The historic city of Venice is one of the most visited places in Europe, and for good reason. The city is the capital of Veneto, a northern region of Italy. Famous for its historically significant sites and architecture, it’s impossible to run out of things to do and places to see in this magical city.  From sampling the local cuisine to taking a gondola down the Grand Canal, a trip to Venice is a trip of a lifetime.

01Spend Time in St. Mark’s Square and the Basilica

View of piazza San Marco, Doge's Palace (Palazzo Ducale) in Venice, Italy.

Some of the most popular and famous tourist destinations, St. Mark’s Square and its accompanying Basilica are must-sees. The impressive architecture of the Basilica dates back to 1092, and one look at it will make you understand why it’s such a renowned building. Give yourself plenty of time to marvel at the ornate decorations of the building and the amazing art that adorns it.

St. Mark’s Square is one of the best places to start your adventure in Venice as it’s home to some of the most important sights. When you’ve seen all there is to see, relax with an espresso and some live music in the square.

02Take a Tour of Doge’s Palace

Interior of the Doge`s Palace

Doge’s Palace is another architectural marvel that you simply must see while in Venice. The historic palace looks out onto the Grand Canal from St. Mark’s Square. The arched details and stone façade are impressive enough, but the interior design and ornately decorated rooms are also more than worth a visit.

The palace was once home to the leaders of Venice, and its collection of secret passageways and hidden rooms will make you wonder about its past and the secrets that it holds. Book a tour of the palace in advance and give yourself plenty of time to stroll through the rooms and explore the grounds.

03Visit the Church of San Sebastiano

The historic church of San Sebastiano

If the crowds at St. Mark are too much to handle, San Sebastiano is an amazing alternative option. Not only is the church itself stunning, but it’s also home to some of Paolo Tiepolo’s masterpieces. The Venetian painter was a local Renaissance master, and many of his paintings have recently been restored. Escape the crowds and experience some history that few tourists take the time to discover.

04Taste the Regional Cuisine

Mussel Dinner in Venice Photo by Christopher Carson on Unsplash

Skip the pizza and sample some of Venice’s fine regional dishes. Wood-fired ovens are banned in Venice, but many tourists will still pay top dollar for an altogether disappointing pizza. You’re not in Naples; you’re in Venice, so try the seafood, risotto, and polenta.

Some popular dishes include sarde in saor, a sweet and sour dish featuring sardines, pine nuts, vinegar and raisins; Baccala mantecato, creamed cod served on grilled polenta; risi e bisi, a rice dish featuring green peas and pancetta; and risotto al nero di seppia, a risotto dish cooked in squid ink. For dessert, enjoy some tiramisu, a Veneto favorite.

05Go Island Hopping

Lighthouse on the beach of Lido di Jesolo near Venice, Veneto region, Italy

If you have a few days to spend in Venice, take a day or two and visit some other nearby islands. Lido is a beautiful tourist destination that’s a quick 30-minute boat ride from St. Mark’s Square. Relax on the sandy beach or visit the Hotel Riviera, Ernest Hemingway’s, and Lord Byron’s old haunt.

Murano is another great option for a day trip. Murano is known for its glassmaking, a craft the local residents have been practicing for over a thousand years. Visit the Murano Glass Museum to see how the masters make vases, chandeliers, jewelry, and more.

06Stroll Across the Ponte di Rialto

Panoramic view of famous Canal Grande with famous Rialto Bridge at sunset in Venice, Italy

The oldest of the four bridges on the Grand Canal, the Ponte di Rialto is a sight worth seeing. Built in the late 1500s, the bridge itself is beautiful, and the view of Venice it offers is breathtaking. The bridge is lined with shops where you can pick up jewelry and locally made goods. Watch the sunset over Venice and stock up on gifts to bring back home with you.

07Look Out at Venice from the Bridge of Sighs

Bridge of Sighs, Venezia, Italy Photo by Nick Karvounis on Unsplash

The Bridge of Sighs is the second more visited bridge in Venice. The bridge connected the prison to Doge’s Palace, and it is said that prisoners would stop on the bridge, look out at Venice and sigh with the knowledge that they would never see it again. The bridge is close to St. Mark’s Square, so be sure to pay it a visit while you’re there. The line might be long, but be happy you’re there and not on your way to the prison!

08Ride in a Gondola

Venice, Italy Photo by Antonio Molinari on Unsplash

There are many things you must see, do, and taste while you’re in Venice, and a gondola ride down the Grand Canal is at the top of that list. Venice is a city that was made to be explored by water. Book yourself a ride and pay a little extra for a bottle of Prosecco to sip on while you go. Don’t be alarmed by the price, you can expect to pay anywhere from 80 to 100 Euros for the trip, but it’s well worth it!

09Visit San Giorgio Maggiore

Aerial view of the Venice city scape with Basilica Di San Giorgio Maggiore and grande canal

The island of San Giorgio Maggiore is not connected to Venice via the canals, but it can be easily reached by a private water taxi or Vaporetto. Walk through the quiet streets and climb the bell tower for an unbeatable view. While you’re on the island, take time to visit the San Giorgio Monastery and the Church of San Giorgio Maggiore. These fantastic buildings are less busy than those in Venice, but they have the same beauty and historical importance.

10Marvel at the Chiesa di Santa Maria Assunta

Antique photograph of inside of the church of Santa Maria Assunta, known as I Gesuiti in Venice (Italy) in a picture taken during the 19th century. ilbusca / Getty Images

The Chiesa di Santa Maria Assunta, also known as I Gesuiti, is one of the newer churches of Venice, but one that you should definitely see. Built in 1729, the church’s façade features intricately decorated features as well as a large bronze door that acts an impressive point of entry. Explore the church and marvel at the beautiful artwork, sculptures, and frescos from inside.