Venice is unlike any other city on earth. It’s the kind of place where you have the greatest expectations before arrival. And while there are many unique things to do in Venice, it’s easy to find yourself heading to the usual sites and attractions.
People typically make a bucket list of things to do in Venice for their dream trip. Ticking off a long list of crowded museums and squares, sunset sites, and ice cream that cost an arm and a leg.
Despite these popular (and expensive) places to visit holding a spot on many a traveler’s bucket list, there are a few unique places to visit in Italy, with it sporting plenty of quiet tourist sites in Venice that won’t break the bank either. Let’s check them out!
Fun Things to Do in Venice
Venice is more a feeling than an action. It’s about a slower pace of life. The more time you spend trying to tick off an endless list of things to do in Venice, the less time you will have to experience the city’s real magic.
If you’re spending time in Venice, must-see attractions are aplenty, so you don’t have to actively pursue them.
Come along, and let’s get lost on a Southern European adventure with these Venice, Italy activities.
Adventures in Venice – Being Lost & Finding Fun
The hidden passageways, that one tiny square without a single tourist, a perfectly made Aperol Spritz served with a sunset to die for. All these make for a more memorable stay in Venice.
Venice is about hopping on a boat and getting off wherever you please. It’s staying on the boat and not getting off at your stop because you are enjoying the conversation with some newly made friends. It’s taking the boat in the wrong direction to try to see the city from another perspective. It’s about getting a bike and riding around, getting lost.
Must-see Venice Sightseeing Spots
Venice is about running as far away from San Marco Square as possible in the middle of the midday heat and returning late at night to get that perfect shot and to take in the beauty of one of the most beautiful places in Venice at a time when you can truly appreciate it.
Visiting St Mark’s at night undoubtedly comes across as odd, especially considering that many flock to it during the day. But there’s something about having the place to yourself that feels… magical.
It’s about entering the sacred halls of one of the world’s most stunning cathedrals just as the six o’clock mass has ended, allowing you to take in every detail at your own pace and see the inside of the cathedral light up bit by bit, as the security guard shows you some hidden and secret treasures.
Taking in the sights of the carefully painted mosaics is a feast for the senses as you’ll appreciate the vivid artwork and attention to detail. You can’t help but feel small in this colossal work of devotion.
Cheap Gelato Places in Venice, Italy
Venice is not about searching for hours for that ice cream shop everyone recommends you to find. It’s about allowing yourself to get lost and coming across a small, unknown ice cream shop that will forever remain a secret.
It’s about paying just $3.5 USD (€2) to eat some gelato with a perfect view, sitting on the steps of a deserted square, and watching the world go by.
Have Drinks With Locals
It’s about running from the masses of tourists and the outrageous tourist traps that make you pay for each minute of your precious day and instead opting to hang on a wall with some locals sipping on whatever they’re having.
I mean, what could possibly be a better way to improve your Italian than by having a conversation (or at least attempting to have one) with locals while sipping an Aperol Spritz or whatever beverage they’re having?
Learn How To Row A Gondola
Venice is about taking a left, followed by a right, followed by two lefts, and coming across a peaceful canal just as a gondola turns a bend and passes by the perfect beam of morning light, allowing you to snap the most beautiful photograph.
After snapping that picture, it dawns on you that being in Venice is also about taking the leap at learning new skills, even if you may not need them in the future. Learning how to row a gondola over the mostly still, calm waters of Venice is the stuff dreams are made of, although it’s not something that comes to everyone’s mind.
But it wouldn’t be unique, then. And that makes your trip to Venice, Italy, all the more interesting.
Bask in the Venetian Sun
It’s about exploring until your feet hurt, then finding a tiny archway beside a canal that is lit up by the soft afternoon sunshine, and just sitting with the sun beaming down on you, knowing you are in one of the most beautiful cities on earth and yet there’s not a soul around to ruin the moment.
Even though it might not be on any list of the top 10 things to do in Venice, Italy, soaking up the warmth of the sun on your skin while watching gondolas glide by and people-watching is the kind of thing you can truly appreciate when you visit Italy.
Hang Out At A Cafe
Venice is about sitting down at a cute cafe for one drink because your feet hurt and the sun is at its hottest, and accidentally staying at the cafe all morning and all afternoon because you’re enjoying the company of strangers (and now friends) as they come and go throughout the day.
It’s also about exchanging stories with 70-year-old Australian pensioners with a taste for partying hard or discussing the merits of the British education system with a sweet couple from Scotland.
It is not necessary to seek out the most costly or highly rated restaurant when in Venice. It involves eating pizza for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and choosing different toppings and pizza stands for each meal.
Venice is about throwing caution to the wind and requesting unconventional toppings for your pizza, such as a sumptuous and earthy truffle pizza or something as simple and rich as an eggplant pizza.
Hostels With Views in Venice, Italy
It’s about ordering $5.11 USD (€5) gnocchi from your hostel and eating it from your lap while you dangle your feet over the edge of the Grand Canal, sipping on a glass of cheap house wine.
Finding the perfect, albeit outrageously priced, hotel in the center of all the action is not what Venice is about. No, that’s not it.
Opt instead to stay in a design hostel with panoramic views looking back at the main strip, waking up to the wind blowing sorting through the window, and an unobstructed view of one of the most stunning skylines on earth.
Visit Antonio Canova’s Tomb
A visit to Italy would not be complete without a detour to the Basilica dei Frari to catch a glimpse of the neoclassical sculptor’s tomb.
