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Are you planning a trip to Italy and wondering – is Venice worth visiting? We’re sharing our experience and why we think it is 100% worth a stop on your Italian vacation.
Without a doubt Venice is one of the most visited cities in Italy. Millions of people from all over the world flock to the “City of Canals” to experience one of the most unique destinations in Europe.
Despite its over tourism, the city exudes a sort of magic that has yet to be replicated in our books. There’s nothing like getting lost in the small streets, climbing over a bridge to see a gondola passing through beneath you, as you wander your way through this charming city.
We’ve been to Venice three separate times, and we’re sharing 15 reasons why it’s one of our favorite places to visit in Italy, as well as sharing some things that you may want to know before you go.
Is Venice Worth Visiting?
In case you’re still wondering – YES, Venice is absolutely worth visiting!
From its winding canals, romantic architecture, and endless bridges, the city is often compared to a living painting. In fact, if you look at an old painting of Venice and compare it to today, the only differences you’ll notice are the clothing and the type of boats in the canals.
And while Venice is a popular tourist destination, we seem to fall in love with it more and more every time we visit.
Maybe it’s the charm? Or perhaps the romantic atmosphere? It could be the delicious food scene.
Whatever the reason, Venice is a must-see destination at least once in your life. It’s a place like no other that should be on everyone’s bucket list.
15 Reasons to Visit Venice, Italy
1. Unique Architecture
Unquestionably, Venice is an architectural feat. The floating city was built on 118 small islands, all connected by a vast network of canals and over 400 bridges. These islands are situated in the shallow Venetian Lagoon, which stretches along the Adriatic coast.
The unique architectural layout of Venice, with its weaving canals and bridges, is what makes it an engineering marvel and an iconic city known worldwide.
As you wander around Venice, you’ll surely notice the stunning Venetian-style buildings that dominate the city’s skyline. For example, The Doge’s Palace in St. Mark’s square features patterned brickwork and marble brickwork.
Equally impressive is the renowned St. Mark’s Basilica, a symbol of Venetian wealth and power. The church has Byzantine, Romanesque, and Gothic influences with its intricate golden mosaics, five ornate domes, and stunning marble inlays.
As you continue exploring, you’ll encounter the grand palazzos lining the Grand Canal, such as Ca’ Rezzonico, which we highly recommend adding to your itinerary.
2. Romantic Gondola Rides
Where else in the world can you ride around the city in a gondola?Taking a gondola ride in Venice offers a unique view of the city as you glide through its canals.
Gondolas in Venice have graced the city’s waterways for over a thousand years.
Originating around the 11th century, gondolas were the primary means of transportation within the city, with over 10,000 in service during the 17th and 18th centuries.
Although their numbers have significantly dwindled to around 400 today, primarily serving the tourism industry, gondolas remain a strong symbol of Venice’s rich maritime history.
The cost of a gondola ride is a bit steep – around €80 for 30 minutes – but it’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience that is completely worth it. If you are traveling solo, or as two, we suggest asking if someone would like to join you in order to split the cost.
You’ll find gondola rentals near St. Mark’s Square.
3. Historical Significance
Venice has a fascinating and significant history that impacted much of the world.
The city was founded in 5th century AD, and as inhabitants from the mainland sought refuge from barbarian invasions, Venice grew to become an influential maritime power and a vital center of trade between the East and the West during the Middle Ages.
A city built on more than 100 small islands, Venice thrived as a republic known as “La Serenissima” or “The Most Serene Republic of Venice” for over a thousand years.
Its powerful navy, strategic location, and innovative practices such as the introduction of paper money, made it a formidable power during the medieval and Renaissance periods.
To immerse yourself in this rich history, a visit to the Doge’s Palace, once the political and judicial hub of Venice, is a must. Its opulent rooms and grand council chambers provide a glimpse into the republic’s governance and society.
The Correr Museum, on the other hand, offers an engaging collection of art and artifacts that share Venice’s history.
Meanwhile, the Naval Historical Museum showcases Venice’s maritime history with models of ships, naval instruments, and maps.
4. Delicious Italian Cuisine
Now, let’s talk about something we all love – Italian food. Like most cities in Italy, Venice is a food lover’s paradise.
