Venice Activities

What to Do in Venice

In a nutshell: top 3 activities in Venice

These were our top 3 activities in Venice. Want to know what else you can do in Venice? Then keep on reading.

About this post

This post is essentially a highlight reel of 77 amazing attractions and experiences in Venice as an inspiration for your next visit. If you’d like a bit more information to properly prepare for your trip, we also have a more in-depth post for you where we present the 22 most beautiful sights in Venice.

Venice in 5 facts

Did you know that…

…Venice is a lagoon city comprising over 100 islands connected by more than 150 canals and 400 bridges?

…for almost 1000 years, Venice was an independent republic and one of Europe’s wealthiest trading hubs?

…the city is sinking by about 2 mm every year, mainly from the harmful effects of gigantic cruise liners?

feeding the pigeons is prohibited and can cost you up to 500 euros?

…each year, three to four new gondoliers take to the canals after completing a very strict apprenticeship with at least 400 hours of training?

That’s just a sneak preview of what awaits you on your vacation to Venice. There’s so much more to learn and discover about the city once you arrive and have the chance to experience it for yourself.

So without further ado, here are our favorite things to see and do in Venice.

Venice classics

This section features all of Venice’s typical postcard-perfect sights. But they’re classics for a reason – no visit to Venice would be complete without a pilgrimage to these world-renowned landmarks.

#1 Piazzo San Marco (St. Mark’s Square): The most famous and significant square in all of Venice.

#2 St. Mark’s Basilica: A cherished state treasure and Venice’s most important church. Its impressive five-dome structure and the golden mosaics make it stand out among the countless other Venetian churches.

Book a skip-the-line tour of St. Mark’s Basilica

#3 St. Mark’s Campanile: The bell tower of St. Mark’s Basilica is the tallest building in Venice at just under 100 meters. A great but crowded lookout point for a panoramic view of the entire city!

#4 Grand Canal: The main waterway in Venice, lined with many of the most beautiful sights. Just watching the gondolas and vaporetti cruising by is an experience in itself. Or you could join the fray and enjoy a classic Venetian gondola ride!

Book a gondola ride on the Grand Canal

#5 Rialto Bridge: White stone bridge spanning the Grand Canal, one of the most iconic photo opportunities in Venice.

#6 Doge’s Palace: The former seat of the Venetian head of state and an incredibly magnificent palace, both inside and out.

Book a tour of the Doge’s Palace and St. Mark’s Basilica with terrace access (tip!)
Book a skip-the-line ticket for the Doge’s Palace
Book a guided tour of the Doge’s Palace (including skip-the-line admission)

#7 Bridge of Sighs: Bridge connecting the Doge’s Palace and the new prison, named for the final sighs the prisoners would let out upon casting a last wistful gaze upon the city before their incarceration.

#8 Santa Maria della Salute (St. Mary of Health): Baroque church by the Grand Canal, built to implore divine intervention in the plague epidemic that was ravaging the city at the time.

Our tip: The classic attractions in Venice tend to be particularly crowded, so we’d suggest starting your sightseeing tour early in the morning to beat the rush. While most visitors are still having breakfast, you can explore Venice in relative peace and quiet. There are even special city tours that start at the crack of dawn.

Book an early morning walking tour of Venice

Photo of Rialto Bridge in Venice at dawn before the onslaught of tourists in the morning. The streets are completely deserted, and the tranquility is reflected in the canal, with nary a ripple disturbing its serene beauty. This is the perfect place to stay for you trip to Venice if you have the budget.
The Rialto Bridge is one of the top highlights in Venice

Sestieri in Venice

Venice is made up of six districts, known as sestieri. Each district has its own unique charm, so you should make sure to take the time to get to know a few of them during your stay.

#9 Cannaregio: The most densely populated sestiere, with many Venetian locals residing here. Not really a sightseeing hotspot, but definitely the best place to soak up some authentic Venetian flair.

Book a private walking tour of Cannaregio

#10 Dorsoduro: A more traditional part of town, largely untouched by tourist crowds, with plenty of genuine bars, small churches, and more moderate prices.

Book a private walking tour of Dorsoduro and San Polo

#11 San Marco: The tourist center of Venice with most of the famous sights such as St. Mark’s Square.

#12 San Polo: Neighborhood just across the Rialto Bridge from San Marco, also has some popular attractions, but much less touristy.

#13 Santa Croce: Probably the least known sestiere, but also very peaceful and ideal to get to know Venice away from the typical tourist magnets.

