10 Best Things to Do in Venice

Venice - What is it Famous For?

Venice is known as one of the world's most beautiful and romantic cities, with good reason. Its skyline is composed of rows of magnificent historical palaces and tall church towers, while the gentle waves of its lagoon buzz with maritime life that dates back centuries.

Slow evening gondola cruises along the Grand Canal, or kissing under a Venetian bridge, are high on the bucket lists of many couples, but the city's not just for lovers. The "City of Water" appeals to all, owing much to its collection of gorgeous spots like St. Mark's Square, which served as the backdrop for two James Bond movies. Here are our favourite things to see and do in this amazing city.

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St. Mark's Square

Take in Venice's iconic cityscape at Piazza San Marco
St. Mark's Square

Piazza San Marco is one of the world's most beautiful public squares. St. Mark's Basilica, the Campanile bell tower and the Doge's Palace are all close by. Patio cafés and restaurants surround San Marco, from where you can enjoy the mesmerising view over a cappuccino or glass of wine. The food here to be on the expensive side, so maybe don't stay for lunch. However, if you're in for the experience, check out Caffe Florian, one of the world's oldest cafés. No matter how tempting, don't throw your leftover crumbs to the pigeons in the square - you'll be fined!

  • Location: Piazza San Marco, Venice, Italy

San Marco's Campanile

Climb up the bell tower for stunning panoramas
San Marco's Campanile

The Campanile (bell tower) of St. Mark's Basilica, dominates the skyline of its piazza. Towering 90 metres over the square, you can admire Venice's superb cityscape and lagoon from above. Come early in the morning to beat the crowds, but expect long queues in summer. For around €8, a lift takes you to the top. Cover your ears when the five large bells chime overhead at each turn of the hour - they can be deafening! It's also a good idea to wear something warm, as it can get nippy at the top.

  • Opening Hours: Daily from 9.45am to 7pm
  • Location: Piazza San Marco, Venice, Italy
  • Tel: +39 (0)041 270 8311

Gondola Rides

Cruise the Grand Canal, to a Gondolier's barcarolle
Gondola Rides

Gondola rides can seem cheesy and a bit touristy, but everyone seems to have a photo or selfie taken with a gondolier and the canal in the background! Rides aren't cheap, though. Bargain upfront, but expect to settle no less than €80 for your 40-minute ride (as a family or group, a single gondola can carry up to 6). Evening rides are around €100. There are many starting points around the canal. Popular spots include the waterside of the Doge's Palace and Riva del Vin near the Rialto Bridge.

  • Opening Hours: Daily from 10am to 7pm
  • Location: Traghetto di Riva del Vin, Venice, Italy

Doge's Palace

Marvel at Venetian Gothic architecture and heavenly painted rooms
Doge's Palace

The Doge's Palace houses a maze of rooms richly decorated in gold-painted panels and full-sized Renaissance paintings. From St. Mark's Square, enter this Venetian Gothic palace via the ornate entrance near the waterfront. The magistrate's apartment features a giant world map by Titian, and the wondrous senate's hall is home to the world's largest oil painting, Il Paradiso by Tintoretto. After visiting the armoury and prisons, end your tour by crossing the famous Ponte dei Sospiri (Bridge of Sighs) - couples kiss under it to keep its famously romantic lore alive.

We recommend going for the 1-hour special 'secret itineraries' tour, available in English for around €20. It offers access to locked areas, private rooms and secret chambers.

  • Opening Hours: April - October: daily from 8.30am to 6pm, November - March from 8.30am to 4:30pm
  • Location: Piazza San Marco, Venice, Italy
  • Tel: +39 (0)041 271 5911

Rialto Bridge

Experience a unique shopping walk over the Grand Canal
Rialto Bridge

Ponte de Rialto (the Rialto Bridge) is one of Venice's landmark footbridges. It crosses over the Grand Canal, where you can enjoy a great view from its portico. Uniquely, both sides of the portico are lined with tiny boutiques selling fashion items and trinkets like Venetian blown glass and jewellery. A more vibrant shopping scene awaits at the Mercati di Rialto open market at the bridge's base. It can get very crowded. The bridge is most beautiful from a gondola or vaporetto ride, especially in the evenings.

Get there earlier to beat the crowds. While you're there, don't forget to visit the Chiesa San Giacomo di Rialto, a beautiful small church that's right off the Rialto Bridge and which is free to visit.

