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10 Things to do in Venice

Updated on April 25, 2014

3 Nights in Venice - Plan your own itinerary

Venice was a last minute addition to our Italian itinerary. Many people I asked said not to bother, it's too crowded, too expensive, too smelly. I guess it can be those things if you visit in the middle of high season but our trip took place in late March. It was a little cold, a little rainy one day but it was not crowded and it did not smell!

I am so glad I did my own research and made up my own mind, because of all of the amazing places we saw on our 3 weeks in Italy, Venice is the one that captured my heart and that I hope to return to soon.

Below are the 10 things I enjoyed most in my short time in Venice. I would love to hear if you have any suggestions for my next trip.

I took all of the images on this page on my trip in March 2010. Please contact me if you would like permission to use any of them.

1. Ride the Grand Canal - At every time of day

We had 4 full days in Venice so we purchased a 3 day vaperotto pass on our arrival at the train station. It was really worthwhile for us as our hotel was just a few minutes from a stop on the Grand Canal and we planned to explore as many of the routes as possible. Start with the #1 slow vaporetto water bus on the Grand Canal. If you have a pass get off anywhere that takes your fancy. Try to ride this route in the very early morning when the sun is still rising and again after dark so you can see inside all the brightly lit windows of the grand homes at night.

"If you read a lot, nothing is as great as you've imagined. Venice is - Venice is better." Fran Lebowitz

2. Explore the Rialto Market - There were so many seafood varieties I had never seen before

We got up early the second morning of our visit to head to the Rialto Market. This was one time I wish I had rented an apartment; there was so much amazing food that I wanted to take home and try to cook. After an hour or so exploring here we bought some take away lunch and sat on the wharf in the sun relaxing, looking out over the water and watching life on the canal... It was one of my favourite mornings.

3. Visit Murano and Burano - See the glass and the pretty coloured houses

Burano the colorful island of venice
Burano the colorful island of venice

Our visit to these pretty islands coincided with out first cold and foggy day in Italy. Riding across the water to the islands through the fog was quite special, almost eerie, particularly when we passed some of the small deserted islands along the way; it felt like we were travelling back in time.

Arriving in Burano to all those lovely colored houses after such a dismal journey was a delight. We strolled around for a while, had lunch at a typical tourist restaurant just to escape the cold and headed back to the main island. I would love to do this again on a fine sunny day but we enjoyed seeing a different side to Venetian life regardless.

Addresses in Venice are almost meaningless to visitors. Ask for a landmark for your hotel or you may never find it!

4. Enjoy the afternoon bar food - The best place to do this is far, far from St Marks Square

bar food or cicchetti in Venice
bar food or cicchetti in Venice

I loved the cicchetti (chi-keh-tee) in Venice, so many little interesting morsels to try to wine by the glass. For this reason alone I would like to move to Venice permanently!

Each day on our walks we could keep our eyes peeled for interesting looking bars and cafes to head back to at night. I had taken a list of recommended places but I think this is probably a better way, discovering your own amazing place is so satisfying and finding a recommended one that has changed hands or upped prices and dropped standards since hitting the guidebooks is very disappointing.

Immerse yourself in the life of Venice

The City of Falling Angels
The City of Falling Angels

By the author of the Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, this book which centres of the fire at the La Fenice Opera House, brings the atmosphere and some of the eccentric characters of the city to life.

 

Look out for small

"osteria" or "trattoria"

rather than restaurants

5. Eat Squid Ink Pasta or Risotto - And let the black ink stain your teeth

Venice Restaurant
Venice Restaurant

I was determined to eat Squid ink pasta in Venice after reading it was a local specialty. It is my favourite dish at our local Italian restaurant in Sydney so I wanted to see how the real thing compared.

We walked from our hotel in the opposite direction to the crowds and discovered Trattoria dai Peochi after about 10 minutes. It was crowded with couples speaking Italian which I thought was a good sign and it turned out to be right. The meal was quite nice and not expensive - about 50 Euro for 2 courses, a glass of wine and a child's meal. The staff were friendly and I would be happy to eat there again

Take a walk along Fondamenta della Misericordia and you are bound to find something you like.

