Things to Do in Venice and Surroundings, the City of Canals

The famous“City of Canals” or“Floating City“, as it is also known, attracts and enchants thousands of tourists every year. And to be honest, she has what it takes. It is a captivating, romantic and above all beautiful place. Today I want to tell you things to do in and around Venice so that you don’t miss any corner of this amazing city.

Venice is located in northern Italy and was built on an archipelago. It has about 150 canals crossed by bridges that connect the different parts of the city.

If there is something that characterizes this place, besides its canals, it is the amount of cultural, artistic, historical and architectural masterpieces that create a perfect ecosystem for any traveler with some curiosity.

Without further ado, I invite you to join me to know the best places to visit in and around Venice.

Can we help you plan your trip? Here we tell you what to visit in Italy for 10 days.

Map, things to do in Venice and surroundings

Things to do in Venice, activities and places not to miss

As I mentioned above, Venice was built on an archipelago composed of several islands that lie above the Venetian Lagoon.

In order to better organize this information, I will first tell you about the best places to visit in Venice and then I will share with you a list of activities and places to see in the surrounding area.

1) Take a Free Tour of Venice

If you ask me what to do in Venice as soon as you arrive, I definitely recommend that you opt for a Free Tour.

Perhaps you know the Free Tour or Free Walking Tour modality Free Tour or Free Walking Tour is very common in many cities around the world.

Basically, it is a tour guided by a specialized person who is in charge of taking you around the city on foot while telling you about the most emblematic places and their history.

The interesting thing about this type of tour, in addition to getting to know the city in depth, is that you do not pay a fixed price for the excursion, but simply leave a tip at will at the end of the tour.

📷 Take a Free Tour of Venice. Reserve your place!

In the case of the city of Venice, there are different types of Free Tours with different approaches.

For example, you can take a Free Tour where they show you the most famous sights of Venice or you can opt for a a tour where you can learn about the myths and legends of the city..

There is also a Free Tour that focuses on taking you to get to know the most unknown part of Venicethose places where not all tourists go.

Whichever one you choose, the Free Tour is an excellent option to get a glimpse of the whole city.

👉 Free Tours are trendy because it is a “cheap” way to get to know a place. It is an introduction to then continue touring on your own or go deeper in a paid tour. Why cheap and not free? Because FREE is actually a word with a double meaning in English. Yes, on the one hand its translation is “free of charge”, but it is also related to “freedom”. That is to say, tours are at will and the amount you will pay will depend on whether you liked it a lot or a little, and the budget you are traveling with. It is recommended to leave a minimum of 5 € per person attending.

Discount card for Venice

Evaluate the possibility of buying a 1 or multi-day pass to get discounts and free access without queues to different tourist attractions in Venice.

📷 Convinced? Buy the Venezia Unica City Pass.

Gondolas in Venice - things to do in Venice and surroundings

2) Touring St. Mark’s Square

Piazza San Marco is the only square you can find in Venice and is the heart of the city.

It is surrounded by very important historical buildings such as St. Mark’s Basilica, the Doge’s Palace of Venice and the National Archaeological Museum of Venice.

This square, being located in the lowest part of the city, is the first to flood in times of rain or when the tide rises. The Venetians call this phenomenon “Acqua Alta”.

Depending on the time of the year when you visit the city, you will be able to witness this phenomenon and walk along the walkways placed by the authorities for tourist traffic.

Piazza San Marco also witnesses and hosts important celebrations such as the famous Venice Carnival and a large number of theatrical performances and cultural events.

Surely in your tour of the city you will come across this square several times, as it is on the way to many of the best places to visit in Venice.

💯 Take a stroll along the Riva degli Schiavoni: on this walk along the shore of the Venice Lagoon, you will see the gondolas moored to small wooden piers and, right on the island in front, the impressive Basilica of San Giorgio Maggiore.

🔝 Are you also planning to visit the Italian capital? We tell you things to do in Rome in 3 days.

Riva Deli Schiavoni - what to see in Venice and surroundings

3) Visiting St. Mark’s Basilica

St. Mark’s Basilica, located right in front of the square with the same name, is one of the most visited tourist sites in Venice.

It is the oldest basilica in the city and has a Byzantine architectural style. Today it is the center of religious and public life in Venice.

From the outside you can see two huge domes that take all eyes along with the statue of St. Mark accompanied by several figures of angels.

You will also find huge religious paintings and reliefs.

Its interior is full of works of art that cover its ceilings and walls and its domes are covered with gold mosaics.

The upper part of the basilica houses a museum and a terrace that allows you to get a spectacular panoramic view of Piazza San Marco and other tourist attractions.

⚠️ IMPORTANT! Being one of the main tourist attractions in Venice, St. Mark’s Basilica almost always has a fairly long line to get in. So I recommend that you go with time to wait or hire a guided tour to have priority access.

📷 Book your excursion to visit St. Mark’s Basilica.

4) Climbing the Bell Tower of San Marcos

St. Mark’s Campanile is located in St. Mark’s Square, the main square in Venice, and next to the Basilica. The present tower is not very old, dating from the beginning of the last century. But the truth is that in the sixteenth century one had been built, but it collapsed.

