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15 Best Things to Do in Venice, Italy: Gondolas, Colorful Islands, & More!

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Venice is known as the city of canals, or “the floating city.” This city is the picture-perfect place to take a vacation. Venice is truly a sight to behold, with its striking architecture, beautiful bridges, and historical attractions. I’m sure you’ve seen the picturesque photos of Venice before, but nothing will prepare you for the feeling of never wanting to leave this charming Italian city. 

Venice is so much more than the romantic canals and the gondolas. It has beautiful churches, palaces, and many museums to visit. Art and musical creativity thrived in Venice around the 16th century and there are a lot of hidden gems to relive this imaginative era. Whether you’re traveling as a couple, family, or solo, Venice has so much to offer. Keep reading to see the top 15 things to do in Venice, Italy!

When to Visit Venice, Italy

Venice attracts so many visitors for its beautiful scenery and gorgeous attractions. It’s no surprise that the warmer months are Venice’s high season, when locals see the most tourists and generate the most revenue.

The summers in Venice are warm and humid, but if you want to go for hot-weather activities, the best time to go is from June to September. During the summer months, the average temperature ranges from about 75°F to 80°F. This is the time that most people want to go, so if you visit during this time you’ll experience more crowds and other tourists. 

The colder months of Venice range from late November to early March. The average daily temperature is 52°F during this time. The coldest month is during January when the temperature can drop as low as 33°F. The temperature is probably one of the biggest reasons why this is considered the low season for Venice in terms of tourists. If you’re wanting to avoid crowds and you don’t mind the colder weather, this is the best time to go. 

You may want to visit Venice when the temperatures are more moderate. During the months of April to early June and October to mid-November, the temperatures are a comfortable 70°F. This is also a time when there are not as many tourists visiting. You can visit during these months, avoid a lot of the summer crowds, and still experience great weather. 

Also considering a trip to Rome? Check out this awesome list of the 15 best things to do in Rome, Italy!

Getting Around Venice, Italy

Typically unexplored by cars, this untraditional city’s visitors explore through the canals or on foot. Most of the tourist attractions are accessible by taking a short walk. If you have a further destination, you can take the local water buses, also known as the “Vaporetto.” 

You always have the option to take private gondola rides to get around, but these are traditionally used more as an activity rather than transportation because they can get expensive. Similarly, private water taxis are an option, but can also be quite expensive.

Another option is to take a traghetti, which is a large gondola that is used to transport locals and tourists across the Grand Canal. These are less private than traditional gondolas, so they’re a better option if you’re traveling on a budget.

Even though cars are not traditionally used in Venice, there is a train station that provides transportation to passengers from the Santa Lucia Train Station, typically to out-of-town destinations.

white water taxi rides through the water in Venice Italy in front of lots of historic buildings

Top Things to Do in Venice, Italy

Venice is home to diverse architecture, art and music history, picture-perfect views, and delicious food and markets to explore. There are endless activities for every type of traveler. Whether it be a couple, group, or solo traveler, anyone visiting Venice is going to have an amazing experience.

Venice is a huge tourist attraction. I recommend doing a little bit of research and finding the attractions and activities that you really want to explore. Book those ahead of time to ensure that you don’t end up disappointed by missing out on any of them. If you don’t know where to start, keep reading to see the top 15 things to do in Venice!

1. Learn about Venice on a walking tour.

Venice is a gorgeous city with so many hidden corners and things to explore. If this is your first visit, I highly recommend doing a walking tour. Learning from a local guide is the best way to learn about the city. This is why a guided tour is one of the best things to do in Venice. Along your way, you’ll also be able to see which attractions you want to return to. 

You can DIY your walk around the city by starting at the city square of Campo Santa Margherita. From there you can determine where you want to go. The Scuola Grande di San Rocco and Basilica di Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari are a short walk from the city square. These are big tourist attractions you may want to check out. If you cross the Rialto Bridge, you can see the Marco Polo House and then visit St. Mark’s Square. 

If you want to stay away from tourist attractions and see some of the hidden gems that the city has to offer, consider this secret walking tour. With this tour, you’ll be able to learn about some of the lesser-known spots of Venice and enjoy parts of the city that locals visit. You also have the option of booking a private walking tour if you’re looking for something a little bit more intimate.

Get your bearings on one of the most beautiful cities in the world by booking a walking tour.

2. Marvel at the iconic St. Mark’s Basilica and Doge’s Palace.

Venice is a city with so much history to be explored. Two of the most popular attractions are St. Mark’s Basilica and Doge’s Palace. St. Mark’s Basilica is a church located in St. Mark’s Square.

