Here’s a city that’s made of multi-storied buildings coated in reds & pinks & yellows and neatly arranged beside canals. Gondolas and vaporettos glide through the canals taking tourists to the city’s famed landmarks so that they can take in all the beauty and fulfill their Venice dreams. I cover all of the best things to do in Venice in this guide on the top 10 things to do in Venice.
Venice is one of Italy’s dreamiest cities. It’s often called one of the most romantic ones, too. Venice’s nicknames are many. The Floating City, The City of Canals and the City of Bridges are just some of them. This city in the Adriatic Sea also seems to have secured a place on many lists that have put together the most beautiful cities in the world.
Now if you were to look at a list of the top 10 things to do in Venice, it would be topped by a jaunt through the Grand Canal, the main thoroughfare of the city.
1. Cruise the Grand Canal
The Grand Canal, or the Canalasso or the Canal Grande as it is known in Italian, plays the role of the central street of the city of Venice. This canal is in the shape of an inverted S and is 2.36 miles long and will show you many of the main attractions of Venice. That includes iconic buildings, a number of palaces, some museums, and the four bridges of the canal. If you have some extra time, try to make your way through it at night to see how delightful it is with all of its lights.
To cruise through it you can take a gondola or the city’s own water-buses called the vaporettos that run from one tip of the canal to the other. At one end of the canal you have the train station of Venice and on the other end is the popular St. Marks Square.
2. See the sights of St. Mark’s Square
Also known as Piazza San Marco, St Mark’s Square is one of the most visited attractions in Venice. It’s Venice’s most important square and a symbol of the powerhouse it once was.
It’s surrounded by historical structures like the St. Marks Basilica, Doge’s Palace, St, Mark’s Campanile and several public buildings of the Republic of Venice, that it once was. Napoleon is quoted having called this piazza ‘the drawing room of Europe.’
3. Tour the Doge’s Palace
A list of top 10 things to do in Venice would be remiss to not include Doge’s Palace. This pale but richly ornate building was where the Doge of the Republic lived. Selected from among the nobles of the land and made into the duke, he also met with his officials here. Today, this Venetian-Gothic building is a museum.
Tour the palazzo to see the where the nobles assembled and where the debates took place. Other attractions here include the Doge’s apartment, the Armory & the Bridge of Sighs that connected it to the prisons.
You can also see some famed artwork in the form of frescoes and murals. Il Paradiso, one of the largest oil paintings in the world, is right here in one of the halls of this palazzo.
4. St. Mark’s Basilica
In Basilica di San Marco lie the relics of Saint Mark, the patron saint of Venice and apostle who is said to have brought Christianity to the area. As such, this cathedral is one of the most revered churches in those parts.
Mostly Byzantine in architecture, St. Mark’s Basilica wears influences of other styles of construction too. With its domes, columns, frescoes & mosaics, it is also one of the most visited attractions in Venice, making it a perfect fit for the top 10 things to do in Venice. Some of the must-see pieces here include the bronze horses and the Tetrarchs that were taken from Constantinople. The Basilica’s museum also has a large collection of metal articles that were brought in from the erstwhile capital of the Roman Empire.
5. Get to the top of St. Mark’s Campanile
St. Mark’s Campanile is St. Mark’s Basilica’s belltower and the tallest structure in all of the island-city. And it’s open to the public! That means visitors to Venice can buy a ticket to the top of the 300-odd-feet tower.
The elevator takes you to the five bells of the basilica and grand views of the floating city and the canals that connect the many islands in the Venetian Lagoon.
6. Set eyes on the Clock on Torre dell’Orologio
Another thing you cannot miss while you’re at St Mark’s Square is the Torre dell’Orologio or the celebrated clock tower of Venice. This tower that’s part of a larger building and stands at a corner of the square is visible from the canal itself.
The clock is blue and golden and ivory, and it tells not just the time but also the zodiac and the phase of the moon. It’s a work of art and a very unique one at that. The stories of the land say that after the clock was made, the Doge ordered for the clockmaker to be blinded so that he wouldn’t build another clock that was just as impressive. The uniqueness of this structure land it on the list of the top 10 things to do in Venice.
At Torre dell’Orologio look for figures like St. Mark’s winged lion (the emblem of Venice) and two men flanking the bell at the very top of the tower.
7. Check out the famous bridges of the City of Bridges
With Venice being rich in canals, the bridges here are many. From the four bridges over the Grand Canal to the many that run over the smaller side-canals of the city, each is built in a style of its own. While some are made of steel, some are made of wood and concrete.
The most famous bridge, however, is the Rialto Bridge. It is the oldest of the lot too. If you can manage to get onto this arched stone bridge, you will catch some great views of the canal and the action in it. You’ll also be able to see the shops that line the bridge.
8. See what’s showcased at Venice’s Museums
The art lover in you will thank you if you stroll through one of the galleries of this Italian city. Galleria dell’Accademia, for one, is an institution that dates back to 1750. It was set up to encourage local artists and the place went through several events before getting to be what it is today. These days, Galleria dell’Accademia displays paintings by European greats of centuries past.
Ca’ Rezzonica is another well-known museum that stands beside the Grand Canal and has works of a large number of Venetian painters. Within its galleries you will find frescoes, tapestries, and some elegant decor. The architecture of this museum is also something to see. Constructed in Venetian Baroque style it stands out as well as adds to the grandeur of the Grand Canal.
Also along the Grand Canal is a museum by the name of Peggy Guggenheim Collection. This much-visited museum deals primarily in modern art. Peggy Guggenheim, the person who this place is named after, was a wealthy American wedded to an artist. She had a large collection of art and chose to show it to the public when she bought a home in Venice.
The 18th-century palace that was her home looks quite different from the other palaces along the waterfront and shouldn’t be hard to notice.
9. Browse through the very unique Libreria Acqua Alta
You might know that Venice is prone to occasional flooding. But did you know that the city has a bookstore that has found a unique way to keep its books dry?
When water rushes in, Libreria Acqua Alta prevents its books and magazines from getting wet by keeping them in barrels, bathtubs & boats. You’ll even find books shelved in a gondola!
This book store that’s not very far from Piazza San Marco, deals in both new and used books. (You can also see how it has upcycled the books that happened to get ruined.) This is a fun and unique choice in the top 10 things to do in Venice.
10. Take a break at Venice Giardini
If you’d like to get away from the crowds and all the tourist activity for a bit, the place to go to is Venice Giardini. This green patch also sits on the coast and is farther east of ‘the piazza.’
The Garden is also called Giardini della Biennale because its where the Venice Biennale Art Festival takes place. History of the place says Napoleon Bonaparte created this park by draining marshland that existed here.