Lovingly regarded as “la serenissima” or “the most serene,” the city of Venice has been a celebrated destination for travelers, artists, and history lovers for centuries.
Famed for its lavish Carnival, atmospheric canals piloted by gondoliers, stunning architecture and unforgettable views, Venice is truly the jewel of the Adriatic.
Here I’ve listed 40 of the best things to do and see in Venice, from the city’s most popular museums and palaces to one-of-a-kind excursions to surrounding islands and of course, all the dining and shopping experiences one could desire.
With this 2-hour free tour of Venice you wi’ll walk the city’s streets and see the most important landmarks of the City of Canals with an English speaking guide, expert in the history of Venice.
40 Best things to do In Venice
1. Take A Gondola Ride
No trip to Venice is complete without taking the quintessential gondola ride, and luckily you’ll find no shortage of gondoliers happy to ferry you through the city’s ancient and impossibly charming canal ways.
Sit back, relax, and enjoy your gondolier’s stories, songs, and trivia about their beloved city, just don’t forget to snap a pic before disembarking!
Recommended: Grand Canal Gondola Ride with App Commentary
2. Visit The Doge’s Palace
Located in Venice’s famed San Marco square, the Doge’s Palace or Palazzo Ducale is one of the city’s most popular landmarks and not-to-be-missed attraction.
A marvel of Gothic architecture, the palace was built in 1340 and played an important role in Venetian politics & culture for the proceeding centuries.
Today the palace houses some of the world’s finest art, furnishings, and historic artifacts.
Entry Tickent: Doge’s Palace Reserved Entry Ticket
3. Step Into St. Mark’s Basilica & Bell Tower
Located just a short walk from the Doge’s Palace, the awe-inspiring St. Mark’s Basilica is a wonder of medieval, renaissance, and baroque architecture, with the adjacent bell tower offering breathtaking views of the city and Adriatic Sea.
Entry is free but a skip-the-line pass will save you time during high tourist seasons. Special basilica tours are available as well.
4. Sip An Espresso At One Of Venice’s Oldest Coffeehouses
A designated hot spot for the who’s who of Venice to meet, gossip, and above all be seen, Caffè Quadri has played an integral role in Venetian social life since 1638.
Perfect for people watching while you relax with an espresso or glass of Prosecco, Caffè Quadri offers an insider’s experience enjoyed by Venetians for centuries.
5. Visit The National Archaeological Museum
Established in 1523, Venice’s National Archaeological Museum boasts an impressive collection of art and artifacts dating back to the first century BC.
Here you will find everything from ancient Roman coins and gems to Grecian sculptures and Egyptian personal effects, making it the perfect excursion for history lovers.
6. Get Classy At Caffe Florian
This elegant coffeehouse first opened its doors in 1720 and has since been cited as one of the world’s loveliest spots to drink and dine while staying in Venice.
With its white-jacketed servers and live orchestra, you won’t find a more upscale spot to sip and savor life like a local.
7. Ascend St. Mark’s Campanile
One of the most popular things to do in Venice, a climb up St. Mark’s 100-meter Campanile will reward you with what is arguably the most postcard-perfect panoramic view of Venice.
Initially erected in the 10th Century, the present structure dates to 1912 and is the tallest of its kind in the city.
8. Tantalize Your Taste Buds With A Food Tour
Foodies will no doubt hit their stride with one of Venice’s many mouthwatering food tours on offer, which cover the best and most delectable of Venetian gastronomy.
Guests will be guided through the city’s most noteworthy restaurants and markets, with special tastings and behind-the-scenes tours the cherry tomato on top.
9. Visit The Peggy Guggenheim Collection
Located on the bank of the Grand Canal, this modern art museum pays homage to the iconic Peggy Guggenheim and features 20th Century American and European artwork of the surreal and cubist genres, as well as a number of expressionistic pieces.
Guests can additionally visit the grave of the great Peggy Guggenheim herself in the museum’s resplendent garden, making it one of the best things to do in Venice for art lovers and creative souls alike.