Located on a lagoon on the Adriatic Sea, it’s no surprise that seafood takes center stage in Venice. From the freshest catch of the day grilled to perfection to classics like ‘sarde in saor’ – a sweet and sour sardine dish – Venice serves up a seafood feast that’s hard to resist.
Risotto, too, holds a special place in the Venetian kitchen. Slowly cooked, Venetian risotto often features a combination of ingredients. You’ll find anything from seafood to seasonal vegetables, or exotic spices.
Ever tried a creamy, black squid ink risotto? If not, Venice is the place to do it.
Another local favorite are cicchetti. These small appetizers are like open-face sandwiches, and you’ll find them in local wine bars called “bacari.” Think of them as Venice’s version of tapas.
When you enter a bacaro (wine bar), you’ll find a range of cicchetti options, from baccalà mantecato (a creamy codfish spread) on bread to marinated sardines. These bites pair perfectly with Venetian wines, such as Prosecco.
Our favorite spot for Cicchetti is Cantine del Vino già Schiavi, where you can taste a sampling of flavors right along the canal.
Of course, we can’t forget about Venice’s sweets. Local pastries like ‘frittelle’, a type of Venetian doughnut, or ‘baicoli’, a biscuit so light and crunchy that it’s hard to stop at one, are a testament to Venice’s enduring love affair with desserts.
Our go-to pastry shop in Venice is Pasticceria Rizzardini, where you can try a variety of local pastries.
5. World-renowned Art and Culture
Another reason that makes Venice worth visiting is its world-renowned art scene.
Firstly, one of the biggest contemporary art events in the world is hosted in Venice – the Venice Biennale. This is a prestigious international art exhibition held every two years.
The event is hosted throughout Venice and showcases a wide array of contemporary art forms and architecture. It alternates between the two subjects each year.
Then, there’s the Peggy Guggenheim Collection. This gem is tucked away in an 18th-century palace on the Grand Canal, and houses an impressive collection of 20th-century artwork.
The collection features both European and American art from the first half of the 20th century. From Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dali to Jackson Pollock, you can explore her incredible collection of art here.
Lastly, head to the Accademia Galleries to view some Venetian masterpieces dating all the way back to the 14th century.
6. Majestic Canals
Experiencing the canals is the most magical part of visiting Venice. The intricate maze of waterways have been the lifeline of the city for centuries.
With approximately 150 canals crisscrossing the city, they serve as the primary mode of transportation, linking various islands that make up Venice.
Among these, the Grand Canal stands out as the most prominent and is the main waterway in Venice. It’s like the city’s bustling high street with vaporettos, water taxis, and of course, gondolas.
The Grand Canal is lined with over 170 majestic buildings mostly from the 13th to 18th centuries.
As you traverse the canals, you’ll also come across many bridges, with the Rialto Bridge being the most iconic and oldest bridge spanning the Grand Canal.
7. Island Hopping to Murano & Burano
Island hopping is one of the most popular activities in Venice! Make sure to add an extra day into your Venice itinerary to visit the islands of Murano and Burano.
Murano: Known worldwide for its centuries-old tradition of glass-making, Murano has been the home of Venice’s glass-blowing industry since 1291. As you walk its canals, you’ll come across numerous workshops and showrooms, with artisans crafting everything from delicate glass jewelry to ornate chandeliers. The Glass Museum (Museo del Vetro) is a must-visit to delve into the island’s rich history and witness ancient glass artifacts.
Burano: A photographer’s dream, Burano is famous for its brightly-colored fishermen’s houses that line its canals. Equally renowned is its ancient tradition of lace-making. While the genuine hand-made lace can be a bit pricey, it’s a unique piece of craftsmanship to take home. The Lace Museum (Museo del Merletto) offers an insight into this delicate art form and its history on the island.
Getting There: Both islands are easily accessible by vaporetto (water bus) from Venice. Regular services depart from the Fondamente Nove stop in Venice. It is possible to visit both islands in one day.
8. St. Mark’s Square
St. Mark’s Square, or “Piazza San Marco” as it’s known in Italian, stands as the heart and soul of Venice. Historically, this iconic square has been the epicenter of Venetian political, religious, and social life for centuries.
