12 Brilliant Things to Do in Venice

Written by Rem Malloy, since 1995 Rem has been guiding and designing trips to Italy and all of Western Europe and is considered an expert in his field for over 30 years.

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The enchanting floating city of Venice is one of the most popular places to visit in Italy, and for good reason. Along with stunning canals running through the city, you will find incredible architecture, breathtaking islands and fantastic museums.

Drenched in spectacular sights, you are going to struggle to fit all of the city’s wonderful attractions into your schedule. So, we’ve narrowed down a list of 12 brilliant things to do while in Venice. 

This way you can relax and explore without a worry of missing out on any of the city’s finest attractions. Whatever you’re into, the whimsical ambience of Venice is sure to capture your heart. 

1. Cruise Down the Grand Canal on a Gondola

The Grand Canal trickles through the heart of Venice, much like a liquid highway. Boarding a gondola and cruising along the water is something of a right of passage for anyone visiting The Floating City.

Go at your own pace, taking the time to gaze over the city’s dreamy architecture and appreciate it in all of its enchanting glory in what is easily one of the most romantic things to do in Venice. 

To enjoy the experience in utmost serenity, aim to visit the canal after sunset when it is quieter. There are few settings more stunning than the Grand Canal in Venice at night, when the palaces light up and sparkle over the calm waters.

2. Explore the Ponte di Rialto (Rialto Bridge) and Rialto Markets 

The oldest bridge in Venice, Ponte di Rialto a.k.a Rialto Bridge, crosses over the Grand Canal, connecting the San Marco and San Polo districts with the rest of the city. 

Originally a wooden bridge, the structure collapsed in the 15th century and the ornate stone bridge that we see today was built in replacement. Walking along this historic monument is one of the top things to do in Venice.

Even its underbelly makes a fantastic place to explore. Here you will find the Rialto Market; a bustling, 1,000-year-old market selling delicious fresh food and produce — perfect for any foodie doing a food tour of Venice.

3. Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute 

One of the most highly renowned basilicas in Venice, the Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute boasts an incredible Baroque design that attracts millions of admirers every year.

A dramatic sight, the basilica is rather difficult to miss between its gigantic dome and incredible statues of the four apostles. Upon entering, you will find that an outpouring of sunlight streams into the basilica thanks to its hexagonal design, casting a dramatic light over the building’s sensational interior.

While not quite as extravagant as some of the other basilicas in the city, Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute offers an understated elegance and a remarkably satisfying degree of symmetry. 

4. Explore the 14th-Century Doge Palace

Doge Palace lies nestled in St. Mark’s Square with a fantastic view of the Grand Canal. A stunning sight, exploring the ornate landmark is certainly one of the best things to do in Venice.

Doge Palace boasts a beautiful limestone facade with dramatic arches and intricate diamond patterns. Beautiful inside and out, the interior of the palace boasts original details, ornate furniture and spectacular artwork.

5. See Lido Island, Torcello Island, Murano Island and The Island of Burano

Escape the hustle and bustle of the city with a day trip to some of Venice’s gorgeous nearby islands. A taste of paradise just a stone’s throw away from the iconic city, skipping over to these beautiful landmasses is one of the most magical things to do in Venice.

Torcello Island

Dishing up quiet serenity on an island full of green, Torcello Island was the first of the landmasses to be inhabited by people leaving the mainland. These days, it has very few residents and mainly functions as a nature reserve, offering tourists the perfect tranquil getaway.

You’ll have to check out the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta during your visit. Tracing back to the 7th century, prepare to be amazed by the breathtaking Byzantine mosaics and huge stone throne. If you’re fond of the island, you might want to take a seat on the throne as it is said to promise your return to Torcello.

Lido Island (Lido di Venezia)

If you’re seeking a spot for a relaxing getaway far from the crowds, look no further than Venice Lido. Lido di Venezia is blessed with a beautiful beach that stretches for miles and makes the perfect place for a break on golden shores.

With only 2,000 inhabitants, the island has a very relaxed air with small local shops and wonderful eateries. For a true escape from the hustle and bustle of city life, you could not find a more tranquil place than Lido Island.

Murano Island

The island of Murano is renowned for its traditional glass making. During the late medieval and Renaissance periods, Murano was known to be the world’s leading center for glass manufacturing.

The skill and tradition of glass making is still very much present on the island today, and you will find many tours and museums sharing the history and specifics of the skill. Be sure to pick up a glassware souvenir during your stay as they make the most fitting memento to this charming destination.

The Island of Burano

Picture-perfect, the island of Burano is famed for its brightly-colored fishermen’s houses and sensational seafood. With houses painted in robust purples and charming yellows, highlighter pink and dreamy blues, it’s impossible not to break a smile on this cheery island.

