Here’s a complete overview of all the things to do and what to see in Venice, Italy including where to eat and drink, where to stay and the various transportation options.
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Venice, Italy, which is located along the coast of the Adriatic Sea is one of the most beautiful travel destinations in the entire world, attracting tens of millions of travelers each and every year. With an incredible history and home to rich assortment of cultural centers, museums, eateries and other points of interest, it’s easy to understand why.
Before becoming a part of Italy in 1866, Venice was actually a part of the Austrian Empire after the Napoleonic Wars and the subsequent Congress of Vienna. Prior to that, the city of Venice itself was actually the capital of a completely sovereign state, the Republic of Venice. Throughout these changes, though, Venice has always remained a very rich city, its location making it a historic place for trade and commerce.
The city itself is primarily divided into two separate regions. Most familiar to aspiring visitors will be the Centro Storico, which is made up of 117 small islands in a lagoon that form the canals for which the city is known. The other main section is the Terraferma, which is subdivided into different Frazioni. Of the two, the Terraferma is more populous, home to roughly 176,000 people to the Centro Storico’s 60,000.
Classified as having a humid subtropical climate, the temperatures in Venice are relatively mild. July and August are the warmest month of years, with the average temperature fluctuating around 73 degrees Fahrenheit. By contrast, the coldest months of the year are December and January, where the temperature will drop to around 37 degrees Fahrenheit, but rarely dips below freezing.
If you’re thinking of planning a trip to this historic city, then you’ve come to the right place. Below, we’re going to review all things that you’ll want to see and do in this city, as well as how you can make the most of your experience by knowing where to eat, where to stay, and how you can get around!
Things to Do and See
In a city with the history of Venice, it would simply be impossible to list every worthwhile point of interest and thing to do. However, there are some things that no tourist should skip, provided that he or she has the time to see them all:
Things to Do in Venice
As a vibrant Italian city, there’s much and more to do while taking a trip to Venice. Below, we outline the very best activities for tourists in Venice.
Trip Down the Grand Canal
There’s no better way to give yourself an introduction to the beautiful city of Venice than to take a cruise down the Grand Canal. This canal runs for about two-miles and is regularly traversed by waterbusses known as vaporetto. As the boat cruises down the Grand Canal, you’ll get to see the palazzi, which were home to the most notable families in historic Venice and which still serve as luxury homes today. One can begin a trip at the Venezia Santa Lucia railway station and get dropped off at the Piazza San Marco (see below).
Opera at Teatro Fenice
This isn’t just one of the most important and most famous venues in Venice; it’s one of the most important and most famous in all of Italy! While you can get a feel for the space by taking a guided tour, we absolutely recommend trying to take in a show here. Even if you don’t already have an appreciation for opera, taking in one of the show’s here could prove to be a life-altering experience, as the performances here are among the world’s best.
Walk the Ghetto Ebraico di Venezia
Known also as The Jewish Ghetto, during the early part of the 16th century, the Jewish residents of Venice were driven into this section of town. Residents were only permitted to leave during the daytime hours and were actually imprisoned here during the nighttime. Now, the neighborhood is home to a number of historic synagogues, any of which are worth a tour. One can walk the neighborhood for free, but we recommend taking a guided tour in order to understand this place’s history.
Stop for Gelato
Particularly if you’re visiting during the summer months, you owe it to yourself to enjoy the gelato that this city is known for. Naturally, you’ll have plenty of options when it comes getting your gelato fix, but there are some shops that stand head and shoulder above the rest. According to locals, the Boutique del Gelato is the finest in the city and can be found on Salizzada San Lio.
Shop for Classic Souvenirs
Naturally, there will be many shops selling sundry wares throughout the city. Most, as you might expect, are looking to turn a quick buck on tourists. However, there are some that are eminently worth a visit and possibly a purchase. Attombri, for example, offers incredible jewelry pieces, and there’s also the world-famous Vittorio Costantini, which makes ornate and beautiful Venetian lamps.
Running from the end of January until Lent, the Venice Carnival is one of the oldest traditions in the city and see the streets and canals flooded with masked partiers. The carnival includes a number of events throughout the city, including beauty pageants, and typically reaches its peak the closer one gets to Lent. If interested in attending this one-of-a-kind Venetian event, it’s definitely best to make your travel sooner rather than later.
Enjoy Aperitivo Time
As in the rest of Italy, Venetians know when it’s time to eat and when it’s time to drink. During the evening hours, locals will gather at the various bars around the city to enjoy light snacks and libations. Make it a point to join their ranks, as this will definitely give you a feel for the pulse, vibe and culture of this city. Later on, we’ll review some tremendous drinking establishments where you can enjoy your aperitivo.