Surrounding the square, you’ll find a collection of stunning buildings. Dominating the scene is the opulent St. Mark’s Basilica with its Byzantine-influenced domes and glittering mosaics.
Adjacent to it is the Campanile (bell tower), of which you can climb to the top and enjoy the most amazing panoramic views of the city. On the other side lies the Doge’s Palace, a gothic masterpiece that once housed the ruler of the Venetian Republic.
While this is one of the most remarkable spots in Venice, it’s also the city’s busiest spot, attracting both locals and tourists in droves. You should be prepared for crowds, especially during peak seasons.
To experience St. Mark’s Square without the crowds, we suggest visiting very early in the morning.
9. Shopping Galore
If you love shopping for unique souvenirs or high-end fashion, then you’ll love shopping in Venice. The city is full of artisan shops, boutiques, and markets, each offering a piece of Venice to take back home.
One of the most sought-after items to shop for in Venice are Venetian masks. Numerous ateliers and workshops throughout the city craft these masks, ranging from traditionally ornate to modern, abstract designs.
Of course, if you love glassware, then purchasing a piece of Murano glass is a must. Originating from the nearby island of Murano, the glasswork is known for its vibrant colors and intricate designs.
From elegant vases to delicate jewelry, there are countess pieces to choose from. A little tip – to check for authenticity, look for the “Vetro Artistico Murano” trademark, which certifies the origin and quality of the product.
Venice is also home to a variety of luxury boutiques from both international and Italian high-end brands. Streets like Calle Larga XXII Marzo has many designer shops, such as Prada, Gucci, and Louis Vuitton.
Meanwhile, as you’re wandering around the city, you’ll also discover local businesses offer bespoke clothing, leather goods, and accessories.
10. Famous Festivals
Venice has a wide array of annual festivals, each drawing massive local and international attention. The Venice Film Festival, typically held from late August to early September, stands as the world’s oldest film festival, premiering notable international films and boasting the prestigious Golden Lion award.
It’s hosted at the Palazzo del Cinema on the Lido island, and avid film enthusiasts should consider booking tickets early.
Meanwhile, February sees the city immerse in the mystique of the Carnival of Venice, where Renaissance-era masked balls and vibrant costumes dominate. It’s an open invitation to wander the streets, getting lost amidst parades and theatrics.
But come the first Sunday of September, the city’s maritime prowess is on display with the Regatta Storica. This historic boat race, graced by a parade of traditionally decked boats and concluded by the men’s Grand Canal gondolino championship, is a testament to Venice’s deep-rooted nautical heritage.
If you’re wanting to visit during the festivals, you should book your accommodations early and be prepared for bustling crowds.
11. Vaporetto Rides
Vaporettos are the public “water buses” that transport locals and tourists alike through Venice’s canals. It’s the most affordable way to go sightseeing around the city without the hefty price tag.
One of the best routes? The Grand Canal. Pay for a single ride, and you’ll weave your way past centuries-old palaces and under iconic bridges. Whether it’s watching the sunset over the water or seeing the city lights twinkle at night, the views are breathtaking.
The vaporettos can get really packed during the middle of the day, so it’s best to do this early in the morning or after sunset. We did this in the evening and seeing the city all lit up was one of the most magical experiences.
12. Venetian Sunsets
Watching a Venetian sunset is a sight to behold and one of those quiet moments of magic that makes Venice so incredibly special.
So, where’s the best spot to soak in this spectacle? Well, there’s no shortage of options. The Rialto Bridge is a classic choice. Perched over the Grand Canal, it offers a fantastic view of the sun setting behind the city’s stunning architecture.
Alternatively, take a leisurely stroll along the Zattere promenade in Dorsoduro. Here, you can watch the sun slowly set over the Giudecca Canal, with a gelato in hand, of course.
And if you’re up for something a little different, why not experience a sunset from the water? Take an evening gondola ride or hop on a vaporetto for a floating sunset experience.
We’ve taken both a gondola ride and a vaporetto ride at sunset and highly recommend doing both.
