24 Unforgettable Things to Do in Venice (for First-Timers!)

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Are you planning a trip to Italy and in search of the best things to do in Venice? Keep reading – we’ve got you covered!

Are you planning your trip to Venice last minute?

If youʻre booking your trip to Venice last minute, we have you covered. Below are some of the top tours, hotels, and more!

Top Experiences and Tours in Venice:

  1. Private Gondola Ride along Canal Grande (#1 bucket list experience!)
  2. Doge Palace and St. Mark’s Basilica tour (most popular booking!)
  3. Street Food Tour with a Local Guide (food lovers rejoice!)
  4. Create Your Own Carnival Mask Workshop (great for kids)
  5. Murano, Burano, Torcello Island day tour (I love Burano in the off season!)

Top Hotels in Venice:

  1. The St. Regis Venice (Luxury – my top place in Venice!)
  2. Al Mascaron Ridente (mid-range)
  3. West Side YMCA (budget)

This guide details what to do in Venice, from the most popular spots in the city to tours that will help you see it all with ease and at once!

Did we miss any of the best places to visit in Venice? Let us know your favorite Venice attractions in the comments. Thanks!

Best things to do in Venice Italy
Best things to do in Venice Italy

Best Things to Do in Venice

Visit the Palazzo Ducale

The Palazzo Ducale (Doge’s Palace) was the residence of the Ducale of Venice, the supreme authority and chief magistrate of the Republic of Venice.

The palace was built in 1340 in the Venetian Gothic style and is an architectural masterpiece that should be on everyone’s Venice bucket list.

Palazzo Ducale
Palazzo Ducale

Its entrance ordained with a waterfront colonnade, the interior with golden ceilings, sacred oriented paintings all over the ceilings and walls, treasures, artifacts statues, and even the largest painting in Europe located in the Chamber of the Great Council, called ‘Paradise’ – the palace is the throne of the Venetian cultural heritage.

Take a tour through the prison, armories, institutional chambers, the Ducale’s apartments, the courtyard, and the loggias, as well as the Museo dell’Opera. Buy tickets in advance to ensure you can tour through the palace tranquilly. 

>> Click here to book a tour of Doge’s Palace

Walk around Piazza San Marco

In the heart of Venice is Piazza San Marco, the main public square of the city, and the only one that actually qualifies as a square by size, being 180 meters long and 70 meters wide.

It is located in the lowest point of Venice and is thus the first place in the city to be flooded, hence the name Acqua Alta.

Piazza San Marco
Piazza San Marco

Enclosing the square are the columns of Saint Mark and Saint Theodore, Saint Mark’s Basilica, the Basilica’s bell tower, or Campanile, the Ducale Palazzo, the Museo Correr, and the Torre dell’ Orologio, the Clock Tower.

Even Napoleon was enchanted by the beauty of the square, calling it “the world’s most beautiful drawing room”. Therefore, to maintain its prestige, eating and drinking in the square is forbidden. 

Visit Burano and Murano (and Take a Glass Factory Tour)

Take a boat tour from Venice San Marco to the iconic glass-making islands of Burano and Murano.

The architecture of the two islands includes colorful buildings along the canal and vibrant streets, taking you back in time.

Cruising the seas toward the islands offers a panoramic view of Venice before you reach Murano or Burano.

Burano
Burano

When you reach the islands, take some free time to stroll around the picturesque scenery, both before and after the visit to the renowned glass-making factory.

While on the islands, catch sights of the cute courtyards, souvenir shops, specialty stores of needle-lace making, the Canale Grande in Murano, and the Church of Santa Maria e San Donato.

The trip altogether takes about 4.5 to 5 hours. At the end of this tour, you will return to Venice San Marco.

>> Click here to check tour rates and availability

Stop in the Basilica di San Marco

Located in the heart of Venice in the San Marco Square near the Grand Canal, the Basilica di San Marco, nearly a millennia-old, stands with the same grandeur as when it was established.

The church belongs to the Catholic Patriarchate of Venice and its architecture and design incorporate a medley of Byzantine, Gothic, and Romanesque styles.

