

This is believed to be the world’s first ghetto. It was established in 1516 when Jews in Venice were forced to live in poor conditions in this enclosed area. Today the area has many restaurants, shops, synagogues, and a Jewish museum you can visit. It’s a lovely part of the city that I wholeheartedly recommend visiting, and it gets less visitors than the rest of the city so visiting is what to do in Venice to get away from the crowds.

Ponte di Rialto

Visiting Ponte di Rialto is a must-do when in Venice – it used to be the only bridge allowing to cross the Grand Canal on foot

See the Grand Canal (Canale Grande)

Hundreds of canals connect the islands that makeup Venice. The largest of those canals is Canale Grande. This s-shaped 2-mile canal cuts through Venice, and has close to 200 buildings, some built as far back as the 13th century, lined along its banks.

This waterway has for years played a major role in Venice’s economy, and is always busy with water traffic. It is another attraction you cannot leave the city without experiencing – sailing the Grand Canal is one of the things to do in Venice you simply can’t miss. If you want to admire the canal and the buildings along its banks on the cheap, walking along it or riding the Vaporetto (water bus) is what to do in Venice.

During peak season, April, May, June, September, and October, vaporetti are often packed with tourists and locals. The morning and evening commutes can be particularly uncomfortable due to the large crowds. Therefore, the best time to sail the Grand Canal on a Vaporetto is at night. The lit waterway and palatial buildings are awesome to look at this time and fewer people are using the Vaporetto, so you can enjoy the trip.

Visit the Fondaco dei Tedeschi

Located on the Grand Canal and near Rialto Bridge, this is a gorgeous building that dates back to 1228 and takes its name from the German (Tedeschi, in Italian) merchants that houses there during their business trips to the city. Should you decide to visit, make sure to also go to the rooftop terrace for stunning views.

Sail the Venice canals on a Gondola

Many will say that riding a gondola is one of the things to do in Venice, Italy. Touristy (and expensive) as it is, I believe you only live once so why not?

If you don’t want to use a vaporetto to see the Grand Canal (or even the smaller canals in Venice) you can hire a gondola. A gondola is a flat bottomed traditional Venetian rowing boat that looks like a bit like a canoe. The gondola is rowed by a gondolier who uses a rowing oar. It once was the only means of transport in Venice.

If you opt to pay for a gondola, to tour the Grand Canal or other waterways in Venice, be prepared to pay about $90 for a 40-minute ride. I know this is pricey, but riding a gondola is kind of a ritual for most tourists visiting Venice. So suck it up and pay for one, it will be an interesting new travel experience.

The best part is as you ride the gondola and take in the sights a singer onboard or the gondolier will serenade you with beautiful traditional Venetian melodies.

If you look online you will see that there are some shared gondola rides. If you don’t mind sharing, this may be a great way to save some bucks.

These are the best gondola rides you can book online:

Cross Rialto Bridge (Ponte di Rialto)

One of the nicest places to visit in Venice is Rialto Bridge. This bridge found on the Grand Canal is the most famous in Venice and was once the only way you could cross Canal Grande. From the top of the bridge that was built in the 16th century, you can have great aerial views of Venice.

Like other attractions in Venice, this bridge receives hundreds of tourists each day, particularly around midday. You can access the bridge at any time of the day, so the best time to go is early morning or any time after sunset.

At the center of the bridge, there are many shops where you can buy Venetian souvenirs to take back home with you.

Wander around San Polo

San Polo is the smallest of the six Sestieri (areas) of Venice, and a lovely neighborhood not far from Rialto Bridge. Locals love it thanks to the relaxed atmosphere. It’s a nice place to explore (make sure not to miss the San Basilica di Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari, one of the most beautiful churches in the city; go for a drink, visit the markets and the shops and enjoy a bit of nightlife. 

things to do in Venice

Colorful buildings along the Grand Canal

Get lost in Venice’s narrow alleys

Perhaps it goes without saying but one of the things to do in Venice is getting lost in the narrow alleys. Venice can’t be accessed by car, so exploring the city on foot is one of the pleasures of visiting this city which has many winding narrow streets. It colorful, beautiful and discovering the narrow alleys can be a very rewarding experience. I recommend NOT taking the map – get lost and have fun!

Shop at Rialto Market 

This is the busiest market in Venice, and a visit to this city wouldn’t be complete without a tour of this canal-side market. Here is where the locals come to buy fresh seafood, fruits, and vegetables. If you want to enjoy some of this fresh produce you can grab a meal at one of the many restaurants in the area.

If you would like to do a tour of the market and taste the amazing food, you can opt for these:

If shopping is one of the things to do in Venice, you’ll be glad to know that the tourist section of the market is also a good place to buy souvenirs. The market which is located close to Rialto Bridge opens daily from 9:00 am to 9:00 pm.

Go for a drink at the Hotel Danieli

This five-star hotel featured in 3 James Bond movies, From Russia With Love (1963), Moonraker (1979), and Casino Royale (2006). So like Bond you can enjoy a vodka martini “shaken not stirred,” at the hotel’s bar – it’s one of the most fun things to do in Venice.

Carnival

A typical Venice Carnival mask

Plan to attend a Carnevale

One of the best things to do in Venice is attending its traditional carnival.

Every year in February Venice holds a carnival were close to 3 million locals and tourists dress up in masquerade costumes, and party for two weeks. The Carnevale was first held in Renaissance times and scholars believe the masks worn at the time were aimed at hiding the true identity of participants. This way the upper class and peasants could interact freely during the event without caring about status.

The atmosphere in Venice during the Carnevale is electric with parades, lots of food, drinks, and entertainment on the city’s streets. It can get really wild so if you’re not the partying type you should skip this event.

