Venice Bucket List – 25 Best Things to See and Do in 2020
The Floating City is one of the world’s most unique and romantic cities. Once one of the most powerful states in the world, Venice has hundreds of years of art, history, and culture and it can be a bit overwhelming narrowing down just exactly what you’re going to see. Here are the top 25 things you absolutely must see and do when you visit Venice:
Do a Free Walking Tour in Venice
As soon as you hit the ground in Venice, your fist inclination will be to get on the water. And while you should definitely take advantage of the water transportation, make your first real experience a walking tour. Venice’s seemingly endless labyrinth of winding streets hold so many stories and secrets that only a Venetian would know. By linking up with a local guide, you will see a whole different side of the city that most visitors unknowingly miss out on. There are plenty of tours offered in Venice, but my favorite is Venice Free Walking Tours. Each guide has a unique story to tell.
Keep in mind that any walking tour advertised as “free” is not actually “free.” It simply means that you don’t pay to book upfront and tip your guide based on your experience. 10-15 euros per person is an appropriate amount if you enjoyed the tour.
Vist Piazza San Marco
You can’t come to Venice without seeing St. Mark’s Square. In fact, it’s one of the top reasons 60,000-80,000 tourists visit Venice every day! Most walking tours avoid taking you to St. Mark’s Square, and for good reason. You can easily find and explore the square on your own all of the information you could want to know on it can be found online or in guidebooks. St. Mark’s Square is extremely popular and can get very crowded. Go early in the morning or in the evening to avoid the bulk of the crowds. An empty Piazza San Marco is breathtaking!
Enjoy St. Mark’s Basilica
The centerpiece of St. Mark’s Square is the piazza’s namesake, St. Mark’s Basilica. One of the most famous buildings in Venice, should be a top priority on your Venice Bucket List! The church’s origins are shrouded in mystery and scandal. Said to be the final resting place of St. Mark the Evangelist after some Venetian merchants stole the apostle’s remains from Alexandria, Egypt and brought him back to Venice. Venice was under Muslim rule at the time and legend says that the merchants snuck him into the city under layers of pork! St. Mark himself was said to have appeared to one of the graverobbers during a storm at sea and guided them to safety. This incredible story is depicted on the 13th-centrury mosaic as you enter the church.
Lines to enter the church can get long, but they do move fast. It’s free to enter, and it’s recommended that you pay the 5 Euro to visit the museum. Included in your museum ticket is access to the terrace which offers beautiful views of Piazza San Marco. Buy your tickets online through the Basilica’s website to skip the line. Note that guests wearing shorts or sleeveless tops will not be allowed to enter the church, so plan ahead!
St. Mark’s Basilica is open to the public daily from 09:30-17:00 and on Sundays and holidays from 14:00-17:00 (16:30 from October-April).
Climb the Campanile for a Great View of Venice
For a stunning view of Venice, climb (or rather ride the elevator) to the top of the Campanile in St. Mark’s Square. How is there an elevator in such an old structure you ask? To be honest, the Campanile isn’t very old at all! The original tower was built in the Piazza San Marco during the 12th century. In 1902 the original tower collapsed and was rebuilt in 1912. The new Campanile looks exactly the same as the original. but is more structurally sound and has some modern amenities.
For 8 euro per person you can visit the Campanile from 09:00-19:00 from April to June and September and October, from 09:00-21:00 in July and August, and from 09:30-15:45 November through March. Arrive at least one hour before closing–they do not admit visitors in the last hour of the day.
Visit the Doge’s Palace
The Pink Palace. The Wedding Cake. These are just some of the interesting nicknames for the Doge’s Palace. An architectural masterpiece and the historic seat of power of the old Venetian Republic, the palace was designed to the opulence and wealth of this once mighty, maritime republic on display. The palace contains the largest oil painting in the world, Tintoretto’s Paradise, in the Hall of the Great Council. Venice has a rich, and sometimes dark, history and A trip to the Doge’s Palace is crucial to understanding this complex city’s past.
The cost to visit the Doge’s Palace starts at 20 euro per person. The palace is open to visitors daily from 08:30-19:00 from April-October and 08:30-17:30 from November-March.
See the Bridge of Sighs
A definite must-see on any trip to Venice is the Bridge of Sighs. The infamous bridge spans the Rio di Palazzo and its primary purpose was to move criminals from the court room to the adjoining palace prison. The name comes from the legend that prisoners would sigh as they caught one last glimpse of the city, knowing they would probably never again see the outside world.
There are several ways to get a glimpse of the Bridge of Sighs. The best, and really only, views of the exterior can be seen from Cononica Bridge or Ponte della Paglia. You can also get a great view of it on a gondola ride. However, the best way to experience the bridge is the way it was originally intended—from the inside. Take the Secret Itineraries Tour for a guided tour of the bridge and other sights inside the Doge’s Palace.
