What are the highlights and attractions you can't miss on your vacation in Venice? Here you will find a list of the top 10 sights of Venice!
Venice - the Italian city on the water is one of the most popular city break destinations in Europe and stands for pure romance. The picturesque lagoon city is transformed every year at Carnival into a sparkling sea of color and has already provided the backdrop for countless dramas and comedies in the cinema and theater.
Donna Leon, William Shakespeare, Mission Impossible and James Bond: countless film producers, poets, writers, painters and musicians have already captured the wonderful capital of Veneto on paper in various forms.
St. Mark's Square, Rialto Bridge, St. Mark's Basilica and Grand Canal: churches, bridges, squares and palaces give Venice an incomparable charm! They tell of Venice's turbulent history, the fascination of which no visitor can escape. The abundance of attractions during this city trip is terrific and discovering Venice on your own is no problem. Who is only a few days in the city, should at least visit the top 10 sights of Venice!
Tip: With the Venice City Pass, many entrance fees to sights are discounted or even free. Also the service of the water buses, among others to the Venetian islands, can be used for free.
Table of contents
St. Mark's Square
The Piazza San Marco in the eponymous district of Venice is the most famous square of the floating city. Together with the magnificent buildings that flank it, what Napoleon called "the most beautiful banqueting hall in Europe" forms one of the most famous landmarks of Venice.
The 175-meter-long and 82-meter-wide square is crowded by countless artists, tourists and pigeons almost all year round. No wonder with the fantastic panorama directly on the Grand Canal! Here also takes place the official opening of the famous Carnival of Venice with the traditional angel flight.
In the immediate vicinity are numerous other top sights of Venice - making St. Mark's Square the ideal starting point for a sightseeing tour! But beware: since Piazza San Marco is located directly on the sea, the square is often flooded!
St. Mark's Basilica and the Campanile
The number one attraction in St. Mark's Square is St. Mark's Basilica and the famous freestanding bell tower. St. Mark's Square owes its name to the impressive St. Mark's Basilica. The three-nave church was built from 1063 to 1094 in honor of St. Mark. Its impressive five domes conceal mosaics and marble, gold and paintings, and an imposing high altar with the Pala d'oro. No wonder St. Mark's Basilica is also called the "Golden Basilica".
Right next to the Byzantine-looking Basilica di San Marco sits its famous bell tower. A statue of the archangel Gabriel looks down from the top of the almost 100-meter-high Campanile di San Marco. The original structure is almost 1000 years old. At that time it functioned as a lighthouse for ships entering the lagoon.
The current version of the bell tower was built after its collapse in 1902 and holds the title of the tallest building in Venice.
If you continue walking along the extension of St. Mark's Square, the so-called Piazzetta, you will reach the Doge's Palace, an imposing example of masterful Venetian architecture and another sightseeing highlight of Venice.
When Venice was still a republic and the Doges ruled as the highest officials, their residential palace was emblematic of the power of the empire. The magnificent Doge's Palace originated as a castle in the 11th century and was expanded in the 14th and 15th centuries to its current Gothic-style version. It has been open to the public since 1796.
At that time it housed the Navy Office and law offices. In the halls of the second and third floors, decorated with stuccoes and paintings, the new Doges were elected, ambassadors were received and citizens' concerns were heard. The Doge' s living quarters can also be found here.
Tip: On the first Sunday of the month, the Doge's Palace can be visited free of charge in the evening.
Bridge of Sighs
Directly adjacent to the Doge's Palace is the Bridge of Sighs, which leads from the former government building of Venice across the Rio dei Palazzo directly to the prisons of the time. It is said that the bridge got its name "Ponte dei Sospiri" from the wistful sighs of the countless convicts who were led here to their imprisonment. Among the prisoners was, for example, Casanova, probably Italy's most famous womanizer.
It was hardly possible to escape from the very narrow bridge. It is completely walled except for two small windows, and inside it consists of two corridors that were used as a one-way street so that prisoners being led in and out could not see or hear each other.
The 11 meter long limestone bridge was built in 1600 by Antonio Contin. By the way, the best view of the Bridge of Sighs is from the Ponte della Paglia, which crosses the Rio de Palazzo o de la Canonica.