Take some time to go up and admire the views from the top of the Tower, you will have a 360º view of the city. The 5 bells installed in the church ring every hour, so don’t panic if it coincides with your visit.

⚠️ The ascent to the Bell Tower of St. Mark’s is accessible, as it has an elevator.

View from the Bell Tower of St. Mark's, what to see in Venice and surroundings
View from the Bell Tower of St. Mark's, what to see in Venice and surroundings

5) Visiting the Doge’s Palace in Venice

In the heart of the city of Venice, a few steps from St. Mark’s Square and Basilica, stands the Doge’s Palace, also known as the Duke’s Palace.

If you are interested in learning about and reliving a bit of the history of the City of Canals, this place should be on your list of things to see in Venice.

In ancient times, this palace was built with a structure very similar to that of a castle. Over the years and after some fires, the building was rebuilt and enlarged several times.

In one of its renovations, an annex was added on the other side of the Canal di Palazzo to house prisoners imprisoned for committing criminal offenses.

The Doge’s Palace and the prison are joined by the famous Bridge of Sighs, the most famous bridge in Venice.

Although the Bridge of Sighs can be seen from the canal (Ponte della Paglia), the only way to access it is by visiting the Duke’s Palace.

🔔📢 IMPORTANT TIP! During high season many people flock to this place making the lines go on forever. If you are traveling at this time, I recommend you buy your tickets in advance online to avoid waiting in line.
💯 Admission includes free checkroom.

📷 Book the guided tour of the Doge’s Palace in English.

Doge's Palace, what to see in Venice and surroundings

6) Gondola ride along the canals of Venice

Without a doubt, gondola rides are one of the most typical activities to do in Venice.

Cruising the Venetian canals in these boats will allow you to have a different view of the city.

This type of tour usually lasts approximately 30 minutes and the routes vary depending on where you hire it.

There are some gondolas that are run by gondoliers wearing their traditional costumes and you can even hire an excursion that includes a serenade.

This type of excursion is ideal for couples who want to have a romantic experience in the city of love.

✏️ TIP! The best time of day to take a gondola ride is at sunset. Watching the sunset from the canals of Venice is a unique experience.

📷 Riding a gondola is not as expensive as you imagine –book this beautiful gondola ride here!

Take a gondola ride, one of the things to see and do in Venice.

7) Sailing on the Grand Canal of Venice

The Grand Canal is the longest and widest canal in Venice. It stretches for more than 4 kilometers and divides the city into two halves.

This canal is crossed by five bridges: the Puente de los Descalzos, the Puente Rialto, the Puente de la Constitución, the Puente de la Academia and the Puente de la Libertad.

Along its route, you can see the facades of important buildings such as the Basilica of Santa Maria della Salute and a few palaces.

As I said in the previous point, riding a gondola is one of the most typical activities to do in Venice and you can kill two birds with one stone if you decide to travel the Grand Canal in this type of boat.

The alternative (and cheaper) option to the gondolas is to take a Vaporetto tour.

The Vaporetto is Venice’s public transportation and there are several lines that run along the canal making several stops.

Take a gondola ride, one of the things to see and do in Venice.
Take a gondola ride, one of the things to see and do in Venice.

8) Lose yourself in the streets of Venice’s neighborhoods.

Venice is the city of canals, but there are also small streets and neighborhoods to visit that have a lot of history. Some of them are:

  • Barrio Judío y Rialto: una visita por el barrio alrededor del famoso puente, que incluye un paseo en barco.
  • Barrio Rojo de Venecia: los prostíbulos en Venecia eran identificados con un farol rojo en la puerta, y de ahí el nombre que recibe el barrio. La visita se sucede por las calles más obscenas de la ciudad, que antaño funcionaban estos establecimientos.
  • Barrio de Castello: este barrio portuario tuvo su esplendor cuando funcionaba uno de los más importantes astilleros de Europa. La caminata se adentra en sus zonas más turísticas y en las menos concurridas. Uno de los puentes a ver aquí, es el Puente del Arsenal.
Castello Neighborhood - Things to do in Venice and surroundings

9) Fall in love with Venice’s most beautiful bridges

We already mentioned most of Venice’s bridges in the previous sections, but there are some that are the most sought after for photography, and deserve to have their own section.

So get on the campaign trail, mark these bridges on the map and go for it. Remember! The earlier you get up, the fewer people there will be in those places.

  • Puente de Rialto: en este sitio hay un puente desde el siglo XII y fue de los primeros que se hicieron para cruzar el Gran Canal. Antes se utilizaban otros materiales más inestables, y el actual fue realizado en el siglo XVI y aún se mantiene en pie. Incluso tiene tiendas que se pueden visitar mientras se cruza.
  • Puente de los Suspiros: el nombre da a entender que es un puente romántico, pero en realidad aquí daban sus últimos suspiros los condenados que entraban en prisión al echar un último vistazo a la ciudad. Sea cual fuere su historia, es uno de los puentes más bellos de la ciudad.
  • Puente de los Puños: si bien tiene una curiosa historia (ya que allí los bandos de distintos barrios se juntaban a pelearse “a los puños”) es un lugar muy colorido y fotogénico.
Bridge of Sighs
Rialto Bridge

10) Unique experiences to live in Venice

There are many things to do in Venice, but also to do. Not only is there a gondola ride, but also a chance to delve into its history and culture. Surely walking through the streets you will come across stores selling glass objects and Venetian masks, so what better than to know a little more about them.

