Best things to do in Venice: city guide and itineraries for the lagoon city

grand canal must see in venice

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It’s no secret that we love Venice! This city built on water captured our hearts and imaginations the very first time we caught sight of her elegant palazzos gazing over the Grand Canal. And we’ve returned many times to soak up the beauty and majesty of La Serenissima as the city is known to Italians.

You must visit Venice at least once in your lifetime, even if it is only for a day or two. This is our guide to the best things to do in Venice that includes information on where to stay and how to get there and navigate your way around. If you’re struggling with how to fit everything in to the time you have we’ve included suggested itineraries for one day in Venice or more.

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Top sights and things to do in Venice

best things to do in venice guide

Grand Canal

The main “street” or artery of Venice is the Grand Canal. This majestic waterway winds itself almost 4 kilometers in a reverse S shape through the center of the city – from Piazzale Roma to just before Piazza San Marco. Lining its shores, are over 170 buildings, many of them elegant palazzos (palaces) in traditional Venetian style dating from the 13th to 18th centuries. Surprisingly only 4 bridges cross the Grand Canal – the Rialto and Accademia bridges are the most famous and uniquely beautiful. 

We think this is one of the world’s most incredible sights. If you only do one thing in Venice, make it a trip down the Grand Canal. You can do this in style, riding in one of the traditional wooden water taxis. The best way to do this is on arrival from the airport where you can join either a

  • Shared water taxi transfer – €32 per person, kids under 6 ride free – click here to book

Or

  • Private water taxi transfer – €180 – €250 per group depending on luggage and passengers (up to 6) – click for details

If you’re on a budget or have more time you can take vaporetto (water bus) line 1 from Piazzale Roma all the way to Sant Elena. Make sure to make your way to the back of the vessel where the outside seating offers incredible uninterrupted views of the bridges, palazzos and gondolas weaving their way through boat traffic on the canal.

San Marco – St Mark’s Basilica and belltower

basilica di san marco - best things to do in venice italy

The glittering basilica of San Marco was founded 1200 years ago when Venetian merchants secreted the remains of the apostle Mark back from Alexandria in Egypt. Once the private chapel of the Doge (duke) of Venice, the basilica is full of treasures acquired during the Venetian Republic’s crusades as far east as Constantinople (Istanbul). 

Five Byzantine domes with gold mosaics depicting biblical scenes top the exterior of the basilica giving it a unique, eastern look. Above the main entrance a golden winged lion and a statue of St Mark surrounded by golden angels look down over the piazza below.

Inside there are 500 columns and a further 8,000 square feet of gold mosaics. Thousands of gems including pearls, rubies and emeralds adorn one of San Marco’s major treasures – the golden Byzantine altar screen known as The Pala d’Oro.

Even if you are not into churches or history then you need to take a peek inside this magnificent building. A visit only takes 10 minutes and it is an absolutely magnificent sight. The best time to visit the Basilica di San Marco is between 11:30 am to 12:45 pm on weekdays when the interior is illuminated. This also occurs during liturgical celebrations on Sundays and Holidays. At other times the lights are dimmed to protect the artwork. 

Entry to the basilica is free unless you wish to time your visit or skip the line. There are charges inside the church if you want to visit the museum (this gets you to the roof for amazing views) €5, Pala d’Oro €2 or Treasury €3. You can buy timed entry tickets here if you are visiting between 1 April and 1 November. You can buy timed entry tickets here if you are visiting between 1 April and 1 November.

Make sure to check the Basilica website for information on opening times and visiting information as this changes regularly.

TIP: The best way to see the Basilica and Palazzo Ducale is with a combined entry ticket and guided tour. This is the must do activity for first time visitors to Venice – click here for details

campanile san marco venice tourist attractions

For views of the city and basilica from above, visit the Campanile or bell tower opposite the basilica. The campanile was rebuilt in 1903 to the 16th century design after the original collapsed. A lift takes you right to the top and on a clear day you can see the Dolomites mountains in the distance. Lines for this attraction can be as long as 2 hours. You can book timed entry here if you are visiting between 1 April and 1 November (recommended).

Piazza San Marco

At the heart of Venice is Piazza San Marco, this huge open space is dominated by the ornate San Marco basilica and its campanile (belltower). Under the loggias that line the square are some of the most historic and beautiful cafes in all of Italy like Caffè Florian dating from 1720.

Cafe seating spills out onto the piazza and here patrons enjoy music and entertainment while they watch the passing parade of people and sip their coffee. Be warned though that a coffee in this idyllic setting could cost over €10. It’s definitely one of those times when you want to linger over your drink and soak up the atmosphere.

piazza san marco - places to go in venice

At the northern end of the piazza you will notice the striking astronomical clock tower topped with the symbol of Venice and St Mark., the winged lion. From underneath the clock tower, turn to face the lagoon and you’ll see the lion once again rising on its pedestal over the Piazetta, the smaller piazza off the main square leading to the water. 

