So, you made it to Venice (or are planning to visit Venice soon) and you are wondering what there to do in this stunning, floating city? Hopefully, you have a few days to thoroughly explore Venice and all of its treasures. My mother and I stayed two nights, and we arrived early on the first day, giving us nearly three days to traipse around and discover the city. This was the perfect amount of time to both see the highlights of Venice and have sufficient time to relax and fully absorb the Venetian ambience.
Here are few of the ways that we occupied our time in Venice.
See an opera – We treated ourselves to an night out on the town at an authentic chamber performance. The Interpreti Veneziani Concert took place in the 17th-century Church of San Vidal. With only a crowd of about sixty, the little church provided an intimate setting to enjoy the concertos and sinfonias. We heard Mozart, Bach, Vivaldi and Handel, among others. The musicians were fantastically passionate and truly entertaining. Merely watching their emotional expressions and swaying, rhythmic movements to their music was worth the ticket price.
Take a gondola ride – Yes, even though it is hopelessly cliché, please do shell out the money for an authentic Venetian Gondola ride. It is the best way to see some of Venice’s most beautiful and historic areas, away from the tourists and noise. To save on costs, make friends with some keen strangers and share the boat ride. Your 80-year old self will thank you someday!
Get a little lost – After seeing the highlights of Venice, throw away your map and guidebook. Get a little lost in Venice. Actually, get a lot lost! Explore the narrow labyrinthine alleys, or follow a winding canal until it crosses another meandering waterway. Take photos of colorful doorways, wooden balconies, and cute bridges. Duck into local bars and cafes for refreshment. Immerse yourself in the local life around you!
Hang out in St. Marks Square – St. Marks Square is the place to hang out. Though flooded with tourists during the mid-day hours, experiencing Piazza San Marco either in the early morning or evening will provide a fulfilling, atmospheric experience. Grab a patch of concrete (or a set of steps) and watch lovers strolling hand-in-hand beneath honey-hued lamp lights. Be sure to check out the dueling mini orchestras too! There is no need to pay for a seat at the restaurants to appreciate the music- just watch from a distance.
Walk the Rialto Bridge – A popular sight in Venice, the Ponte di Rialto is the heart of Venice. Though not exactly the most romantic spot in Venice, the bridge is probably the city’s most famous sight. The Rialto was the only way to cross the Grand Canal until 1843 when the Accademia Bridge was built. Today, area around the bridge is a constant hive of activity. From cramped little shops and fish markets to souvenir stalls and produce hawkers, the alleys are quite crowded and difficult to navigate at times. Take a photo and then move on!
Experience a Venetian pub crawl- Venice is full of bacari and cicchetti bars, little stand-up only bars and cafes offering snacks and cheap wine by the glass. The tapas are usually delicious. Sample fresh cheeses, tomatoes drenched in olive oil and calamari, among other tasty delights. These tiny spots also offer a neat people-watching opportunity as they are often buzzing with the local crowd, not the tourist crowd.
Watch a sunset behind the canals – The absolute best thing to do in Venice is to buy a few beers or mini bottles of wine and simply sit along a canal during sunset. The sinking sun creates awesome reflections both on the water and the multihued, crumbling facades. Listen to the gentle lapping of water against canal walls, and watch the locals walking home from work or bringing in the afternoon’s laundry.
Enjoy Venice at your own pace!