We’ve picked out the best, can’t-miss things to do in Venice. From gondolas to gelato, it’s all here!

1) Ride in a Gondola

Taking a gondola ride is a Venice must-do.

Haggle with the gondoliers for a good price, then climb on board for one of the most iconic Venetian experiences. You could happily while away the days ferry-hopping or getting lost in the Cannaregio or Castello quarters of the city. But there are plenty of sites to see as well.

The Ca’ d’Oro (Golden House) is a gothic waterfront palace, while the 16th-century Ponte di Rialto is Venice’s most famous bridge, perfect for sunset shots.

2) Piazza San Marco (St Mark’s Square)

Tourists flock to Piazza San Marco (St Mark’s Square) – the heart of Venice and the only place where you won’t feel lost. The magnificent Basilica di San Marco (St Mark’s Basilica) overlooks the square and is loaded with more gold and gilt than Fort Knox.

3) Eating out in Venice: coffee and gelato

There are few places in the world more expensive than Venice when it comes to eating out, but pizza by the slice or a gelato will keep your energy up. Otherwise look out for an osteria (tavern), where you can buy a drink and snacks.

A coffee in Piazza San Marco will most likely be the most expensive cup you’ll ever drink. Don’t sit here unless you are prepared to fork out €15 or so.

4) Historical Venice

Venice is a classic rags to riches story. In AD500 or so, barbarians from Lombard repeatedly invaded Italy, and escaping refugees fled to islands in a swampy lagoon. This move turned out to be 
a strategic one, and by AD1000, the islanders had turned Venice into a maritime superpower, which controlled the Mediterranean and grew wealthy on trade with the Byzantine empire.

5) Explore the surrounding area

Spend a day visiting the city’s surrounding islands. It’s a short vaporetto (water bus) ride to Murano, which is famous for its beautiful blown glass and crystal. Duck into a furnace workshop and see the glass blowers in action.

Bonus tip!

The best way to experience Venice is to explore its streets, crossing bridges when you come to them and getting lost in the process. Move away from the tourists – or wait until after dark when they are all asleep – to find your own way around this unique city.

Venice boats

Essential information

WHEN TO GO: Spring and autumn are warm without being unbearably hot.
GETTING THERE: Budget airlines Ryanair and EasyJet fly direct from London.
VISAS: South Africans need a Schengen visa.
CURRENCY: Euro. 1 GBP = 1.18 EUR.
LANGUAGE: Italian, but English is widely spoken.
GETTING AROUND: Ferries are a common way of getting around Venice. ACTV run the city’s public transport; buy tickets from the booth or on the boat. Walking is highly recommended, too.
GOING OUT: A beer costs about £5.
ACCOMMODATION: A bed in a dorm is about £19, while a hotel room starts from £30.

Related posts:
Destination guide: Venice
Venice carnival
Italy’s Top 10  
Italy’s coffee culture