What to do in Venice, Italy

Somehow I was sure I would be disappointed with Venice because I knew it too well from watching Death in Venice, Don't Look Now or The Italian Job.

How wrong I was!

However well you think you know Venice before you arrive, you can be sure of being surprised and astonished. Overwhelmed, even.

Tiny Venice canal. Photo by cloudsoup (flickr)
Tiny Venice canal. Photo by cloudsoup (flickr)

Gondola ride in Venice

It's not just the famous sights of Venice, though goodness knows they are impressive enough. It's the way that you can meander through theseemingly endless maze of backstreets and then find yourself in the most enchanted square, completely alone and at ease even in the busiest time of summer.

It's the way that you can relax in small bars on, say, Campo Santa Maria Formosa, eating your cichette - small tapas-like portions such as a stuffed tomato or some mortadella on a toothpick - and drinking your chianti, watching the world go by, and feeling totally content.

It's the way that you can jump on what must be the most spectacular public transport system in the world - the vaporetto, or water bus - and pay 5 dollars to float down the Grand Canal alongside the gondolas which make the same journey for 150 dollars!

But let's consider some of the treasures for which Venice, Italy is known around the world, and which make the city one of the most popular of all tourist destinations. The good news is that the city is only about 4.5 kilometers long, and although it is really 117 different islands, you can walk around it easily.

The ornate facade of St. Mark's Cathedral, with golden lion (Mark's symbol) at the top.  (Photo by fedegrafo)
The ornate facade of St. Mark's Cathedral, with golden lion (Mark's symbol) at the top. (Photo by fedegrafo)
Doge's Palace and St. Mark's Cathedral. Photo by archer10 (flickr)
Doge's Palace and St. Mark's Cathedral. Photo by archer10 (flickr)

So, where should you go?

Obviously, there are some ‘must see' places that are emblematic of Venice.

  • If you arrive by sea, the first recognizable feature for you will be the unmistakable Doge's Palace, perhaps the city's most famous individual building, and one which rises more like a castle out of the waters. This imposing structure, which played a key role in the city's history, is a Gothic masterpiece.
  • Nearby is the Basilica of San Marco - Saint Mark's Cathedral - a mixture of Byzantine, Roman, Venetian and Gothic styles, full of columns, arches, gigantic domes and the incredibly precious Golden Pala, an altarpiece with sapphires, emeralds, pearls, amethysts, rubies, agate, topaz and garnets -1927 stones in all - inlaid into gold leaf. No visit to San Marco, of course, would be complete without going to the top of the 325 foot campanile, or bell tower, to see the spectacular city and lagoon laid out at your feet. And, if you can't face the climb, there is an elevator now!
  • Saint Mark's Square itself, Piazza San Marco, the focal point of Venice's transport system, is also the hub of the city itself. Its patterned floor, outdoor cafes, women shaking their bags of maize for you to buy to feed the pigeons and its surrounding architectural glories will live in your memory for long after you've departed.

Explore Venice, Italy

show route and directions
A markerBasilica of San Marco, Venice -
St Mark's Basilica, Calle de Canonica, 323, 30124 Venice, Italy
[get directions]

B markerPiazza San Marco, Venice -
Piazza San Marco, 30124 Venice, Italy
[get directions]

C markerPonte di Rialto, Venice -
Ponte di Rialto, Venice, Italy
[get directions]

D markerCampo di Santa Margarita, Venice -
Campo Santa Margherita, 30123 Venice, Italy
[get directions]

  • The Rialto Bridge (Ponte di Rialto) is another truly memorable sight. If you're really lucky, the first time you see the bridge will be when you are on a vaporetto - I know the number 1 comes this way and I suspect others do - and you turn a corner in the Grand Canal and the bridge is there in front of you. It's an arched bridge, lined with shops - the price hike is horrendous here, though, so be careful - and has been exactly as it is now for about 400 years.
  • For something a little different, I suggest you go over to the island of Murano, which is where you can see Venetian glass being blown in the traditional manner. You can see, and buy, all kinds of mementos made from the multi-colored glass. It is possible to buy a ticket for guided tours which includes the boat trip out to the island but, personally, I would suggest jumping on a number 71 vaporetto ( you'll have gathered, I'm a big fan! ) and you then can do things at your own pace.
  • A similar experience can be had visiting another small island, Burano, where the most delicate Venetian lace is still being handmade.
  • In the evenings, I can recommend the area around Campo di Santa Margarita, which has a lot of upbeat bars, student haunts and good restaurants. My favorite here is L'incontro, which serves Sardinian cuisine rather than Venetian, but it is sensational.

