Best Things to do in Venice Italy

9 Must-Have Experiences in Venice, Italy

Julie Italy 73 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 73

  1. Definitely go off season. March was incredible. Quiet, perfect cool weather. I think the best thing to do in Venice is to get lost. And stay at least three days. Wander and wander and wander some more. Look for restaurants filled with locals. Then, just let them bring you food. Pop into antique stores or book stores or a church that isn’t in a guide book. Stop and talk to an artist. Don’t miss the cicchetti.
    Nighttime is magic. When everyone else leaves and the lights reflect in the canals. Ride the vaporetto down the Grand Canal. Pinch yourself. You’re not dreaming.
    Venice is touristy if that’s what you look for. We went just to see it 8 years ago and fell in love. Going back in about a month. We’ll be there three nights before leaving for Croatia. I can’t wait.

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  2. hey there thanks for this suggestions as im going to Venice (yeyy!!!) on this april 2018 and will be spending only 1 day (LOL!) in the city. so i really can cover only the “highlight” places of venice and you are doing it right. tq!

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      One day is enough time in Venice. Really, the best part is wandering the canals, in my opinion. Try to see the Doges Palace and the view from the Campanile. Venice is getting crowded, but if you wander away from the touristy center into the “side canals,” you can see “real Venice.” Cheers, Julie

  3. Thank you so very much! How can I get a copy of this we are planning to go in Sepemberr of this year my first time ever!
    We only have 10 days and like to see as much as we could. This looks fabulous!

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      You can print it as a PDF. On Google Chrome on a Mac, go to File, Print, Open PDF in Preview, and then you can save and/or print the post. It’s a similar set of steps on other browsers. You can also just print the pages you need. We do have plans to convert some posts into PDF’s (because we are getting lots of requests), but have not had time to do this yet. Have a great time in Italy!! Cheers, Julie

  4. I’ve been to Venice lots of times. My personal favourite waking up early to see the sunrise from the St. Mark’s Square.
    It’s that magical time when the Canal Grande is still completely empty and you have the Square all to yourself (apart from the pigeons). Definitely worth it!

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  5. I just read your article!? Great one.. we are here in Venice now, me and my husband are going to ride the gondola this afternoon?
    this trip is part of our 4th wedding anniversary. ❤️
    I didn’t know we can climb in that campanile too as we were there yesterday!? Maybe we should go back?
    We should try all these 9 Must-have Experiences in Venice!?

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      Wow!! Believe it or not, we are in Venice right now too! But we were here just for the day (Wednesday). I am racing Ironman Italy on Saturday in Cervia. Have a great time and enjoy those views from the Campanile!! Cheers, Julie

  6. Thank you for these lovely suggestions. We’re going to Venice in March, to celebrate my husband’s 50th. We found some nice airbnb places that I think we will use.

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  7. Great post guys! Venice is a stunning, colourful and romantic city. A gondola ride – although perhaps a little cliché like you guys said – is absolutely essential to get the feel of this unique place. Gliding through the water on those traditional canoes really makes you feel part of a fascinating history. Thanks for sharing!

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          You may be able to schedule a gondola ride in advance with Viator. We have always just showed up and paid the gondola driver. Check out this post that has lots of info about gondola rides in Venice. Cheers, Julie

  8. Grand Canal from Ponte dell’Accademia. Beautiful indeed and one of the best photos of Venice I have come across. Thank you for your advice about so many things, I’ll be sure to read this blog again and again.

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  9. Thank You for your wonderful review of ideas for a perfect visit to Venice…My husband and I are going for the first time in May and I am going to take you up on your suggestions on seeing Venice.

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