#14 Castello: Perfect if you want to experience all of Venice’s contrasts in a single neighborhood: glamorous boutiques to the west vs. working-class neighborhoods to the east.

Book a private walking tour of Castello

Canal in Cannaregio, Venice
Cannaregio is Venice at its most authentic: What an ingenious way to hang laundry!

Historic buildings in Venice

Venice has beautiful historic buildings aplenty. Aside from the typical sights on every visitor’s bucket list, there are also many lesser known highlights that are just as beautiful but without the hype.

Scuole Grandi di Venezia

During the republican era, Venice was home to six Scuole Grandi, literally “Great Schools”, a sort of charitable brotherhood. Nowadays visitors are welcome to visit these buildings, which aren’t just stunningly beautiful but are also steeped in history.

#15 Scuola Grande di San Rocco: The most prosperous of the Scuole Grandi and heir to some very exquisite works of art. It’s also the best preserved of all the buildings.

#16 Scuola Grande di San Marco: Widely considered the most impressive Scuola, mainly due to its intricate facade.

#17 Scuola Grande di San Teodoro: The oldest of the six Scuole. Today its two halls are used for events such as concerts.

#18 Other Scuole: The other Scuole are the Scuola Grande di Santa Maria della Caità, di San Giovanni Evangelista, and di Santa Maria della Misericordia.

Churches in Venice

Sure, churches are a dime a dozen in Venice. But some are really special and well worth your time. Here’s a list of the most important churches, plus a few hidden gems that you won’t find in every guidebook.

#19 San Giorgio Maggiore: This church has its own island to itself. How cool is that? Its bell tower offers a fantastic view of all of Venice’s main attractions.

Book a boat tour including admission to the San Giorgio Maggiore bell tower

#20 Madonna dell’Orto: Beautiful church off the beaten path in Cannaregio with important paintings by the artist Tintoretto.

#21 San Pantalon: Located in Dorsoduro, this unassuming church is a real insider tip thanks to its amazing ceiling fresco: boring on the outside, but breathtaking on the inside.

#22 Santa Maria dei Miracoli: A small architectural marvel made entirely of marble – both inside and out. A great place to take a breather from the stresses of sightseeing.

#23 San Zaccaria: The highlight here is the flooded crypt, an underground room for relics. It has an almost mystical flair.

San Giorgio Maggiore in Venice
San Giorgio Maggiore is a real Venice highlight among Venice’s churches

Other buildings in Venice

#24 Scala Contarini del Bovolo: A spiral staircase with more than 130 steps, affectionately dubbed “Snail House” (Bovolo) by the Venetians.

#25 Ponte dell’Accademia: One of the four bridges over the Grand Canal and a good alternative to the Rialto Bridge for some stunning views of Venice’s main waterway.

#26 Torre dell’Orologio: A clock tower on the north side of St. Mark’s Square. The highlight is the large blue clock that displays the time as well as the signs of the zodiac.

#27 Palazzo delle Prigioni: The name palazzo is a bit misleading – this building was originally a prison! The Bridge of Sighs connects it to the Doge’s Palace.

#28 Palazzo Grimani: This magnificent palace in the Castello district houses a museum displaying Renaissance art and archaeological artifacts from the Grimani family.

The staircase thread of the Scala del Bevolo
The famous steps in the Palazzo Contarini del Bevolo really look like a snail shell

Beautiful islands in Venice

As mentioned earlier, Venice consists of over 100 islands, some of them so tiny that you can walk all the way around them in a matter of minutes. Here are some islands that you should really make a point to visit during your trip to Venice.

#29 Murano: This island is considered the most important after the main island and is popular for its glass art. The perfect place to shop for jewelry and souvenirs.

Book a boat tour to Murano and Burano

#30 Burano: No doubt the most colorful of the Venetian isles, because each of the small houses is painted in a different color. One of the most beautiful places for a stroll!

Book a guided tour of Burano island including the lace museum

#31 Torcello: Much greener than the main island of Venice with meadows brimming with poppies. Torcello’s top attraction is its old church, Santa Maria Assunta.

Book a boat cruise to Torcello, Murano, and Burano

#32 San Francesco del Deserto: A small oasis of tranquility, a nice change of pace from the mass tourism on the main island.

#33 Cemetery island of San Michele: A whole island with nothing but a cemetery – that might sound a bit creepy, but this place actually has a very special atmosphere.

#34 Chioggia: A small island in the south of the lagoon, also known as Little Venice. Chioggia is especially famous for its excellent seafood.

#35 Marciana National Library: Many interesting exhibits (documents, not books!) and two richly decorated reading rooms.

