11 special guided city tours in Venice
There is so much to see in Venice that you can quickly lose track of everything. Every canal, every building and every little piazza is a highlight in itself. That's why it's definitely worth booking a guided city tour! We'll show you 11 interesting tours through Venice.
Venice is a magical place that needs to be seen to be believed. But that’s not exactly a well-guarded secret, which is why the lagoon city is one of the most popular destinations in all of Italy.
There’s an incredible number of things to see in Venice: from opulent palaces and colorful islands to hidden backyards and secret passageways.
The best way to discover all that Venice has to offer is to take a guided tour. It’s a great way to kick off your city trip by giving you a general lay of the land, and local tour guides are way more knowledgeable about their city than any printed guidebook.
They’ll take you to places that guidebooks haven’t even heard of, answer all your questions, and give you the inside scoop on the best places to eat.
Of course a city like Venice offers countless tours of varying quality, and finding the right one can be tricky, especially for first-time visitors. So we sifted through all the offers and selected 11 of the best guided tours of Venice for your next vacation.
Classic guided tours of Venice
A classic walking tour is the perfect way to get a first impression and a feel for the layout of the city, especially for first-time visitors. We’d recommend booking one of these tours for the very first day of your trip.
#1 Venice highlights tour
There’s no better way to get to know this historic city than with a private tour guide. During the four hour guided tour, you’ll explore the streets of Venice together and visit the most beautiful sights, while your guide gives you all the background information peppered with some fascinating anecdotes about city life along the way.
Of course that includes lots of great tips for the rest of stay, like the restaurants and stores. And if you book a private tour, you’ll have the guide all to yourself and you can ask them as many questions as you’d like.
If that sounds a bit overwhelming for day one of your visit, or you’re looking for a cheaper option, a group tour is another great options. It goes for 1½ hours and covers all the major highlights such as St. Mark’s Basilica, the Rialto Bridge, and the Doge’s Palace.
#2 Tour of Venice by night
Venice has a totally different flair at night. The streets are much less crowded, and the beautifully lit palaces and squares have an almost magical aura to them.
A night tour is pretty much the same as a daytime tour, just – you guessed it – at night. You’ll spend two hours under the stars exploring Venice’s major sights: St. Mark’s Squares, the Doge’s Palace, and countless canals, while your guide tells you all about the turbulent history of Venice.
If you arrive in Venice in the afternoon, we’d recommend this tour for your very first evening. That way you can get to know Venice at its prettiest and pick up plenty of insider tips for the rest of your stay.
Our tip: This tour is especially suited for the hot summer months because it’s nowhere near as hot out in the evening as it is during the day. So if you want to avoid milling around town in the sweltering heat while being jostled by sweaty crowds, then this the tour for you!
#3 Boat tour through Venice’s canals at sunset
Nothing is more traditionally Venetian than a boat tour. And for an extra dose of romance, you should make sure to book an early evening tour for the full golden hour experience: drinking a glass of Prosecco while the sun slowly sets over the sea – it doesn’t get much better that!
Captained by a Venetian guide, you’ll cruise the lagoon in a traditional fishing boat, lavishly converted and fitted with a motor. Your captain will spin many a yarn about the city and its history while you explore the waters, passing classic sights such as St. Mark’s Square as well as some of the most beautiful islands off the beaten path.
This boat ride is a wonderful two-hour break from the tourist crowds. Just don’t forget your camera! The constantly changing light of the setting sun is an open invitation to take some stunning photos.
The guides speak English, Italian, and Spanish. And any language barriers that may exist will be washed away by the second glass of Prosecco at the very latest.
Culinary tours of Venice
Like every city in Italy, Venice has its own unique culinary highlights. What better way to discover them than with a guided gourmet tour of the city’s wine bars and food stores?
#4 Gourmet tour with samplings
What tapas are to Spain are known as cicchetti in Venice. If you want to immerse yourself in the culinary culture of Venice and get to know the cicchetti culture, you have to take the gourmet tour. It will take you through alleys and into bars that you would definitely not find on your own.
With an English-speaking guide, you’ll stroll through the taverns and wine bars of the Venetians’ nightlife district. In between, you’ll take a traditional gondola ride along the Grand Canal.
Along the way, there are plenty of different cicchetti to sample. You’ll be served seafood and Venetian polenta, among other things, and of course there’ll be a glass of wine at every stop along the tour.
Your guide will also tell you many stories about the city and give you tips for the rest of your stay. And after the tour, you’ll never be at a loss where to eat for the rest of your stay.
#5 Prosecco tasting in the Veneto region
If you have enough time on your hands and are looking for a break from the city, join this tour to the picturesque Prosecco hills between Conegliano and Valdobbiadene.
You’ll leave Venice in the morning with a small group and your English-speaking guide and head to the home of the famous sparkling wine.
In an organic winery, you’ll roam through the vineyards, learn everything about the production of Prosecco and, of course, you can extensively taste the sparkling wonder.
Since so much nature also raises an appetite, you’ll be served a traditional lunch at the winery. Accompanied by Prosecco, of course.
Our tip: You won’t find a Prosecco of such a fantastic quality anywhere else as cheap as directly at the winery. If you go on a shopping spree during the tour, you won’t have to lug boxes around Venice later, don’t worry. You can have your selection conveniently shipped to your home and enjoy reminiscing over each bottle after your vacation.
