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The City of Bridges – 9 Must See Things in Venice, Italy

The white Rialto bridge with a gondola passing underneath and a couple sat watching

The City of Bridges – 9 Must See Things in Venice, Italy

Venice is one of Italy’s biggest tourist magnets, and it’s no surprise. A romantic city of islands in northern Italy, Venice is a place like no other. In this guide we’ll cover the absolute must see things in Venice, a perfect itinerary if you only have a few days.

A woman in a red dress swinging on a pillar near a beautiful canal with the words "Best things to do in Venice" superimposed

Venice

Venice’s unique charm lies in its labyrinth of winding canals, ancient architecture, and rich history that stretches back over a thousand years. It’s an owner of many nicknames: “City of Canals”, “City of Bridges”, “City of Water”, and “The Floating City” to name a few.

The enchanting waterways separate the 118 islands which Venice is built on. It’s a compact city which makes exploring its iconic landmarks an enjoyable task, although you will have to battle the crowds.

How Many Days Do You Need in Venice?

It’s easy enough to see everything on our list in 3 days because most things are close together. But that doesn’t give you much time to aimlessly wander the many backstreets and tiny bridges dotted throughout Venice.

A venice canal view from a small iron bridge with pink and red houses and a small boat

As with most historic cities there’s always more you can see or do. For example, a trip to Murano will take half a day, but you can also visit the other islands of Burano and Torcello. There are also many restaurants, cafes, and gelateria to seek out across the city.

Getting to Venice

The easiest way to get to Venice is by train to the Saint Lucia Train Station. Italy has a good high-speed rail network, so it’s easy to get between the major cities.

If you’re driving, there are places to park in Venice, but they’re not cheap! The two main options you have are Piazzale Roma or Piazzale Tronchetto. You can expect to pay between €20-€40 per day, depending on whether you book in advance and where you can get a space.

A better option is to park your car in one of the nearby towns like Marghera or Mestre and get the train or bus from there. There are many hotels with free parking there, or you can leave the car there while you stay in Venice.

Getting Around Venice

Venice is a pedestrian city, so the easiest and most convenient way to get around is on foot. The only other methods of transport used are the boats.

Boats are not cheap in Venice, but the most affordable type are the vaporetto (river buses). They cost €9.50 for a one-way trip over a 75-minute time slot. They also sell the following tourist cards:

24-Hour: €25

48-Hour: €35

72-Hour: €45

7-day: €65

The other boat option is a water taxi, but we wouldn’t advise taking these as they’re really expensive.

Where to Stay in Venice

One of the best places to stay in Venice is near to St. Mark’s square as it’s an ideal central location.

Hotels near St. Mark’s Square

There are options for every price range, although the budget is probably a little more here than you might find in a big city.

Luxury: The St. Regis Venice – A 5-star hotel right in the center, with restaurants and bars that have panoramic views of the city and the Grand Canal.

Mid-range: Hotel Firenze – Beautifully decorated rooms in a central location and they offer breakfast on the rooftop terrace.

Budget: Hotel Rio – A reasonably priced hotel with an excellent location. They offer double, triple, and even quadruple rooms and a decent breakfast.

A view from the water's edge in Venice looking out to sea

Hotels near Marghera

If you want better value for money, staying on the mainland and getting a train in is a solid option. You may prefer to stay in a nicer hotel for your budget or save your money for more gelato and coffee. The nearby town of Marghera allows you to do just that.

Luxury: Relais et Châteaux Hotel Villa Franceschi – A stunning 5-star villa with boutique rooms, surrounded by trees and gardens. Parking and a breakfast buffet are included in the price, and they have an outdoor pool. It’s a little outside Marghera but offers fantastic value for money.

Mid-range: Un Sogno B&B – Lovely rooms, each with a terrace and/or balcony. Great central location in Marghera, free parking, and an excellent continental, vegetarian, or vegan breakfast.

Budget: B&B Fine Venice – A nice, small place with modern rooms. The price includes free parking and a very good breakfast.

9 Must See Things in Venice

1. Grand Canal

Venice’s Grand Canal is the city’s main waterway, a huge and majestic artery that winds through the heart of the historic city. Lined with ornate buildings and picturesque bridges, this winding waterway shows off some of the best Venetian architecture.

A venetian gondola with red seats and tall wooden poles used for tethering boats

The best way to see the Grand Canal is to get ride the water bus – or vaporetto as they’re known here – along it. This is probably best done as soon as you arrive, because it’s an iconic introduction to the city’s grandeur. If you do take the vaporetto, you’ll pass under the next thing on our list: the Rialto Bridge (Ponte di Rialto).

2. Rialto Bridge

The Rialto Bridge is the oldest crossing of the Grand Canal and the original bridge here was built in the 12th century. That first crossing was a pontoon bridge, and probably wasn’t much to look at in those days, but it did the job. Today, however, it’s a pristine hallmark of Venice’s renaissance architecture.

A woman in a red dress sitting on the water's edge with the famous white Rialto bridge behind

This later stone version was built in the 16th century after many proposals from famous architects and artists including Palladio (who inspired a whole architectural style – Palladian) and even Michaelangelo.

Crossing the Rialto Bridge, you’ll pass a vibrant street of market stalls, where Venetian merchants have been trading in fresh produce, trinkets, and local goods for centuries. The bridge offers stunning views of the Grand Canal, making it a popular spot for photos. It’s also an ideal starting point to explore the charming streets and alleys of the historic Rialto district.