You can easily spend an hour or two walking in this area enjoying one of the most beautiful squares in the world. 

TIP: If you are traveling with kids the square is one of the larger areas in the city to run around and let off steam. There are plenty of pigeons to chase too! 

Palazzo Ducale – Doge’s Palace

palazzo ducale doge's palace - top venice attractions

For centuries, the most important person in the Venetian Republic was the Doge (Duke). As the city rose to prominence thanks to its trading and seafaring skills, the office of the Doge became more powerful and amassed a wealth of riches. This fortune was held in the Palazzo Ducale that was converted into a museum in 1923 and is one of the most popular attractions in Venice today.

The building is a Venetian Gothic masterpiece in pink and white stone that has survived largely unscathed for over 500 centuries. While you can admire it from the outside, the interior is where you can see some of the city’s incredible treasures and learn about the might of the Republic of Venice.

Don’t miss the 24-carat Scala d’Oro (Golden Staircase) or the Sala delle Quattro Porte (Hall of the Four Doors) designed by Palladio. If you love history then a secret itineraries tour of the palace is a must, otherwise we highly recommend taking a combined tour of San Marco and the Palazzo Ducale – more information here

The Palazzo Ducale is open daily from 08:30am until at least 19:00pm November 1 to March 31 and until as late as 23:00pm in summer – more info

TIP: You can expect long lines at the Palazzo Ducale except in mid winter. Aim to visit when it opens and closes or around 12:30pm when many visitors take a break for lunch. If you are not taking a tour of the palace we recommend buying skip the line tickets

Bridge of Sighs

bridge of sighs - best things to see in venice

One of the most famous bridges in the world, the covered limestone Ponte dei Sospiri (Bridge of Sighs) connects the interrogation rooms of Doge’s Palace to the the New Prison across the Rio di Palazzo. Legend has it that prisoners crossing the bridge gave a lingering sigh as they glimpsed the beautiful city one more time before meeting their fate. It’s a nice story, but in reality there is very little to be seen from the bridge thanks to the barred windows.

If you wish to walk across the Bridge of Sighs you need to go inside the Palazzo Ducale. For views of this iconic Venetian landmark (often with gondolas gliding beneath it) walk to the Ponte della Paglia. 

Rialto Bridge

top sights in venice - rialto bridge

One of only four bridges spanning the Grand Canal, the Rialto Bridge is often described as the most beautiful. Made of white Istrian stone, the iconic bridge was built in the late 16th century to replace a wooden structure linking the districts of San Polo and San Marco. Today the Ponte di Rialto is one of the city’s most popular attractions.

The inner corridor of the bridge is lined with souvenir and jewellery stores while the outer corridors provide spectacular views down the Grand Canal. Get there early (well before 10am) to take the best photos. You’ll also find the city’s 700 year old fresh fish and fruit and vegetable market close to the bridge on the western bank of the canal. We love checking out the catch of the day here. 

Ride a gondola

gondola ride - top things to do in venice

Nothing says Venice more than a gondola. These sleek black vessels have been the traditional means of transport in Venice for centuries. In the 15th century there were over 10,000 gondolas on the canals rowed by skilled oarsmen whose techniques and traditions have survived many hundreds of years. These days there are less than 400 gondolas on the Venetian canals. 

You can take a ride on a gondola from many spots throughout the city. There is a set fee of €80 for a 25-30 minute ride for up to 6 people during the day and €120 in the evening after 19:00pm. and yes it is absolutely worth every last cent. 

Be friendly to your gondolier and they may sing you a song but if they don’t (it’s not included in the service), just relax and enjoy your ride along the stunning canals. Even when the city is heaving with visitors, a trip down the side canals can transport you to another time and place.

TIPS: It is not necessary to book your gondola ride in advance. Simply wander around the city and you will spy gondola stations. We prefer to go through the smaller side canals but if you want a ride on the Grand Canal you will need to go to one of the stations close by. Be prepared to wait at the stations near San Marco and Rialto. An alternative is to take one of 3 traghetti (gondola ferry services) across the Grand Canal. The 4 minute ride will cost you €2 per person – more info 

Burano, Murano and the outer islands of the lagoon

burano venice places to visit

There are 118 islands on the Venetian lagoon. While you will mostly spend your time in the six sestieri (districts) surrounding Piazza San Marco, it’s well worth taking the time to visit the islands of the outer lagoon. The most popular of these are:

  • Burano – known for its colorful houses and lace making traditions
  • Murano – famous for glass blowing techniques, this is the place to shop for glassware and jewelry 
  • Torcello – one of the oldest parts of Venice and a quiet island to wander and admire 

Visiting this part of Venice is a half day activity. Vaporetto 12 will take you to these islands from Fondamente Nove pier. The journey to Burano, the furthest island, takes around 45 minutes with departures every 20-30 minutes from 07:00am. Go early if you want to avoid the crowds and take photos particularly in Burano. Or for a very special experience you can stay at this small vineyard hotel on the island. 

