There are hardly any people who at least once in their lifetime haven’t heard about the magical city of northern Italy, Venice. When you hear Venice, the picture of the gondola steered by a charming man wearing the typical black and white striped shirt becomes real. Venice is a popular destination for travelers across the globe, but not everyone is lucky to walk the streets of this beautiful gemstone. So if you happen to plan a visit and are interested in which are the best things to do in Venice Italy, look no further. In today’s article, we will lead you through the best attractions and show you the top 15 things to do in Venice Italy. We hope you’re ready because we’ve got a lot of lovely tips to share with you!
15 best things to do in Venice Italy
So what are the best things to do in Venice Italy? No matter whether you come alone, or are looking for things to do in Venice Italy with family, this city is the perfect destination for sightseeing. There is a lot to explore, so if you don’t want to miss anything out on your Venetian experience, you should definitely create your list of what to do in Venice Italy.
Luckily, we can help you create the most amazing travel plan to discover one of the most beautiful gems of Europe. If you are planning a visit to Venice, make sure you check out restaurants, and great hotels in Venice, as well as the best day trips from the city of canals. So now, without further ado, let’s take a close look at the top 15 things to do in Venice Italy!
1. Piazza San Marco
One of the best things to do in Venice Italy is to visit Piazza San Marco, the heart of the city. This is the largest square in Venice and it has always played an important role in the life of Venetians. Surrounded by governmental facilities and religious buildings, Piazza San Marco or Saint Mark’s Square is one of the most impressive spots you will see in the city.
Did you know that Napoleon called the square “the drawing room of Europe”? When you get here, stop for a minute and look around. Admire the charming Italian architecture, get lost in the details of Doge’s Palace, the Saint Mark Basilica, or the Clocktower. It feels fascinating to be hemmed in by such beautiful buildings that carry so much history!
The square is right at the end of the Grand Canal, so if you happen to visit the city during the “Acqua Alta” or high water period, you might need some good waterproof shoes. Don’t worry though, seeing the locals serving tables in rainboots only adds to the Venetian experience!
2. Basilica San Marco
We cannot leave out Basilica San Marco from our list of the top 15 things to do in Venice Italy. The history of Basilica San Marco goes back more than a thousand years, as the church was built between 829-836 to house and honor the remains of Saint Mark.
In 976, during a popular uprising against Doge Pietro V Candiano, the church has been severely damaged by fire. Within two years, a limited repairing work was done and the tomb of Saint Mark was surmounted with brick vaults, creating a shrine. Looking at the Basilica’s history, 1062 is one of the most important years, when the whole church was substantially rebuilt and enlarged.
Since 1807, the basilica is the cathedral church of the Roman Catholic Patriarchate of Venice. Not only the exterior, but the interior of the Basilica is also worth visiting. So if you are not sure what to do in Venice Italy, visit the Basilica San Marco and be amazed by the colorful mosaic, altars, or the breathtaking Dome of Creation in the narthex.
3. Doges Palace
On the side of St Mark’s Square is located the Doges Palace. This gemstone is one of the most beautiful things to see in Venice Italy. The structure is composed of ornamentation from the 14th and 15th centuries. It is made of 3 big blocks. However, the style of the Doge’s Palace has undergone many variations, dictated by the long series of fires that have determined significant changes during the years.
Inside the palace, the immense art and majestic staircases show the wealth and pride of the Doges, who ruled the Venetian Empire from here. You can see paintings by Titian and Tintoretto and have a sneak peek of the lavish rooms and the government chambers. If you are into culture and history, and you also appreciate architecture, make sure to add this stop to your best things to do in Venice Italy list. You won’t regret it.
4. Grand Canal – one of the best things to do in Venice Italy
If you are on Piazza San Marco and you have already explored the buildings on the square, it is time to stop for a delicious cappuccino or dig into the famous Italian cuisine. After all, tasty pasta is one of the best things to buy in Venice Italy! Sit at a table at the waterfront and admire the Grand Canal.
Being 3.8 km or 2.4 miles long, the Grand Canal to this day is where the most happen. It connects the two main islands Venice is built upon. Looking at the Vaporettos, it is not hard to imagine how Venezia looked in the past with merchant ships sailing on the water. So much, yet, so little has changed. On the two sides of the Canal, you can still see the same fabulous Venetian buildings carrying the memory of grandiose carnivals.
The Vaporetto that you can see crossing the Grand Canal all the time is the typical Venetian water bus. It is not only the cheapest mean of transportation on the water but getting on a Vaporetto is definitely one of the top 15 things to do in Venice Italy. You can also jump in a gondola and enjoy a romantic tour on the water, as most travelers visiting Venice do.
