Venice, Italy is such an interesting and unique place to visit, and today I’m sharing all the things you must see in Venice.
I had heard super mixed reviews about Venice before visiting. Some people said it was absolutely magical and their favorite place in Italy, while others hated it and said it was super touristy.
I was excited to travel to Venice and check it out for myself, and I think Omied and I both ended up falling somewhere in the middle between those two opinions. Yes, there are a shitload of tourists, and the streets are small and narrow, which just compresses all the tourists together making things feel a bit claustrophobic at times. But it was also really cool to see the floating city, and there’s really nowhere else in the world like it.
We’re both glad that we visited, but agreed that we don’t feel the need to return during another, future trip to Italy (unlike Florence, where we’d like to come back again and again!). Two to three full days in Venice is the perfect amount of time to do all the things you must see in Venice.
Getting around in Venice involves walking or taking a water taxi or ferry (Venice’s public transportation). There are no cars in Venice! Between the ferry and small streets, Venice is very walkable.
We stayed at the Hotel Danieli, which was super central and made it easy to walk to almost all of the sights. Any of the hotels in the San Marco neighborhood will put you in a great location for Venice.
15 Things You Must See in Venice
1. Walking Tour. Definitely start your trip with a walking tour! While it’s fun to get lost in the tiny streets and wander around, going on a free walking tour to kick things off will help orient you and give you context of this unique place.
We didn’t do a walking tour until the second day in Venice, and honestly the first day felt like we were aimlessly walking around Italian Disneyland. After going on the walking tour, our perspective changed and we were able to appreciate the culture and history a bit more, and it just made the whole experience much more enjoyable.
Our guide was so knowledgeable and she gave us some great recommendations for restaurants, bars, and fun things to do around Venice.
2. San Marco Basilica. The San Marco Basilica is stunning, and a must see in Venice. The ceiling frescoes are beautiful, and it’s dripping in gold, but I really loved the incredible tile designs on the floor throughout the basilica.
Make sure to wear cute shoes because you will definitely want to be taking a shoefie! This is a good one to buy tickets online ahead of time for, because the line to enter can get long.
3. Campanile Bell Tower. For the absolute best views of Venice, be sure to go up the Campanile Bell Tower. And as an added bonus, you don’t have to climb hundreds of spiral stairs like in most old bell towers in Italy—this one has an elevator! Zip right up to the top and take in the beautiful 360 degree views of Venice. You can save time by buying skip the line tickets ahead of time online.
4. Burano. Burano is an adorable little island off of Venice that is known for its pretty, colorful little houses. It is seriously an Instagrammer’s dream. Everywhere you look is just adorable and it’s just really fun to visit.
This island is known for its lace making history, so you can also pop into the shops and look at all the pretty, delicate lace goods.
If you’re looking for food in Burano, when you arrive via the ferry there’s a really yummy fritto misto place (fried mixed seafood) that I highly recommend grabbing a snack at!
Venice’s public transportation is solely water taxis or the ferry (there are no cars in Venice!), and to get to Burano you can take the 12 line, which is a large, express ferry. It takes about an hour to get from Venice to Burano, and costs €6.50 per person. You can also book a half day sightseeing trip to visit Burano, Murano, and Torcello in one day.
5. Murano. Murano is another island off of Venice that is very famous for its glass making. You can visit the Murano Glass Factory, see the cute town of Murano, and explore the glass blowing shops. Doing both Burano and Murano in the same day would be ideal, as you can hop on the 12 ferry line, which makes stops in both towns. Or you can book a half day sightseeing trip to hit up Murano, Burano, and Torcello.
6. San Giorgio Maggiore. San Giorgio is another neighborhood of Venice, just across the lagoon from the main sestieres (neighborhoods). You can visit the San Giorgio Monastery, the Church, and also the campanile bell tower, which gives you fantastic views of the main part of Venice across the water.
7. Doges Palace. We loved visiting the Doge’s Palace! It’s huge, so be sure to give yourself a few hours to explore. It’s beautiful and there are so many rooms full of beautiful artwork, interesting history, and incredible frescoes. The line to get in and buy tickets can be very long, so be sure to buy tickets online!
8. Rialto Bridge. The Rialto Bridge is the oldest bridge in Venice, and was first constructed in the 12th century. Since it’s the most famous bridge in Venice, you can also expect it to be crowded. But it’s definitely a must see in Venice, given that this 24-foot arch is such a landmark.
We saw a proposal happen when we were there, which was very sweet. While you’re in the area you can also check out the Rialto Market, which has all kinds of food including produce, seafood, and salami, for pretty cheap prices.
9. Gondola Ride. Okayyy a Gondola ride is kind of a must when you’re in Venice, but it is also so damn expensive. A private, 1-hour gondola ride will run you $80-90, which is pretty expensive, but also how often are you in Venice? For a cheaper option, you can do a 30-minute shared gondola ride for $35.
For a super secret, scrappy, even cheaper option, you can do what our walking tour guide taught us and take a gondola for €2 just to cross the Grand Canal, which is called a traghetto. You can find these at Campo Santa Sofia, San Tomà, and Santa Maria del Giglio. We went with the €2 option, because I really just wanted a shot of me on a gondola. I just made sure to hop on first and get a prime spot in front of the gondola guy, and Omied snapped away!
10. St. Mark’s Square. St. Mark’s Square, or Piazza San Marco, is bustling, and it’s fun to grab an espresso and people watch here. A lot of the cafes around St. Marks have live music as well, which adds to the atmosphere.
11. Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute. The Santa Maria Basilica is a major landmark in Venice, and you’ll see it standing at the entrance of the Grand Canal. The outside architecture with white stone is strikingly beautiful, and viewing the dome from the inside is equally as impressive.
You can enter the church for free, but you’l have to pay to visit the sacristy, which is full of art (and closed on Sunday mornings).
12. Grand Canal. The best way to see and tour around the Grand Canal is to take the Vaporetto, Venice’s public transportation ferry. Experiencing Venice from the water gives you a different perspective and many photo-worthy moments.
You can buy extended-use passes for the Vaporetto and use it for multiple days, making it easy to hop around to different areas and islands and to see the Grand Canal from the water.
13. The Bridge of Sighs. The bridge of sighs is an enclosed bridge made of white limestone that passes over the Rio di Palazzo. It connects the prison to the interrogation rooms at Doges Palace, and the bridge was so named as this was usually a prisoner’s last walk before being hung, hence the sighs. Now the joke is that the sighs are from locals trying to get past tourists trying to get a photo. 😂
14. Peggy Guggenheim Collection. Peggy Guggenheim dedicated her life to gathering 20th-century contemporary art. In this collection, you can see works by artists like Picasso, Pollock, and Dalí.
15. Get outside of the main tourist areas. The main parts of Venice can start to feel a bit like a tourist-crush, so if you’re ready to get a bit of a breath of fresh air, explore some of the less touristy areas like Cannaregio (known for its 16-century Jewish ghetto) or Santa Croce neighborhood, which is off the beaten path and where more locals hang out.
There you have it! The top 15 things you must see in Venice.