We are hearing the vaporetto to Burano is becoming very busy so if you prefer, you could take a boat tour with a smaller number of people to the islands with no need to wait for the water bus – click here for details. It’s around the same price as a full day pass on the vaporetto.

Click here to read more about colorful Burano

Museums, galleries and culture in Venice

Venice is a cultural hub and it is well worth spending some time to explore its outstanding museums and galleries. Here is our pick of the best museums in Venice.

museums in venice italy

Gallerie dell’Accademia

Celebrating Venetian art up until the 19th century, the Gallerie dell’Accademia in Venice has an impressive collection that includes masterpieces by Carpaccio, Titian and Bellini and other treasures looted by Napoleon (who ruled Venice for 17 years) as he made conquests across Europe. The artwork is displayed in the buildings of the former Scuola della Carità and many remain in place as they have for centuries. 

The gallery also contains several pieces by Leonardo da Vinci including the priceless Vitruvian Man drawing. Due to its delicate condition it is not always displayed but will be exhibited from 17 April to 14 July 2019 as part of the commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the great artist’s death. 

Found in the Dorsoduro district, the gallery is open from 08:15am every day until 19:15 (except on Mondays when it closes at 14:00pm) The best time to visit is when it opens in the morning. A visit usually takes an hour and a half and costs €16.50 for adults – more information and skip the line tickets (recommended)

Gallerie dell’Accademia, Campo della Carita, 1050

Scuola Grande di San Rocco

The Scuola Grande di San Rocco is one of eight major confraternities that formed an important part of Venetian life from the 13th to 18th centuries. Home to one of the largest collections of masterpieces by Tintoretto, paintings depicting scenes from both the old and new testaments of the bible are found preserved in their original setting in the Sala dell’Albergo and the Sala Superiore. Some say the artwork in these two main meeting halls rivals that of the Sistine Chapel.  

The Scuola Grande di San Rocco is found at Campo San Polo and opens from 09:30 – 17:30 daily (except Christmas and New Year’s Day) – more information

Scuola Grande di San Rocco, San Polo, 3052

Peggy Guggenheim Collection

best art museums to visit in venice

If you need an antidote to the Renaissance splendour surrounding you in Venice, visit the Peggy Guggenheim Collection. This gallery is world renowned for its surrealist, futurist and abstract expressionist art pieces.

Here you will find pieces by Picasso, Jackson Pollock and Salvador Dalí alongside works by Rothko, Mondrian, Mirò and Chagall. The collection is a must see for modern art lovers. Make sure to step outside and wander through the sculpture garden and onto the terrace overlooking the Grand Canal.

The gallery is open daily from 10:00am – 18:00pm (except Tuesdays, and December 25). Tickets are €16.50 for adults – more information and skip the line tickets (recommended)

Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Palazzo Venier dei Leoni, Dorsoduro 701

Ca’Rezzonico

ca rezzonico - places to visit in venice italy

Ca’ Rezzonico is a museum dedicated to Venice in the 18th and 19th centuries that occupies an opulent palazzo on the Grand Canal. The palazzo has a fascinating history being home to many artists over the years including poet Robert Browning and jazz great Cole Porter.

Each room has been recreated to reflect its former grandeur including the ballroom with frescoes and chandeliers. There is a 19th century pharmacy filled with apothecary items displayed in their original wood paneled shop fittings.  Don’t miss the vintage gondola on the ground floor and views of the Grand Canal from the first floor. 

The museum is open from 10:30am to 16:30pm (and later in summer) everyday except Tuesdays.Tickets are €10 – more information

Ca’Rezzonico, Dorsoduro, 3136

La Fenice Theater

Teatro La Fenice - places to go in venice

Even if you are not an opera fan, a visit to the opulent La Fenice is a treat. The world famous opera house is known as Teatro La Fenice (The Phoenix) as it has literally been resurrected from catastrophic fires several times over the centuries. The latest reincarnation was reopened in 2003 to the 1837 design featuring gilt fixtures and extravagant chandeliers. 

No doubt, watching a performance on this stage would be a highlight of any trip to Venice. You can search for tickets on the theater website however the most popular shows and classic Italian operas sell out quickly. You can also visit La Fenice during the day for a tour of this remarkable building – more information.