Canal in Burano in Venice
Colorful Burano is definitely one of the most beautiful islands in the Venetian Lagoon!

Special things to do in Venice

This section features some attractions that don’t fall into the typical sightseeing categories. If you feel like doing something special, then look no further!

#36 Libreria Acqua Alta: An antique bookstore with books piled up all the way to the ceiling in huge stacks and typical gondolas.

#37 Fondaco dei Tedeschi: A high-end department store in the old town. The highlight is the roof terrace – admission is free and you can enjoy a fantastic view of the Grand Canal!

#38 Calle Varisco: This tiny alleyway is the narrowest in Venice at only 53 cm wide! Really charming… unless you’re claustrophobic.

#39 Ponte Chiodo: The last bridge in Venice without guard rails. So you’d better watch your step if you don’t want to get wet!

#40 Caga Libri: A statue literally called “Book Shitter”, erected in honor of the writer Niccolò Tommaseo.

Book wall with a staircase of books
The staircase in the backyard of Libreria Acqua Alta is made entirely of old, wet books – a truly unique attraction

Art and culture in Venice

There’s more to Venice than gondolas and good food – it has beautiful art and a surprisingly diverse range of culture. Whether you’re a closet art critic, opera aficionado, or culture vulture, Venice has something for everyone.

#41 Peggy Guggenheim Collection: Probably the most famous museum in Venice, featuring modern artworks by Picasso, Kandinsky, Max Ernst, and many others.

Book tickets to the Peggy Guggenheim Collection

#42 Teatro la Fenice: Italy and opera are a match made in heaven – and la Fenice is the largest and most impressive opera house in Venice.

#43 Museo Correr: One of the most important museums in Venice, featuring many historical exhibits as well as paintings by famous Venetian artists.

#44 Musica a Palazzo: Not an opera house in the traditional sense, but the intimate vibe and audience involvement in particular make for a very special experience.

Book tickets for the opera in the historical palace

#45 Galleria Accademia: The second major art museum next to the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, famous for its collection of Renaissance paintings.

#46 Ca’ Pesaro: A beautiful palazzo right on the Grand Canal with an excellent collection of modern art. A great alternative to the Peggy Guggenheim.

Paintings and sculptures in museum
The Peggy Guggenheim Collection is an absolute must for art lovers. This painting by Magritte hangs in the entrance hall (© Matteo De Fina, Peggy Guggenheim Collection)

Museums in Venice

Venice is steeped in tradition, history, and the traces of brilliant minds. Whether you’re a history buff or not, these museums have something for everyone.

#47 Jewish Museum: Small museum about the history of the Jews and the Ghetto in Venice. Tickets include admission to two synagogues.

Book a guided tour of the Jewish Ghetto in Venice

#48 Leonardo da Vinci Museum: Artist, philosopher, scientist, all rolled into one – learn all about the life of the universal genius at this museum.

Book tickets for the Leonardo da Vinci Museum

#49 Murano Glass Museum: A must-see for visitors to Murano, where glass-blowing has a long history.

#50 National Archaeological Museum: One of the oldest museums in Venice, aptly featuring some of the oldest exhibits, with finds dating back to antiquity.

#51 Casa di Marco Polo: Believed to be the birthplace of the famous explorer Marco Polo, although this is the source of some controversy. Not a proper museum, more of a source of inspiration for travelers who to follow in his footsteps.

#52 Casino Venier: Get a glimpse of a typical underground establishment for dancing, gambling, or debating during the Venetian Republic.

Empty square surrounded by houses
Ghetto Novo, the central square of the Jewish quarter. So much quieter than the tourist hotspots. Visit the Jewish Museum for a wealth of background information about the history of the neighborhood.

Activities in Venice

You’re not really the museum type? No problem, because Venice offers a whole range of other activities and you’ll certainly never get bored here, whatever floats your boat.

#53 Venetian gondola ride: Probably the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Venice, so hop on board for a once-in-a-lifetime experience. The only caveat is that it’s a bit on the pricey side.

Book a Venetian gondola ride

#54 Take a stroll through the alleys: Just strolling through the tiny alleyways is one of the best ways to spend your time in Venice – with the added advantage of being completely free!

#55 Visit a mask workshop: The beautiful Venetian masks are world famous. Take a look behind the scenes and even learn how to make a mask of your own!

Book a guided tour of a mask workshop

#56 Kayak tour through Venice: You can go through Venice not only by gondola, but also by kayak. It’s great fun and also a cool activity for groups!

