Venice is a sprawling city towards the North West of Italy and it would be easy to spend weeks here and still not see everything on offer.
When you add in large crowds and tiny alleyways surrounded by water to the mix, it can take you quite a bit of time to get from A to B.
This list of places to see in Venice is for those of you who only want to spend a few days here and want to see the main highlights (without rushing).
1. Doge’s Palace
When thinking about the highlights of Venice, what better place to start with than Doge’s Palace (or Palazzo Ducale for those of you learning Italian). This Venetian Gothic style building is one of the main landmarks of Venice and is perfectly located by the water’s edge to help add to the picturesque setting.
If you’ve not yet had the pleasure to see Doge’s Palace, then you’re certainly in for a treat! It’s a visually inspiring building and one that you will want to grab photos of from every angle.
Once inside, the palace has spectacular rooms and you can get lost just exploring them as there are so many. All of the rooms still retain their original grandeur – just think mahogany castings, marble statues and glittering gold leaf on nearly everything!
If you do have time to spend most of your day exploring the ins and outs of this palace, then one tip is to get there early as queues form at the entrance very quickly. The last thing you want to be doing is waiting out in the blazing heat of the midday sun for too long so arrive early and queue for a little less time.
2. Basilica di San Marco
The Basilica is the city’s most famous church and is ornately decorated with gold mosaics as a symbol of Venice’s wealth and power. So iconic is this gold design that it’s actually nicknamed Church of Gold (Chiesa d’Oro).
This building really is a thing of beauty and as it’s conveniently located next to Doge’s Palace, you will find it really quite easy to see both in the same day so it is definitely worth stopping by.
3. The Grand Canal
One of the great things about these first two highlights is how close they are to the Grand Canal, another of Venice’s top sights.
Now would be the perfect time to take a walk along the canal, watch the water taxis and eat some delicious gelato. Mine’s a Blueberry Cheesecake in case you’re wondering!
If you are going to opt for some gelato at this point, then my recommendation would be Bar Gelateria Al Todaro Dal 1948, right on the canal front. The parlour itself is in a magnificent building surrounded by other cafes and restaurants and has some canopied seating outside that is perfect for watching the world go by.
If you have time, how about hopping on a gondola and exploring Venice from the water? The Grand Canal is a good place to find a gondola to take you through the smaller, winding canals, giving you a glimpse of Venice that wouldn’t have been possible on foot.
4. Rialto Bridge
During your visit to Venice, you will need to ensure you visit the famous Rialto Bridge, which is the oldest bridge in Venice and the one you’ve seen in all of the movies.
And yes, you’ve probably guessed that it’s one of the key places to come in Venice to deposit your “love padlock”. Get it, key? That was a completely unintentional pun, I swear!
The shops at Rialto Bridge aren’t fabulously exciting but are a good place to go to if you want to look at expensive jewellery or hunt for some souvenirs. However, be prepared – this bridge will be swarming with people (both locals and tourists).
If your intention is to find a good place to cross the canal and continue your journey, then consider a different bridge (there’s plenty of them). But, if you want to take a photo of an iconic part of Venice then this is why you would come to Rialto Bridge.
5. Gallerie dell’Academia
When in Venice, it’s crucial to add a bit of culture to your trip. You would have partially ticked this off from seeing all of the stunning architecture you’ve seen so far plus all of the history you’ve learned. But one last stop would be to see some stunning artwork.
The Gallerie dell’Academia museum holds magnificent Venetian paintings from as far back as the 14th Century. For the art lovers among us, you may recognise names such as Titian and Carpaccio who are just a couple of the many artists’ work exhibited here.
Insider Tips: You can’t take photos of the artwork when inside and food and drink are also not allowed. You will be asked to stow any large bags (ie backpacks) in one of the lockers, which require a €1 coin to use. If you don’t have the correct change, just ask the front desk to change some money for you (they were totally friendly and let me do this when I was there)!
Bonus Highlight: Scuola Grande San Giovanni Evangelista
Although this building isn’t too high on the list of Venice highlights in the guidebooks, I wanted to add it in as a sneaky little bonus.
When walking the Venetian streets, I stumbled across the ‘school’ completely by accident and was pleased with what I saw. One of the archway entrances had such intricate architecture that I was instantly blown away and reminded that I was definitely in Italy.
Founded in the 13th Century, the Scuola Grande di San Giovanni Evangelista is notable for once housing a relic of the true cross. (However, that relic can now be found in the Gallerie dell’Academia instead). The main purpose of this bonus highlight for me is to marvel at the building itself!
10 More Photos to Inspire Wanderlust for Venice…
I hope you like my pick of the best highlights in Venice and I hope you enjoy your next trip there! Have I missed any sights out? What are your thoughts about Venice? Let me know in the comments…
Spending longer in Northern Italy? Check out this 4 day itinerary!
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