By Trips and Books
You enquire any tour operator to know the places to see / things to do in Venice. For sure, they will hand over a loooooong leaflet with 50+ must-see attractions and might even say, “the whole Venice is an attraction!😁”). Yes, the whole Venice is beautiful and is home to many rich cultural & historical wonders. But that doesn’t make all those 50+ attractions a must-see, many of them are just a tourist trap.
So here are my recommendations for the Top-10 unmissable things to do. I have listed them in an order that you’d start touring from the city centre (Piazza San Marco) and move-on to the nearby destinations and Islands.
1. Visit Piazza San Marco (St. Mark’s Square) & Basilica
Piazza San Marco (in English: St. Mark’s Square) is the main city center square of Venice and is one of the most beautiful squares in Europe. Undoubtedly, St. Mark’s Basilica takes most of the credit – with its onion-shaped shining mosaic domes. The 300-feet Campanile tower and Doge’s Palace are the other highlights.
The square is so huge but still keeps you engaged with a lot of orchestras, events, and of course restaurants/eat-outs. This is definitely a must-see, but remember this is one of the most crowded places as well. 🙋Tip: don’t fall prey to the people who’ll trick you to feed the pigeons over there and expect money in return. FEEDING BIRDS HERE IS ILLEGAL, you’ll be fined.
Here’s all the practical useful information: http://www.basilicasanmarco.it/?lang=en
2. Take a boat ride on Canal Grande (Grand Canal)
What hasn't already been said about this attraction😏? This makes all the iconic pictures of Venice. Missing boat ride on Grand Canal is something similar not seeing Eiffel tower when you visit Paris. Take a Gondola (its pricey!), so take a Traghetto or Vaporetto and enjoy the Venice behind the bustle. It’s an amazing experience! You must try for yourself.
3. Climb San Marco Campanile
The Campanile (or a Bell Tower) was originally a lighthouse from the 10th century, is now serving as a panoramic watchtower. You can climb all the way up 300 feet to enjoy the beautiful views of whole Venice and surrounding Islands.
This is one of the most fascinating landmarks of Venice, but yet many people skip it because of the long queues on its entrance. If you want to save time, you can try the fast entry / skip-the-line tickets available at https://www.venetoinside.com
4. Pay a visit to Palazzo Ducale
Palazzo Ducale (in English: Doge’s Palace) is another Venetian Gothic architectural marvel, located on the St. Mark’s Square. This was the residence of the Doge (the president/king?) when Venice was a separate country as the “Republic of Venice” between years 697–1797 AD. Now, converted in to a museum – showcasing cultural, architectural and sculptural artifacts from different periods.
Here’s all the practical useful information: http://palazzoducale.visitmuve.it/en/home/
5. Learn about Ponte dei Sospir (Bridge of Sighs)
This historical limestone bridge connects the lethal prison of Venice to the court-judgment room of the Doge's Palace. The view from this “Bridge of Sighs” was the last view of Venice that any convict would see before his lifelong imprisonment/death.
The lords of Venice thought that the prisoners would “sigh” at their final view of beautiful Venice through the window before being taken down to their cells😨. Hence, they named Ponte dei Sospir (translating to the “Bridge of Sighs”).
6. “Window” Shopping at the Rialto Market
This is not really a tourist attraction, but if you want to feel the real local Venice, you should visit it. Rialto Market is always filled with shoppers; from freshly caught fish to fruits and vegetables, you can enjoy a great deal of eatery here. You can also see a lot of souvenir shops, jewelers, and authentic glass works made from the nearby Murano Islands.
7. Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute
I didn’t get a chance to visit this one (was just not aware of it) but is recommended by many of my colleagues/friends. Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute is perceived as one of the most beautiful and well-located churches in Europe.
The circular architecture of the church is something rare – that you don’t see often. The church was built during the time of the plague in 1570's and took over 50 years to complete. Its mostly built with marble stones; to balance its weight more than a million wooden-piles have been laid under its foundation. Try to visit if you’re an art, architecture lover, it is so picturesque as well.
More useful practical info can be found at the website
8. Watch a Glass-Blowing Demonstration at Murano
Visit to Murano Glass factory is one of the must-do things while in Venice. Authentic Glassworks of Murano is world popular, dating back history from the 8th century when the Romans first moulded glass to build illuminated bathhouses.
There are many “free” Glass blowing demonstrations available across the Murano Island. But when it comes to shopping some glass souvenirs, please do through investigation, otherwise, you’ll get trapped by some fake-ones made in China😛.
9. Wander the streets of colorful Burano
You might have come across these colourful houses in many photographs and wallpapers, now you know they are the houses in Burano Island. It’s located 40 minutes far from the city centre. Burano Island will unleash the photographer with you, for sure!
In the olden days, Burano’s resident fisherman painted their homes in unique bright colours so that their houses would be easily visible, even when returning from the sea in the fog/dark. Today, the still the same tradition is maintained & regulated by the government (perhaps for tourism). I was surprised to know that the residents have to get permission from the government – to change the wall colour of their homes.