I first entered Venice on a gorgeous June afternoon, riding down the grand canal on a sleek, wooden antique boat. With my silk neck scarf blowing in the wind as the Italian sun sparkled off the waterway lined with Venetian palaces, I remember thinking - is this place for-fucking-real? I know I say this about a lot of places, but everyone in the world needs to visit Venice. I’m serious - I think it should be a requirement.
Venice is vastly different from anywhere else you can travel to, in the best way possible. With passerby gondolas, hidden stone-lined alleyways, and arch bridges bordered in delicate ironwork, it’s a city that radiates romance and authentic Italian charm. As a place that seems to fulfill all of your traveling fantasies, here’s how to cross off everything on your Venice bucketlist.
Take a private water taxi into Venice
For around 100 Euros per way, take the thirty minute ride through Venice’s Grand Canal on a luxurious wooden boat with a private driver. Although it’s much cheaper to take the vaporetto (public waterbus) to get from the airport or train station to your accommodations, renting a water taxi is a Venetian experience you don’t want to miss.
If cost limits you to taking a water taxi once, I recommend doing this on your way into Venice and taking the vaporetto on your way out. In my opinion, this is the best way to introduce yourself to Venice... and make yourself feel like Amal Clooney for half an hour. Not looking to splurge on this experience? You can also share a water taxi with a small group to decrease the price.
Enjoy a Venetian dining experience
When thinking about Venice, I envision seafood, red wine, and pasta (everything you need to make me happy). What better place to eat a traditional Italian meal than in one of Venice’s luxury hotels overlooking the Grand Canal or in a Venetian garden hidden in a historic square? Although it may be hard to find authentic Italian food in a city that’s crawling with tourists, here are my top three places to eat in the city of canals:
White tablecloths, Aperol Spritz cocktails, and a variety of seafood dishes can be found here on their quaint and romantic terrace. This is a great place to get a late dinner away from crowds.
Stop by the Ca’Sagredo Hotel for an intimate dinner at the L’Alcova Restaurant on their panoramic terrace overlooking the Grand Canal. Before dinner, head up to the rooftop terrace for a Bellini or craft cocktail.
This hidden little gem has a beautiful garden patio and serves amazing calamari fritti in a casual setting.
Note: Dinner is served in Venice very late compared to American standards. Plan on eating "Cena", as the Italians call it, between 7pm and 10pm.
Tour the Venice canals by Gondola
When the term “tourist trap” was created, they must have had gondola rides in Venice in mind, but I don’t care. Seeing Venice by canal is the best way to take in the sights and architecture of the city, not to mention this is a major bucket list experience to check off your list. Feel free to bring a bottle of wine along with you while you cruise through the hidden waterways and under Venice’s famous bridges.
A thirty-forty minute ride ranges from 80 to 120 Euros per gondola depending on the time of day. There are plenty of places in Venice to rent gondolas from and the majority of them abide by these standard set prices, so don’t worry about pre-booking your experience unless you’re looking for something specific.
Not interested in a private gondola experience, but still want the photo op? Take the Traghetto, a type of public gondola ferry that transports visitors across the Grand Canal.
A day trip to Burano and Murano
From the Fondamente Nove ferry terminal in Venice, take the vaporetto to Burano to spend your morning touring the brightly colored architecture on Venice's lace island. Before heading to Murano, stop at Alla Maddalena for a relaxing lunch on their backyard patio.
Once in Murano, visit the famous Murano glass museum and spend the rest of your day shopping for the perfect glass jewelry in their many hand-crafted glass stores.
Watch sunrise on the Rialto Bridge
The Rialto Bridge is one of Venice’s most famous structures, but for that very reason is often littered with tourists. In order to avoid crowds, head to the bridge to watch an Italian sunrise over the water. While Italian locals go to bed late, they also wake up early, so after seeing the Bridge (and getting a few people-free photos) stop by Dolce Vita on Ruga dei Spezieri for a life-changing chocolate croissant and cappuccino - they open at 4AM.
Visit the Doge’s Palace
The Doge’s Palace is another bucket list experience you’ll want to arrive at early to avoid crowds. This Venetian Gothic-style building was built as half palace, half prison, connected by what is known as the Bridge of Sighs. Today, you can still tour the Doge’s (a kind of elected king that ruled Venice for over 1,100 years) private apartments, council halls, and prison cells that have been open to the public since 1923.
View Venice from the top of St. Mark's Campanile
After visiting the Doge’s Palace, take the elevator up to the top of the St. Mark’s Campanile to see some of the best views of Venice. From 325 feet high, you can admire the boats, gondolas, and Venetian buildings from the famous bell tower (a 20th century replica of the original tower built in 1514).
Make sure to purchase your tickets online in order to skip the long lines and head to this experience upon opening or closing in order to avoid crowds.
One of the best ways to truly experience Venice is to simply walk around with no direction. With endless alleyways, ornate bridges, and flower draped balconies, there's no real way to get lost in a city that looks like it came out of a Shakespeare novel (or did, for that matter). Talk to the locals, go into shops, eat authentic Italian gelato. Venice is one of my favorite places in the world due to the kindness and vibrancy of the people who live there - go out and meet them!
While on your walk, stop by Frulalà - a boozy smoothie paradise. This to-go bar is the perfect place to grab a frozen cocktail to take on your sightseeing adventure.
Note: There are no open container laws in Italy (America, please hop on this train), so feel free to drink cocktails, wine, or beer while you tour the city. Pick up a Canella mini Bellini - these can be found anywhere alcohol is sold in Venice and are the perfect size for a cocktail on the go.
What's on your bucket list for Venice? Let us know in the comments below.