This part of your trip to Venice may cause you to realize how unusual it is that Antonio Canova’s heart is the only part of his body that is kept in the tomb.
Visiting the tomb is not only an interesting and unusual thing to do in Venice, but it also provides an excellent opportunity to spot a “dragon’s” heart, which should not be missed.
It is said that the skeleton of a dragon that Saint Donatus killed may be found behind the altar of this medieval church. It’s actually easy to miss out on this interesting glimpse of the “dragon’s” ribs; many people who observe the building’s Byzantine exterior or the mosaic of the Virgin Mary fail to notice it.
Take In The Bright Shades of Burano’s Colorful Homes
An essential part of experiencing Venice is riding a water bus (also known as Vaporetto) to the small fishing village of Burano and gazing in awe at the vividly painted homes that line the canals there.
At the Burano Lace Museum, you can view the beautiful lacework that was created with care and precision and take the time to appreciate the artistry that went into creating these priceless pieces.
Head to Torcello Island
The story of Venice begins on the historical site and island of Torcello, on which the city of Venice was founded approximately 1500 years ago.
This tiny island is one of the less popular destinations in Venice, Italy, despite the fact that it is only 6 miles away from the city.
But you shouldn’t let that stop you.
You will have more time (as well as space) to take leisurely walks about the island, during which you may take in the breathtaking panoramic views from the bell towers and examine the beautiful Byzantine mosaics that adorn the interiors of the Santa Maria Assunta church.
Visit Lazzaretto Nuovo and Lazzaretto Vecchio
These two are no regular “twin” islands, and a visit here is certainly unlike any other.
Being in Venice is about learning how Italy tried to manage and navigate the health crisis we know today as the black plague. The quarantine islands of Lazzaretto Nuovo and Lazzaretto Vecchio were set up to keep the (suspected) infected away from healthy people and inspect goods in transit for possible infection respectfully.
It’s about discovering how while these two Islands were economic hubs for trading goods between the East and West, they also posed a risk to the spread of the black plague due to how close the city’s living quarters were. As a result, residents then were significantly more prone to catching the plague.
Fast-forward to today, and the Lazzaretto Nuovo island is open to the public, with several small museums dedicated to commemorating this dark time in not only Italy but Europe’s past too.
St Mark’s Clock Tower
Being in Venice is coming across plenty of examples of great architecture and engineering, and St Mark’s Clock Tower is just one of many stunning examples of Venetian design and engineering.
St Mark’s Clock Tower, also known as “the Moor’s Clocktower,” is a unique feat of engineering from the 15th century that continues to be recognized today. In addition to the time and the dominant zodiac sign, the over 500-year-old clock also displays the moon’s phase.
Legend has it that when it was first unveiled, the Doge was so impressed by its beauty that he had the clock’s maker blinded so he couldn’t ever make it again.
Final Thoughts on Unique Things To Do and Attractions in Venice
Your journey through Venice will consist of a succession of seemingly unimportant choices that will, in the end, deliver you to the ideal location at the right time. So, consider forgetting your bucket list with tickets to the Vatican or other respected but too frequently visited jaunts.
Stop looking for fun activities and just go there to experience all the quirky things to do in Venice.
From what I’ve seen, you don’t actually DO anything in Venice. You just let yourself BE. This is the Venetian way.
Hi! I’m Janet Newenham, an Irish-born digital nomad and blogger. My blog, Journalist On The Run, is a journal of my travels and career hurdles, as well as a “bucket list for life.” In my youth, reading inspired me to create and achieve goals for my future.
My long list of goals took me to places I could never have dreamed of, each one inspiring me toward the next. Along the way, I picked up a few awards like “Digital Media Travel Journalist Of The Year” in both 2017 and 2019 while simply doing what I love.
Now, well into my 30s, I’ve seen so many of the world’s alcoves that it would be wrong not to share my experiences with you. This blog is my way of taking you around the world with me, and I hope you enjoy the ride.
My goal was to visit 50 countries before I hit 30. I never imagined that at 37, I could proudly say I’ve seen 101 of the world’s beautiful countries. Of course, no matter how much you think you’ve traveled, there is still so much left to see, and I look forward to going on the run with you.
Table of Contents
- Fun Things to Do in Venice
- Adventures in Venice – Being Lost & Finding Fun
- Must-see Venice Sightseeing Spots
- Cheap Gelato Places in Venice, Italy
- Have Drinks With Locals
- Learn How To Row A Gondola
- Bask in the Venetian Sun
- Hang Out At A Cafe
- All-day Pizza
- Hostels With Views in Venice, Italy
- Visit Antonio Canova’s Tomb
- Take In The Bright Shades of Burano’s Colorful Homes
- Head to Torcello Island
- Visit Lazzaretto Nuovo and Lazzaretto Vecchio
- St Mark’s Clock Tower
- Final Thoughts on Unique Things To Do and Attractions in Venice
Monday 17th of October 2016
I agree with you that Venice is a feeling and you were there for the best weekend, the Historical Regatta. You missed a trick though. You can have great Venetian food for less than €10. You should give pizza a miss while there as there are only a couple of places that do it well, Both near the train station.
Saturday 24th of September 2016
Great article Janet! I will keep that in mind next time I go ❤️
Saturday 24th of September 2016
Beautiful and valuable info
Thursday 22nd of September 2016
I think I did Venice wrong the first time. :-) . Love your post!
Friday 23rd of September 2016
Next time lady! An thanks SO much for taking the time to comment xx