What to see in Venice, Italy
Doge’s Palace (Palazzo Ducale), (San Marco Square). From April 1st to October 31st: 8.30 am – 7 pm (last admission 6 pm); from November 1st to March 31st: 8.30 am – 5.30 pm (last admission 4.30 pm). Closed on December 25th and January 1st. If the ticket line is long, you can buy regular tickets across the square at the Museo Correr, or in advance (see “Museums” section below). Don’t miss the guided tour named Secret Itinerary (€20), which will let you discover the part of the palace where the city’s administration worked, as well as Casanova’s jail and the wonderful five hundred year old roof structure. Regular ticket €16 valid for the Doge’s Palace and the Museo Correr, Museo Archeologico Nazionale, and Monumental Rooms of the Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana.
Bell tower of St. Mark (Campanile di San Marco), (San Marco Square). closes at 9pm. The current tower dates from 1912; an exact replica of the previous tower which collapsed in 1902. The top of the tower offers great views of Venice and the lagoon.
Clock tower (Torre dell’Orologio), (San Marco Square). — Having been closed for restoration for many years, the restored astronomical clock is now visible. The fascinating tour of the clock mechanism (and rooftop bell) can only be visited on a guided tour, which has to be booked in advance.
Scuola grande di San Rocco. A masterpiece of Tintoretto, this guild house is an exquisite example of Manierist art in its best. In order to allow a comfortable admiration of the detailed ceiling, mirrors are offered to the visitors.
Jewish Ghetto of Venice. While distinctive ethnic neighborhoods had existed prior to the Venetian Ghetto, the area of the “new foundry” (the Ghetto Nuovo) assigned for Jewish settlement in 1516 first became the name for all areas given over to Jewish inhabitants and then became synonymous for all areas that are made up of a single ethnic/racial/social group. The area was extended from 1546 by the (confusingly named) “old foundry” (Ghetto Vecchio). Today, Jewish life is still very active in the ghetto, and elsewhere in Venice, and is home to five synagogues built by the Jewish communities roughly grouped by their arrival in Venice (Italian, Ashkenazi, Sephardim and Levantine). On late Fridays and Saturdays Jewish places will be closed in observance of Shabbath. If you wish to sense the unique Venetian atmosphere coming from the East you can take part in an itinerary covering the Jewish Ghetto and the Rialto area to discover the crucible of ethnicities, cultures and religions that have co-existed for centuries in Venice and admire a different side of this city.
Don’t miss the Rialto market and the Rialto Bridge (Italian: Ponte di Rialto) on San Polo, the smallest sestiere. The Rialto market is for shoppers. To the east is a neighborhood of small shops and restaurants; to the west is the Rialto farmers’ market. Shopping is slightly less expensive than in the tourist-filled Piazza San Marco. The bridge has become one of Venice’s most recognizable icons and has a history that spans over 800 years. Today’s Rialto Bridge was completed in 1591 and was used to replace a wooden bridge that collapsed in 1524. This bridge alone required over 6.000 trees for each foundation.
The Fondaco dei Tedeschi right next to the San Marco-side of Rialto Bridge with its rooftop terrace and a view over Venice.
Campo Santo Stefano on the northern side of Accademia bridge offers many outdoor cafes and restaurants and a touch of sun before noon.
Zattere. It’s a long and sunny walk from early afternoon along the Giudecca canal, protected during winter time from cold northerly winds for being exposed to south and shielded by buildings. You might find interesting to see how a gondola is made, stopping by the Squero (Venetian for small ship yard) across the canal near San Trovaso Church. It’s one of the few still in business in town. With some luck, you’ll see some gondole through various manufacturing steps (note that gondole are not straight to counter-balance the weight of the gondoliere rowing from a position on the side).
Casa dei Tre Oci, Fondamenta delle Zitelle, 43 Isola della Giudecca (on the Giudecca Island, facing St Mark’s Square and the Doge Palace. Public exhibition venue opened in 2012, it is a great example of neo-gothic architecture in Venice. Its name means “House of the Three Eyes” (see the facade and you’ll understand why).
