14 Fun Things to Do in Venice, Italy, on Your Visit

Steve Cummings

Island murano in Venice Italy. View on canal with boat and motorboat water. Picturesque landscape.

The city of Venice, which sits on the water and comprises many little islands, is like something from a fantasy novel or film. If you didn't know better, you'd think someone describing it was making it up. Yet one of the most breathtaking cities in the world is very much enduring and captivates all visitors that spend time there.

Of the approximately 118 islands and its many canals that take the place of streets, Venice has an astonishing number of best things to do. You'd be wrong if you thought getting around might be problematic because boats were the main transportation. 

In this guide, we want to show you some of the best and most fun things you can do in the so-called The Floating City.

1. Doge's Palace

Doge's Palace
Credit: Depositphotos

Few buildings and locations worldwide are as unashamedly camp and garish as Doge's Palace. It is a stunning building central to the political strength of the Venetian Republic, which stayed in power for 100 years up to 1797. Doges (Dukes) were crowned there, and naughty ones were executed. It was also the place where prisoners were put on trial and then sent to their deaths off the Bridge of Sighs. 

Some of the world's greatest Renaissance-era artists were invited to decorate its walls. It includes one of the world's largest canvas pieces of art, Paradise by Tintoretto. Aside from the exceptional art, there are sinister prisons and the haunting Bridge of Sighs, where you can even act out your walk of death.

2. Grand Canal

Venice, Italy
credit: depositphotos

Thought to be one of the most significant waterways in the world, the Grand Canal is one of the must-see things in Venice, whether you are there for a day or an entire week or two. The Canal separates the city into two neat sections and has palazzos lining it, each fancier than the last. Surprisingly, just four bridges, including the iconic Rialto, cross the Grand Canal. 

It is fair to say that Venice is one of the more expensive European cities to visit, but the great thing is that even if you don't take a gondola or taxi and instead take some form of standard public transport, the route is the same through the Canal. Whatever you decide to do, whichever way you experience, you will be glad you didn’t pass up on it. 

3. Ponte di Rialto

Image Credit: Shutterstock.

We mentioned it above, but it is worth dedicating a section to one of the best things to see in Venice, the magnificent Ponte di Rialto. More than just a bridge, this is a marble-covered work of art that links the San Polo and San Marco districts across the Grand Canal and, behind Piazza San Marco, is one of the city's most popular attractions for tourists. 

Although the various shops that line the bridge are tourist traps that are best avoided, you should cross the bridge, particularly if you are heading over it from the San Marco end to get to a market that has been running for more than a millennium. Although the market could be more interesting, the bars are among Venice's best.

4. Cicchetti

Although the city has a reputation for being somewhat expensive, there are ways to enjoy some popular things to do in Venice without breaking the bank. Take cicchetti, for example; this is one of the most iconic Venetian snacks, and it is divine. 

The standard form for Cicchetti is baguette slices topped with a wide array of ingredients like cheese, meat, and seafood. Like many bar snacks, you can have a different type of Cicchetti depending on where you visit. There are some genuinely decadent and gourmet versions of this side dish and some more rustic and traditional forms. It is the perfect snack food when you are on a tight budget. 

5. St. Mark's Square 

Piazza San Marco, or St. Mark's Square, is widely known as “the drawing room of Europe” and is perhaps the most famous square in Italy. When looking for free things to do in Venice, a stroll around the square will give you a breathtaking experience. 

This is the cultural and geographical heart of the city and features Doge's Palace at one end and St. Mark's Basilica at the other. The square has a long and fascinating past, and although it won't be completely free if you want to make the most of your visit, you should sit in one of the many coffee shops and enjoy some people and pigeon-watching. 

6. Gondola Tour

Gondola Tour
Credit: Depositphotos

Gondola tours are expensive, but if you save money elsewhere during your trip, they are among the best things to do in Venice for young adults. Views of the city from the waterways that wind between the different islands are a once-in-a-lifetime experience that you will not want to pass on, and the teenagers in your travel party are bound to enjoy it. 

If you are looking to be frugal, you can take a much less expensive Vaporetto, a water bus, and the main form of public transportation around the city. 

7. Glassblowing on Murano Island

When traveling to a place like the Floating City with younger children, finding things they will enjoy can be less challenging if you know where to look. One of the best things to do in Venice with kids is learning about glass blowing on Murano Island. Traditional Venetian glass blowers demonstrate the techniques they have used that are hundreds of years old. There is also the choice at some places to make your own glasswork. These glasses allow you to create something and then take it with you.

This is an excellent experience for children and gives them a history lesson and something educational that is exciting. 