Teatro La Fenice, Campo San Fantin, 1965

Exploring Venice beyond the obvious

explore the side canals - free things to do in venice

It’s becoming a bit of a cliché but it is indeed true that getting lost in Venice is the most rewarding activity you can do in the lagoon city. Meander the small laneways, cross one of the 400 bridges, step into quiet campos and sigh at the beauty around you. 

For me the best way to get lost is to be looking for something and get side tracked. Here are some favorite lesser known places in Venice to get you started.

San Giorgio Maggiore

sunset view from san giorgio maggiore venice - must see in venice italy

Across the lagoon from Piazza San Marco and the Palazzo Ducale, the island and church of San Giorgio Maggiore offer a wealth of treasures.

First and foremost, the views from the bell tower are breathtaking. Visit at sunset for scenes like the one above. There is a lift to the top and it is relatively quiet so you can enjoy the scenes without too much squash. Tickets for the belltower – €6 for adults

There is no charge to enter the church and it is well worth a visit. Designed by Venetian architect Andrea Palladio, it has two large paintings by Tintoretto to admire.

Also worth a visit is the Fondazione Giorgio Cini that occupies the former monastery on the island. This cultural institution carries out important work to preserve Venetian culture. Take a tour between 10:00am and 15:00 and discover three beautiful internal gardens, two impressive libraries and a glass museum. Tickets from €16 – more information

To reach San Giorgio Maggiore take vaporetto line 2 – departs from San Zaccaria near San Marco and Zattere in Dorsoduro

Libreria Acqua Alta

libreria acqua alta bookshop venice things to see

I’m not sure anyone ever buys anything at Libreria Acqua Alta – possibly the most unique bookshop in the world. Stock is piled high in old gondolas and a black cat lounges amongst well worn editions.

In the courtyard a staircase made of old books leads to a romantic view of a smaller canal, where, if you are lucky you will see a lone gondolier rowing in silence away from the crowds in Piazza San Marco. 

 

Libreria Acqua Alta, Calle Lunga Santa Maria Formosa, 5176b

Ponte de Chiodo

ponte chiodo - free things to do in venice

Visit the Cannaregio district to cross one of only two bridges in Venice without parapets or hand rails. Up until the 1700s this was the typical style of bridges in the city. Since then, balustrades have been added to all the bridges except this one and another on the island of Torcello.

The bridge spans the Rio di san Falice near where it merges into the Canale della Misericordia, and is a great spot for photos.

Ponte de Chiodo, Rio di san Falice, Cannaregio

Squero di San Trovaso

gondola workshop - what to do in venice italy

Squero di San Trovaso in the Dorsoduro district is a traditional Venetian shipbuilders yard dating back to the 17th century. It is only one of three remaining in Venice and the place where the 400 gondolas operating in the city go for repairs and maintentance.

You can only go inside the workshop as part of a group tour but for a unique vantage point visit  is from Osteria Al Squero [Dorsoduro, 943-944] across the Rio di San Trovaso canal on Fondamente Nani. Here you can sip a spritz and eat cicchetti while you watch the iconic vessels being lovingly repaired.

Squero di San Trovaso, Fondamenta Bonlini, 1097

Click here to discover more secrets of Venice

Special events in Venice

carnevale fun things to do in venice

Carnevale

Dating back to the 12th century, Carnevale is one of the most important annual events in Venice celebrating the period leading up to Lent in February. Throughout the city special events, concerts, parades and masquerade balls are held as part of the festivities. 

Tickets to the balls are highly sought after. If you are lucky enough to get one then you need to find a suitable costume. Of course the most important accessory for dressing up for Carnevale is a mask, one of the iconic symbols of Venice. 

Carnevale will be celebrated from the 15th to 25th of February in 2020 – see the official site for more information

TIP: Carnevale is peak visitor season in Venice with over half a million people visiting the city over 10 days. Be sure to book accommodation and tours early and prepare for higher prices

Biennale

venice biennale - venice top attractions

Every two years (odd numbered) Venice holds the important Art Biennale dedicated to contemporary visual arts. Countries from around the world present projects curated especially for the exhibition and showcased in their own pavilion within the main exhibition areas – the Giardini and at the Arsenale. An international exhibition by the Biennale overal curator can be seen at many of the beautiful palazzos across the city. 

Apart from the art, many of the venues are not open to the general public outside the Biennale and other major events so they are well worth visiting – in particular the Arsenale, former shipyards of the Venetian maritime republic.