Special tours of Venice
If you already know your way around Venice, but want to do something a bit more out of the ordinary, here are some of the more specialized tours.
#6 Legends of Cannaregio: Evening tour
You already know the major sights in Venice? Then it’s time for the slightly different stories of the city, off the beaten track.
The Cannaregio neighborhood, which was the city’s ghetto in the 16th century, is now a popular area for going out and alternative shopping.
But when darkness falls, it becomes the most mysterious part of the city, with winding streets full of legends and ghost stories.
For two hours, you’ll wander with your guide through mystical Cannaregio, always accompanied by the haunted stories passed down from one generation to the next by the locals.
Don’t make any plans for the rest of your evening after the tour. You will certainly want to stop at one of the quaint wine bars in Cannaregio that you’ll pass during the tour.
#7 Venetian Opera in the Barbarigo-Minotto Palace
Ok, this isn’t really a tour or a city walk at all, but because it’s such a phenomenal event we just have to present it here.
In the magnificent living room of a palazzo you’ll be center stage in an opera performance. And when do you ever have the opportunity to see the most beautiful operas in a Venetian palace directly on the Grand Canal?
In the historic chambers of the Palazzo you can choose between La Traviata, Rigoletto and the Barber of Seville.
But you don’t just sit down and listen for two hours – far from it. Because an opera like this requires different sets from act to act, you move with the ensemble to the appropriate room in the palace during the performance. Pretty cool, huh?
Our tip: You don’t necessarily have to wear an evening dress or a tuxedo to the opera in the palazzo. But it should be a little more elegant than shorts and a T-shirt.
Guided tours of Venice for specific sights
Some of Venice’s highlights deserve a bit more attention than just visiting them from the outside. Here are a few tours that focus on specific sights.
#8 Guided tour of St. Mark’s Basilica after closing time
There is no way around it, you have to see St. Mark’s Basilica on a trip to Venice. But you don’t necessarily have to do share the experience with hundreds of other visitors. If you want to visit St. Mark’s Basilica in peace, this guided tour is really great.
In the early evening, you’ll meet your guide, an expert on Venetian art and history, in St. Mark’s Square. The Duomo is actually closed at this time, so you’ll have the interior all to yourself and your small group.
You’ll also get to see some areas of the cathedral that aren’t normally open to the public. If you’re interested in history and architecture, you should definitely take this tour. There’s no better way to discover St. Mark’s Basilica.
Keep in mind: St. Mark’s Basilica is a Catholic church and therefore there is a dress code. Covered shoulders and knees are mandatory, otherwise you won’t be allowed in.
#9 VIP tour of the secret passages of the Doge’s Palace and St. Mark’s Basilica
The Doge’s Palace is one of the top sights in Venice. If you want to explore the imposing palazzo in detail and on somewhat different paths, the tour through the secret passages is perfect for you.
For more than three hours, your guide will take you through the Hall of the Great Council, prison cells, archives, and torture chambers, all the way to the roof of the palazzo. The detour under the roof is often skipped in high summer, however, because it is much too hot and stuffy up there.
Your guide has endless stories about the secret machinations of the Doges and will tell you how the legendary Giacomo Casanova managed to break out of his cell.
To top it off, you’ll visit St. Mark’s Basilica with your guide and, of course, learn all kinds of exciting stories. Of course, you don’t have to wait in line at the entrance of the cathedral. Your small group can simply slip in through a separate entrance.
#10 Half day tour to Murano & Burano
If you have enough time in Venice, then take a trip to the surrounding islands. We found the islands of Murano and Burano particularly beautiful.
Both islands are especially famous for their handicrafts. On Murano you can expect traditional glassblowing, while Burano is known for its embroidery. But even apart from the arts and crafts, both islands are simply beautiful and definitely worth a visit.
You’ll leave by boat from Venice in the lagoon heading towards the islands, of course accompanied by a guide with hundreds of stories in store and with some useful insider tips.
In some places, the tours seem more like a sales event, but we think it’s definitely worth it for the picturesque islands.
Especially through the colorful alleys of Burano you could just stroll around for hours. If you’re not interested in the embroidery presented to you on Burano, just ditch the group and explore the island on your own.
#11 Trip to the island of San Giorgio Maggiore
If you just want to go for a short trip, the island of San Giorgio Maggiore is a great destination. You can get to the island from St. Mark’s Square in a matter of minutes by vaporetto.
San Giorgio Maggiore has a few highlights to offer.
Together with a guide and your personal video guide, you’ll go on a discovery tour through the idyllic cloisters and courtyards.
Paolo Veronese’s masterpiece Wedding at Cana was painted in the Benedictine refectory in the 16th century. However, the painting on display here is a replica, the original was abducted to the Louvre in Paris by Napoleon.
Your guide will also take you to the small park with the 10 Vatican chapels. This park is often called a “forest”, which we think is a bit of an exaggeration. Nevertheless, the 10 different chapels are a minor highlight for all architecture enthusiasts.
You should plan a total of about two hours for the island. This is a good trip for a breather from all the hustle and bustle in Venice.
Those were our 11 tips for tours and guided city tours in Venice. Have you been to Venice and taken a tour? Can you recommend it to us? Feel free to leave us a comment!