5. Rialto Bridge
If you are wondering what are the best things to do in Venice Italy with family, Rialto Bridge is a perfect spot to check out. Rialto is Venice’s most famous and oldest bridge right in the heart of the city. It was built between 1588 and 1591, this spot is usually crowded with travelers, so you might want to be there early in the morning.
As you walk towards the top of the bridge you can stop by the small shops and stalls, over the two sides of the bridge. If you want to shop for souvenirs, this is a good place to do it.
Once on the top, the view of the Grand Canal is stunning. On the square down to the bridge, you will find a fresh market. At night also it is a popular location to enjoy a drink and a delicious snack.
6. Venice Opera House
If you are a traveler hungry for culture, one of the best things to do in Venice Italy for you is to visit La Fenice, the Venice Opera House. There are many beautiful things to see in Venice Italy, but this one is a real treasure you should definitely check out.
Being the most famous and renowned landmark in the history of Italian theatre, La Fenice is a gem. It was first opened in 1792 and it functioned as a leading opera house until the 13th of December 1836. On this unfortunate night, the opera house was almost completely devastated by fire.
Despite the huge damage, the opera house was rebuilt in a year and it was reopened on the 26th of December 1837. As you arrive at La Fenice, take a moment to appreciate the beautiful entrance facade, then explore the interior. Take a look at Sala Grande, walk in the Foyer, and don’t forget to check out the Royal Box, rich in splendor decorations.
7. Venetian Ghetto
The Venice Jewish ghetto is something that can’t be missed on a real traveler’s list. If you visit the city, taking a walk in this area is one of the top 15 things to do in Venice Italy. Why? Well, first of all, it was the world’s first ghetto, established in 1516. Yes, you heard us right, Venetia is the home of the oldest Jewish ghetto, how fascinating!
Back then the Venetian Republic used to bound Jews to this neighborhood of the city. Shortly it became one of the most lively and commercially developed Venetian areas rich in shops and vendors selling all types of merchandise you can imagine.
Today, there are many Jewish people living in this area. This part of the city is rich in synagogues, Jewish restaurants, and bakeries offering traditional Jewish delicacies. Once you arrive, you can instantly feel how this place is permeated with history and fall in love with its charm. If you want to learn about Venetian Jewish history, head to the Jewish Museum of Venice. Here you can not only learn about the life of Jewish people, but you can enjoy a delicious kosher coffee as well.
8. Bridge of Sighs – one of the best things to do in Venice Italy
One of the best things to do in Venice Italy is to visit one of the most famous bridges in the city, the Bridge of Sighs. This iconic bridge is located near the Piazza San Marco. Once it was part of the Doge’s Palace prison complex.
After being sentenced during the Doge’s interrogation, prisoners had to cross the bridge to reach the new prison. It is said that sighs of resignation and despair could be heard when the convicted were walking over the bridge. Today, you can admire the exquisite design of this architectural beauty. For a full experience, walk through the bridge and take a sneak peek of the prison cells too.
When you’re done with the tour, you will be greeted by charming vendors on the street selling traditional Venetian masks. If you are looking for a beautiful souvenir, a carnival mask is one of the best things to buy in Venice Italy, so don’t hesitate to find the one you like the most!
9. Gallerie dell’Accademia
The Gallerie dell’Accademia was born in 1750, to give the city an academy of painters and sculptors. Accademia Galleries are a must for painting lovers, so if you are wondering what to do in Venice Italy, add this stop to your plan. Undoubtedly, his gallery is the most important museum you can visit during your stay in Venice. The Academy was designed with the aim of bringing together all the works of art that were scattered around Venice in a single place.
Did you know that the Vitruvian Man has been in the Gallerie dell’Accademia in Venice since 1822? Today the Accademia Galleries house an extraordinary collection of Venetian paintings. The works of art range from Byzantine through the Gothic up to the Renaissance. There are paintings of artists such as Bellini, Carpaccio, Giorgione, Veronese, Tintoretto, and Tiziano up to Giambattista Tiepolo and the vedutisti of 1600, and of couse Canaletto.
10. Murano, Burano and Torcello
Unmissable of the top 15 things to do in Venice Italy: a day trip to Murano, Burano, and Torcello islands. Murano is famous for its beautiful blown glass, Burano for its pretty colorful houses, and Torcello for its cathedral. Visitors can take a guided tour in Murano to learn about the art of glass-blowing.
Here visitors will find a lot of lovely souvenirs. Jewelry made from Murano glass is world-famous, so a beautiful medal or a pair of earrings is one of the best things to buy in Venice Italy. You can also visit the glass museum where you can admire all types of Murano jewelry, accessories, decorations, and other masterpieces.
In Burano, photographers and Instagram addicts will find their paradise. Pretty fishermen’s little houses and small bridges make this little island a daydream. Torcello’s main attraction is the 7th-century cathedral. Once here, enjoy the Byzantine art and take a walk on this charming little island.
