We may not be full-time travellers or digital nomads living the adventurous life that could put Crocodile Dundee and Indiana Jones to shame.
And we may not start our mornings with a fresh coconut in our hands on a remote island whose name we can’t even pronounce, but every far-flung destination or staycation we choose has a much broader purpose to it.
In addition to sightseeing, we make sure that every train ride we take and every new country we visit adds value and meaning to our lives, in a process making us much better human beings. We make sure that travel breaks down the barriers and satisfies our curiosity, teaches about arising global crises and emphasises personal growth.
My reason for returning to Venice was fueled by a purpose too. I desired to feast my eyes on its architectural marvels, go on a photography adventure as well as deepen my knowledge of the region by engaging in various activities because exploring the sights and sounds that form the fabric of each city is as important as immersing in its art and architecture scene.
If there’s the one thing I’ve learned by going back to the floating city again – one of the perks of revisiting a place you’ve already been once gives you an opportunity to see and experience all the things you missed the first time and have a chance to repeat the old experiences with a much better appreciation.
Before you read on, have you got everything you need for your Italy trip? Check out our Venice travel tips: 10 things to know before visiting the beautiful lagoon post about what to expect in the city.
8 unforgettable things to see and do in beautiful Venice, Italy
Venice, a City of Masks, City of Canals and City of Bridges, never quite seems real, but rather an ornate film set suspended on the water. It’s a birthplace of Antonio Vivaldi and Marco Polo and is best known for its artistic movements, especially the Renaissance period.
If you are planning to visit Venice, believe me, you are guaranteed to be endlessly fascinated by your surroundings and have yourself a memorable trip. Either you devote a full day, or a long weekend to explore it, Venice will leave you with many experiences.
In this blog article, we will share some of the best and notable places worth exploring and visiting.
#1. Marvell at St.Mark’s Square
You can easily spend a full day exploring everything within St. Marks’ Square and not see everything, and you can easily devote a separate blog post to Venices most popular square with a mighty bell tower in one of its corners.
St. Mark’s Square is the very heart of Venice, surrounded on three sides with imposing buildings adorned with delicate arches and beautiful columns; a magnet that pulls in everyone setting foot in the city.
As Venice’s only public square, all the other open spaces are called calli and campielli, it holds some of the prime attractions such as Venice’s most important church St Mark’s Basilica, Museo Correr and Museo del Risorgimento, the Doge’s Palace, Campanile and Torre dell Orologio (Clock Tower) just to name a few.
Our Crossings tip* If Saint Mark’s Square gets very busy, head to Canareggio for crowd-free Venice.
#2. Go on a Gondola Ride
Going for a ride along the beautiful Grand Canal or enjoying lesser-known waterways and corners around Saint Mark’s Square and feeling the gentle movement of the gondola that’s skilfully guided by the master gondolier has to be one of the most iconic and sought out experiences in Venice.
Don’t mind people saying it’s cheesy, expensive and touristy, yes, it is! But it is also sightseeing in a very unique way – where else you can pass by the famous theatre La Fenice, marvel at the Rialto Bridge, feast your eyes on Casanova’s house and enjoy some peace and quiet in the narrow back canals?
You can go for a shared ride with other people visiting Venice or can splash out and have a memorable experience by having the boat all to yourself. Either way, you can walk around and check the prices at the different gondola stations but be prepared to pay around 80 EUR for 25 – 30 minutes and 120 EUR for 45 minutes for a private gondola ride.
#3. Embark on a photography adventure
Venice is a city of incredible architecture. A place where little romantic bridges join colourful canals and a place where you don’t need to wander far to find cool angles and compositions to capture.
In Venice, you’ll find a staggering amount of interesting objects and things to point your camera towards – the textures of stone and brick, laundry hanging out to dry, imposing churches, the gondolas along the promenade, ahhh…. the list goes on!
Don’t hesitate to explore and photograph the side streets stemming out from main touristy areas – they often lead to quite an undiscovered corners and beautiful bridges.
Although Venice is a very photogenic city to photograph, there are also a few challenges that come with it. One of the first things we noticed it was hard to capture Venice’s top sights and find a place to set up a tripod and carry equipment through the city due to a sheer amount of people.
Make sure you get up super early and make it your mission – aside from photographing top sights- to also seek out places and things that spark your artistic side like capturing old doors leading right into canals, the Gothic decorations, the street lamps or beautiful reflections.
#4. Sample food and vine
Traveling to Venice and immersing yourself into its food and wine scene by sampling the local delicatessen is one of the best experiences ever because, in Italy, food is everything.
In Venice, you can be on a mission to scout trough its markets and find the best eateries and the best bites while getting lost in the back canals, all by yourself or you can sign up for one of the organized food tours and let the guide show you around.
Either way, one of the things to look out for is the wine bars called bacari – some of them small, cute and authentic corner spots – where people would stop first thing in the morning to eat and drink. All’arco, located at Sestiere San Polo 436, Ai Promessi Sposi that can be found at Calle de l’Oca, 4367 and La Cantina, situated at Campo San Felice, 3689 are noted to be some of the best in Venice.
