Venice City Guide, Tours & Things to Do, Italy inner banner

Venice City Guide, Tours & Things to Do, Italy

Only got a couple of days to get to know a new city? Our Big Five City Guides can help. We break each destination down into culture, history, dining, shopping and relaxation must-sees and dos.
Venice city guide
Venice city guide: Grand Canal

Like a beautiful siren rising from the watery depths, Venice has been bewitching travellers for centuries.

This is a destination that will exceed your expectations in every way. Defined by a turbulent history, La Serenissima has staved off the ravages of time and tide to top the modern-day ‘bucket list’ for visitors from all over the world.

This Venice city guide is packed with ideas for things to see and do. Enjoy your visit.

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Top cultural activities in Venice

The city’s galleries and museums house a priceless cache of Renaissance, Gothic, and Byzantine art and antiquities.

Venice’s jaw-dropping centrepiece, the Basilica di San Marco, looms large over the Grand Canal and dazzles with four miles of golden mosaics and 800 years of history.

Other must-sees include the Tintorettos of the magnificent Gallerie dell’Accademia, and the fabulous Peggy Guggenheim Collection.

Venice is also home to a vibrant contemporary cultural scene that includes the world-famous Art Biennale and the Venice Film Festival, but the jewel in her cultural crown is the masked magnificence of the Carnevale. This two-week celebration in February is undeniably the greatest theatrical street event in Europe.

Venice city guide
Venice city guide: Enjoy the magic of Carnevale.

Venice for history lovers

Literally built on top of the water (on thousands of wooden pilings), this city was never going to do things by the book.

From its swampy marshlands origins around 400 AD, the Venetian Empire evolved into a cosmopolitan centre of culture, but almost went full circle due to the devastation of the plague in the 1700s.

To really get to grips with the city’s storied past, the exquisite Gothic Palazzo Ducale (Doge’s Palace) is a historical showcase like none other. Various wings date back to different eras.

Venice city guide
Palazzo Ducale. Image: Bigstock

For a taste of Venice’s extensive maritime heritage, the Naval History Museum is full of fascinating relics from the past and worth visiting for the architecture alone.

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Great places to eat in Venice

It’s Italy, and it’s Venice, so the ambience of even the simplest meal eaten ‘al fresco’ cannot be replicated anywhere else in the world.

For the ultimate romantic dinner (think Johnny and Ange in The Tourist) loosen the purse strings and book a table at Quadri on Piazza San Marco. It’s fine dining with all the trimmings, including plenty of celebrity sightings.

For the most divine seafood in the city, Osteria alle Testiere in Castello is a tiny restaurant serving up gigantic regional flavours fresh from the daily fish markets.

The one place you can’t afford to miss is Harry’s Bar — which over the years has welcomed everyone from the King of Spain to Ernest Hemingway. If you haven’t sipped a Peach Bellini at Harry’s at sunset overlooking the canal, well, you haven’t really been to Venice.

Venice city guide
Image: Harry’s Bar

Where to shop in Venice

Venice is a confusing hotchpotch of high-class artisan products and cheap tourist tat.

The basic rule of thumb is you get what you pay for, so if you’re looking for authentic handmade products, be prepared to pay. For authentic Venetian masks, Ca Macana uses ancient papier-mâché techniques and you can even attend a workshop.

Venice city guide
Venice city guide: Shop for Venetian masks.

For intricate heirloom lace and linen, Emilia on Burano is as charming a retail space as you’ll ever find, packed with handmade beauty.

Where else would you go for Murano glass but the island itself? Only authentic artisans are allowed to display the Murano trademark and you can spend hours exploring the wares of the wonderful ateliers.

Ways to relax in Venice

For relaxing things to do in Venice, the straw-hatted Gondolier deftly steering adoring lovers down the Grand Canal is as good as it gets.

If your budget doesn’t stretch to a gondola ride, a trip in the vaporetto (water bus) is a pretty good substitute. Alternatively, you can power yourself through the canals on a kayak tour.

Venice city guide
Venice city guide: Enjoy a gondola ride. Image: Bigstock

Throw away your maps and turn off your apps because Venice is a city to get lost in. The best way to relax is just to wander the backstreets and let your next adventure find you. With no traffic and myriad secrets to uncover, there’s no such thing as a wrong turn.

At aperitivo time, cool your heels in the elegant shadow of the Rialto bridge at one of the many bars (check out the uber cool Ardidos) overlooking the Grand Canal and imagine the life that could be yours — if only you’d been born Venetian…

For more inspiration, visit

Browse our range of Venice day tours and experiences here.

Do you have any tips to add to our Venice city guide? We would love to hear from you. Please leave a comment below.

Additional images: Bigstock

Julietta Henderson

About the writer

Julietta Henderson is a Melbourne-based travel writer and author. Originally planning to visit London for six months, she ended up staying for ten years and now divides her time between her home in Australia and several months of the year in the UK, Italy, and France. Julietta has travelled extensively through Europe, North America, Indonesia, New Zealand, Australia, and Russia, and believes the keys to a great travel experience are an open heart, an open mind, and an open-ended ticket. Her first two novels — The Funny Thing About Norman Foreman and Sincerely, Me — are now available in bookstores.





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