Built to protect the evangelists’ stolen relics, this beautiful cathedral is an iconic symbol of Venice. Known as “the Golden Church,” St. Mark’s Basilica has an abundance of golden mosaics. These beautiful mosaics are a huge tourist attraction.

Doge’s Palace, or Palazzo Ducale, is a prize for those who are fascinated by Gothic architecture. Composed of three different structures, all built at different times during the Renaissance, Doge’s Palace contains a lot of history. You can visit both on your own, but may have to wait in long lines.

I’d recommend booking this skip-the-line tour to avoid fighting crowds and to save yourself time. You’ll also gain access to parts that are off-limits to the general public. For example, you’ll get to see the stunning view of the clock tower in Piazza San Marco from St. Mark’s balcony. You also have the option to book an intimate private tour

Book an incredible tour of St. Mark’s Basilica and Doge’s Palace by clicking here.

a close up look at St. Mark's Basilica, one of the best things to do in Venice

3. Take in breathtaking views from the infamous Bridge of Sighs.

Considered one of the most romantic places to visit in Venice, this famous bridge has a dark history to it. The Bridge of Sighs, or Ponte dei Sospiri, was built to transport prisoners across the canal to and from Doge’s Palace.

The Bridge of Sighs apparently got its name from a legend that states that the sighs of prisoners could be heard as they caught their last look at Venice on their way to the execution chamber. Fun fact – one prisoner that may sound familiar is Casanova. He was held in underground prison chambers inside Doge’s Palace!

It’s a very popular tourist spot for its unique architecture, history, and photo worthiness. Usually, there are gondolas traveling through the canal under the bridge, which adds a special Venetian flair to photos. I would plan to go in the early morning so that you can enjoy its full potential without having to share as much space. 

4. Experience timeless traditions by visiting the islands of Murano and Burano.

If you’re interested in getting away from the city center, consider taking a day trip and visiting the small islands of Murano and Burano. Traveling to these unique islands is easy enough by taking the ferry or Vaporetto from the heart of Venice. These charming smaller islands have a lot to offer and should definitely be on your Venice bucket list. 

Visit Murano and explore how locals make Venetian glass. This art practice was once in Venice, but moved to Murano because of the fire hazard to the community. You’ll marvel at the glassblowing techniques that have been around since the 19th century. Watch the intricate details that are put into the styles of decorations and engravings of each piece. 

Burano is well-known for the pop of color in the local architecture which makes it the picture-perfect place for visitors. The island is also famous for lace making. Needle lace-making is a timeless tradition of Burano, with most of the products being created by local islanders during the 18th century. Although now most of the lace is machine-made, you can still find several spots where island residents are creating handmade items for you to purchase. 

Most tourists prefer Burano over Murano, but if you want to see both islands, you can DIY this trip and take the ferry or Vaporetto from the heart of Venice. You also have the option of visiting both islands by booking an intimate small-group tour. This is a great option because you’ll get to travel by a private boat and have the guidance of a knowledgeable local who will share the history of each trade with you.

Another more private option is this luxury Murano and Burano boat tour. With this tour, you’ll be able to view both the glassblowing and the lace-making. This option is unique because you’ll take a private boat from Venice directly to the Murano Glass Factory. You’ll also have the option to tour a historical handmade lace workshop.

If you’re interested in visiting Murano only, consider this Murano walking tour. With this tour, you can experience multiple glass factories and actually get to take a glass-making class. 

Click here to secure your intimate small-group tour to the islands of Murano and Burano.

small canal that opens out into a larger water area, with rainbow colored buildings on both sides of the canal and small boats lining the street on Burano Island, one of the best things to do in Venice Italy

5. Explore the incredibly historical St. Mark’s Square.

St. Mark’s Square is a must-see spot when visiting Venice. Considered the heart of Venice, this grand piazza should be one of the first things you do. Government buildings and facilities aren’t the only things visitors can explore. There are plenty of museums and attractions for you to enjoy. Some of the most popular are Doge’s Palace and St. Mark’s Basilica, or Basilica di San Marco. St. Mark’s Square will be the best place for you to explore if you like history and grand architecture.

Anyone is able to wander around St. Mark’s Square for free. However, you do have to pay for some of the attractions that are located in the square. You can explore St. Mark’s Museum, the Golden Altar, and get a fascinating view of the bell tower from the Treasury. You can spend an entire day here, which is what makes it one of the top things to do in Venice.

