Venice is both one of the most romantic and iconic city in the world. As Venice is floating on a lagoon, it is such a charming city. Everywhere you are strolling down, there is water in the background. After spending a few hours, exploring the small alleyways, and crossing from one bridge to another one, you will fell in love with this city :).
Venice is the playground for photographers, each corner has something beautiful. You can’t get it wrong, forget your map. And just explore one street to another and stop as often as you want to take photos. Venice is a combination of famous historical landmarks and unknown bridges or random spots :). In short, a visit in Venice will transport you in another world :)!
Planning a short break can sometimes be a challenge. The majority of Europeans fly in Venice just for a week-end. Or if you are flying from another continent, it is likely that Venice will be just a 2 days stop among other European or Italian cities. That’s why you want to make sure you know how best to use your time. To enjoy as much as possible your time there, we highly recommend you to prepare your trip. Select in advance what you want to visit and what are the main activities you want to do. As you will notice, the list of Venice’s landmarks is pretty long. As a result in this post we gathered our favourites activities in this city.
How to explore Venice? 10 amazing things to do
- Photograph the Rialto Bridge
- Float along the canals by Vaporetto
- Explore the Piazza San Marco
- Go Inside San Marco Basilica
- Capture the Bridge of Sighs
- Go up the Campanile of the San Giorgio Maggiore
- Get lost in the little alleyways
- Explore the colourful island of Burano
- Witness a glass demonstration in Murano
- Eat a gelato
- Get a ride on a gondola
Photograph the Rialto Bridge
This bridge is the oldest bridge over the grand canal in Venice. Until the 19th century, it was the single way to cross from San Polo to San Marco. It is also the most famous Instagram post in Venice! As a result it is one of the most touristic spot in Venice. However don’t be stressed if it is too crowded, it is located in the center of Venice. So it will be likely on your way at least twice or three times during your stay in Venice.
One of the best way to shoot this bridge is to head across Rialto Bridge to the San Marco side. As you descend the bridge, turn directly on the right there is a platform along the water. You can stand on the platform to get a cool photo with a gondola and the Rialto Bridge as a background!
Then you can stroll along this area and stop at the vibrant Mercati di Rialto – the famous fish and food market, which is nearby. True it is crowded with tourists and some locals, but the abundance of food is impressive to see. It is only opened in the morning.
Float along the canals by Vaporetto
Venice is THE city of water. Instead of roads, there are canals. So we recommend to change of perpective. Explore the city by riding a vaporetto (which means “little steamer”). Floating along the canals is one of the best way to admire the most iconic facades of Venetian architecture. With those water buses you can also go around the lagoon and to one other islands. In total, there are over a hundred islands around the lagoon but majority of the tourists don’t explore them except either Burano or Murano.
Our hotel was located in Murano so we bought a travel card for 3 days. It was perfect – we took the vaporetto several times per day! My favourite ride was the Grand Canal tour! To be on a boat is the best way to explore it and to be marvelled with this a trip through a thousand years of history. Stop after stop you discover the key highlights of Venice – from grand palaces, or magnificent palazzi, to several churches and luxurious hotels. You also pass beneath different bridges, including the Rialto Bridge. To sum up, you can enjoy stunning views from Venice and take some pretty nice photos.
Note – True a single trip on a vaporetto is pretty expensive, even outrageous as it costs €7.50 (valid for 75 minutes). The price is the same whether you take the boat for one stop or for a whole Grand Canal tour. However, you can buy a Tourist Travel card for 1, 2, 3 or 7 days (for 20, 30, 40 or 60€ as of July 2020). It allows unlimited travel on nearly all transport in Venice, including the vaporetto. There is also a discount with a three-day youth card (for people between 18-29 years old).
Explore the Piazza San Marco – when it’s raining to avoid the crowd 😉
A visit of Venice without stopping at the Piazza San Marco would be a pity. This place is the heart of Venice with the San Marco Basilica and Doge’s Palace which are both architectural masterpieces. In addition this square is bordered with arcades of grand arches. Thus, this square is regarded as one of the most beautiful in the world.
It is one of the busiest area in Venice as it gathers several top attractions. If you want to avoid the crowd go there early. Or wait for a small rain and the majority of tourist will disappeared as it happened to us.
Go Inside San Marco Basilica
This is one of the main landmark in Venice. Whatever your religion or even if you are atheist, it is worth discovering this place.
We were lucky because we didn’t queue long to enter. We read on some blog posts that sometimes there is an epic line in front of the Basilica. This is a must-see due to its remarkable architecture and mosaics. The entrance inside the basilica is free, but you have to get tickets to access some parts of the basilic (e.g. to climb at the top of the cathedral).
Get lost in the little alleyways
Sometimes, visiting Venice can feel overwhelming, especially if you are here during the peak season. The main tourist attractions can get crowded quickly. So just get out of the crowd and get lost in some unknown streets.
Take time to notice what is around you – stroll along the canals, explore some local shops, and enjoy a coffee or a snack outside of the most touristy areas. You might also discover a church or a nice house which are less popular and not mentioned in any guide.
And of course, cross bridges – which is one of the best spot to take some photos. You don’t need to ride a gondola to have a nice background behind you! In short, getting lost is one of the best way to really see the beauty of Venice :).
Capture the Bridge of Sighs
This spot is also a very famous one. In the past, it was one of the last view that prisoners saw as they crossed this bridge. They had to “sigh” when they crossed the bridge to go from the interrogation rooms into the prison next door (i.e. The Doge Palace).
