These Are Some of the Best Things to Do When Visiting Venice Italy in 2024
“There is something so different in Venice from any other place in the world, that you leave at once all accustomed habits and everyday sights to enter an enchanted garden.” – Mary Shelley, English author
Upon first arrival in Venice, you quickly realize that there is nothing ubiquitous about the place. It is unlike any other, with a charm and intrigue all its own. Colorful buildings rise above the narrow canals. Uneven brick-lined walkways and quaint bridges (of which there are 400) beckon with romanticism. Gleaming gondolas float lazily past adorned with fire engine red plastic roses and mesmerized faces.
Getting to and Around Venice
As Winetravelers, there are two options to use as a base for exploring Venice. You can opt to fly directly into and stay in Venice, or you can stay in Verona (also beautiful), and visit Venice as a day trip.
Your choice largely depends on the kinds of activities and experiences you want to have in and around the city. For those looking to really explore Venice proper, we recommend flying and staying in Venice. If you’re more interested in visiting both Venice and the surrounding wine regions, we suggest staying in Verona.
Also, for shorter trips, staying in Venice is more ideal. If you have more time and a flexible schedule, staying in Verona allows for a more leisurely pace for exploration.
Fly Straight to Venice
There are two main airports that serve Venice: Venice Marco Polo Airport (VCE) and Treviso Airport (TSF). Venice Marco Polo Airport is the larger of the two and is located about 8 miles from the city, while Treviso Airport is smaller and situated about 25 miles away. You can check and compare flight prices into either of these airports using this flight comparison tool on Kayak.
OR Use Verona as a Base and Visit Venice on a Day Trip
As we mentioned, for true Winetravelers, we suggest establishing a home base in Verona, 71 miles to the west of Venice. It’s a perfectly romantic city from which to access both the Veneto wine region and Venice.
As a car is the best way to explore the vineyards adorning the hills of Garda, Bardolino and Valpolicella, Verona will offer a central location with plenty of accommodations, parking and easy train access for a Venetian adventure. Check current car rental rates near Verona and Venice here.
This not only saves you from having to deal with the hassle of parking on the outskirts of Venice, but also allows you to leave your luggage behind without the need for lockers or storage.
Train Transport from Verona to Venice
Dozens of trains depart daily from the Verona Porta Nuova train station. The round-trip ticket to Venice will likely cost around $25 USD for the hour and 20-minute trip. As the trains can be crowded, it is recommended that you purchase these in advance from TrenItalia.
Select an early-morning train between 6 a.m. and 7 a.m. as it will put your arrival at Venice’s St. Lucia station between 7 a.m. and 8:30 a.m., ahead of the sizeable crowds. Both the Porta Nuova and St. Lucia stations are easy to navigate, and the ride is direct and comfortable.
Once you’re in Venice, you’ll find various modes of transportation to help you explore the city. Walking is a common way to get around, as the city is filled with narrow streets and alleyways called “calle.” In addition, the vaporetto offers a convenient way to travel between major attractions along the canals. For crossing the Grand Canal, consider using the traghetti, which are similar to gondolas but function as public transport. You can purchase a waterbus and mainland bus pass ahead of time to make your trip more seamless.
Arrival in Venice from VCE or TSF Airport
Upon arrival at Marco Polo Airport, you have several options to reach Venice. You can take the vaporetto, which is a public water bus, or an Alilaguna water taxi. If you prefer a more private and direct option, consider booking a private water taxi. From Treviso Airport, you can take a bus or train to Venice.
Arrival in Venice by Train from Verona
If you’re coming to Venice from Verona, upon your arrival at St. Lucia, exit the station and head toward the Grand Canal. While you can walk to the Piazza San Marco (Saint Mark Square), we recommend hopping on the Vaporetto. Tickets are available online or outside St. Lucia. You’ll want line #1 or #2 which will whisk you through the Grand Canal to the Piazza in about 25 minutes.
The quick arrival to the Piazza via the Vaporetto will enable you to visit the Palazzo Ducale (Doge’s Palace) or the Basilica di San Marco upon opening and before the mid-day crowds which begin arriving by 10 a.m. The links included above allow you to purchase tickets to these destinations ahead of time.
Or, if outdoor exploration is more of what you had in mind, use this time to take photos of the Piazza, the Campanile (bell tower), Basilica, Palazzo, and the Bridge of Sighs before the throngs of people arrive.
