Robie is an Italian artist who now lives in the US. She loves to share useful vacation tips and first-hand knowledge about Italy.
A lot has been said and written about Venice, so I’m sure you already know that it is a wonderful city. It has so much to offer that you could spend a full month in Venice and still not be able to see it all. But many first-time travelers to this city end up spending more time wading through crowds than they do exploring the authentic Venice.
In this article, I will share my favorite things to do in Venice, all of which will take you beyond the usual tours and landmarks of the city.
While you are in Venice, you should by all means do, see, and try some of the typical touristic things that are not listed here—for example, you wouldn't want to miss St. Mark's Square or the Rialto bridge—but I guarantee that the sites and activities in this article will give you a taste of the city that the travel guides won't.
My 9 Favorite Things to Do in Venice:
- Get lost.
- Take a boat tour on the Canal Grande.
- Visit the Rialto Market.
- Visit the island of Murano and its glass workshops.
- Take a walk on the colorful island of Burano.
- Enter every church you see.
- See Venice after dusk, when there are no crowds.
- Enjoy the food in bacari or osterie.
- Visit a papier-mâché mask store.
Intrigued? Keep reading for more details!
1. Stay off the Beaten Path and Get Lost
If you have a few hours to spare and a lot of memory available in your camera, take the chance to get away from Venice's seemingly ever-present flow of tourists. Go where the big crowds don't and you’ll discover some amazing and fascinating things.
The least touristy part of the city is where the real Venetians live. It's also where you will find the most picturesque buildings, the coolest little shops, and the best, least expensive places to eat, like Baci&Pasta in Campo Santa Marina, where I got a plate of wonderful gnocchi to the go. It's close to the main paths between St. Mark's Square and the Rialto bridge, but in a very quiet square. (See images below).
By staying off the beaten path, you will avoid the hordes of people that typically plague the city, allowing you to enjoy the true feeling of Venice. Every turn you take has the potential to reveal wonderful churches, campi (Venetians squares) and palaces. If you get to a dead end here and there, don't worry; it might still offer a surprisingly stunning view.
To get back on track, you can follow the yellow signs on the walls, use a map, or key in your next destination on a GPS device.
Getting lost in Venice, I found a great restaurant selling freshly made pasta and gnocchi. Yum!
2. Take a Boat Tour on the Canal Grande
The Canal Grande is the biggest of Venice’s canals and is bordered by the city's most magnificent buildings. The best and cheapest way to take a tour is on the vaporetto, or waterbus, Venice's public transportation system.
Vaporetto tickets are quite affordable, and if you use the waterbus several times in a day or week, you can purchase a travel card to save a few euro.
3. Visit the Rialto Market
The vendors at this open-air market offer the best selection of fresh produce and fish, and locals buy their food here on a daily basis. You can find all kinds of locally grown vegetables and fruits among this market's colorful and perfumed stands.
4. Visit the Glass Workshops on Murano
Among the many islands of Venice, Murano is one of the closest to the city, and it is easy to reach by boat.
Everyone going to Venice for the first time should visit a glass shop in Murano, many of which offer tours of their glass furnaces, where you can see how glass objects of amazing beauty are made by skilled artisans.
I still have vivid memories of the first time I visited a blown-glass furnace for the first time; I was in second grade. What an outstanding day trip that was!
Note: If you visit Murano, I highly recommend stopping at the osteria La Perla ai Bisatei for a bite to eat. This is a nice, cozy, and affordable restaurant with great local cuisine and friendly service. It's a place where the locals eat—need I say more?
Watch a Murano Glass Blower Make a Vase
5. Take a Walk on Colorful Burano
The island of Burano, 40 minutes from Venice via waterbus, is the perfect place for a field trip on a sunny day. Trust me, you won't want to miss a chance to enjoy the unique, cheerful atmosphere of this old fisher’s town. Burano is not crowded with tourists, and the homes are very colorful, making it a delightful place to see and visit.
Just as Murano is famous for its glass tradition, Burano is the capital of fine laces and doilies, all of which are handmade with skills that have been passed down through generations. There is even a nice Lace Museum (Museo del Merletto) on the island.
6. Enter Every Church You See
Venetian churches usually have free entrance (unless they have been turned into a museum), and most of them are just amazing inside. Upon entering any randomly found church, you are likely to admire superbly executed stained glass, spectacular architecture, and mosaics and paintings by the most famous medieval artists.
Note: In order to enter the city's churches, you must follow these simple rules:
- Be quiet.
- Be respectful.
- Make sure you are wearing clothes that are not too showy (e.g. avoid tiny tank tops and very short pants).
