Venice is a place that everyone should visit at least once in their lifetime. This old European city is located on the water, with small houses and grand palaces “growing out” of the canals, through which typical boats, gondolas, rush together with fruit sellers’ boats and Amazon’s delivery services.
It has a lot to offer, from shopping experiences to rich museums and great food. This guide presents 12 things to do in Venice and will help you plan your stay in this vibrant city on the water.
Visit San Marco’s Square
San Marco’s Square is called the heart of Venice. You can approach it from many sides, on foot or by boat. Framed with old arcades and, with San Marco’s Cathedral and the emblematic tower, it creates a unique vibe and a spectacular view.
Depending on the time of the year, San Marco’s Square will be packed with people or a little less crowded. Take your time to walk around and sink into the hustle and bustle of the city.
You can grab a coffee in one of the cafés under the arcades, but be aware of the high prices (an espresso costs 10-11 euros). Next to the Basilica, you can see a spectacular view of the water on which gondolas sway and from which, in the distance, the dazzling San Giorgio Maggiore church emerges from the fog.
Walk along the water to see the façade of Hotel Danieli – the one that appeared in one of the Bond movies and which is one of the most exclusive hotels in Venice.
Immerse in Art in Palazzo Ducale
Palazzo Ducale or Doge Palace is located in San Marco’s Square and is worth visiting, especially if you like art. The building that is considered a masterpiece of gothic architecture hides a lot of treasures.
Enjoy ornate ceilings and fireplaces and immerse in the rich collection of pictures and statues. If you want to discover all the secrets of Palazzo Ducale, you should dedicate at least half a day to it.
Explore Mercato Rialto
Head to Mercato Rialto to discover the tradition of local merchandise that has lasted in this place for more than a millennium. The neogothic construction, created in the 18th century, covers two parts of the market: one where vendors sell seafood and the other with flowers, fruits, and vegetables.
With the sounds of haggling and the screams of seagulls, it gives you a unique experience. If you are a morning bird, try to come here around 7-7:30 when the market opens, to see all the products delivered on small boats.
Find a Great Book at Libreria Acqua Alta
Whether you’re looking for a nice souvenir, want to take an Instagramable picture, or get a vintage book, head to Libreria Acqua Alta. This bookstore is located right next to a canal, so when the water gets higher (acqua alta) it enters the bookshop. But don’t you worry, all the goodies are saved as they are stored in basins, bathtubs, and a big gondola.
The Libreria offers both new and old books and an amazing collection of vintage postcards. It is a perfect place to get some unique gifts from your trip. The owners of the place also keep some stray cats, which in the past were a symbol of Venice as they hunted rats.
Listen to the Hustle of the Rialto Bridge
There are around 390 bridges in Venice that connect about 117 islands. Some of them are little and easy to miss, others small but charming, and others are spectacular ones. One of them is Rialto Bridge.
Built at the end of the 16th century, Rialto was the first bridge that allowed travelers and locals to pass over the Grand Canal. The wide structure of the bridge has some cover space that in the past was used by merchants to sell local and imported goods. Nowadays, the little shops are a place where you can get jewelry and souvenirs.
Get Lost in One of the Many Streets Cut by Canals
The most charming part of old cities is the possibility to get lost and found in beautiful streets. The unique landscape of Venice, where the streets are cut by canals, gives you a great opportunity to explore the town.
Hop over a bridge, then turn right, and then left, then on the bridge again, and… find your way, choosing the opposite direction.
Don’t forget to stop in one of the many cafés.
Take a Gondola Ride (or a Cheaper Version)
Gondolas are symbols of Venice. These little boats that fill the Venetian canals used to serve as a means of transport, and most of them were far more modest than the richly carved and decorated boats tourists can see nowadays.
While the price of a gondola ride is high (100 euros in the high season), it is definitely worth trying. Immerse into the comfy seats, listen to the hum of the water, the hustle of talk from the banks, and admire beautiful Venetian buildings from the level of the water. All of this is accompanied by a professional gondolier who whistles songs.
If you don’t want to take a gondola ride, but still want to see buildings from a canal, take a water taxi, the Vaporetto. The ride costs about 7 euros, and you have about 40 minutes to enjoy the trip. You can hop in and out at any Vaporetto stop, but be aware that not all of them have a place to buy a ticket.
A view from a gondola
Do Some (Window) Shopping
From carnival masks and costumes to artisanal gifts and high-end fashion – Venice is a true paradise for the most demanding shoppers. Whether you want to spend a significant amount of money or get some original souvenirs, you can be sure to find interesting shops on every corner of the city.
While Palazzo Ducale is one of the most famous museums in Venice, it is definitely not the only one. You might not travel during Biennale time, but if you love art, you will find a lot to do in Venice.
Galleria dell’Accademia is a perfect place to discover old Venetian masters such as Titian, Tiepolo, Bellini, and Giorgione.
The Peggy Guggenheim Collection features the best modern artists and was founded by American socialite, Peggy Guggenheim. The park that is a part of the museum is a perfect place to admire modern sculpture and rest a bit from the hustle of the city.
Get Some Sun and Rest on a Nearby Beach
Although located on the water, Venice doesn’t have direct access to the beach. But don’t worry, visiting this stunning city, you can easily access Venice Lido Beach. Hop on a Vaporetto, and within 20 minutes of the pleasant water ride, you will get to a place where you can enjoy the murmur of the sea, the singing of the seagulls, and the Italian sun.
If you’re planning on spending more time by the sea, create a packing list for a beach vacation to be sure you bring all you need.
Visit Burano or Murano (or Both)
Burano and Murano are two islands that are located about 20 minutes of by Vaporetto ride away from Venice. Both of them are built similarly to Venice and are often called its smaller sisters.
Murano is famous for its production of glass. While there, you can enter the glass factory and see a short demonstration of blowing glass. Explore one of the many shops located on the island – some of them have Murano glass jewelry, and others sell applied art, including intricately prepared chandeliers whose prices can reach dozens of thousands of euros.
The other island, Burano, is famous for its colorful little houses and lace products. Explore the island alone or with one of the local tour guides. Even though it’s small, exploring Burano, admiring its products, and taking pictures for your social media can take up the whole day. Fortunately, there are many good spots to eat and grab a fresh Italian caffè.
While both islands can be filled with tourists during the peak season, you can be sure they won’t be as much as in Venice. So, if you prefer to avoid huge crowds, you might consider visiting these islands as a second option.
Have an Evening Stroll
While most travelers discover Venice during the day, it is worth exploring a bit after dawn. First of all, there will be fewer people, second, you will see the city from a totally different perspective.
With the water of the canals creating shiny images on building façades and the silence of the streets, evenings in Venice, especially during winter and autumn, are very calm but also mysterious.
There is no doubt that Venice is a magical place, full of secrets and places that are yet to be discovered. Tangled with the labyrinth of narrow streets and canals, it creates a unique landscape where everyone can find something interesting. Whether soaked in rain, flooded by acqua alta, or full of sun and heat, Venice has its special charm.