Of course, you will want to take a ride in a gondola and be serenaded by a handsome young Italian in a striped shirt but the 150 dollar remark earlier wasn't a joke, I'm afraid, so be prepared for it.

For me, the best time to visit Venice, Italy would be in the spring or autumn, when the weather is milder and the streets less crowded. But even in the busy season, you can escape the crowds on smaller streets, and early in the morning -- check out Venice Italy in the morning. Bottom line, whenever you decide to go, the important thing is to make sure that you do!


Gondola passing in front of the Rialto Bridge (Photo by Noutsias)
Gondola passing in front of the Rialto Bridge (Photo by Noutsias)

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Comments 56 comments

KeithB profile image

KeithB 8 years ago from Denver, CO

Great Hub. It really made me visualize this beautiful city and took my back to my trip their a few years ago. Our favorite thing was experiencing the cichette at several different bars.


happyexplorer profile image

happyexplorer 8 years ago from Mostly USA, sometimes elsewhere Author

Hi Keith - Thanks so much for the comment! It really is an amazing city, isn't it? Cool that you got to experience the cichette like a local. (-: - Deanna.


sligobay profile image

sligobay 8 years ago from east of the equator

Greetings, Happy Explorer, Thank you for the journey down memory lane. Though my visit to Venice was with a college fraternity brother and his Italian-American parents 30 years ago, I visited all of the attractions described vividly by you. The glass factories of Murano are a unique and eclectic experience. However, the beauty of the 14th and 15th century wall fresco art should not be overlooked. Several pieces were being restored from flood damage at the time of my visit. If my memory serves me, Leonardo DaVinci painted one of them. Italian seafood cuisine was another memorable flavor of Venice for me. Cheers, sligobay


happyexplorer profile image

happyexplorer 8 years ago from Mostly USA, sometimes elsewhere Author

Hi sligobay - Thanks for your comment! I'm glad it brought back some good memories for you, and you've certainly added some additional useful points for readers too. Cheers, - Deanna.


tinyteddy profile image

tinyteddy 8 years ago from INDIA

it was my dream to visit venice and you made it happen in fo]ront of my eyes

happy explorer

happy exploring


happyexplorer profile image

happyexplorer 8 years ago from Mostly USA, sometimes elsewhere Author

Hi tinyteddy -

I'm so happy to help you with that dream! Maybe someday it can still come true in person, and you'll be the one taking videos on the canal. (-:

Thanks for your comment, and have a great day! - Deanna.


FeatherzMom 8 years ago

We visited Venice in 2001 and loved it - but we had only a day and 1/2 to experience it. We are going back in October this year for our 25th wedding anniversary and plan to savor the things you have on your list...some of which we saw before, but, its to experience another world! So looking forward to sitting in San Marco, listening and dancing to the bands in the evening! One of my favorite memories.


ram_m profile image

ram_m 8 years ago from India

A beautiful hub.But I wish to clear a doubt. Was Marco Polo from Venice?


happyexplorer profile image

happyexplorer 8 years ago from Mostly USA, sometimes elsewhere Author

Hi FeatherzMom -

Thanks for your comment That's wonderful that you're going back for a milestone anniversary. Enjoy your time in San Marco! (-:

- Deanna.


happyexplorer profile image

happyexplorer 8 years ago from Mostly USA, sometimes elsewhere Author

Hi Ram-m -That's an excellent question about Marco Polo. It's certain that he lived in Venice, but even experts disagree on where he was born. I was in Korcula Croatia a few years ago, and they claim the birthplace of Marco Polo to be there. Others say he was born in Venice. Nobody seems to have definitive proof one way or the other.

