What to do in Venice


How to have fun in Venice? What festivals can you look forward to in the city and when do they take place?

Gondola rides

Iconic black and gold boats called gondolas have been a symbol of Venice since time immemorial and one of the most visible symbols of the whole of Italy.

A ride with the always skilled gondolier, who skilfully avoids all the surrounding boats and maneuvers the gondola into the narrowest of canals, is undoubtedly one of the most romantic activities you can do in the world.

Prepare yourself for the fact that romance in Venice comes at a price. The entire city is crisscrossed by hundreds, maybe thousands, of official city gondolas that you can hire at any time. The prices are tabulated and haggling won't really help. The amount is for the whole boat, which can hold 6 people. I'm sure you won't have a problem finding anyone at random to ride with you, but it just won't be the same.

  • 30-minute ride between 8:00 and 19:00 - 90 eur (every additional 20 minutes = + 20 eur)
  • 35-minute ride between 7pm and 4am - 110 eur (every additional 20 minutes = + 50 eur)

Prices are fixed by city ordinance for all gondolas at all stations.

Payment is always cash only.

Where to find the gondola stations?

Literally on every corner. Gondoliers have stations on all canals that run close to hiking trails. There are dozens of these stations in the centre of Venice and you will come across them at every turn.

Personally, we don't recommend using the gondola stations near Piazza San Marco, especially on the Gran Canal side. These stations are the most used and the surrounding canals are often literally overcrowded with gondolas, so you'll be able to cover a shorter stretch in a 30-minute ride.

What times do the gondolas run?

The vast majority of gondoliers set off with their first customers at 9:00am.

The standard rate lasts until 19:00 and then you pay an extra €20 for an evening/night ride.

At the less exposed sites, gondoliers operate until about 9:00 or 10:00 pm, but the sites at the more famous locations near the Rialto Bridge, Accademia Bridge or near Piazza San Marco operate almost all night until about 3:00 am.

It is the night cruises that are the most romantic, as you are not disturbed by any motorboats.

Is it safe to ride the gondola?

Gondolas look a bit wobbly at first glance and, especially when cruising on the Grand Canal, when passing large boats, they look almost dangerous.

However, Venetian gondoliers have quite rigorous tests and are very skilled. Accidents with gondolas are quite rare in Venice. Moreover, the boat is so constructed that it is virtually impossible for it to capsize.

Cheap gondola ferries

An alternative may be the option mentioned in the Transport chapter. There are 4 bridges arching over the largest of the Grand Canal, but also 3 ferries that carry gondolas very similar to the traditional ones. One ride takes about 2 minutes and comes from the 2 eur.

The Venetian Carnival

Perhaps the only carnival more famous is the one in Rio de Janeiro. The Venice Carnival is one of the most attended mass events in all of Europe and you shouldn't miss it either. An ancient tradition dating back to the 11th century, it brings thousands of colourful masks to the streets and canals of Venice every year.

The carnival always begins in St Mark's Square with the 'Flight of the Angel', where an acrobat soars above the people on a rope, before the action moves to all corners of the old town, where it continues for 10 days. Take to the tangled streets, admire the ubiquitous beautiful masks or join in the general merriment.

When is Carnival - current dates

Carnival dates are fluid, officially starting 10 days before Ash Wednesday.

Remember that this is the peak season in Venice, so book your accommodation three quarters of a year in advance. And be prepared for it to be many times more expensive than on other dates.

Book your hotel in Venice in advance

Read more on the official website: carnevale.venezia.it.

In the footsteps of the glassmakers

In the Middle Ages, Venice was the main glassmaking monopoly in the whole of what is now Italy, and on the island of Murano, a 10-minute boat ride from the centre of Venice, glassmaking is still the main livelihood. There may be only one working glassworks you can visit, but there are hundreds of shops selling incredible creations. Just wander around and admire.

Wandering the alleys

As you stroll along the famous Grand Canal, wander into one of the hundreds of side streets, lose yourself to the crowds of tourists and lose yourself. Target. Because it's the best way to soak up the atmosphere of a city on the water, to observe the details of the houses and imagine what it's really like to live here.

You don't have to worry about getting lost for real, Venice is small and whichever direction you go, you'll always reach your original intended destination.

Venice is also very diverse. You'll weave your way through extremely narrow streets or passages under houses, only to find yourself in one of the many spacious squares, the so-called "campo".

Where to go outside the tourist streams?

We most enjoyed the island of Giudecca, south of the centre of Venice, which can be reached in a few minutes by water buses. Giudecca is not a touristy place at all, but it still has the genius loci of Venice.

A similarly un-touristy spot is located around the Venetian dockyards less than a 20-minute walk from Piazza San Marco.

Island hopping

It's a big mistake many visitors to the city make to focus their stay on the main historical area. Venice isn't just about the Grand Canal, it's spread out over dozens of smaller islands where you'll stroll through authentic narrow streets, among vineyards or just take a break by the water.

And most of the time, you'll be on your own, without other tourists.

For at least one day, buy a day pass for the boats, check out the line map, and then just follow your nose wherever the waves take you.

For example, visit these islands:

Museums and galleries

Venice wouldn't be an Italian city if you didn't come across an interesting museum or gallery on every corner, including some truly world-famous ones. If you're a museum enthusiast, tours will definitely take you a full day. Venice does have the so-called VeneziaUnica City Pass, which serves as a ticket to museums and transportation, but discounts are minimal or non-existent.

Some of the most famous institutions include:

Romantic dinners

It's impossible to be in Italy and not enjoy the local cuisine because it is, by and large, the best in the world.

The Venetian atmosphere also adds a completely different dimension to the gastronomic experience. There are few places in the world where you can sit in a restaurant's garden or courtyard and instead of a busy street with dozens of parked cars, there's a canal where a gondola or a rickety little boat passes by every few minutes, bringing the locals their mail...

There are hundreds of restaurants in Venice and it would be pointless to recommend just one. But definitely go away from St Mark's Square and the Grand Canal, where the prices are unnecessarily inflated and the quiet atmosphere affected by the thousands of other tourists around.

Remember that usually the best restaurants tend to be the most secluded, ideally on one of the side islands (Giudecca, Burano, Murano, Mazzorbo, etc.).

Beaches and swimming

Venice is by the sea (or more accurately, in the sea), so there's bound to be swimming opportunities somewhere nearby. Of course there is, on the long peninsulas separating the Venetian lagoon from the Adriatic. The most famous beaches are Lido di Venezia and the more modern Lido di Jesolo.

However, be aware that the local beaches are more for fun. The sea here is quite dirty and the beaches are typically urban, i.e. surrounded by bars, hotels. You simply won't enjoy much peace and seaside comfort here.

Venice Film Festival

One of the most famous film festivals in the world is held in Venice every year in August/September. It is the oldest of its kind in the world, with the main prize, the Golden Lion, being awarded since 1932. The screenings are always held in the historic Palazzo del Cinema in the Lido de Venezia, close to the beaches.

Expect hotel prices to be very inflated during the festival period. For specific dates and other detailed information, visit the official website: labiennale.org.

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