Casanova who is known as a great seducer is the only person that managed to actually escape from that prison. That’s why this bridge has now become a symbol of love. The myth is that if you kiss your lover under the bridge, your love will last forever :). So did we convince you to add it in your list ;)?
There are 2 ways to see the bridge closer than from Ponte Della Paglia. Either you can go under the bridge by taking a gondola ride. Or you can access it through the Doge Palace. You have to book the Secret Itineraries tour.
Go up to the Campanile of the San Giorgio Maggiore
The bell tower is located in the tiny island of San Giorgio Maggiore. You can reach the top by elevator. Once you get to the top of the campanile, you will be rewarded with one of the best panoramic view of Venice. From there, you can admire the Campanile di San Marco and the Doge’s Palace. This view is known internationally as you can enjoy the whole of Venice, the lagoon and some other islands.
From the Campanile you can also enjoy a view on the Venetian Labyrinth of Borges which are located in the ancient monastery of San Giorgio Maggiore.
The stunning views from San Giorgio Maggiore are no really a hidden gem. However, surprisingly the number of visitors to the church and the bell tower is low. Instead of queueing for the Campanile di San Marco for more than one hour, take the vaporetto 2 to get to San Giorgio Maggiore.
Explore the colourful island of Burano
This island is a nice getaway located in the North of the Venetian lagoon. It is only a 40-minute Vaporetto ride from Piazza Saint Marco. This island is famous for its colourful houses and for its lace-making. Due to the numerous and bright colourful houses, Burano has become the paradise of photographers.
We enjoyed spending a couple of hours on this island wandering the streets and taking many photos from one corner to another. The background is always some houses but with different colours from the rainbow!
I guess the photos will speak by themselves to explain why you have to explore Burano even if you are only spending 48 hours in Venice.
Witness a glass demonstration in Murano
If you plan to visit Burano as we highly recommend it, the Murano island will be on your way back to Venice. Without any doubt, Burano was our favourite between the 2 islands. However, Murano still worths a visit for the famous glass makers :).
The process of making Murano glass is complex and a very old one. The glass-makers moved their foundries to Murano more than 800 years ago.
There are a couple of glass blowing demonstration available every day across the island. For a small fees (less than 5€) you can assist to a 15 minute demonstration. And then you can spend a few minutes across the different glass shops in case you want to do some shopping before heading back to Venice.
Eat a gelato
A visit of Venice will not be complete without enjoying an ice-cream at least once per day ;). There are numerous tasty gelaterias in Venice – it will just be difficult to pick which one you want to try. We highly recommend Gelateria Al Sole. There are different flavour and the ice-cream scoop are very large :). You can’t come back from Venice without a photo of your ice-cream with a nice background ;). From there the view was perfect, we just sit on the dock in front of the Canal della giudecca and on Giudecca island.
Get a ride on a gondola
Gondola is THE most iconic attraction in Venice. We didn’t try it though, we were not sure the high price was really worth it (about 100£ for 45mins). However, it is true that it can be a great opportunity to learn more about the surroundings as the gondoliers give some insights along the way about the buildings and monuments you pass by.
There are pro and cons, but it seems impossible to describe the best of Venice without referring to the gondola ;). Even if we didn’t get a ride on a gondola we still have many pictures with them :).
Where to eat? Our recommendations
Who does not like Italian food :)? Even if we are French we have to confess that Italian food is always so tasty and so good ;)! There are so many great restaurants in Venice like anywhere in Italy. However, many restaurants are really expensive and just over-priced due to the high number of tourists. Our best advice to eat in Venice – avoid eating near the key landmarks. Instead of queueing to get a table or paying more than 25€ for a basic pizza – try to get out of the crowd in the little alleyways. It is likely that you will find more affordable restaurants or a nice spot to get a small break and rest your legs.
Below are some of the places we loved and which we recommend without hesitation!
- Cafe noir – perfect address for a cheap tasty lunch in Venice. Large choice of panini
- Rosa Salva Sts John and Paul – it was great to find a place were you can get a snack with a seat. You have to try their almond pie!
- Pizzeria Trattoria Conca D’Oro – a list of recommendation can’t be complete without providing an address with good pizza!
- Versus Meridianem – located in Murano – very fresh food for a decent price with an amazing view on the canal ! A lot of fish options. For the dessert, I recommend to try the semi frozen pistachio.
- Ristorante Da Forner – located in Burano – welcoming address with reasonable price. It is a good option to get out of the crowd of the main street in Burano.
Note – we were surprised but there is almost no coffee shop in Venice. When we visit a city usually we enjoy stopping for a cup of tea or a latte with a pasty. On the opposite in Venice, a lot of the options are always in take away. It is nice when it is sunny and warm. But sometimes if the weather is not so great or if you just want to rest for one hour – it is also good to be able to sit down.
Where to stay?
If you are planning a trip in Venice, you will quickly notice that usually the hotels in Venice are quite expensive compared to other European capitals and cities. And it does not mean that they are really good value for money. By reading some blog posts to prepare our trip, I read a very great tip. Instead of booking an hotel in Venice, check out the hotels in Burano or in Murano. The prices of the accommodations are cheaper and much more affordable that in Venice.
We decided to stay in the Hyatt Centric Murano Venice and we highly recommend this hotel as it was literally awesome. We have been so lucky to be upgraded with a suite. It is the best hotel we have ever slept among all our trips :). We spent about 300€ for 2 nights -which is of course expensive but not so much to sleep in a palace and compared to the prices in Venice itself ;).
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