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Known as the City of Canals, Venice is a hub for lovers; lovers of food, lovers of art, lovers of wine, and just in general, lovers! We guarantee you’ll find some fantastic attractions in Venice that will have you head over heels for the city and coming back for more. We here at Road Affair understand that trying to curate the perfect itinerary can be difficult, which is why we have done the heavy lifting and carefully created this list of the best things to do in Venice. This way, you can spend more time working on your Italian and packing rather than scouring the internet for attractions.
Recommendation: If you’re planning on seeing multiple attractions in Venice, we highly recommend you purchase the Venice City Pass. This pass will give you access to several of the city’s attractions, churches, and museums all for one low price. You can also add a transportation pass to it for unlimited transport (including water taxi) in Venice.
- 1 Explore Doge’s Palace and the Bridge of Sigh
- 2 Visit the Basilica di San Marco and San Marco Square
- 3 Ride a Gondola Boat Down the Grand Canal
- 4 See How Murano Glass is Made
- 5 Check Out the Rialto Bridge and Rialto Market
- 6 Explore the Artworks at the Gallerie dell’Accademia
- 7 Spend Some Time in Burano
- 8 See Tintoretto’s Masterpieces at the Scuola Grande di San Rocco
- 9 See Where Venice Began on Torcello
- 10 Take a Day Trip to the Dolomites
- 11 Catch a Concert at Vivaldi Church
- 12 Take a Prosecco Wine Tour
- 13 Indulge in Italian Foods With a Cooking Class or Food Tour
- 14 Go For a Stroll at Giardini della Biennale
- 15 Explore the Old Shipyard of Arsenale di Venezia
- 16 See Titian’s Works at the Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute
- 17 Experience the Opera at Teatro La Fenice
- 18 Appreciate Venetian Gothic Architecture at the Galleria Giorgio Franchetti alla Ca’ d’Oro
- 19 Admire the Marble at the Santa Maria dei Miracoli
- 20 Enjoy Contemporary Artworks at Ca’ Pesaro International Gallery of Modern Art
Explore Doge’s Palace and the Bridge of Sigh
Doge’s Palace is easily one of the top tourist attractions in Venice. This ornate Venetian-Gothic style palace built in 1340 was once the residence of the Doge of Venice – a powerful authoritative figurehead that was a symbol of the Republic of Venice and represented that state and state’s matters on an international scale. Today, tourists can explore the former palace (now a museum) and view several beautiful frescos and sculptures, along with grand chambers and the famous Bridge of Sigh. It’s worth taking a moment to reflect on the covered bridge as it was the final bit of daylight and the last bit of Venice prisoners would see before heading into the prison on the other side of the canal. Local lore says that prisoners would sigh at the last glimpse of their beautiful city, thus, giving the bridge its nickname. Writer Lord Byron popularized the bridge’s English nickname and the bridge itself in the 19th century when visiting the city.
Doge’s Palace is located in Piazza San Marco, right beside the Basilica di San Marco. Those planning on visiting the Basilica as well should consider purchasing this combo tour ticket with skip-the-line access to both Doge’s Palace and the Basilica di San Marco. It also includes a knowledgeable guide through both attractions so visitors can get the most bang for their buck! For more information about the different ticket options available, check out our guide on how to buy tickets to Doge’s Palace.
Visit the Basilica di San Marco and San Marco Square
San Marco Square, also known as Piazza San Marco, is home to several Venice attractions, including the Basilica di San Marco. This landmark cathedral is a must-see in Venice for tourists as it is easily one of the most beautiful cathedrals in Europe. Upon entering the Basilica di San Marco, visitors will be awe-struck by the lavish golden mosaics depicting the life of St. Mark the Evangelist. These gilded artworks cover about 85,000 square feet inside the atrium and took roughly 800 years to complete. Doge Domenico Contarini commissioned the church to be built back in 1063 after two Venetian merchants smuggled the remains of St. Mark the Evangelist (one of the four apostles) out of Alexandria in 828 CE. The remains of St. Mark are held in a tomb directly under the main altar and visitors are permitted to visit the crypt. Visitors can also explore St. Mark’s Campanile, also known as the Bell Tower. It is the large tower situated beside the Basilica di San Marco and features an outstanding observation platform at the top. Visitors should make sure to choose a ticket option that includes the tower if they wish to enjoy the view from the top!
