Venice is a beautiful Italian gem to explore. It’s the kind of city that’s totally unique, with miles of canals, tiny alleys and a whole heap of history, you’ll be totally spoilt for choice when deciding on all the best things to do in Venice whilst you’re there.
Now, with all the canals and stunning little streets, I’m almost sure (at one point during your trip) you will get totally lost; This has happened to me countless times in Venice. Though, the great thing about Venice is that even if you do go a little off-track, you’ll find a heap of gems as most of the beautiful spots are dotted all across the city.
Plus, there’s a heap of gelato spots around Venice, too. It’s almost like it’s begging you to be eaten. Of course, take this as your duty to ‘sample’ as much as you possibly can (well, that’s my excuse for over-indulging in Venice). Just be sure to steer clear from the main touristy spots, prices vary considerably in Venice. Plus, take a little gander on how to spot the best gelato, too. There are some easy ‘rules’ to follow for the best gelato.
Anyway, below, I’ve popped some of Venices’ gems that I’m hoping you’ll love. Some are the iconic spots that you can’t miss, whilst others are a little more away from the crowds. Whatever the case, I’m hoping you’ll find a few that you love.
Take a look, below, at the best things to do in Venice. Have the best trip.
1.) St Mark’s Basilica
Probably the most famous churches in Venice, seeing St Mark’s Basilica is one of the best things to do in Venice if you’re wanting to see some of the city’s Byzantine architecture (that’s totally stunning).
With centuries of history, be sure to see the iconic mosaics that make this place so special. These mosaics go back hundreds and hundreds of years and still look incredible.
Just be sure to arrive early if you want to miss the majority of the queues, this place can get quite busy.
2.) Piazza San Marco
Another one of the ‘must-see’ spots, Piazza San Marco is one of the most well-known spots to visit in Venice. This vast open piazza is stunning at any time of the day and is probably the largest ‘open space’ in all of Venice.
Now, it’s quite easy to stroll around the area of Piazza San Marco after visiting St Mark’s Basilica, the National Library or Doges Palace. You see, all these places line the piazza itself.
In some ways, it’s a little like going to Time Square in NYC or seeing the Eiffel Tower in Venice in that it’s can be filled with fellow travellers and the prices of cafes/food can be a little higher due to this.
If you’re heading for food, I’d suggest a little away from the main piazza by following the little canals.
For instance, if it’s a special dinner you’re after, pop over to Bistrot de Venise which is a fine-dining spot that’s well worth a treat.
3.) Rialto Bridge
Being the oldest bridge that crosses the Grand Canal in Venice, the Rialto Bridge has become one of the key sights you have to see on your stroll around this gorgeous city.
In fact, it’s so old that there’s evidence of a bridge on this site for almost 1,000 years!
Nowadays, it’s usually filled with visitors and can be super busy. So, if you want to avoid most of the crowds, pop on a gondola and glide under the bridge itself.
4.) Santa Maria Gloriosa Dei Frari (The Frari)
Typically just called The Frari, it might look a little simple from the outside, but don’t let that fool you, it’s lovely and one of only a handful of spots in Venice that still hold onto its Venitian Medieval design.
Once inside, and although the lighting can be a little tough to see everything, make sure to spot Assumption of the Virgin (by Titian) and see the stunning Choir stalls crated by Marco Cozzi.
Now, if you’re not into your art or history, you might want to give this a miss but it’s totally free to enter and a lovely spot for a 20-minute gander.
5.) Ca’ Rezzonico
Perched on the Grand Canal itself, Ca’ Rezzonico is a baroque rococo palace that’s totally stunning to see. In my opinion, it’s one of the best-kept palaces in Venice and has an astounding art collection that is incredible to explore.
Not only that, it’s one of the best things to do in Venice if you get caught up in a little shower. Pop inside, check out the world-class art collections and make sure to see the Ball Room (with the Chariot of Apollo on the ceiling); so so beautiful.
6.) Bridge of Sighs
In lots of ways, the Bridge of Sighs might look totally romantic but it has a relatively dark history, too.
You see, the ornate bridge was actually built as a way to connect Doge’s Palace with its prison and questioning rooms. It’s said it was named the Bridge of Sighs as it was the last view of Venice convicted criminals would see before being incarcerated or executed.
