Top Sights in Venice

The most popular museums, churches, and sights in Venice, Italy

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
A painting of Piazza San Marco by Bellini in the Galleria della'Accademia in VeniceAccademia Galleries ★★★ - If you only make time for one museum in Venice, make it the Accademia. The collections comprise the world's greatest treasure trove of Venetian art, covering the giants of Venetian painting from the 13th to the 18th centuries: Titian, Tintoretto, Paolo Veneziano, Giorgione, Giovanni Bellini, and Carpaccio... » more
The Palazzo Ducale in VeniceDoge's Palace (Palazzo Ducale) ★★★ - The sumptuously decorated seat of Venetian power for 900 years, the Ducal Palace ostentatiously displays the wealth of this formerly mighty maritime republic with grand rooms saddled in Renaissance masterpieces (by Tintoretto, Titian, Veronese, etc.)—and the famous Bridge of Sighs over to the state prisons—but the best way to see it—and unlock its history—is to take the Secret Itineraries tour of the hidden hallways, secret chambers, and prison cells (from which Casanova famously escaped) that lie secreted behind the walls and gilded frippery... » more
A gondola ride along Venice's Grand CanalA gondola ride ★★★ - Long, sleek, black, slightly crooked, looking like a cross between a canoe and a coffin, the Venetian gondola was the primary form of transportation in Venice from the 12th century until speedboats roared into the canals in the late 20th. The official rates for a gondola ride are €80 ($104) for up to 6 people for 40 minutes. After 7pm, the price rises to €100 ($130)... » more
The Canale Grande of VeniceThe Grand Canal ★★★ - The Grand Canal is Venice's main artery and primary boulevard, a two-mile ribbon of water plied by hundreds of ferries, gondolas, garbage scows, speedboats, and small commercial craft daily. This inverted S-curve of a canal is lined with more than 200 of the most gorgeous Venetian palazzi (palaces), called home by a legion of ex-pats like Wagner, Byron, Robert Browning, Hemingway, Proust, Henry James, and Ruskin... » more
The pigeons of St. Mark's Square in VenicePiazza San Marco ★★★ - The living room of Venice is a year-round carnival, one of milling tourists, the glittering mosaics of St. Mark's cathedral, 16th-century arcades, kids feeding an endless supply of pigeons, locals relaxing at outdoor café tables under 16th century arcades, and couples caught up in Venice's romance dancing on the cobblestones to the competing strains of the cafés' live pianists and classical trios... » more
An Umberto Boccioni painting at the Peggy Guggenheim in VenicePeggy Guggenheim ★★ - One of Europe's most complete surveys of avant garde art from the early and mid–20th century in the private 18th-century palazzo that belonged to the collector herself, Peggy Guggenheim. There are works by her short-time hubby Max Ernst, by her greatest discovery Jackson Pollock, and by such modern masters as Picasso, Miró, Mondrian, Brancusi, Duchamp, Kadinsky, Chagall, Dalí, Marini, and Giacometti... » more
The hand-blown glass of VeniceShopping for Venetian glass (and other crafts) ★★ - It's estimated the there are over 1,000 glass shops in the San Marco district alone. That's a lot of glasswares. For the best quality, visit Venini, Piazzetta dei Leoncini (off the left flank of Basilica di San Marco), Pauly & Co, Ponte Consorzi (just behind the Doge's Palace, although they also have boutique shops on Piazza San Marco), or Salviati, on Piazza San Marco. Here are more hints for shopping for glass and other Venetian crafts, from Murano chandeliers to hand-tatted lace and Carnival masks... » more
The Ca d'Oro of VeniceCa' d'Oro ★★ - Venice's 15th-century "Golden Palace" is one of the best preserved and most impressive of the hundreds of patrician palazzi lining the Grand Canal. After the Palazzo Ducale, it's the city's finest example of Venetian Gothic architecture. Inside is a museum housing sculptures, furniture, 16th-century Flemish tapestries, ceramics, an impressive collection of bronzes (12th–16th century), and a painting gallery including canvases by Andrea Mantegna, Titian, Tintoretto, Carpaccio, Van Dyck, Giorgione, and Jan Steen... » more
Masked and costumed Carnevale celebrants in VeniceCarnival in Venice ★★ - Venice's top event is the theatrical bacchanalia of Carnevale, an unbridled celebration of classical concerts and masked balls when the entire city is filled with costumed people straight out of a baroque painting. A generally more stately and refined affair than its more rowdy cousin festivals in New Orleans and Rio, Venice's Carnival takes up the 12 days immediately preceding Lent, the 40-day period of penitence and abstinence prior to Easter, usually in February or early March. (The name, by the way, is derived from the Latin carnem levare—"to take meat away"—since many people gave up meat for the duration of Lent.)... » more

Tips & links

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:

  • Museum Pass ★★ (covering 11 civic museums and sights)
  • Chorus Pass (covering 16 major churches)
  • Venice Connected (a pre-booking service for sights and services offering minor discounts)
Venice links & resources

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

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