Best Things to do in Venice Italy

9 Must-Have Experiences in Venice, Italy

Julie Italy 76 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

Hours: Hours vary by season. April 16 to September 30: 8:00 am to 9:00 pm (last admission 8:45 pm). Reduced hours the remainder of the year. Get the full schedule here.
Cost:  €8
Important:  During adverse weather conditions (high winds, cold temperatures) the campanile will close.

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

How Much Does a Gondola ride cost? That’s a good question. The city of Venice sets the rate at €80 per 40 minutes (€100 after 7 pm) but that doesn’t mean that’s the rate you will get. You will have to negotiate with your gondolier before you ride. Make sure you agree on the price and the length of time you will ride before you get in the gondola. And if you would like him to sing, that will cost extra. Here is a great article if you want to learn more.

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

Hours:  April 1 to October 31: 8:30 am to 7 pm (last admission at 6 pm); November 1 to March 31: 8:30 am to 5:30 pm (last admission 4:30 pm)
Cost: €20, audio guide €5
Website: Get updated pricing, learn about the Secret Itineraries tour, and book your tickets in advance on the official website.

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?

More Information for Your Trip to Italy:

Planning a trip to Italy? Read all of our articles in our Italy Travel Guide.

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Best Things to do in Venice
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Comments 76

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  1. Hi Julie,
    We are going to Venice for my hubby for work. We will have Oct 2-6(flying home) Do you suggest we stay the entire time in venice or head to verona for a night. Do you have any recommendations? It will be our first time to Europe.

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      Hello Lianna. First trip to Europe, that’s very exciting! You have 5 days in Venice, which is a lot of time. Usually 3 days is more than enough time to see the highlights. Yes, I think Verona would make a nice day trip and it would be even better if you can spend the night here. You can get to Verona in a little over an hour by train although it will also take you some time to get from the historic heart of Venice to the train station. If you haven’t seen it yet, here is our article about Verona. If you want to get the train schedule, we use italiarail.com or trenitalia.com. Have fun in Italy! Cheers, Julie

  2. Love your review and list of experiences that is family-centred! We would love to take a guided tour of the doges palace and St Marks but with 3 kids it is super expensive! Have you come across any tour companies offering family rates at all? Thanks! We will be in Venice at the end of July and can’t wait…

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      No, I don’t have any specific tour recommendations. Viator and Get Your Guide seem to be the most budget-friendly from our experience. Have fun in Venice! Cheers, Julie

  3. Great Insights! I’ve been to Venice a few times, but I was never able to convince myself to get on a gondola. In any case, I’m wondering if you used any of the travel apps for your travels in Venice or Italy in general. I’ve read a few reviews that for example I Bacardi is really good for food or MyPass Venezia for actv, Doge’s Palace skip the line tickets. I feel like traveling in Italy is amazing, but really confusing and these apps provide some clarity and security of not getting ripped off. Happy travels!

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  4. Hello there,

    Your site was so helpful for our trip to Scotland! Now we’re off to Italy and looking at your recommendations again. I noticed the accommodations you have listed lead to booking.com – do you find that they’re a reliable site for booking lodging? I’ve not had any experience with them and would rather be safe than sorry! I ask because I found a perfect hotel and tried to dig a little deeper and google says they are “permanently closed”. Probably not the most reliable or accurate source but it was worrying, nonetheless. Could you share your experience with booking.com?

    Thanks much!

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      Hello Caroline. We book over 90% of the hotels we stay in through Booking.com and have never had an issue. The only time we don’t use Booking.com is if we book a Holiday Inn/Marriott property because of their points system. The reviews seem accurate and sometimes we double check the reviews on Trip Advisor, especially if we plan to stay for several days or it’s an expensive property. For us, using Booking.com is easy, reliable, and so far, issue-free, which is why we recommend them. Cheers, Julie

  5. HI Julie, I am going to Venice in September, I am a pensioner and can’t walk far. I want to visit the famous glass factory. My hotel is in Santa Croce. Would you suggest I use a Vaporetto. We are then taking the ship to cruise Dubrovnik, ect round to Rome. Is it easy to find toilets, and do you have to pay more to sit at the outdoor seating cafes, and do you tip the waiters. Thank you for your input.

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      Author

      Here is a link on how to get to Murano. From Santa Croce, you will get on the ferry from Piazzale Roma. We used the toilets whenever we sat down to eat or get a drink (then you can use the restaurant’s toilet for free). You can also read this. Tipping is included on some bills, so check the bill before you pay. You can always ask your waiter if you are not sure. If tipping is not included, it is customary to leave 5 – 10%. Some cafes and restaurants in Venice have a coperto, an extra fee just to sit at a restaurant. This should be advertised before you enter the restaurant or on the menu. Ask before being seated just so there are no surprises. Cheers, Julie

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