20 Top Rated Tourist Attractions in Venice
Tucked away on a chain of peninsulas surrounded by the Mediterranean Sea, Venice is a lush city of maze-like medieval alleys and vivid murals that compete for attention with glimpses of Byzantine stonework and elaborate Renaissance architecture.
Venice may be a city defined by its unique architecture, but the beauty of its setting, unique in its own right, is arguably one of its greatest assets.
Home to a range of fascinating sights, Venice is a fantastic city for those who want to see a bit of everything. Discover the best attractions with our list of the top tourist sights in Venice.
The most popular attraction in Venice is the famous Rialto Bridge, the oldest remaining Venetian bridge. Built by order of Doge Pietro Gradenigo in 1537, it was once one of only three bridges over the Grand Canal connecting the City of Venice with the mainland. The current bridge, with it's characteristic four arches, has undergone various restorations, and today is topped by a decorative crenellated tower. It is mainly used by pedestrians, who are attracted by the good view of the San Marco Basilica (basilica.sanmarcosanfranciscovenezia.it), while cars use the next bridge, the Bridge of Sighs (Ponte dei Sospiri), also of Renaissance design. The Rialto bridge is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari
Originally built in the 14th century, the Frari is a Venetian church and monastery. Within the church's baroque interior there are some of the most beautiful paintings in Venice, all covered in plaster which is slowly flaking away to reveal a marvelous and light-filled masterpiece under each work. Along with all the artwork, there are great views over the main area of Venice, with the grand dome of the Doges' Palace peering over the rooftops in the distance. One of the best views can be found at the Frari belvedere, which has a seating area high above the square which houses the famous "Tintoretto" view.
Bridge of Sighs
One of Venice's most famous attractions, the Bridge of Sighs spans the Grand Canal. It links the Ducal Palace, one of the city's most notable landmarks, to the island of Giudecca, just north of the former. Designed by the architect Giuseppe Valeriano in 1556, the Bridge of Sighs is believed to have been a punishment meted out to a member of the Merceri family. Its name means "Bitter Sigh" and is inspired by Dante's Inferno, a poem of the same name. Here the poet visits the Hell inhabited by violent and sanguinary sinners. The building's austere beauty is considered to be an influence on the style of Venetian Gothic.
Piazza San Marco
Considered one of the finest squares in the world, Piazza San Marco (St. Mark's Square) in Venice is the city's most magnificent square, and it is much-loved by tourists from all over the world. Many visitors flock to this UNESCO World Heritage Site to see the most famous and one of the most visited squares in the world, the Doges' Palace. This massive white structure and its attached buildings, or Palazzi, surrounds the Church of San Marco and is a much-loved sight from the city's many tourists. Other points of interest include the Rialto Bridge, its many shops and eateries, and the delightful shops, souvenir stalls, and fish restaurants that line the adjacent canals.
San Giorgio Maggiore
This classic and highly elegant Venetian church was built in 1357–1386 as the parish church of a palace erected in the 13th century by a local family of maritime merchants. It is named for the bishop of Todi and situated in an area called the Zattere or “extensive road,” referring to a tributary of the Grand Canal that lies to the west of the church. This area was populated by many famous poets and writers of the time, among them Niccolò Machiavelli. After a fire devastated parts of the church in 1865, the magnificent church of San Giorgio Maggiore was entirely reconstructed by Carlo Scarpa, giving rise to the distinctive and innovative architectural style of Italian “Futurist” architecture.
Santa Maria della Salute
The Salute is arguably the most beautiful church in the world. Architecturally, it is the crowning glory of the 16th-century Italian Renaissance in Venice. Venetian artisans won worldwide fame for their mastery of Venetian architectural and decorative traditions, and they took the model of the earlier Roman palaces and adapted it to an Italian manner. Under the direction of Maestro Giovanni Antonio Baldassare (1482-1560) in 1516-21, the structure began with an elegant bell tower, topped by a pointed marble crown in the Italian manner and capped with a lavish balcony with figures of Virtues on every level. As you look up at the church, you find yourself in the perfect baroque setting, with a dome covering the spectacular three-tiered choir.