Scala Contarini del Bovolo, Corte Contarina, del Bovolo, 4303 (San Marco). In a late gothic palace that underwent several modifications, the spiral staircase is a must-see place in Venice.
Although the Basilica di San Marco is free, other famous churches charge an entry fee. If you plan to visit three churches or more, you are better off buying the churches pass. There is also a combined pass for museums, churches and transportation only available at the tourist information office but it is relatively expensive.
Remember that churches are active religious centers. Entry for sightseeing might be restricted at times and you are expected to be respectful of their rules (which often includes a no-photo / no-video clause).
Saint Mark’s Basilica (Basilica di San Marco), Piazza San Marco. 1st October to 31st March: 9:45AM-4:45PM; 1st April to 30 September: 9:45AM-5PM. Saint Mark’s Basilica is on the Piazza San Marco and is one of the highlights of a visit to Venice. As with most churches in Italy, you must be dressed appropriately to be allowed in; this means no short skirts or bare shoulders. You are not allowed to carry large bags or rucksacks inside. You must deposit them just round the corner from the main entrance. Filming and photography is forbidden so be prepared in advance. The visit within the basilica lasts ten minutes. Waiting for entry into the basilica can last up to five or so hours and it may be wise to buy a ticket from the official site. Once you have a reservation you can take the group entrance on the left, where you give in the printout of your reservation. These reservations are only available 7 months out of the year, 1 Apr-31 Oct. The symbol of St. Mark’s Basilica is a masterpiece of the Greek Hellenistic sculpture: the famous gilded bronze horses. A visit to St Mark’s Basilica is a must! It is renowned worldwide for its priceless treasures and fascinating secret places. Some of them, such as the Baptistery and the Zen Chapel, are usually closed to the public. Admission to the basilica is free; however, the museum upstairs and to view the high altar and treasury costs.
San Giacomo di Rialto. This church is possibly the oldest church in Venice built around 421. It is most recognized for its 15th century clock above the entrance of the church. It is also recognized for the red pillars and beautiful gold accents around the church itself.
San Giovanni e Paolo (San Zanipolo in Venetian dialect). A fine, huge Dominican church with the tombs of many Doges. It shares its piazza with the fine Renaissance facade of the Scuola San Marco and an equestrian statue of the mercenary (condottiere) captain Colleone. Look out for the testicles (coglioni in Italian – it’s a lousy pun) on his coat of arms!
Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari. The big friary church, with fine monuments and paintings, among which the famous ‘Assunta’ by Titian.
Santa Maria dei Miracoli. A perfect jewel box church, simple in form but ornamented with fine exterior marble facings.
San Simeone Piccolo. The last church built in Venice. It is located across from the Grand Canal in front of Santa Lucia Train station. One of the things that it is recognized for is the fact that they celebrate Tridentine Mass on Sundays. It is also recognized for its dome because it is used to make the church look taller than it is and the dome itself is entirely covered with lead sheet.
Basilica of Santa Maria Assunta in Torcello is situated in the charming Torcello island, and it is an enchanting example of Venetian- Byzantine architecture. The cathedral is renowned for its important mosaics, which are a real masterpiece of the Byzantine-Ravennate school, including that in the counter-façade representing the Last Judgment. Discover, among its historical and artistic treasures, some exclusive areas which have remained inaccessible for centuries: the crypt and the sacristy. The crypt is situated under the altar and, being frequently reached by the water, is equipped with a wooden bridge in order to make visits always available. The other mysterious location that has been covered for centuries is the sacristy. Following a hidden passageway, you can reach a Roman sarcophagus, which is supposed to have been the tomb of Mark the Evangelist for a period of time, when the Basilica in Venice wasn’t built yet.