Tourists should purchase tickets to the Basilica di San Marco well in advance to avoid long lineups. We recommend booking a guided tour of the cathedral as there is so much history to learn and artwork to explore that a guided tour will allow visitors to learn more about what they are seeing. With a guided tour ticket, tourists will also get to skip the line.
Ride a Gondola Boat Down the Grand Canal
Taking a gondola ride through the narrow canals is one activity in Venice that is not to be missed. While the aristocracy during the Middle Ages preferred horses and carriages to boats, in the 1300s horses were banned from the streets of Venice. This forced the rich to turn to boats to make their way through Venice and to the lagoons and nearby islands. Couple this with the fact that Venice is now a protected UNESCO World Heritage Site, and you, too, will find gondolas are your best way to explore the city. Each gondolier in the city owns their own boat and works on a flat rate system with other drivers, so there isn’t any haggling to be done when looking for a gondola ride. The best time of day to take a gondola tour is in the early morning or at night, as daytime hours tend to have higher traffic on the canals. There are several gondola pick-up stations throughout the city, with the most popular near Saint Marco Square. If you want to avoid the queues for a ride, consider trying a less popular gondola pier, like San Palo, the Jewish Ghetto, or Campo San Barnaba. You can also avoid wait times by booking your gondola ride in advance online.
See How Murano Glass is Made
The island of Murano, located a 10-minute boat ride from the main island of Venice, is home to the famed Murano glass. This beautiful and colorful glass is quite famous and is rooted in a 1000-year-old glass-blowing tradition that has been perfected by artisans on the island of Murano. What sets this Venetian glass apart is the minerals added to the liquid mixture, which gives the glass its intricate design and vibrant colors. You can see how this special glass is made only on the island of Murano, but you can purchase Murano glass on the main island in Venice. We highly recommend spending a day or half a day exploring Murano and experiencing a glass-blowing demonstration. There are a few different places to see glass blowing on the island, like the Ellegi Murano Glass Factory, Ferro & Lazzarini Glass Factory, and Original Murano Glass OMG Factory and Showroom (by appointment only). You can learn even more about the history and craft at the Glass Museum Murano. Other attractions on Murano include the Murano Lighthouse and Basilica dei Santi Maria e Donato, a landmark 7th-century church said to house the bones of a dragon slain by Saint Donatus of Arezzo.
You can opt to travel and explore the island on your own or as part of a guided tour from Venice. There are several tour options to Murano from Venice that include transportation and a glass-blowing demonstration or you can even couple a full-day trip to Murano with other nearby islands like Burano and Torcello.
Check Out the Rialto Bridge and Rialto Market
A visit to the Rialto Bridge is a must for tourists as it is the oldest and most famous bridge that arches over the Grand Canal. The bridge was a wonder of engineering during the Renaissance period and is still strikingly beautiful to this day. While a visit to the Rialto Bridge is essential, so is a visit to the nearby Rialto Market. This authentic Venetian market is the oldest in the city, with references to the market dating back nearly 1000 years. It was once a hub for fishermen to sell their daily catch and for vendors to peddle spices and rice from the East during the Middle Ages. Today, it is similarly a hub for fresh produce and meats which is frequented by locals and restaurant owners looking to purchase the best produce for their business. This isn’t a market that you’ll souvenir shop in, but it does offer a great glimpse into what life was and is still like in Venice for locals. If you want to taste some traditional Venetian specialties, consider booking this guided food tour of Rialto Market.
Explore the Artworks at the Gallerie dell’Accademia
If you’re an art enthusiast visiting Venice, then you need to plan a visit to the Gallerie dell’Accademia. This stunning art museum boasts Venetian art ranging from the 1200s to the 1700s, showcasing famous local artists such as Canaletto, Bellini, Tintoretto, Tiepolo, and Titian. You’ll find artworks from the Byzantine and Gothic periods all the way to Renaissance masterpieces.