Thanks for your comment! - Deanna.


solarshingles profile image

solarshingles 8 years ago from london

Venezzia - Venice is one of my favorite places. When I am there I almost cannot sleep, I mean it. Don't go to Venice for less than a long weekend, because there are simply too many things to see and to enjoy. I especially like it, when it is not so crowded and that means not in the high tourist season. Go to any of the churches there, especially smaller ones which are not so crowded, sit and enjoy the special silence of long centuries of art and prayer which surrounds you, there. Go to the Galleria Academia, sit in front of the any master painting and the time will stop. Go to the small restaurant in any side street, ask the waiter what is his recommendation that day, order a bottle of Chianti Classico(also recommended by the author of this hub) and take time for tracing different tastes of food melting with wine. When ordering your coffee choose espresso, macchiato or cappuccino, never 'grande Americano' or Starbucks style late, because you are going to renounce yourself that you have absolutely no old manners and taste. Venice is my dream place on Earth and I'd chosen a name for my daughter in one of its churches, there - Little church, where is the thumb of St.Lucia.


happyexplorer profile image

happyexplorer 8 years ago from Mostly USA, sometimes elsewhere Author

Hi solarshingles -

WOW - what a powerful comment! I agree with you totally about going in the off-season, when it's quiet and calm enough to enjoy those reflective moments you describe. Honestly, my scalp tingled when I read the part about sitting in front of a master painting and time stopping. You've got it exactly. (-:

Thanks for sharing a great (and timeless) moment! - Deanna.


indianguy 8 years ago

Hi happyexplorer,

Nice to read your hubpage and getting a chance to know interesting things about Venice, sitting here in India. However, I’ve one question. You talked about gondola ride and also made a comment on its cost (150 dollar remark earlier wasn't a joke, I'm afraid), but you didn’t specify whether is it worth 150 $ or not. This question just haunted me and so I’d to ask. I myself feel that it’s too costly.


happyexplorer profile image

happyexplorer 8 years ago from Mostly USA, sometimes elsewhere Author

Hi indianguy -

It's hard to say whether it's worth it or not. That depends on everything from your financial situation, to the weather (gondola-ing on a cold rainy day?), to how romantic you're feeling about the person you're with. (-: Personally, the first few times I went to Venice I skipped the gondola because of the cost, but the last time I was there I did it -- largely because it's such a tradition, and I wanted to experience it at least once in my life. Thanks for your visit!


allincorp 8 years ago

This is a great article, since I am planning a trip to venice Italy in the very near future. This information is very insightful for were I need to go and do when I arrive in Venice Italy.


indianguy 8 years ago

Well, actually you really sound romantic and look romantic. Will you accompany me if I ever decide to go to Venice? I'm waiting eagerly for your reply, to be more specific, for your "positive" reply. Until then, I'll enjoy dreaming. Hope you don't mind:)

P.S.: I'm no dangerous creature and you'll be completely safe with me, at least from me. Think about it!!!


indianguy 8 years ago

happyexplorer,

I can't find the comment I submitted here yesterday. Can I know why? I mean to ask whether you deleted it or it just didn't get posted due to some error. Please reply. Thanks!!!


happyexplorer profile image

happyexplorer 8 years ago from Mostly USA, sometimes elsewhere Author

Hi indianguy -

I haven't deleted any comments, but sometimes it takes me a while to get around to moderating them, so perhaps that's why it wasn't showing up when you looked.

Thanks for the compliments!


sligobay profile image

sligobay 8 years ago from east of the equator

Hello again H.Ex.

