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Best things to do in Venice

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Where in the world: Europe  /  Italy  /  Veneto  /  Province of Venice  /  City of Venice  /  Venice
Visitors drawn by the city's iconic canals will find troves of things to do in Venice, in and out of a gondola. You'll find many different ways to experience Canal Grande, the city's major transportation corridor flanked by buildings erected between the 13th and 18th centuries. Basilica di San Marco's giant arches, steeples, and horse statues remain outstanding examples of Byzantine architecture in Italy--they're worth a look even if you're not an architecture buff. Don't forget to give Venusian cuisine a taste for a chance to enjoy some amazing seafood specialties, such as vermicelli with black squid ink.

Venice is best known for its Bodies of Water, Historic Walking Areas, and Architectural Buildings.

Top 15 things to do in Venice

1. Canal Grande

Ride a gondola or water bus down Canal Grande. A major water-traffic corridor, it winds through the city's central districts. Along its banks, you can see more than 170 buildings, including several palaces. Most of the buildings were erected between the 13th and 18th centuries, reflecting the prosperity and art of the once-powerful Republic of Venice. Forming a kind of reverse S-shape, the canal probably follows the course of an ancient river, eventually emptying its waters into a lagoon. The canal is 3.8 km (2.4 mi) long and 30 to 90 m (98 to 295 ft) wide. Centuries-old traditions, such as a historical regatta, are held every year along this ancient canal.
Suggested duration: 1h 30 min
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2. Doge's Palace

Take a behind-the-scenes look at how Venice used to be run at Doge's Palace, which once served as the residence of the doges, the city's chief magistrates. Regarded as a masterpiece of Venetian Gothic architecture, the palace is now a popular museum, attracting more than 1 million visitors each year. Works by such artists as Titian, Veronese, Tiepolo, and Tintoretto fill the interior. You can explore the monumental council chambers and richly decorated residential suites where major decisions affecting the city's fate were once made. Look in on the grim prison cells where the doges' political opponents were often locked away. A ticket for the nearby museums also grants access to this palace. Explore your ticket options online, and book well in advance to avoid standing in long lines.
Suggested duration: 2 hours
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3. Basilica di San Marco

Renowned worldwide for its priceless treasures, Basilica di San Marco is one of the finest examples of Byzantine architecture in Italy. Originally a private chapel for the doges, the city's chief magistrates, this building has been a cathedral only since 1807. Because of its opulent design, gold dome mosaics, and its status as a symbol of the city's wealth and power, the cathedral has been nicknamed the Church of Gold since the 11th century. The interior is based on a Greek cross, with iconic Byzantine onion-bulb domes and Egyptian marble walls. Behind the main altar, containing the sarcophagus of St. Mark, an altarpiece is adorned with hundreds of emeralds, sapphires, rubies, pearls, and amethysts. The front of the building is rippled with five niched portals, each capped with more elaborate mosaics and stone arches. The church also contains a museum, displaying bronze horses brought here in 1204 as part of the loot from Constantinople in the Fourth Crusade. You can enter the church for free, but the museum has an admission fee.
Suggested duration: 2 hours
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4. Piazza San Marco

Venice's principal public space, Piazza San Marco has served as the city's social, religious, and political center for centuries. In fact, Napoleon called the square "the drawing room of Europe." It's the largest square in the city and the only one given the designation of "piazza" (the others are all called "campi"). Originally constructed in the ninth century as a small public space dotted with trees, the square was substantially enlarged in the 12th century and was paved with bricks in the 13th. Several major architectural sites surround the area. The most notable is an imposing church dedicated to St. Mark. Don't feed the pigeons--city law forbids feeding the birds in the square.
Suggested duration: 1h 30 min
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5. Ponte di Rialto

Overlook the Grand Canal from one of Venice's most important landmarks, Ponte di Rialto. Anchoring the historic city center, the iconic bridge is an example of 16th-century architecture, with two steep ramps meeting to form an uncharacteristically high arch of 7.5 m (25 ft). Take a traditional gondola tour of the canal to admire the historic structure from the water. You also can stand in the archways of Venice's oldest canal bridge.
Suggested duration: 30 minutes
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6. Peggy Guggenheim Collection

Peggy Guggenheim Collection features the some of the American heiress' personal collection of modern art, which she began displaying in the 1950s. Guggenheim was married to artist Max Ernst and served as a patron to a few of his contemporaries. The gallery includes works by Picasso, Dali, Pollock, Duchamp, Kandinsky, Tanguy, Mondrian, and others. The property also has a sculpture garden. This impressive collection is housed in an 18th-century palace that served as Guggenheim's private home for nearly 30 years. The museum, on the Grand Canal, attracts nearly half a million art lovers each year. Save time by booking your tickets online well in advance.
Suggested duration: 2 hours
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7. Gallerie dell'Accademia