St. Mark’s Square is a great place to visit, especially if this is your first time in Venice. There are a lot of beautiful sights to see and history to appreciate. It’s a popular tourist attraction, so plan to spend quite a bit of time there if you want to walk around and explore medieval architecture and history. 

open square filled with people in venice Italy with incredible architecture on all sides. the middle of the photo has st. mark's basilica with a domed roof, next to a super tall bell tower, one of the best places to visit in Venice Italy

6. Walk across the world-famous Rialto Bridge.

The Rialto Bridge, or Ponte di Rialto, is the most famous and oldest bridge that spans across the Grand Canal in Venice. It was built in the 16th century and is well known for its incredible architecture. Known as the “bridge of lovers,” this bridge offers some of the best views of Venice. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to see the gorgeous city of Venice from a unique perspective.

It’s no surprise that this is a main attraction for tourists. You’ll be able to see not only a great view of the city of Venice from a unique perspective, but you can also marvel at all of the gondolas and Vaporettos, that are traveling through the Grand Canal, Venice’s main waterway. There is no better place in the entire city that offers a more beautiful view of Venice, especially if you go during sunset. 

This elegant stone bridge offers more than just fantastic views, there are souvenir shops and local vendors located there. If you want to make a morning out of it, take advantage of the restaurants that line both sides of the bridge and enjoy a nice lunch with a gorgeous view. You can also take a short walk over to the Rialto Market, which isn’t too far from the bridge.

 7. Treat yourself to a charming visit to the Ponte dell’Accademia.

Although it’s not the most famous bridge in Venice, the Ponte dell’Accademia is definitely something you don’t want to skip when visiting. There are only four bridges that span the Grand Canal in Venice. The Ponte dell’Accademia is the only wooden bridge. It links the sestieri of Dosoduro and San Marco. 

If you visit this bridge, you may notice a lot of padlocks attached to the metal handrails. These padlocks were purchased and placed there as a symbol of eternal love between the two partners who attached them. You can purchase your own love padlock if you’d like and participate in the tradition. It’s said to bring good luck and eternal love between you and your partner!

If you go during sunrise or sunset, you will experience the most spectacular view of the Grand Canal. The orange and pink sky in the background of the unique Venice architecture is a sight that you don’t want to leave unexplored. 

Visiting the Ponte dell’Accademia is an extremely romantic thing to do, and it’s one of the most famous bridges in Venice. It’s also a free activity perfect for families and solo travelers, which is what makes it one of the best things to do in Venice.

If you have time, don’t hesitate to walk around the neighborhood too. Make an evening out of it and explore the street artists, painters, sculptors, historians, and live music after watching a magnificent sunset on the Ponte dell’Accademia bridge.

8. Immerse yourself into the old Venetian culture by taking a carnival mask-making class.

To experience Venice in a unique way, consider taking a carnival mask-making class. Mask-making is an important part of Venetian culture and tradition. It represented freedom and transgression during the development of the Serenissima Republic.

Just like in any society, there were classes in old-time Venice. However, during a certain time of the year, Venetians would wear masks. Not only did it add charm and mystery to the wearer, but everyone was considered equal, whether rich or poor. 

If you’re intrigued by the historical art and music traditions that Venice has to offer, this will be one of your favorite things to do. With a carnival mask-making class, you’ll have the opportunity to learn about the traditions of mask-wearing. You’ll be able to construct your own mask and even take it home with you afterward.

Click here to reserve your spot in a carnival mask-making class.

gold black and white traditional venetian masks accented with music notes hanging up on a wall

9. Dive into the arts with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to tour the opera.

Known for its contributions to drama, music, and theater, Venice has an incredible theater scene. Going on a tour of Teatro La Fenice is sure to give you an in-depth understanding of the source of Venice’s theater vitality. Venetians consider the Teatro La Fenice one of the most famous landmarks in Venice, so you’ll definitely want to see this during your visit.  

Experience life in the golden age with a legendary Italian opera. Learn about the history and legends of the world-famous opera house while you marvel at the prestigious architecture. The theater was once the heart of Venetian high society, so don’t miss your chance to experience this nostalgic activity. 

If you’re interested in taking a look at another opera, consider this Musici Veneziani Concert at the Scuola Grande di San Teodoro. You’ll be whisked back into the 18th century when you enjoy performers in traditional Venetian costumes and an incredibly festive atmosphere. The theater is a big part of Venetian culture, so don’t miss your chance to view one of these incredible shows. 

Book your once-in-a-lifetime opera show by clicking here!

10. Indulge in the culinary delights of Venice with a food and wine tour.

Get away from the traditional tourist attractions and treat yourself to a food and wine tour. This is a unique way to explore the culture of Venice and truly get acquainted with what the locals experience daily.

While giving your palette a true Italian treat, you can wash down the delicious samples with some locally made prosecco. More than likely you’ll find a local restaurant that will pique your interest and you’ll want to return to!