The Museums of St. Mark’s Square are covered by one admission ticket, including Doge’s Palace and the Correr Museum, valid for 3 months, for a single entry per museum. On the other hand, the Museum Pass, covers seven more museums including those on Murano and Burano; these passes are valid for 6 months, for a single entry per museum. You can buy these passes in advance (along with public transport tickets) via the Venezia Unica service. These combined tickets offer a considerable discount and mean you can skip the ticket queues – especially at Doge’s Palace where the queue to buy tickets can be enormous.
Correr Museum, San Marco 52 (on San Marco Square). Very interesting collection of globes, starting from the 16th century. There is also an only library hall, an archeological museum of Roman antiques and an important picture gallery. At the end of your visit, don’t miss the museum art cafe, with their tables on the San Marco Square
La Fenice Theater (Teatro La Fenice). Visit this historic theater with an audioguide (good explanations in several languages). The theater is an identical reconstruction (rebuilt in 2003) of the previous theater building that burned down in 1996.
The Jewish Museum (Museo Ebraico), Cannaregio 2902/b. Sun – Fri 10AM-5:30PM. The Museum is closed on Saturday (Shabbat), during Jewish festivities, on December 25th , on 1st January and on 1 May. Admission involves airport-like screenings. Bags are allowed, but sharp items like pocket knives must be deposited at reception. Visiting the museum before going on the tour will heighten your appreciation of the impressive buildings-within-buildings. Tours are done in Italian and English from the same starting times, so no need to select specific language slots.
Mocenigo Palace (Palazzo Mocenigo), Santa Croce 1992. Closed on Mondays. A collection of clothes dating from the 18th century.
The Peggy Guggenheim Museum, Palazzo Venier dei Leoni. Hours: W-M: 10AM-6PM. Closed on Tuesdays and on 25 December. Open on national holidays (including Tuesdays). The Peggy Guggenheim Museum offers a personal collection of modern art collected by Peggy Guggenheim. Peggy was an American married to modern artist Max Ernst, and funded a number of his contemporaries. The gallery includes a sculpture garden and works by Picasso, Kandinsky, Tanguy, Duchamp, Pollock, Dali, and Mondrian.
Ca’ Pesaro. Beautiful palace housing the gallery of modern art focusing on Italian art in the 19th Century as well as the Marco Pollo Museum, a rich collection mainly of Asian exhibits.
Ca’ Rezzonico. Museum of the 18th Century in Venice – attempts to revive the domestic atmosphere of Venetian nobilities.
Galleria dell’Accademia di Venezia, Campo della Carità Dorsoduro n. 1050 – 30100 Venezia. M: 8:15am-2pm, T-S: 8:15am-7:15pm. The ticket office closes 45 minutes before. Closed on Monday afternoon, December 25th and January 1st. Venice’s most significant art museum which is also one of Italy’s best.
Palazzo Grassi, Campo San Samuele. Temporary exhibitions from François Pinault’s Collection.
Punta della Dogana, Dorsoduro (on the tip between Grand Canal and Giudecca Canal). Former customs house, centre for contemporary art, permanent exhibition of works from the François Pinault Collection. Renovation by world renowned architect Tadao Ando.
Glass Museum (Museo del Vetro), Murano. Closed on 25 December, 1 January. Working hours: 10 – 17 (winter), 10 – 18 (summer). On Murano, the island so typical of its glasswork.
Carlo Goldoni’s House (Casa di Carlo Goldoni). House of Venice’ most famous playwright.
Lace Museum (Museo del Merletto), Burano.
Palazzo Fortuny, San Marco 3958. Often overlooked, but it’s one of the most important civic museums in Venice.
Museum of Greek Icons.
Museo di Storia Naturale (Natural History Museum), Santa Croce 1730. From June 1st to October 31st: 10:00 – 18:00 (ticket office 10:00 – 17:00); From November 1st to May 31st: Tue – Fri: 9:00 – 17:00 (ticket office 9:00 – 16:00) Sat and Sun: 10:00 – 18:00 (ticket office 10:00 – 17:00). Closed on Mondays, December 25th, January 1st, May 1st.
Naval History Museum (Museo Storico Navale).