Don’t get me wrong — gondolas are a fascinating part of Venice’s history and taking a boat ride in one is a great way to spend an afternoon while you’re in the city.
That said, there is so much more to Venice than gondolas — the city is filled with hidden gems and amazing things to do.
Quick Tip: If you’re planning on visiting Venice as a larger trip to Italy, check out this Ultimate two-week Italy itinerary! You can also browse my Ultimate Italy Travel Guide for general tips to help you plan your dream vacation.
Here are 10 of the best things to do in Venice (besides the gondolas) that you should add to your itinerary!
See the Bridge of Sighs
Venice has no shortage of bridges — there are several hundred throughout the city.
But the Bridge of Sighs stands out for being enclosed and made from bright white limestone. It was built in 1600 and connects Prigioni Nuove, a prison, to the Doge’s Palace, which is currently a museum.
Inside the bridge, you can find a double hallway that was used to transport prisoners between buildings without letting them see each other. It’s worth visiting even if you don’t go inside the structure.
If you’re traveling with your partner, consider viewing it from the water — there’s a local legend that couples who kiss while riding a gondola under the bridge at night will stay together forever!
Try Traditional Venetian Food
Italian food is popular around the world for a reason, but Venetian cuisine is more of a secret. It features a lot of seafood thanks to the surrounding bodies of water where fresh fish are caught daily.
One of the most famous types of Venetian food is Baccalà mantecato, which is a type of dried and salted codfish that is served blended with herbs and spices as well as potatoes and cream to make a savory mousse.
Tip: Venice is also known for white wine, which pairs perfectly with fish!
images courtesy of Dal Moro’s
Get Fresh Pasta To-Go
One of Italy’s most famous dishes is pasta, and you can get it like fast food when you visit. Fresh pasta is a dish that feels like a luxury but restaurants like Dal Moro’s make it an easy option.
This of this as fast food…but Italian style. (And better!)
You can pick from options like carbonara and bolognese but you can also make your own by picking one of the base pasta and adding your favorite toppings and sauces.
Your order will be served up in portable containers so you can enjoy it while you’re walking around and enjoying the sights and sounds of the city.
Piazza San Marco
Also known as St. Mark’s Square, the Piazza San Marco is a historic central plaza and it’s said that Napoleon once referred to it as “the most beautiful drawing room in Europe.”
While there’s no proof that he actually said it, the sentiment is spot on — it’s a prime tourist attraction and is lined with stores, restaurants, and notable historic sites such as the Basilica di San Marco.
Tip: Although you should visit, staying in the Piazza is not advisable as it can be overly crowded and overwhelming. Check out this guide on the best places to stay in Venice for alternatives!
Ponte De Chiodo
The city of Venice has over 400 bridges that connect the many islands to create a cohesive city center. You’ll probably cross many of the bridges during your time in Venice as you go about your days but the Ponte De Chiodo is one you should go out of your way to see.
It’s one of two bridges in Venice still standing that does not have guard rails…so you’ll get an adrenaline rush as you cross.
It’s also a great photo opportunity thanks to the surrounding picturesque buildings in terracotta tones.
Libreria Acqua Alta
The Libreria Acqua Alta is a book lover’s dream!
Its layout is beautiful and chaotic and you can spend hours sifting through the stacks of used and new books which you can find not only on shelves but also in antique gondolas, barrels, and bathtubs.
In addition to a truly impressive collection of books, you might also get to say hello to one of the friendly cats who live inside the store.
Fun Fact: The store’s name, which means “bookstore of high water” gets its name from the high tide. When the tide rolls in, the owner wears rubber boots to sell books!
Water enters at will and all books need to be at least 6 inches off the floor.
Learn How Venetian Masks Are Made
Elaborate and beautiful masks are a famous feature of the Carnival of Venice, a multi-day festival that occurs every year before Ash Wednesday.
You can find examples of these masks throughout Venice but to level up your experience try your hand at making your own at a mask workshop.
Ca’Macana offers courses where you can learn about the history of the masks and how they were traditionally made. You’ll also have a chance to decorate your own!
Eat at Venice’s Oldest Restaurant
One of the best things to do in Venice as far as food is concerned is eat a meal at Antica Trattoria Poste Vecie.
Not only is the menu absolutely to-die-for, but it has the unique status of being the oldest restaurant in the city. It dates back to the 16th century so it has a long history of serving up some amazing Venetian cuisine.
While everything you can get here is incredible, make sure you get a seafood dish as that’s one of the restaurant’s specialties.
It’s located within the famous Rialto Fish Market so you know you’re getting high quality and fresh ingredients.
Note: The restaurant front is kind of hidden so make sure to keep an eye out!
Visit the Colorful Island of Burano
The island of Burano is known for its bright colorful buildings and vibrant art scene.
The colors of the buildings follow a specific set of rules and if someone wants to paint their house here, they actually have to submit a request to the government.
This helps preserve the tradition and you can see the bright colors when you visit Burano to this day.
Visit Murano for Glass Making
In addition to mask making, glass making is another beloved Venetian craft that you can learn about when you visit! There are guided tours you can take where you can learn about the history of glassblowing and see masters of the craft at work.
You’ll even be able to try your hand at making mosaics using authentic Murano glass.
Bonus: Consider Exploring Outside the Region
While visiting Venice is a memorable experience in itself, there are so many places to visit in the region that you don’t have to limit yourself to just this one city.
Take a train through Italy to get a more grounded perspective of the gorgeous landscape.
If you’re driving, you can also easily visit the city of Treviso to see more picturesque canals or head north to Valdobbiadene, where you can participate in a unique wine tasting: a Prosecco Vending Machine!
This is just the tip of the iceberg! There’s so much more to see and do in the city — check out my Venice travel guide for more ideas.
Have you been to Venice before? What hidden gems did you discover? What were your favorite foods?
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I will be staying in Tuscany for 10 days this July, but me and my wife Jetina plan to visit Venice after that, thank you for this information, but I like gondolas too 🙂
How fun!! And I’m definitely not knocking the gondolas (I’ve gotten some incredible photos of them and the history is incredible!), just wanted to share there’s more to see than just those 🙂 Have the best time!!