Looking for the best things to do in Venice? Don’t miss this step-by-step guide.
The capital of the Veneto Region in Northern Italy, in the past Venice was a significant trading and military centre, giving it a rich history, an extensive art collection and those beautiful waterways.
We’ve all heard the (justified) concerns about over tourism and yes, it really is sinking but you know what? Venice is captivating nonetheless.
Venice might not be perfect but it is a charming destination that can be a pleasure to explore. I say can be – because with talk of hour-long traffic jams to walk less than a kilometre – and impossible-to-get-tickets for some of the main attractions, you’re best off avoiding high season if you can.
The city is at its absolute busiest between the months of June and August – skip these months and you increase your chances of actually doing this beautiful city justice – and lessening the burden of its popularity at the same time.
Venice is one of the most popular places to visit in Italy and has many wonderful things to see and do. If you’ve been planning a trip to Italy but are not quite sure what to do in Venice, then keep reading to discover some of the best sites and attractions in the city.
Tip: Planning on staying in Venice for a few days? Check out the Hotel Carlton on the Grand Canal.
Top 5 Things To Do in Venice
Visit St Mark’s Square
St Mark’s Square, also known as Piazza San Marco, is the heart of Venice. The square is home to iconic Venice landmarks like the St Mark’s Basilica, Doge’s Palace and the St Mark’s Campanile.
The square sits on the Grand Canal and extends into an area known as the Piazzetta along the San Marco Basin. The two areas form the social, religious and political centre of Venice.
It has always played an essential part in Venice’s history, and surrounding it are a few elaborately decorated buildings with arched walkways. If you’re visiting Venice for the first time, this is a great place to start exploring the city.
It’s the perfect place for people-watching, grabbing a bite to eat and taking in the architectural wonders of Venice. A visit to St Mark’s Square is one of the most popular things to do in Venice.
Enjoy the Cuisine
Venice is well-known throughout Italy for having some of the county’s best (and most distinctive) cuisine. Some of that is down to its location – the Venice Lagoon is a source of high-quality local fish caught daily and has shaped the city’s culinary scene throughout the centuries.
Looking for an iconic Venetian dish to try? Opt for Baccala Mantecato – a local delicacy made from salted cod, garlic, parsley, potatoes and cream and blended together to create a mousse that’s usually eaten with crostini bread.
Some other delicacies found in Venetian cuisine include goose and lobster. The Veneto Region also has some of the best vineyards in Italy and is famous for producing Prosecco (bottoms up!).
Cruise Down the Grand Canal
Can you really say that you’ve been to Venice without riding down the Grand Canal? Once the main route in and out of Venice, the Grand Canal teemed with merchant ships. Today it remains a vital waterway that runs through the centre of Venice.
Cruising down the Grand Canal is one of the best things to do in Venice. Hop on a Vaporetto (a water bus) or a gondola ride, sail down this iconic canal and discover some of Venice’s iconic vistas.
Stroll Around Cannareggio
Cannareggio is the northernmost district in Venice, famous for being home to the Jewish Ghetto. While it has a somewhat troubled past, it has transformed itself into one of the liveliest areas in Venice – with cool wine bars, cafes and restaurants frequented by locals and tourists alike.
You can discover the Jewish Museum here and a few synagogues open to the public. Cannareggio also has a number of great restaurants and shops. It’s especially great if you’re looking for handcrafted and vintage goods,
This district is also home to the beautiful Ca’ d’Oro or Palazzo Santa Sofia on the Grand Canal. The palace is one of the best surviving examples of Venetian Gothic architecture and still features many of the palace’s original features.
The Ca’d’Oro is now a museum that displays a large collection of Renaissance art.
Take a Day Trip to Burano
If you think Venice is picturesque… wait until you take a trip to Burano.
Famed for its rainbow-coloured houses, Burano is the perfect day trip from the city.
The island is located at the northern end of the Venice Lagoon – a short 40 minute vaporetto ride from central Venice.
It is an old fishing village with traditions that date back to Roman times. The island is also famous for making lace and has a museum dedicated to this traditional art in its town square.
Burano is also well known for its fish dishes. Order the Risotto de Go, a creamy rice dish made with a local fish if you find yourself on the island. If you’re not a fan of fish, Burano has several great pizzerias and gelato shops.
There are also a few stands where you can buy souvenirs for a much better price than in central Venice. All in all, Burano is a great place to escape from the bustling streets of the mainland.
Brilliant Things to See & Do in Venice During the Day
Take a Trip To St Mark’s Basilica
The St Mark’s Basilica, also known as Basilica San Marco, is one of Italy’s most instantly recognisable sights. The Basilica is an absolute must-see in Venice.
The Basilica is on the eastern end of St Mark’s Square. It is a magnificent piece of architecture that has stood the test of time since its construction in 1094.
It remains one of the most important religious buildings in Italy and is one of the best examples of Byzantine architecture. Every aspect of the church is intricate and beautiful, from the sculptures and artwork to the dome ceiling.