  • Location: Sestiere San Polo, Venice, Italy

Try Traditional Venetian Cuisine

Enjoy the best risotto in Venice at Trattoria da Romano
Try Traditional Venetian Cuisine

You can't say you've visited Venice without trying out the traditional food. Looking for an authentic spot that's also atmospheric? Enter the fisherman's island of Burano (take vaporetto no. 12 from Venice). Burano's famous for traditional Venetian seafood, with must-tries that include the risi e bisi pea risotto. Trattoria da Romano, a classic family-run traditional restaurant, is known as among Venice's best places for its risi di go (fish risotto) and other traditional Burano specialties. Meals are from about €36.

  • Opening Hours: Monday - Saturday: 12pm to 3pm and 6:30pm to 11:30pm (closed Tuesdays), Sunday: 12pm to 3pm
  • Location: Via Baldassarre Galuppi, 221, Burano, Venice, Italy
  • Tel: +39 (0)041 730030

Vivaldi in Venice

Experience a classical orchestra at Chiesa Santa Maria della Pieta
Vivaldi in Venice

When you've seen some of Venice's best sights, it's worth experiencing the sounds. As the birthplace of the famous Italian Baroque composer and violinist, Venice features different tribute concerts and orchestras to Antonio Vivaldi. They're hosted at palaces and churches, the likes of Palazzo delle Prigioni, Palazzo Barbarigo Minotto, and Chiesa di San Vidal. However, the most appropriate would be Chiesa della Pieta - nicknamed "Vivaldi's Church" - where the maestro worked and lived. It's 350 metres east from Doge's Palace. Tickets are around €23. Check with your hotel concierge for the latest show schedules at the Chiesa della Pieta.

  • Opening Hours: Daily from 8.30pm
  • Location: Castello 3701, Calle della Pietà, Venice, Italy
  • Tel: +39 (0)041 5222 171

San Giorgio Maggiore

Capture superb panoramas over Venice - minus the crowds!
San Giorgio Maggiore

Hoping to escaping Venice's common crowds? The island of San Giorgio Maggiore is a great daytrip that's around 5 minutes by the no.2 vaporetto from Piazza San Marco. Its skyline is dominated by the basilica of the same name, built around the 16th century, with a campanile (bell tower) that you can take a lift to the top for €6. Many consider the views from San Giorgio Maggiore's campanile as better than St. Mark's. It's best avoid visiting at noon, though, or you'll have to bear the long, ear-piercing chimes from the 9 low-hanging bells marking the hour.

  • Opening Hours: Daily from 9am to 6.45pm
  • Location: Isola San Giorgio Maggiore, Venice, Italy
  • Tel: +39 (0)041 522 7827

Waterfront Dining

Enjoy romantic fine dining over the Venetian waterfront
Waterfront Dining

Complete your visit to Venice with a fine waterfront dining experience. There are plenty of options along the waterfront promenade right off the Piazza San Marco. For fine settings with panoramic views over the lagoon, as well as magical sunsets over the island of Giudecca, Riviera tops the lists. The impressive view from the table setups over their long boat docks go well with their variety of traditional and contemporary Venetian dishes. Consider their 7-course tasting menu with the chef's personal selections, from about €100. Whatever you try, don't miss their - cercami sù, a mouth-watering tiramisu with a twist.

  • Opening Hours: Friday - Tuesday: from 12.30pm to 3pm and from 7pm to 10.30pm
  • Location: Fondamenta Zattere Al Ponte Longo, Venice, Italy
  • Tel: +39 (0)041 522 7621

Taste Venetian Wines with Cicchetti

Enjoy fine Italian wines at Venice's oldest wine bar
Taste Venetian Wines with Cicchetti

You can enjoy great wine tastings at Venice's oldest wine bar. The bar is 150 metres northwest of the Rialto Bridge. Step inside, and you'll find a warm, old school Italian cantina vibe with a good selection of local wines on display. Old barrels bear labels of Moscato, Pinot Bianco, Rosato and others (about €4 to €10 per glass). Their freshly made cicchetti (Venetian finger food) selections range from sardine-topped bruschetta to fish-stuffed meatballs, and go great with your wine.

  • Opening Hours: Monday - Friday: from 8am to 7.30pm, Saturday: from 8am to 5pm
  • Location: San Polo 429, Venice, Italy
  • Tel: +39 (0)041 522 5401
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