You can choose to do an evening tour if you’d like. During the evening you’ll get to enjoy the Venice nightlife while you sample a generous range of Italian food and drinks. You can also enjoy a private food and wine tour where you can have one-on-one interactions with your guide and learn a more in-depth history of Venetian cuisine. 

Don’t miss your chance to book a delicious food and wine tour by clicking here.

11. Take a short trip and visit the Island of San Giorgio Maggiore.

San Giorgio Maggiore is one of the islands near Venice, only about 0.1 miles away. The island actually doesn’t have any bridges connecting it to Venice. The only way to access it is by Vaporetto. Some of its popular tourist attractions are the 16th-century church and its bell tower. By standing in the tower, you have an incredible view of Doge’s Palace, the Basilica of St. Mark, and more. 

Inside the church of San Giorgio Maggiore are world-famous paintings. The two that attract the most visitors are Jacopo Bassano’s “The Last Supper” and “The Fall of Manna.” Construction began on the church in the 15th century. It boasts stout pillars and beautiful round arches that will take your breath away. 

Although the church bell tower does attract a large amount of tourists, the crowds will be thinner than St. Mark’s bell tower. Some say that this is actually the best panoramic view of Venice, which is what makes it one of the best things to do in Venice.

12. Get lost in the canals of Venice on a romantic Gondola ride.

If this is your first time in Venice, don’t miss out on the opportunity for a private gondola ride at least once during your trip. Although it can be expensive, it is one of the greatest experiences that you’ll have. This is a very enchanting activity that gives you the opportunity to partake in Venice’s unique mode of transport. 

You’ll not only have the opportunity to be a part of a time-honored Venetian tradition, but you will see some of the gorgeous attractions from a different perspective than if you were on foot. You’ll see more gondolas than anything else in the smaller canals. This is a great activity for those who are traveling as a couple, family, or even solo. You don’t want to miss your chance to take a peaceful water stroll by taking a gondola ride.

Book your enchanting private gondola experience by clicking here.

13. Live like a local by taking a ride around the Grand Canal in a Vaporetto.

Traveling through the Grand Canal is something that you definitely want to do if you’re a first-time visitor to Venice. There are so many attractions that you can see, like the Santa Lucia Railway Station, Rialto Bridge, and St. Mark’s Square. You can take a Vaporetto, the public water bus, to travel through the canal.

There are a couple of different routes that you can choose to take, but the most popular one is Route 1 because it stops at all of the stops along the Grand Canal. There is a Vaporetto with this route that departs every 10 minutes, so your chances of getting on one are pretty easy.

Other than walking, this is going to be your most efficient way to get around Venice. Since it’s a public transport service, it’s not as expensive as a private water taxi or gondola ride. You can buy single-fare tickets or multi-day passes depending on what your needs for water transportation are. You can purchase tickets at the ticket point, at an ACTV ticket machine, or online by clicking here.

14. Take in the rich history of Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute.

Venetians consider Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute one of the most important religious structures. Built in the heart of Venice, the Basilica di Santa Maria, built in the 1600s, commemorates the end of the plague, which killed many Venetians. Dedicated to Our Lady of Health, the church and its dome are considered staples of Venice.

This church is unique because the architecture is Baroque style. It’s octagonal in shape and has small chapels located on the sides. Inside the church, you can observe many impressive paintings by Titian and Tintoretto. You can also observe different statues of saints and prophets present within the architecture, as well as the Virgin represented at the top of the apex. 

If you’re visiting Venice in late November, you can celebrate the Feast of the Presentation of the Virgin with the locals. It’s a popular festival that commemorates the freeing of Venice from the plague. Together, locals and visitors cross over the Grand Canal to the Salute Basilica to pay their respects and honor those who lost their lives.

gondolas rowing through the canals of venice with the Basilica di Santa Maria in the backdrop, one of the best things to see in Venice Italy

15. Pamper yourself with a countryside prosecco wine tour.

Indulging in a glass of wine is a common Italian practice, so you definitely want to go on a prosecco wine tour. Prosecco is an Italian sparkling wine developed in the Veneto region’s countryside, not too far from Venice. Explore the continuous land of vineyards and learn the mysteries of prosecco production.

If you’re a sucker for captivating views, then this tour is going to be especially great for you as you get to travel through the Italian countryside. You’ll also have the option to purchase the products that you’re tasting so that you can take them home and share them with your friends and family.

Book your semi-private countryside prosecco wine tour by clicking here.

Interested in visiting other places in Italy? Italy is one of the best places to visit in Europe, and for good reason! It’s perfect for first-timers or seasoned visitors. Check out these other super helpful posts on Italy!

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