Basilica di San Marco
Basilica di San Marco

The interior showcases sparkling gold mosaic craftsmanship everywhere– on the walls, ceilings, and floor; from sacred geometrical patterns, mosaics of animals and mythological creatures, and a vibrant array of complementary color schemes.

The exterior has five cupolas, with multicolored columns, and its bell tower, called the Campanile, with the emblem of Venice– the winged Venetian Lion–  at its top, overlooking the city. 

Peruse the Libreria Acqua Alta

The picturesque and iconic Liberia Acqua Alta is named in honor of the flooding that Venice experiences every year.

It has become a signature place to visit in Venice due to its beautiful, photogenic decor, but also because of its unique book-storing method.

Libreria Acqua Alta - Ihor Serdyukov - Shutterstock
Libreria Acqua Alta – Ihor Serdyukov – Shutterstock

Due to the guarantee of a flood at any moment, the library established its unique tradition of storing the books in canopies, rowboats, bathtubs, a gondola, and high, elevated shelves.

This process makes visitors to the bookstore feel as if they’re walking into a treasure chest or a lost world of books!

On the back porch, there is a staircase made entirely out of damaged or unusable books, and as you ascend the staircase, you’ll be granted charming views of one of Venice’s many canals. 

Ride the Line 1 Vaporetto to See the Grand Canal

Venice’s iconic water buses, or Vaporettos, are a convenient way to tour the Grand Canal.

There are over 20 different Vaporetto lines operating within the Venetian Lagoon, the city, and the islands.

Line 1 runs for almost an hour and stops at 21 different stations up the Grand Canal from Saint Mark’s Basin, between the Piazzale Roma, which is the city’s land transportation gateway, the Rialto Bridge, Piazza San Marco, Venezia Santa Lucia Railroad Station, to Lido di Venezia, which is on the Adriatic.

Venice Grand Canal
Venice Grand Canal

The Vaporetto for line 1 runs every 12 minutes throughout the day and every 20 minutes in the early morning and late evening.

For payment for transportation, buy an ACTV water bus ticket or Tourist Travel Card at one of the Vaporetto stations.

Stand on the Rialto Bridge

Ponte di Rialto was the only way across the Grand Canal on foot for centuries until 1854 when the Accademia Bridge was built.

Rialto is also the oldest of the four bridges on the Grand Canal and is essential for those sightseeing in Venice!

The bridge was designed in a way to allow a variety of vessels, primarily galleys, and the structure still relies on the support of 12,000 wooden pilings about four centuries later.

The arch of the bridge is 7.5 meters and was built between 1588 and 1591– in just three years.

Rialto bridge
Rialto bridge

There are three walkways available on the bridge, in the middle, left, and right– the outer ones between balustrades.

The central walkway leads to an array of souvenir and specialty artisan shops of jewelry, linen, and Murano glass. 

Eat Tiramisu at I Tre Mercanti

Known for their fresh and well-portioned tiramisu, observe the production process of your treat behind the glass.

With many different flavors, including the classic, pistachio, strawberry, mint, chocolate, and Nutella, all priced at €4.50 each, take your tiramisu for a walk along the stunning historic city.

There are a total of 25 innovative versions and fusions of the tiramisu.

Tiramisu in Venice
Tiramisu in Venice

It’s said to be the best tiramisu in Italy. The dessert was created in Venice in the 60s, and I Tre Mercanti prides itself on mastering the original, traditional recipe.

In addition to tiramisu, there are macaroons, pasta, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and truffles in the shop to view, sample, and consider, as well.

Marvel at the San Giorgio Maggiore Church

On an island of the same name is the Basilica de San Giorgio Maggiore.

From this island, tourists and locals alike will be granted a breathtaking view of the main island, and vice versa–  from the Piazza San Marco looking over the canal toward the basilica, they will swoon at the sight of the Lagoon and iconic gondolas sailing alongside it.

The brilliant white marble facade of columns has an even more charming interior, representing that of a classic temple.