13. Music & Opera Scene
Venice’s music and opera scene is as rich and vibrant as the city itself.
Teatro La Fenice, the city’s famous opera house, is a must-visit. The name translates to “The Phoenix,” and true to its name, it has risen from the ashes of numerous fires to continue hosting world-class performances.
Its plush red velvet interiors and golden accents provide a grand backdrop for a night of music, drama, and spectacle. Attending an opera here is like stepping back in time and witnessing a piece of Venetian history.
The city also hosts numerous music festivals throughout the year, catering to a wide range of tastes. From early music performances to contemporary concerts, there’s always something happening in Venice.
14. Wine Tasting
Wine tasting in Venice is one of the best gastro-centric activities to do in the city.
The Veneto region, of which Venice is the capital, is a popular wine producing area in Italy. It’s renowned for its top-notch varieties. So naturally, a trip to Venice wouldn’t be complete without indulging in some wine-tasting adventures.
From bubbly Prosecco to robust Amarone, the variety here is as diverse as it is delicious. You’ll find charming wine bars all of the city, offering a curated selection of regional wines.
For a more immersive adventure, consider joining a wine tour. These tours often take you beyond the city and into the vineyards of Veneto. You’ll visit wineries, stroll through vineyards, and of course, sample a wide variety of wines.
It’s a fantastic opportunity to learn more about the winemaking process and discover some of the region’s best-kept secrets.
Join this 6-hour Prosecco wine tour from Venice and enjoy two tastings out in the countryside.
15. The Lido
The Lido might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Venice, but let me tell you, it’s a hidden gem that’s worth discovering. This island is a serene escape from the bustling city center, offering a blend of Venetian culture, nature, and history that’s entirely its own.
With its sandy beaches, Art Nouveau villas, and quaint streets lined with cafes, you could easily spend an entire day exploring the island.
Head over to the public beaches for a relaxing day by the Adriatic Sea, or go cycling along the island’s scenic paths – it’s one of the few places in Venice where you can actually ride a bike!
Visiting Lido gives you a chance to experience a different side of Venice. It’s a place where you can take a leisurely pace, bask in nature, and get a glimpse into the city’s quieter, local life. So, when you’re planning your Venetian adventure, don’t forget to add a day trip to Lido to your itinerary. Trust us, you won’t regret it!
Getting to Lido from central Venice is quite straightforward. You’ll need to catch a Vaporetto (public water bus), which operates regularly between various points in Venice and Lido.
5 Things to Know Before you Go: Tips for Visiting Venice
1. Crowds and Overtourism
Is Venice worth visiting with all of the crowds? While there’s plenty to love about Venice, there’s also a less glamorous side to it – overtourism.
Yes, Venice, being the beauty that it is, draws crowds like a magnet. And during peak seasons – summer months and times of major festivals like the Carnival – the city can feel a tad too crowded.
The narrow alleyways, the Venice canals, the iconic spots like St. Mark’s Square – they all bear the brunt of this tourist influx. And honestly, it can be a bit overwhelming.
You might find yourself jostling for space on a vaporetto, waiting in long queues for a gondola ride, or simply trying to navigate through a sea of people in the city’s popular areas.
With all the crowds, you might be thinking, is Venice worth visiting? Don’t let the crowds discourage you. Venice, with all its charm and allure, is still worth experiencing. It’s all about planning smartly.
Visit during the shoulder seasons, venture into lesser-known neighborhoods, and wake up early to beat the crowds.
Remember, the real magic of Venice often lies off the beaten path. So, brace yourself for the crowds, but don’t let them keep you from the wonder that is Venice.
2. High Costs
Venice can be quite pricey. Whether it’s accommodation, food, or attractions, you might find that prices here are a notch higher than in other Italian cities. And it’s not surprising, considering Venice is one of the most sought-after destinations in the world.
Let’s start with accommodation. With the city’s limited space and high demand, hotel prices can be quite steep, especially if you’re eyeing a room with that coveted canal view.
If you’re looking for somewhere more affordable to stay, we suggest looking at hotels in Mestre on the mainland. It’s just a couple minute train ride from Venice and is a lot cheaper than the hotels on the islands.