Thankfully, you don’t need to be a prisoner to see this stunner of a bridge. Just pop over to Ponte della Paglia and you’ll get a great view.
Afterwards, pop over to Bacaro 22 vintido’. Trust me, they make one of the best carbonaras in the city and it’s so reasonably priced, too.
7.) Grand Canal
So, the Grand Canal is a little like a ‘water highway’ in Venice. It’s filled with boats, gondolas and a heap of water taxis.
Now, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t visit but you kinda don’t need to plan a trip to walk the Grand Canal itself. In fact, you’ll come across it totally naturally if you’re already seeing Ca’ Rezzonico or Rialto Bridge.
Now, personally, I’d suggest either taking a short tour by gondola (yes, they can be a little pricey) or, if you want to save some money, take the water taxi from the airport and straight into Venice.
This goes straight through the Grand Canal and is such a unique way to arrive in the city. You can either hop on a shared (cheaper) water taxi or a private boat (more expensive) from the airport.
Just remember, choose what works best for you.
8.) Doge’s Palace
Home to the Venetian government, Doge’s Palace has a long history within the Venetian empire (that stretched far beyond Venice to places like modern-day Croatia and Greece (to name a few).
Nowadays, you can pop over to Doge’s Palace and explore some of the incredible rooms and fine art that’s centuries old. Now, one thing I would say is to book your tickets online before you go, this way you’ll save a lot of time on the ground.
It really is one of the best things to do in Venice and a spot you can’t miss whilst you explore the city.
9.) Scuola Grande Di San Rocco
Built over 500-years ago, Scuola Grande Di San Rocco (Google Maps location, here) is totally stunning.
Perched over a few floors, you’ll find paintings by Tintoretto, sculptures and some incredible rooms that look like they’ve popped out of a fairytale.
Now, once inside, the first floor might seem a little subdued, but once you head to the higher floors, you’ll see what makes this place so special. It’s a must-see.
10.) San Giorgio Maggiore
As one of the islands that make up the city of Venice, San Giorgio Maggiore is a little quieter than the area around Piazza San Marco and pretty lovely to visit.
Not only that, it’s really easy to visit by catching the Vaporetto Water Bus (ACTVLine No. 2) and it only costs a few Euro.
Once here, be sure to see the views from Belltower of San Giorgio Maggiore Chruch; their one of the best in the city.
Afterwards, take a stroll to Osteria Al Squero for some of their tasty crostinis and an ice-cold Aperol Spritz. It’s by no means fancy but the crostinis are so yummy.
11.) Palazzo Contarini Del Bovolo
Although a relatively small palace in Venice, Palazzo Contarini Del Bovolo is well worth a gander; especially for the famous staircase that sits outside the building itself.
Just be sure to check out the views from the top; they’re lovely.
It’s easily one of the best things to do in Venice if you’re looking for a smaller palace and if you’re short on time. After all, you don’t necessarily need a tour here and you can easily visit the site in around 20-30 minutes.
This makes it a great stopping point when walking between Doge’s Palace and the Rialto Bridge.
12.) Marciana Library
Being one of the most famous libraries in the world, the Marciana Library holds some of the most important texts in all of Italy.
Although the library isn’t the largest, it’s well worth seeing it (even just from the outside) after visiting Doge’s Palace.
For a tasty dinner, pop into Trattoria Al Gazzettino that’s lovely. Plus, their Pappardelle all anatra (duck ragu) is so tasty.
13.) San Rocco
Founded around 500 years ago, San Rocco is totally stunning, especially for its beautiful architecture and history.
Also, it’s right next door to the Scuola Grande di San Rocco which houses some incredible art (which I mentioned earlier).
Just be sure to see if the church is closed for renovations before you visit; lately, its been open and closed at different times.
14.) Santa Maria Del Giglio (St. Mary of the Lily)
Now, don’t be fooled by its small size, seeing the church of Santa Maria Del Giglio is easily one of the best things to do in Venice; especially if you love the history of this city.
Although you’ll see so many gorgeous basilicas and churches around Venice, you’ll still want to pop in here; even for a 10-minute stroll. For me, it’s one of the prettiest Baroque facades in the city.
Though be aware, this can be a pretty busy spot on weekends and peak times. So, to avoid them, plan to go earlier in the morning which is typically much quieter.
