15 Memorable Things to Do in Venice, Italy

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Venice is one of the busiest, most bustling tourist destinations in the world, but there’s a good reason to brave the crowds and to visit because this is one of the most historic and beautiful cities in Italy.

Yes, it might be expensive, and yes it will be crowded, but Venice will always exude a charm and a vibrancy that few other places in the world can match.

The city’s canals are world-famous, and you can enjoy learning about the long Venetian history that saw Venice become a world player in the medieval era. Much of the Renaissance era architecture has been remarkably well preserved.

You’ll be able to cruise past basilicas and palaces on the waterways as you take in all the attractions on offer. It’s one of the best Italian cities to visit, and to help you to plan your trip, here are the best things to do in Venice.

Don’t leave home without: Lonely Planet Venice & the Veneto (Travel Guide)

15 Best Things to Do in Venice, Italy

1. Marvel at the Grand Canal

The Grand Canal in Venice Italy

Venice is best known for being a city of canals. It’s built on a lagoon, and here, everything happens on the water. There are no cars in the city and the only way to really get around quickly is by boat, so enjoy the gondolas and the ferries as you explore Venice on the water.

While there are quite literally hundreds of canals, the biggest and most iconic of them all is the Grand Canal, which acts as the main highway in the city.

Cruising along the Grand Canal is one of the best things to do in Venice, and you’ll be able to quickly immerse yourself in local life and history as you travel along with it, as much of the surrounding architecture that you’ll see from the canal dates far back to the medieval era.

Our top recommended tours of The Grand Canal:

2. Visit the Museum inside Basilica di San Marco

Basilica di San Marco in Venice

The Basilica di San Marco – or St Marks Basilica in English – is one of the most well-known sights to visit in Venice. If you ever see a picture of the city, the likelihood is that it will either include canals or this basilica, and it’s definitely one of the most iconic things to do in Venice.

Dedicated to St Mark the Evangelist, the stunning designs of the basilica are not to be missed, but you can expect big queues jostling to get inside.

You can visit for free, however, if you want to peruse the museum, you’ll need to pay a small entrance fee. The basilica is found within St Marks Square, which is one of the central plazas in Venice and full of equally stunning buildings too.

Our top recommended tours of Basilica di San Marco:

3. Walk Across the Ponte di Rialto

The Ponte di Rialto in Venice Italy

The Rialto Bridge is one of the main bridges that span the Grand Canal, and it’s very much one of the best things to do in Venice. The small stone bridge has allowed pedestrians to cross the water for centuries and although small, it’s always bustling with people.

Around the bridge you can find several local markets, selling souvenirs, food, and handicrafts, and it’s a great spot to soak up the local culture.

Our top recommended tours of Ponte di Rialto:

4. View the Bridge of Sighs

The View the Bridge of Sighs in Venice Italy

The Bridge of Sighs is another iconic and photogenic bridge to visit in Venice. The small crossing over a canal is totally enclosed, as the bridge was built to connect interrogation rooms with a prison in the 16th century – hence the name too, as prisoners would sigh as they walked through it.

Today, it’s a popular tourist attraction, and the best view is from the canal below, where you can hire a gondola to take you under the arches.  

Our top recommended tours of The Bridge of Sighs:

5. Visit the Doge’s Palace

Doge’s Palace in Venice

The Bridge of Sighs connects the old prison with the Doge’s Palace, which was the residential palace of the ‘Doge’ or leader of Venice when the city was a huge maritime power in the Mediterranean.

The palace dates back to the 14th century, and it grew into a sprawling building complete with beautiful facades that have survived intact to this day. This is the real center of historic Venice, and you can tour through much of the palace, the courtyards and visit the museums too.

Our top recommended tours of Doge’s Palace:

6. Visit the Galleria dell’Accademia

Galleria dell’Accademia across the Grand Canal in Venice

If you have even a passing interest in art, then one of the best things to do in Venice is to visit the Galleria dell’Accademia. This impressive museum houses one of the most extensive collections of Renaissance-era artwork in the entire country.

It’s not just one of the best things to do in Venice, but in all of Italy too, as here you can find masterpieces on display from the master Italian artists who created incredible classics and timeless pieces.

Our top recommended tours of the Galleria dell’Accademia:

7. Go to the Top of Campanile di San Marco

Campanile di San Marco in Venice

The Campanile di San Marco is the striking tower found at St Mark’s Basilica, and it’s one of the best places to visit in Venice for a panoramic of the entire city. Located in the central Piazza San Marco, the tower is just under 100 meters tall and is a masterpiece of medieval architecture.

