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Things to do in Venice Italy

Venice Italy is truly magnificent and is widely considered to be one of the most beautiful and one of the most romantic cities in the world. Venice has a location on the Adriatic Sea on the North Eastern coast of Italy, and the heart of the city covers just over 5 square kilometres. Venice comprises of 118 islands which connect by 170 canals and over 400 bridges.

The main canal of Venice is called the Grand Canal. The location on the Grand Canal was the most sought-after address during ancient times, and consequently, it is where you will find some of the city’s most elaborate Renaissance and Gothic Palaces.

The grand Canal in Venice

The most impressive of these being the Doge’s Palace which was the official residence of the Doge or ruler of Venice between 697 and 1797. During this time, the Doge’s Palace was the official residence to 120 doges.

The Doge’s Palace is located directly on Piazza San Marco or St Mark’s Square which is another one of the quintessential Venice Landmarks.

This central square of Venice which houses St Mark’s Basilica has a beautifully tiled Byzantine mosaic.  The famous Campanile bell tower has a location next door to the Basilica and for the energetic few offers stunning views of the red roofs of Venice.

View of a street alongside a canal with Gondolas

The only mode of transport in Venice is by boat or on foot. For its tiny size, there are so many incredible things to do in Venice Italy. The city has a vast concentration of architectural masterpieces which include over one hundred 16th and 17th-century nobleman’s palaces, hundreds of Basilicas and churches each more beautiful than the last and stunning piazzas full of restaurants, cafes and shops.

Of all the things to do in Venice Italy, visiting the cultural treasures is of course essential. But equally wonderful is to wander around the myriad of tiny backstreets on foot and get completely lost. As you do so, you will be able to enjoy some of the city’s exquisite bridges, beautiful canals, churches, shops, restaurants, cafes and gelaterias.

View from a Gondola moving through a canal in Venice

It is as you stroll around the backstreets of Venice you will discover some of the city’s most rewarding and less well-known treasures. Then when your feet get tired, you can hop aboard a romantic Gondola ride and view the city from the water serenaded by your gondolier to the sounds of O Sole Mio.

Alternatively, hop aboard one of Venice’s Boat buses called Vaporetti.

A short Vaporetti boat ride will bring you to the beautiful island of Giudecca where the famous Cipriani Hotel and the beautiful Villa F Venice which was originally one of  Venice’s Palaces and is now one of the top Venice vacation rentals.

Villa F Venice has 3 acres of beautiful private gardens which are the largest in the city of Venice. Alternatively, you can make a visit to The Venice Lido which is a relaxing Venice seaside resort fringed by a lovely sandy beach. The Venice Lido was originally a haven for Italian aristocracy, poets and writers and today it is deemed to be one of Europe’s most exclusive beaches.

If you fancy owning a piece of Venice a visit or the Murano Island is a must. Murano Island is home to one of the best Murano Glass factories. The glass is available in shops all over Venice.

Without a doubt, one of the best things to do in Venice Italy is to eat! There are thousands of amazing restaurants, cafes and gelaterias to choose.  You can get everything from the most delicious pizza you will have ever tasted to the freshest most exquisite pasta you have ever encountered and everything in between.

Some of the most traditional dishes of Venice involve seafood in every form. Spider crabs, sea snails, scallops, shrimp and marine curios are common on most menus. Other local dishes include polpette or meatballs, Sarde in Saor which is marinated sardine fillets,

Baccala Mantecato a fish-based antipasto, squid ink and seafood risotto and Risi e Bisi which is a Venetian style starter made from rice and peas. And don’t leave Venice without tasting some of their home-made ice-cream or gelato. It is exquisite and some of the best in the world. All of these delicious delicacies may be washed down with a crisp glass of local prosecco or an Ombra which is a tiny glass of ice-cold white wine. If you fancy some guidance take a read of our guide to The Best Restaurants in Venice Italy.

As well as being famous for food, Venice is also famous for its shopping. If you are looking for fashion, Venice has an incredible selection of designer shops located in The Mercerie which is the district that joins the Rialto Bridge to the Piazza San Marco.

A stylish lady carrying designer brand bags down the street in Venice

You will find all the high-end brands such as Louis Vuitton, Dolce & Gabbana, Prada and Miu Miu.  Also, there are hundreds of wonderful small boutiques brimming with Italian fashion at good prices. Leather goods are a good value buy in Venice.

