You Must Do In Venice
To visit Venice for just one day is a crime. To visit Italy and not see Venice is a bigger crime. But sometimes all you have is a day, so you need to know how to use that day wisely and not miss out on the best of
Venice by just hanging out where the tourists are. Here are 15 things that you absolutely must do when you are in Venice.
***Scroll to the bottom of this post to get my Top 10 Secret Places To Go In Venice PDF!
Walk (And Walk, And Walk)
Everybody walks in Venice. Walking is an integral part of the social structure of this most unique city in the world. Sit on a bench or a wall anywhere in Venice and watch life happen all around you as the Venetians walk on by, stopping to chat to friends and neighbors.
Your entire experience of Venice is begins and ends with walking. Even if it’s the only thing you do here, just walk and walk and walk.
“The only way to get around Venice, whether you are a countess or a shopkeeper is to walk” ~ John Berendt
Get Lost In Venice
Venice is actually really small, and is also the safest city in Europe, so don’t be scared – get lost! Put your map away and just roam the back streets (where the Venetians live). The bulk of the tourists will all be standing in line outside
the basilica and the Campanile, or buying 15 euro caffe in the Piazza San Marco, so you can finally breathe as you wander and explore little canals that lead to nowhere, footbridges and magical little streets with crumbling plaster
and rusting metal, secret little community squares, private gardens, hidden little coffee shops. It’s wonderful!
Make it your goal to get hopelessly, madly, completely, lost.
Hit Piazza San Marco Early
Technically, if you are going to Venice you really do have to go to St Mark’s Square. The problem is that that is all most people go see. By the time the cruise ships have disgorged their visitors for the day, and the day trippers have arrived, St Marks square / Piazza san Marco turns into a human crush surrounded by vendors selling Made In China cheap Venice knock offs. It gets awful.
So the key is to get there before the crowds descend on the piazza. It is definitely beautiful and magnificent, especially during the off-season!
Take A Tour Of The Doge’s Palace
Either have a local tour guide take you through, or rent an audio tour. You miss far too much and far too many interesting things if you try to freestyle your way through this palace. Walk across the enclosed Bridge Of Sighs, and look out at the last view prisoners had as they were ushered from the court in the Doge’s Palace to the prison on the other side. The prison is well worth walking through as well.
Walk The Dorsoduro
The Dorsoduro is my favorite of the siesteri. I can walk it for hours and never get bored.
You will find fewer tourists there and endless magnificent things to see. Some of the big attractions include Salute, the Guggenheim Museum (Peggy Guggenheim lived there and is buried in the garden with her dogs) and incredible palazzi including the stupendous Ca’ Rezzonico.
Venice is full of grand old palaces, but one of my absolute favorites to visit is Ca’ Rezzonico. To understand Venice you really need to understand the level of opulence, decadence and the staggering displays of wealth that make up it’s history.
Go Deep And Go High
Two keys to understanding and experiencing Venice are to get up high to see the view and then to go deep. Wherever the tourists are, walk in the opposite direction! Wandering through the little streets and alleyways away from the kodak-moment-crowd is the way to see the best of Venice.
Go Bacari Hopping
If you are spending evenings in Venice, and I hope you are, the way to experience the nightlife, or after work life, is to go bacari hopping. Bacari are little bars where you grab a glass of wine, or an ombre (little glass of wine) and some
finger foods akin to tapas. You chat for a while with friends, then move on to another bar. It’s a super social, fun way to spend your early evening.
Related Post: How To Use The Train System In Italy
Eat The Local Cuisine
I wrote a blogpost on what to eat in Venice, read it here.
The key to eating in Venice is to only eat local cuisine. Don’t be ordering pizzas and panini, as big wood burning ovens are prohibited in Venice. The local foods are wonderful, especially if you are a seafood lover. Or a pastries and cookies lover.
Take A Ride On The Vaporetto
Riding around on the vaporetto is a must when you’re in Venice. (The vaporetto is basically a water bus)
It can be congested on the routes taking tourists to St Marks, but everywhere else it is a fabulous way to see the city on the water, from the water.
Drink A Spritz
The spritz is the local drink in Venice. Sit at an outdoor wine bar at the end of the day and watch the world go by, or chat with the locals while sipping on this light and fizzy concoction. A real spritz is made with Aperol and Prosecco, but in some of the touristy joints you will find them made with white wine and sprite. Regardless, have one.
Related Post: How To Order Coffee In Italy
Visit Santa Maria Dal Salute
I am so in love with this church.
It stands proudly on the Grand Canal in the Dorsoduro, and is one of the most recognized and most loved views of Venice. The dome of Santa Maria della Salute is the symbol of the magical Venice skyline, seen by millions of tourists each year – on their way to Piazza San Marco.
Walk all around the outside of the church, the architecture is magnificent! Beware of falling angels – there used to
be a sign posted outside the church warning that the angels up on high, (which still appear to be teetering, but are in fact tethered to the dome) may fall.
Visit The Little Church Santa Maria Dei Miracoli
This magnificent little marble church was built between 1481 and 1489 in the siestere of Cannaregio. In 1987 the
organization Save Venice began what they thought would be a 2 year, 1 million dollar restoration, which turned into 10 years and 4 million dollars. The marble cladding of the church contained 14% salts, and was on the verge of
bursting. The restoration involved removing the marble and cleaning it in stainless steel tanks in a solution of distilled water.
The interior art, which is spectacular, was blackened, and had to be cleaned and restored.
When the lines at the Basilica are 3 hours long you can normally walk right on in to Santa Maria dei Miracoli, and often be the only people there.
Read more about the falling angels and the Santa Maria dei Miracoli in John Berendt’s fabulous book The City of Falling Angels Berendt wrote Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. And then moved to Venice.
Plan For The Blue Hour
Hopefully you will still be in Venice for the Blue Hour – that magical hour at the end of the day (well, more like 30 minutes actually) just after sunset, when natural light and artificial light mix and with a high sense of drama, turn the world blue. There is no better place in the world to photograph the blue hour.
Make sure you know where you want to be at sunset to get your perfect shot.
Walk The City In The Wee Hours
If you are lucky enough to be in Venice overnight go walking in the wee hours. Everyone will be tucked in bed and you will have the city to yourself.
It’s moody and mystical, the mist rolls in and makes it ghostly, when the moon is out the lighting is ethereal. Walking Venice in the wee hours is one of life’s truly sensational experiences. Venice is rated the safest city in all of Europe, with negligible violent crime, so you can safely go for 3 AM stroll and pretend the city belongs to you and you alone.
Want to know my Top 10 Secret Places in Venice? These are the restaurants I eat at, my favorite place to have a glass of prosecco at the end of the day (it is so fabulous – even the Clooneys go there!), and some other wonderful places that most tourists never even hear about. I made a free, downloadable PDF to help you experience a different and less crowded Venice. Get your copy HERE