Venice, Italy is often on the top of traveler’s bucket lists. With the romantic canals and plethora of fine dining, it’s no surprise why this Italian city is so popular. Although you’ll get a taste of Italian cuisine, history and art, Venice’s cultural and geographical traits make it incredibly unique in itself. Although Venice is small, there is lots to do and some great Venice tours to experience. That’s why it’s so important to have an itinerary ready so you can be sure to hit every spot without missing anything. Here are our top favorite activities you can’t miss in Venice.
1. Gondola Ride
Yes, it’s cheesy. Yes, it’s touristy. But can you really go to Venice and not ride on a gondola? Venice is known for its canals that criss cross the city and cruising on a gondola is the best way to see them. Gondola rides in Venice are pretty much exactly as you’ve pictured them in your daydreams- the gondolier, (aka the driver), sports the iconic striped shirt with a red handkerchief tied around their neck and straw hat on their head. Using their long oar, they’ll direct you through the Grand Canal, under bridges and past houses located directly on the water. Gondola rides are a once in a lifetime experience and one you’ll regret missing if you don’t take one.
2. Eat and Drink with the Locals
Venice is incredibly touristy and with the influx of tourists comes the expensive, inauthentic restaurants that line the main streets looking to shuffle patrons in and out as quick as possible. Luckily, you can easily avoid these tourist traps by researching where the locals eat and drink. Most tourists stick to a few main drags, and while there are some delicious restaurants in those areas, it’s best to get off the beaten track.
Osterias in the less chaotic Jewish quarter are some of the best in the city. If you’re a fan of wine, try one of the Bacari, traditional wine bars located through Venice. Don’t miss the Rialto Market where you can try local produce, perfect for grabbing supplies for an afternoon picnic.
3. Piazza San Marco
As crowded and touristy as it is, you can’t leave Venice without visiting St Mark’s Square. Located in the square are some of the city’s most iconic attractions- St. Mark’s Basilica and Doge’s Palace, as well as the Campanile de San Marco (the plaza’s bell tower). Dating back to the 11th century, St. Mark’s Basilica is one of Venice’s most iconic churches. You have to pay an entrance fee to get in and wait in a long line, but it’s absolutely worth it. (pro tip: some Venice tours will let you skip the line and get in immediately).
The gorgeous architecture and Byzantine mosaics make it a visual wonder that shouldn’t be missed. Doge’s Palace is the former home of the Doge (the elected chief Magistrate of Venice). The palace is a symbol of the city and a icon of Gothic Venetian architecture. The Plaza itself is a great spot for people watching and feeding pigeons.
Although technically Burano is its own separate island, it’s only a short boat ride from Venice and a popular day trip. Burano is known as one of the most colorful islands in the world, with rows of houses boasting all colors and shades of the rainbow. Aside from being a photographer’s dream, Burano is famous for its artisanal lace making. You can pop your head in a local lace shop and hopefully get a free demonstration! Lastly, when the sightseeing works up an appetite, don’t head back to Venice without stopping at a local tavern to enjoy a delicious fresh fish meal.
Murano, like neighboring Burano, is another beautiful island close to Venice. Murano has earned its nickname as the glass island because of its famous glass making artesans. The history behind this trade started in 1291, when the Venetian Republic forced local glass makers to move to the island of Murano to avoid potential fires. Now the craft is the island’s main attraction for visitors, where they can see glass blowing demonstrations and take home beautiful souvenirs. The Museo del Vetro (glass museum) is a great place to start if you’re interested in learning more about the trade.
6. Get lost in Venice at night
Venice is gorgeous during the day, but even more spectacular at night. There’s something about the lights shimmering along the canals and couples taking a romantic moonlit gondola ride that makes you forget about the heat and the crowds, and lets you get lost in the moment.
Grab a gelato at one of the city’s many gelaterias (chocolate and pistachio is a great combo), and take a stroll through the cobblestone streets. Photographers will love the picturesque views of dimly lit plazas and serene bridges. Getting lost in Venice, day or night, is the perfect opportunity to get away from the crowds, explore where the locals live and shop, and have a serene moment to yourself to appreciate this truly remarkable city.