10. Visit The Marciana National Library
Bibliophiles won’t want to pass on paying a visit to one of the world’s oldest and most sumptuous libraries.
Built in the late 1500s, the Marciana National Library boasts an overwhelming collection of tomes and texts dating back centuries, with a convenient location in the heart of St. Mark’s Square.
11. Climb The Spiral Staircase At The Palazzo Contarini del Bovolo
Locally known as the Scala Contarini, this winding staircase located within the Palazzo Contarini del Bovolo was designed by renowned Renaissance artist Giovanni Candi and has stood strong for five centuries.
An especially unique activity to do in Venice, guests can ascend the turret of the building and snap some of the best pics of the city from the top while understanding from a distance why the staircase is named after the word for snail.
Entrance Ticket: Palazzo Contarini del Bovolo
14. Explore The Jewish Quarter
This neighborhood is where the Jewish population was forced to reside in segregation by order of the government of the Venetian Republic and is believed to be where the English word “ghetto” originated.
The Jewish Quarter was immortalized in William Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice, and today guests are invited to stroll the quiet streets, step into the temples and visit the enlightening Jewish Museum of Venice.
13. Take A Casanova Tour
One of Venice’s most infamous residents, the name Giacomo Girolamo Casanova is all but synonymous with love, passion, and the art of seduction.
Following in the footsteps of the author, adventurer, spy and scam artist, it is only fitting that a tour devoted to Casanova should be as colorful and exciting as the notorious lothario himself.
14. Visit The Church Of San Giorgio Maggiore
Located on the island of San Giorgio Maggiore within view of the Doge’s Palace, the island’s namesake church is a wonder of 16th century architecture.
With its gleaming white edifice and impressive art collection, as well as free entry (with the bell tower only a few euros), a visit to the Church of San Giorgio Maggiore is both budget-friendly and much recommended.
15. Browse The Beautiful Costumes Of Palazzo Mocenigo
This former 17th century palace is famed for its top tier collection of rare textiles, costumes, and artworks in which visitors can get up close and personal with Venetian fashion spanning hundreds of years.
A special bonus, the museum features a new Play with Arts & Culture exhibition in collaboration with Google.
16. Shop Till You Drop At T Fondaco dei Tedeschi
Shopaholics will be in their element at this world famous market located just off the Rialto Bridge.
Featuring over 7,000 square meters of luxury fashion, jewelry, and cosmetic boutiques as well as fine food emporiums, the Galleria T Fondaco dei Tedesch is sure to entice even the most frugal shoppers and is one of the most luxurious things to do in Venice.
17. Make Your Very Own Carnival Mask
While there’s certainly no shortage of traditional carnival masks for sale on every Venetian corner, why not take it to the next level and design the ultimate souvenir of your own?
Local mask-making workshops offer visitors a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to learn about the sacred art of Venetian mask making as well as the history, tools, and techniques applied, making it the perfect activity for all ages and interests.
18. Explore The Neighborhood Of Dorsoduro
Frequently cited as the most beautiful neighborhood in Venice, Dorsoduro earned its glowing reputation thanks to its historic architecture, picturesque streets, and array of art galleries, as well as some of the best restaurants and bars in the city, making it the perfect place to stroll at your leisure and take a break from the crowds.
19. See How Many Bridges You Can Cross
With over 400 bridges to its name, it will be no easy feat logging all of Venice’s bridges on your journey, but some bridges are more famous than others and well worth a stride across.
The Rialto Bridge is the main pedestrian walkway over the Grand Canal, while the Bridge Of Sighs, connected to the Doge’s Palace, earned its sorrowful name from the prisoners transported across to the adjacent prison; these and many others make for some of the most memorable sights to see in Venice.
20. Visit The World’s Most Charming Bookstore
Bookworms and the casually curious alike will adore the one-of-a-kind famed around the world for its floor-to-ceiling books (including a staircase!) and frequent flooding which often finds customers wading through at least a few inches of water while browsing.
