Venice offers infinite treasures to explore. See below the "must-sees" in our view...
St. Mark’s Square
Called “the drawing room of Europe”, this Piazza was long the symbolic heart of Venice. The Piazza is among the most visited places in Venice and is simply magnificent. It can take days to explore its many sights: The Basilica San Marco, the Doge’s Palace, the bell tower, the clock tower, the Correr Museum, and more.
The Marciana National Library
One of the biggest and most important libraries in Italy, it is located in Saint Marks square, in front of the Doge’s palace. The palace hosting the library is a project by Sansovino, which began in 1537 and ended in 1588 by Scamozzi (after Sansovino’s death). During the construction of the library, Sansovino was arrested because the ceiling of the palace collapsed; he was later released after he paid for the damages caused. The building is finely decorated and many important artists are on display there: including Titian, Paolo Veronese, Alessandro Vittoria, battista Franco, Giuseppe Porta, Bartolomeo Ammannati and Tintoretto. The Marciana became the official library of the Italian Republic after a the passage of a law in 1603 requiring that every printer must deposit in the library the first copy of every book it prints. Also, after the fall of the Republic by the hand of Napoleon, all religious books confiscated by the dictator were given to the library.
An imposing contemporary art museum overlooking the Grand Canal, the Palazzo presents major temporary exhibitions, some of which are based in whole or in part on the Pinault Collection, which itself is one of the largest collections of contemporary art in the world.
Punta della Dogana
This contemporary art museum exhibits artworks from the François Pinault Foundation, one of the largest collections of contemporary art in the world. The building in which it is housed was restored by minimalist Japanese architect Tadao Ando (who also restored Palazzo Grassi), and is funded by French art collector, François Pinault. The structure today is simple and pared-back retaining the characteristic layout of a warehouse.
Peggy Guggenheim Collection
The Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice is a modern art museum overlooking the Grand Canal. The impressive collection is housed in the Palazzo Venier dei Leoni, an 18th-century palace, for three decades the home of the American heiress Peggy Guggenheim (1898- 1979). In 1951 she began displaying her collection of modern artworks during the summer. Following her death it passed to the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, which opened the collection year-round.
Scuola Grande di San Rocco
“The single most concentrated dose of Tintoretto in the city.”—Damien Simonis, author, Lonely Planet Venice and Venice Condensed. This grand Renaissance building, home of the lay confraternity, or brotherhoods, is adorned with numerous paintings by Venetian school master Tintoretto. The artist’s masterpiece, ”La Crocifissione”, hangs upstairs in the Sala.
Cross the famous 16th-century bridge and walk to the centuries-old open-air fish and produce markets. The meat, cheese, and specialty-food shops attract many gourmands, or food lovers. The fish market is closed on Sundays and Mondays and the produce market closed on Sundays. Tip: Don’t handle the produce or you’ll risk a scolding! Do allow the vendors to select and bag the produce for you.
Le Mercerie, San Marco Shopping
In addition to the historic buildings and beautiful architecture, Venice is also a great place to shop! The most famous streets for shopping are in the Le Mercerie area of the San Marco District. The streets and boulevards stretch all the way from the Rialto Bridge to St. Mark’s Square and are packed with stores and stalls selling just about everything under the sun. Among the many items you can purchase here are the latest fashions, jewelry, costumes and souvenirs. For luxury shopping, head to the shops and boutiques of Calle Larga XXII Marzo.
San Giorgio Maggiore
The island opposite St. Mark’s Square offers breathtaking views of the Square and its surrounding areas. The view from the bell tower is incredible, and with no lines! The Palladian church contains Tintoretto’s “Last Supper” and weekend tours of the cloisters are available.
Throngs of shoppers descend on the island of Murano to watch glassblowing demonstrations and buy souvenirs. Its local museum showcases the history of world-famous Murano glass. On your way there, make a stop at San Michele, the cemetery island, which is the last resting place of Igor Stravinsky, Ezra Pound, and many others.