The 58th International Art Exhibition, titled May You Live In Interesting Times, takes place from 11th May to 24th November 2019 – more information

Venice Film Festival

Held annually on the Venice Lido, the Venice International Film Festival is one of the most prestigious events in the cinema industry and seen as a launchpad for the Oscars. In recent years the festival has seen the world premieres of award winning films La La Land, Gravity and Roma as well as smaller international film productions.

During the festival, the coveted Leone d’Oro (Golden Lion) is presented to the winning film and contributing artist.

The festival will be held from August 28th to September 7th in 2019. For tickets and more information click here

Venetian traditions

Throughout the year you may be lucky to see some of the local festivities in Venice that have been running for centuries.

  • La Sensa – 1-2 June 2019 – celebrations of Venice’s special relationship to the lagoon  – rowing regattas, parades and historic Marriage of the Sea ceremony 
  • The Vogalonga – 9th June 2019 – huge rowing boat non competitive regatta on the Venetian lagoon – more info 
  • Festa del Redentore – 20-21 July – historic thanks giving celebration for deliverance from the Plague with fireworks show
  • Regata Storica – 2nd September 2019 – historic boating procession and regatta on the Grand Canal

Best tours of Venice

venice tours - cool things to do in venice

We love taking tours as you can relax and enjoy the city without constantly referencing a guide book. Here are our pick of the unique and fun tours to do in Venice 

City tours

If you have limited time in Venice, join a full or half day guided tour and let your guide show you the sights and highlights and tell you stories of this magnificent city

  • Roman Guy Venice in a Day – 6 hour small group tour with gondola ride – available Monday to Saturday. This tour covers all the highlights – San Marco, Palazzo Ducale, Rialto Bridge plus hidden gems. Use our code – UntoldItaly – for 5% offclick for more details
  • Half day Venice highlights tour – 3 hour tour including San Marco, Palazzo Ducale and a gondola ride. Tours available daily except Sunday in English, French, German and Spanish – click for details

Walking tours

San Marco and Palazzo Ducale tour

piazza san marco campanile must see places in venice

If you do just one tour in Venice then make it a combined tour of San Marco and the Palazzo Ducale. These tours cover the history and importance of these buildings to the city of Venice

Food tours

Trip to Burano, Murano and the outer islands

READ: Our review of tour booking site GetYourGuide

Suggested Venice itineraries

accademia bridge - sightseeing in venice italy

It is often said that the best thing to do in Venice is wander and get lost. That being said, make sure to visit some of the top sights too. That takes a little planning so here are some suggestions for making the most of your time in Venice. Our planned routes include stops for lunch and gelato along the way.

One day in Venice

If you only have one day in Venice, make sure you cover the highlights as well as some aimless wandering. 

  • Morning – Ride down the Grand Canal on vaporetto route 1, campanile views plus tour of Doge’s Palace and San Marco. Enjoy the atmosphere of Piazza San Marco  
  • Lunch –  Caffe Centrale Venezia [Calle Piscina de Frezzaria] 
  • Afternoon – Stroll across the Accademia Bridge to the Gallerie dell’Accademia for an art fix or continue your wandering through the Dorsoduro district stopping for a gondola ride on your way to the Rialto Bridge. 
  • Gelato stop – GROM – Campo San Barnaba
  • Dinner – Cicchetti at Cantina Do Mori [San Polo, 429] or romantic dining at the oldest restaurant in Venice Poste Vecie [San Polo 1608,Rialto Mercato, Calle de le Beccarie]

TOUR SUGGESTION: See the highlights of Venice in day on a popular small group tour with the fun expert guides from the Roman Guy. The tour includes skip the line tickets and guided tour of the Doge’s Palace and San Marco plus a gondola ride. For more information click here *5% off this tour with our code – UntoldItaly

2 day Venice itinerary

things to do in venice in 2 days

Day one

  • Early morning – Campanile views, Piazza San Marco plus tour of Doge’s Palace and San Marco. Enjoy the atmosphere of Piazza San Marco  
  • Lunch –  Caffe Centrale Venezia [Calle Piscina de Frezzaria] or Bacarando in Corte dell’Orso [San Marco, 5495]
  • Afternoon – Seek out the Libreria Acqua Alta, get lost in the back streets of San Marco and Castello and ride a gondola
  • Gelato stop – Pasticceria Gelateria Peter Pan [Castello, Calle Crosera, 3964]
  • Dinner – Cicchetti at Cantina Do Mori [San Polo, 429] or romantic dining at the oldest restaurant in Venice Poste Vecie [San Polo 1608,Rialto Mercato, Calle de le Beccarie]