Without a doubt, though, the best way to experience Venice is simply to get lost… Lost within reason that is, as the maze-like canals and streets can get even the most seasoned local turned around from time to time. Our advice? Get a good map of the city, and just start walking. As you go, examine the old-world architecture of the city’s buildings; pop in at off-the-beaten path shops, restaurants and bars; and let the city’s beauty wash over you.
Tourist Attractions and Places to See
There are many different things to see when you’re visiting Venice, and the following are the ones that no traveler should skip.
Piazza San Marco
A trip to the Piazza San Marco will allow you to cross off three of the major tourist attractions in Venice during one visit. First off, you’ll be able to take in St. Mark’s Basilica, which historians believe was completed in 1092, although there is some difference of opinion about this.
In addition, you’ll be able to see Doge’s Palace, which was once home to the ruler of the Republic of Venice. Currently, the palace operates a museum and is open daily from 8:30 in the morning to 7:00 at night. Finally, you can also Torre dell’Orologio, a beautiful clock tower that was added to the Piazza San Marco at the turn of the 16th century.
The Bridge of Sighs
One of the most famous bridges in the world, the Bridge of Sighs actually connects to Doge’s Palace from the Prigioni Nuove (New Prison). It is so named because Venetian prisoners were taken via this enclosed bridge to the interrogation rooms within Doge’s Palace itself. Most often, the view out over the canal would be the last of the outside world these prisoners would see.
Ponte di Rialto
Although there are now other bridges that cross Venice’s Grand Canal, the Ponte di Rialto is the oldest and used to be the only one. As such, it provides one of the greatest opportunities for a photo op when visiting the city. When traversing, though, be prepared to deal with crowds and also the number of small shops that line it.
If you want to get a view of the entire city, there’s no better place to do this that at the Campanile. This tower stands at 325 feet tall, making it the tallest structure in all of Venice. Originally completed in 912, the original tower actually collapsed in in 1902. The tower was rebuilt to exacting specifications, and it remains a great point of interest within the city.
If you’re going to visit one museum to see the best of Venetian artwork, then this is the museum you want to go to. It has an absolutely massive collection, housing works from some of the world’s masters spanning virtually the entire history of art. Open from 8:15 to 2:00 on Monday, the museum is open from 8:15 to 7:15 during the rest of the week. Admission prices do vary, but the standard rate is €6.
The Peggy Guggenheim Collection
While known for its museums that are home to world-famous historic works of art, Venice is also home to a vibrant and important contemporary art scene. If you’d like to experience of what this contemporary art scene has to offer, then a trip to the Peggy Guggenheim Collection is a must! The museum is open from 10:00 in the morning to 6:00 in the evening, every day of the week except for Tuesday. Admission is €12.
To see the artistic culture of Venice on full display, you’ll want to visit the small island of Murano. Here, you can watch artisans ply their trades in the streets, giving demonstrations of things like glassblowing for which this city is well known. On the way, you may also wish to make a stop on San Michele, where the cemetery contains the last resting places of people like the poet Ezra Pound and the composer Igor Stravinsky.
Where to Eat and Drink
Below, we’re going to review some of the most exquisite places to experience the dining and drinking culture of Venice. Before we do, though, it’s important to talk about how one should (and should not) experience this beautiful city.
No doubt, the places that follow are eminently worth your time and a potential visit. However, enjoying a vacation in Venice isn’t about bringing a list and checking it off. Often, the very best times you’ll have while staying here will be when you set out from your hotel room and pick a direction, checking out what comes your way.
A big reason that this is important to your food-and-drink experience is simple. Venice is covered in something known as bacari, essentially small wine bars that offer snacks and limited menus. They’re literally everywhere! While the fancy restaurants are all well and good, getting the true Venetian experience means popping in at these establishments.
So, by all means take our dinner and drinks recommendations. The following establishments, some which are bacari themselves, are worth the trip! But, don’t be afraid to strike off on your own. You just might find the best little place in all of the city, something that no traveler has even discovered yet!
Best Places to Eat
The city of Venice has a style of cuisine that’s quite distinct from other forms of Italian cuisine that you’ll find in the northern portion of Italy. This is due in no small part to Venice’s history as an independent state and also as a part of the Austrian empire.
