Venice, also known as the “Floating City”, is one of the most beautiful and unique places in all of Italy. Built across 117 small islands separated by canals and bridges, Venice allows you to experience history, art, architecture, and culture in a truly memorable way. However, with so many attractions across the islands and lagoon, it can be hard to decide which places to prioritize during your trip to Venice. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the top 10 must-see locations in Venice so you can make the most of your visit.
The Best Places to Visit in Venice, Italy
1. St. Mark’s Square
Undoubtedly the most famous and iconic square in Venice, Piazza San Marco is a breathtaking highlight of the city. Lined with Neo-Gothic facades, ornate arcades and anchored by the magnificent St. Mark’s Basilica, the square comes alive day and night. Take time to absorb the atmosphere, listen to street performers, and snap photos of the magnificent sites all around you – it’s easy to see why this area has enchanted visitors for centuries.
2. St. Mark’s Basilica
Directly facing St. Mark’s Square is the breathtaking St. Mark’s Basilica. Characterized by its Byzantine architecture and lavish interior ornamentation, the 11th-century basilica houses religious treasures like the golden Pala d’Oro altarpiece and the statue-adorned facade. Don’t miss a visit to the five cypress-wood domes or the gorgeous mosaic decor lining the walls and ceilings all throughout. Allow at least an hour to fully explore this must-see historic church in the heart of Venice.
3. The Grand Canal
No visit to Venice is complete without a ride down the city’s iconic Grand Canal. Cruising along the “Main Street” and main thoroughfare of Venice while taking in scenes of grand architecture and immersive history makes for an unforgettable experience. Hop on a public Vaporetto water bus or arrange a private water taxi tour for panoramic views and photography of the lavish canal-side palazzos along its 3.8km waterway. You’ll understand why it’s considered among the most beautiful sights in the world.
4. Rialto Bridge
Spanning the Grand Canal is the iconic Rialto Bridge, featured on many Venice postcards. Constructed in 1588, it remains the oldest bridge across the Grand Canal. Whether exploring its arcades filled with shops or pausing on the pedestrian walkway high above the canal waters, the views from the Rialto Bridge are breathtaking. Don’t forget to gaze down at the canal from underneath its stone archways too. Nearby is also the busy Rialto Market area, perfect for exploring local shops and restaurants.
5. Doge’s Palace
Formerly the home and office of the doge (chief magistrates) who once ruled Venice, the Doge’s Palace facing the lagoon is a spectacular landmark of Venetian Gothic architecture. Book a visit to walk through lavish rooms like the Grand Council hall with its large frescoes and Gold Staircase, and learn about the powerful government administration that lived and worked within its walls for centuries. End your visit on the massive Ponte dei Sospiri bridge connecting the two parts of the palace across the water for truly unique photos.
6. St. Mark’s Campanile
For unbeatable views, climb the elevator orguided staircase to the top of the 98-metre tall brick bell tower located at one end of Piazza San Marco. Sweep your eyes across the city’s skyline and islands, with panoramic vistas stretching all the way to the lagoon and mainland. Point out landmarks and islands below from the Campanile’s balcony vantage point. Go early or late in the day to avoid crowds for the most picturesque photo opportunities.
7. Murano Island
Famous worldwide for its glassmaking heritage, the charm, and artistry of Murano Island is not to be missed. Take a 30-minute public boat ride over to the island scattered with small workshops. Witness skilled glassblowers and artisans crafting intricate glassware and jewelry using techniques passed through generations. Browse the array of shops to bring home exquisite souvenirs. Though crowded with tourists, Murano provides unique cultural insights into the city’s history and craft traditions.
8. Burano Island
Only a 45-minute public boat ride from Venice, picturesque Burano offers colorful houses and quilted lacemaking traditions. Walking along the fishing village’s brightly painted alleys dotted with shops selling delicate shawls and tablecloths is like stepping into a fairy tale. Consider taking a brief lacemaking class to appreciate the intricate fiber art and skilled handiwork truly seen nowhere else. Don’t forget to sample the island’s tasty seafood specialties before heading back to Venice.
9. Churches of Venice
Venice is home to over 400 churches displaying exquisite artworks. Top religious sites to admire grand interiors, frescoes, and mosaics include Frari Church housing Titian’s Assumption, Redeemer Church with elaborate marble filigree, Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari housing Tintoretto’s largest canvases, and San Rocco housing Tintoretto paintings. Each church offers unique artistic treasures, so allow time to visit 2-3 of these historic landmarks during your trip.
10. Islands of Venice
No trip to Venice is complete without exploring some of the smaller islands dotting the Venetian lagoon. Popular options include the peaceful San Giorgio Maggiore housing Palladio architecture and splendid views of Venice, the Castello neighborhood housing medieval fortresses and gardens, vibrant Lido island hosting beaches and outdoor activities, or even a full day trip to romantic Torcello island home to mosaics and ruins. The islands offer welcome respites from the crowds along with scenic natural beauty.
Here are answers to a few frequently asked questions about visiting Venice:
Do I need tickets for places like St. Mark’s Basilica?
Many of Venice’s top museums and sites require pre-purchased tickets. You can buy tickets online in advance or from ticket vendors around town.
What are the best ways to get around?
The most scenic and traditional way is walking over bridges and traveling by Vaporetti water buses. Guided walking tours are also ideal to visit key areas in 1-3 hours. Water taxis are best for groups or late nights.
When is the best time to visit?
Spring and fall have mild weather with fewer summer crowds. In winter, many museums have reduced hours but hotel rates are lower. Summer is peak season with highest prices and hot temperatures.
Can I visit on a budget?
Absolutely. Stay in hostels, use a money-saving travel card for public transport, picnic instead of high-priced restaurants, and opt for lower-cost sights and attractions like parks and markets.
I hope this guide to the best places to visit in Venice provides you with valuable recommendations to help plan your next Italian getaway to this truly enchanting watery city. Keep Visiting Travel Matters!