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Things To Do In Venice, Italy | How To Have A Fun & Ethical Trip


Modified: December 27, 2023

by Nada Toscano



Welcome to Venice, Italy’s enchanting canal city! Known for its stunning architecture, romantic gondola rides, and rich history, this UNESCO World Heritage site is a must-visit destination for travelers around the globe. Venice, often referred to as the “Floating City,” is situated across a series of islands interconnected by a network of canals and bridges, giving it a distinct and unique charm.


As you navigate the labyrinthine streets and soak in the vibrant atmosphere, you’ll discover a city that seamlessly blends the old with the new. From bustling markets to ornate palaces and beautiful churches, there is something for everyone in this captivating city. Whether you’re a history buff, an art enthusiast, a food lover, or simply seeking a romantic getaway, Venice offers a plethora of experiences that will leave you with unforgettable memories.


In this article, we will explore the top things to do in Venice, ensuring you have a fun and ethical trip. From historical landmarks and cultural attractions to culinary delights and sustainable tourism practices, we’ll guide you through the best ways to experience this magnificent city while supporting local communities and preserving its beauty for future generations.


So, grab your map and get ready to embark on a Venetian adventure that will leave you enchanted and longing to return.


Explore the Historic Districts

One of the best ways to immerse yourself in the rich history and beauty of Venice is to explore its historic districts. From the iconic neighborhoods of San Marco and Cannaregio to the lesser-known gems of Dorsoduro and Castello, each district has its own unique atmosphere and treasures to discover.


In San Marco, you’ll find the famous St. Mark’s Square, surrounded by stunning landmarks such as the stunning St. Mark’s Basilica and the magnificent Doge’s Palace. Take your time wandering through the narrow streets and picturesque alleys, and be sure to visit the historic Teatro La Fenice, one of the most renowned opera houses in the world.


In Cannaregio, you can escape the crowds and get a taste of local life. Explore the charming Jewish Ghetto, the historic district that has been preserved since the 16th century. Wander along the quiet canals, visit the local artisan shops, and sample traditional Venetian cuisine at the neighborhood’s authentic trattorias.


Dorsoduro is known for its vibrant art scene and bohemian vibe. Visit the Accademia Gallery, home to an impressive collection of Venetian masterpieces, and stroll along the picturesque Zattere promenade, enjoying the stunning views of the Giudecca Canal. Don’t miss the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, a contemporary art museum housed in the former residence of the renowned art collector.


For a glimpse of local Venetian life, head to the residential district of Castello. Explore the quiet squares, discover hidden churches, and admire the traditional Venetian architecture. Visit the Arsenale, once a major shipyard of the Venetian Republic, and stroll along the scenic waterfront, where you can soak in the serene beauty of the lagoon.


As you explore these historic districts, remember to be mindful of the local residents and their privacy. Keep noise levels low, respect private homes and buildings, and be aware of any signage or guidelines indicating restricted areas. By exploring these historic districts with respect and consideration, you can have a truly enriching experience while preserving the local heritage.


Take a Gondola Ride

No visit to Venice would be complete without taking a romantic gondola ride along its picturesque canals. Gliding through the narrow waterways on a traditional Venetian gondola is a quintessential experience that allows you to see the city from a unique perspective.


As you embark on your gondola adventure, you’ll be serenaded by the gondoliers singing traditional songs, adding to the enchanting atmosphere. They skillfully navigate the canals, maneuvering the sleek black boats underneath the charming bridges and past the elegant palazzos.


While gondola rides can be a bit pricey, they offer an unforgettable experience and allow you to appreciate the architectural wonders of the city from a different angle. It’s essential to choose a licensed gondola operator to ensure safety and support ethical practices. Look for the official “Associazione Gondolieri” logo on the gondola and inquire about the price and duration of the ride before hopping aboard.


For a more authentic and ethical experience, consider sharing a gondola ride with other travelers. Not only does this help to reduce the environmental impact of multiple gondolas on the canals, but it also makes the experience more affordable. Remember to be mindful of the weight capacity of the gondola and respect the gondolier’s instructions to ensure a smooth and enjoyable ride for everyone.