7. Explore a Crowdless Venice After Dusk
Don’t be in a hurry to leave the city just because the sun is going down. The best time to appreciate the magic atmosphere of Venice is when the tourists and the commuters are not out and about.
See Venice at night, either after dinner or very early in the morning. You will get a whole new perspective of the city's wonderful architecture, harmonious shapes, and colors and sounds when it’s quiet. It can make a nice walk a truly magical experience.
My absolute favorite time of day in Venice is twilight. When the sun sets, the city gets calmer and quieter. You can hear the steps and the voices around you, and the buildings take on a fascinating light from the sky's changing colors and the street lights that start coming on. It is simply wonderful.
8. Enjoy the Food in Bacari or Osterie
Venice has a wonderful selection of places to eat, and the food is exquisite. However, you must try to avoid highly touristic places.
Besides restaurants and pizzerias, the typical Venetian eatery is called a bacaro (plural bacari), which is, simply put, a bar where they serve local foods in small portions that resemble Spanish tapas. They also serve good wines and beers. Frequently, you will find that there are different prices if you eat at the bar as opposed to sitting down; sitting is the more expensive option.
Many people go for a “bacaro tour” where they walk around and stop at different places, eating and drinking a little at each one.
Osterie are also nice places to eat. They are usually family-run restaurants and are similar to bacari in some ways.
Red Flags for Highly Touristic Restaurants
Avoid restaurants and bars that fit the following description:
- Their menus are translated into several languages.
- There are Italian flags and symbols everywhere in the restaurant.
- The place is full of tourists.
- There is a waiter at the door luring people in.
Usually, these kind of restaurants are much more expensive and deliver lower-quality food.
9. Visit a Papier-Mâché Mask Shop
In Venice, you will find many shops full of papier-mâché masks. They are handmade according to tradition (which dates back to the 13th century!), and they can get quite expensive. Beware of the cheaper masks found in many lower-quality shops. They are still good looking, but they are made in China and are therefore inauthentic.
This Video Captures the Feeling of Everyday Venice
Questions & Answers
Question: I will be traveling to Venice with a heavy-set aunt. Is it going to be hard for her to get in and out of the boats?
Answer: In Venice, the public transportation, comparable to any city bus line, provides big boats called Vaporetto. They are easily accessible, and I don't foresee any problems with your aunt.
Gondolas are different, they are much smaller, and sometimes the ramp to get in and out requires some agility and balance. For those, you'd have to judge on a case-by-case basis. However, since the gondoliers are usually good businessmen, I bet they can find a way to get anyone willing to pay on their boat.
Question: What is the weather like in Venice during the summer?
Answer: Venice is quite hot during the summer and very humid, with the occasional thunderstorm, especially in the evening hours. The average temperatures in July are highs in the range of 28-32 Celsius (83-90 F), and lows at 18-21 C (65-70F).
Question: I’m trying to book a three night stay in December for 9 people and want a real authentic trip. Are there any companies that can organize a visit for 9 of us?
Answer: I'm sure there are companies that can organize your trip, tour operators or travel agencies - in Italy they are called "Agenzia Viaggi". I am not sure if you are asking for a company in Venice or near where you leave. Personally, I live in the US, but I grew up in Venice, so every time I go back and visit I basically stay with family and organize my own trips. I'm sorry that I can't help you. I would search for "Agenzia Viaggi Venezia" and maybe contact a few of them and see what they can offer.
© 2012 Robie Benve
Robie Benve (author) from Ohio on November 13, 2019:
Hello Mary, Venice is a gem full of things to see. This week the city is suffering one of the worst floods ever. Praying for all involved. I can't even imagine the damages, very sad. Thanks a lot for your comment.
Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on November 12, 2019:
I love these suggestions. I had been there 3 times now and I never run out of things to explore.
Virginia on June 07, 2019:
Robie Benve (author) from Ohio on June 06, 2019:
You know, honestly I've never been to the film festival... don't know if there is a dress code for the audience. However, I think you can never be overdressed for something like that, so, when in doubt glam it up. :)
Virginia on June 05, 2019:
Thank you for the information. Sorry I did mention which festival. It's the Film festival. I'm thinking casual dressing yet with a little glam.What do you think?
Robie Benve (author) from Ohio on May 27, 2019:
Hi, I'm not sure what festival you are referring to...
For the Feast of the Redentore (Redeemer) on July 20 it's going to be quite hot, but the firework show is at night so it will cool down a bit.
The carnival is usually in January and February, and it can be biter cold, so dress warm. If you are wearing a costume, make sure you can wear warm layers underneath.