There are many shops selling bags and jackets. Then if you are looking for locally made goods, consider items such as locally crafted lace, jewellery, glass lamps, masks, gondolier hats and of course the beautifully made Murano Glass which is in many of the shops around Venice.

If you are considering, buying some Murano Glass to bring home with you, make sure you ask the shop to produce the authentic Vetro Artistico mark as there are some Chinese fakes around.

The city of Venice had an incredible history and was an independent republic for over a millennium. With so many wonderful Things to do in Venice Italy, it is no wonder that the city became a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1987.  There are so many Venice Highlights that it would be impossible to mention them all, but some of our clients and our concierge’s recommendations for The Top Things to do in Venice Italy are as follow:

Top Things to Do in Venice


BASILICA SAN MARCO

Venice has one of the worlds most beautiful Basilicas located in the Piazza San Marco which is also one of the worlds most beautiful and famous squares.  A visit to the Basilica San Marco is one of the best things to do in Venice Italy and should be part of any trip to the city. The Basilica San Marco dominates st Mark’s Square.

The Basilica San Marco is Byzantine in style and has the most incredible ornate décor. This opulent décor was a way of showing the world the power of the Venetian ruler or Doge. The Basilica San Marco is the site where many of the Venetian coronations, funerals and processions took place. It is also the resting place for St Mark hence the name.

Construction of the Basilica began as early as 829 but the original building burnt down in 976 as a consequence of a revolt. The building as you see it today dates back to 1071.  The Basilica officially became the cities Cathedral in 1807.  The interiors are exquisite and resplendent with mosaics and incredible works of art.

The Basilica San Marco is extremely popular so if you want to avoid the queues, use an official guide or else pre-book your tickets online.


DOGE’S PALACE

The Doge’s Palace is another of the most famous sites in Venice. It was the home of the ruler of Venice called The Doge for over 900 years. A visit to Venice would not be complete without passing through the incredible ornate rooms of the Palace.  As you do so, you will experience a fascinating insight into the incredible extravagant lifestyle of the people of Venice. The Palace is a wonderful combination of Byzantine, Gothic and Renaissance architecture. The Doge’s Palace or Palazzo Ducale housed a total of 120 doges between the years of 697 and 1797.

The art around the palace is incredible, and as you move around the building, you will see pieces by Titian, Tintoretto and Bellini.

There are several extremely impressive rooms in the Palace.  One is the Sala del Senato where the members of the government met to debate local and foreign affairs. Close by is the courtroom where locals were tried and convicted for various crimes. One of the most famous inmates was Casanova who famously escaped in 1756.

Another one of the most impressive rooms in the Palace is the Sala de Maggior Consiglio. This Sala was the great council chamber.  It is an exquisite room lined with canvases of Venetian Victories.


THE BRIDGES OF VENICE

Venice has over 400 bridges, many of which are incredibly ornate and beautiful. One of the most beautiful and well-known bridges is the Bridge of Sighs which crosses over the canal between the Doge’s Palace and The Prison.

It is a beautiful 17th-century Baroque structure and is famously names The Bridge of Sighs because the condemned prisoners gave a big “sigh” as they have their last glimpse of freedom.

An old stone bridge spans the narrow canal between two rows of houses in Venice

Another one of Venice’s most famous bridges is The Rialto Bridge. It was built in 1588 and is one of the city’s most iconic sites. The Rialto Bridge crosses the Grand Canal of Venice at the narrowest point. The local government famously organized a competition for the construction of the bridge. The famous artists and architects who entered the competition included Michelangelo. Sansovino and Palladio.  The artist who won was a man named Antonio da Ponte.

The Rialto Bridge in Venice spans a river busy with ferries and gondolas

Some of the other more famous bridges of Venice include the Ponte dei Tre Archi, Ponte degli Scalzi, Ponte della Liberta, Ponte dei Pugni, Tre-Ponti and The Bridge with no Parapet.


THE GRAND CANAL OF VENICE

Venice is the city of Canals, but the most famous of all is The Grand Canal. The Grand Canal was and still is to this day, the most sought-after address in Venice. The Grand Canal is on everyone's list of things to do in Venice Italy.  The canal is the location for the city’s most elaborate and impressive palaces.  Many of the palaces date back as early as the 13th century. The Grand Canal is 4km 92.5 miles) in length and is between 30 – 70 meters or 98 – 230 feet in width.  The canal is an “S” shape and has a double curve.