Given the location, you’d be correct if you guessed the seafood figures prominently in Venetian cuisine. In fact, most restaurants source their fish from the lagoon upon which Venice is built! What you might not expect, though, is that the most common cuisine element isn’t pasta but polenta, which is served in a variety of manners and with a variety of accompaniments.
As in other Italian cities, you may discover that your most memorable meals are enjoyed at small restaurants you stumble upon yourself. However, the following restaurants are all sure to offer you a stellar dining experience.
Osteria Al Ponte
A favorite of Venetian students, this smaller restaurant (a bacaro) is famous for its delectable bar snacks. It’s open until 9pm every day of the week except Sunday, and visitors report that its homemade chips with rosemary are simply to die for.
While there are many contenders, most foodies will agree that Da Fiore is the finest restaurant in the entire city. Open every day of the week except for Sunday and Monday, this restaurant features austere décor and serves up a bevy of mouth-watering seafood dishes. It can be found on Sant’Elena.
You’ll find this little treasure on Castello. While it might not be much to look at inside or out, don’t just this restaurant’s book by its cover. It has some of the best seafood offerings in the entire city, and the prices are guaranteed not to break your budget.
This small restaurant is a favorite of foodies, locals and visitors to Venice. It can be found on San Polo near Do Mori, which is another popular Venetian dining establishment. While you wait for your food, the bar snack should keep you plenty entertained.
Those looking to enjoy dinner and drinks with an exceptional view are well advised to check out this restaurant in the Danieli Hotel. Located on the hotel’s top floor, one can enjoy a sumptuous drink while sampling seafood dishes featuring products sourced directly from the lagoon.
Osteria Vini Da Pinto
If you find yourself strolling through the Rialto fish market and suddenly craving a seafood snack, then make a beeline for this wonderful eatery. They serve up the equivalent of Venetian tapas, so you’re sure not to spoil your appetite for dinner later on.
If you’re planning on paying a visit to The Peggy Guggenheim Collection, then we recommend stopping in for some grub at this wonderful restaurant. Those who’ve had their fill of seafood will find the meat offerings at this restaurant par excellence.
Osteria Alla Testiere
No doubt many travelers will visit Venice for its high romance factor. If you count yourself among this group of travelers, then a lunch or dinner at this famed restaurant will give you the experience you’re looking for. With only nine tables, this restaurant serves classic Venetian cuisine in a secluded environment that also makes it a favorite of the famous and well-to-do. It’s open five days a week from Tuesday to Saturday.
Best Places to Drink
As mentioned above, bacari are where most folks in Venice do their drinking. That said, there are several bars that are worth checking out, particularly if you’re looking for an exquisite view or easy access to some of the city’s most noteworthy attractions.
Now, here’s a note to folks for whom beer and liquor are the favored libation. By all means have a cocktail or a frost brew here or there, but please don’t visit Venice without sampling the wine. Just as seafood is at the heart of Venetian cuisine, wine is at the heart of Venetian drink. Failing to sample at least a few Venetian wines during your stay would be nothing short of criminal.
Bar Ristorante La Piscina
If the idea of having a delicious cocktail or glass of wine while watching the sunset over the Grand Canal appeals to you, then this is where you want to be. It enjoys an enormous patio where Venetians and tourists gather daily to take in the beauty of the city. You can find this establishment on Zattere.
Located in the hip Campo Santa Margherita, this bar that stays open until 2:00am has built a reputation as one of the trendiest places to drink in the city. While here, you’re sure to see Venetians coming and going as they enjoy the rich nightlife of the city.
Café del Doge
It’s not all about adult beverages in the city of Venice! You’ll also want to have some of the local coffee, too. Located conveniently near the Ponte di Rialto, Café del Doge is known for serving some of the best espressos and cappuccinos in all of Venice.
Gran Caffè Quadri
If you’re looking for a bit of a pick-me-up while you’re sample the sights and sounds of Piazza San Marco, a trip to the Gran Caffè Quadri is in order. While enjoying the delicious espresso, sit back and relax knowing that this is were Proust used to enjoy his.
An off-shoot of an incredibly popular bacaro, Al Mascaron, this wine bar on Castello is a must-stop visit for anyone that’s looking to sample a wide swath of Italian wines. Remember when we were saying you should sample a few? This is an exquisite place to do just that.
Where to Stay
When you’re booking your stay in Venice, don’t just jump at the first hotel you find with a decent rate. Instead, make sure you shop around! Venice is home to more hotels, bread and breakfasts, and other accommodations than we could ever possibly list.