See the Ponte di Rialto
The Ponte di Rialto is a sight in Venice that you literally can’t miss! To get nearly anywhere in Venice you will travel on the Grand Canal and the Ponte di Rialto goes right over Venice’s main waterway at its narrowest point. This impressive bridge, sometimes referred to as the true heart of Venice, was the one and only bridge to span the Grand Canal from when it was built in 1591 until the Accademia Bridge was built in 1854. Today, it’s one of four bridges going over the Grand Canal.
But, the Ponte di Rialto is more than just another bridge. The exceptionally wide bridge is lined with merchants and market stalls selling jewelry, Murano glass, and souvenirs. Even if you aren’t in the market to buy anything, take a stroll across the Rialto Bridge and enjoy the beautiful views of the Grand Canal.
Take a Vaporetto Ride Down the Grand Canal
After seeing the Grand Canal from the Ponte di Rialto, you have to see it how it was meant to be seen, from the water! Hop on a vaporetto, Venice’s water public transportation. An adult one-way ticket will run you about 7,50 euro, so riding the vaporetto is a great way to see the city and not break the bank.
Take a Gondola Ride
What is the one thing that comes to mind when you think of Venice? Gondolas! It’s true that a gondola ride is considerably more expensive than taking the vaporetto, but what could be more romantic? Coming in at a steep 80 euros for a 40-minute ride, make the most of you time by choosing the best location. Don’t take a gondola ride right on the Grand Canal. The area is flooded with tourists and you may find that your gondolier is rushing your ride to get back to pick up the next wave of tourists. Opt instead for a gondola ride on a quieter side canal for a quieter and more romantic experience. If you simply have to partake in a gondola ride but are on a tighter budget, find another couple to split the cost with.
Check out our comprehensive guide to hiring a Gondola
Visit Burano For Some Color
Burano is a breathtaking, rainbow island famous for its local artisan’s fine lace. The island’s tradition of handmade lace dates back to the 16th century. If you’re already touring the Grand Canal, take the number 12 vaporetto out to the island of Burano. The 45-minute ride will allow for some beautiful views of the lagoon. Purchase the roundtrip ticket to save a couple of euro. Burano is a little quiet slice of heaven compared to the bustling streets of Venice. You’ll see school children playing in the piazzas and fishermen bringing in the catch of the day.
See the Glass-Blowing on Murano
From St. Mark’s Square take the vaporetto line 42 to the island of Murano. The main attraction on Murano is the glass factories. All of the glass factories in Venice are located on the island of Murano. In 1291, the Doge of Venice determined that the glass furnaces were a fire hazard in a city built primarily out of wood and ordered them all to move their workshops to Murano. Ever since, the island has been renowned for its coveted, high-quality glass. Step into a workshop to watch the masters at their craft, or take a guided tour for a more in-depth explanation of Murano’s glass-blowing tradition. Pick up a souvenir, but beware of cheap counterfeits. True Murano glass is protected with the “Vetro Murano Artistico” trademark. Shops that sell authentic glass will display the trademark decal in their shop windows and showrooms.
Try a Peach Bellini at Harry’s – The Best in Venice
If you’re in Venice, you have to try a Peach Bellini in its hometown. One of Italy’s most famous cocktails, this Prosecco and white peach combination was invented in 1948 by Giuseppe Cipriani, owner of the world-famous Harry’s Bar.
Better Yet, try an Aperol Spritz
The Aperol Spritz is probably the most popular drink in Venice (less cliché and less expensive than the Bellini) and with good reason. This all-alcohol mixer is Aperol topped with Prosecco and a slice of orange. It’s a good thing there are no cars in Venice because you definitely wouldn’t want to drive back to your hotel after a few of these!
Basilica Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari
The second most impressive basilica is the Basilica Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari located in the San Marco district. Completed in the 14th century, don’t be fooled by the basilica’s plain exterior. The Franciscans who built it wanted it to showcase the life of poverty they committed to living. But, the inside isn’t so humble. Filled with masterpieces by Titian, Bellini, and Vivarini to name a few. The basilica is open to the public from 09:00-18:00 Monday-Saturday and from 13:00-18:00 on Sundays and holidays.
Visit During the Carnevale Festival
Every February Venice turns into a masquerade! The city hosts their traditional Carnival and more than three million people dress up in gilded porcelain masks and elaborate Renaissance-style clothes. It’s one of the most fun and uniquely Venetian experiences!
If you don’t happen to visit during Carnevale, go into some shops and look at the beautiful craftsmanship of the masks. You can try them on and even take one home.
See Marco Polo’s House
Perhaps Venice’s most famous resident, you can’t come to Venice without seeing the historic home of the famed explorer, Marco Polo. His house is not a museum and you can’t even get a glimpse inside. There is a simple plaque that marks the location and you probably wouldn’t even notice it if you weren’t looking for it. But, the house of the most famous son of Venice is still worth visiting! Just consider the magnitude of Polo’s impact on Venice, and the whole world for that matter, and that tall house will leaving you feeling quite in awe.
