20 Unforgettable things to Do in Venice | Budget Lovers Guide to Venice

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Last Updated on July 22, 2022 by Christine Kaaloa

20 things to do in venice

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Venice is a lover’s city. ⁣ ⁣It is hard not to fall in love with it. Unequaled with its waterways, bridges, gondolas, and medieval architecture.⁣ There are many unforgettable things to do in Venice. In this 24-hour Venice Travel Guide, I share the top things to do in Venice and things to know about Venice.

Despite being crowded with tourists, Venice is still breathtaking. As an Italian city, it lives up to its hype of being unique in its waterway culture. Try as I did to find a substitute for Venice, I couldn’t.

Watch my Venice travel guide video

Unforgettable things to do in Venice

1. Rialto Bridge

On the Rialto Bridge you’ll have a literally breathtaking view of the Grand Canal. It is a popular spot for tourists, so you may find some competition. In the morning to midday when tourists arrive and clamor to take selfies on the bridge, it is super-crowded.

To beat crowds and enjoy the bridge and canal view in peace, arrive before 8 am or visit in the later afternoon. You can also take a gondola ride on the Grand Canal and see the Rialto bridge from the waters.

2. Grand Canal

The Grand Canal is one of the city’s key water-traffic routes. The Grand Canal is bordered by many buildings, dating from the 13th to the 18th centuries. Noble Venetian families spent a lot of money to show off their wealth in palazzos, and you’ll find them lining the channel.

Santa Maria della Salute venice
Santa Maria della Salute venice

3. Rialto Fish Market

Under a luxurious structure next to the canal sits the Rialto Fish Market. On Mondays, the Rialto Fish Market is closed.  We were there on a Monday, so the marketplace was empty.  But next to it is the Rialto Market, a local market where vendors sell produce and foods for the Venetian table.

4. Gelato at Maison de la Creme

A stone’s throw from Rialto Bridge is Gelato at Maison de la Creme, a family-run shop that sells crepes and home-produced gelato since 2009. It’s a small shop with a colorful selection.  Located: Sestiere Cannaregio. Website: www.la-maison-de-la-crepe.business.site

5. Libreria Aqua Alta

Liberia Acqua Alta is a used bookstore in Rome, Italy. It sits along a canal and can be subject to flooding during “acqua alta” (high tides). In the store, you’ll find a gondola filled with books. The owners have raised the books high to prevent from water damage. There is a lovely staircase made out of old books outside in the back of the store. The books are all in Italian but it attracts a crowd because it is a popular Instagram spot. If you are there for an Instagram photo, please buy a postcard to support the store. Facebook page:www.facebook.com/libreriaacquaalta

aqua libreria
aqua libreria alta

6. Fondaco Dei Tedeschi (rooftop view)

Fondaco dei Tedeschi is a three-story palazzo building that has been transformed into a luxury and lifestyle shopping center. Aside from the shopping, it is a spot where you can get a free ticket to the palazzo’s rooftop view. It is a precious view overlooking city and the Grand Canal. Just ask the information desk when you enter.

7. Bridge of Sighs

In the 19th century, Lord Byron gave the Bridge of Sighs its name from an Italian translation “Ponte dei sospiri,” meaning that convicts would sigh as they looked out the window at their last view of Venice before being imprisoned.

8. Doge’s Palace

Doge’s Palace and St Marks Basilica can be visited hand-in-hand as they are across each other. Doge’s Palace is one of Italy’s most important public spaces. A masterpiece of Gothic architecture, the building and its sculptural decoration date from various periods. The interior, with works by artists such as Titian, Veronese, Tintoretto and Tiepolo, includes vast council chambers and residential apartments. Located at Piazza San Marco.

Note: You’ll need around 1 – 1.5 hours to get through the palace tour and more time if you want a deeper dive.

The crowds and lines in Italy cost a lot of time and physical energy in standing. Save both and get a combo skip the line pass for Doges Palace and St. Mark’s Basilica! These are two popular iconic Venice attractions you won’t want to miss!

Tip: Book advance entry to Doge’s Palace and walk across the Bridge of Sighs.

Packing Tip:  Create and download a free packing checklist

9. St Marks Basilica

The St. Mark’s Basilica was constructed back in the 9th century. It was built to house the remains of St. Mark’s corpse that was smuggled in from Egypt by Venetian merchants. Walking through the basilica can take around 90 minutes and up, depending upon your interest.  The structure is known for having a Greek cross layout and for using a great amount of gold in each of its attractions.

If you go on Sunday morning for mass, the museum is open at 9:30, and you must use the side entrance. Backpacks are also not allowed in the basilica, so you must leave them with the church. It is free for one hour. Located at Piazza San Marco.

