17 must-dos in Venice

Venise

Visiting Venice: what are the best things to do and see in the City of the Doges?

Who hasn’t dreamed of visiting Venice? To discover all its architectural treasures and fabulous history? To see all its wonderful islands? To experience the unique softness that pervades the streets of La Bellissime? All right, everyone knows Venice and its gondolas, canals, Rialto Bridge and, at a pinch, the Bridge of Sighs linking the Doge’s Palace to the famous prison where Casanova was imprisoned.

But there’s more to Venice than that: it’s a city that’s at once magical, unreal and contemporary, a city on water. More than just a postcard, Venice can be discovered with all the senses. Let’s take a look at the main sights and must-sees in Venice, which leave no one unmoved – far from it.

💎 Editorial advice 💎

With the Venice Pass, you save time and money. You can visit the city’s must-see attractions without having to wait.

The Venice Pass includes:

  • Saint Mark’s Basilica and its terrace
  • Doge’s Palace with audio tour
  • A 30-minute gondola ride with commentary
  • 10% discount on other city attractions

Find out more about the Venice Pass

1. Doge’s Palace

Palazzo ducale

How could we not mention it? With its Gothic architecture, it was the residence of the Doges who ruled the Republic. It’s a palace rich in history and boasts sensational pictorial works by Veronese, Bellini, Titian and Tintoretto.

Certainly one of the most beautiful palaces in Europe, including the infamous Bridge of Sighs. We advise you to book your ticket online in advance, as there are long queues on site.

2. Saint Mark’s Basilica

The imposing Basilica of St. Mark was built in the mid 11th century, is richly decorated with flowers and can be recognized by its facade bearing a golden lion with wings, the symbol of Venice.

This basilica is a must-see for its mosaics, domes, statues and the altar which is said to contain the bones of Saint Mark himself.

3. Take a gondola ride

gondolier vénitien punissant la gondole à travers les eaux vertes du canal de Venise Italie

Photo credit: Shutterstock – muratart

A gondola ride is a must-do experience in Venice. Despite its image as a « tourist magnet », it remains the most peaceful and relaxing activity you can do in Venice. Most rides start just off St. Mark’s Square, with your guide explaining the interesting history of the gondolas. Then you climb aboard your gondola, shared or private, and set off to float peacefully along the canals. The ride allows you to discover hidden corners and admire monuments from a unique perspective.

4. Saint Mark’s Square

St. Mark’s Square is certainly the most emblematic place to visit in Venice: it’s the city’s main square, a meeting place for locals and tourists alike.

It really is the hub of Venice: you’ll have to pass through to visit St. Mark’s Basilica, the Doge’s Palace, the Campanile di San Marco and all the other must-see monuments.

5. La Fenice Theatre

Fenice is Italian for phoenix, the famous mythological bird that rises from the ashes. The La Fenice theater bears the stigma of this legend: it was built in the late 18th century to replace the San Benedetto theater, which had been destroyed by fire. It was subsequently destroyed by fire in 1836 and rebuilt.

In 1996, it once again fell prey to fire, and in 2003 was reborn from the ashes. The theater is sublime: with its 5 rows of boxes, it is one of the most prestigious venues in Italy and even Europe.

6. The islands of Murano, Burano and Torcello

The island of Murano is undoubtedly best known for its internationally renowned glass art and its glass museum. Burano is a very special island, much appreciated by tourists for the diversity of its colorful houses and postcard-perfect scenery.

Burano is famous for its lace-making industry. The third island is Torcello, the largest of the lagoon’s 3 islands and home to the oldest church. But it’s also a kind of ghost town, attracting few tourists.

7. Campanile de Saint-Marc

Erected on the famous Piazza San Marco, climbing to the top of Venice’s iconic tower is a must when visiting Venice. Not only does the Campanile offer a breathtaking view of the city, but a visit to the tower’s five bell towers and its history are also worth a visit.

8. The Cannaregio district

A typical neighborhood, far from the glitz and glamour of St. Mark’s Square. An excellent place to buy souvenirs and handicrafts. The pedestrian street is very popular with Venetians.

If you’re visiting Venice and venture into this district, check out theMadonna dell’Orto church, with its Gothic facade of white brick and stone.

Cannaregio is also the place to discover the Ghetto district, which has been reserved for the Jewish community since the 16th century, and where you can visit the Jewish Museum of Venice.

9. The Castello district

It takes its name from an ancient fortress on the island of Saint Peter, which has now disappeared. Today, it’s the city’s largest district, where you can discover theVenetian Arsenal, which occupies most of the area, or visit the Museum of Naval History.

