Europe Travel, Featured, Italy

10 Best Things to Do in Venice For First-Time Visitors

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Picturesque canals, winding stone pathways, and stunning, gothic architecture… it’s easy to see why Venice is such a romantic and beautiful destination to visit in Italy!

Known as the “Floating City,” Venice is one destination that should be on your bucket list! Built on a lagoon in the Adriatic Sea, Venice is a beautiful island city, lined with Renaissance and Gothic buildings that feels straight out of a storybook.

After visiting Venice for the first time this year, I can tell you it lives up to the hype and we enjoyed every minute here! So if you’re planning a day trip or a full multi-day adventure here, there are 10 things you’re going to want to do if you’re a first-time Venice visitor.

1. Walk Over the Rialto Bridge

Whether you’re looking to watch the sunset or just snap the perfect picture, a walk over Venice’s most famous bridge is essential while you’re visiting the city. Seeing the city from the top of this huge bridge and the bustling boat activity below was so cool and definitely one of our favorite views of Venice!

2. Wander Through St. Mark’s Square

There is one large square on the island of Venice, and it’s a stunning place to soak in quintessential Venetian architecture and culture. St. Mark’s Square, features Doge’s Palace, St. Mark’s Basilica, Campanile and many cafes.

3. Tour Doge’s Palace

While it’s fun to admire Doge’s Palace from outside in the square (and of course, snap a few pictures), we recommend taking a tour of this historic palace to get an inside look into ancient Venice life! 

Definitely book your tour in advance to avoid crazy long lines. We recommend this fast-track ticket or bundle it with St. Mark’s basilica and see them both – after all, they’re right next to each other! We recommend this skip-the-line guided tour ticket to see both beautiful sites.

4. Visit St. Mark’s Basilica

Known for its intricate mosaics and impressive Renaissance architecture, a visit inside St. Mark’s Basilica can’t be missed. Originally founded in 828 AD, the basilica was built to house the relics of the patron saint Mark that were brought, or reportedly stolen, from Alexandria. 

Check out this guided tour of St. Mark’s Basilica with access to the terrace overlooking the square!

5. Visit Caffé Florian

At St. Mark’s Square, you’ll find the oldest coffee house in continuous operation in Italy, and one of the oldest in the world: Caffé Florian. Established in 1720, this coffee house is one adorable stop you have to make while in Venice! Enjoy a hot cup of coffee or its famous hot chocolate while you’re exploring the city. While it’s a little pricey, we definitely enjoyed grabbing a coffee here – especially visiting in the chilly month of October!

6. View the Bridge of Sighs

Right by St. Mark’s Square is one of Venice’s most iconic bridges (behind the Rialto bridge of course!), the Bridge of Sighs. To see this bridge, leave the square and head in the direction of the sea. Then take a left along the waterfront and climb the small bridge, and look left. Here you’ll find a view of the Bridge of Sighs.

This bridge, built in 1600, was used connects the interrogation rooms in the Doge’s Palace to the New Prison, crossing over the Rio di Palazzo.  The name “Bridge of Sighs” was coined in the 19th century by Lord Byron in reference to the idea that prisoners would sigh at their final view of beautiful Venice, and their freedom, before being taken to their cells. 

7. Climb the Campanile di San Marco

Enjoy panoramic views of Venice by climbing the Campanile (bell tower) in St. Mark’s Square. The only way up to the top of the 100-meter tall tower is an elevator, and you can buy tickets right at the counter there. 

8. Take a Gondola Ride

A gondola ride in Venice is truly a once in a lifetime experience, and often at the top of most people’s bucket lists when visiting the city. Seeing the city from such a unique vantage point and enjoying the leisurely ride is an absolute must when visiting Rome, especially if you’re with you’re significant other – it looks so romantic!

When we visited Venice at the end of October it was rainy, windy and freezing, so we did not do a gondola ride, and it was so disappointing. Do yourself a favor and soak up the once-in-a-lifetime experience while you’re there! 

9. Eat Tons of Gelato

When it comes to gelato, any flavor is good and if you’re like me, you won’t be able to get enough! I have a serious sweet tooth, so I made it my personal mission to find the best gelato spot in all of Venice: Grom tucked away in the Dorsoduro neighborhood of Venice.

Not only did we have an amazing time wandering through this picturesque, and considerably less busy, area of Venice, but the gelato did not disappoint – even in the chilly October weather!

10. Plan a Day Trip to Burano & Murano

If you’re only visiting Venice for the day, you may not have time for #10 on this list. But a day trip to Murano & Burano by boat is an amazing option for those visiting Venice for multiple days.

Usually coupled together for a boat trip, these are two of the lagoon’s most popular islands and unique experiences. Burano is known for it’s picturesque colorful houses found all over the island. And Murano, is famous for its glass making – you can even see glassmakers at work while you’re visiting the island!