Eat in the San Marco District
A mix of a trattoria and a restaurant, or a “gastrosteria,” Ai Mercanti is a fantastic, largely unknown by tourists little spot to get lunch. Ai Mercanti is Michelin recommended and serves delicious food in an informal setting. The gastrosteria features traditional Venetian and Italian cuisine with extremely reasonable prices ranging from 15-30 euros per plate. Ai Mercanti is open for lunch daily from 12:30-15:00 and is located at San Marco 4346, Calle dei Fuseri Corte Coppo.
Try Tiramisu while in Venice
There is still a lot of debate surrounding the origin of Tiramisu, but it’s widely believed to have been created somewhere near Venice. We are going to consider Venice the birthplace of Tiramisu, because it is just so good there! That being said, you have to eat tiramisu where it was created! While you will be hard-pressed to find a bad tiramisu in Venice, here are a few of the top places:
- I Tre Mercanti- Campo de la Guerra, 5364
- Osteria Oliva Nera- Castello 3417
- Trattoria Alla Madonna- 594 Calle Della Madonna
If you are looking for good gelato in Venice, don’t settle for just anything. Gelateria Nico is hands down the best in the city. Nestled behind the back of L’Accademia, Gelateria Nico is in a quiet location compared to St. Mark’s Square and overlooks the Giudecca Canal. The views are sublime, even better at sunset. Still producing unique flavors, their most famous being their very first custom flavor from 1937, the gianduiotto and you simply can’t visit Venice without trying it!
One of the best parts of visiting any city is getting to know the locals and their culture. One of the best ways to do this in Venice is to experience Cicchetti (pronounced chi-KET-tee). Cicchetti are little plated appetizers similar to tapas.
If you’re not sure where to start with Cicchetti, Take the Venice: Cicchetti Dishes and Wine Bar tour to really dine like a local. This tour takes you to 5 bacari wine bars where you will get to sample different wines and Cicchetti dishes and the tour lasts 2.5 hours. End your culinary adventure with a short gondola ride back to the Rialto area. This tour is fantastic and a unique and excellent way to eat amazing food from so many fantastic Venetian places.
One of the many art museums in Venice, L’Accademia is the best if you are interested in Venetian art. Housing works by the likes of Bellini, Tintoretto, Canaletto, Titian, Veronese and more, the former Santa Maria della Carita convent has been home to famous 14th-18th century Venetian art since 1807 during the Napoleonic occupation of Venice. The Accademia Gallery has also been home to Leonardo da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man since 1822.
The museum is open daily from 08:15-19:15, but closes early on Mondays, and is located at Campo della Carità nel Sestiere di Dorsoduro. Admission is 16,50 euro per person.
Lido di Venezia
This 11-kilometer long sandbar separates the Venetian Lagoon from the Adriatic Sea. The Lido is a seaside resort complete with beaches filled with rows of sunbeds and beach huts. Although Venice is located on the water, beaches are uncommon and this is the place to go if you want to relax on the beach and take a dip in the blueish-green waters of the Adriatic Sea.
Wander the Streets of Venice
Take some time to wander the narrow, winding streets of Venice, even better if you get lost. Trust me, you will get lost! Venice’s streets seem to have no rhyme or reason and it’s incredibly easy to get turned around and lose your sense of direction. Make sure you have a map with you (paper or on your mobile device) so you can eventually find your way back to the more populated areas. Along your way you will be able to escape the noisy crowds of St. Mark’s Square and the Grand Canal and see firsthand authentic Venice. You’ll see some of the most beautiful houses, shops, and little piazzas.
Eat in Cannaregio
If you’re looking for the most local experience, check out the neighborhood of Cannaregio. A little further from San Marco, you will see a significant decrease in crowds and a lot more Venetians.
A local favorite in the Cannaregio district, Paradiso Perduto dishes out some of the best Venetian food in the city. The menu changes daily based on the availability of the local fish market and local produce. If you’re not in the mood for fish, the cacio e pepe at Paradiso Perduto is molto bene! They bring out a wheel of Pecorino cheese, coat your pasta in the melty, gooey goodness right in front of you until it’s coated to perfection and then the waiter tops it off with fresh crushed peppercorns.
The menu is only in Italian, but you server can help you decide what to order if you aren’t well-versed enough in the local language. They also don’t take credit cards, so make sure you have euro on hand.
Paradiso Perduto is open Monday through Thursday form 10:00-midnight and is located at Fondamenta della Misericordia, Cannaregio.
San Zaccaria on San Giorgio Maggiore
For one of the very best views of Venice take a vaporetto out to San Giorgio Maggiore island. The floating city can be seen from the San Zaccaria bell tower on the small island of San Giorgio Maggiore. From the top of the tower, you’ll get a stunning panoramic view of all of Venice including the Campanile San Marco.
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