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Top Things to do in Venice, Italy

Updated: Apr 30

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Gondola in Venice Italy

Venice, Italy sits atop many a bucket list, and by the way people talk about it, it deserves the recognition. A truly unique city, it's comprised of 126 islands interlinked with bridges and canals. Unfortunately, Venice is in danger of sinking due to climate change and tourism, and it's not uncommon for high tides to cause immense flooding. Each year, 30 million visitors flock to the city for its beauty, architecture, and gondola rides. It easily made our two weeks in Italy itinerary, as there are many things to do in Venice, Italy.

Gondola Rides

Ride on a gondola
Credit: Tipsy Atlas

As any gondolier will tell you, the best way to see Venice is from the water. Instead of streets and sidewalks, the city has canals, making boats the primary means of transportation. Though once more practical, gondolas are used today by tourists for entertainment purposes. To take one, you can either book online or walk the Grand Canal until you find someone offering one.

Gondola tours take you along popular routes and explain the significance of buildings and places. One of the best times to ride is at sunset, especially if you're looking for a romantic experience. To ensure a spot at your desired time, make sure to book online. You don't want to miss out, as it's definitely one of the top things to do in Venice, Italy.

The Bridge of Sighs

Bridge of Sighs
Credit: Tipsy Atlas

Though beautiful, the Bridge of Sighs comes with a depressing story. From the 16th to 18th century, it was used to transport criminals from the Doge's Palace court rooms to the prison. Story has it, the small windows in the otherwise fully enclosed bridge provided criminals' their last glimpse of the city, resulting in a "sigh" from the ill-fated. If you wish to see inside the limestone vessel, you must book a ticket to Doge's Palace.

The Rialto Bridge & Grand Canal

Rialto Bridge in Venice Italy
Credit: Tipsy Atlas

The largest bridge on the Grand Canal, the Rialto Bridge is a significant renaissance-era achievement. Along with its practicality, it's a great spot to take in views. The bridge as we know it was built from stone from 1588 to 1591, and it was used to replace a similar wooden bridge constructed in 1173. The streets on both sides of the bridge are adorned with shops and restaurants, and checking them out is one of the best things to do in Venice, Italy.

Murano Glass Factories

Murano glass blowing factory
Credit: Tipsy Atlas

Accessible only by water, Murano is a Venetian island known for its glass-blowing factories. You can visit it on your own via waterbus or book a tour that includes both transportation and glass factory tickets. These tours include demonstrations and a visit to the showroom, where you can purchase handmade pieces for a discounted price. These pieces range from small animals and kitchen supplies to chandeliers and large sculptures. Depending on the size of your purchase, the factory will either package it in an airport-safe way to ship it directly to your house.

Saint Mark's Basilica

Saint Mark's Basilica in Venice, Italy

Opened in 1094, Saint Mark's Basilica is a Byzantine-style cathedral decorated with 85,000 square feet of gold mosaic. Its treasury consists of a handful of Christian relics including a segment of the cross, a thorn from Christ's crown, and a vessel of Christ's blood. Another notable sight is the Pala d'Oro - a piece of art made of nearly 2,000 gemstones, such as emeralds, rubies, and sapphires.

The basilica's museum houses Persian carpets, tapestries, and four bronze horses from the 2nd or 3rd century. The cathedral's tomb is the subject of controversy, as some believe the entombed body is of Alexander the Great rather than Saint Mark. This belief isn't unfounded; the body along with relics were stolen from Alexandria, Egypt in 828.

Doge's Palace and Piazza San Marco

Plaza San Marco
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Piazza San Marco is Venice's only public square and home to Saint Mark's Basilica, the Museo Correr, and Doge's Palace. The Gothic-style Doge's Palace was once the seat of Venetian government, but it's been a museum since 1923. Visitors to the palace can see the Doge's apartments, Doge's throne, and government meeting rooms. It's architecturally beautiful, with sculptures, paintings, and the "golden staircase." While in the square, check out the Museo Correr, which focuses on the art and history of Venice. The museum's Imperial Rooms showcase the lifestyles of Empresses that once utilized the spaces.

Venetian Mask Shop

Venice mask shop
Credit: Tipsy Atlas

Venetian Masks have been created for centuries and popularized during carnival celebrations. The masks are traditionally made with paper mache, feathers, fabric, and gems. The Carnival tradition is still alive in Venice and resembles what Americans celebrate during Mardi Gras. No matter if it's carnival time or not, you can visit a Venetian mask shop and get an original, handmade mask that only its birthplace could produce.

It's important that you spend your money in a locally-owned shop instead of a gift shop, which often sells masks that are poorly made, mass-produced, and plastic. Souvenir shops are great for magnets, calendars, and T-shirts, but when it comes to masks, these shops are making it harder for the small-time mask-crafter to stay in business. If you want to immerse yourself further, consider a mask-making class.

Where to Stay

Venice is a very walkable city, so you can access everything you need regardless of where you stay. One option, Hotel Centauro, is just six minutes away from the Rialto Bridge and located in a beautiful 16th-century building. Because of this, it doesn't have an elevator. If that's a deal-breaker, you can also choose Hotel Rialto. This luxurious accommodation overlooks the Grand Canal and Rialto Bridge.

Venice is one of the most picturesque and romantic places in all of Italy, and definitely the prettiest in Northern Italy. Boasting an exciting atmosphere and a unique culture, this big-ticket travel destination is popular for a reason.

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