Best Things to do in Venice Italy

9 Must-Have Experiences in Venice, Italy

Julie Italy 71 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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Comments 71

  1. Been to Italy many times, including Venice. My family is from Rome so we visit frequently. Best travel book to use is Rick Steve’s book on Italy [covers a lot]. Also check out his “Hill Towns Of Italy”. Both are indespensible travel aids.
    Lastly, when in Venice, go to the little white shacks just outside the main tram station and by a 3 or 5 day vaporetto pass. Best blue in town.

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  2. A trip to the Burano island is a must… the small village is full of colorful houses making every corner a photo stop ? The vaperetto takes you there in one hour.

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      Then go to Italy by yourself! 🙂 And I am sure you know that Venice is one of many awesome destinations in Italy. Cheers, Julie

  3. Hi
    I have planed to go on March. Any suggestions about good restaurants and hotels ? ( and if they are not to expensive, will be great 🙂

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      Hello Renato. We stayed at the Antica Villa Graziella. This hotel is not located in the main part of Venice. It is located on the “mainland,” about a 20 minute ride by bus to get into Venice. Villa Graziella is a great budget hotel if you don’t mind making the commute into Venice everyday.

      As far as where to eat, we like Trip Advisor to find restaurants (and hotel accommodations). Unfortunately, I do not remember any specific places we ate at in Venice. This was at the very beginning of our around the world trip so we were being so cost conscious, getting food at grocery stores or sandwiches at deli’s. However, while in Venice be aware of coperto’s: fees charged just for sitting down inside of a restaurant. This extra charge is usually listed on the menu, but you should ask before being seated. We learned that one the hard way. Cheers, Julie

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      Hello Phyllis. During our visit to Venice, we stayed at the Antica Villa Graziella. This hotel is not located in the main part of Venice. It is located on the “mainland,” about a 20 minute ride by bus to get into Venice. Villa Graziella is a great budget hotel if you don’t mind making the commute into Venice everyday. As far as where to eat, we like Trip Advisor to find restaurants (and hotel accommodations). I do not remember any specific restaurants to recommend to you. Sorry! While Cheers, Julie

  4. We visited Venice in July and loved stayed at the Hyatt Molina Stucky. We had an unforgettable experience at Covina–best restaurant by far!

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  5. My hubby and I are headed to Venice to celebrate my 40th birthday in October. Great tips to make sure to add to our list!

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  6. Great article! I had no idea you could climb the campanile! That’s right up my alley. I’ll have to make sure to do that next time I go. Thanks for the info and beautiful pictures!

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  7. We went to Venice in October and I am happy to see we got to do all your 9 must have experiences 🙂 🙂
    Views from the Campanile, I agree, are stunning. Being up there the clock struck 6 and the bells started to ring, you can imagine the sound was also stunning!!
    While being in Venice I couldn’t stop thinking how magnificent this city must have been centuries ago.

    And again I agree with you, the Gondola ride IS very much worth it, too much expensive, yes, but a unique experience.
    A lovely post Julie.

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      Thank you, Virginia! We were able to finish our visit at the Campanile just before the bell started ringing. I had read that it is incredibly loud to be up there when it is ringing. We weren’t too sure how Tyler and Kara would like that. 🙂

  8. We were there in April and loved it! One our our highlights was taking the Vaporetto to San Giorgio and taking the elevator up to the top of the bell tower. Great views all around.

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