Best Things to do in Venice Italy

9 Must-Have Experiences in Venice, Italy

Julie Italy 61 Comments

Venice is one of our favorite spots in Italy. Why? It is small and compact, perfect to be explored with just a few days time. Venice is romantic, historic, and gorgeous. The canals, the gondolas, the architecture, the colorful towns of Murano and Burano…what is not to love?

The list of sites to visit in Venice is long. So long, in fact, that it would take days to see all of them. Most people have just a few days in this magical city. Here is a short list of our favorite experiences in Venice, a good starting point for having the best holiday here.

Just Wander…Get Lost in Venice

Put down your map and just wander. Forget the big, popular sites (we will get to those soon). The smaller canals off of the main tourist trail are perfect for wandering.

The main city of Venice is small enough that you can walk it in several hours. Explore the canals, sit and relax in the small squares that punctuate the city, go cafe-hopping for coffee or wine, and just enjoy this city without feeling like you have to check a bunch of sites off of your to-do list.

Get Lost in Venice

In Venice

Venice Canal View

St. Mark’s Square

St. Mark’s Square is the heart of Venice. From here you can easily visit most of the other main sites. The best things to do here? Take a 360° panorama photo, feed (or run through) the pigeons, and go people watching.

Venice with Kids

Climb the Campanile di San Marco

The Campanile is the bell tower that dominates the skyline of Venice. The only way to the top is by elevator. From the top, your reward is one of the best views of the city.

Campanile Venice

Campanile View

Best Venice View

View Venice from the Rialto Bridge

Spanning the Grand Canal, the Ponte di Rialto is Venice’s most popular bridge. From the top of the bridge, enjoy another fantastic, iconic view of this city. See it at sunrise, see it at sunset, join the crowds of tourists in the middle of the day. Watching the gondolas, vaporettos, and ferries travel up and down the Grand Canal from this spot is mesmerizing.

Expect to share this space with a lot of other travelers. Find a spot, take lots of selfie photos, and smile because you are in Venice!

Rialto Bridge

Tyler Rivenbark Rialto

Julie and Tyler Venice

Is the Gondola ride through Venice worth it?

Yes, it may be cliché and super-touristy, but in our opinion, a visit to Venice would not be complete without a gondola ride through the canals.

Venice Canal Gondola Ride

Venice Gondola Ride

Rialto from Gondola

For Unique Views of Venice, visit the Doges’ Palace

The Doges’ Palace is a palace built in Venetian Gothic styles. For centuries, this building served as the residence for the Doge, the seat of the government, and a palace of justice. Now, it is a museum. Without a doubt, a visit to the Doges’ Palace is a must-have experience in Venice. The history that took place here is incredible.

Again, expect large crowds of people and even a long wait in line just to get in. You can tour the Palace on your own or book a guided “Secret Itineraries” tour. As you tour the Palace, you will have more fantastic views of Venice. Yes, we love great views of the cities we visit, especially those that are unique or from a high vantage point. The Doges’ Palace has some great views of Venice.

Venice Photo View

One of the most unique views of Venice is from the Bridge of Sighs. From this window, prisoners on their way to execution would have this final view of the city.

Bridge of Sighs View

The Bridge of Sighs, Again

So, you walked across the Bridge of Sighs from the Doges’ Palace. Now it is time to view the Bridge of Sighs from outside the Doges’ Palace.

Stand facing the Doges’ Palace with the Grand Canal behind you. There is a small bridge that spans the canal along the eastern border of the Doges’ Palace. From this bridge you can have this iconic view.

Bridge of Sighs Venice

Saint Mark’s Basilica

This is another landmark of Venice that is not to be missed. During the summer months, expect lines to be long. Very long. Arrive early or very late for your best chance of not waiting in an epic line. Waiting in long lines is definitely NOT a must-have experience in Venice!

St Marks Basilica

Venice’s Best Bargain: The Vaporetto

What is a vaporetto? Basically, it is a water bus that takes passengers from point to point. Most people use the vaporetto as a way to travel between the main sites. For a cheap but fantastic way to tour the Grand Canal, ride the vaporetto from the lagoon through the Grand Canal, past the Rialto Bridge, all the way to the train station.

Take the No. 1 vaporetto (ACTV )Linea 1 from Piazzale Roma to Piazza San Marco (St. Mark’s Square). If you want, this vaporetto travels all of the way to Lido Island. It also runs in both directions, so if you are coming from Lido Island, you can ride the vaporetto across the lagoon and down the entire Grand Canal.

Crowd beating tip: In the late afternoon, start at Piazzale Roma and journey down the Grand Canal towards St. Mark’s Square. At this time of day, most people will be traveling in the other direction.

Venice Vaporetto

Venice is Sinking

Bonus! One Final, Must-Have View of Venice

For one final, stunning view, see the Grand Canal from Ponte dell’Accademia. Beautiful, right?

Grand Canal Venice

Accommodations in Venice

Staying in the heart of Venice, in San Marco and around the Grand Canal, can cost a small fortune for a decent place. Consider staying just outside of the center of Venice to save money.

When picking your accommodation, also consider how you are going to get to your hotel. From the airport, you will have to take a taxi (usually a water taxi) to get into Venice. Staying right on the Grand Canal is very convenient, but you will pay more for this convenience. Think about what it will be like to carry your luggage from the canal to your hotel when making your booking.

Luxury:  If money is no object, take a look at the Gritti Palace. This hotel has a prime location, centrally located in San Marco. From your luxurious room, enjoy views of the Grand Canal.