The former prison cells can also be visited. The entrance to them is in the Doge's Palace.
Even more famous than the Bridge of Sighs is Venice's Rialto Bridge. Antonio Contin had already worked on it, too, but his grandfather, Antonio da Ponte, was in charge of construction. Famous as the oldest bridge in Venice, its stone version has connected the two districts of San Polo and San Marco since 1591.
At a length of 48 meters, it crosses the hardly less famous Grand Canal to the area called Rialto in San Polo, once the most important trading center of Venice. Rialto is still a famous market in Venice today, which is also worth a visit. Especially fish and vegetables are here at their best!
The Grand Canal must not be missing from the top 10 sights of Venice! The 4km long canal is the largest and most famous waterway of the lagoon city. Along its banks are about 200 impressive noble palaces and majestic churches like the proverbial pearls on a string.
Venice's famous gondolas glide up and down the Grand Canal and under four picturesque bridges - a ride on one of them is also one of the absolute must-dos during a vacation in Venice (even if the romantic excursion in the boat is not quite cheap)! Alternatively, take a trip on the water buses - less classic, but extremely practical!
Santa Maria della Salute
Directly on the Grand Canal is the baroque Santa Maria della Salute, one of the most beautiful churches in Venice. It is enthroned in the direction of San Marco on the right bank and is also clearly visible from St. Mark's Square. Its construction dates back to 1630, when the then Doge promised a church to Mary, the Mother of God, to pray for the end of a devastating plague epidemic.
This is how the church of St. Mary of Health, built by Baldassare Longhena from 1631 and consecrated in 1687, five years after the architect's death, came into being. With its imposing dome, it acts as a counterpart to St. Mark's Basilica; inside, the noble white marble floor and six paintings by Titian impress.
Lido Beach di Venezia
Venice is, of course, also the place for a beach vacation! One of the best options for a relaxing day on the Adriatic beach is the island of Lido ("beach") in the Venice lagoon. Since the 19th century, the 11-kilometer-long island has been considered a popular bathing island, which also hosts the Venice Film Festival (the oldest in the world). Cars are allowed here but are hardly visible, the best way to explore Lido is by bike.
Luxurious hotels make Lido di Venezia a sophisticated resort where high society also feels at home. Thomas Mann's novella "Death in Venice" contributed to Lido's international fame. Churches, fortresses, nature reserves and the former Doge's residence Malamocco are among the sights of Lido, along with the wonderful sandy beach.
Murano Island and the Glass Museum
Another island of interest to tourists in Venice is Murano. Known worldwide for its coveted Murano glass, it is also the main attraction of the archipelago. Here, too, numerous canals, boats and bridges characterize the cityscape.
A large part of the approximately 5,000 inhabitants of Murano work in the traditional glassblowing workshops. The high-quality vases, glasses and jewelry are exported all over the world and make excellent stylish souvenirs or souvenirs.
In the Museum of Glass, Glassmaking and Glass Art, the well-kept technique and steps of glassblowing are vividly presented and special pieces are exhibited. Some of the exhibits are about 2,000 years old.
Cemetery Island San Michele
The island of San Michele, not far from the island of Murano, is also worth a visit during a city trip to Venice. The official cemetery of the lagoon city is located on the uninhabited island. In a picturesque setting, famous Venetian personalities were buried here, commemorated by imposing tombs.
Above the tombs towers the 13th century monastery of the Camaldolese. Its Renaissance church of San Michele dates back to 1469 and is still preserved today.
Entrance fee for Venice will come
Up to 130,000 tourists visit the lagoon city at peak times. The locals face this development with skepticism and concern. During the exit restrictions in the wake of the Corona crisis in early 2020, several voices were raised: Finally we have our city to ourselves again!
For this reason, the Municipal Council has decided to charge an entrance fee for Venice for day tourists from 2023. The revenue from this will be used for the maintenance of the city. The fee should actually have been levied from 2020, but has already been postponed several times. It will probably be a few euros, the exact amount has not yet been determined.