13 Things to Do in Venice
Venice is one of my favorite cities in Italy (the other is Florence). If you’ve seen pictures of this majestic location, then you know why. Venice is beautiful and romantic. But it is also full of history, culture, and amazing things to do.
The city is built on 118 small islands, each connected by a system of canals and bridges. In its heyday, Venice was a financial and military stronghold. Now it is one of Europe’s greatest magnets for tourism. Even so, Venice is a relatively small city with a population of about 250,000. So don’t worry. You can check off everything on your itinerary in a reasonable amount of time.
Without further ado, here is a list of the best things to do in Venice:
Piazza San Marco
Piazza San Marco is the main square in Venice, and it’s the best place to start your day. All of Venice’s most famous landmarks are located here. But the square itself is a beauty to behold. Napoleon called it “the world’s most beautiful drawing room.”
The square is surrounded by ornate buildings, including the renaissance-style Torre dell’ Orologio (Clock Tower). There are also several cafes and restaurants. These are especially nice to visit during summer nights when the square comes alive. Just expect higher prices since it’s a popular location.
Also, keep in mind that Piazza San Marco is the lowest point in Venice. So when Venice floods, it floods here first. But flood season is generally between October and January. If you avoid this season, you’ll most likely be fine.
St. Mark’s Basilica
The most famous building in Venice is St. Mark’s Basilica. The church was created in 1092 and remains one of the most important religious locations in all of northern Italy.
For architecture fanatics, the basilica is a prime example of Italian Byzantine architecture. But even the common traveler can enjoy the church’s beauty. From the intricate sculptures and paintings on the exterior to the ornate frescos and works of art on the interior, St. Mark’s Basilica is breathtaking. It is a must see and easily one of the best things to do in Venice.
Palazzo Ducale is a gothic palace of immense beauty located on Piazza San Marco. You can go inside to admire a fabulous collection of paintings and extravagant decorations. You can also walk along the iconic Bridge of Signs while here.
But Palazzo Ducale is also a fantastic opportunity to learn more about Venice’s history. The palace was the Doge’s residence and the seat of the Venetian government. So, as you can imagine, Palazzo Ducale is a symbol of the former republic’s power and opulence. Exploring the interior is like stepping back in time.
Bridge of Sighs
The Bridge of Sighs is one of the most photographed locations in Venice. The bridge itself is small but charming. But it also has historical significance. According to legend, criminals were taken over the bridge on the way to prison. And as they walked across the bridge, they would take one last look at the beautiful city of Venice and sigh.
San Marco Campanile
One of the most recognizable buildings in Venice is the San Marco Campanile. The massive, red building was created in the 9th century and used as a watch tower. Since the very purpose of the tower is to look out over the city, you can be sure you’ll get great panoramic views up here.
And I’d recommend you go quick. History hasn’t been kind to San Marco Campanile. Over the many years, the tower was damaged by fires, earthquakes, and lightning. The building you see today is actually a reconstruction since the original collapsed in 1902.
There are hundreds of Venice canals. But the largest and most famous is Canal Grande. Like a massive river, this canal weaves from one end of the city to the other. A large number of historical buildings have been built along the canal. So I recommend you walk along Canal Grande’s banks and take in the gorgeous views. You can also stop on one of the four bridges that spans its waters to take a photo.
Ponte di Rialto
One of the bridges that traverses Canal Grande is Ponte di Rialto. The bridge is an important tourist attraction. Just look at Rialto’s stunning, stone features. You won’t be able to resist snapping a few pictures. The bridge also features several shops, so you can purchase some souvenirs in between photos.
Another one of the best things to do in Venice is visit Gallerie dell’Accademia. If you want to see artistic masterpieces while in town, this is the place to be. Here you’ll find a wonderful collection of 19th century art, featuring works by Bellini and Canaletto.
The most famous piece in the gallery is Da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man. But you can also find masterpieces, such as the Battle of Lepanto by Veronese and Virgin and the Child by Titian.
San Giorgio Maggiore
Across from Piazza San Marco, you’ll see San Giorgio Maggiore. Although the island looks charming from afar, it is worth visiting up close. After a short trip on a Vaporetto or water taxi, you can explore the charming harbor, where several boats are moored. Then, stroll on down to the San Giorgio Monastery or the Church of San Giorgio Maggiore.
The island also allows you to view the main city of Venice from a new perspective. So photographers may want to stop by for a great photo session.
Murano, Burano, and Lido
With 118 islands in Venice, there are a few that stand out. So if you have the time, take a day trip away from the center of the city. The three islands I would recommend are Murano, Burano, and Lido.
Murano is the home of Venice’s famous glassmakers. If you’d like, you can watch the masters at work. Or you can just buy some beautiful pieces to take home. Burano is a charming island known for colorful homes and lacemaking. It’s a great place to take a stroll and snap some photos. Finally, Lido is a quiet island with a beach. It’s the perfect place to go if you want to escape the crowds and enjoy a peaceful bike ride.
The Church of Santa Maria Assunta
Although St. Mark’s Basilica is the most famous church in Venice, the Church of Santa Maria Assunta is another location worth visiting. Built in 1729, the church is a relatively new addition to the city. Regardless, you will be stunned by the gorgeous interior. Once you walk through the huge, bronze doors, you’ll be treated to an array of intricate statues and detailed designs. There are also some notable artworks, such as the Martyrdom of St. Lawrence by Titian.
Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute
The final church worth seeing in Venice is the Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute. You’ll find it on Canal Grande, so it is close to the city’s other main attractions. Although not as extravagant as the other churches, the basilica is still eye-catching. Its symmetry and well-crafted stone are something anyone can appreciate.
What’s more, the hexagonal design lets sunshine pour in at all times. This natural light lends the basilica even more beauty, making it a must see.
Experience Venetian Cuisine
Finally, no trip to Italy would be complete without a sampling of the local cuisine. One of the best things to do in Venice is eat everything in sight. Trust me. You’ll want to. So here are some of the city’s best culinary creations:
- Baccala mantecato: creamed, dried cod that is blended into a smooth mousse with salt, pepper, and olive oil. This Venetian staple is often served on bread or grilled polenta.
- Risotto al nero di seppia: seafood-based rice dish dyed black with squid ink. The appearance is intimidating, but this dish brings the best of the local seafood.
- Sarde in saor: sardines seasoned with vinegar, onions, pine nuts, and raisins. This may not be for everyone, but when in Venice …
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