San Giorgio Maggiore island
San Giorgio Maggiore island

The Palladian church has a bright, white interior with three floors containing various paintings by Tintoretto.

Access to the campanile, or bell tower, is inside the church.

There is no charge to enter the church, but there is a fee to climb the bell tower.

Take a Gondola Ride in Venice

Marvel at the most beautiful places in the historic city center of Venice as you embark on a private gondola ride from Piazza San Marco.

Start your trip from Hotel Danieli and cruise through the small canals and narrow alleys in the most ancient parts of Veneto.

A Venice gondola ride is a must!
A Venice gondola ride is a must!

Sail down the narrow canal of Rio del Palazzo, which is between the Ducale Palazzo and the prisons, and pass under the Ponte dei Sospiri, followed by a trip through the Rio di Santa Maria Formosa, another canal in the city with beautiful shops and apartments on either side of it.

Finish your 30-minute private gondola ride after you pass through the Rio di San Severo canal and loop back towards the Piazza San Marco’s basin. 

>> Click here to check Venice Gondola ride rates

Cool off at Bacaro del Gelato

Bacaro del Gelato is an artisan ice cream parlor run by a small family, and their gelato is a must-taste when in Venice!

They’re known for their generous portions of creamy and fresh gelato with a variety of pronounced flavors, including Fior-di-latte, white chocolate, dark chocolate,  pistachio, hazelnut, salted caramel, dark forest cake, and cappuccino.

They also have dairy-free options that alternate every day.

Additionally, they have coffee beverages, such as affogatos, and waffle gelato sandwiches dipped in chocolate.

They offer affordable options of a cone with one generous-sized scoop for a price of €2. Take your gelato to go and venture through the historic canals and go sightseeing through the eastern part of Venice!

Check Out the Teatro La Fenice

Founded in 1792, Teatro La Fenice lives up to its name of “rising from the ashes” like its emblem, the Phoenix.

The theater suffered from three horrible fires, but as one of the most renowned landmarks in the history of Italian theater, architecture, and art, the revival of the venue was prioritized.

The world premieres of prominent operas composed by Rossini, Bellini, Donizetti, and Verdi were staged at La Fenice.

La Fenice Theatre - pisaphotography - Shutterstock
La Fenice Theatre – pisaphotography – Shutterstock

Don’t let the facade of the opera house fool you- the interior of the auditorium incorporates Baroque and Rococo styles, with lavish chandeliers, and luxuriant, gold engravings, gildings, ceilings, and railings.

Virtually every corner of La Fenice is ornate in motifs and decor, with paintings and masterpieces on the walls and ceilings, hung artwork of eminent artists, treasures on display, and opulent furniture.

Have a Glass of Wine at Bar All’Arco

Try authentic Venetian Cicchetti at Bar All’Arco, not too far from the Rialto Bridge, with fresh, quality ingredients, and prepared fresh right before your eyes.

With a wide variety of toppings, such as tuna, salmon, tapa, octopus, and prosciutto, baccalà all’aglio, and gorgonzola e acciughe, pair your cicchetti with local wine from their wonderful selection, or an Aperol spritz or Prosecco.

Both the food and drink are affordable, enabling you to enjoy your experience to its full potential.

Venice is a tourist hotspot, so it’s not hard to be caught in tourist traps. But Bar All’Arco is a local hangout with authentic Venetian food, service, and the experience you’re looking for.

Spend the Day at Lido di Venezia

On the island of the same name, the town of Lido di Venezia is popular for its beaches near the Adriatic Sea.

The Lido Pellestrina forms a barrier between the Lagoon and the Adriatic. The northern and southern points are ideal for their beaches due to their naturally preserved environment.

The narrow parts of the island are built with apartments, shops, and churches. The barrier island is 11 kilometers in length and is also called the Lido, or Venice Lido, for short.

Lido Beach - 4kclips - Shutterstock
Lido Beach – 4kclips – Shutterstock

Located off the shore of Lido is the small island of San Lazzaro degli Armeni, where the famous writer Lord Byron spent his time studying.

