This post contains affiliate links. This means I may receive a small commission if you click these links and choose to make a purchase. There will be no additional cost to you. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own based on personal experience.
Venice Landmarks – Top Things to See in Venice Italy
Table of Contents
1. Campanile di San Giorgio Maggiore
2. Learn How to Row a Gondola
James at Travel Collecting
Gondolas are synonymous with Venice and taking a gondola ride is a must-do, of course. However, even more, fun and interesting is learning how to row a gondola yourself! After walking through the atmospheric and authentic Cannaregio Sestier neighborhood to the harbor for small boats, you are met by a friendly English-speaking guide and your Italian-speaking instructor. The boat is technically a bateline, similar to, but slightly different from, a gondola, but the rowing style is the same – standing up facing forward, with one oar.
The gondoliers make it look easy, but balancing on a moving boat and rowing at the same time is much harder than it looks! However, you will soon be navigating the narrow canals like a pro – and even venturing into the lagoon for more advanced lessons. Providing these lessons for tourists is helping to keep the history and traditions of Venice alive. It’s a unique experience will make you feel like a real Venetian.
3. Tour St. Mark’s Square | Venice Landmarks
Dhara from It’s Not About the Miles
If you’re planning a trip to Italy, Venice is likely at the top of your list of places to see. But everyone else that’s going will have Venice on their lists as well. This means you’re likely going to be dealing with huge crowds, especially at popular places like the Piazza San Marco.
One way to enjoy St. Mark’s Square near solitude is to visit early in the day. So sacrifice a few zzzs and arrive just before sunrise. You’ll see the square bathed in the soft light of dawn. Head first to the water’s edge, to take the iconic photo of empty blue gondolas bobbing in the water with the little island of San Giorgio Maggiore in the background.
Admire the Bridge of Sighs without the crush of people, and then watch the sun’s first rays stream through the arches of the Doge’s Palace. Pure magic! Stroll around the square and appreciate all the architectural elements at leisure. Gaze up the beautiful frescoes of the Basilica. Hear the pigeons coo softly as they feed in the plaza. Then set out to have breakfast, knowing that you’ve just had a magical experience in Venice that you’ll cherish forever.
4. Visit Acqua Alta Bookshop
Marta Correale of Learning Escapes
A truly unique place in Venice and one that I recommend anyone to seek out during a stay in the city is the whimsical Libreria dell’acqua Alta (the High water bookshop). The bookshop is located off Campo Santa Maria Formosa, in Venice city center and is a dream not just for book lovers, as the name suggests, but for anyone interested in quirky spaces, shops, and peculiar photo ops.
As soon as you arrive at its door you can see that this is no traditional bookshop. Instead of neatly organized bookshelves, the books here are kept in various types of containers such as bathtubs and even a traditional Venetian gondola!
This peculiar choice has partly to do with looks (the place is visually incredible) but also takes into account the fact that the bookshop opens up onto a canal and therefore gets easily flooded when the tide is high.
The Libreria is a place to experience rather than shop and it is worth devoting a bit of time to exploring it. Make sure you make your way to the back to see the canal and to take a photo of the book staircase made of old and moldy titles.
5. T Fondaco dei Tedeschi Department Store
Maria and Katerina of It’s all trip to me
Venice is notorious for being one of the most expensive destinations in Europe. However, the truth is that Venice, like any other city, is for all budgets. In some cases, whether you believe it or not, some of the best things to do in Venice come entirely for free like the gorgeous view from the T Fondaco dei Tedeschi department store.
The department store is just a stone’s throw from the famous Rialto Bridge. In order to get access to its terrace and enjoy the views, an online reservation through the store’s official website is needed so as to avoid queues. The terrace is reached by a lift and every visitor can stay there for about 10 to 15 minutes. The views to Venice and the Grand Canal are breathtaking and no words can give them justice.
Needless to say that the best time to visit is around sunset when the setting sun covers the enchanting floating city in a golden veil. Seeing this masterpiece of a city from the T Fondaco dei Tedeschi department store is a unique experience and one that should not be missed.
