Top 8 Things To Do In Venice Italy + Best Hotels & Restaurants

Venice, Italy, Travel, Things to Do in Venice, The Road Taken To, Susan Cook

This post may contain affiliate links. If you click them, I could earn a small commission at no cost to you. Thank you!

"To build a city where it is impossible to build a city is madness in itself, but to build there one of the most elegant and grandest of cities is the madness of genius." ~ Alexander Herzen

I’ve traveled to Venice twice, both times by train, and I love the moment the land gives way to blue-green water, and in the distance, you catch glimpses of the floating city.

Venice Italy Grand Canal The Road Taken To

Once you exit the train station, Venice greets you like a vintage postcard. There are rows of houses and shops lining the canals while colorful gondolas and polished water taxis bob along in the water. 

While Venice is best known for its canals, gondola rides, and Byzantine-Venetian Gothic architecture, this ancient city has so much more to offer. It’s no wonder Venice has been a cultural and tourist draw since medieval times.

Venice Tran Station TheRoadTaken2
Venice Italy Taxi TheRoadTakenTo

Although like most iconic cities, the main attractions can get a little crowded with tourists, it is always worth going to Venice Italy. You need a minimum of two days to really see and experience Venice, but you can visit most attractions in two days’ time, although three days is a more ideal time limit, especially if this is your first visit to Venice.

The key to making the most of your time in Venice is planning ahead and booking your tours in advance. Waiting until the last minute will not serve you well here, so book everything as far in advance as you can, including hotels.

Top 8 Things To Do In Venice

Gondolas Venice Italy

1. Piazza San Marco (St. Mark’s Square)

St Mark's Square Piazza Venice Italy TheRoadTakenTo

Piazza San Marco, or St Mark’s Square, is the undeniable pulsing hub of Venice. People and pigeons flock to this vast, arcaded square. 

Lining either side of St Mark’s Square are various luxury shops and large cafes with grand pianos centrally positioned amongst the outdoor tables, filling the breezy air with classical music. 

St Mark's Square Venice Italy

2. St Mark’s Basilica


It seems like there is a perpetual line of people in front of this Basilica, so if you want to tour it and skip the line, reserve ahead.

Click Here for the combined tour that gives you premium access to the Basilica and its private terrace as well as a tour of the Doge’s Palace.

Construction began on the Byzantine-style Basilica in 829 and was completed around 1071. St Mark, the patron saint of Venice Italy whose symbol is the winged lion, is said to be buried in the Basilica.  

We actually missed our official skip-the-line entry time, but we were allowed in and began the slow shuffle along with the rest of the crowd over the intricately patterned stone mosaic floor. One of the most impressive aspects of this Basilica is the gold inlay of the ceiling, gleaming down and casting a pale sheen over the columns. 

3. The Doge’s Palace


If you only take one tour, I recommend the Walks of Italy “VIP Doge’s Palace Secret Passages Tour,” which also comes with a “skip the line” entrance to St Mark’s Basilica. It currently remains the best-guided tour I have ever taken. 

The tour begins in the dungeons as you slowly climb your way to the top offices and then into the attic, where rows upon rows of silver armor and weaponry are cased in glass. 

You’ll also tour the rooms where Giacomo Casanova was imprisoned and see the chair where he kept the secret tunneling equipment that he used to escape. 

Inside the famous Bridge of Sighs (the path that led the way to imprisonment), you can peer through the crisscrosses to the horde of tourists on the bridge across.

“I stood in Venice, on the Bridge of Sighs; A palace and a prison on each hand” | Lord Byron
The Bridge of Sighs Venice

The Doge’s (Duke’s) Palace, with its soaring ceilings and great halls, is overflowing with art and history. The tour comes to an end in the gift shop (where else?).

“Venice, its temples and palaces did seem like fabrics of enchantment piled to heaven” | Percy Bysshe Shelley

*Note: If you need a bite or an espresso pick-me-up before or after touring St Mark’s Square, venture into the back streets behind the Doge’s Palace and the Basilica where there are loads of reasonably priced options where an espresso won’t cost you 8 euros or more.