Activities like gondola rides and entry to top attractions like the Doge’s Palace come with a significant price tag. And when you add up all these costs, your Venice trip can turn out to be a bit of a splurge.
But don’t let this deter you. With some smart planning and budgeting, you can navigate Venice’s high costs. Look for offbeat accommodations, enjoy meals at local bacari (wine bars), and prioritize your must-see attractions. Venice might be expensive, but the experiences it offers are truly priceless.
3. Accessibility Challenges
Venice’s unique layout does present certain challenges, particularly for those with mobility issues. The city is essentially a maze of narrow alleys, bridges, and canals. And while that’s part of its charm, it can make accessibility a bit of a hurdle.
Consider the bridges, for example. Venice has over 400 bridges, and most of them have steps. For someone with a wheelchair or a stroller, crossing these bridges can be quite a task. Likewise, the narrow, often crowded streets and the occasional high tide (a phenomenon called ‘aqua alta’) could also pose challenges.
Also, while vaporettos (water buses) are a popular mode of transport in Venice, not all of them are wheelchair-friendly. The same goes for many historic buildings and attractions that may not have modern accessibility features.
But it’s not all gloom and doom. Venice has been taking steps to improve accessibility, from installing ramps on some bridges to offering accessible gondola rides.
If you are staying a hotel in Venice, we suggest contacting the hotel ahead of time to see if they can arrange a boat with accessibility options.
4. Flooding in the streets
Flooding in Venice is a major issue, especially during high-tide. When we visited Venice in March, the city was completely flooded on our first night. All of our shoes, socks, and pants were soaked.
While this is unfortunately a reality for the city, don’t let this deter you from visiting. Flooding usually happens between late autumn and early spring, with November and December being the most affected months.
During this period, famous spots like St. Mark’s Square often find themselves under water, sometimes several times a day.
You can usually avoid flooding if you visit during the summer, or just plan ahead. Pack some waterproof footwear, or avoid walking around during the flooding.
But don’t worry too much – the flooding is usually predictable and lasts only a few hours. And let’s be honest, it just adds to your overall experience in Venice!
5. Tourist Trap Areas
As much as we love Venice, it’s no secret that certain parts of the city have become quite the tourist traps. These areas, often the most famous ones, can feel a bit too commercialized and might not offer the most authentic Venetian experience.
Let’s talk about St. Mark’s Square, for instance. While it’s undoubtedly a must-see spot, the cafes and restaurants lining the square are notoriously overpriced.
Same goes for the Rialto Bridge area. While it’s bustling with energy and offers great views of the Grand Canal, the surrounding shops and eateries often cater more to tourists than to locals.
The thing is, Venice is much more than these touristy hotspots. It’s in the quiet alleyways, the lesser-known neighborhoods like Cannaregio or Castello, and the local bacari where you’ll find the real, authentic Venice.
These are the places where Venetians live, eat, and hang out – and they offer a glimpse into the city that’s not just about gondolas and gelatos.
So, while you shouldn’t skip the famous landmarks, do venture beyond them. Dodge the tourist traps, mingle with the locals, and discover the Venice that’s not on every postcard. Trust me, it’s worth it!
Best time to Visit Venice?
The ideal time to visit Venice depends on what you want to see and do.
If you want decent weather and fewer crowds, the shoulder seasons—spring (March to May) and early fall (October to November)—are optimal. During these times, you’ll avoid overwhelming summer crowds.
Speaking of summer, it boasts the best weather, sunny and vibrant, but it also brings with it the most tourists.
If you’re keen on immersing yourself in Venice’s rich cultural festivities like the Venice Film Festival or the Carnival of Venice, then, of course, you’ll want to plan your trip around those times.
We’ve visited Venice in March, September, and November and by far the busiest time was September; however, the other months were also crowded. No matter what time of the year you go, expect crowds.
How many days in Venice is enough?
To cover the primary attractions such as St. Mark’s Square, the Doge’s Palace, and a gondola ride, a single day in Venice will suffice.
However, for a more comprehensive experience of the city, including its hidden alleys, palaces, and island hopping, we recommend spending 2-3 days in Venice.