It dates back hundreds of years to the 16th century, although it did collapse at the turn of the 20th century, before being rebuilt brick by brick. Today, you can climb the restored tower for some of the best views out over St Marks Square and the nearby basilica.

8. Get Up for Sunrise Over the Venice Lagoon

Venice Lagoon at sunrise

The Venice Lagoon is the bay upon which the city was built, and one of the best things to do in Venice is to take a trip out onto the surrounding water to experience the architecture from afar.

You can hire boats to ferry you out to the water, where you’ll be greeted by the sight of the many different islands in the mouth of the bay, the mainland on the other side, and the city of Venice itself in the center.

9. Enjoy the Venice Lido Beaches

Venice, Italy Lido Beach

Found out in the lagoon, Venice Lido is the best place to visit if you are looking to escape the crowded streets of the city itself. This is one of the best things to do in Venice, because the Lido is never quite as busy as the nearby city, and offers a more relaxed and tranquil day out.

The Lido separates Venice from the ocean and is perhaps best known for being home to some of the best beaches in the region. You can relax on the sands, enjoy the restaurants and bars, before taking a ferry back to Venice again.

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Burano Island near Venice

10. Walk the Streets on Burano Island

Burano is one of the major islands out in the Venice Lagoon, and it’s certainly worth a day trip if only to escape the crowds of the city. The island is just a short ferry ride away, but it’s one of the most interesting things to do in Venice.

The streets are pleasant to wander through, but the big attraction is the centuries-old lace-making tradition that you can observe on the island.

Our top recommended tours of Burano Island:

11. Take a Day Trip to Murano Island

Murano Island in Venice

Murano is another great day trip away from Venice, and here, after a short ferry ride from the city, you can find another quiet island getaway.

Murano is famed for its glass making, rather than lace, and here you can find specialist glass working shops that will show you how this ancient tradition has been perfected over the centuries.

Our top recommended tours of Murano Island:

12. Visit Torcello Island

Torcello Island near Venice

There are many islands out in the Venice Lagoon, but one of the best to visit is Torcello Island. This is one of the smallest islands around Venice, with the smallest resident population, and because of that, it still someone remains a peaceful place.

You can visit the local museum, explore the canal and take in the quiet, local atmosphere before catching a ferry back to Venice again.

Our top recommended tours of Torcello Island:

13. Check out the Peggy Guggenheim Collection

Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice

The Peggy Guggenheim Collection is one of Venice’s most intriguing art galleries. Collated by American Peggy Guggenheim, the museum is home to some of the best collections of contemporary 20th-century art in Europe.

You can find classics from Picasso and other modern artists on display here, making this a unique break from the predominantly Rennaisance era art that you’ll find everywhere else in the city.

Our top recommended tours of the Peggy Guggenheim Collection:

14. Explore the Jewish Ghetto

Jewish Ghetto in Venice

If you are looking to explore an alternative side to Venice, then consider visiting the Jewish Ghetto. Historically, Venice always had a large Jewish population, but the city confined them to their own distinct quarter – which is where the term Ghetto arose from.

Unfortunately, during World War II, the population didn’t escape deportation and most became victims of the Holocaust.

You can still wander through the Jewish Quarter in Venice however, to explore the distinctive architecture and streets of this part of the city, and to explore a darker side of Venice’s history that most travelers don’t realize is there.

Our top recommended tours of the Jewish Ghetto:

15. Go for Carnevale

Carnival of Venice

The Carnevale – or Carnival of Venice – is one of the most important events in the city’s calendar. Held once a year, the festival lasts for two weeks from Shrove Tuesday onwards, and it’s one of the liveliest, although busiest, times to be in the city.

The Carnevale was revived in the 20th century, from an old tradition that saw Venetians donning fabulous masks and outfits to disguise their faces during the festivities. The same thing happens today, and you can be sure that it’s a vibrant and cultural event to be part of.

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15 Things to do in Venice

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  • Best of Italy Summer (Start and end in Rome! With the in-depth cultural tour Best of Italy Summer, you have a 13-day tour package taking you through Rome, Italy and 12 other destinations in Italy. Best of Italy Summer includes meals and more.)
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About Lina Stock

Lina is an award-winning photographer and writer that has been exploring the world since 2001. She has traveled to 100 countries on all 7 continents. Member: SATW, NATJA, ATTA, ITWA

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