You've inspired a return visit booked for December. hope all is well with you. G


happyexplorer profile image

happyexplorer 8 years ago from Mostly USA, sometimes elsewhere Author

Hi Sligobay -

How cool! I hope you have a wonderful trip in December. It's nice visiting in the winter, when it's not so crowded. Enjoy!!!


maria 7 years ago

is it worth taking the tour Murano, Burano and Torcello Half-Day Sightseeing Tour? or should we go tomurano on our own?


andrew 7 years ago

Just came back from Venice and have to say it's the biggest tourist trap in the world. Beautiful city though! Shame that's it's so expensive. Coffee for 2 at Florian's will cost you $50 (6 euro each for the coffee plus another 6 euro each for the table, plus tip) Public washrooms cost 2 euro. You always end up paying extra for things such as sitting at the table, wrapper for takeout food, bread with your meal etc The food portions are measly. A plain spaghetti dinner, no drinks, no bread will cost $20. Gondolas cost 80 euro for 1/2 hour and the gondoleers do not dress up anymore, just wear jeans. They take you around one building where you're stuck between other gondolas for most of that time. Trust me, the whole essence of Venetian romance is gone!


happyexplorer profile image

happyexplorer 7 years ago from Mostly USA, sometimes elsewhere Author

Hi Maria - It's really quite easy to visit Murano on your own, so if you're comfortabel venturing out on your own I'd recommend that. It also gives you more flexibility, instead of having to stick to a preset tour schedule. However, the flip side is that a tour guide could point out things that you might not catch on your own.


happyexplorer profile image

happyexplorer 7 years ago from Mostly USA, sometimes elsewhere Author

Hi Andrew - I'm sorry to hear you didn't feel the romance. It's certainly true that Venice can get overcrowded and expensive in tourist season. I think there is still beauty, peace and romance there, but you have to get away from the crowds to find it, into the little back streets and quiet islands (or in the off season). It's hard to feel romantic with a thousand tourists jostling around you!


mary 7 years ago

great information.

thank you


jen 7 years ago

ive been there its boring i got to ride on a gondola


sophs 6 years ago

Great hub, I hope to visit Venice one day


happyexplorer profile image

happyexplorer 6 years ago from Mostly USA, sometimes elsewhere Author

Mary - Thanks!

Jen - Sorry you found it boring... To me, it was anything but! I love Venice, and there's a lot to see and do there.

Sophs - I hope you make it there, too! (-:


Lily 6 years ago

i just came back from venice and its such a betiaful city! I did enijoy the gondola rides every day... expensive but fun! Im going back in december with my 2 friends... its one of there birthdays. Im so excited 2 go back though!


amber :D 6 years ago

Went to Venice last year and its AMAZING! I never go board.. there was just always something to do or see! Its so pretty and just so amazing. I'm hoping to go again this year or next but with a friend this time. I give Venice 2 thumbs up.. no questions asked! But i will tell you its nothing the the hotel remodeled after it in las veges!


happyexplorer profile image

happyexplorer 6 years ago from Mostly USA, sometimes elsewhere Author

Lily - How lucky you are to go twice like that! And what an amazing way to celebrate somebody's birthday. Now who could I suggest this to for my birthday... hmmm... LOL (-:


melbel profile image

melbel 6 years ago from New Buffalo, Michigan

Absolutely stunning hub!


almurray profile image

almurray 6 years ago from Ipswich, United Kingdom

Thanks for the great hub happyexplorer.

Booked up to go Venice next year the other day. Cannot wait to experience it.


Lastminute tour 5 years ago

very Nive description Keith,of this beautiful jewel in the region of Veneto! I would like to remind everyone that Venice is famous for its carnival-old! If you come to Italy in March or February, do not miss it!


happyexplorer profile image

happyexplorer 5 years ago from Mostly USA, sometimes elsewhere Author

Hi almurray! I'm sure you'll have an amazing time in Venice. Have a great trip!