As you cruise along the canals, take in the stunning views of the iconic Venetian architecture and immerse yourself in the romantic ambiance of the city. You’ll pass by historic landmarks such as the Rialto Bridge, the Bridge of Sighs, and the charming residential areas where locals go about their daily lives. It’s the perfect opportunity to snap some memorable photos and create lasting memories.


It’s important to note that gondola rides are a popular tourist activity, particularly in the peak season. If you prefer a quieter experience, consider taking a gondola ride early in the morning or during the evening when the canals are less crowded. This will allow you to enjoy the serenity of the city and fully embrace the magic of the gondola ride.


Remember, while a gondola ride is undoubtedly a magical experience, there are other sustainable ways to explore the canals and experience the beauty of Venice. Consider taking a vaporetto (water bus) or even walking along the canals to discover hidden corners and charming neighborhoods. By diversifying your experiences, you can contribute to more sustainable tourism practices and gain a deeper appreciation for the city.


Visit St. Mark’s Square and Basilica

No visit to Venice would be complete without a visit to St. Mark’s Square, the heart of the city and a true architectural masterpiece. This iconic square, also known as Piazza San Marco, is surrounded by stunning buildings that showcase the rich history and cultural heritage of Venice.


At the center of the square stands the magnificent St. Mark’s Basilica, one of the most famous examples of Byzantine architecture in the world. The basilica’s golden mosaics, intricate marble flooring, and elaborate design will leave you in awe. Take your time to admire the façade with its captivating sculptures and intricate detailing.


Inside the basilica, you’ll find a treasure trove of religious art and relics. Marvel at the Pala d’Oro, a stunning altarpiece adorned with gold, precious gems, and intricate enamelwork. Explore the Treasury, which houses a collection of religious artifacts, and don’t miss the chance to climb up to the basilica’s terrace, offering breathtaking views of the square and the Venetian skyline.


Adjacent to the basilica is the stunning Doge’s Palace, once the residence of the Doge, the supreme authority of the Venetian Republic. This incredible Gothic palace is a masterpiece of architecture, with its intricate façade and ornate interior. Step inside, and you’ll be transported back in time as you explore the opulent rooms, grand halls, and secret chambers.


While visiting St. Mark’s Square and Basilica, it’s important to be respectful of the religious significance of the basilica and the heritage of the square. Remember to dress appropriately, covering your shoulders and knees, and avoid touching the artwork and sculptures in the basilica. Additionally, be aware that pickpocketing can occur in crowded tourist areas, so keep your belongings secure.


Consider visiting St. Mark’s Square early in the morning or late in the evening to avoid the crowds and truly appreciate the beauty of the square in a more serene atmosphere. Take a moment to sit down at one of the outdoor cafes, sipping a delicious cup of Italian coffee, and simply soak in the ambiance of this historic square.


St. Mark’s Square and Basilica are not only architectural marvels but also symbolize the rich history and culture of Venice. Exploring this iconic area will give you a deeper understanding of the city’s past and present, leaving you with memories that will last a lifetime.


Discover the Grand Canal

The Grand Canal is the main waterway that winds its way through the heart of Venice, offering a mesmerizing and scenic journey through the city. Often referred to as the “most beautiful street in the world,” the Grand Canal is a must-visit attraction that showcases the architectural splendor and grandeur of Venice.


Exploring the Grand Canal can be done in various ways, each offering a unique perspective of the city. One option is to take a vaporetto, the public water bus, which provides an affordable and convenient way to navigate the canal. Sit back and relax as you cruise along, passing by elegant palazzos, enchanting bridges, and bustling squares. You’ll get a glimpse into the daily life of Venetians as you observe locals going about their activities and see traditional gondolas gliding by.


For a more intimate and luxurious experience, consider hiring a private water taxi or even a traditional gondola. These options allow you to leisurely explore the Grand Canal at your own pace, giving you the opportunity to marvel at the stunning architecture up close and appreciate the intricate details of the palazzos that line the waterway. Your knowledgeable guide can provide fascinating insights into the history and significance of the different buildings and landmarks along the way.


