The best things to do in Venice

There is no city in the world that can compare to Venice. This majestic city has been built on an archipelago of over 100 islands, traversing through 200 canals and spanned by 400 bridges.

Venice holidays are all about getting lost amongst a maze of historic alleyways and storybook canals, stopping along the way for great food, live music and mouth watering gelato. But what to do between al fresco espressos and awe inspiring meandering? Below are just a handful of the best things to do in Venice.

Explore the canals on a gondola

There is no better way to adventure through the fascinating canals of Venice than a romantic gondola ride. So many people ask, are they worth it? When we are bombarding with this typical scene a thousand times, it can often feel like a bit of a basic thing to do, but let me tell you.. it’s worth it!

Knowledgable gondoliers will tell you the history of this fascinating floating city as they guide you through the beautiful waterways, dressed in a traditional blue or red striped top with a straw hat.

The gondola has been a common sight on the city’s canals for centuries, the first it was mentioned was in 1094, mentioned in a letter from a Venetian Republic official.

Book onto a group gondola ride here for just £27.65

Book a private gondola ride here for £105 per boat (up to 5 travellers in each boat)

St. Mark’s Basilica

Originally built as an extension of the Doge’s Palace, the original construction of the Basilica of St. Mark began in 828 and ended in 832, housing the body of St. Mark the Apostle brought from Alexandria to who they named protector of the city.

The building we see today began in 1063 in the Byzantine style to represent the power of the prosperous Venetian Republic. Visitors today can marvel at the golden interiors and some of the best Byzantine art in the world, the terraces offer breathtaking panoramic views of Venice. A guided tour offers an insight into the history and special features of this architectural masterpiece.

Book a skip the line guided tour here for just £33 per person.

Spend the day in Burano and Murano

Burano

Explore rainbow coloured fishing houses and world-famous glass blowing on the pretty islands of Burano and Murano, just a stone’s throw from the city of Venice. Burano is a tiny island with a population of just 3,000 people, 7km outside of Venice and accessible by boat only. It is the most popular day trip destination from the city so it can get busy, I would recommend arriving early morning or in the late afternoon once the majority of day-trippers have left.

You can reach the island via a private water taxi which will cost around €100, or you can save your money and arrive on the Vaporetto (water bus). You will need to walk to Fondamente Cove (F.te Nove) which takes around 20 minutes from St Mark’s Square and take the line 12. It takes around 45 minutes to reach Burano and the service runs around every 20-30 minutes, less frequently in the evening. You can check the timetable here.

Murano

The island of Murano is a little bigger than Burano, famous for is glass blowing it is actually comprised of seven small islands connected by bridges.

The glass making museum is one of the most popular things to do when visiting where you can learn about the story of Venetian Glass and offers a beautiful display of glass artwork. There are also plenty of opportunities all over the island to see and purchase iconic glass pieces.

You can book the Gino Mazzuccato Glass Factory and glass blowing demonstration here for just £4.19 per person.

Palazzo Contarini del Bovolo

Climb this famous staircase and be rewarded with stunning views of the Venetian rooftops and beyond. The Scala Contarini del Bovolo is part of the Palazzo Contarini del Bovolo, a very old Gothic style house.

The spiral staircase was commissioned at the end of the 15th century and was completely new at that time. The exterior has often been likened to a snail shell and has become one of the most famous staircases in the world. At the end of the 15th century, during the Renaissance, the owner of the palace at that time, Pietro Contarini, commissioned an architect to build the spiral staircase, which was completely new at that time. The external staircase, reminiscent of a snail shell, was to become the most famous staircase in the world.

Entry tickets can be purchased here for around £7, please note they book out fairly early.

Aqua Alta Bookshop

One of the most beautiful bookshops in the world, the Aqua Alta Bookshop is regularly flooded so the owner has resorted to storing books in boats and bathtubs.

Any books that are destroyed by the waters get added to the book staircase in the outdoor courtyard, climb up them to enjoy a beautiful view over the canal.

Doge’s Palace

Located in St Mark’s Square, the Doge’s Palace was originally a fortified castle founded between the tenth and eleventh centuries. It was partially destroyed by fire and rebuilt between 1172 and 1178, along with the Piazza San Marco.

Whilst the exterior and courtyard of the palace are impressive, you must venture inside to appreciate the spectacular halls, staircases and artwork. You can even cross the Bridge of Sighs and see that famous final view that prisoners would have been awarded in times gone by.

I would recommend pre-booking your ticket as visitor numbers are still being limited, you can book a skip the line ticket here for £23.50 per person.

Campanile di San Marco (St Mark’s Bell Tower)

The Campanie is the tallest building in Venice so you can be sure to experience great views from the top. The belfry houses five bells, each of which had a specific purpose during the Republic of Venice.

Tickets can be purchased on the day for €10 per person.

Hot chocolate at Caffe Florian

A visit to Caffe Florian is a must, this is the oldest continuously running cafe in Europe and only just about survived Covid. Located in a privileged position on St Mark’s Square the cafe was opened on 29th December 1720 by Floriano Francesconi as “Alla Venezia Trionfante” (Triumphant Venice), although the clientele subsequently rechristened it “Caffè Florian” in honour of its owner.

Today the cafe has become a staple on the tourist trail thanks to its heritage, history, amazing croissants, and of course its location. If you time it right, there is often a live band playing for diners.

Embark on a free walking tour

Whether you want to go in the morning or the evening, JM Walking Tours offers free guided tours around Venice, offering not for profit guides that are happy to accept tips or nothing at all.

Guides will take you through some of the most beautiful spots in the city, telling you all about them along the way. You can book your tour here.

Enjoy a tipple at the Gritti Palace

The Gritti Palace is one of the most iconic hotels in the whole of Venice, and the oldest, it also happens to benefit from one of the most incredible views  over Punta della Dogana and the Santa Maria della Salute Basilica.

Signature cocktails include the ‘Gritti Special’ (China Martini, Campari, Martini Dry), the ‘Dogeressa’ (Absolut Currant, Chamboard, Lime Juice, Pineapple Juice) and ‘Doge Gritti’ (Old Tom Gin, Carpano Antica Formula, Maraschino, Orange Bitter).

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