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Non-Touristy Things to Do in Venice, Italy

Updated on May 22, 2017
Robie Benve profile image

Robie is an Italian artist that lives in the US. She loves to share her first-hand knowledge about Italy and useful vacation tips.

A list of the top things to do in Venice, besides the typical tourist itineraries. Venice's less famous attractions and beauties.
A list of the top things to do in Venice, besides the typical tourist itineraries. Venice's less famous attractions and beauties. | Source
A markerVenice, Italy -
Venice, Italy
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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.

Venice, Canal - Venice is full of hidden gems. Learn how to avoid the tourist traps and discover the best the Italian city has to offer.
Venice, Canal - Venice is full of hidden gems. Learn how to avoid the tourist traps and discover the best the Italian city has to offer. | Source

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

In Venice you can find many shops of Paper Mache Masks. They are hand made according to the tradition, and they can get quite expensive. Beware of the flooding of cheaper masks, still good looking, but made in China.
In Venice you can find many shops of Paper Mache Masks. They are hand made according to the tradition, and they can get quite expensive. Beware of the flooding of cheaper masks, still good looking, but made in China. | Source

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.

Once in Venice you can easily purchase waterbus (vaporetto) daily passes.
Once in Venice you can easily purchase waterbus (vaporetto) daily passes. | Source

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

A markerCampo S. Bernardo 1, Murano -
Campo San Bernardo, 30141 Murano Province of Venice, Italy
get directions

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.

The colors of the island of Burano, Venice
The colors of the island of Burano, Venice | Source

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.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Venice if full of hidden places that are as charming as the famous landmarks.Palazzo Contarini del Bovolo, a hidden gem in Venice.
Venice if full of hidden places that are as charming as the famous landmarks.
Venice if full of hidden places that are as charming as the famous landmarks. | Source
Palazzo Contarini del Bovolo, a hidden gem in Venice.
Palazzo Contarini del Bovolo, a hidden gem in Venice. | Source

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

show route and directions
A markerRialto Market, Venezia -
Rialto Bridge, Sestiere San Polo, 125, 30125 Venice, Italy
get directions

The Rialto Market is nearby the famous Rialto Bridge

B markerMurano -
Murano, 30141 Venice, Italy
get directions

C markerBurano -
Burano, 30142 Venice, Italy
get directions

D markerPalazzo Contarini del Bovolo -
Palazzo Contarini del Bovolo, Campo Manin, 30124 Venice, Italy
get directions

Tramezzini, the Italian sandwich

Tramezzini display in a bar
Tramezzini display in a bar | Source

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.

© 2012 Robie Benve

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    • Robie Benve profile image
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      Robie Benve 2 months ago from Ohio

      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.

    • profile image

      Mellyhoo 2 months ago

      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 profile image
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      Robie Benve 4 months ago from Ohio

      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.

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      Julie B 4 months ago

      I will be in Venice with my mom and sister in early November. Will we be disappointed with weather?

    • Robie Benve profile image
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      Robie Benve 8 months ago from Ohio

      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!

    • profile image

      8 months ago

      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 profile image
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      Robie Benve 18 months ago from Ohio

      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.

      Thanks!

    • CYong74 profile image

      Cedric Yong 18 months ago from Singapore

      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 profile image
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      Robie Benve 2 years ago from Ohio

      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!

    • profile image

      Selenaat 2 years ago

      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 profile image
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      Robie Benve 2 years ago from Ohio

      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 profile image

      Daniel Winzer 2 years ago from Budapest

      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 profile image
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      Robie Benve 2 years ago from Ohio

      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!

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      Sandra Fermin 2 years ago

      Hi where can I get an amazing Tramezzini veneziani in Venice near San Marco square? Thanks.

    • Robie Benve profile image
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      Robie Benve 3 years ago from Ohio

      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 profile image

      Nicole Pellegrini 3 years ago from New Jersey, USA

      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.

    • profile image

      Pat 3 years ago

      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.

      Definitely recommended!!!

    • profile image

      Dan 3 years ago

      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 profile image
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      Robie Benve 3 years ago from Ohio

      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! :)

    • profile image

      Jane 3 years ago

      Hello everybody, anyone of you could give me some tips to find some nice wine bars in Venice?

    • Robie Benve profile image
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      Robie Benve 3 years ago from Ohio

      That's so cool thiagoguarnera! Thanks for sharing, I'll include the link in the hub! :)

    • profile image

      thiagoguarnera 3 years ago

      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

      enjoy

    • Robie Benve profile image
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      Robie Benve 4 years ago from Ohio

      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 profile image

      tastiger04 4 years ago

      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 profile image
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      Robie Benve 4 years ago from Ohio

      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 profile image

      FullOfLoveSites 4 years ago from United States

      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 profile image
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      Robie Benve 4 years ago from Ohio

      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 profile image

      freecampingaussie 4 years ago from Southern Spain

      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 profile image
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      Robie Benve 5 years ago from Ohio

      Hi Pavlo, thanks for reading. I hope you enjoy your visit to Venice, it's a wonderful place. :)

    • Pavlo Badovskyy profile image

      Pavlo Badovskyi 5 years ago from Kyiv, Ukraine

      ActuallyVenice is one of the places I am going to visit next. :) Great hub !

    • speedakias profile image

      speedy gonzales 5 years ago from Greece

      Very useful article. I love Venice! Thanks for the sharing!

    • Robie Benve profile image
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      Robie Benve 5 years ago from Ohio

      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. :)

    • Melovy profile image

      Yvonne Spence 5 years ago from UK

      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 profile image
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      Robie Benve 5 years ago from Ohio

      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. :)

    • Turtlewoman profile image

      Kim Lam 5 years ago from California

      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 profile image
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      Robie Benve 5 years ago from Ohio

      Amy, thanks a lot. :)

    • Robie Benve profile image
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      Robie Benve 5 years ago from Ohio

      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 profile image
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      Robie Benve 5 years ago from Ohio

      Hi Crystal, sometimes is good to have a dream, and it makes it even more pleasurable when it becomes reality. :)

      Thanks!

    • Robie Benve profile image
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      Robie Benve 5 years ago from Ohio

      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 profile image

      Amy Gillie 5 years ago from Indiana

      This is amazing! I love your thoughtful ideas, such as visiting a glass shop. Well done!

    • Kathleen Cochran profile image

      Kathleen Cochran 5 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      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 profile image

      Crystal Tatum 5 years ago from Georgia

      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 profile image

      Marcy Goodfleisch 5 years ago from Planet Earth

      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 profile image
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      Robie Benve 5 years ago from Ohio

      Nettlemere, thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. I'm glad to ear you liked it. :)

    • Nettlemere profile image

      Nettlemere 5 years ago from Burnley, Lancashire, UK

      Good to see some unfamiliar options for sightseeing in Venice and a guided tour from someone who's lived there.