As you navigate the Grand Canal, you’ll pass by iconic landmarks such as the Rialto Bridge, one of Venice’s most famous and oldest bridges. This architectural masterpiece offers stunning views of the canal and is a great place to pause and take in the beauty surrounding you. You’ll also encounter the picturesque islands of San Giorgio Maggiore and Dorsoduro, each with their own unique charm and attractions.


Immerse yourself in the history and grandeur of the Grand Canal by visiting the historic palazzos that line its banks. Palazzo Barbaro, Palazzo Dario, and Ca’ d’Oro are just a few examples of the magnificent homes that were once owned by the noble families of Venice. Some of these palazzos have been transformed into museums, showcasing art collections and providing a glimpse into Venetian life from centuries past.


Whether you choose to cruise the Grand Canal by vaporetto, water taxi, or gondola, the experience is sure to be memorable. The Grand Canal is not only a transportation route but also a living testament to the grandeur and splendor of Venice’s architectural heritage. Explore it with a sense of wonder and appreciation, and embrace the beauty and charm of this extraordinary waterway.


Tour the Doge’s Palace

The Doge’s Palace, or Palazzo Ducale, is a stunning architectural marvel that served as the residence of the Doge, the supreme authority of the Venetian Republic. This iconic palace is located in St. Mark’s Square and offers visitors a captivating journey into Venice’s political and cultural history.


Stepping inside the Doge’s Palace is like entering a world of opulence and grandeur. The palace showcases a unique blend of Gothic and Renaissance architectural styles, with its magnificent façade, intricate details, and elaborate interior. As you explore the palace, you’ll walk through grand halls adorned with stunning frescoes, marvel at the ornate ceilings, and pass through hidden chambers that once held the secrets of the Venetian Republic.


One of the highlights of the palace tour is the “Golden Staircase,” a breathtaking spiral staircase decorated with golden balustrades. This grand staircase leads to the upper floors of the palace and offers panoramic views of the courtyard below. Admire the craftsmanship and elegance of this architectural masterpiece as you ascend to the upper levels.


Another must-see attraction within the Doge’s Palace is the Ducal Chamber, where the Council of Ten held its meetings. This grand room is adorned with intricate woodwork, gilded decorations, and masterful paintings. Be sure to look out for Tintoretto’s magnificent “Paradise,” a massive painting that covers an entire wall and depicts the final judgment.


For a truly unique experience, don’t miss the Bridge of Sighs, which connects the Doge’s Palace to the New Prison. As you cross this iconic bridge, take a moment to breathe in the breathtaking views of the lagoon and reflect on the romantic legend that has made it famous.


A guided tour of the Doge’s Palace is highly recommended, as it provides in-depth insights into the history, art, and architecture of this magnificent landmark. Knowledgeable guides can share fascinating stories about the Doge, the Venetian Republic, and the key figures who shaped Venice’s destiny.


When visiting the Doge’s Palace, it is essential to respect the historical and cultural significance of the site. Follow any guidelines or instructions provided by the staff and be mindful of the fragile nature of the artwork and architecture. Photography may not be allowed in certain areas, so be sure to check before taking any pictures.


Exploring the Doge’s Palace is a journey through Venice’s rich history and a remarkable opportunity to witness the grandeur of one of Italy’s most iconic buildings. Make time to immerse yourself in this architectural masterpiece and gain a deeper understanding of Venice’s historical and cultural heritage.


Explore the Rialto Bridge

The Rialto Bridge is not only an iconic symbol of Venice but also a bustling hub of activity and a testament to the city’s architectural brilliance. As one of the most famous bridges spanning the Grand Canal, the Rialto Bridge offers breathtaking views, historical significance, and a vibrant atmosphere.


Constructed in the late 16th century, the Rialto Bridge has become a beloved landmark that attracts visitors from all over the world. Its distinctive arched design and stone façade stand as a testament to the engineering prowess of the time. As you approach the bridge, take a moment to appreciate its elegant structure and the intricate details that adorn it.