St Mark’s Basilica is easily accessible from the Grand Canal and should be on your list of places to see as it is one of the top things to do in Venice.
Be warned that as this is one of the most popular Venice landmarks, you will need to book tickets in advance. You can either book tickets direct or take a guided tour of the Basilica and the Doge’s Palace.
Admire the Campanile di San Marco
The impressive Campanile di San Marco is one building that you should not miss visiting. It is the tallest building in Venice and is a staggering 98.6 metres (323 feet) tall.
Initially built in the 9th century, the tower later collapsed in 1902 and construction of the current building ended in 1912. The recent Campanile di San Marco has stood the test of time and has endured fires, earthquakes and even lightning strikes.
It is a true Venetian gem and is also the perfect place to admire Venice in its entirety from St Mark’s Square, where it’s located.
Go Shopping In One Of the Rialtos
Venice is famous for being an important trading destination during the Italian Renaissance. To get a glimpse of Venice’s trading past, head over to one of the Rialto markets. You’ll find everything from the freshest produce to Italian leather goods like shoes and handbags.
Check Out the Horological Clock (St Mark’s Clock)
St Mark’s Clock, also known as the Torre dell Orologio, sits inside the grand Clock Tower in St Mark’s Square. It is an impressive Renaissance building on the north side of the square and contains the clock and two buildings on its lower side.
Built in the late 14th century, the tower overlooks the waters of the Venice lagoon. It serves as a symbol of the wealth and glory of the Venetian empire.
St Mark’s Clock Tower was one of the first large public astronomical clocks to be built in Europe. Its two lower floors make a large archway that extends into the main street known as the Merceria.
The Merceria links St Mark’s Square, Venice’s religious and political centre, with the Rialto – its commercial centre. St Mark’s Clock is undoubtedly one of the best sights to see in Venice.
Doge’s Palace is a true Venice tourist attraction, and while you’re in St Mark’s Square, don’t forget to check it out. It is a true masterpiece of Gothic architecture made up of different layers of building elements.
The Palace overlooks the Grand Canal, and its facade features stunning arches made from white stone with diamond patterns on the walls. While the outside is pretty spectacular, the interior of the Doge’s Palace will certainly take your breath away.
It features highly decorated rooms and awe-inspiring ceilings with intricate artwork, gold framework, and beautiful furniture.
A tour of the Doge’s Palace is the best way to explore both its interior and exterior and appreciate the details of this important piece of Venetian history.
A Gondola Ride
For centuries the Gondola has played an important part in transporting people up and down the Grand Canal and other waterways in Venice. While it may be pricier than a Vaporetto, it’s worth it.
Gondolas are perfectly suited for the Venice lagoon and are a good way to see some of Venice’s historical sights without any obstructions.
Tip: If you want to save money,board a gondola in one of the smaller canals and not the Grand Canal as it is much cheaper.
Escape To Lido Island
If you’re looking to escape the heaps of tourists that flock to central Venice, then Lido Island is the place to go. Lido (Lido di Venezia) is an 11-kilometre (7-mile) barrier island that separates the Venice Lagoon and the Adriatic Sea.
It is home to around 20 000 people and has loads of residential areas, shops, restaurants and hotels. It has a more laid back vibe, in contrast to the busy streets and waterways around the Grand Canal.
Lido has a long stretch of beautiful beach where you can lay around and soak up the wonderful Italian sun.
Check Out the Peggy Guggenheim Collection
A visit to the Peggy Guggenheim Collection is one of the most interesting things to do in Venice. If you’re an art lover, this contemporary art museum on the Grand Canal might be of particular interest to you.
This impressive art display is the private collection of expatriate American art collector Peggy Guggenheim. Her collection features the work of the most influential European and American artists of the 20th century.
The collection sits in the Palazzo Venier dei Leoni, the home of Peggy Guggenheim and features artwork and sculptures. You can also learn more about Peggy herself and even pay respects to her in the sculpture garden.
Enjoy Views of Venice From the Accademia Bridge (Ponte dell’Accademia)
For some truly spectacular views of Venice, make your way over to the Accademia Bridge. While it may not be as popular as the Bridge of Sighs or the Rialto Bridge, it’s still pretty special.
It crosses the Grand Canal at its lower southern end and links the San Marco District with the Accademia Galleria. It is one of four bridges that span across the Grand Canal in Venice.
It may look like a simple wooden bridge, but it is one of the best places to see the Grand Canal in its entirety. There’s also a Vaporetto stop right next to the bridge to help you get to other parts of the city.
Cross the Bridge of Sighs
Although relatively small compared to other bridges in Venice, the Bridge of Sighs is an important historical landmark. It is one of the top Venice attractions, and thousands of people visit it each year.
It is a true architectural gem made from white limestone, with windows and stone bars. It passes over the Rio di Palazzo and connects the Prigioni Nuove (New Prison) to the Doge’s Palace.
According to legend, as criminals were taken from the palace to the New Prison, they would catch one last glimpse of Venice and sigh before receiving their final punishment.