The picturesque village of Malamocco, the Tempio Votivo monument, and the main street Viale Santa Maria Elisabetta are other highlights to see.

Photograph the Scala Contarini del Bovolo

Located in the small Palazzo Contarini del Bovolo is the Scala Contarini del Bovolo, the external multi-arch spiral staircase of 80 steps leading to a view of the rooftops of Venice.

The staircase showcases characteristics of Gothic architecture, and the tower and adjacent building connect together.

There is an art exhibition on one of the floors up toward the top.

Contarini del Bovolo stairway
Contarini del Bovolo stairway

The small garden at the front of the stairs’ entrance is free, and it leads to the ticket office, where you must purchase tickets to go up the stairs.

Online, the tickets are €8, whereas, in person at the ticket office, it’s guaranteed to cost more.

Take a Venitian Food and Wine Tour

Take a guided food and wine tour through the most essential highlights of Venice whilst nibbling on Cicchetti and sipping on traditional drinks and wine.

This tour offers an authentic experience, avoiding frequent tourist traps, and offering an informative journey around the city.

The guide will reveal the history of every region you explore, and the culinary history and significance behind each.

Mercato Ittico di Rialto
Mercato Ittico di Rialto

Realize the background and history of everything you eat and drink! Sample a variety of tapas-like Cicchetti, which are a specialty of Veneto.

Venture to the eateries, old taverns, and bàcaris, in which locals go to, and sample other delicacies unique to the region, from cheeses to buranelli biscuits to traditional cakes, all in the midst of colorful buildings, quaint alleys, and historic streets!

>> Click here to check food and wine tour rates

See the Peggy Guggenheim Collection

On the Grand Canal in the Dorsoduro sestiere, in the Palazzo Venier dei Leoni, is one of the most important museums of European Contemporary Art– the Peggy Guggenheim Collection.

This personal collection includes artwork and masterpieces from Hannelore B. and Rudolph B. Schulhof collection, as well as from artists like Max Ernst, Pollock, Picasso, Kandinsky, Dali, and Gino Severini.

Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice - HungryBild - Shutterstock
Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice – HungryBild – Shutterstock

The beautiful courtyard and gardens have sculptures, and this is where the namesake’s tombstone is.

The museum itself isn’t large, but there is a terrace that allows you to see the beauty of the Grand Canal. There is a cafe inside the museum with snacks, lunch options, and treats as well.

Tickets can be bought both online or at the door.

Admire the Ponte dell’Accademia

The Ponte dell’Accademia is the only remaining wooden bridge in Venice. It has both 50 steps up and 50 steps down.

It also has a picturesque view of the canal and provides a path from the Sestiere of San Marco to the Sestiere of Dorsoduro.

The canal near Accademia ends and continues into the larger waters of the Canale de San Marco and Canale dell Giudecca, and is the bridge that visitors most often take to reach the Galleria dell Accademia.

Accademia Bridge - Ermak Oksana - Shutterstock
Accademia Bridge – Ermak Oksana – Shutterstock

You can enjoy the view of both a sunset and sunrise from the bridge, and since it has far fewer crowds than the Ponte Rialto, you can stay on it longer than just a few minutes.

There is even a vaporetto station nearby to coordinate your next steps.

Get a Bird’s Eye View at the T Fondaco Rooftop Terrace

T Fondaco dei Tedeschi by DFS is a high-end retail chain and mall with a wonderful rooftop terrace offering a panoramic view of the Grand Canal and everything behind and between, including the various Bell Towers and Basilicas.

When you enter the lobby, take the escalators to the top floor, where you’ll enter a gallery room in which the personnel will lead you directly to the terrace.

T Fondaco Dei Tedeschi By DFS - Anton Gvozdikov - Shutterstock
T Fondaco Dei Tedeschi By DFS – Anton Gvozdikov – Shutterstock

Access to the rooftop terrace is free, however, it only lasts for 15 minutes, and you must reserve in advance online on their website.

Try to schedule your visit to align with the sunset! Catch a romantic moment for free from perhaps one of the best views in the city.