There are other festivities throughout the year. In general the average attendees have no dress code whatsoever.
Virginia on May 27, 2019:
My husband and I will be in Venice during the festival. How should the average attendees dress and expect. Any information about the festivities will be greatly appreciated.
Robie Benve (author) from Ohio on March 25, 2019:
Thank you! :)
packers makers on March 25, 2019:
wow really good!!
Robie Benve (author) from Ohio on January 22, 2019:
My 9 Favorite Things to Do in Venice:
Take a boat tour on the Canal Grande.
Visit the Rialto Market.
Visit the island of Murano and its glass workshops.
Take a walk on the colorful island of Burano.
Enter every church you see.
See Venice after dusk, when there are no crowds.
Enjoy the food in bacari or osterie.
Visit a papier-mâché mask store.
Kathy on January 21, 2019:
What are the non-tourists things to do in Venice, Italy?
Terry on March 11, 2018:
Love your information. We are booking a day trip to Dolomites from Venice on June 1. Wonder what we could possibly expect regarding the weather cloud cover etc? Trip goes to cortina but would love to go to Lagazuoi as am a history buff. How far is it driving from cortina ? Will try to add to tour even if have to pay more. Tour also stops at Lake Misurina. They say we will lunch there. Any recommendations? Thanks so much
Robie Benve (author) from Ohio on January 02, 2018:
Hi Linda, as you probably know May 1st is the Italian Labor Day, and many businesses and companies are closed. The good news is that typically, on that day, Italians plan to leave the city and go on a picnic or hiking in nature, so Venice, as well as other cities, should not be overcrowded. Exceptions are cities in which there are big concerts or parades planned as celebration in the historic center, but generally speaking you should be all right. I hope it turns out great for you! :)
Linda on January 01, 2018:
Thanks for the information. We are visiting Venice for 3 nights 30 April - 3 May. Unfortunately this coincides with 1 May public holiday which I believe will make Venice very busy. What do you suggest we plan for the 1 May, would we be better to organise a day trip to Murano and Burano or will that be just as busy? Will the evening of May 1 be busy also or do you think maybe day trippers and holiday makers will be leaving before dinner? I'm not sure if we should be reserving a restaurant.
Robie Benve (author) from Ohio on November 29, 2017:
Hi Gahagan, I am originally from a small town near Venice, so when I go visit I stay with family and mainly eat at home. I write articles about the things I love in Italy, but I don't feel like endorsing any businesses. Sorry about that... Hope you enjoy your vacation! The only cafe'/eating place that is near to my heart is owned by wonderful friends of mine, if you happen to be in the area, please say hi for me, she and her husband are lovely! Caffetteria-Cicchetteria Ai do Scaini, San Polo, 3080
Venice, Italy 30125. Have a wonderful trip!
Gahagan on November 28, 2017:
I will be in Venice mid December. This will be my wife's first time to Venice. We don't like touristy things and prefer to have a more authentic experience. We are travelling around Italy for our anniversary and I want her to have the best experiences she can have.We will only be there for a day and a half. Is there any advice you might give us as to what to see and where to eat.
Robie Benve (author) from Ohio on August 15, 2017:
Hi Mellyhoo, to stay overnight in Venice, try the areas of Castello, Giudecca or S. Marta. hey are the less turistic, so less crowds, and usually more affordable.
Mellyhoo on August 07, 2017:
My hubby and I will be traveling to Venice in late September... what area would you recommend to stay overnight? We want to stay somewhere nice (quaint) without spending too much money.
Robie Benve (author) from Ohio on June 04, 2017:
Hi Julie, well, you can never tell what weather is reserving for us, but you could be very blessed in early November and get some gorgeous days in Venice. You might even get to experience the acqua alta (high tide that floods some parts of the city) and see how Venicians cope with that recurring problem. Make sure you check the weather forecast a few days before your trip, so you can plan what to pack. Wishing you and your mom the best.
Julie B on June 03, 2017:
I will be in Venice with my mom and sister in early November. Will we be disappointed with weather?
Robie Benve (author) from Ohio on February 17, 2017:
Awesome, T! Have fun in Venice! I wish you find wonderful weather and have a happy, memorable experience in Venice and surrounding Islands! Buon viaggio!
T on February 16, 2017:
thanks for this post I will be in Venice in the first week of March,
I will definitely take your advice and get to the unknown areas and use the Italian commuter boats to the other islands.
Thank you for the info.
Robie Benve (author) from Ohio on April 01, 2016:
Oh CYoung74, you are so right! Venice becomes quieter in the evenings, and the time from right before sunset to night is truly magic. Perfect to get lost, and explore random places to eat and drink.