6. Gondola Ride on Grand Canal | Venice Landmarks
Kate Storm of Our Escape Clause
There is no more iconic symbol of Venice than its gondolas: beautifully crafted and omnipresent in the city’s canals, a gondola ride easily tops most people’s list of the best things to do in Venice.
Venice’s canals, from the large Grand Canal to the narrow canals winding past tiny side streets in the city, are hauntingly beautiful–and viewing them from the water is an unforgettable experience.
Gondola rides in Venice don’t come cheap, however: expect to pay right around 100 Euros per group for a ride. If you’re inclined to keep the costs down, consider jumping on a group ride in a gondola–not quite as personal, but it’s definitely the more cost-effective way to take a ride.
If a gondola ride simply isn’t in the budget during your trip to Venice, consider a ride through the Grand Canal on one of Venice’s water taxis–that way, you can at least get a small peak of Venice from the water, for a fraction of the cost! Check for the best prices for your very own Gondola ride here
7. What to Eat in Venice- Food and Bar Walking
8. Visit Giudecca for the views and Living Like a Local in Venice
Amanda Emmerling of Toddling Traveler
Many people have heard of Murano for its glass or Burano for its lace but most haven’t heard of Giudecca, a small island in the Venetian lagoon accessed by 5-minute boat ride across from the main part of Venice. The views of Venice are worth it alone, either by foot from the canal, atop Hilton Molino Stuckey’s rooftop restaurant and pool, or from the bell tower at the beautiful San Giorgio Maggiore church.
The best way to experience Giudecca is to wander along the canals and explore the architecture, ornate doors and hidden gardens with no agenda. Away from the main part of Venice that caters to tourists, here, you’ll also find cafes crowded with locals, vendors selling fresh products and fish and trattorias along small canals that only offer menus in Italian.
To really get a feel for the island, stay overnight for a quiet reprieve from the crowded streets of Venice, with options ranging from the infamous Hotel Cipriano or the Hilton Molino Stucky, a hotel with an amazing rooftop pool, to reasonably priced Airbnb rentals (click here to save $45 towards your AirBnB rental) with lagoon views.
Giudecca is certainly an off-the-beaten-path experience that shouldn’t be missed. Tip: Be sure to take the Alilaguna between Venice and Giudecca at least once during sunset. The sunset views from that side of the lagoon are among the most beautiful in the world.
9. What to Do in Venice at Night | Landmarks in Venice
Michael Gerber of MSC Gerber
Venice is one of my favorite places – especially to take images. The city is full of history, incredible views and undoubtedly has its own and very special charm – that almost everybody falls in love with.
One of the few downsides of Venice, however, are the masses of tourists that walk around the small city every day – it can be quite annoying, especially when you want to really enjoy the city.
Therefore, I just decided to walk around Venice at night with my camera – and enjoy Venice on my own while taking some pictures. And you can, believe me, this was one of the most magical nights I’ve experienced – as you simply can’t describe the feeling while walking around the beautiful streets of Venice – and being completely alone.
At 5 AM I crossed the world-famous Rialto Bridge – and only met one other traveler along the way. In my opinion, this is the best way to experience “true” Venice. I also suggest visiting Venice in Winter – as there will be even fewer other people (I went in December).
10. Venice Free Walking Tour | Venice Landmarks
Keri Lawrence of Flip Flop Weekend
I have been to Venice twice and, admittedly, the first time was on a day tour. The experience was very touristy and I knew that I wanted our second trip to show us the real and authentic side of Venice. The absolute best decision we made was to book a Venice free walking tour that was recommended to us by a friend. Our tour guide was a Venetian who was born and raised in the city.
The walking tours depart at various times and take about 2 1/2 hours. The guides take you through back streets and lesser-known monuments while sharing the history of Venice in an engaging and fun way. Plus, it truly is free. They are very upfront at the beginning that they will ask for a donation at the end, but there is no pressure. You pay what you think the tour is worth. After the walk, we were able to ask our guide some questions to find out the best ways to experience Venice and she gave some amazing recommendations.
The tips turned into this post to help others experience the beauty of Venice as the locals see it. We may have easily passed by the beautiful Santa Maria dei Miracoli church in Venice without realizing its rich history and importance in the city. It is a stop on the Free Venice Walking Tour, which is a great way to experience the heart of Venice on a budget. Our tour guide, Lu, was incredibly helpful in giving us some recommendations for the non-touristy side of Venice.