In 2015, the Gallerie dell’Accademia partnered with other top-notch museums in the area to create the Dorsoduro Museum Mile. This is a circuit route just over a mile long that will take you from the Medieval and Renaissance works in the Gallerie dell’Accademia to the contemporary works in Punta della Dogana. The route also includes the Palazzo Cini Gallery and the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, covering a total of 800 years of artwork. A ticket bought at one of these museums will give you a reduced ticket price at the other three participating museums on the Dorsoduro Museum Mile. Your museum ticket can be used up to seven days after the initial purchase date to receive discounted tickets at the museums.
Spend Some Time in Burano
This beautiful fishing island covered in bright, colorful houses is the ideal day trip destination for those in Venice. Burano is not only known for its vibrant homes but also for lace work and traditional Venetian masks. You could easily spend a day exploring attractions like the Lace Museum and sampling exquisite fresh seafood in one of the many restaurants. What’s really cool about Burano is that once you’re there, you don’t need a boat to get off the island. Burano is connected to Isola Mazzorbo by a bridge, so you can also explore the beauty of another island without having to catch another boat. There are several guided tour options from Venice to Burano, including tours that group some of the most popular lagoons in the area in a full-day excursion.
See Tintoretto’s Masterpieces at the Scuola Grande di San Rocco
If you’re a fan of Italian artists, specifically Tintoretto, then you need to visit the Scuola Grande di San Rocco. This 16th-century art museum boasts some of Tintoretto’s masterpieces, like the Crucifixion, painted in 1565 and widely renowned as one of the most dramatic versions of the crucifixion of Christ in Christian religious art history. There are over 50 of Tintoretto’s most important works inside the museum, along with works by other notable artists like Giorgione, Titian, and Tiepolo. You can easily spend two hours exploring the two floors of artworks which also includes a treasury and a ceramics room!
See Where Venice Began on Torcello
The island of Torcello holds the history of the very beginning of what we now know as Venice. Torcello was the first island to be settled in the Venice Lagoon. In 452 AD, refugees from the Roman city of Altino sought refuge in the lagoon and islands as their home city was under threat of barbarian invasion. Local lore says that when the people of Altino heard of a Germanic invasion, the Bishop of Altino prayed for three days straight before hearing a voice guide him to the top of the church tower to see the stars. The stars were aligned like islands in a lagoon, and the Altinos took this as a sign that these islands were where they would find peace. They named the island Torcello, which translates to “tower and sky”.
Today, a trip to the birthplace of Venice is a must for travelers as they can explore several beautiful artworks and buildings. Some of the most prevalent attractions on the island include the 7th-century Venetian-Byzantine Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta, the Church of Santa Fosca, the Museo Provinciale di Torcello, and Casa Museo Andrich. The population of the island is a whopping 15 people, which is ideal if you’re looking to escape the crowds and explore the nature and history of the Venice Lagoon ecosystem. You can make your own way to the island by water taxi or book a half-day or full-day trip to Torcello and the surrounding islands.
Take a Day Trip to the Dolomites
While the lagoons and islands in Venice are stunningly beautiful, visitors to Venice should take advantage of their proximity to the mountains and take a day trip to the Dolomite Mountains!
There is plenty to explore in the Dolomites, from quaint mountain villages to picturesque hikes and even an Olympic Village. There are several guided full-day tours and coach rides available to take to the Dolomites or tourists can rent a car and drive themselves. One of the most popular places to visit in the Dolomites is Cortina d’Ampezzo, located a two-hour drive from Venice Marco Polo International Airport. Here, tourists will find a range of activities and attractions, including cable car mountain rides, hiking to the turquoise waters of Lake Sorapis, and a Winter Olympic village and park. Cortina hosted the Winter Olympics in 1944 and 1956 and will host them again with cooperation from Milan in 2026. Those looking to head out for a day of riding powder can make their way to Piancavallo Ski Resort in Aviano or to Alpe del Nevegal. There are several activities in the Dolomites to consider booking, like sledding, private hiking experiences, or private driving tours.
Catch a Concert at Vivaldi Church
If you have any interest in classical music, you may be familiar with the name Antonio Vivaldi. Vivaldi, a Venice native, was a world-renowned Baroque composer and master violinist credited with helping to perfect the classical three-movement concerto. While music was Vivaldi’s passion, he left his passion behind at the age of 15 to become a priest. He graduated as an ordained priest at the age of 25 and came back to music, spending his life serving both his passion for god and for musical composition. While he wasn’t known to give Mass as a priest, he found the sweet spot of his two great passions in composing sacred vocal compositions and concerti for the church, royalty, orphan orchestras, and the public. Vivaldi worked and composed in Venice at the Church of the Pietà – Saint Mary of the Visitation, also known as the Church of Vivaldi. It is here in Venice that Vivaldi wrote his most famous piece, ‘The Four Seasons’.