Burano and Torcello
These tiny adjacent islands are worth the hour-long boat trip. Burano is a fishermen’s village and a photographer’s dream with its brightly colored houses. Torcello, steeped in Venetian history, was home to one of the swampy region’s first settlements and features a Byzantine church, bell tower with lagoon views, and a small museum.
Teatro La Fenice
Teatro la Fenice is Venice's Opera House. It is one of “the most famous and renowned landmarks in the history of Italian theater”, and in the history of opera. Especially in the 19th century, La Fenice became the site of many famous operatic premieres at which the works of several of the four major bel canto era composers Rossini, Bellini, Donizetti, and Verdi were performed. Its name reflects its role in permitting an opera company to “rise from the ashes” despite losing the use of three theatres to fire, the first in 1774 after the city’s leading house was destroyed and rebuilt but not opened until 1792; the second fire came in 1836, but rebuilding was completed within a year. However, the third fire was the result of arson. It destroyed the house in 1996 leaving only the exterior walls, but it was rebuilt and reopened in November 2004.
Wander without an itinerary (but with a map in your pocket or on your phone) away from the main sights to explore authentic Venice. Try the long, sunny expanses of Cannaregio, the boatyards and neighborhood shops of San Pietro di Castello, the maze of narrow streets in Santa Croce. Cross some of the hundreds of bridges (each with a name); spot commemorative emblems on houses; pass through lanes so narrow you have to walk sideways
Getting around Venice by Vaporetto
The Venice public-transit system is a fleet of motorized bus-boats called vaporetti. They work like city buses. For most travelers, only two vaporetti lines matter: Line #1 and line #2. These lines go up and down the Grand Canal, between the “mouth of the fish” at one end and San Marco at the other. Line #1 is the slow boat, taking 45 minutes and making every stop along the way. Line #2 is the fast boat that zips down the Grand Canal in 25 minutes, stopping only at Tronchetto (parking lot), Piazzale Roma (bus station), Ferrovia (train station), San Marcuola, Rialto Bridge, San Tomà (Frari Church), Accademia Bridge, and San Marco (west end of St. Mark’s Square. Lines #1 and #2 run every 10 minutes.
Standard single tickets are €6.50 each. (A few shorter runs are only €2, such as the route from San Marco to La Salute or from San Zaccaria-Jolanda to San Giorgio Maggiore.) Tickets are good for 60 minutes in one direction; you can hop on and off at stops during that time. Technically, you’re not allowed a round-trip (though in practice, a round-trip is allowed if you can complete it within a 60-minute span).
You can buy a pass for unlimited use of vaporetti (€16/12 hours, €18/24 hours, €23/36 hours, €28/48 hours, €33/72 hours, €50/7-day pass). Because single tickets cost a hefty €6.50, the unlimited passes easily pay for themselves and are worth it. Think through your Venice itinerary before you step up to the ticket booth to pay for your first vaporetto trip. It makes sense to get a pass if you’ll be taking four rides or more. And it’s fun to be able to hop on and off spontaneously, and also to avoid long ticket lines.
Buying and Validating Tickets and Passes
You can buy vaporetto tickets or passes at ticket booths at main stops (such as Ferrovia, Rialto, Accademia, and San Marco-Vallaresso) from a conductor on board. But do it immediately, before you sit down, or you risk a €44 fine. You can also buy them at a tourist information office (for no extra fee). Plan your travel so you’ll have your tickets or a pass handy when you need them—not all stops have ticket booths. Passes must be validated before the first use. Tickets generally come already stamped, but if for whatever reason, your ticket lacks a stamp, stick it into the time-stamping yellow machine before boarding. The pass system (called iMob) is electronic—just touch your card to the electronic reader on the dock to validate it.
For fun, take a Grand Canal cruise. Avoid the tourist rush hour, when boats can be packed: Morning rush hour (8:00 am –10:00 am) is headed in the direction of St. Mark’s Square, as tourists and local commuters arrive. Afternoon rush hour (about 5:00 pm) is when they’re headed in the other direction for the train station.