Venice is one of the most visited cities in all of Italy. Its world-famous canals and architecture have set it apart for centuries as a one-of-a-kind destination. Being built on 117 distinct islands, Venice is anything but a typical city. Venice has also played a very major role in both Italian and European history as the capital of one of the strongest Italian states and most influential merchant hubs in the world. This city was the home of the legendary traveler Marco Polo!
Personally, I think Venice is very unique from the rest of the major cities in Italy, and while it is very frequented by tourists, I think it absolutely deserves a visit. This post will answer some questions that you probably have about visiting Venice. On top of that, the fact that it is so touristy makes it one of the best cities to visit in Italy if you don’t speak Italian!
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Best Things to Do in Venice
Venice’s storied history can still be seen today with many of the city’s most important buildings dating back centuries. Venice is a blend of old and new, and the entire city is accented with gold. The best things to do in Venice are a combination of experiencing Venice’s elite history as well as enjoying the uniqueness that it still embodies today.
1. Visit Saint Mark’s Basilica and Square
Saint Mark’s Square in undoubtedly the most impressive and important square in all of Venice. This is essentially the center of the city, and has been for centuries. Many of the Venice’s most important buildings are located in and around this square, and it is the central hub of activity in the city. In Saint Mark’s Square you can find high-end boutiques, hotels, cafes, and restaurants as well as the Doge’s Palace, the Torre Dell’Orologio, Saint Mark’s Campanile, and Saint Mark’s Basilica.
Saint Mark’s Basilica is the most iconic building in Venice and sits right at the head of the square. This building has been the host of countless important events and has been the center of public and religious life in the city for almost a millennium. Religious or not, it is worth exploring the art and beauty within its walls! Visiting Saint Mark’s Square is not just one of the best things to do in Venice – it is also the main springboard to all of the other things on this list.
2. Walk Across the Canale Grande on the Ponte di Rialto
There are hundreds of canals in Venice, and the Canale Grande is the biggest of them all. This canal has been one of the most important waterways throughout all of Venice’s history, and its size makes it seem more like a river than a canal. The canal winds throughout the city and touches many of its districts, but the most important point of the Canale Grande is at the Ponte di Rialto.
The Ponte di Rialto has been one of the most important bridges in Venice for centuries, and after it collapsed hundreds of years ago it was replaced with the ornate stone version that still exists today. This bridge connects the San Marco and San Polo districts of the city, which have historically been two of the most important places in Venice. The bridge is a very famous tourist attraction, and getting a picture on it with the beautiful old buildings in the background is a must-do when visiting Venice.
3. Visit the Tranquil District of Murano
Murano is a set of islands within Venice that are connected by pedestrian bridges, making them feel like one singular place. This district is very quaint and is regarded as one of the best places to go for a more peaceful stroll and to soak in the beauties of Venetian life and culture. Other areas of the city are big and iconic and absolutely worth visiting, but heading to Murano is a way to get a taste of typical Venice that many tourists fail to experience. Murano is also famous for being one of the main Venetian hubs of the glassblowing industry. If you have the time, you should consider going to a glassblowing demonstration.
4. Admire Renaissance Masterpieces at the Gallerie Dell’Accademia
The Gallerie Dell’Accademia is probably the best art museum in all of Venice, and the masterpieces housed within its walls deserve a visit whether you’re an art fan or not. This gallery’s most iconic work is the Vitruvian Man by Leonardo da Vinci, but there are hundreds of other works by esteemed Italian artists. The building was converted from a former convent into the museum, and its appearance from the outside is very unique and recognizable. Tickets can be bought in advance online here.
5. Take a Water Taxi to Lido
Lido is an island of about 20,000 people that is a quick water taxi ride away from the main parts of Venice. Lido is often regarded as the peaceful getaway for Venetians who want a break from the busier parts of the city. This is actually where I stayed on one visit to Venice, and it is a really nice place to escape the crowds in the city. The beach on Lido is especially famous and is worth a visit if you find yourself on the island!
6. Go Church-Hopping
Venice is packed with some really stunning churches, and spending an afternoon church-hopping is a really fun activity while visiting the city. There is so much beautiful artwork and gold metalwork to admire in the basilicas and churches around the city, and each one is unique from the others. While Saint Mark’s Basilica is the most famous and iconic church in Venice, there are others like the Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute and Chiesa di Santa Maria Assunta.
How to Get to Venice
Venice is one of the biggest tourist hubs in all of Italy, and its airport is huge because of it. As a result, there are a lot of great flight options into Venice from all over the world. If you need to fly to Venice, you want to use the Venice Marco Polo Airport (VCE). This airport is one of the busiest airports in all of Italy, so you really shouldn’t have any issues finding a good flight option.
