Things to do in Venice, Italy - Best things to do as a cruise guest

Things to do in Venice - in this article you will learn about best things to do in Venice in one day, fun things to do, things to do for free and tours that will make you remember Venice forever !

Best things to do in Venice

VeniceSpritzThere are so many things to do and see in Venice, but don't forget about refreshments, too!

If you are staying in Venice cruise port for only a day, or 8 hours, you will want to go to, see and do the things that will give you the feeling you have experienced the very essence of Venice. 

However, there is so much to see, do and experience in Venice, it's really difficult to advise someone as to what are the best things to do in Venice.

I guess, when someone asks about the best things to do in Venice, they have in mind the most touristy, the most attractive things.

Those you just have to do on your first visit. So here are a few recommendations of those. 

They are all provided by Viator, platform that gives you access to the best tour operators in Venice in one spot. And for lot less than the tours you will be offered onboard your cruise lines. 

The following recommendations are the rare few that cater specifically to cruise guest and will pick you up at the Stazione Marittima cruise terminal (which you will reach from the Marghera industrial area, find out how in this article).

While the ones below have pick up/ meeting points in central Venice and are perfect for the guests who have an overnight in Venice or stay in Venice before or after their cruise:

Unique things to do in Venice

Personally, I find that the most unique and memorable experiences in Venice are the ones that I can't replicate in my own hometown. Venice, in particular, provides an abundance of such experiences due to its unparalleled setting.

The city's canals and encompassing islands, distinctive architecture, extraordinary modes of transportation, exquisite Murano glass creations, and captivating carnival masks all contribute to making Venice an exceptionally one-of-a-kind destination.

It truly is a city that exudes uniqueness from every angle!

Here's my suggestions for unique and unusual Venice experiences:

Non touristy things to do in Venice

Exploring Venice in a non-touristy way requires curiosity, openness, and willingness to go beyond the well-trodden tourist routes.

By seeking out local experiences, you can gain a deeper understanding of the city and create more authentic memories. Here's a few suggestions you could try: 

  1. Explore Lesser-Known Neighborhoods: Venture beyond the popular tourist areas like St. Mark's Square and Rialto Bridge
  2. Visit Local Markets: Explore the vibrant local markets like Mercato di Rialto and Mercato di Sant'Alvise. 
  3. Take a Vaporetto Ride on Local Routes: Instead of the crowded tourist routes, take a vaporetto (water bus) on local routes that serve as transportation for residents. 
  4. Visit Local Venetian Osterias and Bacari: These local eateries serve authentic Venetian cuisine and offer a chance to mingle with locals. Try traditional cicchetti (small snacks) and sample local wines like spritz or prosecco.
  5. Engage with Locals: Strike up conversations with locals and learn about their way of life.

Here's my suggestions on tours that will make all this easier for you:

Things to do in Venice at night

Venice at night offers a different perspective and ambiance compared to the daytime. It allows you to appreciate the city's beauty in a more intimate and evocative way, making for a memorable and enchanting experience.

If your ship is having an overnight in Venice, or you decided to spend a few nights before or after your cruise - you are very luck!

Here's a few best rated tours that will give you a chance for a deeper night time experience:

Fun things to do in Venice

Fun and excitement is around every corner in Venice but I will try to suggest some activities that will take your experience up the notch compared to your fellow cruisers.

What is fun for you? Experiencing a local market and cooking with local products? Bar hopping? Making glass the traditional way, like they do in Murano island? Having a gondola ride with a serenade?

Here's some tours people are just crazy about!

Things to do in Venice in one day

If you have only 8 hours in Venice, it's important to make the most of your time. Here's a suggested itinerary to maximize your experience:

  1. St. Mark's Square and Basilica: Start your day by visiting St. Mark's Square (Piazza San Marco) and the magnificent St. Mark's Basilica. Marvel at the Byzantine architecture and intricate mosaics of the basilica. 
  2. Doge's Palace: Explore the Doge's Palace (Palazzo Ducale), located adjacent to St. Mark's Basilica. Take a guided tour or get your skip-the-line-ticket to discover the opulent interiors, historic chambers, and the infamous Bridge of Sighs
  3. Rialto Bridge and Market: Make your way to the Rialto Bridge, one of the city's iconic landmarks. Enjoy the panoramic views of the Grand Canal and the bustling activities below. Afterward, head to the nearby Rialto Market, where you can experience the vibrant atmosphere and browse through the fresh produce and local products.
  4. Gondola Ride: Embrace the quintessential Venetian experience with a gondola ride. Take a short gondola tour to explore the picturesque canals and get a closer look at the city's unique architecture. 
  5. Enjoy Local Cuisine: Treat yourself to a delicious Venetian meal at a local osteria or trattoria. Sample traditional dishes such as sarde in saor (sweet and sour sardines), fritto misto (mixed fried seafood), or risotto al nero di seppia (squid ink risotto). Pair your meal with a glass of Venetian wine or a spritz, a popular local aperitif.