Once you cross the bridge, you’ll find yourself in the bustling Rialto Market, one of the oldest and most vibrant markets in Venice. This lively market is a treasure trove for food enthusiasts, offering a wide array of fresh fruits, vegetables, seafood, and local delicacies. Immerse yourself in the sights, sounds, and aromas as you explore the market stalls and interact with the passionate vendors.


While the Rialto Bridge offers stunning views of the Grand Canal, it’s worth venturing beyond the bridge to discover the hidden gems nearby. Explore the narrow streets and alleys that branch off from the bridge, where you can find charming shops selling Venetian masks, traditional crafts, and unique souvenirs.


For a glimpse into the past, visit the nearby Rialto Bridge Museum, which showcases the history and evolution of this iconic structure. Learn about the artisans and engineers who contributed to its construction and gain a deeper understanding of the bridge’s significance in Venice’s commercial history.


As you stroll along the Grand Canal, take the time to watch the boats and gondolas glide by, soaking in the vibrant atmosphere. Capture stunning photos of the bridge and its surroundings from various angles, especially during the golden hour when the light casts a warm glow over the city.


While the Rialto Bridge can get crowded, particularly during peak tourist seasons, there are still ways to enjoy it without feeling overwhelmed. Consider visiting early in the morning or later in the evening when the crowds are thinner. This will allow you to appreciate the bridge’s beauty and ambiance in a more tranquil setting.


The Rialto Bridge is not just an architectural marvel but also a gateway to the soul of Venice. Through its vibrant market, historic significance, and stunning views, it offers a truly immersive and unforgettable experience. So, embrace the energy, savor the flavors, and allow yourself to be captivated by the essence of Venice at the magnificent Rialto Bridge.


Visit the Peggy Guggenheim Collection

Located on the picturesque banks of the Grand Canal, the Peggy Guggenheim Collection is a renowned art museum that houses an impressive array of modern and contemporary artworks. This museum is a must-visit for art enthusiasts looking to delve into the vibrant world of 20th-century art.


The collection is named after Peggy Guggenheim, an influential art collector and patron who dedicated her life to supporting modern art and emerging artists. As you wander through the museum, you’ll encounter works by some of the most celebrated artists of the 20th century, including Pablo Picasso, Jackson Pollock, Salvador Dalí, and Wassily Kandinsky, to name just a few.


The museum is housed in Peggy Guggenheim’s former residence, the Palazzo Venier dei Leoni, a beautiful 18th-century palace. As you explore the museum’s airy rooms and tranquil garden, you’ll not only appreciate the art but also the architectural beauty of the building itself.


One of the highlights of the collection is Peggy Guggenheim’s personal art collection, which includes masterpieces from various art movements, such as Surrealism, Cubism, and Abstract Expressionism. The museum also hosts temporary exhibitions, showcasing the works of contemporary artists and exploring various themes and movements in the art world.


Aside from the artworks, the Peggy Guggenheim Collection offers a unique opportunity to learn about Peggy Guggenheim’s life and her impact on the art world. Her forward-thinking and passionate support for contemporary art led to the discovery and promotion of many influential artists, making her an iconic figure in the art community.


When visiting the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, take your time to appreciate the art and immerse yourself in the creative energy that radiates throughout the museum. Consider joining a guided tour or attending a special event or lecture to gain deeper insights into the works and the artists behind them.


Be sure to also explore the museum’s stunning garden, where you can relax amidst sculptures and enjoy sweeping views of the Grand Canal. This tranquil space offers a beautiful contrast to the vibrant artworks inside and provides a serene setting for contemplation.


Visiting the Peggy Guggenheim Collection is not only an opportunity to view exceptional artworks but also a chance to connect with the ever-evolving world of modern and contemporary art. It is a testament to the power of art in shaping our understanding of the world and an experience that will leave a lasting impression on any art lover.


Enjoy Authentic Venetian Food

One of the highlights of visiting Venice is indulging in the city’s delectable culinary offerings. From fresh seafood to traditional Venetian specialties, the city’s cuisine is a true reflection of its unique location and cultural heritage.