6. Visit some churches - Santa Maria della Salute

Santa Maria Della Salute Venice
Santa Maria Della Salute Venice

Santa Maria della Salute is the beautiful Baroque church on the junction of the Grand Canal that features prominently in many photos of Venice. In the photo above it is the dome in the middle of the image. It was built to thank God for ending the terrible plague of the 1600s and in English it's name means St Mary of Health.

The church has a great collection of masterpieces and is free to enter. There are lots of pictures of the interior of Santa Maria della Salute on the sacred destinations website.

It is a great spot to view St Marks from afar and also a good place to begin your walk exploring the Dorsoduro sestieri.

If you prefer to watch than read

Venice Revealed
Venice Revealed

This 4 part documentary is based on Peter Ackroyd's book Venice: Pure City. It is an interesting view into the history of this city via the arts. The 4 episodes are each centres on a theme, Architecture, Art, Music and Theater. It is perfect viewing for anyone planning a visit to Venice and despite sounded perhaps like an art history title is actually very entertaining.

 

7. Tour the Doges Palace - Known as Palazzo Ducale in Italian

We really did not have an itinerary for our visit to Venice and despite every guide book I had seen saying the Doges Palace was a must see I had not intended to visit as none of us was really that interested in Venetian art and history but after two days walking past this amazing building everyday I was captivated by the facade and felt I needed to go inside.

We visited in the late afternoon and purchased the English audio tour. My 12 yr old daughter and I loved it and I was really glad we went. The ticket included free entry into another museum opposite but we did not have time to visit that.

Unfortunately the Bridge of Sighs is under restoration and not visible from the outside though you can see it from the inside.

8. Stroll through the Jewish Quarter - See some of the real Venice

By the last day in the city we had walked all the main spots listed in the travel guides and taken many Vaporetti rides. Our pass had expired so we decided to stay in our sestieri (area) and walk to all the corners of it. Tucked away in the far corner near the train station is the Jewish Ghetto area. This place is where the word Ghetto originated.

In the 16th Century the leaders of Venice decided that rather than expelling all Jews from the city they would allow them to remain but confine them to one small area. As a result the houses here are much taller and narrower than other parts of Venice. The residents had no option but to build up and as they had limited finances many of the structures were made of wood.

You can read more about the Jewish history of Venice on this page of the Jewish Virtual History library We happily strolled around by ourselves but there are several walking tours that are said to be very interesting.

3 ways to get around the canals

1. Vaperetto (vah|poh|REHT|toh) - think of this as the public bus system - I loved it

2. Traghetto (trah|GET|toh) - A quick cheap way to directly cross the canal

3. Gondola - I decided this was too $$$ and too much like Disneyland for me.

9. Visit the lesser known squares - Campo Santa Margherita was my favourite

While it is nowhere near as attractive as St Marks Square Campo Santa Margherita was one of my favourite places to eat gelato and watch the world go by. It is less Disneyland and more real life Venice with washing hanging from windows, old ladies gossiping in trios and kids running around having fun.

Read more about Campo Santa Margherita

Another square worth a visit is the Campo Santa Maria Nova, not far from the beautiful Santa Maria dei Miracoli and home of a cute second hand market pictured above that we stumbled upon one afternoon.

The book that made me want to visit Venice

Venice from the Ground Up
Venice from the Ground Up

This book is a history and architectural guide to the city of Venice.

 

10. Get really lost - You never know what you might find

Venice Bookshop
Venice Bookshop

We found the book shop above in the Castello sestieri. Inside the books are arranged inside old gondola and there is plenty of humor in the design of the place. It's pretty messy and caused slight anxiety in this ex-librarian but I think it is worth a visit if you are walking in the area. It is called Libreria "Acqua Alta" and I have since discovered it has its own facebook page that has lots of great images of the inside of the shop. Mine are a little dark to share here. You can find it at Castello 5176b, Calle Longa Santa Maria Formosa. We enjoyed exploring this area behind St Marks Square immensely

Have you visited Venice?