Today, you can experience Vivaldi’s masterpieces being performed in the church where the great composer spent 40 years of his life. The Virtuosi Italiani Orchestra hosts concerts in Vivaldi Church several times a week where you can enjoy an evening of classical Baroque music in an awe-inspiring setting. You can purchase Vivaldi concert tickets here. If you’re interested in seeing the church but want to skip the concert, you can do so during opening hours for a small fee.
Take a Prosecco Wine Tour
Italy and wine go together like peanut butter and jelly, they are synonymous with each other! One shouldn’t miss the chance to sample regional Italian wine, and Venice is no exception. The Veneto region is home to several popular wines like Pinot Grigio, Bardolino, Amarone, Soave, and Prosecco (here’s looking at all the Aperol Spritz lovers). Since Venice is so close to the rolling hills that supply these delicious grapes, you should definitely plan to spend a half-day or full-day visiting the wineries and sampling these outstanding wines.
This highly-rated, six-hour guided tour of the Prosecco region is the perfect day trip for those who want to sample some bubbly. The tour includes transportation to and from Venice, lunch, two wine tastings, a wine production tour, and a vineyard tour. If you don’t have the time to book a winery day trip, don’t sweat it. You can also book this 40-minute Prosecco and wine-tasting experience!
Indulge in Italian Foods With a Cooking Class or Food Tour
Great wine and good food, can you really ask for much more on a holiday? Well, why not take your taste buds to the next level and join in on a food tour or cooking class in Venice! The city is known for its seafood delicacies but also for its own Venetian spin on classic Italian dishes. The best way to experience Venice’s cuisine is with a food tour. You can choose from several foodie tour options, including a guided tour of the Rialto Market with lunch and wine, a guided tour of Venice’s street food, or this guided food tour with Chicchetti dishes and wine.
Another great option is to learn how to make these savory Italian dishes during a cooking class. There are several cooking classes in the city, but the best one depends on how much you want to be involved in the cooking process and what you want to learn. If you want to learn to make homemade pasta and tiramisu, then check out this small group cooking class which covers how to make two kinds of pasta and tiramisu from scratch. For those who want an authentic Italian cooking experience from market to table, then check out this guided tour of Rialto Market with a lunchtime cooking class. Another great option is this three-course meal cooked by a local. Not only will you get to learn the recipes from a local’s family cookbook in their Venetian home, but you’ll also be encouraged to help out and learn more about the care that goes into preparing such good Italian food!
Go For a Stroll at Giardini della Biennale
If you’re on the hunt for free things to do in Venice then make your way to Giardini della Biennale. This beautiful public park is situated right on the water and offers a spot for visitors to enjoy the warm weather in a beautiful setting. The gardens feature several art installations as well, making it ideal for those wanting to go on a stroll. If you want to go the extra mile, you can purchase a ticket to the garden’s art museums and spend an afternoon strolling in and out of the mini-museums. The gardens and original Central Pavilion were first started by Napoleon at the beginning of the 19th century. Today, the exhibits have expanded and now include 29 small pavilions representing the artwork and artists of various countries. Each year, there is a new theme in the pavilions!
Explore the Old Shipyard of Arsenale di Venezia
Arsenale di Venezia is a must-see for those sightseeing in Venice. Seeing as Venice is an island, it stands to reason that shipbuilding and naval strength were very important for the Venetians, for both their protection and trade. The Arsenale di Venezia occupies a large area of the city, and during the pre-industrial era, it employed roughly 2,000 workers a day. In fact, it was the largest pre-industrial revolution complex in all of Europe! The 110-acre complex is where all of the Venetian Republic (also known as La Serenissima) boats were built and it was quite an impressive empire. During the height of La Serenissima, these boats and the boat-building business accounted for a majority of Venice’s wealth and power. However, much of the Arsenale was destroyed during the Napoleonic conquest of the area in 1797. After heavy destruction of the Arsenale, half of it was later rebuilt and turned into a naval base, which is still in use today.