Early morning is also one of the better times to snag a seat at an outdoor cafe lining the Piazza. We recommend the renowned and elegant Caffè Florian. Dating back to 1720, it is the oldest café situated under the arches of the Procuratie Nuove in Saint Mark Square. Although the Florian attracts many tourists, it remains a stunning locale for an espresso, biscotti and Vivaldi; although we won’t fault anyone for ordering a glass of prosecco to start the day either.
If you are lucky enough to have secured an outdoor seat at the Florian, take your time. Enjoy the ambiance, the view, and the grand history of your coveted seat in one of the most famous squares in the world.
If Bellini cocktails are more your thing, head to Harry’s Bar Cipriani by the ferry terminal to experience the 1930s cocktail bar frequented by Hemingway and known for Bellini, carpaccio, and club sandwiches.
There are also some special, local-guided tours that focus on enjoying a morning meandering around Venice. Enjoy pastries and coffee shops that aren’t touristy, and then stop by highlights included on the tour like the Rialto Bridge, St. Mark’s Square, and Doge’s Palace.
The Best Things to Do in Venice
Now that you’re here and your palate is wet with your belly full, lets discuss the dozens of other things to do and see while in the remarkable city of Venice, regardless of the number of days you plan to spend in the city.
While it is true that the Palazzo Ducale, Piazza San Marco and the Rialto Bridge are bustling with thousands of tourists, and have been for centuries, this Italian wonder on the Adriatic Sea can also offer a serenity that will consume and beguile.
Venice is a breathtaking city to behold, from its lively piazzas and cafes, basilicas and museums, to its osterias, bacari (wine bars) and shops ordained with elegant Murano glass and haunting Carnivale masks. As for us Winetravelers, Venice offers a stunning backdrop from which to enjoy a crisp glass of sparkling Prosecco, a refreshing glass of the dry, lovely Soave, a rich glass of Amarone della Valpolicella or one of our favorites, a Valpolicella Superiore Ripasso.
Wander the Streets of Venice
As late morning approaches, the tourists will begin arriving to the San Marco Piazza area in droves. We recommend you begin to meander deeper into the streets of Venice for a more authentic and oft-missed look at this bewitching city at this hour of the day.
Set off to the north, west or even northwest from the San Marco Piazza and simply lose yourself. Wander about slowly, look up, look down, right and left around this carless series of islands made for discovery and exploration.
Visit the shops and merchants that draw your eye and entice your sense of wonder and whimsy, such as one of the small vinaie (wine shops) like Enoteca al Canton del Vin (Salizada S. Giustina, 2907/A, 30122 Venezia VE, Italy) to sample “un umbra,” a glass of regional wine; or a ceramic shop with dozens of handmade Venetian masks.
As soon as you are off the Piazza and away from the Grand Canal, the streets narrow and the colorful buildings with laundry strewn on lines between them rise above you. Window boxes filled with brightly colored flowers and small boats tied to posts serve as gentle, awe-inspiring reminders of day-to-day Venetian life.
Stop to visit the quiet local shops serving sandwiches, cheeses and cured meats, or saunter your way up to the bar at one of the many, standing-room-only bacari and ask for a recommended wine with cicchetti (small plates).
Have Lunch at an Osteria
As the mid-day sun bears down, it becomes the perfect time to enjoy a Venetian seafood or pasta lunch at a charming osteria. These often small, quaint eateries have a way of enveloping you into the atmosphere and making you fully aware of the present moment; from the aromas, the tastes, the rustic interiors to the cool and sounds of gentle, but lively conversations – nothing else will be of any concern.
Recommended Lunch Destinations
Campiello de la Pescaria, 3968, 30122 Venezia VE, Italy
Rustic and tucked away, Al Covo is a charming restaurant serving locals and tourists alike from an updated, yet traditional menu of seafood and pastas.
Calle del Pestrin, 3886, 30122 Venezia VE, Italy
A renowned seafood restaurant with a vine-laden courtyard and an inventive menu including items such as marinated swordfish and clams steamed in ginger.
Osteria Oliva Nera
Salizzada dei Greci, 3447/3417, 30122 Venezia VE, Italy
An intimate, family restaurant serving stuffed fried zucchini flowers, bigoli in salsa (spaghetti with anchovies and onions), and variously prepared fresh local fish and squid.
Take an Obligatory Gondola Ride
After a satisfying lunch, you will return to the cobbled streets with a sense of utter serenity despite knowing your day is only halfway done. Relish this elusive feeling as you find a willing gondolier. You won’t need to return to the main canal to find an available guide. Simply approach, ask the price (many will negotiate) and duration. Alternatively, you can schedule a private gondola experience or even a private photo shoot ahead of time (highly recommended).