When it comes to seafood, Venice’s position on the Adriatic Sea ensures a bountiful array of fresh catches. Head to one of the local seafood markets, such as the Rialto Fish Market, to experience the vibrant atmosphere and choose from a variety of fish, shellfish, and crustaceans. Sample dishes like sarde in soar (sweet and sour sardines), risotto di pesce (seafood risotto), or fritto misto (a mix of fried seafood) for a true taste of the sea.


Another Venetian classic not to be missed is cicchetti, the city’s answer to Spanish tapas. These small, flavorful bites can be found in the traditional bacari (wine bars) scattered throughout Venice. Try a variety of cicchetti, such as baccalà mantecato (creamy cod), polpette (meatballs), or sarde in saor (fried sardine with onions and vinegar), paired with a glass of local wine or an Aperol spritz.


For a heartier meal, indulge in traditional Venetian dishes such as risi e bisi (rice and peas), pasta e fagioli (pasta with beans), or polenta with a rich ragù sauce. These comfort foods showcase the simple yet flavorful ingredients that form the backbone of Venetian cuisine.


Let’s not forget about the sweet side of Venice! End your meal with some traditional desserts like tiramisu, fritole (fried dough balls dusted with powdered sugar), or a slice of panettone, a sweet bread traditionally enjoyed during the holiday season.


When dining in Venice, it’s important to seek out authentic, local establishments that embrace traditional Venetian cuisine. Avoid the tourist traps that offer generic menus and prioritize supporting local, family-run restaurants and trattorias that pride themselves on using fresh, local ingredients.


Additionally, consider venturing beyond the main tourist areas to discover hidden gems that offer an authentic Venetian dining experience. The Dorsoduro and Cannaregio districts are known for their local trattorias and osterias that serve up delicious traditional dishes in a more relaxed and authentic setting.


Lastly, don’t forget to pair your meal with a glass of Veneto’s renowned wines, such as Prosecco, Valpolicella, or Amarone. These exquisite wines complement the flavors of Venetian cuisine and complete the gastronomic experience.


Exploring the culinary delights of Venice is a journey that allows you to savor the flavors of the city while immersing yourself in its rich cultural heritage. From seafood delicacies to traditional dishes and sweet treats, embracing Venetian cuisine is an essential part of any visit to this enchanting city.


Take a Boat Trip to the Islands

While exploring Venice’s historic center is a must-do, venturing beyond the city’s boundaries to the nearby islands is an opportunity to discover even more enchanting destinations. With a rich history, unique traditions, and breathtaking landscapes, the islands surrounding Venice offer a diverse range of experiences that are well worth the visit.


One of the most famous islands to explore is Murano, renowned for its centuries-old glassmaking industry. Take a short boat ride from Venice and immerse yourself in the world of Murano’s glass artisans. Visit the glass factories to witness the intricate glassblowing techniques, admire the exquisite creations at the glass galleries, and perhaps bring home a beautiful memento of your visit.


Burano is another picturesque island that captivates visitors with its vibrant and colorful houses lining the canals. Famous for its lacemaking tradition, Burano offers a glimpse into this intricate craft through its lace shops and the Lace Museum. Take a leisurely stroll along the brightly colored streets, indulge in local seafood specialties, and soak in the charming atmosphere of this delightful island.


A short boat ride from Burano will take you to the tranquil island of Torcello. Known as one of the earliest and most important settlements in the Venetian Lagoon, Torcello exudes a serene and unspoiled beauty. Visit the stunning Torcello Cathedral with its ancient mosaics and climb the bell tower for a panoramic view of the lagoon. Explore the island’s nature trails and enjoy the peaceful ambiance that makes Torcello a hidden gem.


If you’re looking to escape the crowds and immerse yourself in nature, consider visiting the island of Lido. Known for its beautiful beaches, Lido is a popular summer destination and home to the Venice Film Festival. Relax on the sandy shores, go for a refreshing swim in the Adriatic Sea, or rent a bike to explore the island’s charming streets and elegant villas.


As you plan your boat trip to the islands, be sure to check the schedules of the vaporettos (water buses) or consider hiring a private water taxi for a more personalized experience. It’s also a good idea to allocate enough time to fully enjoy each island without feeling rushed.