Today, tourists can explore this historic site and learn more about the importance of ships in Venice at the Museo Storico Navale di Venezia. While only some parts of the Arsenale di Venezia are open to the public, it’s still well worth a visit to see the architecture and sheer vastness of the area! If you’re interested in learning more about the Arsenale and the surrounding area on a tour, then check out this two-hour guided tour of the Castello District.
See Titian’s Works at the Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute
You might recognize this gorgeous canal-side church as it is easily one of the most photographed buildings in the city. The Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute is located on the Dorsoduro Peninsula and features an iconic dome visible from most of Venice. This beautiful Venice attraction is so important to the city as it was constructed to celebrate the end of the last great plague in 1630, which subsequently killed a third of Venice’s population at the time. The building is an original masterpiece by Venice native Baldassarre Longhena, who played a major role in Baroque architecture in Venice during the 17th century. While the interior of the church is quite humble (by Venetian standards), the real treasures inside are the artworks. You’ll find several paintings by famed Venice artists like Titian and Tintoretto, but the most famous inside is Tintoretto’s “Marriage at Cana,” located in the sacristy.
Experience the Opera at Teatro La Fenice
If you’re a fan of classical music or the opera, then consider catching a show at the famous Teatro La Fenice. La Fenice, which translates into the Phoenix, was quite appropriately named seeing as the building has been rebuilt from ashes twice in the last 200 years. This incredible concert hall is worth the rebuild as even today it’s known as one of the top places in the world to experience an opera or classical music show. The main auditorium seats 1000 people and boasts an ornate interior with stunning stuccos and golden accents. While catching a show here is the best move you can make, you may not have time in your itinerary to see one. In that case, you can still visit Teatro La Fenice and learn more about its design and history with an audio guided tour.
Appreciate Venetian Gothic Architecture at the Galleria Giorgio Franchetti alla Ca’ d’Oro
If you’re on the lookout for a place to visit in Venice to see jaw-dropping Gothic architecture, then Galleria Giorgio Franchetti alla Ca’ d’Oro needs to be added to your itinerary. This 15th-century palace was designed by Bartolomeo Bon, who also designed the Doge’s Palace, in an extravagant and detailed Venetian Gothic style. Today it is an incredible site to see and is considered one of only two perfect examples of Venetian Gothic architecture in the city (the other being Doge’s Palace). You not only can admire this masterpiece from the outside, but you can purchase a ticket to explore the Renaissance antiquities inside as it is now a museum. The Galleria Giorgio Franchetti at Ca’ d’Oro has a breathtaking interior with marble staircases and grand columns, along with an impressive collection of works by Titian, Guardi, Tintoretto, Carpaccio, Bordone, Van Eyck and Van Dyck. There are also other rooms dedicated to Venetian ceramics and tapestries, as well as an incredible courtyard and a palace balcony that offer unmatched views of the Grand Canal.
Admire the Marble at the Santa Maria dei Miracoli
Santa Maria dei Miracoli, also known as the “marble church”, offers a very different experience to the ornate styles of the other churches in Venice. Unlike the opulent Baroque designs of many of the other basilicas, architect Pietro Lombardo made his mark by creating this Early Renaissance masterpiece of matched marble patterns coupled with a golden barrel-vaulted ceiling. The result is an awe-inspiring design that is sure to take your breath away. Inside the church, the golden dome accents the gray and coral marble walls, which follows much of the same design as the outside. It’s almost paradoxical to see the flat walls inside, as there is a simplicity to the eye but also an intricacy to the marble designs that will leave you staring up at the walls and ceiling for so long you might get a sore neck!
Enjoy Contemporary Artworks at Ca’ Pesaro International Gallery of Modern Art
If you’re wondering what to do in Venice on a rainy day, then consider browsing the contemporary works at Ca’ Pesaro International Gallery of Modern Art. This fantastic art museum features several modern paintings and sculptures from both international and local artists all set in a stunning 17th century palace designed by Venetian Baroque master Baldassarre Longhena. The museum boasts works by several notable artists, such as Warhol, David Hockney, Kandinsky, and Klimt.
Well, there you have it, all the best things to do in Venice! All you have to do now is narrow down which of these outstanding attractions you can fit into your itinerary!