Admire pre-19th-century Venetian paintings--including Leonardo da Vinci's "Drawing of Vitruvian Man"--at Gallerie dell'Accademia. This gallery, housed in the Scuola della Carità, contains works from such masters as Lazzaro Bastiani, Francesco Guardi, and Lorenzo Lotto. Learn more about the paintings with an audio guide. You can arrange a guided tour for groups of ten or more.
Suggested duration: 2h 30 min
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8. St Mark's Campanile

Overlooking the city's famous lagoon, St Mark's Campanile is one of the Venice's most recognizable symbols. Originally constructed as a lighthouse, this 99 m (323 ft) tall bell tower stands alone in one corner of St. Mark's Square. The tower's simple form has a fluted brick shaft topped by a belfry housing five bells. A pyramidal spire with a golden weathervane in the form of the archangel Gabriel caps the tower. Constructed in the ninth century on ancient Roman foundations, the bell tower underwent a massive reconstruction after a sudden collapse in 1902. Once the site of Galileo's observatory, the tower now features an elevator for easy access to the top and views of the lagoon and distant Alps.
Suggested duration: 1h 30 min
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9. Ponte dei Sospiri

An enclosed bridge over the Rio di Palazzo, Ponte dei Sospiri connects the new prison with the doge's Palace. In the 17th and 18th centuries, the view from the bridge was the last time condemned convicts saw Venice. Lord Byron wrote that the criminals would sigh at their last sight of the city. However, Lord Byron exercised a bit of literary license; the grating on the bridge openings would have made it difficult for the convicts to see anything. A more modern legend has it that lovers will be granted eternal bliss if they kiss on a gondola under the bridge at sunset while the bells of St. Mark's Cathedral toll. This served as a plotline for the film "A Little Romance."
Suggested duration: 30 minutes
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11. Museo Ebraico di Venezia

Learn about the Jewish Venetian culture when you explore Museo Ebraico di Venezia. Located between the two most ancient Venetian synagogues, this museum takes you through the culture, tradition, and architecture of the area. Visit the space devoted to the cycle of Jewish festivities and objects used in Jewish ceremonies. Learn the history of Venetian Jews through objects and images in the next room. You will get to see examples of goldsmith and textile manufacturing from between the 16th and the 19th centuries, as well as ancient books and manuscripts. You can take guided tours of the synagogues to learn about the history and architecture of the buildings. There is a kosher cafe inside the museum as well.
Suggested duration: 2 hours
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12. San Giorgio Maggiore

You access San Giorgio Maggiore, a 16th-century Benedictine church, by boat. As you approach the island, notice how the structure's white marble facade contrasts with the blue of the lagoon. Enter to discover its equally bright interior. Admire several paintings by Venice-born Renaissance artist Tintoretto, as well as many other religious artworks. You can take the elevator up to the bell tower for a small fee to discover views of the Venetian Lagoon.
Suggested duration: 1h 30 min
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13. Ca' Rezzonico

After years of renovations and changing ownership, Ca' Rezzonico> became a public museum in 1936. A Venetian patrician family named Bon commissioned the palazzo, though they never saw it completed. The skeleton of the unfinished palazzo was bought by Giambattista Rezzonico, who wrapped up the project and gave the interior the opulent decor you see today. The frescoes painted on the state room ceilings are the best-preserved in all of Venice. American songwriter Cole Porter partied underneath these same frescoes when he rented the palazzo for $4,000 a month in the 1920s. In 1935, the attraction was handed over to the city and became a venue for displaying 18th-century art among the sumptuous furnishings.
Suggested duration: 2 hours
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14. Museo Correr

Learn about the art and history of Venice at Museo Correr. In the museum’s St. Mark’s Square location, inside what was once a royal palace, walk through the Neoclassical rooms to see sculptures and historical collections detailing the city’s institutions and urban life. Inside the picture gallery, see works by artists such as Lorenzo Veneziano, the Bellini family, Carpaccio, Antonello da Messina, and Lorenzo Lotto. The antiquities exhibit houses an assortment of artifacts, such as Egyptian mummies, antique books, and ancient coins. Visit rotating exhibits covering a range of artistic movements.
Suggested duration: 1h 30 min
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