The area is also filled with beautiful shops that offer similar items (Murano glassware and jewelry) to those in the main piazza but at a fraction of the cost. 

4. St. Mark’s Bell Tower

St Mark’s Bell Tower

Standing like a red-brick sentinel in front of St Mark’s Basilica is the 324-foot campanile, or Clock Tower, originally built in the late 14th century. 

The tower actually collapsed in 1902 but was quickly rebuilt and completed in 1912. An elevator is available inside to lift you to the open-air belfry, offering panoramic views of St Mark’s Square and beyond. For the “Skip the Line” tickets to this major Venice Italy attraction, click here. 

5. Rialto Bridge & Shopping

Known originally as the Rivo Alto, this early settlement eventually became known as “Rialto,” and this central bridge served to link the separate islands and canals. 

Rialto Bridge Venice Italy TheRoadTaken2

The area is filled with vendors, selling everything from leather purses to elaborate masks to fresh fish in the market. There are even establishments that offer foot treatments where you submerse your feet into a tank while fish nibble off your callouses. 

It’s easy to get turned around exploring the shops of the Rialto area, and some passages lead to dead-ends where the only options are to retrace your steps or swim the canal. 

But, even if you get lost, or your feet get tired, there are piazzas everywhere lined with cafes where you can collapse for a rest and a refreshing beverage.  

Ultimately, if you do get lost, remember that you’re in Venice Italy so just enjoy the experience. In this day and age, you’re bound to find your way again. It’s always much harder to lose yourself. 

6. Basilica Maria Della Salute

The Basilica Maria Della Salute is an exquisitely beautiful domed church that sits at the extremest tip of the Dorsoduro sestiere. 

The church is circular, and the interior is filled with intriguing sculptural details with a kaleidoscopic tile floor in shades of cream, black, and brown.

Entry is free, but do remember to dress appropriately. 

After you finish touring the Basilica, stop and take a moment to admire the views from the Basilica’s steps, looking towards St Mark’s Square and the tiny island of San Marino. 

The Guidecca Canal flows behind the basilica, where large yachts and commercial vessels are docked.

7. The Peggy Guggenheim Museum

Peggy Guggenheim Museum Venice Italy

If you start to grow weary of touring basilicas, spend a morning or afternoon touring the Peggy Guggenheim Museum, displaying 20th-century works of art inside the Grande Canal palace that was her home. 

The permanent collection displays art and sculpture from well-known artists such as Picasso, Mondrian, Kandinsky, Pollock, and many more. 

Peggy Guggenheim Museum Terrace TheRoadTakenTo Venice

8. The Cannaregio District

Cannaregio Sestiere Venice Italy TheRoadTakenTo

A largely residential district, a walk through the Cannaregio offers a decidedly different perspective on Venetian life. 

If you’ve ever wondered where the term “ghetto” comes from, look no further than the Jewish Ghetto located in the historic Cannaregio district. 

According to, the “origin of the term ‘ghetto’ derived from getto, which translates to casting. 

In 1492, Jewish refugees were forced to leave Spain and settle in the Cannaregio. The Jewish people were given a curfew, and armed boats patrolled the waters and the area.”

Thankfully, that is no longer the case, and the area is fairly quiet, with arching wooden bridges spanning the narrow canals. However, if you’re in the mood to gamble, the Cannaregio is also home to the Casino di Venezia,  officially the oldest casino in the world, dating back to 1638.

*Note: I haven’t visited the casino, so I can’t officially recommend it. Also, based on the Trip Advisor reviews, it might not be the best way to spend your time; however, it is a historic site and worth a mention. 

Venice Italy Canals TheRoadTaken2

Venice Hotel Recommendations

The Sina Centurion Palace

Centurion Palace Hotel Venice Italy TheRoadTaken2

Housed in a former convent, the Sina Centurion Palace is ideally located on the Grand Canal in the Dorsoduro Sestiere next to the exquisite Santa Maria della Salute cathedral. This luxurious Venice hotel is also located within relatively easy walking distance to St Mark’s Square and other major Venice attractions.