While many people associate Venice with pizza and pasta, the actual foods Venetians ate were potatoes, rice, corn and dried and salted cod – baccalà. There are many notable dishes, truly flavourful and one of a kind, such as Risotto al nero di seppia – a seafood-based risotto, sarde in saor a lovely dish, rather strong in taste, that consists of sardines, onion and balsamic vinegar or creamed dried cod known as Baccala mantecato worth trying.
#5. Learn the story behind the Bridge of Sighs
The Bridge of Sighs, located next to the Doge’s Palace in Venice, also known as the Ponte dei Sospiri in Italian is a truly remarkable bridge made of white limestone that holds the attention
While most of the visitors view the bridge built in baroque style by Antonio Contin in 1614 from outside, there’s also an option to walk the narrow enclosed corridors of the footbridge and take a peek through the rectangular window and see Venice as prisoners once saw it.
Access to Venices most famous bridge is only available with The Secret Itineraries Tour you can book through the Doge’s Palace website.
#6. See the city from one of its viewpoints
To see Venice from a different angle and to admire the city as a whole, climb to one of the viewpoints including San Giorgio Maggiore Campanile, Scala Contarini del Bovolo, or our personal favourite Fondaco dei Tedeschi.
Located next to the Rialto Bridge, the Fondaco dei Tedeschi was once used as a trading post for German merchants only to be reopened in 2016 as a luxurious shopping centre.
The visit to the terrace, open from 9:45AM to 7:15PM, is free of charge but you have to book your place in advance on the shopping centre website and arrive at a certain time.
#7. Explore the beauty of the Grand Canal
Curving through the middle of Venice, the Grand Canal is the city’s main waterway and main attraction that’s always buzzing with traffic and is crossed by four beautiful bridges. Here you’ll see all types of boats from water buses to private boats and from gondolas to fishing boats transporting goods and people from one point to another one.
You can recognise Grand Canal from many Hollywood movies including Dans Browns Inferno, where Robert and Sienna upon arriving in Venice by train, jump into a private boat to make their way to Saint Mark’s Square.
To appreciate all the incredible buildings facing the Grand Canal and to ride the entire length of it, from San Marco to Porta Roma, is to jump on a Venice’s public transport system known as Vaporetto.
Once you leave San Marco stop, be prepared to take in the views of many of its incredible attractions starting with Baroque church of Santa Maria Della Salute whose enormous weight is supported by more than a million timbers driven into the floor of the lagoon.
#8. Visit Venice’s Museums
Venice, the City of Canals, has plenty of amazing museums – some of them small and simple, some of them over the top extravagant – hosting several of Italy’s best art and innovation collections.
In a city crammed with history, either your desire is to discover more of its religious, artistic or cultural past, there are plenty of places you can add to your itinerary. Just take a pick – there’s a Museum of Lace and Museum of Glass, Jewish Museum of Venice and Fondazione Querini Stampalia. There’s also:
- Leonardo da Vinci Museum | A very small yet very informative museum that showcases a bit of art, science and genius inventions all under one roof. One of the best things about the Leonardo da Vinci Museum, you get the chance to pull levers, wind cranks and open and close things in order to see how they actually work.
- Dodge’s Palace | Built in traditional Venetian Gothic Style architecture, Dodge’s Palace is an impressive masterpiece and perhaps one of the most recognised places in Venice, displaying various paintings and statues.
- Palazzo Ca’ Pesaro | Overlooking beautiful Grand Canal, Palazzo Ca’ Pesaro, is where you’ll find the International Museum of Modern art and the Oriental Art Museum with exhibits from Japan, China, and Indonesia.
When to visit Venice
When it comes to visiting Venice, some times of the year are much better than others. If you are planning a trip and don’t know when to go, keep in mind the acqua alta (high water), weather and festivals.
Few of the things to consider – the typical high water season usually occurs from October through January, during the summer month it’s a real challenge to find accommodation and Venice can be unbearable hot and late February or early March is when the world-famous Carnevale attracts tons of tourists.
- Spring | During the springtime, considered to be a pre-season period, the city can be already swarmed by tourists due to several events and festivals. With cold of the winter gone and with its semi-warm weather, Venice is a joy to explore from March to May, and if you choose to visit in early spring, you can expect good room rates.
- Summer | June, July, and August – the high season month is extremely busy and being surrounded by swarms of humans on top of scorching temperatures, can easily taint your experience. In summer, you have to be prepared for long waits to enter museums and attractions as well as premium accommodation prices.
- Autumn | After the rush of summer holidays has subsided, Venice will continue to offer a wealth of opportunities with fun events and unique festivals. I visited at the end of September and still had to endure the tourist crowds that seem to dilute only by late October and November. Fall months offer less expensive accommodation and fewer crowds, but it also arrives with a risk of flooding.
- Winter | Don’t want to deal with summer heat and crowds? The low season is great for art lovers, photographers, and history savvy explorers. Some shops may be closed, the weather can be cold and rainy – even harsh at times-, there’s a very likely possibility of flooding, but there are fewer tourists and easier to find accommodation.
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Now, over to you!
Have you ever been to Venice? Let us know in the comments!
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