The churches of Venice

Churches in Venice
Palladio's Il Redentore (left, in background) and Santa Maria della Salute (right)—just two of the amazing churches to visit in Venice. (Photo by Sébastien Bertrand—taken from the belltower of St. Mark's Basilica)

The major churches (and synagogues) in Venice

The mosaics of St. MarksBasilica di San Marco ★★★ - Let's just come out and say it: there simply is no church in Europe more lavishly decorated, more exquisitely mosaicked, more glittering with gold than San Marco, the cathedral of Venice. Built in the 11th century, this medieval basilica topped by a quintet of Byzantine domes is swathed inside in 40,000 square feet of glittering golden mosaics... » more
Thechurch of Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari in VeniceI Frari - This otherwise plain medieval church is adorned with works by Titian, Giovanni Bellini, and Vivarini, plus the only sculpture by Donatello in Venice—not to mention that among the grandiose tombs are those of Venetian masters Canova and Titian... » more
The Palladio-designed Redentore church in VeniceIl Redentore - This geometrically precise church designed by Neoclassical master Andrea Palladio, and pretty much the only reason tourists ever trek out to the isolated island of Giudecca. The interior is done in grand, austere, painstakingly classical Palladian style in keeping with a church commissioned by the city in thanks for being delivered from the great plague of 1575–77, which claimed over a quarter of the population... » more
The church of San Giorgio Maggiore in VeniceSan Giorgio Maggiore - Nearly every visitor to Venice snap a picture of it, yet barely a handful ever board the vaporetto to visit this Palladio-designed church on its own little island in the Bacino San Marco, where the Grand Canal empties out in front of Piazza San Marco. This is a shame, since they're missing a Venetian architectural glory decorated with works by Tintoretto, Carpaccio, and Jacopo Bassano—plus spectacular views from the bell tower... » more
The church of Santa Maria della Salute in VeniceSanta Maria della Salute - This majestic and compact 17th-century baroque jewel decorated with works by Titian, Luca Giordano, and Tintoretto proudly reigns at the tip of Dorsoduro, almost directly across from Piazza San Marco where the Grand Canal empties into the wide Bacino San Marco basin. A grateful Venice commissioned La Salute in 1631 after surviving yet another plague thanks to the divine intervention of the Virgin Mary of Good Health (La Salute)... » more
The church of San Simeone Piccolo in VeniceSan Simeone Piccolo - Not an important church, but it begs to be identified since its green-oxidized copper dome is the first thing nearly every visitor sees—right across the Grand Canal from the train station. Rebuilt in 1718–38 by Giovanni Scalfarotto on the site of a 9th-century church, San Simeone holds the quirky status of being the only church in Venice to celebrate Mass in Latin daily... » more

Synagogues in the Jewish Ghetto

The Scola Levantina, a 16th century synagogue in the Jewish Ghetto of VeniceMuseo Ebraico - The museum of Jewish life and history in Venice in the historic Jewish Ghetto ("ghetto" wasn't originally a derogatory term, rather it was the Venetian dialect name for the neighborhood in which the city's Jews lived—though, admittedly, their movements were at times greatly restricted) offers tours into several of the neighborhood's five historic and beautiful synagogues that were built during the Ghetto's heyday in the 16th century. The museum itself comprises a collection of 16th– to 19th-century artifacts... » more

Churches on outlying islands

Byzantine mosaics in the Cathedral on TorcelloCattedrale di Torcello ★★ - The Basilica di Santa Maria Assunta is no longer technically a cathedral, since Torcello no longer has a bishop, but this noble church filled with spectacular 11th and 12th century mosaics actually predates most of Venice itself... » more
Byzantine mosaics in the Cathedral on TorcelloSanta Maria e Donato (Murano) - The truly ancient church of Santa Maria e Donato—with its Roman-era columns and amazing patterned floor—turns the gorgeous exterior of its apse to the canal so you can admire the stacked colonnades, dog-tooth molding, and inlaid Byzantine designs... » more
Byzantine mosaics in the Cathedral on TorcelloSan Pietro Martire (Murano) - This little church on Murano is filled with the unexpected riches of oil paintings by Tintoretto, Paolo Veronese, and Giovanni Bellini and some lovely carved paneling in the sacristy... » more

Tips & links

More on chruches and religious life in Venice

How to find the Venice sights that will interest you

There are several ways helps you browse the sights of Venice, each neatly tucked into its own box below. You can get quick lists of all the top sights—the ones no one wants to miss when they visit Venice—or of all the attractions that are free of charge.

Or you can check out Reid's List, a thoroughly subjective compendium of some of my favorite, slightly less famous sights and experiences.

If you prefer thematic categories, you can see all the major museums or churches or palazzi at once, or if you're looking for something else to see or do nearby a major sight, you can peruse everything by neighborhood.

If you like to leave the planning of the daily itinerary to others, you can also sign up for a guided tour or two.

Or, if you want help cramming as much of it all as possible into your visit, you can peruse our perfect itineraries for one, two, or three days in Venice.

The top half-dozen or so sights listed under each category above are just a sampling. If you want to read short, one-line reviews of all sights within a category, click on the category title (or you can click on an individual sight for a quick link to its full description).

About the star ratings

I have rated every sight and experience in Venice from zero to three stars.

Three stars, two stars, etc. are fairly self-explanatory—but note that it's not that the "no-star sights" are not worth the bother.

In fact, in any other city they'd probably rank much higher. They're just cursed to be in Venice, competing for your precious vacation time alongside St. Mark's Basilica, the Accademia Gallery, and a gondola ride—all solid three-stars.

This is a purely subjective rating, but it will help you get a sense of which sights pack the highest wow factor—and where to spend your time. In fact, you could view the starts thusly:

  • Anything rated three stars you should try to see even if you only have one day in Venice.
  • With two days, you can try to pack in as many two-starred sights as well.
  • With three or four days, you'll have time to fit in some one-star sights around the edges of your sightseeing schedule.
  • If you're lucky enough to be in town for more than four days, you might take the time to visit some of the no-starred sights.
Tours, walks, & activities
How long does it take to see Venice?

Planning your day: You could spend an afternoon in Venice, a day or two, or a week and never run out of things to do and new corners to discover.

I would try to give Venice at least a day and a half. Three days would be better, but most people don't have that kind of time, even for Venice.

I have suggestions for how to spend anywhere from half a day in Venice up to three full days on the Venice itineraries pages.

Venice is a city that, at first glance, seems excessively touristy and overrun. Some visitors can't wait to move on to someplace that feels a bit less like a canal-rodden Disneyland.

However, given time (and purposefully getting lost once or twice), Venice reveals its serenissima side and begins to seduce even the most jaded of travelers.

Venice itineraries

Venice sightseeing passes

There are several cumulative ticket museum passes and discounts for pre-booking Venice:

Venice links & resources

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Venice tourist information
Giardini ex Reali, San Marco (between Piazza San Marco and its western ferry stop)
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tel. +39-041-529-8711
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