Day two

  • Early morning – Visit the Scuola Grande di San Rocco for an art fix then make your way to Campo della Maddalena [allow at least half an hour to get there]
  • Late morning and lunchcicchetti and market tour at 11am
  • Afternoon – Gallerie dell’Accademia or Peggy Guggenheim collection for more art 
  • Gelato stop – Gelateria Nico [Fodamenta Zattere al Ponte Longo, 922]
  • Early evening – Catch the no 2 vaporetto to Giorgio San Maggiore for views of the lagoon as the sun dips below the horizon
  • Dinner – one last seafood feast at Osteria Al Ponte La Patatina [San Polo Calle del Scaleter, 2741] or canalside at Al Bacco [Cannaregio, 3054]

3 day Venice itinerary

Follow the advice above for the 2 day itinerary but add a half day excursion to Burano and the outer islands plus one last wander around Dorsoduro district where you can enjoy a cicchetti stop at Osteria Al Squero [Dorsoduro, 943-944] overlooking the last remaining gondola workshop.

READ: Why you need travel insurance for your trip to Italy

Where to stay in Venice

neighborhoods venice - best places to stay in venice

Venice is a small city that is easy to walk around and so staying somewhere central is not as much as an issue as in other cities in Italy. Each of the neighborhoods or sestieri have their own unique charm and benefits. You’ll need to decide whether you want the glamor of the luxury hotels lining the Grand Canal, the romance of properties overlooking the side canals or the convenience of staying near the transport hubs.

Here is a quick guide to the areas of Venice and where to stay. If you want the best hotel in Venice go straight to the Hotel Danieli for the ultimate in luxury, lagoon views and classic Venetian hospitality.

San Marco

The San Marco neighbourhood is where you find Venice’s main attractions – Piazza San Marco and Palazzo Ducale. This is the best place to stay if you’re only staying one night in Venice or want to be close to the action. 

  • Baglioni Hotel Lunaluxury 5 star property with private dock close to Piazza San Marco and vaporetto stops. This historic hotel is beautifully decorated, rooms are spacious and there is well regarded restaurant on site. Choose a room with canal or lagoon views for the ultimate Venetian experience – >click for latest prices
  • Splendid Venice – with modern interior design and an enviable position overlooking a small canal behind Piazza San Marco, this hotel is a luxe haven with a romantic rooftop terrace. Some rooms have canal views and you can arrive by water taxi to the private waterfront >click for latest rates
  • Hotel Flora – popular midrange family run hotel close to Piazza San Marco with a lovely garden. The hotel caters for families with larger room sizes, baby gear and the loan of a stroller if required – >click to view details
  • Hotel San Gallo – great value budget hotel just steps from Piazza San Marco with a delicious breakfast served daily – >click for latest prices

Click here to search for hotels in Venice on Booking.com

Near Santa Lucia train station

If you are only in Venice for one night and are planning an early or late departure, staying near the station is a good idea. This area is also best for budget travelers.

  • Canal Grande – charming boutique hotel with canal terrace and private dock very close to the main station and two vaporetto stops. Rooms have a classic design with modern comforts – >click here for rooms
  • Hotel Guerrini – popular budget hotel in a quiet area just 5 minutes walk from the station. Piazza San Marco is a pleasant 30 minute walk from the hotel – >click for details

Hidden gems

best hotels in venice

Looking for romantic canal views in a quiet, traditional neighborhood? We are always on the lookout for extra special places to stay in Venice. Here are our top three:

  • Ca Maria Adele – in an ideal position on the opposite side of the Grand Canal to Piazza San Marco (you can catch a gondola there!), some of the rooms at this sophisticated small hotel have fireplaces – click for latest rates
  • Venissa – enjoy the peace and beauty of the outer islands at this small boutique hotel set in a vineyard on Mazzorbo, a tiny island connected by bridge to Burano. Rooms are modern and spacious and offer excellent value – click for details 
  • Ai Mori d’Oriente – set on a pretty side canal in the Cannaregio district, this charming hotel is set in a 15th century palazzo. You can reach the main attractions easily on foot but look forward to relaxing after a long day in the elegant courtyard or guest reading room – click here to view

 Where to eat in Venice

seafood pasta - must do in venice italy

Eating in Venice is fun and delicious. Being a city built on the sea, Venetian cuisine is known for seafood dishes so be sure to try baccalà mantecato (smoked cod fish) and squid ink pasta.

What you may not know is that Venice has a unique eating culture centered around small bites called cicchetti. A little bit like Spanish tapas, these snacks are eaten at bars and washed down with a small glass of wine known as an ombra. You can read all about cicchetti and Venetian food culture in this article.

Top 3 bars for cicchetti

We could happily spend a week munching our way around the cicchetti bars of Venice. Here are some favorite spots to try.