8. Climb to the Top of Campanile Di San Marco

Campanile Di San Marco
Credit: Depositphotos

In a destination comprising over 118 little islands, there are many unusual things to do in Venice. However, climbing the Campanile Di San Marco is one of the best. This iconic bell tower stands out among the many exciting elements of the city's skyline. To reach the top, you need to take an elevator. The journey is worth it, though, because you get some of the best views of Venice from the top of the tower. 

9. Alberoni, Lido Island

The Floating City may not be known for its beaches, which is good, especially when looking for non-touristy things to do in Venice. But, if you are heading to Venice during the summer and want a break from the hustle-bustle and overcrowding of some of the other more popular parts, Alberoni on the southern point of Lido Island is perfect.

There, you will find a pristine and quiet beach, and you may even have the chance to spot some animals in their natural habitat. This area also has several great bars for a cold and refreshing drink. What could be better than spending time with your nearest and dearest, without bumping into a thousand and one people, and the chance to still have the benefit of a beach holiday in a place that is not known for its beaches?

10. M9 Museum

Are you interested in Italy's complex history and heritage and want to learn more about how it came to be what it is today? One of the fantastic things in Venice is the often little spoken of M9 Museum. This first opened in December 2018 and is situated in the center of Mestre. It was designed by Sauerbruch Hutton, an esteemed architectural firm based in Germany. 

It has an impressive exterior surpassed by the various hands-on and engaging interactive installations that document Italy's evolution. There are many fantastic art galleries and museums to look at and wander through around Venice, just as in other parts of Italy. But if you want something a bit different and want to avoid crowds, this place is a must. 

11. Quadri

Located in the Piazza San Marco, Quadri is one of the best restaurants in Venice. Owned by locals, the Alajmo brothers, the premises are home to a gourmet bar snacks venue downstairs and a Michelin-starred restaurant in the upstairs section. Among the many reasons this is one of the best restaurants is its stunning views overlooking the square. It has such a rich heritage that it is hard not to feel like you are learning more about the city's history just sitting in its hallowed halls. 

Although it was bought in 2010 by the current owners, the location has been used as an eatery of various kinds since it was first built in 1831. 

12. Harry's Bar

When looking for the best bars in Venice in which to enjoy a Bellini or your favorite frosty beverage, it would be a shame to overlook the iconic 1930s Harry's Bar. It may look like the echoes of a bygone era, but that is what makes it so perfect. There is the dominating mahogany bar, the golden-hued lighting that gives the bar its unique atmosphere, and the memories of many genuinely famous people who have spent time drinking, thinking, and possibly even creating there. The past clientele of Harry's Bar includes the late great Orson Welles, Marcel Proust, and Lord Byron. 

13. Caffe Florian

Arguably one of the most iconic and most important, Caffe Florian happens to be considered by many the best café in Venice. It was the first to open anywhere in Europe and has served hungry and thirsty customers since 1720. The interior looks like it dates back to that time, too. This is one place where it's going to hit you in the bank account whatever you order, but if you have spent most of your trip trying to be frugal, this is one place where you should allow yourself to indulge and spend a little. 

After all, it's not just about the excellent cup of coffee you will likely be served here; it's about the atmosphere and spending time in a standing, living, and enduring relic from Venice and Italy's past. 

14. Rialto Fish Market

Rialto Fish Market
Credit: Depositphotos

One of the top things to do in Venice if you want a truly authentic Venetian experience is to visit the stunning and legendary Rialto Fish Market. Not only does it have an incredible choice of fresh fish and other forms of seafood, but there are also fruit and vegetable stalls with produce of the highest caliber. 

Some traditional markets in European towns and cities can be known for the unfriendly attitude of the vendors, but at Rialto, they are delightful and helpful. They want to help tourists as much as they want to help the locals search for the right food and ingredients for their home-cooked meals. This is also a great way to avoid some of the expensive price lists at the restaurants and cafes and the many tourist traps found throughout Venice. Even if you only cook one meal yourself while you are there, it is a great way to feel like a local. 

Final Thoughts

Venice may be a city that, on paper, doesn't really make sense and feels like it may be from Lord of The Rings or something similar. But trust us when we say that you will not regret visiting this impressive Floating City, whether you intend to spend a week or two there or just a few days. Whether you take our advice and try to check off all the things and places we have listed or pick out the ones that interest you and those traveling with you most, we know you will have a great time. 

While we have tried to create a whistlestop guide to the best things to do in Venice, we have probably missed some things. Here's your chance to help us. If you have visited the city in the past and wish us to include something you enjoyed and think others may enjoy, please let us know in the comments section below.

Related: 16 Things to Do in Rome as a Frugal Traveler

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