Venice is one of the most popular cities to visit in Europe, and it’s world-famous for its art, landmarks, food, and iconic gondola rides. This is a wonderful place to wander around for the day and get a feeling for the culture and personality of the local people. If you’ve never traveled to this amazing city before, here’s a list of the top things to do to get your itinerary started!
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See Famous Sites in Piazza San Marco
When you start your visit to Venice in the Piazza San Marco, you can see several of the city’s famous sites all in once place. St. Mark’s Basilica is here, as well as Doge’s Palace, and the Torre dell’Orologio. St. Mark’s is a beautiful church with marble pillars, tall mosaics, and no fee to enter. You can tour Doge’s Palace between 8:30am and 7pm, and a regular adult admission ticket costs 20 Euros. Torre dell’Orologio is a clock tower that is an excellent example of Venetian architecture, and guided tours can be arranged in advance. The full ticket price here is 12 Euros.
Take a Gondola Ride
No first trip to Venice would be complete without a ride in a gondola. This city is insanely picturesque, and there’s no better way to view it than from the waterways of the city. Admittedly, many of the gondola rides here are very touristy and pricey. But you can make your ride more authentic and relaxing by choosing a less crowded launch point, such as San Tomà. You can also take a gondola ride through a back canal, rather than the popular Grand Canal, for more local scenes and a peaceful ride.
Sample the Local Seafood
Thanks to its geographic location, the seafood in Venice is fresh, diverse, and delicious. Much of the city’s culinary scene is centered on seafood, and you can see it for yourself in the stalls of the Chioggia and Rialto markets. The Rialto Market is an ideal place for foodies and anyone who loves seafood and fresh produce. Local specialties to try include sea snails, spider crab, and mantis shrimp.
Attend an Opera at Teatro La Fenice
Opera and Italy go hand-in-hand, and one of the most historic landmarks of Italian theater is the Teatro La Fenice. Before your trip, check the theater’s website to see what’ playing during your visit to Venice. In addition to opera, you may also see concerts, ballet, and chamber music performed here. Aside from opera, there are many other ways to experience the city’s art scene by visiting museums, such as the Peggy Guggenheim Collection and the Punta della Dogana.
Cool Off with a Gelato Treat
Gelato is an Italian specialty ice cream that is delicious and comes in so many fun flavors. A popular place to get gelato is the Boutique del Gelato on Salizzada San Lio. Alaska Gelateria-Sorbetteria is another great spot to try gelato in town, especially if you are curious about trying some exotic flavors. Suso Gelatoteca is also recommended because of the all-natural ingredients used and original flavors.
Explore the Dorsoduro Neighborhood
This is one of the six sestieri of Venice and a great place to get a sense of the real Venice away from tourist crowds. It’s on the southwestern side of town and full of picturesque canals, art museums, and some great bars. Top things to do in Dorsoduro include browsing art at the Gallerie dell’Accademia, shopping at Calle Sant’Agnese, and grabbing cheap ciccheti (small snacks) for lunch at spots like Cantina del Vino Già Schiavi. The neighborhood is a prime nightlife spot, so you can also plan to head over here after dark for a good time.
Ride a Waterbus Down the Grand Canal
Another great way to experience Venice from the water is on a waterbus that’s floating down the Grand Canal. Waterbuses here are called vaporettos, and some tours travel a two-mile trip from the railway station to San Marco. If you bring along a self-guide book, this is better than taking a city bus tour to see the sights and many historically significant buildings.
Get a City View from the Campanile
It’s so easy to get caught up in the streets and scenes of Venice, so you may want to slow down and get a bird’s eye view of the city. The Campanile is the tallest building in the city, and the original building dated back to around the year 900 A.D. It has since been rebuilt and takes visitors to the top via elevator. You’ll see all the attractions in St. Mark’s Square from here and get to see the large bells that you have been hearing ring throughout the city. On a clear day, you can see far beyond the city and even to the Dolomites.
Experience the Nightlife at the Venice Jazz Club
The nightlife scene in Venice is vibrant and exciting, and one favorite spot to go to here is the Venice Jazz Club. This is a dimly lit jazz bar that features artists that play both classic jazz hits and modern tunes. For live music, the venue doors typically open at 7pm and the concerts begin at 9pm. The ticket cost is 20 Euros per person, which includes the show, your table, and your first drink. Additional drinks cost between three and eight Euros each, and dinner is served before concerts for eight Euros each. There are no dress codes or age restrictions for these fun Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday concerts.
Take a Hike on Nearby Torcello Island
If the crowds of Venice are starting to get to you, head out to nearby Torcello Island for a hike. This is a lagoon island that often takes about an hour or so to reach from Venice via boat. But it’s worth the trip if you enjoy nature. There are only a few people that live on the island full-time, and most of the island is a nature reserve. Make sure to see the seventh century church and stop by a local restaurant. Burano Island is also a nice trip to take from Venice if you like to get away from crowds. The buildings here are so colorful and cheerful that they’ll brighten up any day, regardless of the weather.