Alternate travel options: Do an evening tour of Doges Palace and St Marks Basilica to discover the hidden secrets and prisons that crowds will not see in the daylight. Skip the messy crowds and get a combo Skip the Line ticket of St Mark’s Basilica and Doges Palace.

Note: All churches in Italy have a dress code. No bare shoulders, shorts or miniskirts are allowed.

10. Basilica de Santa Maria della Salute

Santa Maria della Salute basilica, sometimes known as the Salute, is a basilica and Roman Catholic church located in Punta della Dogana, between the Grand Canal and the Giudecca Canal, near the Bacino di San Marco. You can see it from the water while entering St Mark’s Square. It is a stunning sight!

11. Gondola ride

Gondola rides are something to experience at least once in your lifetime, as a gondolier is a profession in Venice and an authentic experience. Gondoliers have their own union and the hat and uniform are part of the job. The standard gondola experience for a 1/2 hour is approximately $80 and higher. You can also rent a shared gondola tour if you don’t mind sharing your experience with others and a romantic night gondola ride.

The lowest price for a gondola experience under $50 was recommended by a follower.

Tip: Book your private gondola ride of the Grand Canal in advance!
Ride a gondola in venice
Ride a gondola in venice

12. Do a walking tour of Venice

Why not sightsee Venice’s highlights and learn about its life and local stories from an expert local guide? Taking a Venice walking tour will only enhance your understanding of Venice while cutting through the messiness of getting lost as you find popular spots. I like walking tours because you can also ask for recommendations and insights you wouldn’t normally have access to if you do not have an Italian friend.

This helps save time if you have a short time to enjoy Venice:

City walking tour + gondola ride– Rated 4.2 of 5 by travelers

Venice Medieval Walking Tour – Rated 4.2 of 5 by travelers

Must See Sights of Venice – Rated 4.5 of 5 by travelers

City Highlights Wheelchair Accessible – NEW

13. Venetian Islands: Burano and Murano

The Venetian Lagoon holds several islands that you can spend a day trip to explore:

Burano is known for its needle lace, colorful buildings and fish dishes. It takes around 45 minutes to get there from Venice.

Murano is world-famous for its glass-blowing art. It is formed by seven island and connected by bridges.

I’ve heard mixed reactions towards these islands ranging from a must visit to hype. My recommendation is the make your own decision if it calls to you. The most economical way to see the islands is by day tour options: from panoramic boat tour to full day islands tour to Murano and Burano walking tour with a local guide.

 

Must-Try Foods in Venice

Venice does not have many of its own foods originating from the Venezia region.  You’ll find the most common is bar food.

14. Do a Venice Food tour or Bar Crawl

Venice is not commonly known to inspire Italian food. But it is known for its Cichetti and apperitivos, so if you’d like to sample the flavors of Venice, hop aboard a Venice food and pub crawl tour.  Most of the food tours I’ve seen offer a combination of neighborhood sightseeing and bar crawl tours as the cichetti is a type of bar food and there are many neighborhood pubs with their own version of cichetti.

Read Must Try foods around the World

 foods of venice
cichetti venice

15. Baccaro

Baccaro is a neighborhood pub, comparable to an osteria, where you may have beverages and cichetti (little sandwich appetizers). Traditional baccaros are quite basic, lacking seats, and bathrooms. In fact, Venetians bounce from one baccaro to another, much like bar hopping. Men may congregate outside them for a social happy hour.

The second bacarro I visited was more modern, with a larger food menu and dishes prepared on a small stove. It felt like a conventional bar, complete with tables and chairs and an outdoor backyard that led to the canal. With a glass of prosecco, we had slightly different Cicchetti.

16. Cicchetti

Cichetti is bar food, which is typically, finger sandwiches with ham, salami, fish or combined variation. You buy them at a bacarro, which is a standup neighborhood bar. They’re very tasty and inexpensive and each bar serves their own menu.

I took a food tour with The Tour Guy to get a sampling of many types of cichetti. We visited two bacarros.  While it wasn’t a bad tour, it wasn’t the informative standard I enjoy experiencing my food tours in.  I didn’t find the guide very insightful- just chatty- and there were a couple of food options I didn’t quite get being on the menu and the guide did not help. You’ll find parts of my food tour in my Venice trip video.

Here’s a helpful list of food tour options on Get Your guide

Venice cichetti bar food
Venice cichetti bar food

17. Venetian Spritz

Venetian Spritz is an aperitivo or pre-meal drink that Venetians love.  It is made with 1/3 Prosecco, 1/3 soda water and 1/3 aperol. A lot of travelers rave about the spritz! While it wasn’t my favorite aperitivo, I can see why travelers and Venetians love it.