The Santa Maria Della Salute Church with domed roof, statuary, and people sitting on the steps

As well as all the incredible Palaces, one of the most famous sites you will see on the Grand Canal is the Santa Maria della Salute. This incredible church built in the 17th Century is one of the cities masterpieces. The Santa Maria della Salute is one of the cities most iconic sites. Three of the city’s most beautiful vacation rentals have an incredible view of the dome. They are Residenza F, Zaffiro and Perla which are all located at Villa F Venice which is a beautifully converted palace with the largest private gardens in the city.

Many of the palaces along The Grand Canal are today's very impressive five-star hotels.  But there some which are now also beautiful museums. One of these is called the Ca’Rezzonico. It is very special and imposing and has the most grandiose interior staircase in Venice. It is worth a visit to get a glimpse of it.

If you fancy a rest from all the site seeing, head to The Riva del Vin, take a seat in the sun and enjoy a drink or a coffee. There are many open-air restaurants which have a fabulous view of the Grand Canal from which you can observe the comings and goings of the colourful flotillas, gondolas and ferries.


PIAZZA SAN MARCO

St Marks square is Venice’s Heart. Piazza San Marco is one of the most popular places to visit in Venice Italy. It was once called "The finest drawing room in Europe" by Napoleon. It is the most incredible square, lined with exquisite buildings including the Doge’s Palace and The St Marks Basilica which all bear great testament to Venice’s rich and opulent history. The Piazza San Marco has many other wonderful marvels worth observing.

The Torre dell’Orologio is an extremely impressive clock tower built in a Renaissance style. The top of the tower has two bronze moors which are hammering out the time.

The highest Campanile or Italian Clock tower in Venice has its location in St Mark’s Square. You can either take an elevator or walk up to the top. Walking is faster due to the queues. It is worth every step when you emerge at the top as the views are the best in Venice.

The Famous Campanile Bell Tower in the Center of Venice, Italy

The Procuratie Vecchie and Nuove line St Marks squares. These incredibly ornate and elegant buildings were the administration buildings for Venice.

The Giardinetti Reali are the public gardens of St Mark’s Square. These Napoleonic Gardens are on the Venice Waterfront side of St Mark’s Square.

Today St Mark’s Square is famous for pre and post-dinner cocktails. Every evening in summer, you can sit and absorb a part of Europe’s richest history while serenaded by orchestras playing in front of several of St Mark’s Squares elegant restaurants. The most famous of these is without a doubt Caffe Florian. Café Florian is reputed to be Europe’s oldest café, and you can still experience the original wood panelling and marble-topped tables. The coffee and drinks are possibly the most expensive in the world, but any visit to Venice would not be complete without experiencing at least one.


THE RIALTO

The Rialto Market in Venice is not only the most famous and best market in the city, but it is considered to be the best market in the world by many reliable sources.

The Rialto market is also one of the world’s oldest and dates back to 1097. Today, The Rialto Market is a total treat for the senses. It is full of the freshest fruit, fish, meats as well as leather goods, souvenirs and you might even find a tiara or two!


THE ART OF VENICE

Venice is an art lover’s paradise. You will see the most incredible art in all the churches, basilicas and Venetian Palaces. But you will also be able to view some of the world's masterpieces at both The Peggy Guggenheim Museum and the Accademia Galleries.

Beautifully painted ceiling fresco in Venice

The Peggy Guggenheim Collection located on The Grand Canal is one of Italy’s leading museums and houses both American and European Art. The Accademia Galleries houses an unrivalled collection of Venetian Paintings including masterpieces from Titian, Bellini and Giorgione.


THE CAMPO SANTA MARGHERITA

The Campo Santa Margherita is one of the prettiest squares in Venice. It is located in the Dorsoduro area and is full of colour and life. It is a wonderful place to visit for a coffee or even a leisurely lunch. As well as some great restaurants and cafes, the Campo Santa Margherita has some wonderful architectural delights to enjoy.

One of these is the Palazzo Foscolo Corner which is a beautiful 13th Century Palace which remains largely unchanged from its inception. It is very distinctive due to the artist's use of deep overhanging eaves.

Another must visit in The Campo Santa Margherita is The Scuola Grande dei Carmini.  Famous painter Tiepolo decorated the Scuola, and the ceilings are a complete masterpiece.

Lastly, The Chiesa di Santa Maria dei Carmini is an exquisitely adorned church which survived the Napoleonic suppression of Venice. This 13th Century church is largely intact today.

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