11. Sitting on the Canals Eating Tapas and Drinking Spritz
12. Walk and Get Lost in Venice
Sherrie Fabrizi Allbritten of Travel By A Sherrie Affair
Walk, walk, walk, and get lost! Not only is this my favorite thing to do in Venice but it is a must for everyone. The only true way to see the real Venice. Each corner you turn in Venice has something new to see and explore. Don’t be afraid to get lost, you will find your way back to a landmark, so put the map away- there really aren’t any good ones anyway.
Now walk, cross bridges to the little different islands, stop in small shops, look up see the balconies with beautiful flowers, open a door to the little church – step in and marvel at all the history and art inside. Stop and enjoy the water cascading from the fountain in the middle of a little square that you have all to yourself.
Don’t pass by the ancient memorial on the wall of a home without taking a moment to wonder who it may be for. Now don’t forget to get gelato as you stroll along the canals watching the gondolas go by while listening to the singing echo through the waterways. Walk and get lost in Venice, you will find your way back.
13. Cath the #1 Vaporetto the Venice Water Taxi
David Angel of Delve into Europe
Sometimes the best introduction to a new city is an overview. In cities on land, this could be an open-top bus tour. In Venice, it means a boat ride down the Grand Canal.
I’ve done this trip more times than I can count, and it’s always been one of my favorite things to do in Venice. The #1 vaporetto, the Venice water taxi or waterbus – is the slow boat down the Grand Canal, calling at every stop on the way. The #2 vaporetto also covers the same stretch but misses over half the stops.
The #1 vaporetto is one of the best public transport journeys you can take anywhere in the world. In 35 minutes it takes you through the heart of Venice, passing an astonishing array of palaces and churches along the way. You also pass beneath the 16th century Rialto bridge and some of the finest art galleries in Europe.
The ideal starting point for the journey is either Piazzale Roma or Ferrovia – the bus or railway stations respectively. The finishing point is San Marco, but I’d suggest getting off at the second of its two stops. Stay on at Vallaresso, and enjoy the view as you sweep past Piazza San Marco and the Doge’s Palace, before disembarking at San Marco (San Zaccaria). The #1 then continues its journey to Lido, Venice’s beach island.
14. Venice to Murano | Venice Landmarks
Marianne of Mum on the Move
Murano Island, famous for its glass blowing tradition, is a popular day trip from Venice. Today the glass factories here produce some of the world’s most coveted and high-quality glass.
You can wander along and visit the glass factories and watch the master glass artists at work and admire their impressive skills. Some factories have paid demonstrations, while others will allow you to go in and watch the masters at work in the hope that you will then spend money in their shop.
Beyond the glass factories, you can wander the canal to browse the shops and enjoy a coffee in relative serenity after the crazy crowds of Venice. Don’t miss the Basilica di Santa Maria e San Donato, one of the oldest churches in Venice and renowned for its pretty mosaic floor tiles. Legend has it the bones behind the altar belong to a dragon slain by Saint Donatus.
Many glass factories will offer you a free water taxi to Murano, in the hope that you will spend money in their showroom. Travelling by water taxi is definitely the way to arrive in style! You can then take the vaporetto back to Piazza San Marco. Check out this guide on how to spend an amazing day in Murano.
15. Doge’s Palace Tour (Palazzo Ducale) | Venice Landmarks
Catherine D’Cruz from We Go With Kids
Doge’s Palace offers visitors a glimpse into the lives of Venice’s government leaders and felons and also some stunning Renaissance art and Venetian Gothic architecture. Located next to St. Mark’s Basilica, the Palace was the residence of Venice’s doges and the center of city government from the time of its construction in the mid-14th century through the end of the 18th century. The Great Council Hall houses one of the world’s largest canvas oil painting, Tintoretto’s Paradiso.
The ceiling paintings and wall murals by Renaissance masters made me feel like we were visiting an art gallery. Palazzo delle Prignioni, the city’s jail is connected to the Palace by the Bridge of Sighs. Visitors can cross the Bridge into the prison and visit the inmates’ cells that provides a stark contrast to the Renaissance splendor of the Palace. Doge’s Palace is rich in history, art, and architecture and was a highlight of our visit to Venice.
