Thinking of visiting Venice, an Italian city scattered across 118 small islands? Before you explore this fascinating destination, be sure to check out some of the top things to do in Venice. From grand attractions to incredible art galleries, there’s so much to see and do across the city!
Admire the beauty of St Mark’s Basilica
Primarily constructed during the 11th century, St Mark’s Basilica, known locally as Basilica di San Marco, is one of Venice’s grandest structures. Built on the site of a church that was said to have housed the remains of Mark the Evangelist, a significant figure from the Bible, the basilica has come to be known for its grand design, ornate gold mosaics and captivating decoration. General entry to the church is free, but you are required to pay a small fee if you are wanting to see Pala d’Oro (an altarpiece bedazzled with gold, emeralds, sapphires, amethysts and other glittering gemstones) and the Tesoro (the church’s treasury).
Travel along the Grand Canal
Winding its way through the heart of Venice, the Grand Canal (Canale Grande) is one of the city’s major waterways. Lined with historic buildings dating from the 13th to the 18th century, grand churches and other fine attractions, a journey along the 3.8 km long canal is a great way to enjoy a taste of the city’s heritage and unique character. Tour the canal aboard a water bus or water taxi, or kickback and enjoy a ride on a traditional Venetian gondola. Be sure to keep an eye out for the four bridges that cross the canal, including Ponte della Costituzione, Ponte degli Scalzi, Ponte degli Scalzi and Ponte dell’Accademia, and admire their diverse architectural styles.
Tour Doge’s Palace
Opening as a museum in the 1920s, the spectacular Doge’s Palace was once the home of the Doge of Venice, the city’s chief magistrate and ruler. Now open to the public, a visit to the palace is a fantastic opportunity to discover and admire some ornate Venetian architecture. With so much to see throughout the grand building, some of its top sights include its Gothic exterior, the Doge’s apartment, the institutional chambers (which once housed the Venetian government) and the Loggias (featuring an assortment of decorative attractions). Entry to the Doge’s Palace sits at around 20 euros per person, but it’s well worth the opportunity to explore one of the city’s most iconic buildings.
Cross Rialto Bridge
The oldest of the four bridges that span Venice’s Grand Canal, Rialto Bridge (Ponte di Rialto) has become an attraction in its own right. Constructed to replace a wooden bridge that had required intensive maintenance during its lifetime, the single span stone bridge was completed in 1591 and has stood in its current location ever since. Once the only way to cross the canal on foot, the bridge is adorned with beautiful carvings of the Annunciation, St Mark and St Theodore, and offers the perfect backdrop for some great Venetian holiday snaps.
Stroll through St Mark’s Square
Said to be the heart of Venice, St Mark’s Square (Piazza San Marco) is the city’s main piazza and a great starting point for exploring the city. Around the square, you’ll find St Mark’s Basillica, the Doge’s Palace and several other popular attractions such as the Campanile, the clock tower (Torre dell’Orologio) and the two iconic columns that sit close to the water’s edge (Colonna di Marco and Colonna di Teodoro). A gathering point for locals and tourists alike, the square’s cafes, including one of the oldest in Europe, are the perfect spot for an afternoon of people watching.
Get arty at the Accademia Galleries
Whether you love everything about art or are simply intrigued by the local culture and history, the Accademia Galleries (Gallerie dell’Accademia) offers a great opportunity to encounter one of the world’s best collections of art produced in Venice before the 19th century. Among the gallery’s exhibitions, you’ll find incredible works by Bellini, Titian, Giorgione and a host of other artists who worked across Venice and wider Europe. Full price tickets do sit at around 15 euros, but the art gallery is widely considered to be one of the best and most important of its kind in the city.
Set out on a day trip to Burano or Murano
Although there is plenty to see and do across Venice’s main islands, a day trip to the famed islands of Burano and Murano is also well worth the journey. Each of the islands is renowned for its own local industries, with artisans on Murano producing fine glass, and skilled residents on Burano crafting intricate lace pieces. Beyond their world renowned industries, both islands are home to brightly coloured houses and a variety of attractions that span from interesting museums through to some awe-inspiring scenery. Join a guided tour and learn more about the two islands, or set out on your own and explore at a pace that suits you.