Packed with sights, sounds and of course, an iconic network of canals, Venice uncovers a plethora of things to see and do. While one of the most quintessential things to do in Venice is ride on a traditional gondola, there’s a treasure trove of museums, cultural attractions and intriguing neighbourhoods to be found. Here’s our round up of the best things to do in Venice. For inspiration on exploring the Veneto region, check out our blog on the best day trips from Venice.
Take a gondola ride along the Grand Canal
Cliché maybe, but taking a gondola ride is one of the quintessential things to do in Venice, especially if you’re a first-time visitor. Book a 30-minute trip with Local Venice Tours and you’ll get to float along Venice’s Grand Canal and get a unique view of the city’s key sights such as Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute and Academia Bridge. Gondolas hold six people and you can choose between afternoon and evening departures. What’s unique about this tour is you’ll be serenaded on your voyage. How romantic.
Visit the most famous bridges
Don’t miss a walk along the Ponte de Rialto, one of the most photographed bridges in the world. It’s one of four bridges that cross the Grand Canal, but with roots in the 16th Century, this is the oldest and is considered one of the most interesting architectural features of the Rialto district. It gets pretty busy here, but it’s well worth a visit to peruse its pint-sized boutiques selling jewellery, linen and traditional Murano glass. The Bridge of Sighs is Venice’s other most notable bridge, which can rarely be crossed on foot, but you may pass under via the canal.
Take a traditional Italian cooking class
If you want to know what local Venetians really eat, book a cookery class with Enrica Rocca, a lady who is passionate about simple yet delicious Italian cooking. After arriving at her loft apartment in the Dorsoduro district, you’ll be guided through a series of traditional antipasti, pasta and meat or fish dishes and leave with the recipes to take home. There are various packages to choose from, including a cicchetti-making class, a wine-pairing class and full-day class that includes a guided tour of Rialto Market. You’ll be treated to a glass of Enrica’s own-labelled Prosecco too.
Explore the rainbow-coloured Burano Island
Renowned for its brightly hued fishermen’s houses, Burano Island is a photographer’s dream and exploring this tranquil district is, without a doubt, one of the top things to do in Venice. Enjoy its rustic vibe here and find some excellent restaurants for lunch. Visit the Museo del Merletto for an interesting look at the island’s lacemaking history.
Visit the Rialto Market
The Mercati di Rialto, or Rialto Market, is the most iconic market in Venice and a trip here to explore the local Venetian produce is a must. Stroll around the vibrant stalls or book a guided tour with Food Tours of Venice (or the above-mentioned Enrica Rocca) to pick up vegetables and herbs, delicious olives from nearby Lake Garda and straight-from-the-ocean fish. Get here early to see the market slowly come alive and if you’re wondering where to eat in Venice, perch street-side at Al Merca, for some traditional cicchetti and an Aperol Spritz.
Discover the Peggy Guggenheim Collection
If you need a reason to visit the interesting – and quiet – Dorsoduro District, make it the Peggy Guggenheim Collection. Occupying the namesake American art collector’s former home – an unfinished 18th Century Grand Canal palace – this art gallery is filled with masterpieces by the likes of Dalí, Picasso, Mondrian, Miró and other revered Italian and American artists. Temporary exhibitions feature and there’s a room dedicated to celebrating the life of Guggenheim herself.
Tour the sights of San Marco
Everyone’s heard of San Marco, the most famous – and admittedly touristy – district in Venice. It gets super-busy here in high season with visitors wrestling in the heat for the best photographs, but arrive early, book ahead and marvel at some of the most breath-taking sights of Venice. Admire the views from the top of the Campanile di San Marco and marvel at the architecture of Palazzo Ducale. The opulence of St Mark’s Basilica will leave you in awe.
Hit the beach
Pack your swimsuit and head to Lido di Venezia, or Lido Island, a Belle Époque-inspired resort where poets and scribes used to visit in bygone eras. Aside from the buzzy nightlife and fantastic views you can enjoy over Venice, it’s a great place to lay your towel and soak up some rays, just 15 minutes from central Venice via water taxi. Cycle around the Oasis of Alberoni (a protected nature reserve) pick up tasty gelato on the main street of Gran Viale, or simply rent a sun lounger, take a dip in the lagoon and relax.