Italy

Things to do in Venice

An absolute treasure trove of delights, Venice is packed full of amazing things to see and experience. From floating down the Grand Canal to crossing some of the city’s famous bridges, there are loads of things to do in Venice that make this a great holiday destination.

It takes around 13 hours to drive from Calais to Venice, and you’ll pass a number of amazing places, such as Reims, Geneva, and Milan, giving you plenty of options to stop en route if you choose to. Here, we share some of the best things to do when you get to Venice, so you can make the most out of your Italian adventure.

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Dover Port

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Calais Port

Morning

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Midday

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Afternoon

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Evening

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Things to do in Venice - Italy travel guide

Things to do in Venice

See the Piazza San Marco

As the city’s main public square, you simply can’t spend time in Venice without visiting the Piazza San Marco. Known as St Mark’s Square in English, and simply ‘La Piazza’ to locals, the Piazza San Marco is home to some of Venice’s most important buildings, namely St Mark’s Basilica and Doge’s Palace. Established in the 9th century, the piazza was extended to its current size in 1177 and was paved a century later – giving it the form that it has today.

Due to being located at the lowest point in Venice, the Piazza San Marco is submerged underwater during Acqua Alta which occurs when the Adriatic Sea tide rises. This usually happens during winter and spring, so don’t forget your wellies if you’re visiting Venice during these months. When the Piazza San Marco is underwater, the authorities put out wooden footbridges to help locals and tourists to get around.

Piazza San Marco - St Mark's Place - Venice

Grand Canal - Venice

Take a boat ride along the Grand Canal

Perhaps the most popular thing to do in Venice is to take a boat ride along its famous Grand Canal. Due to the fact that the canal is lined by private buildings on both sides, it is only possible to see it from the Rialto bridge (located halfway between the Santa Lucia Railway Station and the Piazza San Marco), or from the water itself. You can opt for a water taxi or a tour of the Grand Canal, but perhaps the best way to experience it is by water bus (vaporetti) as you explore the city.

Of course, you can also choose to see the Grand Canal from a gondola – a transport type synonymous with Venice and its waterways. Gondolas can carry up to six people, and the most popular place to catch one from is St Mark’s Square. Make sure that you agree on a price upfront as rates can change depending on when you’re taking your trip, and how long you’d like your journey to last.

Visit Venice’s islands

There are a number of islands off of Venice which you can visit during your stay; including Murano and Burano which are very attractive to tourists. You may have heard of Murano thanks to the glassware of the same name which is still created on the island to this day. Particularly famous for making mirrors, chandeliers, and lampshades, you’ll also find stunning glass beads which make great souvenirs. If you’re interested in glassmaking, there are a handful of factories that conduct tours, and you can also visit the glass museum which will teach you all about the history of this fascinating artform.

Burano is just as linked to handmade lace as Murano is to glass, so you can find out all about lacemaking when you visit. In addition to this, the island is very pretty and a joy to walk around thanks to its vibrant houses and picturesque canals. Foodies will love Burano thanks to its selection of excellent seafood restaurants, and culture vultures will enjoy spotting the island’s very own leaning tower at the Church of San Martino. Both Murano and Burano can be reached via Venice’s vaporetti (water bus) transportation system.

Coloured house on Burano Island - Venice

Bridge of Sighs - Venice

Walk across Venice’s famous bridges

Due to its canals, it’s unsurprising that Venice’s bridges are a tourist attraction themselves. The Rialto Bridge, as previously mentioned, offers a point to cross the Grand Canal between the train station and the piazza. Of the four bridges that cross the Grand Canal, this one is the oldest – beginning its life as a pontoon bridge in 1173. Since then, it has been reconstructed a number of times, with the stone bridge that you can cross today being created in 1591. Boasting an impressive 24 foot arch, the Rialto Bridge has three walkways: one down each side, and one through the middle where you’ll also find shops selling local items.

Named after the sighs that prisoners would emit when crossing over the canal and seeing their final view of Venice (according to legend), the Bridge of Sighs is another of the city’s top landmarks. Joining the prison with the interrogation rooms in the Doge’s Palace, this covered bridge boasts latticed windows and is made from white limestone which gives it an ornamental look. You can cross the bridge yourself if you’re planning on visiting the Doge’s Palace, or you can travel underneath it during a gondola tour.

Shopping in Venice

If you’d like to include some retail therapy in your Venice itinerary you won’t be disappointed. The city has a number of different shopping opportunities, including everything from impressive malls to independent boutiques. A visit to the T Fondaco dei Tedeschi is a must, if only to marvel at its stunning architecture. Home to around 300 different shops, this mall specialises in fashion and beauty, with some souvenir shops to discover too. Perhaps the best things about the T Fondaco dei Tedeschi is its rooftop terrace which offers stunning views across Venice. Book your 15-minute visit in advance or scan the dedicated QR code when you get to the mall to secure your spot.

Looking for the perfect souvenir? Duck into Pied à Terre which you’ll find hidden behind a market stall close to the Rialto Bridge. Within this mini boutique, you’ll find furlane, also known as gondolier slippers, in every colour that you can imagine. Another must-visit is Libreria Acqua Alta, a vintage bookshop which protects its wares through storing them in old bathtubs and gondolas! It’s worth popping by the see the displays for yourself, but you might also find your next read (or a souvenir magnet) while you’re there too.

Shopping in Venice - vintage bookshop

Venice with kids - lion sculpture

Things to do in Venice with kids

Venice may sound like it’s a destination for adults, but children will love this city too. Little ones will enjoy spending time on the water – so travelling around via Venice’s water taxis is sure to be a treat. For outdoor fun, look no further than the Giardini Pubblici. With plenty of space to run around and let of steam, and play equipment including swings and slides to try out, this is a great place to soak up some sun and have a picnic while the kids play to their heart’s content.

If you want to keep your children occupied while you take in some of the sights, challenge them to find as many lions as they can. Lion’s are everywhere in Venice as a winged lion is the symbol of St Mark – the city’s patron and founder. Non-winged lions made their way to the city through Venetians bringing them back from their travels, so although these aren’t as symbolic you will still see plenty as you wander around. You’ll also notice that St mark’s winged lions have a book in their paw. If the book is open it meant that Venice was at peace, whereas if it was closed it meant they were at war.

Venice at night

Should you still have some energy left after a day of exploring, you’ll find plenty to keep you entertained in Venice at night too. For drinks with a view, head to the Skyline Rooftop Bar which can be found at the Hilton Molino Stucky Venice hotel. Here, you can enjoy cocktails along with panoramas of the city below – the perfect end to a day of adventures. If dancing the night away is more your style, reserve yourself a table at the Monocinque club. Located outside of the city, this former theatre plays all sorts of music, so your tastes are sure to be catered for.

A very stylish night in Venice can be enjoyed at the city’s oldest bar, Caffé Florian. Situated on St Mark’s Square, this popular spot plays host to a live orchestra every evening, and tables can be reserved both inside and out. However, due to its enviable location and high-end clientele, you can expect a rather large bill when you choose to spend and evening here, with even the cheapest drink costing 10€.

Ready to discover these things to do in Venice for yourself? Book your ferry to France an start planning your perfect trip today.

Venice at night - cocktail bar

There are a number of islands off of Venice which you can visit during your stay; including Murano and Burano which are very attractive to tourists.

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