Venice Things to Do
Alexander Herzen once said of Venice, “To build a city where it is impossible to build a city is madness… but to build there one of the most elegant and grandest of cities is the madness of genius.” Venice is truly a magnificent location. It is almost dreamlike the way the city was constructed, giving the illusion that it, and all its famous architectural and historic wonders, are floating atop the Adriatic Sea. To visit Venice at all is a bucket-list item for many travelers. But to truly get the most out of a trip to Venice, one must take advantage of the city’s many splendid activities. From sightseeing some of the world’s most iconic monuments, museums, and churches, to experiencing the rich cultural history of the city through Venetian events and cuisine, visitors are bound to get lost in the charm of Venice.
FESTIVALS & EVENTS
Delving deep into the culture and life of the locals in Venice means experiencing the city’s most well-loved and highly-regarded events and festivals. As with any city, these exciting and fun events capture what locals love best about their home.
The Carnival of Venice is arguably the most exciting and fascinating carnival in the entire world. This annual festival enamors attendees with its abundance of spectacular costumes and elaborate masks, all made even more awe inspiring by the backdrop of the canal-filled city itself. Held for two weeks during each February, the carnival is a celebration of Venice’s rich and noble history. During the carnival, a wealth of parades and gatherings are held throughout the city, attracting at least 3 million visitors each year. While most carnivals are characterized by their incredible floats, in Venice the carnival’s main attraction are the intricate and extremely detailed masks worn during the event. Gorgeous and intricate, iconic Venetian carnival mask varieties - Bauta, Moretta, and Gnaga - are produced by Venetian mask masters.
Another amazing event in Venice is the Festa Del Redentore. This feast is one of the biggest events in Venice and celebrates the city’s liberation from the plague of 1576. Held every third Sunday of July on Giudecca island, the event is marked by both religious and non-religious events. The religious portion of the celebration consists of a processional which connects two of Venice’s major churches – the Church of Spirito Santo and the Church of Redentore. The non-religious aspect of the event, and perhaps the biggest draw for tourists, is the massive fireworks display on Venice’s lagoon on Saturday night. Locals decorate their boats or rooftops from which they view the display, and thousands of spectators sit in awe of the nearly hour-long fireworks show.
For film buffs, the Venice Film Festival is a must-see event. Possibly the most important European film festival and one of the world’s most well-known, the Venice Film Festival is held at the end of August to early September. Hollywood stars are often a part of the event and the winners receive a golden lion, a key symbol of Venetian heritage.
With a geography as unbelievable as Venice’s famed canals, it is only fitting that time be spent to enjoy the outdoors.
The Rialto Market is an essential activity for food enthusiasts looking to enjoy Venice’s freshest and most seasonal foods. A visit to the market on a gorgeous sunny day will allow glimpses into the daily life of the Venetian people. The sights, sounds, smells, and energy exuded from the bustling market bring the sensory experience of Venice to life. Shopping for fresh seafood and seasonal vegetables offers a chance to sample traditional foods and feel what it’s like to truly live in Venice.
While a ride in a gondola is an iconic experience to have, there are a few other unique ways to take in the city’s waters. There are tours of the lagoon via water bus, which allows passengers to explore the lagoon’s various islands. Islands such as Giudecca, Burano, Murano, and San Giorgio Maggiore are just a few of the lagoon’s many islands which each offer their own wonderful sights. People can also navigate the entire length of the Grand Canal by boat, taking in the region’s many stunning architectural feats and city views. Another water experience to be had is a cruise which explores the Veneto Villas, once home to the nobles of ancient Venice.
After adventuring on the lagoon’s blue waters, some indoor activities may be just the ticket. As a cultural and historic epicenter, Venice has a near endless list of amazing sites, including historic monuments, wonderful museums, and stunning churches.
Venice is home to hundreds of buildings and locations that have rich, historical importance, including some of the world’s most amazing palaces. From Ca d’Oro, the most famous of Venice’s palaces which overlooks the Grand Canal, to Doge’s Palace (Ducale Palace), a masterpiece of gothic architecture and home to the famed Bridge of Sighs, Venice is known for its many palaces.
In addition, the floating city is known for its many iconic monuments and museums. St. Mark’s Square, considered by most to be the heart of Venice, is the city’s main square. It is home to many historical sites, including St. Mark’s bell tower and the Torre dell’Orologio clock tower. The most famous and renowned museum of Venice is the Gallerie dell’Accademia. Anyone with a love of Renaissance art will delight in this museum, which has an enormous collection of Venetian art from the 14th century to 18th century.
For a bit of the city’s religious history, visit one of Venice’s many churches. Standing as both a testament to the importance of religion in Italy as well as an example of iconic architecture, churches such as St. Mark’s Basilica, the Basilica di Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari, and the Madonna dell’Orto are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the wide variety of churches that call Venice home.
Shopping in Venice will reveal some of the most prided handicrafts in all of Italy. Murano glass, one of Italy’s most excellent exports, is made on the Venetian island of Murano. Glass masters have been making delicate glass pieces – ranging from jewelry to figurines and beyond – for centuries. Glassmaking in this area is a true art. In addition, mask makers and shops of all kinds boast a variety of traditional Venetian carnival masks. Each mask is a unique piece of art and can be customized to one’s exact specifications.
ONLY IN VENICE
While the traditional sights and attractions are always a popular draw, some may want to experience Venice in a more unique way. To do so, one must partake in some activities that are unique to the city.
Enjoy cicchetti, a type of Italian happy hour consisting of small-bite appetizers at one of Venice’s many bacari. These hidden gems are bars or taverns that locals frequent to enjoy a variety of wines and cocktails. Take in one of the most authentic views of Venice from the Scala Contarini del Bovolo, a hidden spot that is off the beaten path. This one of a kind spiral staircase takes visitors to a terrace called Belvedere, which overlooks Venice in a truly spectacular way. Visit Biennale, an art exhibition that features displays from the world of architecture, dance, sculpture, painting, and beyond. Or watch a live opera at the Teatro La Fenice, a theatre that has been the home of many world-famous orchestras, composers, and directors. Visit the Cannaregio neighborhood. Known as the location of the Jewish Ghetto, home to many synagogues and a Jewish museum, this neighborhood is lesser known to most, and as a result offers a more authentic view of Venetian life.
No matter what one chooses to do in Venice, the wealth of beauty, architecture, history, culture, and waterfront views are unlike any other.