Venice Carnival Masks

Things to do around Venice

As I promised you at the beginning of this article, I already told you about the best places to see in Venice. Now it’s time to tell you what you can do around the city.

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a) Visiting the picturesque Burano Island

Burano Island is located in the outskirts of Venice, approximately 7 kilometers to the north.

In my opinion it is one of the most picturesque islands of the archipelago. With its brightly painted houses and the canals surrounding it, it is a postcard that leaves you completely captivated.

The striking colors of the island’s buildings come from ancient times. At that time, fishermen painted them in this way so that they could be seen from long distances during foggy or rainy days.

The main activity on Burano Island is fishing and the production of handmade lace.

Although this island does not have many tourist attractions (it can be covered in an hour), it is a wonderful place to visit, appreciate its beauty and take a couple of pictures. Especially its curious leaning bell tower, il Campanile Storto.

Burano Island near Venice
Burano Island near Venice with il Campanile Storto

b) Visit the famous Murano Island

Murano is one of the most visited islands around Venice and is famous for its glass handicrafts.

It is located just one kilometer from the city of Venice and is easily accessible by Vaporetto.

During your tour of the island you will find multiple glass factories where you can learn about the process by which glass handicrafts are made and, of course, buy some souvenirs.

Murano Island also houses the Glass Museum where you will be able to appreciate the details of the works created by the workers and learn about centuries of history of glass and crystal processing.

The work of art that is undoubtedly getting all the attention is a huge crystal chandelier weighing some 330 kilos.

In addition to the museum and the various glass factories, on the island you will also find some historical buildings such as the Palazzo Da Mula or the Faro Di Murano.

📷 Make a 2×1 and visit the islands of Murano and Burano with a guide in English.

Burano Island near Venice

c) Touring Torcello Island

Along with Murano and Burano, Torcello Island is one of the most visited islands around Venice.

It is characterized for being the smallest of the three and for being the protagonist of many legends.

In the past, it was one of the most inhabited islands of the Venice Lagoon, but today it is more depopulated due to the growing importance of the city of Venice.

Being a small island, there are obviously not many tourist sites to visit. But you can delight in the Basilica of Santa Maria Assunta del Torcello, one of the oldest buildings in the Veneto, and the Trono di Attila, which is a marble armchair that the king of the Huns used as a throne.

📌 Both Murano, Burano and Torcello can be toured together on the same day, either by hiring an excursion or touring them by Vaporetto.

📷 If you prefer to tour the islands of Murano, Burano and Torcello with an English speaking guide, this excursion may interest you.

d) Traveling to Verona, the city of Romeo and Juliet

We come to the last place in our list of the best places to visit around Venice and close this article with a city that we found amazing.

If you are going to spend several days in the Veneto area, one of our suggestions is to visit the ancient medieval city of Verona, famous for being the setting of Shakespeare’s famous play “Romeo and Juliet”.

This city is located one hour by train from Venice and can be easily covered in one day.

Verona is made up of various buildings in Roman, medieval and Renaissance style.

Among its most important tourist sites is the Arena of Verona, a Roman amphitheater where opera events are presented and can be attended.

If you want information about the shows that are going to be performed during your stay in Verona, you can visit the Arena’s official website.

In addition to the amphitheater, you will find Juliet’s House and its balcony where the two protagonists of Shakespeare’s play declared their love for each other, and Piazza Delle Erbe, famous for being the oldest square in Verona.

📷 Book your place to visit Verona from Venice by train.


Useful information for travel to Venice

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Where to stay in Venice

While it might be ideal (and even romantic!) to sleep on the island of Venice itself, you may find that prices are a bit steep there. So try to look for some options in the San Polo and San Marco neighborhoods, close to the sights.

🏨 Find here the best hotels in Venice.

But if you want to look for cheaper alternatives, take a look at the city of Mestre, which is the city that is next to the access bridge to the island of Venice and also has very good connections, both by train and bus.

🏨 Find here the best hotel in Mestre.

How to get to Venice

Venice is one of the most visited cities in Europe, especially if it is your first time in the old continent. It is for this reason that it is very well connected with the main European cities, either by plane, train, bus and ferry. Even cruise ships on Mediterranean routes often stop here.

🔝 Hay tantas opciones para llegar a Venecia que hemos querido realizar un artículo en exclusiva con toda la información. Mira aquí: Cómo llegar a Venecia y cómo moverse por allí.

Cruises arriving in Venice

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Things to do in and around Venice

We know that there are many more places to visit in Venice and its surroundings, so many that we would have to go on for a few more paragraphs.

So we wanted to make you a summary of the best places to see in and around summary of the best places to see in and so you can prioritize them when visiting this city.

We hope all this information has been of great help to you.

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