  • Ostaria Dai Zemei [San Polo – Calle del Scaleter, 1045/B] – fun place to eat close to the Rialto bridge. The best place to try crostini (slices of toasted bread with toppings). They do tasty polpette (meatballs) too.

  • Osteria Al Squero [Dorsoduro, 943-944] – order a plate and aperol spritz and make your way outside to enjoy your bites by the canal. You can view a gondola workshop on the other bank. It doesn’t get much more Venetian than this.

  • Bacarando in Corte dell’Orso [San Marco, 5495] – a little bit tricky to find but well worth the effort, this bar has tasty €1 cicchetti and caters for vegetarians and vegans

Cicchetti food tour

venice food tour - venice things to do and see

If you feel a little shy about going on a cicchetti bar hop you could always join a food tour and let the guide take you to the best spots in town. We did a Venice food tour that covered the Rialto market, cicchetti, a sit down lunch and tiramisu! This is a 4 hour tour that visited 7 stops for tastings. We did not need dinner that night!

If that is a little too long or unavailable the Roman Guy do a 2.5 hour cicchetti tour (except Sundays and Mondays) that includes a gondola ride! [5% off with our code – UntoldItaly] or you could try this similar and highly rated tour on GetYourGuide

Recommended restaurants

Venice has many charming restaurants where you can enjoy lingering over your meal. After all, why rush when there is so much beauty around you. Here are some favorites:

  • Poste Vecie [San Polo 1608,Rialto Mercato, Calle de le Beccarie] – this seafood restaurant steps from the Rialto market dates back to the 1500s. The emphasis is on seafood dishes. Try the cuttlefish with soft polenta.
  • Quadri [Piazza San Marco, 121] – Michelin starred dining in a stunning historic setting overlooking Piazza San Marco. With an emphasis on elegant seafood dishes, this is the ultimate in dining in Venice. Bookings well in advance essential
  • Birraria La Corte [Campo San Polo, 2168] – Wood fired pizza and craft brewery in a large open campo – great spot to go if dining with kids or a large group

Venice with Kids

kid friendly tourist attractions in venice

Venice is our favorite city in Italy to visit with kids. The lagoon city captures their imagination like no other. What child could not be mesmerized by a city that goes about its daily busy on the water.

The best thing to do in Venice as a family is to ride vaporetto one up and down the Grand Canal. Get a seat out the back in the open air and spot the fire engines, waste removal and delivery boats zip past gondolas and water buses. Of course the elegant palazzi provide the most enchanting back drop. 

In Venice you can spend a few days wandering the smaller campos (piazzas), chasing pigeons in Piazza San Marco, taking a day trip out to the Lido beach and of course riding a gondola. A trip to the outer islands is fun too. There is even a playground on colorful Burano. 

Being car free makes the city wonderfully safe for most kids. Obviously you need to keep a close watch on those who can’t swim.

The only age group where I would think twice about a trip to Venice is toddlers. There are over 400 bridges in the city so you can imagine it is slightly challenging with a stroller. If you have a baby carrier for your little ones it is ideal. 

Click here to read our full guide to Venice with kids

How to get to Venice

venice water taxi - must do in venice

Arriving by plane

Flying into Venice is a great idea if you are visiting the city, Verona, Lake Garda or the Dolomites. Getting from the airport has some challenges as the city is across the water on the lagoon. Even if you take a standard taxi you will likely need to navigate the water or many bridges with your luggage to get to the main attractions and your hotel.

That is why we recommend taking a water taxi from the airport into Venice as it is the most direct route. You can choose from shared or private water taxis. The private ones are more direct and will cost more but may make sense for a larger group. 

Apart from getting you to where you need to go easily the water taxis are also a fabulous introduction to the city and in my view an experience not to be missed!

  • Shared water taxi – from €32 per person (kids under 6 go free) – for more information and to book online click here
  • Private water taxi – €180 – €250 per boat depending on number of people and luggage – details and online bookings click here

Read our full airport transfer guide to getting to and from Venice Marco Polo airport – includes land and sea options and budget alternatives if you want to evaluate all the options for getting to the city and your accommodation.

Click here to search for cheap flights to Venice on Skyscanner

Arriving by train

Venezia Santa Lucia train station connects to Milan, Rome, Florence, Munich and Paris, with services run by the main companies Trenitalia, Italo and the Venice Simplon Orient Express. You can walk to most places easily from the stations but if you have luggage you may want to take a vaporetto or water bus.

On arrival at the station, head out the main doors where you will find the Ferrovia vaporetto water bus stop that will take you down the Grand Canal. Water taxis are available here too. 

Services at the station include luggage storage, shops, restaurants and a pharmacy.

