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Things to do in Venice and an event guide for 2021
Plan your itinerary to the Floating City of Venice.
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With its gondolas, canals and palaces dripping with gold, Venice is one of the most iconic cities in the world. Itineraries for Venice come in a number of varieties, with food adventures in backstreet bars, tours around Saint Mark's Basilica, glass-blowing classes and nights spent at the opera all ranking as must-see things to experience in the Floating City.
1. Go on a gondola ride
Riding a gondola in Venice is bucket-list stuff. Gondolas go hand-in-hand with Venice like black cabs go with London and yellow cabs go with New York. Like said cabs and taxis, you can simply hail a gondola from an embarkation point. However, if you want to ink in a gondola experience to your itinerary, it's a good idea to pre-book your ride around the Floating City. Choose a simple half-hour float or go for something a little more tailored, such as an experience that includes a morning walking tour or a sunset ride.
2. Visit Saint Mark's Basilica
Built in the 11th century, Saint Mark's Basilica is one of Italy's most recognisable churches, oozing with Venetian aesthetic. On any given day, the cathedral is swarmed with tourists, but you can get skip-the-line access and be accompanied by a local tour guide to really enhance the experience.
- Pocket-friendly option: Saint Mark's Basilica Tour with Skip-the-Line Access
- The ultimate experience: Guided Tour of Doges Palace and Saint Mark's Basilica with Skip-the-Line Access
3. Eat the food and drink the wine
A constellation of Michelin stars shine over Venice, but you don't need to fork out the equivalent of your weekly rent to enjoy good food in this city. Venice is dotted with enotecas that serve regional wines and proseccos. Most of these local-filled places also serve cicchetti – Italian appetisers – with their drinks. Dishes range from marinated seafood with polenta to polpette meatballs. If you're not sure where to start on your cicchetti crawl, a guided food tour is a great way to eat your way around the city.
4. Take a walking tour
While it can be fun to get lost in the tangle and stumble across half-hidden costume shops and quiet cafes along the way, the easiest way to orientate yourself to Venice is on a walking tour. Local tour guides will give you the lowdown on the history of the city, its most famous characters – like Casanova – and show you the most famous sights like Saint Mark's Square, Rialto Bridge and the Santa Maria Formosa church. Some skip-the-line tours also include entry to attractions like Saint Mark's Basilica.
5. Spend a night at the opera
An opera experience in Venice is likely to be different to what you've experienced before. Forget sitting in stalls and watching from afar, Venetian opera leaves no distance separating the performers from the audience. Experience Italian opera in Palazzo Barbarigo-Minotto, one of the most well-known Venetian-Gothic style palaces in the city. The audience will be moved through three different rooms for each act of the show to enhance interaction between the singers, musicians and audience. If you're more interested in exploring the behind-the-scenes aspect of the opera, you can take a guided tour through La Teatro.
6. Explore a different side of Venice with a ghost tour
Be guided to the hidden nooks and corners of Venice with a ghost tour. Hear compelling stories that have been passed down through generations about the obscure side of Venice where ghost sightings have taken place from your tour guide as you make your way through deserted streets and alleyways.
7. Spend a night at the cabaret
Feast your eyes on a dinner and cabaret show for the ultimate after-dark experience in the Floating City. A night out on the town in Venice may look a little different to what you're used to, but you're sure to be charmed by the entertainment and dining experience. Enjoy a welcome drink and a selection of finger food with classical music playing in the background before moving into the Theatre Hall to watch dancers, singers and acrobats perform while you devour a four-course meal.
8. Attend the world-famous Carnival
With its singing gondolas and dramatically plush packages, Venice is a theatrical place all year round. In late January and early February, the whole city becomes a stage as Carnival takes place. The origins of the two-week festival can be tracked back to the 16th century when locals had a last hurrah of drinking, dancing and eating before Lent.
The same applies today. Feasts are held all over Venice as masked balls take place, and concerts and parades occur in rapid fire. Some spectacles are free. Others, like opera performances, come at a cost. It may not be cheap, but it's definitely worth it.
9. Catch a glass-blowing demonstration
Murano glass is the glass equivalent to Wedgewood china. It's unique and is made on the island of Murano, a short vaporetto ride from central Venice. Crafted on Murano for centuries, the glass is made to look like it's flowing, despite being completely solid. Visitors to Murano can pop into a glass studio to watch artists make their artworks by a process called glassblowing. Afterwards, you can mooch around the workshops' stores to pick up everything from vases to wine bottle stoppers.
- Pocket-friendly option: Glass Factory Tour with Glass Blowing Demonstration
- The ultimate experience: Murano Glass Experience with Glass Blowing Demonstration Workshop
10. Turn your journey around Venice into a game
Explore Venice riddle-by-riddle via a web app on your phone's browser. There are 12 riddles to be solved that will take you from one destination to the next. The app was developed by a local Venetian tour guide, so you can discover parts of the Venice that some locals don't even know about.
- Our top pick: City Discovery Game: The Alternative Tour of Venice
11. Walk the Rialto Bridge
The Rialto Bridge is a nifty spot to watch the gondolas going up and down the Grand Canal. Built entirely of marble, the Rialto Bridge is perfectly situated close to souvenir shops, arcades and acts as a great backdrop for photos.
12. Indulge in window shopping
Leather, jewellery and antiques are just a few things that Venice is known for. Whether you want to splurge or are happy to window shop, you'll find an array of top-quality stores throughout Venice that are great for browsing. It's an experience in itself.
13. Stroll through the Jewish Ghetto
With history dating back to the 16th century, Venice's Jewish Ghetto is not to be missed. As you make your way around, you'll be pointing out all of the historical sights from the Jewish Ghetto's past that makes its presence in modern Venice so characteristic. With some of the tallest buildings in the city and synagogues wedged between houses, it's well worth a visit.
Things to do in Venice in summer
- Festa della Sensa
- Art Night Venezia
- Veneto Jazz
Things to do in Venice in winter
- New Year's Greeting on Lido Beach
Things to do in Venice in autumn
- Regata Storica
- Venice International Film Festival
- Venice Glass Week
Things to do in Venice in spring
- Venezia Music Festival
- Festa di San Marco
- La Fenice Opera Show
Feeling inspired? Book your flights to the Floating City below:
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