Things to do in Venice with kids

Venice offers several family-friendly activities that can be enjoyable for children. Here are some of the best activities to do in Venice with children:

  1. Take a Vaporetto Ride: Kids often find boat rides exciting, so taking a vaporetto (water bus) ride along the canals can be a fun experience. 
  2. Explore the Naval History Museum: The Naval History Museum (Museo Storico Navale) offers an opportunity for children to learn about the maritime history of Venice. The museum exhibits historic boats, models, and artifacts related to naval exploration. It's an educational experience that can captivate young minds.
  3. Attend a Venetian Mask Workshop: Engage children's creativity by participating in a Venetian mask-making workshop. Several workshops in Venice offer hands-on experiences where children can decorate their own masks using colors, feathers, and other decorative materials. 
  4. Visit the Glass-Making Workshops in Murano: Take a trip to the island of Murano, famous for its glass-making heritage. Children can witness glassblowers in action and learn about the artistry behind creating beautiful glass objects. Some workshops even offer interactive demonstrations and opportunities for children to try glass-blowing themselves.
  5. Enjoy Gelato and Local Treats: Treat your children to some authentic Italian gelato from one of the many gelaterias in Venice. You can also indulge in traditional Venetian pastries like fritole or baicoli, which children may enjoy.

Art related things to do in Venice

Venice is a haven for art lovers, offering a plethora of artistic treasures and experiences. Here are some of the best activities for art lovers in Venice:

  1. Visit the Accademia Galleries: The Accademia Galleries (Gallerie dell'Accademia) house one of the finest collections of Venetian art. Admire masterpieces by renowned artists such as Titian, Tintoretto, and Veronese. 
  2. Explore the Peggy Guggenheim Collection: The Peggy Guggenheim Collection is a modern art museum located in Peggy Guggenheim's former residence. It features an impressive collection of 20th-century European and American art, including works by Picasso, Pollock, and Dalí. 
  3. Discover the Doge's Palace: The Doge's Palace (Palazzo Ducale) not only offers historical insights but also houses a remarkable collection of art. Marvel at the exquisite paintings by renowned Venetian artists, including Tintoretto's masterpiece "Paradise" in the Sala del Maggior Consiglio. 
  4. Visit the Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute: This iconic basilica is not only a religious landmark but also home to several remarkable artworks - paintings and sculptures by artists like Titian, Tintoretto, and Giovanni Battista Tiepolo.
  5. Explore Contemporary Art Spaces: Venice is also known for its thriving contemporary art scene. Visit the Punta della Dogana and the Palazzo Grassi, both art museums showcasing contemporary art exhibitions. 
  6. Attend the Venice Biennale: The Venice Biennale is one of the world's most prestigious art exhibitions, held every two years. It features national pavilions, international exhibitions, and showcases a wide range of contemporary art forms. Attending the Biennale allows art lovers to immerse themselves in a dynamic and diverse art experience.

Food related things to do in Venice

Thinking of coming back to the ship to have lunch on Venice day? Forget about it! It would be such a shame to miss hidden gems and family-run establishments that offer an authentic taste of Venetian cuisine. Here are some of the best activities for food lovers in Venice:

  1. Food Tours: Joining a food tour allows you to explore Venice's culinary scene with the guidance of a knowledgeable local. 
  2. Visit Rialto Market: Rialto Market is a vibrant and historic market where locals have been buying fresh produce, seafood, and other ingredients for centuries. 
  3. Enjoy a Traditional Bacari Crawl: Bacari are small bars in Venice where you can savor cicchetti, which are bite-sized snacks similar to tapas. Embark on a bacari crawl, hopping from one bar to another, and indulge in a variety of cicchetti paired with local wines or spritz. It's a delightful way to experience the Venetian tradition of "cicchetti hopping."
  4. Take a Cooking Class: Joining a cooking class in Venice allows you to learn firsthand the secrets of Venetian cuisine. Accompanied by a local chef, you'll have the opportunity to prepare traditional dishes using fresh, local ingredients.
  5. Try Venetian Seafood Specialties: Venice is renowned for its seafood dishes, thanks to its coastal location. Don't miss the chance to savor local specialties like sarde in saor (sweet and sour sardines), risotto di pesce (seafood risotto), frittura mista (mixed fried seafood), and moeche (soft-shell crabs). 
  6. Sample Venetian Sweets and Desserts: Venice has a delightful array of traditional sweets and desserts. Treat yourself to treats like frittelle (sweet fried dough), zaeti (cornmeal cookies with raisins), baicoli (crispy biscotti), or tiramisu. Pair them with a cup of Venetian coffee or a glass of sweet wine for a truly indulgent experience.
  7. Visit Traditional Osterias and Trattorias: Explore traditional osterias and trattorias, which are local eateries known for their authentic and hearty cuisine. These establishments serve traditional Venetian dishes, often featuring fresh seafood and locally sourced ingredients. Sample dishes like baccalà mantecato (creamed codfish), bigoli in salsa (pasta with anchovy sauce), or pasta e fagioli (pasta and bean soup).