Hello Lastminute tour. That seem likes a wonderful idea! I will definitely check on it.


st lucia for sale profile image

st lucia for sale 5 years ago from St Lucia

Fantastic Hub. I'd love to visit Venice one day!


daktari profile image

daktari 5 years ago

Beautiful presentation. Venice looks fantastic, as I'm sure it is.


happyexplorer profile image

happyexplorer 5 years ago from Mostly USA, sometimes elsewhere Author

Hi st lucia for sale and daktari,

Thank you! I write a lot about Venice. I always have a fantastic time visiting Venice. If you do go I'd love to hear about your trips!


paulrobert 5 years ago

Hi! will be goin to Venice in two days time with my girlfriend. wish me luck! thank you for the tips.will do my best to make our stay as romantic as i can.. i shall express my views soon!


happyexplorer profile image

happyexplorer 5 years ago from Mostly USA, sometimes elsewhere Author

Hi paulrobert! I'm sure you'll have a wonderful time with your girlfriend - Venice is simply gorgeous! I'm looking forward to hearing from you! Safe trip!


Alexis 5 years ago

Hi.... i'm going to Venice and all other parts in Italy in two weeks. I was there once but didn't enjoy it all that much but after reading this its given me lots of ideas so i decided to go back

Thanks for writing this article!! :)


Alexis 5 years ago

here's a good pic of Venice


happyexplorer profile image

happyexplorer 5 years ago from Mostly USA, sometimes elsewhere Author

Hi Alexis! I'm really glad that this hub inspired you to go back! Thanks for sharing the photo - stunning!


danfresnourban profile image

danfresnourban 5 years ago from Fresno, CA

Excellent Hub. I want to visit Piazza San Marco and go for a ride in a gondola. The closest I have gotten to that was in Las Vegas


happyexplorer profile image

happyexplorer 5 years ago from Mostly USA, sometimes elsewhere Author

Thank you danfresnourban. Piazza San Marco is splendid! Who knows? A Venice trip might be just around the corner. :-)


applejuic3 profile image

applejuic3 5 years ago from San Diego, CA

what a beautiful place. this hub is going into my bookmarks and will help serve as a guide for when i travel here one day.


happyexplorer profile image

happyexplorer 5 years ago from Mostly USA, sometimes elsewhere Author

Hi applejuic3! I'm glad that you find this hub useful for your future travel plans. Share with us your experience when you you do so. :-)


marika cortis 5 years ago

hi i am coming venice nxt week can u pls tell some famous and nice places to visit and some good medetireean restaurant pls?

and what is cichette?


cressinia profile image

cressinia 5 years ago

Just like to add Gallerie dell'Accademia to your list - some fabulous renaissance artwork, especially the paintings by Bellini.


happyexplorer profile image

happyexplorer 5 years ago from Mostly USA, sometimes elsewhere Author

Hi cressinia!

Thanks for adding to the list - Bellini artwork is indeed amazing!


smiley 5 years ago

this has helped me a lot


happyexplorer profile image

happyexplorer 5 years ago from Mostly USA, sometimes elsewhere Author

Hi Marika!

You'll surely love Venice! Do not miss out on the must see sights like The Rialto Bridge and The Bell Tower. Cichette are small tapas-like portions such as a stuffed tomato or some mortadella on a toothpick - you must try it.


Hey..... D here... 4 years ago

HI! I would like to know whether August is an off season time or season time.

Thank you.


happyexplorer profile image

happyexplorer 4 years ago from Mostly USA, sometimes elsewhere Author

Hi D - August is a very popular time to visit Venice, but it's not my favorite. August can be quite crowded. If your travel plans aren't tied to a school schedule, I'd prefer to travel in spring or fall. However, Venice is lovely in any season, so if August is when you can travel, then go for it! (-:


CassyLu1981 profile image

CassyLu1981 4 years ago from Spring Lake, NC

Love your hub :) I too have written a hub on Venice, it's an amazing place to see! Voted up and shared :)


Patricia 2 years ago

Hello everyone! I loved this hub, it's so interesting!

I want to give an advice to those who visit Venice for the first time: try a food/wine tour on the first day of your vacation. I found some positive reviews in many forums about this wine tour in Venice www.venicewinetour.com so I decided to book it during my last vacations in Venice. I can safely saythat I was not disappointed, food and wine were just delicious and it was a great way to discover Venice. We did the classic wine tour (5 bars+gondola) which took us off the tourist track to restaurants and bars where the locals go. I cannot recommend this tour highly enough and at the price it is fantastic value.

Highly, highly recommended!!

Pat

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