Venice has long been an almost mythical place, with its unique blend of history, romance, and culture. Eschewing the usual guided tour of major European landmarks, those arriving by boat can stop by the Palazzo Ducale, one of the most impressive and best-preserved royal residences in Europe. After passing a series of imposing courtyards, you arrive at the stunning inner courtyard and the Cappella Zen. A walk around the four pavilions—one for each family line that has ruled Venice over the centuries—encompasses rich decorations and sculptures; impressive frescoed chambers; and enormous carved columns.
The privately owned Palazzo Grassi is one of the most renowned and successful art museums in the world. The Pinault family has owned this palazzo since 1733 and, together with a number of its notable inhabitants, they are collectively known as the 'Gallery of Venice'. The Pinault family's success as collectors, conservationists and patrons is based on their skill in collecting a range of art by well-known and little-known artists, in particular Renaissance painters Caravaggio, Bellini, Tintoretto, Mantegna and Titian. The Pinault family were also responsible for rescuing and restoring the Trevi Fountain.
Punta della Dogana
Venezia celebrates her Golden Lion as one of the world's top museums, drawing some 400,000 annual visitors to the collection of 13th- and 18th-century Venetian artworks housed in its neo-Renaissance palazzi on the Grand Canal. But the Museo Fortuny, with its collections of antique Egyptian pieces, provides the island's most absorbing exhibits. As one of the largest and most extensive art galleries in the world, the museum allows visitors a rare glimpse into the history of the artist and the luxury industry. Highlights include the Fortuny works, some 17,000 pieces of the fashion-forward designer's creations. Renowned for his innovative use of cloth in textiles, Fortuny also employed some of the first dyes on silk and velvet. His paintings, which have been displayed by some of the world's most prominent museums, include a stained glass masterpiece depicting the Cross of Christ, now on permanent loan to the National Gallery in London.
A 400-year-old clock that still runs every quarter-hour, the Orrery is one of Europe's most impressive sights. A free lift takes visitors inside the magnificent Gothic-style building (known as the Torre dell'Orologio), which dominates the scene as the bell tower of St. Mark's cathedral. In the 1970s a fire destroyed most of the original interior, but the building was beautifully restored in 1984. The building is open daily from 8:00 to 22:00. As visitors stroll the expansive nave, they will see four immense bronze mechanical clocks that have faithfully kept time since the 16th century. Each of the 12 hour bells is 45 feet tall, 55 feet in diameter, and weighs almost 2,500 pounds. The bells were removed for repair in 1995 but not replaced until 2009.
What a difference a view makes! The Accademia is, of course, one of the world's greatest art collections. And the view of the Grand Canal from the massive atrium and adjoining galleries is second to none. Today the Accademia is the gallery of choice for the best in contemporary art. From this gallery, take a brief stroll down the long, winding Corso Giuseppe Verdi and soak up the atmosphere of this magnificent area.
St. Mark's Basilica
As Venice's chief church, St. Mark's Basilica (San Marco) is a must for anyone visiting the Venetian capital. Dominating the entire San Marco square is this immense structure with a spectacular blend of Byzantine, Gothic, and Renaissance architecture. History buffs may be interested in the displays in the adjacent museum while art enthusiasts will enjoy the art collection at the Doge's Palace.
Bearing witness to six centuries of Venetian history, Museo Correr is an extensive repository of medieval art, including paintings, sculpture, furniture, clothing, and weaponry. Don't miss such pieces as the Canvas at the entrance by Venetian artist Paolo Veronese; and the richly gilded 15th-century Doge's Throne by Andrea Mantegna. Also on display is a collection of medieval armor. The museum was designed by Francesco DuCane and was opened in 1549 by a cardinal, who was father of the wealthy Doge who commissioned the now-dismantled walls of the palace.