Mid-Range:  Hotel Olimpia Venezia. This is where we stayed on our most recent visit to Venice. This hotel is located in Santa Croce, so it’s not in the heart of Venice, but that does have its advantages. In just a few minutes you can walk to the train station, the bus station, and the parking garages, which makes getting in and out of Venice a breeze. To get to St. Mark’s Square you can walk (about 20 minutes) or take the vaporetto from Santa Croce. The rooms are quiet and comfortable and breakfast was delicious. We would stay here again.

Budget (in Venice):  We Crociferi. This hostel is located in Cannaregio, which sits north of San Marco. It is connected by water taxi to the main sites in Venice as well as Lido, Murano, and Burano.

Budget (outside of Venice):  Villa Antica Graziela.  This small, budget hotel is located in Marghera, on the “mainland” of Italy. To get into Venice, you have to take a bus, which takes approximately 30 minutes, once you account for the time waiting for the bus. We stayed here on our around the world trip. The place was great and taking the bus wasn’t too bad (it was worth it to save money). Our only complaint is the slow wifi, but maybe things have changed since our stay in 2014.

Do you need more recommendations on where to stay in Venice? We have an entire post about the different neighborhoods in Venice, how to choose which one fits your traveling style, and many more hotel recommendations based on your budget. Read it here:

Best Neighborhoods and Hotels for Your Budget


Have you been to Venice? What must-have experiences do you think need to be on this list?

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Best Things to do in Venice
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Comments 61

  1. Your ideas are all great. Second trip to Italy mid November to visit college student studying in Bologna. Flying to Milan Nov 16 and then Sun nov 18 driving to Bologna. Staying in Bologna sun, Mon Tues eve Wednesday all 4 of us age 21 and 17 to Florence, and thought Venice though we were about 5 years ago for a quick visit to Murano and Burano and St Marks, then to Lake Cuomo w a quick stop in Verona. Flying back out of Milan on the 26. Should we skip Venice and go to Siena? Have 5 days and a car, can you suggest your favorite destinations to make this another memorable experience in Italy. Thank you!!

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      My favorite spots in Italy are Verona, the Dolomites (in the summer to go hiking), and Tuscany. So yes, while you are in Florence, you could visit Siena or stay in Siena. Also nearby, Montepulciano, Montalcino, and Pienza are very nice to visit. If you want to go off the beaten path a bit, you could drive to San Marino and spend one day and one night here. Many people skip San Marino, because it’s a little bit out of the way, but from Bologna it’s not too hard to get to. Cheers, Julie

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      Author

      It’s always a good time to visit Venice. 🙂 The best months are April, May, June, September and October…nice weather but it will be crowded. The summer months of July and August are warmer and crowds can also be high as people take their summer vacations. We have been to Venice twice – end of July and end of September. Venice was actually more crowded in September than in July, but that was just our experience. Cheers, Julie

  2. Hi! We’re travelling to Venice this summer and are super excited. Do you have any tips about where to eat in Venice – we’d like to have a nice spaghetti and an espresso for sure. Thanks in advance for any suggestions!

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      I don’t have any specific restaurant recommendations, but we use Trip Advisor to find good spots to eat. Pick restaurants that get great reviews and that have a lot of reviews (500+ or 1000+ reviews vs places that only have 100 reviews). And in Venice, beware of the “coperto,” an added fee for just dining at the restaurant. Some places charge a coperto and some don’t. Ask the restaurant staff if they charge a coperto before you take a seat. Cheers, Julie

  3. Venice was the most pleasant surprise! We added a day there while visiting Florence and Rome, only because we felt like we should. Turns out, it was the best part of our trip!! We are now planning to visit Venice and the Dolomites with our kids.

    We stayed two nights at a very inexpensive pension near San Marco. With our one full day, we managed the campanile, basilica, a vaporetto ride to see Murano and Burano, an evening stroll through the canals and a nice sunset from the tip of Dorsoduro… with several gelato stops along the way! The only reason why you might need more than one day is to excuse multiple gelato stops!

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      It’s awesome that you are planning a trip to the Dolomites. Similar to your Venice experience, the Dolomites totally surprised us. What a gorgeous part of Italy and we still dream of returning some day. I hope you love the Dolomites too. Thanks for sharing your experience! Cheers, Julie

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      We have been to Venice twice. The first time we stayed in Marghera (at the Antica Villa Graziella), about a 30 minute commute from the heart of Venice. We saved a lot of money by staying here but I don’t recommend it unless you are on a tight budget. On our 2nd visit we stayed in the main part of Venice (at the Hotel Olimpia which is near the bus station and about a 10 minute walk to St Mark’s Square). This is more expensive but it is a much better experience if you can afford it. San Marco is going to be the most centrally located area and also the most expensive. Staying on or near the Grand Canal or the bus station is the most convenient for arriving with luggage. If you find a hotel you like, also learn how much time it will take to get to the hotel from the train/bus station. We stayed near the bus station so we did not have to drag our luggage through the city (I was there for a race and had my bike in a large bike box to deal with). We use Trip Advisor and Booking.com to find hotels. On Booking.com, we usually don’t book any accommodation with a rating less than 8.5. Cheers, Julie

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  4. We arrive in Venice on the 9th of March for two days and nights before heading on to Croatia as well for a COLLETTE tour.

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      When we were here with kids, we stayed just outside of Venice at the Antica Villa Graziela. It takes about 30 minutes one way to get from the accommodation into Venice, so I only recommend it if you are staying on a budget and don’t mind sacrificing a little bit of time. To look up hotel options, I recommend Trip Advisor. The reviews are accurate and this is how we choose our accommodations. Sorry I don’t have more options to offer to you. Cheers, Julie

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