Ced Yong from Asia on March 31, 2016:
Getting lost! Totally agree. No trip to Venice is complete without getting "lost." And it has to be from the early evening onward, after all the hordes of day trippers are gone.
Robie Benve (author) from Ohio on October 02, 2015:
Hi Salenaat, Venice is a multi-faceted jewel, with lots of wonderful hidden corners just waiting to be discovered and admired. Glad to hear you enjoyed getting lost in Venice. Thanks a lot for your feedback!
Selenaat on September 24, 2015:
Venice is so beautiful we have little time but have done the touristy things must admit getting lost was the most fun. Doge palace is worth it. Mystical and breath taking. Didn't make it to burano next time.
Robie Benve (author) from Ohio on September 15, 2015:
Hi Daniel, Oh yes, if there is a true complaint about Venice are the prices. Way high! That's why it becomes very important to spend far from the beaten path, in the non-touristy shops. Thanks a lot for your comment. :)
Daniel Winzer from Budapest on July 29, 2015:
I've been to Murano and saw those lovely workshops full of glass masterpieces. It's a tiny island with small streets and buildings. You are a tourist in Venice only at your first visit, then you will be at home there because this gemstone city can never be boring and there is always something new to discover. Prices are way too high though.
Robie Benve (author) from Ohio on May 26, 2015:
Hi Sandra Fermin, Venice is full of great bar, bacari, pasticcerie and restaurants. I am much more familiar with the tramezzini places near the University, and there are really many! My best advice is, in any area of Venice you are, ask the locals for the best place to eat. Shop owners, students, or other people living/working there know the best places around the corner.
Near the Tolentini I love a bar called Ai Do Scaini, I had the best Spritz and cicheti there last summer!
Sandra Fermin on May 25, 2015:
Hi where can I get an amazing Tramezzini veneziani in Venice near San Marco square? Thanks.
Robie Benve (author) from Ohio on August 25, 2014:
I agree with you Nicole, the less popular islands of Venice are e hidden treasure that deserves to be discovered, especially if the stay in Venice is long enough that you can enjoy the main landmarks as well. :) My kids still remember the trip to Murano, the glass making, and especially when we had lunch in a secluded trattoria that a local recommended: de-li-cious!
Thanks for your feedback!
Nicole Pellegrini from New Jersey, USA on August 08, 2014:
I'd say that going into a glass shop on Murano is pretty touristy - most of the places just want to trap you into buying something and not all of it is even made on the island!
My favorite non-touristy thing to do in Venice is visit some of the less popular islands of the lagoon like beautiful, quiet Torcello or the plague island of Lazaretto Nuovo, only open one or two days a week to visitors.
Pat on July 30, 2014:
Hi Dan, I was on the tour you suggested (venicewinetour.com) and I agree with you, it was one of the highlight of my vacation in Venice. I was with a group of 6 people, after the tour we decided to pass the night together, we had such a great time... about the wine... it was just delicious.
Dan on June 02, 2014:
Hi Jane, I've been in Venice three weeks ago and I tried a tour like the one of Thiago,a tour through a selection of bacaros and wine bars. It's a nice option if you have few time.
The tour was amazing, also because you can see many parts of the town, enjoying in every district a different wine and a different cicchetto(the venetian appetizer).
I found the tour on this site www.winetourvenice.com
There's a day tour and a night tour, I tried the one with five wines and the gondola.
Robie Benve (author) from Ohio on May 31, 2014:
Hi Jane, a wine bar in Italy is called "enoteca". They usually serve great food as well, along with a huge selection of wines.
In Venice there are many great ones, a few that you can look up are: Enoteca Boldrin, Enoteca do Colonne, and Vini da Gigio.
Have fun! :)
Jane on May 30, 2014:
Hello everybody, anyone of you could give me some tips to find some nice wine bars in Venice?
Robie Benve (author) from Ohio on January 06, 2014:
That's so cool thiagoguarnera! Thanks for sharing, I'll include the link in the hub! :)
thiagoguarnera on January 04, 2014:
I was in Venice two weeks ago and one of the things I liked the most was making a tour through the traditional bars of Venice.
here i have found the tour www.bacarotourvenice.com
Robie Benve (author) from Ohio on July 17, 2013:
Hi tastiger04, Venice ids the perfect city to enjoy going off the beaten path, because every corner is wonderful. And as you find the best food in the non-touristic areas, if food + beauty = perfect combination! :) Thanks a lot for your comment!
tastiger04 on July 16, 2013:
Great ideas! I would be all about the food :) I really enjoyed this hub, as I am one of those that tries to go off the beaten path while traveling....voted up and useful!!
