The first time I ever set foot on one of Venice’s many islands was during a school trip back in 2015. Unfortunately, it was a very short pleasure because we had a total of 3 HOURS to spend in the city. After a guided tour we had a bit of free time to roam around and then headed back to the mainland.
Needless to say, it wasn’t enough time to discover all the best things to do in Venice. So as soon as our boat left the lagoon city, I knew I had to come back one day to properly explore this place.
This year at the end of July, I finally had the chance to revisit the city. Together with my sister, we planned to spend two and a half days there – definitely enough time to find out what exactly Venice has to offer.
Although I’ve been there before (do 3 hours even count?) it felt like the first time.
If you’re going there for the first time as well you’ll probably find this post about the best things to do in Venice for first-time visitors helpful. It covers all the most important things to do without any rush. Depending on the duration of your stay, it may even leave some spare time for you to add some more activities to your itinerary!
TIP: Before you go to Venice, don’t forget your travel insurance to cover non-refundable travel expenses. I use the simple and flexible one from « World Nomads » to be protected against unforeseen events.
1. Visit St. Mark’s Square and Doge’s Palace
Venice mostly consists of many narrow streets – which also explains why there are no cars allowed on the island. However, there’s one large square right at the sea: St. Mark’s Square.
St. Mark’s Square is the city’s main square featuring the Doge’s Palace, St. Mark’s Basilica, Campanile and many lovely but expensive cafés. One of them is the famous Caffè Florian. Opened in 1720, it’s the oldest café in the world and the most prestigious one in Venice. The prices are accordingly high so expect to pay more than 20€ for two coffees.
The most impressive building on St. Mark’s Square is undoubtedly the Doge’s Palace. To see it from inside, I recommend booking tours in advance. For example, you can get tickets for special tours such as the Doge’s Palace & St. Mark’s Basilica Fast-Track Tour or the Doge’s Palace Priority Admission Ticket.
Many of these tours include a visit to St. Mark’s Basilica as well.
TIP: Don’t forget to check out the famous viewpoint of the Bridge of Sighs. To get there, head into the direction of the sea and turn left after passing Doge’s Palace. Climb the small bridge and you’ll find yourself looking at one of the city’s most iconic bridges.
2. Admire Venice From Above at Campanile
Is there a better place to see Venice from above than on top of the city’s tallest building?
The iconic bell tower Campanile is among the city’s most recognizable buildings and usually the first known symbol which can be spotted from afar.
The only way up to the top of the almost 100-meters tall bell tower is an elevator. Good for us I guess because I can’t even imagine how exhausting it must be if there were only stairs …
A ticket costs 10€ and can be bought directly at the counter there. If you don’t want to queue for half an eternity, either go there very early in the morning or after 5 PM.
Even though my sister and I went there shortly after the opening time, there was quite a long queue already. We had to wait a total of 45 minutes until we finally made our way up.
As soon as we reached the top and left the elevator, we instantly knew that it was worth it. The views were simply stunning and seeing Venice from so high up was an awesome and unforgettable experience!
The following point on my list of the 10 best things to do in Venice is something many people hesitate to do.
3. Do a (Romantic) Gondola Ride
A gondola ride in Venice has always been on top of my Italy bucket list – even though it’s definitely not an inexpensive experience.
I spoke to a lot of other travelers and bloggers about it and some told me it’s not worth it whereas others almost urged me to do one.
After some consideration, we decided to just go for it and hop in one of these Venetian boats. We both thought it’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience that we shouldn’t miss – whatever the cost.
I mean, when will we ever have the chance to do that again?
Maybe we were just super lucky that day BUT we had the most incredible time ever! First, we got a cheaper ride than usual and second, our gondolier was super awesome and even sang for us!
After admiring Venice from above, seeing the city from this perspective was truly a very different but not less great experience.
In my opinion, a gondola ride in Venice needs to be on every first-time visitor’s itinerary. No matter if you’re traveling alone, with friends, your partner or your entire family.
4. Eat as Much Italian Gelato as You Can
What’s your favorite ice cream flavor?
When it comes to gelato I’m definitely not picky about what flavor to choose. First, I love trying new things and second, as a vegan I usually have a very limited choice.
Good for me that the vegan movement is booming so more and more ice salons worldwide offer dairy-free versions too.
No wonder that it wasn’t difficult for me to find delicious Italian gelato in Venice. There was even an ice salon offering vegan flavors right around the corner of our hotel in Venice!
My favorite ice cream was a dark-chocolate & raspberry flavor from Gelatoteca Suso. Besides this one, they had a couple of other vegan choices as well.
If you’re not vegan, you’ll find numerous delicious flavors to choose from including both, traditional and exotic ones!
In general, it’s super easy to find ice cream in Venice. I mean there’s basically an ice salon at almost every corner!
So if you’re seriously craving some nice Italian gelato, don’t worry: The desired destination won’t be far!
5. Same as 4. But With Pizza & Pasta!
Pizza, Pasta & Amore!
I can tell you exactly the two dishes I ate the most in Venice: Pizza & Pasta.
The main reason was that there were mostly no other great vegan options on the menu. So it was almost always pizza without cheese and pasta with tomato sauce for me.
Honestly, I didn’t mind it at all!
There are TONS of different restaurants offering Italian food but that doesn’t always mean it’s authentic and good.
One restaurant I can heartily recommend is « Al Paradiso » near Rialto Bridge.
We found it while looking for a nice place to have dinner. Even though all the restaurants right at the Grand Canal offered fantastic views of Rialto Bridge, we decided against eating there. Not always but very often are restaurants at major attractions just tourist traps. The prices are too expensive and the food is usually not the best quality.
We turned right and followed a side street away from the canal. Just a couple of minutes later we stood right in front of the restaurant.
Surprisingly, we were the only guests, even though it had really good reviews on TripAdvisor. At first, we wondered why no one was sitting there but then we realized it was really off the beaten path and almost no tourists passed by.
After some initial hesitation, we sat down and ordered the food. I’m so glad we did because the pasta with tomato sauce was simply amazing and tasted super fresh. Plus the service was great and not to forget the awesome blue furniture! You need to know that blue is my favorite color so they deserve a plus point because of that!
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