OMG, I don't know about you but I am drooling! Buon apettito!

Check these tours I have picked based on their good reviews...

Things to do in Venice and on Venice islands

I know your time in Venice is limited, but do try to visit one of it's top three islands if you can! They offer a diverse range of experiences, from art and history to natural beauty and local traditions.

Not sure you can envision the Venice islands? Need more info before you decide? Here's a great video:

Here are some of the top reasons to explore the Venice islands:

  1. Murano: Murano is renowned for its glass-making heritage. Visiting this island allows you to witness the skillful artistry of glassblowers and explore numerous glass shops and factories. You can learn about the history and techniques of Murano glass and even purchase exquisite glass pieces as souvenirs.
  2. Burano: Burano is famous for its colorful houses and lace-making tradition. The island is a photographer's dream, with its vibrant, picturesque streets. Stroll through the charming village, visit lace workshops, and admire the intricate lace creations. Burano is also known for its seafood, so be sure to try some delicious local dishes.
  3. Torcello: Torcello is the oldest inhabited island in the Venetian lagoon. It offers a peaceful escape from the bustling streets of Venice. Visit the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta with its stunning Byzantine mosaics and climb the bell tower for panoramic views. 

It's difficult to say which one would be my favourite: each island has its unique charm, contributing to the overall allure of the Venetian lagoon. They are each their own little Universe, and a chanche to run away from the hustle and bustle of the central Venice.

Things to do in Venice for free

Finding free things to do in Venice is a breeze since the entire city feels like an open-air museum. If you're wondering what to see in Venice during your one or two-day Mediterranean cruise holiday, rest assured that you don't have to worry about missing out on anything.

The great thing about sightseeing in Venice is that you can fully enjoy the experience without breaking the bank or splurging on expensive tours. Best of all, exploring the city on your own is incredibly convenient.

JaVenecijaMostWith or without a big budget, in summer or winter, Venice is always my favourite place to visit!

While having a professional guide in Venice can be beneficial, providing fascinating historical insights and contextualizing your experiences, it's not a necessity.

You can easily navigate the city and soak up its beauty at your own pace.

Just a little tip: to see some of these sights (Murano island, Burano island) on your own, you need to take a shorter or longer vaporetto ride away from Venice downtown, so plan your time wisely.

If you’re lucky enough to have an overnight in Venice, it might be wiser to plan visits to the Lagoon islands on the first day as you’re not so time limited.

The last thing you would want is to take a photo of your Europe cruise ship as it sails past St. Mark’s square.

Our favorite things to do in Venice for free:

  • Immerse yourself in the ambiance of Piazza San Marco, often referred to as "the most beautiful drawing room in Europe," as famously quoted by Napoleon.
  • Explore the exquisite interior of St. Mark's Basilica, a must-see attraction that surprisingly doesn't require an admission fee!
  • Capture breathtaking views of the Venice Grand Canal from one of its charming bridges.
  • Don't miss the opportunity to snap a photo of the iconic Bridge of Sighs, known for its romantic allure.
  • Take a leisurely stroll across the Rialto Bridge, one of Venice's architectural gems.
  • Marvel at the opulent lobby of Hotel Danieli Venice, considered one of the city's finest hotels. I do it whenever I go to Venice.
  • Step into the historic Caffè Florian Venice and soak in the atmosphere of this renowned coffeehouse.
  • Discover the charm of Murano island, famous for its glassmaking heritage and picturesque canals. You will need to pay for the vaporetto ticket to get there, though.
  • Visit the magnificent Basilica Santa Maria della Salute, an architectural masterpiece that graces the city's skyline.
  • Take a walk through the captivating Jewish Ghetto, a neighborhood with a rich history and cultural significance.
  • Explore the vibrant island of Burano, known for its vibrant, colorful houses and traditional lace-making.
  • Wander through the famous Venetian cemetery on San Michele island, a serene and reflective place.
  • Experience the artistry of Venetian mask-making by visiting a carneval mask workshop.

Enjoy your exploration of Venice and the numerous free activities it has to offer. We'd love to hear about your experiences!