15.) Santa Maria Dei Miracoli
Dripping in marble, exploring Santa Maria Dei Miracoli is one of the best things to do in Venice if you’re looking for a little pitstop to see another unique part of Venice.
Afterwards, pop over to Osteria da Alberto for a bite to eat. This friendly and unsophisticated (and reasonably priced) Venetian restaurant has some tasty lunch dishes that are totally authentic. Plus, they’re all homemade. Their squid-ink pasta is so tasty.
16.) Gesuiti (church of Santa Maria Assunta)
Yes, I know, another church but honestly you kinda can’t miss them when in Venice.
Gesuiti (Google Maps link) is perched just off Fondamente Nove and really easy to pop in whilst exploring this area of the city. Now, there is a small donation charge to go inside (a few Euro) but this goes towards the renovation work to the church itself.
Not only is it stunning, it’s also much quieter than the more popular spots like San Marco. So, if you want to avoid the crowds, head here.
17.) Palazzo Grassi
Another gorgeous building built upon the Grand Canal Palazzo Grassi is really easy to visit after exploring Palazzo Malipiero.
It’s a great place to see some incredible, world-renowned, art that’s brought to the palace. Now, admission costs can be a little higher than some of the other galleries but it’s totally worth it if you’re interested in art.
Afterwards, if you’re looking for a special place for dinner, pop into Bistrot De Venise that serves up the yummiest Seafood Pasta alla Buzara. Oh, and their Tiramisù is everything.
18.) La Fenice Opera House
Okay, so, even if you’re not into opera, going to see a performance in La Fenice is incredible. Honestly, if you fancy a special evening, book tickets (before your trip) and experience this place. Honestly, it’s incredible.
If you don’t fancy seeing the opera, you can still visit for a guided tour (which is amazing, too).
Either way, whatever you choose, it’s one of the best things to do in Venice and feels almost palatial inside.
19.) Santa Maria Della Salute (or the Salute)
Perched just across the Grand Canal, close to the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, the Salute is free to enter and one of the best things to do in Venice if you want to see a slice of history from the 1600s.
You see, the Salute was built during the plague period and most of the art inside showcases humanities struggle against the pandemic.
Plus, nearby, you have the Palazzo Dario that you might recognise from Monet’s famous painting?
20.) Santi Giovanni E Paolo Church (San Zanipolo)
Being one of the largest churches in all of Venice, you’re gonna need a little time to see everything inside. Tucked away from the crowds, it can be quite a bit quieter than the more popular spots in Venice.
Now, queues can sometimes form to get around but they don’t tend to last long at all.
21.) Museo Correr
Located in St Mark’s Square, strolling through Museo Correr it’s one of the best things to do in Venice if you love museums. For me, if I had to choose just one museum to visit, this would be it.
Once inside, be sure to see some of the artefacts dating from the Venetian Republic and even earlier. Oh yeah, and see the iconic ballroom, too. It’s insanely stunning.
Now, you’ll probably need around 90-120 minutes, to see everything; so make sure you plan ahead so you’re not rushing.
22.) Ca’ D’oro (Palazzo Santa Sofia)
Another one of the Grand Canal’s gems to see, Palazzo Santa Sofia is one of the oldest palaces of the city. Now, ask a local and they’ll probably say it’s one of the best examples of a Venetian palace you should see, especially as it’s so well-preserved.
Grab yourself a ticket at reception, pop inside and take a wander around the gorgeous rooms and exhibitions. It’s lovely.
23.) Church of San Zaccaria
Just shy of the monument of Victor Emmanuel II, the Church of San Zaccaria was founded way back in the 800s. That’s over 1,200 years ago! Though, the church you see today is roughly around 500 years old; new in Venetian terms, eh? 😉
Oh, and don’t forget to visit the crypt, too!
24.) Caffè Florian
Caffè Florian is the oldest coffee house in the world and a great place to go for an afternoon coffee and a place to rest your legs.
Even though the costs are higher, you do get a ‘full service’ and might be treated to some live opera, too. Yes, it’s significantly more pricey than many of the little cafes, so just pay attention to what you’re ordering when you visit. Costs can climb quickly here.
For instance, an espresso will likely cost around 7 Euro (or so) and you’ll probably have a small cost (around 5 Euro) for a cover charge. This means it’s much more than other spots but worth it if you fancy a Florian experience.