Legend has it, fishermen painted their houses in these bright colors to make it easier to see their home when fishing at sea. These days, if a resident wishes to paint your home you must send in a letter to the government and they will give you a list of acceptable colors. A visit to this picturesque paradise is certainly one of the most unique things to do in Venice.

6. Visit St Mark’s Square 

Visiting St Mark’s Square is simply one of those things you have to do in Venice. It is no wonder that it has become the most popular piazza in Venice, considering that it is encircled by renowned buildings such as the Saint of Venice, St Mark’s Basilica and Doge’s Palace.

You’ll also be able to listen to the bells of St Mark’s Campanile, the city’s beautiful bell tower and gaze up at the Torre dell’Orologio clock tower. Consequently, St Mark’s Square is an unrivaled place for ticking off some of the best landmarks in Venice as they huddle around this captivating square.

7. Cross the Bridge of Sighs 

Despite being a touch on the petite side, the Bridge of Sighs is one of the most significant historic landmarks in the city. Made from white limestone with windows and stone bars, it truly is a beautiful sight to see. 

Connecting the Prigioni Nuove (New Prison) with Doge’s Palace, it passes over the Rio di Palazzo. Legend has it that it is named in tribute to the sighs exhaled by criminals making their way from the palace to the New Prison as they took their last glimpse over Venice before facing capital punishment. 

8. See The Gallerie dell’Accademia (Gallery Accademia)

Much like Florence, Venice is home to an incredible array of fantastic museums. However, the Gallerie dell’Accademia is a rather special one. Lying opposite the Accademia Bridge on the Grand Canal, it boasts a fantastic collection of pre-19th century art.

Some highlights in the museum include the works of Bellini, Titian and Canaletto. With so much to investigate in the Galleria Dell’Accademia, visiting is one of the best things to see and do in Venice.

9. Go To San Giorgio Maggiore for the best views in Venice

San Giorgio Maggiore is one of the smaller islands of Venice. To get there, all you need to do is jump in a water taxi and you’ll arrive in around 45 minutes. As soon as you set foot on the island, you will no doubt be blown away by its beauty.

As if the island is not stunning enough in itself, the scenes from the bell tower will treat you to the incredible views over the island and Venice. Another notable attraction is San Giorgio Monastery. The incredible Renaissance-style basilica is nothing short of breathtaking.

10. Check out the Peggy Guggenheim Museum

The Peggy Guggenheim Collection is a modern art museum in the Palazzo Venier dei Leoni – an 18th-century palace. The incredible building was once the home of the iconic American heiress and self-professed art-addict, Peggy Guggenheim. 

The museum showcases modern pieces from the likes of Picasso, Miro and Dali from Peggy’s personal collection, along with masterpieces from Hannelore B. and Rudolph B. and a beautiful sculpture garden.

11. Stare Up At San Marco Campanile

Standing at a height of 98.6m high, the San Marco Campanile bell tower is the tallest structure in Venice. A climb to the top will reward you with jaw-dropping views over St Mark’s Square below. Being a popular tourist activity, doing so can involve a hefty queue.

If you don’t fancy waiting or braving the stairs, gazing up at the beautiful bell tower in itself is one of the best free things to do in Venice. There are few more enchanting scenes than that of the imposing structure surrounded by the buzz of the piazza.

12. St Mark’s Basilica

Visiting St Mark’s Basilica, or the Basilica di San Marco as it was formerly known, is one of the most popular things to do in Venice.  An honorary church dedicated to the patron saint of the city, it is frequently referred to as the Golden Church in homage to its beautiful golden color and grand appearance.

St Mark’s Basilica lies in the Piazza San Marco and we recommend setting aside a good amount of time to take in each and every inch of its dazzling mosaic interior. Pay particular attention to the altar Pala d’Oro. Lavishly decorated in jewels, gold and almost two thousand rare gems, it is a truly marvelous sight to see.


The wonderful city of Venice is brimming with incredible things to see and do, from spellbinding architecture to island getaways. However, be sure to set some time aside for sitting down with a gelato and taking in the enchanting ambience that makes the City of Water so special and one of the most romantic places in Italy.

If you’re dreaming of being guided through the most incredible parts of the Floating City by a well-seasoned local, Italy4Real offers a bespoke range of Venice tours that provide a wonderful introduction to the Venetian way of life.

About the Author

Rem Malloy started Italy4real back in 1995 with his mother, Deborah de Maio.

He specialises in Italian tours as well as customised tours to France, England, Ireland, Germany, Switzerland, Greece and Spain. He was also featured in the Travel Channel show Mysteries at The Museum in 2016.

Rem has family in Italy and his mothers home town is Cava di Terrani, near the Amalfi Coast. The family has a street named after them in Sorrento, Via Luigi de Maio; a relative who was mayor of Sorrento.

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