Venetian spritz
Venetian spritz

 

18. Prosecco

Prosecco is an Italian sparkling white wine made from Glera grapes produced in the Veneto and Friuli Venezia Giulia areas in northeastern Italy. It’s quite bubbly, and I liked it a lot more than Venetian Spritz. Prosecco has one of the lowest alcohol concentrations of all wines, at only 12%, and a somewhat sweet tinge. To be named prosecco, the grape combination must include at least 85 percent Glera.

19. Gelato

There wasn’t anything specifically special about this gelato shop other than they had gelato and we were free to choose two flavors.

Getting Around in Venice

You can cover a lot of the city on foot in a day.  Canal views and medieval street architecture will reward you. City transportation is ferry boats and gondolas but they are pricy options.

Unlimited waterbus and mainland pass

Planning to sightsee many attractions which require a water taxi to land bus? Visiting Murano, Burano, or staying outside of Venice central? I recommend getting the unlimited waterbus and mainland pass !

venice boats
How to book a Gondola Ride in Venice?  | Photo: venice boats

 

20. Traghetto

A traghetto is a public ferry boat, which transports passengers from one side of a canal to another for approximately 50 cents. The traghetto means ferry in Italian and they are an inexpensive way to get around. They are designed for the Venetian workers, so they only run at certain times a day. Locals occasionally like to stand during the ride as the trip is not very far. Our traghetto ride lasted less than five minutes as the canal was not very wide. It was an experience I found cool and recommend.

21. Hop a Vaporetto

Vaporettos are water buses and they are less expensive than the water taxis of Venice. They start at approximately 7.50 Euro one-way. There are economical options of day or multi-day (up to three days) pass tickets ranging from 23 to 43 Euro.

Check out my solo travel gear resource list 

Venice Train Stations

There are two train stations to Venice:

Venice Train Station is located on the island of Venice and opens directly to the waterway taxi stations. The train station has many boutique shops for travelers who need to pick up basic travel essentials. When you step out of the station directly to the canal, it is breathtaking. You will find water taxis lined up and ready to take you to your hotel. It can be overwhelming to see them, so I recommend booking a water taxi to minimize that stress. You can see it in my video!

Venice Mestre Train Station stops at Venice Mestre. From your hotel you will need to take the bus to the bus station in Venice. I cannot remember the bus number I took to get to the Venice Bus station but it is in my video. You will need to slow down the section to grab the bus number. Venice Mestre train station is a five-minute walk to the main bus station, which serves frequent buses from Venice Mestre to Venice.

Tip: If you plan to sightsee many attractions which require land bus or distance water taxi to Murano or Burano, get the unlimited waterbus and mainland pass !

Getting from Marco Polo Airport to Venice Central

If you fly into Marco Polo International Airport (VCE), there are two ways to get into Venice Central to you hotel. You can book:

• An airport pickup water taxi into Venice Central and ride in comfort down the canals for approximately $35.

• An airport bus transfer to Venice central for approximately have the cost minus the dreamy view!

• If you don’t mind paying a little more for a private experience, book a private water taxi from the airport to your hotel and experience the Venetian romance all to yourself. Highly recommended for travelers who want to live the prime luxury that Venice has to offer!

 

Where to Stay in Venice

Some travelers don’t want to skimp on the convenience that staying in mainland Venice offers. Although hotels in Venice can feel expensive. Travelers on a budget may opt to stay in Venice Mestre, outside of central Venice and about a 15-minute bus ride from Venice Bus Station.

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Venezia Mestre

Staying outside of Venice is cheaper, you can get nicer options, and getting your luggage to your hotel is simpler, if you ask me. This is the route I took and I didn’t feel much of a hinderance. My only complaint might be that there weren’t many food options nearby the area I stayed in.

Venezia Mestre is a 10-minute bus ride outside of old Venice. It has newer and more economical accommodations. There aren’t many food options in the nearby zone next to the train station, so I ate at Da Michele, 4 minutes from my hostel.

ao Hotel Venezia Mestre 1 has both, a hotel and hostel, with anything from single room to 8-dorm hostel room. The facilities are well-managed and everything is clean. I stayed here in a dorm room of 8 women. It was a fairly convenient stay with a nearby busstop into Venice main. They are located 8 minutes from the Mestre train station and the bus station is right outside.

ao Hotel Venezia Mestre 2 is similar to its sister but is a tad newer. I believe it is a little closer to the train station.

Anda Venice Hostel is a popular and stylish hostel with a 9.1 rating on Booking.com. They have mostly hostel-styled rooms (women’s only and mixed) with bunk beds that fit six to nine travelers. There is also a twin and family room but no single rooms. Located five minutes from the Mestre station, this is a popular option for the budget traveler that doesn’t mind sharing its dorm with a lot of travelers.

Read my tips for staying in Hostels

 

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What are unforgettable things to do and eat in Venice you’d recommend? 

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