Once you find the guide and arrangements that best suit you (we prefer keeping to the smaller, less traversed canals), step down into the polished gondola, sit back and enjoy this uniquely Venetian experience.
Although a gondola ride in Venice can be considered a cliche tourist experience, it is one that you will not regret. Some gondoliers are chatty, others deftly steer through the back canals in silence, but most will follow your lead. And again, make sure to look up, down, left and right as beauty can be found in the smallest of details from brightly painted doorways to the sun casting silhouettes of passing gondoliers on a pastel-colored wall.
Evening in Venice
Visit Ponte de Rialto (Rialto Bridge)
As late afternoon passes to evening, it’s time to return to your wanderings. Make your way toward the Ponte de Rialto (Rialto Bridge), the oldest of the four bridges spanning the Grand Canal, built in 1591. The busy pedestrian bridge can be traversed along the steps on either of two outer balustrades, or the wider central walkway leading between rows of small shops selling tourist items, jewelry, linens, and Murano glass. As one of the most visited sites in Venice, you’ll likely have to make your way through the crowds as you cross over the Grand Canal to the smallest of the Venetian provinces, San Polo. Make your way to the west, winding your way into the interior streets away from the buzz of the Rialto.
Visit an Art Museum (Or Two)
Depending on the time and your interest, now would be a great time to sneak an hour or so in at one of two art museums: the Galleria del Accademia or the Peggy Guggenheim Collection. Both locations remain open through 6 p.m., but tickets need to be purchased online or at least 45 minutes before closing.
Visit a Wine Bar
As the day winds down, it’s time to return to that leisurely pace captured earlier in the day, painting those memories in your mind as you once again step up to a bar at another bacaro. Or, as the sun begins to set, grab an outdoor seat at one (maybe even two!) at any of our recommended evening wine and snack stops below for a taste of la dolce vita.
Dorsoduro 3778 Crosera, Calle S. Pantalon, 30123 Venezia VE, Italy
More upscale, yet approachable, sit-down cucina, Estro’s menu will inspire and the wine list is a real treat – reservations recommended.
Campo S. Stin, 2537, 30125 Venezia VE, Italy
A small, quiet wine bar serving simple sandwiches and plates and expertly matched wines.
C. dei Sbianchesini, 1131, 30125 Venezia VE, Italy
Closer to the Rialto, and slightly busier, all’Amarone offers wine flights, wine by the glass and a delicious array of food
Cantina Do Mori
Calle Do Mori, 429, 30125 Venezia VE, Italy
A legendary bacaro going back to 1462, Cantina Do Mori offers a lively, standing-room-only atmosphere, an array of wine and a delightful menu of cicchetti.
Ristorante La Cantina Venezia
Sestiere Cannaregio, 3689, 30121 Venezia VE, Italy
Along the Strada Nova, La Cantina sits in a well-traversed piazza and serves wines by the glass and small plates with delicious seafood cicchetti and fresh bread.
Piazza San Marco
Piazza San Marco, also known as St. Mark’s Square, is the main public square in Venice and an absolute must-see for travelers visiting the city. Often referred to as the “drawing room of Europe,” the piazza holds immense historical and architectural significance, acting as a showcase of Venetian grandeur and artistry.
The piazza is also home to numerous elegant cafes, such as the historic Caffè Florian, where you can savor an espresso or indulge in a leisurely meal while listening to live music and watching the world go by.
Piazza San Marco is the epicenter of Venetian life, where both locals and tourists gather to socialize, admire the architectural marvels, and attend cultural events.
St. Mark’s Basilica
One of the primary reasons to explore Piazza San Marco is the breathtaking St. Mark’s Basilica, a masterpiece of Italo-Byzantine architecture adorned with intricate mosaics and precious relics. The basilica’s opulent interior, featuring gold mosaics and marble floors, is a testament to Venice’s wealth and artistic prowess during its heyday as a major maritime power. We recommend getting fast-track tickets ahead of time.
Palazzo Ducale (Doge’s Palace)
Adjacent to the basilica is the Doge’s Palace, an emblematic example of Venetian Gothic architecture. As the former residence of the Doge of Venice and the seat of the city’s government, the palace offers a fascinating insight into the political history of the Venetian Republic. Its magnificent halls, adorned with frescoes by Venetian masters, and the infamous Bridge of Sighs are just a few of the many treasures awaiting discovery within its walls. Reserve your entry ticket right here.