16. Venice to Burano | Venice Landmarks
Hayley of A Lovely Planet
Burano is absolutely my favorite place in Venice. It’s an island in the lagoon and only reachable by boat, but totally worth the journey. It’s full of colorful houses lining little canals, making it incredibly photogenic. Burano is known for Burano lace and you will find little shops and stalls selling beautiful lace all over the island. It’s a big part of Burano’s history and there is even a museum dedicated to lacemaking (the Museo del Merletto). In fact, Burano lace was so famous and sought after that Leonardo da Vinci used it for the main altar of the Duomo of Milan.
As you would expect, there are plenty of great restaurants serving delicious Italian food, but one not to miss is Al Gatto Nero (The Black Cat). A gorgeous waterfront eatery offering wonderful seafood and handmade pasta, and of course Italian wine!
Burano also has its own leaning tower – the former bell tower of the 15th century San Martino Church! Much smaller than Pisa’s but equally lovely!
17. Visit Harrys Bar Venice | Venice Landmarks
Tamason Gamble of Travelling Book Junkie
Venice is well known for many things including gondolas, bridges and fancy Venetian masks. However, that is not all; it is also the city where the now famous Bellini Cipirani cocktail, that is on Harry’s Bar menu, was created. More specifically, it was created by Giuseppe Cipriani, head bartender, and owner of the world famous Harry’s Bar, that can be found nestled down a little side street just off of St Mark’s Square.
Now a widely drank aperitif, both the Bellini and Harry’s bar were largely made famous by the numerous literary and film elite that frequently crossed over the threshold. Realistically if it wasn’t for Ernest Hemingway and his known obsession for drinking cocktails perhaps the Bellini would not be as well known today.
To get a true sense of classic cafe society that was at one time so popular in Europe, a trip to Venice would not be complete without experiencing Harry’s Bar. The dress code is strict and anyone wearing shorts will not be allowed to enter the bar, plus a casual walk may result in you being asked to sit upstairs in one of the many smaller, still very classically designs rooms full of chintzy decor reflecting its most famous era.
Regardless, however, of whether you gain one of the coveted downstairs tables or one upstairs the service is impeccable and exudes class and decorum which in my opinion justifies the higher price tag. A trip to Harry’s Bar reminds you of why you have visited Venice – it is classic, exuberant and romantic. You must visit this famous Venice landmark.
18. Exclusive Alone in St. Mark’s Basilica After Hours | Venice Landmarks
Only having a day and a half in Venice we wanted to make the most of our visit so we decided to book our Exclusive Alone in St. Mark’s Basicila After Hours tour. I’m not a fan of big group tours as I don’t feel we get much out of them but this small group tour with Walks of Italy was perfect. Any tour at night seems more intriguing, doesn’t it? It felt very satisfying walking into St. Mark’s Basilica with a small group without fighting the crowds. During the day, lines are long to see the stunning Pala d’Oro, a Byzantine altarpiece that uses more than 1,900 gems.
The highlight of the tour, well there were many, but when we entered St. Mark’s Basilica we experienced the beautiful mosaics sparkling as the room was it up, something you can’t experience during a day visit. We were also able to visit the crypt, said to be the place where the bones of St. Mark are kept. Our tour operator was passionate and very knowledgeable and teaching us the history of Venice. This truly is a special tour and I would highly recommend seeing St. Mark’s Basilica at night. Venice walking tours are a great way to experience the city with a local.
Tip: Please remember that the basilica is a holy place and attire must be appropriate: Both men and women are asked to wear clothing that covers at least the shoulders and knees. Walks of Italy cannot be held responsible for denied entry due to improper dress.
I hope you enjoyed all these wonderful ways to see these Venice landmarks. It makes me want to book another trip to experience Venice all over again. I fell in love with Venice on our recent Greek Isle cruise from Venice. I will definitely be returning to explore the rest of this magical city.
OUR FAVORITE ITALY TRAVEL GUIDES: CLICK BOOK TO LOOK INSIDE↓