Each of these options offers a different kind of experience from the last. Some are centrally located, which means getting too and from your room is easier, but that you’ll have to contend with crowds. Others are more remote and offer a higher degree of romance, but also require a bit more acumen in terms of navigating the city’s streets and waterways.
Below, we’re going to look at some of the most noteworthy hotels in Venice. For your convenience, we’ve included some that provide the most bang for your buck and others that offer an uncompromising luxury experience. Any of these options will offer and exquisite Venice experience!
While not the most famous and ritziest of Venice’s hotel offerings, the following hotels are each unique and are sure to offer you an unforgettable experience.
When you want to feel as if you’ve been transported back in time while staying in your hotel room, La Residenza is a great option. More affordably priced than other hotel options in the city, this hotel is actually constructed inside of an old building. As such, there is a little bit of “wear and tear” to the establishment, and there’s no elevator. However, the views from some of the rooms, particularly those that overlook San Giovanni, can’t be beat.
Al Bergo San Samuele
The budget-conscious traveler would be well advised to check out the accomodations at this hotel, as it is often one of the cheapest in the city. While the price point may be low, this hotel has one advantage that makes it decidedly appealing. It’s located right in central Venice and offers easy walking access to a number of art galleries and museums that will be prominent on most people’s itineraries.
Those who are looking for rooms that overlook the beautiful Grand Canal should check out this hotel, which offers rooms at a fairly attractive rate. Be warned, however, that the location of this hotel is quite central, meaning that peace and quiet aren’t its strong suits. However, you’re unlikely to care as you wake up in the morning and look out over the Grand Canal. Isn’t that why you came to Venice?
Hilton Molino Stucky Venice
There’s a resplendent Hilton hotel at every high-profile travel destination in the world, and Venice is no exception. Like any other Hilton property, this hotel is high on class and amenities, but there’s on thing that deserves specific note. The hotel is home to a beautiful rooftop pool that offers panoramic views of Venice itself and also the Adriatic Sea. Needless to say, this hotel should be high on your list if you’re planning on coming during the summer months.
Best Places to Stay
Venice is home to some of the finest hotels in the entire world. As such, there will be some disagreement as to what establishments offer the very best accommodations in this historic city. However, it’s our belief that the following three, all of which cost a pretty penny, are the best places to stay in Venice.
Widely regarded as one of the finest hotels in the entire city, this 200-room affair is actually comprised of three palazzo, the oldest of which dates back several centuries. The rooms here are exquisite and the location provides easy access to a number of places that every traveler will want to visit. Best of all, though, you’ll have easy access to Terrazza Danieli, one of the best places to eat and drink in the entire city.
Oltre Il Giardino
For privacy and romance, this boutique hotel is actually built inside of an old home and has only six guestrooms. Featuring eclectic design, the hotel itself offers more amenities than you’re likely to get from similar establishments, while at the same time affording an exclusive experience that’s sure to appeal to honeymooners. The rooms vary in price, and many believe the Turqouise room (the most expensive) is worth the cost of admission.
Bauer Il Palazzo
Finally, for those who have a budget that allows for a lack of compromise, there is the beautiful Bauer Il Palazzo, which has old-world charm with current-day amenities and service. Don’t be surprised if you bump into famous faces while you’re taking the elevator, as this hotel regularly attracts a clientele that comprises many of the richest and most well-known people in the world.
Transportation and How to Get Around
Venice is a city unlike any other on the planet. This refers both to the aesthetic quality of the city and also to the manner in which you’ll have to get around when visiting.
You’ll notice this as soon as you arrive at the airport, and it will be a constant throughout your entire stay. However, don’t allow yourself to become intimidated by the uniqueness of getting around in Venice! All told, once you get acquainted with everything, getting around in Venice is no easier or harder than it is everywhere.
Below, we’re going to review the main things that you need to know in terms of getting to Venice and how to get around while you’re there.
The main airport serving Venice is Marco Polo, which is located within several miles of the city itself. Getting from the airport to your hotel, though, presents a traveler with a number of options.
Commonly, travelers will opt to take the water taxis, which run directly for the airport. These water taxis are capable of accommodating up to six passengers. Because of this, don’t be surprised if someone asks to split the water taxi with you; it’s a common practice.
Aside from the water taxis, there are two other primary ways that people get to Venice from the airport. First, there are ferries that run to and from the airport, stopping at San Marco, the Lido and Murano. These ferries are operated by ACTV (Azienda del Consorzio Trasporti Veneziano), and you can learn more about them here.
Finally, one can take the train from Marco Polo to Venice itself. These trains are operated by the local public transportation authority, Alilaguna, and run at regular intervals along the Blue Line and Red Lione. Depending upon your stop, prices will vary, and the whole trip can take up to an hour.