With a delightful back courtyard overlooking the canal and resident shop kitty snoozing on stacks of books, Libreria Acqua Alta is sure to be one of the more cozily unique things to do in Venice while you’re visiting.
21. Visit The Gallerie dell’Accademia
Specializing in 19th century artwork by such greats as Titian, Bellini, and Mantegna, the Gallerie dell’Accademia has long been a beloved attraction for both locals and tourists, with a rotating roster of modern exhibitions and year-round specially curated retrospectives on offer.
22. Admire The Ships Of The Venice Naval Historical Museum
Venice was a maritime empire for centuries, and nautical enthusiasts will surely swoon over the antique sailing vessels of Venice’s Naval Historical Museum.
Located in the Castello district near the Venetian Arsenal, the museums boasts four floors of maritime artifacts, models, tools and uniforms, along with many of the actual ships themselves.
23. Gawk At The Torre dell’Orologio
Fans of astrology will delight in this San Marco clock tower featuring the regal winged lion of Venice and twelve signs of the zodiac, with the current sign of the season spotlighted as well as plenty of gears and cogs for the mechanically minded to admire.
24. Snap An Iconic Shot Of The Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute
Once of Venice’s most recognizable landmarks, the Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute was built during the Black Plague as both prayer and offering for the health and safety of the city.
Identifiable by its prominent white stone dome and featuring 125 statues, the Basilica is easily one of the most commended sights to see in Venice.
25. Explore The Venetian Islands
While the main island is Venice’s more prominent tourist destination, a day trip to the smaller surrounding islands is well worth considering.
Lido, Burano, Murano and Torcello are all easily reached by ferry or privately chartered boat and offer a rich glimpse into the grand tapestry of Venice’s history and geography.
Sights and excursions include the glass blowing factories & museum, bicycle tours along the waterfront and former fishermen’s cottages, as well as a bounty of delicious eateries.
26. Take A Spooky Nighttime Tour
Like all ancient cities, Venice carries a dark side that is not for the faint of heart. Horror fans and lovers of the macabre alike will find no shortage of thrills through one of the city’s Mysteries of Venice tours, in which the murders, mysteries and hauntings of Venice are brought to light.
From the familiar San Marco Square to more shadowy nooks and alleys, visitors will no doubt see a whole other side to La Serenissima.
27. Spend A Night At The Opera
Opera is an indispensable part of Venetian history and culture, and La Fenice is the designated home of the Venetian Opera.
Music lovers can not only take in a show but bask in the golden Baroque interior and even opt for an exclusive private tour of the theatre space.
Recommended: Entry Ticket La Fenice Opera
28. Take A Brenta Riviera Cruise
Visitors looking to get out of the city for the afternoon will favor this Padua-bound river tour of over 50 historic villas, with additional dining and villa entrance options.
Guests are invited to tour the palatial gardens of Villa Widmann Rezzonico Foscari, enjoy a drink in the former stable-turned-coffeehouse of Museo Nazionale di Villa Pisani, and take in the Condé Nast-worthy decor of Villa Valmarana in this decadent detour through the past lives of Venetian nobility.
Recommended: Padua to Venice Boat Cruise of the Brenta Riviera
29. Enjoy A Classical Music Concert
Classical music is as crucial as food & drink in Venice, and taking in a live concert is a time-honored pleasure that visitors are invited to savor alongside native Venetians.
Venues such as Interpreti Veneziani and I Musici Veneziani are respectively renowned for their Baroque renditions and odes to Antonio Vivaldi’s famed Four Seasons, ultimately offering attendees a soul-stirring peek into Venice’s dazzling past.
Recommended: Four Seasons Concert Ticket at Vivaldi Church
30. Indulge In A Chocolate Tasting
Children as well as grown-ups with a sweet tooth can indulge their Willy Wonka fantasies with one of Venice’s onsite artisan chocolate tastings.