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Need more help planning your Italian holiday? - here are some of my other pages on Italy

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Have you been to Venice? - Are you hooked on her magic like I am?

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    • piedromolinero profile image

      piedromolinero 5 years ago

      A nice review and advice on what to see and do in Venice. Very helpful for people planning their trip.

    • marigoldina profile image

      Heather B 5 years ago

      I loved "getting lost" in Venice. It was Carnival when we went so everyone was dressed up in the wildest costumes I'd ever seen.

    • KayeSI profile image

      KayeSI 6 years ago

      What an interesting lens. I've never been to Italy but it always intrigues me when I see a show that has a scene from there - especially Venice. Thanks for another chance for some fun "armchair travel" - perfect for a busy Sandwich Generation caregiver and grandmother.

    • RuralFrance profile image

      RuralFrance 6 years ago

      It's a wonderful place and everyone should go there once. Lovely lens :)

    • TeacherSerenia profile image

      TeacherSerenia 6 years ago

      I just have to bless this lens - it's my favourite city in italy. Thank you for telling us your experiences and for an excellent and wonderful lens

    • Lady Lorelei profile image

      Lorelei Cohen 6 years ago from Canada

      You are so very well traveled. Venice looks delightful and some of the food...kind of frightening to be truthful ;)

    • BlackHeart1 profile image

      Ricardo Montrose 7 years ago

      You made it!! You submitted this lens for the top Travel & Places Lens and you made it to the top 5 ... Be sure to go check this page: http://www.squidoo.com/top-5-travel-places on the first of the month to see what your position in the top 5 is and don't forget to tell your friends and visitors about it too

      Oh but it's not over!!! CONGRATULATION you also made it to the top 5 lens overall section too? check it out here http://www.squidoo.com/top-5-lens-overall on the first

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      I'd love to see Venice. Never have , but I wouldn't let naysayers dim my enthusiasm if I got the chance to go. I know I'd love it! I read a lot, and I love history, so needless to say, I've read a lot about Venice. It would be fascinating. Beautiful lens, with lots of information!

    • KathyMcGraw2 profile image

      Kathy McGraw 7 years ago from California

      I went to Venice with others and didn't like it at all. Maybe because normally I go by myself, or with someone that has similar likes that this trip wasn't my favorite. I was pertrified of all those pigeons in St. Marks Square landing on me, and didn't like the food at all. What I did like was the history, and going into the churches to see all the art. I heard they took all the gold out and replaced it with fake gold because the weight was too heavy and Venice was sinking :) Not sure if this is a Wives Tail or not though :) I sure wish I had seen some of the places you did...and I so agree that going off on your own and getting lost has the best treasures.

      Thank you for for showing me a different experience in Venice....maybe I will give it another shot.

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 7 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      I love walking around and explore the area not frequented by tourists.

    • TheLittleCardShop profile image

      Malu Couttolenc 7 years ago

      Loved Venice it was just what I dreamed it would be. An oh yes, get Really lost! Walking through streets and alleys you find lovely shops but of course we got lost several times.Would loe to back soon and stay there for at least a week to explore every single corner.

    • Richard-H profile image

      Richard 7 years ago from Surrey, United Kingdom

      It has been 40 years since I visited Venice. Saw it through a child's eyes back then, so would really like to take a trip back and appreciate it more now :)

    • Addy Bell profile image

      Addy Bell 7 years ago

      I loved that Number 10 on your list is to get lost. Venice is the best city for getting lost in; you discover so many things that way. Thanks for a great lens on one of my favorite cities!

    • profile image

      IndependentEuroTravel 7 years ago

      I have always wanted to go to Venice. Great lens :)

    • Wednesday-Elf profile image

      Wednesday-Elf 7 years ago from Savannah, Georgia

      I've never been to Venice, but your descriptions here make it sound like a fascinating place to visit. Thanks for the tour!

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