Walking through Venice feels like you’re inside one of those beautiful paintings you often see hanging in Italian restaurants and cafes. It’s picturesque and beautiful, but somehow it doesn’t quite feel real. The pastel colored buildings, flowers in window sills, bridges over the canals, and narrow walkways are breathtaking. It’s all so amazing that it feels almost…manufactured.
Of course, with over 1500 years of history of this “floating city” is very real and nothing is manufactured It really just is that unique and beautiful of a place. When we got to Venice, Lindsay just started crying out of nowhere. She was just overwhelmed with emotion at the beauty and the “magic” of it all. Combine all of that with delightful Italian culture and you’ve got yourself a recipe for a terrific vacation destination. No offense to Rome or Florence, but there’s just something about Venice!
A great thing about Venice is that it’s very easy to get to with its international airport, Marco Polo, and you really only need a few days here. Once you’ve seen the major tourist spots, spent some time on the water, and have gotten lost (which will feel like most of your visit, but is definitely part of the fun and charm of the city), sit back and take in the views while sipping on Italian wine or coffee and eating as much pasta and gelato as possible!
Top 6 Things to Do in Venice (and you only need 2-3 days!)
Being on the water and going through the canals is wonderful, but the best way to experience Venice is to cover it on foot. It often feels like you are in a large maze, but every nook and cranny hold something special, something unique. On the surface, most of it looks the same as you navigate small corridor to small corridor. But truly, in a city with so much history, there is something to discover around every corner.
We recommend dropping pins on your smart phone as you walk around. We didn’t do this and found ourselves frustrated at times that we couldn’t find our way back to certain places that we wanted.
Regardless, casually strolling around without an agenda is an amazing way to pass the time. Let the smells or sounds direct your path. Enjoy the shops and plazas, eat gelato… just enjoy being in such a fascinating place.
1. Rialto / Ponte di Rialto (“The Rialto Bridge”) over the Grand Canal
Rialto has long been the heart of Venice, both economic and commercial. And it’s where the world famous Rialto Bridge crosses over the Grand Canal.
Chances are you’ve seen this bridge in a photograph. It is the oldest bridge across the canal, and is a spectacular sight, especially at night when it’s lit up. The streets along both sides of the bridge are full of great restaurants along the canal, shops, and gondolas. This is where you’ll find great nightlife and energy!
2. Piazza San Marco (“St. Marks Square”)
In the center of the city, this square is Venice’s largest and encompasses the magnificent Mark’s Basilica, the Campanile (bell tower), the Doge’s Palace (a beautiful Gothic structure), the National Library of St. Mark’s, the Museum of Archaeology, and the Correr Museum. I remember standing in the middle of the square and doing a 360-degree turn while being amazed at the beauty, sounds, liveliness, and culture all in one spot.
Go during the day, although it will inevitably be crowded. Go again at night to see the lights and experience a completely different energy! There are also many places to grab a drink or bite to eat.
3. St. Marks Basilica and Bell Tower (Campanile di San Marco)
History buffs and lovers of architecture should head St. Marks Basilica to see Venice’s most famous church. It is a beautiful example of Byzantine architecture. The interior is also decorated with over 85,000 sq feet of intricate mosaics constructed over 8 centuries!
Once you’ve explored the church, be sure to take the elevator to the top of the bell tower for one of the best views available of Venice!
4. A Gondola Ride
You truly can’t leave Venice without experiencing what they are most known for. Whether you’re with your significant other, a friend, or alone, it’s absolutely a must. Although it’s very pricey and a bit cliché, you’ll experience Venice in the most magical way. You’ll also get to learn about the history and see many sights you otherwise would have trouble finding on foot (like Marco Polo’s house!).
In our opinion, the lights make everything more beautiful in the evening so we recommend dusk as the time to take your gondola ride. It does cost more but we felt like it was worth it.
If the price is a concern, you could find other people to share one with if you’d like to cut the cost. We saw several people doing that and it seemed like a smart choice.
5. Lido di Venezia (“The Lido”)
Lido di Venezia is small island only a few minutes from the center of Venice. Take the vaporetto (or “water bus”) to get there and enjoy a scenic ride on the way. There are several hotels here and resorts that have private beach areas, but if you don’t mind the crowds and are just there for the day, head to the public beach (“Blue Moon”) at the end of the Gran Viale Santa Maria Elisabetta.
We rented a bike immediately after hopping off the water bus and rode along most of the island, stopping to shop, eat lunch and gelato, and lay out at the beach. Bicycling is the best way to enjoy this laid back destination and take a break from the busy, confusing, and tourist filled streets of Venice.
You only need a couple of days to have a magical trip to Venice. From the Grand Canal to Piazza San Marco, Rome, there’s so much history and beauty contained in such a small space. We really enjoyed our time in Venice and know you will too!