Have Dinner at Trattoria Al Gatto Nero

The Michelin-rated Trattoria Al Gatto Nero is right by the waters of Burano, and it boasts a menu of homemade pasta and seafood, fresh from the Lagoon, and hand-selected daily.

The establishment offers local cuisine of the highest quality, in a comfortable ambiance, in a picturesque environment.

The interior of the restaurant depicts comfortable luxury with ornate and decorative ceramics presenting their creations.

Their menu includes a wide range of appetizers, such as a seafood platter, first courses, which include the highly raved risotto di gò alla Buranella and tagliolini alla granzeola, second courses, which include the oven-baked fish or typical frittura di pesce.

Other popular dishes include Spaghetti alle Vongole and Tagliolini all Grancevola. Their dessert menu includes Gelato, their House Cake, and Burano Sweets– all strictly homemade.

Spend the Morning on Torcello Island

The small island of Torcello is a nice break from the bustling main island.

It is the oldest part of Venice, and thus contains the original parts of the Venetian cultural heritage.

It has a long, interesting history and is unique compared to the other islands. It was originally founded in the 5th century, and the famous cathedral was constructed in 639.

Torcello Island
Torcello Island

In the 11th century, the bell tower was added to the Cathedral of Santa Maria Dell’Assunta.

Tour the cathedral and even climb up the bell tower for an additional charge. Inside the cathedral, you’ll find Venetian-Byzantine mosaics from the 11th to the 13th centuries.

Additional attractions on the island include the 11th-century Church of Santa Fosca, the Torcello Museum across from it, and the Casa Museo Andrich.

See the Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute

The crown jewel of Venice, the Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute, is located at Punta della Dogana in the Dorsoduro sestiere.

It is located near the main train station, and the minor basilica can be reached by both vaporetto and by feet by crossing the bridge.

Basilica Di Santa Maria della Salute
Basilica Di Santa Maria della Salute

It is located in La piazza di San Marco, and from the basilica, you have wonderful views across the Grand Canal and Giudecca Canal.

Take a free tour through the Roman Catholic church and explore the sophisticated baroque high altar.

The sacristy is a hidden gem within the church that you can also tour with a fee, taking you to the back room of vestments, treasures, and a remarkable collection of Titian masterpieces.

Walk around the Jewish Quarter 

The Jewish Quarter, known as the Ghetto or Ghetto Nuovo, is located in Cannaregio, the second largest sestieri by land area and the most populous.

It was home to Venice’s Jewish population between the 16th and 19th centuries, in which the Museo Ebraico, or Jewish Museum of Venice, can showcase and explain the history in great detail.

The Jewish Quarter was home to many master textile producers, goldsmiths, and craftsmen, whose works are exhibited in the museum by a variety of collections since its opening.

Jewish quarter
Jewish quarter

There are five synagogues: Schola Tedesca, Schola Canton,  Schola Italiana, Schola Levantina, and the Great German Schola.

There are a variety of restaurants as well to taste the cuisine of the community, such as Gam Gam Kosher and Panificio Giovanni Volpe.

Attend the Giardini della Biennale

The Venice Biennale Art Festival is hosted annually and alternates every second year between art and architecture, and is the oldest festival of its kind.

The main exhibition is held in the halls of the Biennale Gardens and Arsenale, in Castello.

Take a guided tour through the exhibitions at various national pavilions and see all prototypes and concept models from a variety of years of artists and festivals.

See layers of history, from historic to contemporary, with both art and architecture, all in the midst of Venice’s stunning environment and beautiful garden.

The 59th International Art Exhibition takes place this year in 2022, and is titled Il latte dei sogni, or “Milk of Dreams”; it will last until the 27th of November, and will focus on concepts from Leonora Carrington’s book.

Where to Stay in Venice

If you are looking for some fantastic options for where to stay in Venice, here are three recommended options that cover all budgets!

Did we miss any of the best things to do in Venice in this guide?

Let us know your favorite Venice landmarks and attractions in the comments. Thanks!

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