Originally Published: January 15, 2014

Venice is one of the most unique cities in Italy; an open-air museum filled with history, culture and splendour at every turn. It would be easy to spend a lifetime exploring the winding alleyways, picturesque squares, dazzling churches and numerous museums, but if you are short on time here are our top five things to do and see in Venezia:

Escape the crowds

Venice is famous for the elegant St Mark’s Square and no trip would be complete without a visit to this major landmark. However, the area around San Marco is also renowned for high prices and hoards of people, especially in high season. To escape the hustle and bustle take a stroll to some of the lesser known areas of the city such as the student haunts of Campo Santa Margherita, the green parks near Giardini and the historic section of the Ghetto where you can catch a more authentic glimpse of Venetian life.

Go island hopping

Venice is a lagoon, built up over 118 islands linked by bridges and boats. A great way to explore is to take a vaporetto (water bus) and visit some of the outer islands. Murano is world famous for its glass while nearby Burano is instantly recognizable due to its brightly coloured houses. In the summer head to the Lido and visit Venice’s only beach or hang out at one of the luxury hotels and resorts on Giudecca.

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Shop at the market

A food lover’s paradise, the market has been taking place near the Rialto Bridge for over 700 years and is a colourful, noisy and very Venetian experience.  The market is open every morning and offers everything from fresh fruit and vegetables to a huge range of local fish and seafood. The area is also packed with shops selling all kinds of gastronomic delights as well as bars and restaurants using the fresh produce for their daily specials.

Take a trip along the Grand Canal

Famously described as “the most beautiful street in the world”, the palazzi lining the Grand Canal perfectly showcase the ravishing Venetian architecture. The best way to appreciate the opulence is to take a gondola ride from the train station right the way along to San Marco but, if this is slightly over budget, the next best thing is to hop on the vaporetto n°1 which goes the same route for a fraction of the cost.

Hit the Bacari

One of the best and cheapest ways to eat authentic Venetian food is to visit a ‘bacaro’. These traditional bars are dotted throughout the city and are famed for their ‘cicchetti’, a sort of Venetian tapas. Cicchetti are sold individually and usually consist of a selection of crostini, sardines, baccalà (salt cod), polenta, salami and cheeses. Cicchetti should, by rights, be always accompanied by an ‘ombra’, a small glass of local wine.

Cichetti in Venice (photo credit: Kate Zagorski)
Cichetti in Venice (photo credit: Kate Zagorski)

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For more of our favorite things to do in the best Italian cities, read our guides for FlorenceRome, Milan and Bologna.

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