Another iconic landmark in Piazza San Marco is the Campanile, a soaring bell tower that stands at 323 feet tall. Winetravelers can take an elevator to the top of the tower for panoramic views of Venice, the lagoon, and the surrounding islands, making it a favorite spot for photography enthusiasts.
Jewish Ghetto and Museum
Learn about the history of Venice’s Jewish community in the oldest Jewish Ghetto in Europe and visit the Jewish Museum, which houses a collection of artifacts and documents.
Chiesa di Santa Maria dei Miracoli
Discover this hidden gem, a small marble Renaissance church with an exquisite façade and ornate interior.
Attend an Opera at the Teatro La Fenice
Attend an opera or concert at this historic and lavishly decorated theater, which has played host to many of the world’s most famous composers and performers. You can also purchase a ticket to explore the opera house at your leisure.
Scuola Grande di San Rocco
Visit this opulent Venetian building, featuring an extensive collection of Tintoretto’s paintings, depicting scenes from the Bible.
Basilica di Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari
Admire the impressive Gothic architecture and renowned art collection, including Titian’s “Assumption of the Virgin,” in this historic church.
Visit the Islands of Murano, Burano, and Torcello
Discover the art of glassmaking in Murano, wander through the colorful fishermen’s houses in Burano, and explore the ancient basilicas on Torcello.
Upscale Hotels in Venice in the Best Neighborhoods
San Marco is the heart of Venice, where the city’s most iconic landmarks, such as Piazza San Marco, St. Mark’s Basilica, and Doge’s Palace, reside. This bustling district is perfect for visitors who wish to stay within walking distance of the main attractions and immerse themselves in the city’s vibrant atmosphere. Alongside a plethora of shops, cafes, and restaurants, San Marco offers a variety of cultural and historical experiences. Staying in a hotel in this neighborhood ensures you are at the epicenter of Venetian life, with easy access to the city’s most captivating sights.
The Gritti Palace in San Marco
A luxurious hotel with a prime location near Piazza San Marco, featuring elegant rooms and a historic atmosphere.
A prestigious hotel close to St. Mark’s Basilica, offering opulent rooms and exceptional service.
Dorsoduro is a charming neighborhood known for its artistic heritage, picturesque canals, and bohemian ambiance. Home to the Peggy Guggenheim Collection and the Accademia Gallery, Dorsoduro attracts art enthusiasts and those seeking a quieter, more authentic Venetian experience. The area is characterized by its narrow streets, hidden squares, and local restaurants, creating a serene atmosphere perfect for leisurely strolls. By choosing a hotel in Dorsoduro, you will enjoy a more tranquil environment while still being within easy reach of the city’s main attractions.
A stylish boutique hotel located in the artistic Dorsoduro district, offering a blend of modern amenities and historical charm.
Check Prices at Ca’ Pisani Hotel
Palazzo Venart Luxury Hotel
A refined hotel with lavish rooms and a tranquil garden, situated along the Grand Canal.
Cannaregio is the largest and most diverse neighborhood in Venice, with a blend of tourist attractions and residential areas. It is home to the Jewish Ghetto, offering visitors a glimpse into the city’s rich history and a chance to explore the lesser-known parts of Venice. This district is also known for its lively local scene, with a variety of bars, restaurants, and shops frequented by locals. Staying in a hotel in Cannaregio allows you to experience the authentic side of Venice while still having easy access to major sights such as the Rialto Bridge and St. Mark’s Square.
Ca’ Sagredo Hotel
A magnificent 15th-century palace converted into a luxurious hotel, featuring ornate rooms and a picturesque location near the Grand Canal.
A boutique hotel with chic interiors and contemporary design, located in a quiet part of Cannaregio.
Castello is an expansive neighborhood that stretches from the eastern edge of St. Mark’s Square to the Arsenale, Venice’s historic shipyard. With its picturesque canals, lush gardens, and charming squares, Castello offers a more laid-back atmosphere compared to the bustling center of San Marco. This district is also home to the Biennale Gardens, where the prestigious Venice Biennale contemporary art exhibition takes place. Choosing a hotel in Castello provides a peaceful retreat from the tourist crowds while still being in proximity to Venice’s main attractions, offering a perfect balance between relaxation and exploration.
A sumptuous hotel near St. Mark’s Square, boasting a private collection of antiques and a Michelin-starred restaurant.
Hotel Londra Palace
An elegant hotel with sophisticated rooms and stunning lagoon views, located a short walk from St. Mark’s Square.
Frequently Asked Questions about What to Do in Venice
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