3. St. Mark’s Square

St. Mark’s Square, or Piazza San Marco to the locals, is the beating heart of Venice and one of the world’s most glorious and recognizable squares. It is surrounded by architectural marvels like St. Mark’s Basilica, the Doge’s Palace, and the Campanile, more on each of these later in the guide.

A couple walking hand-in-hand in St. Mark's Square in Venice, the red brick campanile dominates the skyline

The vast square is so magnificent it feels like you’ve entered an open-air museum. It’s an ideal place to sip a coffee at one of the historic cafes, listen to the live string instruments often playing in the street, and admire the architecture.

As you stroll across the square, it’s easy to imagine you’ve been transported straight into a Canaletto painting; a time when Venice was a powerful maritime republic and an epicenter of culture, trade, and politics in the region.

4. St. Mark’s Campanile

This iconic bell tower stands almost 100m tall at the eastern end of St. Marks’s Square. It’s the tallest building in the whole of Venice, making it hard to miss.

To get a bird’s-eye view of Venice, going to the top of St. Mark’s Campanile is a must. You can opt for the elevator or stair climb, but either way you’ll be rewarded with a breathtaking panorama of the city’s red rooftops, canals, and distant islands.

It’s worth getting here early as the queues can get pretty long and it will be very busy at the top.

5. St. Mark’s Basilica

St. Mark’s Basilica is the most famous church in Venice and an architectural masterpiece. It blends Byzantine and Gothic styles with the use of domes and mosaics alongside detailed tracery and sculptural decoration. Inside is a treasure trove of golden mosaics, marble columns, and stunning artwork.

The renaissance and gothic front facade of St. Mark's Basilica

The basilica is dedicated to St. Mark, the patron saint of Venice, and is a symbol of the city’s spiritual significance. You can pay an additional €4 to access the balcony which has a panoramic view of St. Mark’s Square.

6. Doge’s Palace

The Doge’s Palace, or Palazzo Ducale, is right next to St. Mark’s Basilica and is a testament to the city’s rich history. This extravagant Gothic palace served as the residence of the Venetian Doge.

The Doge was the highest-ranking authority in Venice when it was a republic. Doge might more closely translate to Duke in English, but at that time Venice was a sovereign republic and the Doge served as its head of state, similar to a King or leader of a country.

An aerial view of the Doge's Palace in Venice from St. Mark's Campanile - a white square building with a central courtyard

You can explore the lavishly decorated rooms, adorned with grand artworks, and walk across the famous Bridge of Sighs, which connects the palace to the adjacent prisons. The Doge’s Palace offers a glimpse into Venice’s important political and judicial past. And in case anyone’s wondering: no, it’s not a palace built by a crypto bro!

7. Gondola Ride

A sea view in Venice with a gondola passing by

A gondola ride is the quintessential Venetian experience. It’s a romantic and leisurely way to enjoy the city’s winding canals.

Drift beneath charming bridges and past historic palaces on a serene journey through the city.

8. The Waterfront – Riva degli Schiavoni

Riva degli Schiavoni is Venice’s iconic waterfront promenade that stretches along the lagoon’s edge. It’s the area on the water heading east from the Doge’s Palace. Lined with restaurants, cafes, and historic buildings, it’s a beautiful place to take in the city’s vibrant atmosphere.

With stunning views of the lagoon and its constant parade of boats, it’s the perfect spot for leisurely walks. Riva degli Schiavoni also serves as a starting point for boat rides to the nearby islands, making it a bustling hub for tourists.

9. Murano Island

Murano Island is located in the bay area known as the Venetian Lagoon. This tiny island, just a short boat ride from Venice, has achieved world fame for its centuries-old tradition of glassmaking.

Here you’ll get the opportunity to see master glassblowers at work, creating exquisite glass sculptures, chandeliers, and delicate glassware. Throughout the vibrant, colorful streets of Murano, you’ll find numerous glass shops and studios where you can purchase unique, handcrafted glass items.

As well as the glass, the island’s charming canals and historic churches make it a worthwhile journey from the main city.

Venice FAQs

Is 1 day enough to see Venice?

One day can provide a glimpse of Venice, but it’s better to stay longer for a comprehensive experience.

What is the prettiest place in Venice?

Venice’s prettiest place is often considered to be St. Mark’s Square with its stunning architecture and ambiance.

How much is a gondola ride in Venice?

Gondola rides in Venice can range from around €80 to €120 for a 30-minute trip.

How long does it take to walk around all of Venice?

Walking around all of Venice can take several hours, depending on your pace and stops along the way.

Is Venice expensive?

Venice can be expensive, with high prices for accommodation, dining, and tourist attractions. Cheaper accommodation can be found outside Venice and public transport is available.

Is Venice a good city break?

Venice is an excellent city break destination, offering history, culture, romantic experiences, and delicious Italian food.

What’s so special about Venice?

Venice’s uniqueness lies in its captivating canals, historic architecture, and timeless charm.

Is Venice worth going to?

Yes, Venice is absolutely worth visiting for its beauty, culture, and rich history.

Why do tourists love Venice?

Tourists love Venice for its romantic atmosphere, unique architecture, and picturesque canals.

Is Venice too touristy?

Venice is very popular among tourists, but its charm and attractions make it a worthwhile destination.

The City of Bridges – 9 Must See Things in Venice, Italy

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