The main train station in the city is the Venice Staint Lucia Train Station, and it is conveniently located right along the Grand Canal. Various trains offer service to this station, including City Night Line, Thello, Italo, and La Frecce. The station remains open seven days a week from 6:00 am to midnight.
To look into transportation options both and from the train station, please visit this website. If you’re going to be traveling Italy by rail and Venice is only one of your destinations, you may wish to consider downloading the “Around Station” app, which offers easy access to everything you might need to know about Italy’s rail system.
Those who’ve become accustomed to the convenience of ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft will be disappointed to learn that no such service is offered in the city of Venice. There are, however, a number of cab services available for those who need to get around by automobile.
However, before you call up a cab service, understand that automobiles can only get you so far in Venice. They’re really only of use on the mainland, or when you’re traveling from a major transportation hub to the airport. Be warned though the a taxi ride to and / or from the airport will easily run €50 or more.
In order to get around Venice easily, water taxis will be your preferred mode of transportation. However, taking a water taxi can quickly become an expensive affair. Getting around inside of Venice proper can usually cost between €40 and €70, and things get even more expensive to and from the airport.
When it comes to catching a water taxi, you’ll have a number of different options. Just as with regular taxis, you’ll find “cab stands” at the major transportation hubs, including the airport and the main train station. In addition, you’ll also find them taking on passengers at the Pizzale Roma.
For those who need a water taxi to come to them, you can also have your hotel’s concierge book one, or you can call directly. When booking one yourself, be sure to get a quote before pulling the trigger. The potential expense may give you second thoughts. Also, be warned that some water taxi rides that are booked through hotel concierges can be marked up to obscene amounts. Be sure you’re asking for quote in this situation too, then.
For more information about water taxis and how to book them, you can visit the website of Consorzio Motoscafi Venezia (which operates the water taxis).
If the water taxis sound prohibitively expensive, then take heart! Venice actually has one of the more robust public transportation infrastructures of cities in Italy. Unlike in other cities where buses and even subways form the primary mode of public transportation, the primary form in Venice is something that’s known as a vaporetto.
You can basically think of a vaporetto as a waterbus, a whole fleet of which are operated by ACTV throughout the city of Venice. As with any other public bus system, these vaporetto run their ways through Venice on schedule and at regular intervals – they just do so by water instead of land.
Fares for the vaporetto will obviously depend upon your destination and point of departure. Tickets can be purchased from automated machines at any of the stops, and can also be purchased directly from the boat attendant. Those who will be making heavy use of the waterbusses would be well advised to purchase Travel Cards, which provided unlimited access for a set period of time.
To learn more about the waterbus system, its routes and its fares, you can visit the ACTV website here.
It’s impossible to think about taking a trip to Venice and not taking a romantic ride through the city’s famous canals by gondola. However, be aware that those who operate the various gondolas throughout the city know this well! Therefore, you can expect to pay a pretty penny for the pleasure, with prices generally ranging from €80 during the day and €100 at nighttime.
If you’re going to make the expense, then make sure that you’re embarking on an itinerary that’s of interest to you and those you’re traveling with. The Istituzione per la Conservazione della Gondola e Tutela del Gondoliere (The Institution for the Preservation of the Gondolas and Protection of the Gondlier) is a great resource for choosing the right when. You can visit their website here.
Traveling by Foot
You’ve probably heard that Venice is a byzantine labyrinth of canals and streets… Well, you heard right! Even for those who have lived in this city all of their lives, navigating from one place to another can prove to be a challenge.
For this reason, it’s always advised that a tourist carry around a map. While you could rely on your smartphone’s map feature, you may not want to do this. After getting turned around all day, it’s possible that you’ll wear out your battery!
When using your map, don’t get to hung up on street names, and instead pay attention to major landmarks. Often, the streets in Venice are not well named or have changed names entirely, meaning navigating by street can be a frustrating affair.
One reason to prefer landmarks over streets is that signs offering direction to major attractions and hubs are ubiquitous. You’ll see them on the sides of buildings, often with a yellow background. If you ever get turned around, these signs can be the salvation you need!
Now, here’s one important thing to keep in mind while navigating Venice by foot. Don’t bury your nose in your map! Look up and experience everything that’s around you. Unlike other destinations in Italy, Venice is very compact, and even if you get lost for a bit, you won’t be lost for long. You’ll almost always be no more than a couple of minutes away from something that you’d like to see.