A member of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World, the Centurion Palace features 6 floors, 50 rooms, and 1 restaurant. Antinoo’s Lounge serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner with terrace views overlooking the Grand Canal. 

The Hotel Danieli

Salone Dandolo Hotel Danieli Venice Italy

As far as prime locations go, you can’t get any better than the Hotel Danieli. The price to stay here, however, reflects that convenience and its lavish elegance.

Located on the Grand Lagoon, the Hotel Danieli is situated steps away from St. Mark’s Square. The Hotel Danieli actually consists of three palaces, each from a different century yet interconnected. The earliest palace is the Palazzo Dandolo reflecting the Venetian Gothic style dating back to the 14th century. The second palace is the 19th-century Casa Nuova in the Baroque style, and the newest palace was built in the 20th century and named the Danieli Excelsior.

The hotel offers a fine dining rooftop terrace restaurant, the Terrazza Danieli that is available to book on OpenTable. If you’d like to enjoy the rooftop terrace without committing to an expensive meal, the Bar Terrazza offers the same rooftop views with light bites and beverages between the hours of 1:00 pm to 6:30 pm. The Bar Dandolo is a beautiful indoor salon for classic drinks and afternoon tea with piano music in the evenings.

Restaurant Bar Terrazza Danieli Venice Italy

The Gritti Palace

Gritti Palace Venice Italy

Much like the Hotel Danieli, the Gritti Palace is a destination unto itself. Located at a prime location directly on The Grand Canal with views of the Basilica Maria Della Salute to the left, the Gritti Palace dates back to 1475. A former palace, this luxury 5-star hotel is exceptionally elegant.

Even if you don’t get a chance to stay here, you can always enjoy food and drinks on the Gritti Terrace.

Charming House (DD724)

Charming House Venice Italy
Charming House Check-In Office in the Dorsoduro Sestiere
Charming House Check In Butterflies Venice

If you’re looking for a more spacious room in Venice with a uniquely personal touch, then you will love The Charming House, Apartment DD 724.

While the Charming House offers rooms all over Venice, the DD 724 room is located in the Dorsoduro Sestiere, with easy access to water taxis and ferries and within walking distance to most major attractions. 

Torn between staying at a traditional hotel versus an apartment in the style of the Charming House? Consider the following:

*Cost: Charming House is less expensive than a traditional hotel. Most Venice hotels near St Mark’s Square are in high demand, making them difficult to reserve and also quite expensive. 

*Convenience: Charming House offers a delicious breakfast and a friendly staff for concierge services, but there isn’t an on-site restaurant for those nights when you want to dine on property or in the room. 

*Space: If you want a more spacious room without breaking your travel budget, opt for the Charming House

Sitting Area Charming House Venice DD694
Private Lobby Charming House DD694 Venice Italy
Shared Sitting Area for Charming House Apartment DD694
Bathroom Charming House Venice Italy DD694

Best Restaurants In Venice

“Venice is like eating an entire box of chocolate liqueurs in one go” | Truman Capote

While you can order any type of food you like in Venice, fresh seafood is their specialty. If you want more authentic cuisine and also avoid the tourist trap (a.k.a restaurants with pictures of food on the menu outside), then getting a reservation is basically a must.

You can see what’s available on “The Fork” (an online reservation system similar to OpenTable), check a restaurant’s website for reservations, or call ahead. If you’re nervous about your Italian language skills, then ask a concierge to make the reservation for you.

However, since many Italians, particularly those in the restaurant industry, speak English, you’ll most likely be fine if you decide to make the reservation on your own.

Because Venice is such a vast tourist hot spot, finding authentic cuisine away from the crowds can be difficult; however, there are quite a few gems.

Best Lunch & Dinner

Taverna San Trovasa: Situated on a corner, the Tavern is a bustling, friendly establishment with a satisfying selection of pasta and seafood options. Unlike most of the smaller osterias, this tavern can accommodate larger groups. 