If for some reason you can’t find a great flight option into Venice, another place that you can consider flying into is Bologna Airport (BLQ). Bologna is not far from Venice at all when you take a train, as the trip is only about two hours. Both of these airports are among the best airports to fly into in Italy, so you’re in good hands with either of them. In either case, for tips on finding affordable airfare be sure to check out my guide to finding cheap flights.
If you fly into Venice’s airport, the best way to get to your hotel is by booking a private transfer with our partners at Welcome Pickups. Welcome Pickups offers personalized, private, comfortable rides from the airport into the city for about the same price as a standard taxi. They monitor your flight status while you are in the air, and a driver will be waiting for you holding a sign with your name on it as soon as you arrive.
From both Bologna’s airport and Venice’s airport, you can also arrive to the center of the city by train. Tickets can be purchased at the train stop in either airport.
Italy has one of the best connected train systems of any country I have ever visited, as I wrote about in my post about how to use Trenitalia. If you have the time, getting around Italy by train is always a great choice. You get to see great views of the countryside while riding in very high quality train cars.
Venice is located way up in the northeastern corner of Italy, making it a bit inaccessible to the other big cities in Italy. Bologna and Trieste are the closest major cities and are accessible in under two hours on the train. From Bologna, you can connect to places like Florence, Rome, Torino and Milan.
How to Get Around Venice
WATER TAXI | VAPORETTO | WATER BUS | GONDOLA
Venice is one of the most unique places in the world, in that the main form of public transportation is via boat. These boats come in several forms.
Firstly, there are private water taxis, which work just like an official taxi cab in most major cities. You talk to a representative at the water taxi booth and they collect your payment and assign you to a boat. That boat will then take you where you want to go.
Secondly, there are vaporettos. Vaporettos are like ferries, and they are the most public form of the boat system in Venice. They are not cheap, but they connect many of the important parts of the city. There is a vaporetto station right outside of the main Venice train station. To use the vaporettos, you need to first go to any of the ticket windows near the vaporetto stops. You can buy single tickets or passes that last for a day or longer. Attendants behind the window at each vaporetto stop can help you to figure out which boat you need to take to get to your destination.
Finally, there is the Alilaguna waterbus which connects the airport to the city of Venice. This is without a doubt the coolest way to get to a city from an airport out of anywhere I have ever been. The waterbus leaves from the airport and drops you off in the heart of Venice. Tickets can be bought in the arrivals hall of the airport, and cost around €15 one way or €27 round trip. The trip takes about an hour.
In addition to the methods above, you can hire a gondola to take you where you want to go. These are very expensive and are not a practical option for any kind of longer term trip. Realistically, the gondola rides are a tourist experience that you can take for a quick ride along one of the canals, but they aren’t really a means to actually get around the city.
Driving in Venice is not a thing, so if you have a rental car you will need to park it somewhere outside of the city.
Attending Carnevale in Venice
Venice Carnevale is the biggest Mardi Gras festival in all of Italy, and it lasts for the full two weeks before Ash Wednesday. This is by far the most exciting time to visit Venice, and the crowds are absolutely massive. While the prices are higher and the crowds are massive, I still fully recommend visiting Venice during Carnevale, if you can afford it. The streets are filled with people in elaborate masks and costumes, and there are special events and foods served up throughout the whole period of celebrations.
While the entire two week period is exciting and filled with celebration, there are three celebrations that are recognized as being even more over-the-top. They are the Festa delle Marie, the Venice Water Parade, and the Flight of the Angel. More details on each of these events, including dates and times, can be found on the official Venice Carnevale website.
Is Venice Worth Visiting?
Venice is definitely a touristy city, which is usually not my cup of tea. However, it is just such a beautiful and unique city that I truly do think it is worth visiting. The prices are exorbitantly high for most things, and it is definitely far away from most of the other best places to visit in Italy, but I think it is absolutely worth the trip.
The history of Venice is so robust, and its wealth and success can still be seen to this day in the ornate architecture and golden works throughout the city. Going for a gondola ride is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and admiring the adorable streets and bridges in the city is well-worth the trip. So is Venice worth visiting? I would say yes.
That’s all I have for you about Venice! I hope this post was helpful for you as your plan your trip to Venice. If you have any more questions, be sure to drop a comment in the comment section
If you’re planning a trip to Venice, let us know! We’d love to chat ahead of time and answer any questions you have. Otherwise, have a wonderful day and stay present!