The houses here are simple and sober, in contrast to the grandeur of the neighborhood near the Grand Canal palaces. This district is the least frequented by tourists, which is surely why it remains a favorite of true Venice lovers. Part of the city’s soul still resides in these streets and walls.

Another must-see when visiting Venice and looking for a bit of greenery: the Papadopoli Gardens. This 8,800 m2 park is made up of three plots where you can take a stroll. It’s also a must-do in Venice if you’re coming with children, as there are plenty of games to play!

10. Basilica of Santa Maria della Salute

This singular church is located at the southern end of the Grand Canal: you can recognize it because it stands on a very narrow stretch of land between the Grand Canal and the Bacino di San Marco.

The basilica’s dome quickly became a powerful symbol of the city, inspiring artists such as Turner, Sargent and Guardi. It’s one of the most impressive buildings to visit in Venice, erected in the mid-18th century.

11. The Lido and its beach

Lido

Photo credit: Flickr – tangi bertin

It’s one of Venice’s most exclusive spots, and a favorite of Venetians during the summer months. The Lido is an island famous for its beach, with its natural sand dunes and transparent water.

What elegance and calm on this beach. Far from the hustle and bustle of the touristy heart of Venice, the Lido is a veritable haven of peace. You can see several rows of bungalows, numbered and arranged according to shape and color.

12. Venice and its bridges

What would Venice be without its bridges? The city boasts some 540 bridges, all of which are free of charge. The Bridge of Sighs is a must-see, as it was the junction between the Doge’s Palace and the prison where Casanova and many other men were imprisoned.

The Rialto Bridge, built in 1500, was the first structure to cross the Grand Canal. This colorful bridge offers 3 pedestrian walkways, with a central passage for strolling and the other two rows for shopping under the arches.

13. Punta della Dogana (Customs Point)

This building stands at the far end of the Dorsoduro district, separating the Grand Canal and the Giudecca Canal. In the 15th century, Venetian customs stood here to inspect all goods entering Venice.

Until recently used as a warehouse, it is now a museum administered by the François Pinault Foundation.

14. La Ca’ d’Oro

Ca’ d’Oro

Photo credit: Flickr – Marta Acosta

The Ca’ d’Oro is quite simply one of the most famous palaces in the beautiful Venetian city. This « golden house » was built in the early 15th century and is now a museum housing a magnificent collection of art once owned by Baron Giorgio Franchetti.

15. The Peggy Guggenheim Museum

Also known as Palazzo Venier dei Leoni, this maginificent Venetian palace exhibits works of surrealist, futurist and abstract expressionist art by almost 200 artists.

As well as offering a direct view of the Grand Canal, you can discover gardens featuring a pavilion housing a café, a bookshop and temporary exhibitions!

And if you love museums, don’t miss Venice’s Gallerie dell’Accademia, the Museo Correr or the Ca’ Rezzonico.

16. Palazzo Contarini del Bovolo

Known for its famous external spiral staircase, it’s also known as the Scala Contarini del Bovolo. The latter was closed for many years to be renovated, but you can now come and admire this beautiful staircase once again!

17. More things to do in Venice

How to get to Venice

Venice is a world-famous city, and as such, it is well served by its airports. From Paris, Lyon, Nice, Nantes, Bordeaux and Toulouse, direct flights with low-cost airlines operate regularly to Venice-Marco-Polo airport and nearby Treviso airport (approx. 1h shuttle).

Ryanair, Transavia, Air France, easyJet, Volotea, Vueling… there’s plenty of choice to get you to Venice without spending too much. To find your flight at the best price, consult the Ulysse flight comparator.

For your arrival in Venice, read our articles on how to get to Venice fromMarco Polo airport orTreviso airport. For getting around Venice, read our article on transport in Venice.

Getting around Venice

There are two ways to get around Venice: on foot or by boat. It’s very common to have to cross a canal and board a vaporetto.

We recommend that you take the ACTV Transport Pass. This transport pass allows you to use the vaporetto at your leisure during your stay. The local fare is €9.50! If you take an ACTV pass, it will cost you 45€ for 72h, for example (or 35€ for 48h). Your pass will pay for itself in just 5 trips.

Where to stay in Venice?

To visit Venice easily, it’s important to know where to stay. Once again, you’ll be spoilt for choice when it comes toaccommodation in Venice. From very affordable youth hostels to charming luxury hotels, there are no less than 1500 hotels in the city. Filter hotels by zone to stay as close as possible to tourist attractions! To find a hotel at the best price in Venice, use our hotel comparison service.

Have you visited Venice? Tell us about your experiences in the comments below!

Map of hotels and accommodation – Venice,it