Dragée, praline, truffle and special chocolate drink samplings–and much more–are all on the menu, ensuring a decidedly dolce Venetian experience.
31. Lose Yourself In The World Of The Giorgio Cini Foundation
With its spectacular buildings, lavish works of art and dedication to historic detail, the Giorgio Cini Foundation is in a class all by itself, and most certainly one of the more whimsical things to do in Venice.
Guests can lose themselves in the Borges Labyrinth, marvel at the Vatican Chapels, and browse the foundation’s impressive library, as well as take in one of the many special year-round events and galas.
32. Visit The Querini Stampalia Foundation
Another noteworthy foundation and recommended Venetian to-do, the Querini Stampalia Foundation takes a page from the past, immersing visitors in the bygone splendor of its decor, architecture, and extensive artworks totaling well over 400.
Additional displays of antique furnishings and artifacts owned by the Querini family make this an especially refined draw.
33. Step Back In Baroque Time At Chiesa di Santa Maria Assunta
As you may have guessed already, Venice is brimming with churches of all styles and eras.
Santa Maria Assunta, located in the Cannaregio district, is a gem of Baroque design and Jesuit architecture, with colorful frescoes as well as archangel sculptures by Giuseppe Torretti particular points of interest.
34. Pass A Few Hours At Correr Museum
Located in St. Mark’s Square, the Correr Museum is one of the 11 civic museums run by the Fondazione Musei Civici di Venezia and an idyllic stopover for arts & culture devotees.
Guests are invited to immerse themselves in Venetian art & history by touring the Neoclassical Rooms, Imperial Apartments, and multiple works on display, topped off with a coffee and spuntino or snack in the museum’s cafe.
35. Get Tipsy On A Wine Tour
Vino & Italy are lovers in their own right and no trip to Venice would be complete without sipping and savoring the best reds, whites, and Proseccos the country has to offer.
Locally led wine tours are the perfect way to taste both local and regional wines paired with mouthwatering cicchetti, the traditional Venetian appetizer.
36. Celebrate The Genius Of Leonardo da Vinci
The Leonardo da Vinci Museum is a must-see for fans of the Italian great, and boasts a dizzying collection of the master’s work as well as interactive exhibitions and life-size replicas of his inventions.
A true ode to art & science and perfect for visitors of all ages, this is one excursion you won’t want to skip in Venice.
37. Visit the Ca’ Pesaro Museum
Containing both the International Gallery of Modern Art and the Oriental Art Museum, the Ca’Pesaro Museum is truly an embarrassment of riches.
Featuring Prince Enrico’s collection of Japanese Edo art as well as a plethora of 19th and 20th century paintings, drawings, sculptures and photographs and boasting one of the best waterside views in the city, this is one destination you will most definitely want to see in Venice.
38. Embark On A Cannaregio walking tour
Dedicated to the northernmost of Venice’s sestieri or historic districts, a Cannaregio walking tour regales its guests with over 500 years of Jewish Venetian history through fascinating landmark sights and tantalizing cuisine tastings from both modern and traditional Venetian eateries. What better way to enjoy the best of both worlds?
Recommended: Legends and Ghosts of Cannaregio Tour
39. Visit the Scuola Grande di San Rocco
Famed for its opulent facade and mint condition collection of Tintoretto paintings including the Renaissance masterpiece The Crucifixion, the Scuola Grande di San Rocco is a standing celebration of over five centuries of art, culture, and minimal renovation to the premises.
Year-round live performances and special exhibitions complete the perfect afternoon jaunt.
40. Attend The Venetian Carnival
The Venetian Carnival, which takes place every year in February, is perhaps the most famous of its kind in the world and most certainly Europe.
A deliriously decadent celebration spanning hundreds of years and the inspiration for numerous works of art, film and literature, attending Venice’s carnival is a bucket list goal for many.
Don your best mask and most elaborate costume and prepare to revel in the heady style of a true Venetian.