Visiting the islands is a chance to escape the hustle and bustle of Venice and discover the unique charms of each destination. From the vibrant glassmaking of Murano to the colorful houses of Burano and the tranquil nature of Torcello and Lido, exploring these islands will leave you with a deeper appreciation for the diversity and beauty of the Venetian lagoon.


Support Local Artisans and Businesses

When visiting Venice, it’s not just about exploring the famous landmarks and indulging in the delicious cuisine; it’s also an opportunity to support the local artisans and businesses that contribute to the cultural fabric of the city. By purchasing from local artisans and choosing to dine at locally-owned establishments, you can make a positive impact on the community and contribute to the preservation of Venice’s unique heritage.


One of Venice’s distinctive features is its thriving artisanal scene. From the intricate art of glassblowing in Murano to the delicate lacework in Burano, the city is home to many talented craftsmen and women. Seek out their workshops and studios to witness their craft firsthand and purchase authentic, handmade souvenirs. By buying directly from these artisans, you not only get a one-of-a-kind piece but also directly support their livelihoods and help keep traditional craftsmanship alive.


Another way to support the local community is by choosing to dine at local restaurants and eateries. Opt for family-run trattorias and osterias that showcase the authentic flavors of Venetian cuisine. By doing so, you are not only savoring delicious meals but also supporting the local economy and helping to preserve traditional culinary practices.


Additionally, consider purchasing local products and ingredients. Visit the neighborhood markets, such as the Rialto Market, to pick up fresh fruits, vegetables, seafood, and other products sourced directly from local producers. By buying local, you contribute to the sustainability of the region’s agricultural practices and reduce your carbon footprint.


When it comes to accommodations, consider staying at locally-owned hotels, guesthouses, or bed and breakfasts. These establishments provide a more intimate and authentic experience, often showcasing the charm of traditional Venetian architecture and hospitality. By choosing these accommodations, you directly support local families and contribute to the preservation of the city’s unique character.


Participating in local events, festivals, and cultural activities is another way to support the community. Attend performances at the Teatro La Fenice or catch a classical music concert at one of the historic churches. Engage with the local art scene by visiting small galleries or attending exhibitions featuring emerging artists. By participating in these events, you not only support local talent but also gain a deeper understanding of the city’s creative spirit.


While Venice is undoubtedly a major tourist destination, by making conscious choices to support local artisans, businesses, and initiatives, you can help sustain the city’s cultural heritage and vibrant community. These small actions have a far-reaching impact and contribute to the long-term preservation of Venice’s unique charm and identity.



Venice, with its enchanting canals, rich history, and vibrant culture, offers a truly unforgettable experience for travelers. By exploring the historic districts, taking a gondola ride, visiting St. Mark’s Square and Basilica, discovering the Grand Canal, touring the Doge’s Palace, exploring the Rialto Bridge, visiting the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, enjoying authentic Venetian food, taking a boat trip to the islands, and supporting local artisans and businesses, you can have a fun and ethical trip that allows you to fully immerse yourself in the beauty and charm of this remarkable city.


As you navigate the labyrinthine streets and uncover hidden gems, remember to be respectful of the local community and contribute to the preservation of Venice’s heritage. Support local artisans by purchasing their handmade crafts, dine at locally-owned restaurants to savor authentic Venetian cuisine, and choose accommodations that are run by local families.


By embracing sustainable tourism practices and making conscious choices, you can help ensure that Venice remains a thriving and vibrant city for future generations to appreciate and enjoy. Explore the cultural landmarks, indulge in the gastronomic delights, and immerse yourself in the artistic and architectural wonders that Venice has to offer. Whether it’s the history of St. Mark’s Square, the tranquility of Torcello, or the vibrant atmosphere of the Rialto Market, each experience will leave you with lasting memories and a deeper appreciation for the unique allure of Venice.


Remember, Venice is more than just a destination; it’s a living, breathing city with a rich cultural tapestry. Treat it with respect, engage with the local community, and make an effort to support the artisans and businesses that contribute to the city’s soul. By doing so, you can ensure that Venice continues to thrive as a place of beauty, art, and enchantment for years to come.