11. Enjoy Art Museums and exhibitions
When you think you are done exploring Venice, you can be sure that there is always more to see. What to do in Venice Italy after you explored the most famous spots and attractions? Well, it is time to dig deeper.
Venice offers a pretty nice variety of museums. Art lovers. this city is made for you! For instance, the Peggy Guggenheim Collection houses works of art by European and American famous artists of the 20th century.
The Venice Biennale is an Italian cultural foundation active mainly in the figurative arts, but also in music, cinema, theater, and architecture. Every two years it organizes the Venice International Art Exhibition. In addition, Palazzo Grassi and Punta Della Dogana are two contemporary art museums. They host a lot of art exhibitions during the year.
12. Aperitivo – one of the best things to do in Venice Italy!
If you ask us, after exploring, one of the best things to do in Venice Italy is to sit down on a nice terrace and enjoy a tasty drink. The counters of the Bacari, or typical Venetian taverns, are filled with Cicchetti, the traditional Venetian appetizers. These appetizers are typically savored while sipping on a glass of wine or a spritz. The best way to mingle with the locals is to go for an Aperitivo.
As the tradition dictates, drinks are made with Campari or Aperol, white wine, and soda. An Aperol Spritz, or better yet a Campari Spritz, for example, can easily be one of the best things to buy in Venice Italy in the late afternoon after exploring the city. Squares like Santa Margheria will start to get crowded and full of young people at the Aperitivo time and the night will continue with a glass of spritz a Chicchetto and a lot of chat and fun.
When you’re looking for places for Aperitivo in Venice, you must know that there are plenty of bars that are actually specializing and focusing on Aperitivo drinks and Chichetti. You would see at these places a range of different Chichetti with different toppings, and you can always choose the ones you’d like. Some of our favorite places are Arcicchetti Bakaro and Bakareto da Lele. These are both on Campo dei Tolentini, which is close to the train station.
13. Lido di Venezia
Our top 15 things to do in Venice Italy cannot be complete without a good beach vacation recommendation. Lido di Venezia or simply The Lido is an 11 km long barrier island housing more than 20 000 residents. This is the place where the annual Venice Film Festival takes place in late August/ early September. So if you are visiting Italy and looking for fun things to do in Venice Italy with family, Lido di Venezia is a good destination, especially if you want to get away from the noise of tourist areas.
This place is quiet and calm, a perfect destination for a laid-back, unbothered weekend getaway. The beaches here are safe and clean, and you can enjoy swimming in the beautiful blue waters of the Adriatic sea. You can also spend some time enjoying watersports. There are options to rent a paddle or go windsurfing. You can also set sail in the sunset on a cruise ship while enjoying a delicious Italian dinner.
14. San Giorgio Maggiore
Visiting San Giorgio Maggiore is one of the best things to do in Venice Italy for a reason. Monet was in love with this island, especially its Palladian church which is the most famous landmark on the island. As you approach the island, you will be welcomed by a fascinating panorama that is hard to forget.
The island is home to the San Giorgio Monastery which was established in 982 when the whole island was turned into a monastery. Take some time to explore the Church of San Giorgio Maggiore and admire the belltower that features a ring of 9 bells in C#. You can visit Theatro Verde, which is an open-air theater set in the gardens of the island.
15. Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute
Last, but not least, let’s wrap up our collection on what to do in Venice Italy with one of the most beautiful religious buildings in the region, the Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute. Also known as the Salute, this Roman Catholic church stands out from the panorama of Venice.
The history of the basilica connects strongly with the 1630 plague when a third of the population was killed in a year. Just in the city of Venice, 46 000 people have died in a year, but this number was much higher in the lagoons. This is the time when the Republic of Venice vowed to build a church and dedicate it to Our Lady of Health.
The groundbreaking started in 1631 and the church was completed in 1687. Take a look at the art when you visit, as most items and paintings carry references to the plague, also called as Black Death. Understanding its history, Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute is definitely one of the most interesting things to see in Venice Italy.
We hope you enjoyed our collection of the top 15 things to do in Venice Italy. Undoubtedly, there is so much to explore here, so make sure to take your time. If your schedule is tight plan ahead to get the best out of your visit. Remember that there are no cars in the city, so pack comfortable walking shoes.
No matter whether you travel alone or you are looking for fun things to do in Venice Italy with family, the options are almost unlimited. You can stroll around the streets of Venice, visit museums, and churches, or experience the taste of the real Venetian lifestyle by getting some rest in a typical Venetian “chicchetti” at the “aperitivo” time. After all, a delicious pasta dinner and a glass of sparkling prosecco are the best things to buy in Venice Italy! If you’re looking for restaurants in Venice, make sure to check out our list of the best ones. Make sure you’ve also checked our accommodation suggestions in Venice!