While all of the central attractions are located near each other, spending a bit more time in Venice will allow you to have a more local experience.
Suggested Venice 1, 2, & 3 day itineraries
Here is a 1, 2, & 3 day itinerary for Venice based on our experience visiting the city. This will help to give you an idea of what you can accomplish within these time frames, and to help you decide if Venice is worth visiting.
Day 1 in Venice
- Morning: St Mark’s Square, St. Mark’s Basilica, Doge’s Palace
- Afternoon: Eat some cicchetti for lunch and then visit the Rialto Bridge & Market, Gondola Ride, Santa Maria della Salute
- Evening: Dine in a traditional Venetian restaurant, wander around the canals in the evening, or take a Vaporetto ride around the Grand Canal
Day 2 in Venice
- Morning: Visit Murano island and watch a glass-making demonstration
- Afternoon: Visit Burano island and wander around the colorful houses
- Evening: Attend a Vivaldi concert or opera after dinner
Day 3 in Venice
- Morning: Explore the Jewish Ghetto and visit either Ca’ Rezzonico or Gallerie dell’Accademia (Art museums)
- Afternoon: Explore the Dorsoduro district and visit the Peggy Guggenheim Collection
- Evening: Relax along the Zattere promenade and enjoy a Venetian sunset.
Visting Venice Frequently Asked Questions
Is Venice too touristy?
Indeed, Venice is one of the most-visited cities in Italy, leading to concerns of overtourism. However, despite the crowds, the city’s timeless charm, unparalleled architecture, and unique canal networks make it an unmissable destination. We suggest venturing outside of the main sights to experience a more authentic version of Venice.
Is Venice walkable in a day?
Yes, Venice’s compact nature means most of its must-see attractions are walkable in a day. However, while you can cover the highlights of Venice in a day, you might miss out on the hidden gems and quaint corners that add to the city’s charm. To truly immerse yourself, it’s worth spending more time exploring the outer islands and lesser-known parts of the city.
Why is Venice so expensive?
Venice is an expensive city primarily because it’s a top tourist destination in the world, leading to inflated prices for goods and services. Budget travelers can consider options like staying in Mestre, just outside Venice, to cut down on accommodation expenses.
Is Venice or Florence better?
Both Venice and Florence are exceptional in their own right. Venice offers incredible architecture, romantic canals, and unique travel experiences. While Florence is a haven for Renaissance art and history enthusiasts. If you have the time, we recommend visiting both cities, even just for a day or two.
More Information for your Italy Trip
BOLOGNA: If you’re planning to visit the capital of Emilia Romagna during your trip, check out our guide on the 25 Best Things to do in Bologna and our Bologna Food Guide. You may also like our article on the Best Gelato Shops in Bologna and a step-by-step guide to walking the Portico San Luca (the longest portico in the world)!
RAVENNA: Visit the stunning 5th century Byzantine Mosaics in Ravenna, and read all about this incredible on our 20 Best Things to do in Ravenna post.
PARMA: Make sure to stop by Parma on your trip to Emilia Romagna. Check our our guide on the 20 Best Things to do in Parma to help you plan your time in this wonderful city. Alternatively, you can reference our One Day in Parma guide if you plan to do a day trip to the city.
ITALY TRAVEL PLANNING GUIDE
Italy Travel Insurance – Should you get travel insurance for Italy? YES! We always get travel insurance before all of our trips for peace of mind. Check out Safety Wing to find the best plan for you.
Italy Rental Cars – Is it safe to rent a car in Italy? Yes! We’ve rented a car in Italy too many times to count, and it’s definitely the most convenient way to get around the countryside. We rented our car through Discover Cars (our go-to rental agency), which helps you find the best rates no matter where you are traveling.
Italy Phone Plans – If your phone plan does not offer free coverage in Italy, then we suggest getting an eSIM. We used Airalo during our trip to Italy, and we had fantastic coverage the entire time. It’s easy to download and you can even top up via the app if needed.
Italy Hotels – Wondering where to book your accommodations for Italy? We’ve been reserving all of our hotels through Booking for years. Their messaging tool makes it easy to communicate with the hotels, and there are endless options to choose from.