If you don’t make it for the Carnevale you can get yourself the famous Venetian carnival mask as a souvenir. You can buy a cheap one from street carts in Venice or if you want a classier mask that is hand-made you can purchase one at the specialized mask shops. There even are mask-making workshops!

Visit the Galleria dell’Accademia di Venezia

If you love art, one of the things to do in Venice is visiting the Galleria dell’Accademia. This attraction has an impressive collection of 14th to 18th-century Venetian art and is simply a must. The art museum has over 800 paintings including works by great artists such as Da Vinci, Bellini, Tintoretto, Canaletto, Veronese, Tiziano, Carpaccio, Giorgione, and Giambattista.

Galleria dell’Accademia di Venezia is 15 minutes away from Piazza San Marco. Tickets cost about $18 for adults and children get in free. The museum is open from 8:15 am. to 6:15 pm Tuesday to Sunday, and 8:15 am to 1:00 pm. on Monday.

Take a day trip to Burano and Murano

One of the things to do in Venice is to actually get ouf of town to discover the surrounding islands!

Burano is one of the islands found on the Venetian Lagoon. It is a 40-minute boat ride from St Mark’s Square and is the perfect place to escape the large crowds in Venice for a few hours. You’ll see colorful buildings and lovely, quaint atmosphere. Guided tours usually go also to Murano (famous for glass-blowing factories where you can also see demonstrations, attend glass-making workshops and buy precious Murano glass souvenirs) and Torcello.

These are some excellent guided tours that include a trip to Burano:

Visit the Basilica of Saint John & Paul

This is the largest church in Venice, which took more than a century to build and that was finally consecrated in 1430. The square where it is located is a good place to hang out, especially for families with children or for a group of friends.

Visit the Lazzaretto Nuovo

One of the most unique things to do in Venice is visiting this lesser-known island, named “new” to be differentiated from the Old Lazzaretto, (which housed a hospital that cured people from the plague between 1403 and 1630). It is located about 3 km north-east of Venice (you can get there by private boat or by Vaporetto n. 13) and it houses a beautifully kept Benedictine Monastery.

You can visit on guided tours every Saturday and Sunday at 4:00 pm, or by appointment any other day. The visit includes an archeological itinerary and a walk along the sandbanks. 

Go to the Biennale

Once occurring only on even-numbered years, Venice Biennale (which is now called Art Biennale) has been held since 1895 and it is an incredible international forum for contemporary art. The main location is the Giardini, which houses the main exhibition hall. You should definitely visit if you are into art. 

Burano Venice

Easily reached from Venice, Burano is a must-see

Practical Information To Organize Your Trip To Venice

Schengen area travel requirements

To travel to Venice, Italy – and to other Schengen countries in Europe – you need to confirm your ETIAS validity before your trip.

Guided waling tours of Venice

It takes more than a walk to discover Venice, but a guided tour is one of the things to do in Venice in order to be properly introduced to the city. These are some excellent options:

Where to stay in Venice

Venice has no shortage of excellent accommodation options, from good hotels to airbnbs, and you won’t have any issue finding something that is suitable to your taste and needs. I have selected a few places which are all excellent, and some are even very budget friendly considering the location. Here is what I recommend:

Best time to visit Venice

Venice is always crowded with tourists, and the weather is unforgiving. Picture cold, humid and foggy winters with regular chances of high tide (acqua alta, as we say here in Italy) – which makes it hard to walk around town. And very hot, humid summers that make it really exhausting to explore.

Having said so, I’d say that the best months to go to Venice are April and May in the spring, and September and October in the late summer / early fall. And if you want to experience Venice Carnival, February is the best months.

Keep in mind prices go up in the weeks of carnival, and that during high season (June, July and August) Venice tends to be even more crowded than usual, and as expensive as it gets.

How to get to Venice

Venice is a well connected city and you have several options to get there. Below is a summary.

By plane

Venice is well connected to the rest of the world via two airports. The main one is Venezia Marco Polo and it is located on the mainland. This has direct connections to many international destinations. From there, you can easily get to Venice with a private water taxi, the Alilaguna waterbus, a bus to Piazzale Roma (you can book it here), or a shared or private transfer or taxi to Piazzale Roma (book it here) from where you can get to your accommodation in town.

The other airport is in Treviso and has budget flight connections to a variety of destinations in Italy, Europe and Mediterranean countries. From there, you will need to catch a bus or train to Venice Piazzale Roma.

By ferry

Big cruises and ferries regularly get to Venice. I honestly do not recommend using this means of transportation to get there – and in fact, I don’t recommend a cruise altogether as these are known for having had a massive impact on the lagoon and on the city itself – to the point that subsequent governments have suggested moving the main dock to a lesser central location than the current Giudecca.

By train or bus

Venice is well connected to mainland Italy by bus and trains. Buses will leave you in Piazzale Roma, whereas trains go as far as Venezia Santa Lucia train station. From both places, you can easily catch a water taxi or water bus to get to your final destination.

How to move around Venice

One of the best things to do in Venice is to walk! However, if you need to cover longer distances you can count on water taxis, traghetto (which usually covers shorter distances) and the famous vaporetto. Consider investing in a Venice City Pass if you are planning to visit many attractions in one day, as it will give you easy access to many attractions and include use of public transportation. You can get it here. Otherwise, get a multi-day vaporetto pass.

Other useful information

As for any other trip, make sure to get a good travel insurance for your trip to Venice. You can get yours here.

Check out my post Why You Need A Good Travel Insurance.”

Further readings

If you are planning a trip to Italy, make sure to read my other posts:

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Read what to see and do in Venice - via @clautavani

 

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