Ai Gondolieri: While a bit overpriced, Ai Gondolieri is a historically interesting spot due to many famous people who have dined there through the years. After dining there myself, I can understand the reason for its popularity—truly delicious food with close attention to the tiny details. The appetizers of fried zucchini flowers and the traditional caprese salad were highlights, and their selection of housemade desserts was outstanding.

Al Vecio Marangon: This tiny, charming restaurant is easily missed and quite popular with tourists and locals alike. The carciofe (artichoke) appetizer is tender and savory, and the eggplant ravioli topped with pomodoro sauce along with the cannelloni bolognese is stellar. 

Osteria Fanal del Codega: This osteria offers traditional yet sophisticated Venetian entrees with fresh seafood options as well as classic meat courses along with vegetarian dishes. It’s a popular destination for dinner, but you can make a reservation on their website.

Best Cocktails & Aperitivo

Cocktails Aperitivo Hotel Danieli Venice Italy
Hotel Danieli Aperitivo | The Sorrento & The Gondola Cocktails in the Bar Dandolo

Bar Dandolo at the Hotel Danieli: Whether or not you get the opportunity to stay at the grand and glorious Hotel Danieli, carve out a little time to sink into the velvet cushions of the Bar Dandolo and sample their aperitivo when you visit Venice. 

To call it “opulent” doesn’t even do it justice. They offer an extensive cocktail list that they serve with a variety of tasty light bites consisting of large green olives, purple potato chips, and filberts. 

The walls are decorated with ancient maps of Venice Italy, and Murano glass chandeliers dangle above like colorful candies. *Note: the cocktails are priced in the 20.00 dollar range, so sip and savor slowly. 

The Gritti Terrace at the Gritti Palace: Unlike the Hotel Danieli, the Gritti Palace is located directly on the Grand Canal, and its terrace offers panoramic views of the busy boats scudding back and forth along the channel. 

If it’s sunny, umbrellas are stationed around the terrace to offer shade, or you can request indoor seating in the dim, cool richness of the bar. The prices are comparable to the Bar Dandolo at the Danieli

Tips for Navigating Venice

Grand Canal Venice Evening TheRoadTaken2
“In Venice in the Middle Ages there was once a profession for a man called a codega–a fellow you hired to walk in front of you at night with a lit lantern, showing you the way, scaring off thieves and demons, bringing you confidence and protection through the dark streets” | Elizabeth Gilbert

Although I’ve always taken a train in, you can fly directly to the Venice Marco Polo Airport

One of the best things about Venice? No cars. Anywhere. The only engine hums are from the boats as they cruise the liquid paths back and forth between the canals. 

Venice Canal Boat Ride Italy TheRoadTaken2

*Be sure to have cash (Euros) on hand just in case credit cards are not accepted.

*Even if you have quite a bit of luggage, the water taxi drivers are typically helpful in both loading and unloading your suitcases. 

*A note on the Gondolas: The “decked-out” ones are quite pricey. But, if you’ve always dreamed of riding in one, by all means, do it!

On the other hand, if you want to get from one canal to the next without all of the bells and whistles (and for a fraction of the cost), take a traghetto, which is basically a “stripped down” version of a Gondola. You get where you want to go, but there may be a bit less singing involved. 

If you want to see more of Venice Italy, and get outside the tourist-centric areas, purchase a hop-on, hop-off ticket for the Vaporetti, which can take you basically anywhere you want to go. offers an excellent article detailing everything you need to know about public transportation in Venice. Here is a link to their Vaporetto article. 

Bridges of Venice Italy TheRoadTaken2

If I had the chance to choose what city to spend my evenings in, I think Venice would win out almost every time. Although, I find it hard to pinpoint why exactly. Maybe it’s because everything is just so quiet, hidden–mysterious. 

I hope you enjoy your trip to Venice, and if you have any tips or suggestions, feel free to drop me a comment below.


Susan Cook TheRoadTakenTo Venice Italy
“There is something so different in Venice from any other place in the world, that you leave at once all accustomed habits and everyday sights to enter an enchanted garden” | Mary Shelley

Looking for more Italy Travel Guides? Then check out the following! 

Book now on Viator

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top