Robie Benve (author) from Ohio on April 02, 2013:
Hi FullOfLoveSites, aren't those colorful buildings in Burano just gorgeous? There are other areas of Venice with lively colors, but Burano is one of the prettiest.
Thanks for you comment! :)
FullOfLoveSites from United States on April 01, 2013:
Thanks for letting us see and discover the other side of Venice. I love those colorful buildings in Burano, first time I've seen such kind in Venice. :)
Robie Benve (author) from Ohio on January 27, 2013:
Hifreecampingaussie, sounds like you have a very exciting trup to Venice planned!
Many people stay in the mainand (Mestre) to save some money, but you lose a lot of the magic like that... Try to find lodging in the less touristy areas of Venice.
I can't really recommend any hotel because we are blessed with the opportunity to stay with Venician relatives when we visit.
Enjoy your trip!
freecampingaussie from Southern Spain on January 26, 2013:
Love your hub and will take your advice . Last time we were in Venice we had 6 children with us ! This time there will be 2 of us and we will spend more time exploring, Voting you up.We will be looking for somewhere reasonably priced to stay = Any suggestions for a tight budget ?
Robie Benve (author) from Ohio on October 15, 2012:
Hi Pavlo, thanks for reading. I hope you enjoy your visit to Venice, it's a wonderful place. :)
Pavlo Badovskyi from Kyiv, Ukraine on October 13, 2012:
ActuallyVenice is one of the places I am going to visit next. :) Great hub !
speedy gonzales from Greece on August 27, 2012:
Very useful article. I love Venice! Thanks for the sharing!
Robie Benve (author) from Ohio on May 25, 2012:
Hi Melove, I'm glad to hear you experienced those things first hand, and since you'd like to go back I gather you enjoyed them too. Wonderful.
Thanks for sharing. :)
Yvonne Spence from UK on May 25, 2012:
I went to Venice when I was a teacher on a school trip. It is a beautiful city. We did 3 of your suggestions - got lost, visited the Rialto market and the glass shops. I’ll have to go back now so I can take a boat tour and visit Burano!
This is a useful and interesting hub.
Robie Benve (author) from Ohio on May 24, 2012:
Turtlewoman, a honeymoon Venice would be very romantic, and still get you the chance to see artistic and cultural things. For a honeymoon all my reservations about gondola tours drop. You should definitely experience a gondola tour, with musicians on board serenading you, possibly at late afternoon. :)
Kim Lam from California on May 24, 2012:
Wow Robie, I love this personal presentation of Venice! My fiancé and I are still contemplating a honeymoon destination and Venice is in our thoughts. I would love to visit the beautiful structures, the supermarket, and the Bacora dessert shop looks fascinating. Very helpful hub, thanks!
Robie Benve (author) from Ohio on May 23, 2012:
Amy, thanks a lot. :)
Robie Benve (author) from Ohio on May 23, 2012:
Kathleen, what a beautiful image, not only sailing into Venice, but at sunset and with a Vivaldi's background music. wow. That, I have never done. Now I'm the jealous one. :)
Robie Benve (author) from Ohio on May 23, 2012:
Hi Crystal, sometimes is good to have a dream, and it makes it even more pleasurable when it becomes reality. :)
Robie Benve (author) from Ohio on May 23, 2012:
Marcy, I hope you get to visit Venice soon, and maybe Florence and Rome too. What a great plan to have! :)) Thanks a lot for your comment and for sharing. :)
Amy Gillie from Indiana on May 22, 2012:
This is amazing! I love your thoughtful ideas, such as visiting a glass shop. Well done!
Kathleen Cochran from Atlanta, Georgia on May 22, 2012:
We sailed into Venice at sunset with Vivaldi playing on the ship's sound system. Talk about a memory. Your hub hits some great highs for the city. How can you not love Venice? Up and beautiful.
Crystal Tatum from Georgia on May 22, 2012:
I have always wanted to visit Venice. Your hub makes me want to go even more. I'll remember this if I ever get there.
Til then, I'll just dream!
Marcy Goodfleisch from Planet Earth on May 22, 2012:
I'm so jealous! Venice has been on my list of places to see for many years. Well, along with the rest of Italy! You have brought it to life with your words and pictures! So now I can't wait to get there - time to plan a trip.
Voted up and up, and shared.
Robie Benve (author) from Ohio on May 22, 2012:
Nettlemere, thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. I'm glad to ear you liked it. :)
Nettlemere from Burnley, Lancashire, UK on May 22, 2012:
Good to see some unfamiliar options for sightseeing in Venice and a guided tour from someone who's lived there.