Non-Touristy Things to Do in Venice, Italy
My Favorite Things to Do in Venice
Venice is a dream destination for many people, I know because every time I mention I am from Venice, I get lots of “awwws” and “ahhhs” - not to mention how perfect strangers feel entitled to share with me their Italian travel experiences, but that’s another story.
A lot has been said and written about Venice, I’m sure you already know that it is a wonderful city, and it has so much to offer and be seen; you could spend a full month in Venice, and still not be able to see it all.
In this article I tell you my favorite things to do in Venice, which are beyond the usual tours and landmarks of the city. By all means do, see, and try all the top typical touristic things in Venice that are not listed here.
Once you are in Venice, here is my list of non-touristy things you should definitely find the time to do, because they are worth it.
The Beauty of Getting Lost in Venice: Stay Off the Beaten Path
If you have few spare hours and a lot of memory available in your camera, take some turns against the flow. Go directions avoided by the big crowd, and you’ll get the chance to discover some amazing and fascinating things.
The least touristy part of the city is where the real Venetians leave, and you can see the most picturesque buildings, cool little shops, and the best, least expensive places to eat.
Staying off the beaten path, you avoid the horde of people and you can 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, no worries, 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 a GPS device.
Paper Mache masks, a tradition that dates back to the 13th century
Take a Boat Tour on the Canal Grande
The Canal Grande is the biggest of Venice’s canals, and is sided by the most magnificent buildings.
The best and cheapest way to take a tour is on the vaporetto, which is a waterbus, the Venetian public transportation.
The vaporetto tickets are quite affordable, and if you use it several times in a day or week, you can purchase a travel card.
Visit the Rialto Market
The Rialto Market has been open daily for the last thousand years; in fact it was first opened in 1067.
Vendors 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 vegetable and fruits among the colorful and perfumed stands.
Visit the Island of Murano and Its Glass Workshops
Among the many islands of Venice, Murano is one of the closest to the city, easier to be reached by boat.
Everyone going to Venice for the first time should visit a glass shop. Many shops offer a tour of their artisan glass furnace, where you can see how glass objects of amazing beauty are made by skilled artisans.
I still have vivid memories from 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!
A Great Place to Eat in Murano: Osteria La perla Ai Bisatei
The Osteria La perla Ai Bisatei, a nice, cozy, and affordable restaurant with great local cuisine and friendly service. A place where the locals eat.
Take a Colorful Walk on the Island of Burano
The island of Burano, 40 minutes on a waterbus from Venice, is the perfect field trip for a sunny day to enjoy the unique cheerful atmosphere of the 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.
As Murano is famous for the glass tradition, Burano is the capital of the finest laces and doilies, handmade with skills that have been passed down through generations. There even is a nice Lace Museum (Museo del Merletto) on the island.
Enter in Every Church You See, You'll Be Amazed
Churches, unless they have been turned into a museum, have free entrance, and most of them are just amazing inside.
Entering in any randomly found church, you may admire mosaics and paintings by the most famous medieval artists, superbly executed stained glass, and spectacular architecture.
The only rules to enter in churches are: be quiet, be respectful, and make sure you are wearing clothes that are not too showy, so avoid tiny tank tops and very short pants.
See Venice with No Crowds: After Dusk
Don’t be in a hurry to leave the city. 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, after dinner, or early in the morning. The wonderful architecture, the harmonious shapes, the colors and sounds of the city when it’s quiet can make a nice walk a magic experience.
My favorite time of the day ever in Venice is twilight. When the sun sets down, the city gets calmer and quieter.
You can hear the steps and the voices around you, and the buildings get a fascinating light from the sky changing color and the street lights that start coming on. Just wonderful.
Map of the locations cited in this article
The Rialto Market is nearby the famous Rialto Bridge
Tramezzini, the Italian sandwich
Enjoy the Food in Bacari or Osterie
Venice has a wonderful selection of places where to eat, and the food is exquisite. However, try to avoid highly touristic places.
Besides restaurants and pizzerias, the typical Venetian eatery is called bacaro (pl. bacari), which is, simply put, a bar where they serve local foods in small portions that resemble of the Spanish tapas. They also serve good wines and beers. Frequently there are different prices if you eat at the bar or sitting down, and 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.
Here is a link where you can book in advance an organized "bacaro tour" (suggested by a reader).
Nice places to eat are also Osterie, which are usually like family-run restaurants, somehow similar to the bacari.
Red Flags for Highly Touristic Restaurants to Avoid
Avoid the restaurants and bar that have the following:
- The menu is translated in several languages.
- There are Italian flags and Italian symbols everywhere in the restaurant.
- The place is full of tourists.
- There is a waiter at the door alluring people in.
Usually this kind of restaurants are much more expensive and they deliver lower quality food.
No Opportunity to Visit Murano Soon? Get the Flair of Murano Glass on Your Table
This Video Caught the Feeling of Everyday Venice.
Questions & Answers
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?
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