Click here to book train tickets on ItaliaRail

How to get around

ride the vaporetto - grand canal venice italy

You will find that most of your time is spent walking in Venice. Everywhere you want to go is at most within a 30 minute walk although it might take longer if you linger over a pretty bridge or charming view. If you want to travel longer distances, your best bet is the vaporetto or water bus service.

Vaporetto | Water bus

When you arrive, depart or want to go longer distances such as to the outer islands on the lagoon, the vaporetto water bus service run by ACTV is the best form of transport. There are stops along the Grand Canal and throughout the city. The main lines are:

  • Line 1: Piazzale Roma–Ferrovia–Grand Canal (all stops)–Lido and back from 5:00am to 23:30pm. Boats depart roughly every 10 minutes 
  • Line 2 Circular line: San Zaccaria–Redentore–Zattere–Trochetto–Ferrovia–Rialto–Accademia–San Marco.
  • Line 9: Fondamente Nove–Murano–Mazzorbo–Burano–Torcello and back

Tickets for the vaporetto cost €7.50 one way (this is the rate for non-residents). You can also buy a day pass for €20 and special discounts for multiday passes apply Children under 6 do not need a ticket.

You can buy tickets at machines at the major vaporetto stops or online as part of the Venzia Unica tourist card (this should come with a very expensive and not worth it warning!) Make sure to validate your ticket or risk large fines. 

For a full view of the routes and timetables it is best to download the ACTV app here or view the route map here

Other transport in Venice

The most glamorous ride in town is a water taxi. Rates start at €15 plus €2 per minute and surcharges for call outs, night trips. extra luggage and passengers. 

If you want to cross the Grand Canal quickly you can jump in a traghetto at one of the crossings at Campo San Marcuola, the Rialto Market, Riva del Vin, San Tomà, Ca’ Rezzonico and beside the Gritti Palace operating from 9am to 6pm, although some routes finish by noon. A traghetti ride will cost you just €2

READ: What to pack for your trip to Italy + packing list

Day trips from Venice

lido venice beach italy

If you can tear yourself away from beautiful Venice for a day there are several day trips from Venice to consider. Beach, mountains, vineyards and more.. they are all just a short day trip from Venice.

  • Beach time at the Lido – take vaporetto line 1 to the Lido and enjoy the wide sandy beaches and crisp blue Adriatic water. You can also rent bikes to explore the area and eat a delicious seafood lunch before heading back to your hotel on the lagoon
  • Verona – this fair city, the scene of Shakespeare’s most famous work is also home to a wonderfully preserved Roman amphitheater and medieval cobbled streets. If you want a taste of regional Italy, Verona is a charming city well worth a visit. You can reach Verona by train from Venice in around an hour

verona day trip from venice

  • Prosecco tour – I have to admit this is my favorite! The prosecco wine region is on the mainland, not far from Venice and it is here where they make the country’s most famous sparkling wine. This tour takes you to 2 wineries where you learn about the wine making process and includes tastings and lunch – more information
  • Treviso – this pretty city also has canals and is often overlooked for her more glamorous neighbour. We loved strolling along the waterways and city walls and admiring the frescoed porticos. Treviso is just over half an hour from Venice by train

dolomites day trip from venice

  • Dolomites tour – this mountain range to the north east of Venice is one of the most spectacular regions in Italy. You’ll need to join a tour for this day trip to the alpine region, stopping at picturesque villages and turquoise lakes. Departing on Mondays and Thursdays, the guides on this small group tour will ensure you see the best views of the mountains – click for details
  • Mini cruise to Padua – take a trip from Venice to Padua by boat along the Brenta canal. Here noble Venetian families built their summer residences. There are more than 70 beautiful residences overlooking the canal. This mini cruise takes you along the Brenta Riviera with stops to tour three of the villas. The tour runs on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays except in winter – more details

Arriverdeci Venice and onwards through Italy

venice top 10

We hope you are ready and excited or your trip to Venice whether it is a European city break or part of an extended trip to Italy. This vibrant city is so much fun that we always feel sad to leave.

Do you have a favorite experience in beautiful Venice?

Where to next? Do check out our guides to Rome, Florence and Milan for itineraries, best things to do and practical information on visiting these iconic Italian cities. You can find all our articles about travel in Italy here

Disclaimer – Untold Morsels assists our readers with carefully chosen product and services recommendations that help make travel easier and more fun. If you click through and make a purchase on many of these items we may earn a commission. All opinions are our own – please read our disclosure page for more information.

3 thoughts on “Best things to do in Venice: city guide and itineraries for the lagoon city

  1. Dune Buggy Dubai says:

    It’s a very comprehensive guide. I have been to Venice twice and each time fall in love with its beauty. Also, Vaporetto ride is indeed exciting.

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