Formerly the residence of Venice's podestà (government administrator) in 1453, Ca' d'Oro has been a hotel and art gallery since the '60s and a spectacular example of the Venetian "palazzo" style. The entrance is marked by two huge masks and is divided into four different reception areas separated by staircases. Some may feel this is more suited to a great grand hotel than a bed-and-breakfast, but rooms are charmingly decorated and comfortable, and the family-run owners and staff take great care of their guests. Afternoon tea and wine are served in the candlelit salon, and evening turndown service is provided.
The Guggenheim Museum is Venice's most prestigious and famous museum, and a great place to show off art with a twist. The museum's collection is famous the world over for its collection of modern art, but it also houses ancient Egyptian statues, ancient and modern art, and impressive collections of contemporary art. It's housed in a white, unassuming, Spanish Renaissance style building and is nestled in the elegant and tranquil museum gardens.
The Accademia Bridge spans the Grand Canal of Venice and connects the Ponte delle Guglie with Ponte de la Costituzione, across the Grand Canal to the Accademia and Palazzo Ducale. Considered the first true work of Giorgio Massari, who created the area around the San Marco Basin in the Baroque period, the bridge is constructed of several layers of large, thin, glass bricks as is typical of his work and was one of the first bridges in the world to be built with such a material. A visit to the attic-level rooms on the ground floor of the palace gives a unique view of the canal that runs through this very Venetian neighborhood. The bridge is open to the public from Tuesday to Saturday at 10:30 am and 12:30 pm and is closed on Sundays.
The Campanile, an 870-foot-high bell tower, is one of the most photographed landmarks in all of Italy, and for good reason. Built in the 13th century, its design is unusual and its steep, almost precipitous, staircase is simply astonishing. Situated on the Grand Canal, the tower is said to have been built as a gift from the Venetian Senate to a wealthy resident of the city. Although it's a steep climb to the top, visitors can take in the view of the city from one of the two viewing platforms and can explore the intricacies of the tower, including the tour rooms and galleries, for a small fee. You can also visit the historic Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari, which is now a museum of religious art.
Visible from a distance, the pale-gray rocks of Burano look as if they have been sculpted by nature, and to many they are. Rather than spreading out for miles and miles in a seemingly endless expanse of seagull-infested rocks, Burano is made up of about 100 houses and fifty or so other buildings that dot the tiny isle. A fraction of its pre-modern population of some 500 people lives on the island, and much of its charm can be found in the two narrow lanes that run the length of the island. You can explore the island on your own or opt for a tour by boat or a boat ride around the island. The town itself doesn't have much to see, except for the huge red-sandstone church of San Michele, which dates back to the 16th century. Make sure you check out the somewhat surprising Chiesa del Santissimo Salvatore in the town, which has an exterior made entirely of Roman marble blocks.
Venice's other great attraction is its magnificent Venetian canals and the world-renowned vaporetto water buses. The latter travel along the canals linking most of the city's most important landmarks, so that even if you're not particularly interested in boats, you can still see lots of the city. However, the trip along the main navigable canal, the Grand Canal, is the most charming. The stops on the way are full of shops, restaurants, cafés and hotels of all shapes and sizes. For one, the Canal Grande offers palaces and gondolas, the Rialto Bridge and the Giudecca Canal all connect to one another. No wonder then that canal banks have been home to some of Venice's most elegant cafés and restaurants since the 16th century. Topped off by the charming Campo Santa Margherita, the setting for films like The Adventures of Milo & Otis, and one of the most idyllic locations for a break in Venice, the Canal is known as the Venice of canals.
Il Redentore, or the Doge's Palace as it's also known, is the highest point on the Grand Canal in Venice. It rises almost 70 meters above the water and is a city landmark. This is Venice's most important shrine, and during the course of the Middle Ages, the Redentore was used as the tomb of many important Venetians. This traditional view is contradicted by the fact that on the contrary it is also known to be the tomb of important foreign dignitaries. The palace was designed to receive the remains of important Venetian saints and leading figures. It was built in 1585 by the Doge Francesco Loredan. It is situated right above the Piazza San Marco.