Book a guided kayak tour

#57 Discover Venetian street art: Most people probably associate Venice with statues and marbles, but what you might not know is that it has a vibrant street art scene. On the ground, on walls, in small boutiques – the entire city is a canvas for some incredible pieces.

#58 Ride a vaporetto: A vaporetto is a Venetian water bus and the predominant mode of public transport in Venice. A very enjoyable way to get from A to B.

Pre-purchase tickets for public transport in Venice

#59 Visit a glassblowing workshop: How is the beautiful Venetian glass made? Visit a glassblowing workshop and learn how to create your own glass jewelry.

Book a private lesson with a Venetian glassblower

#60 A day at the beach at Lido di Venezia: People often forget that Venice also has a beach. The perfect place to relax on a sunny afternoon.

#61 What does a forcola builder do? A forcola is a gondola’s rowlock – that might sound very niche, but Paolo Brandoliso’s workshop is totally worth a visit. Learn about this traditional craft from one of the only people to master it.

Gondolas in the Venice lagoon
The long black gondolas are the symbol of Venice

Food and drink in Venice

Italian cuisine is simply the best! And Venice has way more to offer than just pizza and pasta, offering some truly unique local delicacies. Here are some of the best places to get acquainted with Venetian cuisine.

#62 Rialto Market: A dream come true for foodies! Look forward to delicious fruit and vegetables, as well as freshly caught fish. Yummy!

Book a street food tour of Rialto Market

#63 Crostini at Osteria al Squero: Small restaurant directly on Squero di San Trovaso. Superb selection of crostini for just €1.50 each.

#64 Aperol Spritz at sunset: One of the typical Italian aperitifs. Super-tasty and its distinctive red color glistens in the light of setting sun.

#65 Feasting on cicchetti: Venice’s answer to tapas, i.e. appetizers made of vegetables, seafood, or even small sandwiches. Try as many as possible, each one is a feast for the senses!

#66 Eating gelato at SuSo: This ice cream parlor has an almost cult-like following. Unique creations, a wide range of flavors, delicious gelato… what’s not to love?

#67 Private pasta-making class: Why buy pasta when you can make your own? Immerse yourself in authentic Venetian life with a private cooking class.

#68 Harry’s Bar: A classic bar from the 1930s. One of Hemingway’s favorite watering holes and and the birthplace of the Bellini!

#69 Wine tasting: Venice is surrounded by some exquisite vineyards – the perfect place for a break from the city with a wine-tasting tour in the Venetian countryside.

Book a Prosecco and wine-tasting tour in Conegliano

#70 Caffè Quadri: This coffee house on St. Mark’s Square is one of the oldest in Italy, dating all the way back to 1775. An extravagant experience, but with a rather hefty price tag attached.

Venetian cicchetti and wine
A colorful mix of cicchetti – we could eat them all right now!

Gardens and parks in Venice

Longing for some nature after a long day of sightseeing? Venice isn’t exactly known as a garden city, and parks are few and far between, but there are some beautiful hidden gems if you know where to look. And we do!

#71 Giardini della Biennale: These gardens were originally commissioned by Napoleon Bonaparte. Nowadays, they’re the site of various art exhibitions including the Biennale Art Festival.

#72 Parco Savorgnan: A park in the Cannaregio district with some pretty exotic plants. Perfect for a break from all the sightseeing.

#73 Lipu Ca’ Roman: Nature reserve in the south of the lagoon, home to more than 200 species of birds.

#74 Giardino Mistico dei Carmelitani Scalzi: A small green oasis for useful plants, featuring everything from vegetables and fruit trees to medicinal herbs.

Events in Venice

If you haven’t set a date for your trip to Venice, you might want to plan your visit to coincide with these amazing events.

#75 Venetian Carnival: This centuries-old tradition is the highlight of the year! Venice comes to life with a colorful parade of costumes and typical Venetian masks during Carnival in February.

#76 Biennale di Venezia: An international exhibition at the Giardini di Castello showcasing a diverse array of art from more than 28 countries. The Biennale takes place over several months from spring to late fall.

#77 International Film Festival: This mainstay of the film festival circuit has been part of the Biennale since 1932. Held in early September, it screens a diverse selection of films from explosive blockbusters to gripping dramas.

Venetian masks for carnival
Venetian Carnival masks are really pretty and have a long tradition in the city’s culture

Those were some of our favorite things to do in Venice. We hope you have a wonderful trip filled with lots of great impressions. Do you have any questions or would you like to share some of your own favorite activities in Venice? Then we look forward to hearing from you in the comments!