Visit the Jewish Ghetto (Ghetto Ebraico di Venezia)
The Jewish Ghetto is one of the most interesting places to visit in Venice. This neighbourhood is one of the oldest in the world, dating back to 1516. Shakespeare even mentioned it in his book The Merchant of Venice.
The Ghetto sits in the northwestern area of Venice known as Cannaregio. As you wander around, you’ll gain some valuable insight into this area’s complicated past. You’ll be able to discover how people once lived throughout the ages and how they live today.
You’ll find a few synagogues and the Jewish Museum, which are all open to the public within the area.
Visit the Murano Glass Museum
One of the things that the Venetians are best known for is their impressive glasswork. As a result, Venice became the leading producer of glass in Europe in the Middle Ages and exported it all over the continent.
The island of Murano lies 1.5km (1 mile) north of Venice and is renowned for its long tradition of glassmaking. To discover the artistry that the island is famous for, pay a visit to the Murano Glass Museum.
You’ll get the opportunity to learn about the history of glass, notably the local Murano Glass. Murano Glass is a unique decorative glass made from several different techniques that date back over 1000 years.
There’s a small factory on-site where you can see this intricate glass made and even purchase souvenirs. The Murano Glass Museum is one of the top things to see in Venice.
Cross the Rialto Bridge (Ponte di Rialto)
The Rialto Bridge is the oldest of four bridges that span across the Grand Canal and is one of the most recognisable landmarks in Venice.
Centuries ago, crossing the Grand Canal was only possible through the Rialto Bridge. Initially, it was a wooden bridge, but it was rebuilt using stone after its collapse in 1524. It is an architectural and engineering achievement of the Renaissance.
The bridge features one large archway with several smaller arches. Its design is simple but is beautiful and perfectly frames the Grand Canal. The Rialto Bridge is certainly one of the top sights in Venice.
Gallery Accademia (Gallerie dell’Accademia)
Sitting opposite the Accademia Bridge on the Grand Canal lies the incredible Gallery Accademia. It houses a marvellous collection of pre-19th century art, including pieces from Bellini, Tintoretto and Veronese.
If you’re a fan of Renaissance art, this gallery is the place for you. The gallery has an expansive collection of Venetian masterpieces. One of its notable pieces is the Vitruvian Man by Da Vinci.
Cool Things to See & Do in Venice at Night
Hop on a Vaporetto at Sunset
A gondola ride at sunset is one of the coolest things you can do in Venice. Gondolas can be pretty expensive, so if you’re looking for a cheaper way to discover Venice’s waterways while watching the sunset over the city, why not hop on a Vaporetto?
A Vaporetto is a Venetian public waterbus. There are about 19 scheduled lines that service the districts in Venice and the surrounding islands.
Discovering Venice from the water at sunset is a pretty unforgettable experience, so board a Vaporetto and sail down the Grand Canal.
Enjoy a Drink at the Stappo Wine Bar
The Stappo Wine Bar and Kitchen is in the heart of Venice and is just a five-minute walk away from the Rialto.
It serves a fantastic variety of Italian dishes paired with sublime natural wines. Stappo promotes sustainability and only uses local ingredients. It has an intimate internal courtyard where you can sit and enjoy your meal or drink.
Hang Out at the Venice Jazz Club
If you’re looking for one of the coolest places in Venice, then don’t forget to check out the Venice Jazz Club. Located in the Dorsoduro area, the jazz club will take you away from the more touristy neighbourhoods of San Marco and San Polo.
Whether you’re a jazz fan or not, the Venice Jazz Club is the perfect place to visit at night. You can sit back and listen to some great music in a cosy venue.
Vino Vero is another wine bar located in Canareggio. It’s a local wine bar and shop with a great selection of natural wines paired with local meals like Cicchetti.
It’s an ideal place to meet up with friends and enjoy an evening out in Venice and is open until late.
Situated just a few minutes away from St Mark’s Basilica is the All’Arco Bar. For a true taste of Venetian hospitality, good wine and a warm atmosphere, be sure to check out All’Arco.
They have a great selection of Cicchetti, which are snacks made from cold meats and cheese served on crostini.
Grab a Drink at the Skyline Rooftop Bar
For incredible views of Venice in the evening, head over to the Skyline Rooftop Bar at the Hilton Molino Stucky Hotel.
You can enjoy one of their signature cocktails while taking in the panoramic views of Venice in a relaxed setting. The bar is also open until late, so you can sit back and relax.
Things to do in Venice: Practical Tips for Your Trip
Before you start planning your trip to Italy, here are a few practical tips that can help make the planning process easier.
What to Do in Venice: Frequently Asked Questions
Where Should I Stay in Venice?
Hotel Casanova is just a few metres away from St Mark’s Square. It is set in an 18th Century building in the heart of Venice and is near to attractions such as Doge’s Palace and the St Mark’s Basilica. It features simple but ornate Venetian architecture and style.
The Bauer Palazzo is a two-minute walk from St Mark’s Square and where you should stay if you are after some luxury. It has spacious and elegantly decorated rooms.