Venice, Italy is known around the world, and for good reason. It is so unique! This gorgeous city on the water is an enjoyable place for adults and kids, though maybe wait until after the toddler stage!
In Venice, activities are wonderfully varied and not just confined to museums! This is a fabulous city with a family. Attractions in Venice Italy include boats, towers, masks, and all kinds of variety for children of every age.
Here is my take on the best things to do in Venice Italy.
1. Rialto Bridge
This beautiful stone bridge is the oldest that crosses the Grand Canal is a must see in Venice. This area can get crowded, so if you are sightseeing in Venice during a busy tourist time, make an effort to wake up really early and check it out in the quiet dawn hours. I observed this beautiful bridge early in the morning light with hardly anyone around.
In the middle of the day, it was hardly recognizable due to the number of tourists taking photos. But I will admit, that included us! The photo of my family ON the bridge was one of my favorites from my vacation. Sometimes, the touristy thing is a thing for a reason.
2. Stay Overnight
Stay Overnight in a room or apartment with a view. One of my favorite sights in Venice was the view over a quiet canal in the off-the-beaten-path Cannaregio neighborhood. We had views of red-tiled rooftops, church towers with chiming bells, delivery boats in the canal, gorgeous gondolas, and the most amazing sunsets.
Staying overnight in Venice gives you the opportunity to wander the canals long before tourists are awake. You can see the locals going about their business, receiving their early morning deliveries by motorboat and setting up their fruit displays. It was staying in Cannaregio that solidified my love of Venice because I could imagine what it was like to actually live in such an incredible and unique city.
3. Visit the Rialto Fish Market
For Venice best places to visit, you can’t miss the seafood theme! Check out my Venice Food Guide to see some great local favorites. And where do those local dishes source their seafood? The fish market, of course!
Rialto Fish Market is one of the best things to see in Venice because, unless you live by the ocean, it is completely different to what we are used to in the states. I mean, have you ever seen a “fishmonger” before? If you haven’t, get to the Mercato del Pesce al minuto!
This historic market is open mornings from Tuesdays to Saturdays. In some ways, entering this open-air market is like taking a step back in time. One thing I love about Italy is how it’s obvious that certain institutions like this have been functioning pretty much the same for centuries.
The building has some great columns and gothic-style architecture to enjoy. If you wanted to catch the Rialto Bridge at a quieter time, you could pair that with the Rialto Fish Market, since it opens at 7 am.
4. St. Mark’s Square
St. Mark’s Square or Piazza San Marco is certainly one of the best places to visit in Venice. Surrounded by the breathtaking domes of Basilica San Marco, along with the famous campanile tower, this large square has a lot going on. The winged lion of Venice that you will see all over the city can also be found above the beautiful clock tower on the square.
Expert tip for parents: If your kids need some motivation, have them keep their eyes peeled for the winged lion of Venice all over the city. It represents St. Mark, the patron saint of Venice, and is a fun symbol to use for a scavenger hunt with a little gelato at the end.
5. Campanile of San Giorgio
Instead of climbing the 323 steps in the campanile at St. Mark’s, you could take the elevator up the Campanile of San Giorgio located on the island of San Giorgio Maggiore.
This will give you a beautiful panorama of the whole of Venice including Doge’s Palace, St. Mark’s square, and its campanile. The light in the morning when it first opens is the most favorable for photographing the city. Take Vaporetto #2 for a short ride to the island from San Marco Square.
6. Mask Making Class
One of the best activities in Venice is checking out the mask scene. Venice is well-known for its carnival celebration, which was supposed to act as an equalizer of the classes, back in the day. If you were hiding behind a mask, no one would know who you are, or your station in society. The super fun part about carnival, especially for kids, is the masks!
Ca’ Macana has some great workshops where you can create your own masks, all while learning about the traditional Venetian mask shapes and stories about them from history. I love sneaking in educational opportunities like this when the kids don’t even know they are learning.
7. Libreria Acqua Alta Book Shop
One of the top things to see in Venice and hands down the most memorable book shop I have ever seen is Libreria Acqua Alta. Inside the shop, there are piles of books in old boats, and in one part of the shop, you can sit in a chair and watch gondolas pass by right next to you on the canal.
And in another area, there is a staircase made of books that is begging for a photo. This charming book shop has become one of the Venice top attractions and is super fun for all tourists.
8. Dinner by the canal
One of my favorite things to do in Venice, or anywhere in Italy, is EAT! There are so many great restaurants along the hundreds of Venetian canals where you can take in a leisurely meal and watch the boats go by.
Venice is also super kid-friendly because most Italians love children. We ate at a charming restaurant in Cannaregio and the waiters played tic-tac-toe with the kids on their doodle boards.
The restaurant even called in the local accordion player. Kitschy, yes, but fabulous! The kids tipped him a few euros and thought the whole thing was pretty fantastic. Taking in the scenery while enjoying local cuisine is definitely one of the best things to do in Venice Italy.
9. Doge’s Palace
If you like stunning architecture, Doge’s Palace is a must see in Venice for sure. It is breathtaking inside and out with its beautiful gothic arches and its location right by the water. Pair this with St. Mark’s next door to hit multiple Venice tourist attractions at the same time.
The Bridge of Sighs, connected to Doge’s Palace is another one of the top sights in Venice. Taking the palace tour is your opportunity to cross over the famed Bridge of Sighs, where prisoners would take their last looks at freedom before entering the connected prison from the palace. The bridge is also exquisite and really lovely to take photos of from the outside, best taken by nearby bridges.
10. Gondola Ride
Don’t worry, I saved the best for last. I couldn’t write about what to do in Venice Italy without highlighting the iconic gondola. It has to be the most classic Venice tourist attraction.
There are so many ways to ride a boat in Venice, but the ornate gondolas all over the city are the most famous. Being one of the top attractions in Venice Italy means that this activity is a splurge. A 40-minute ride costs €80 plus tip. Definitely negotiate the price before stepping into the boat.
Expert Budget Tip: I would say that riding some sort of boat in Venice is totally an experience you must do. Does it have to be a gondola? Nah. There are a couple of other boat options for you in Venice.
On the Grand Canal in most places of interest, Venice has a black gondola called a traghetto, which is basically a less decorative, more functional way to get across the water. These are also affordable and for good reason. These are just quick trips across the Grand Canal, not a 40-minute ride with a designated gondolier.
Personally, one of my top things to do in Venice was taking the water taxi from the airport. It was pretty magical to walk straight to a boat from the plane and then arrive in Venice on the water. This intro to the sights in Venice definitely had the wow factor for us.
Bonus- Get Lost!
Honestly, one of my favorite things to do in Venice is just to wander the narrow alleyways and get lost in this beautiful and unique city. If you get lost, you may just find something amazing that’s not on any website!
Whatever you see in Venice, I know you are going to love it. The best things to do in Venice depend on what you and your travel partners love. One of the biggest pieces of advice I have for other travelers is to do what you like.
Don’t like museums? Just because they are on a list on the internet, you don’t have to go! You might get a more authentic experience by not following all the must see places in Venice. Truly, it is one extraordinary place and there is so much for everything. I hope this post has given you a taste for how to find things in Venice that will make great memories for you.