Venice was that dream you never want to wake from.
Every corner you turn, you walk deeper into some real-life watercolor painting that a camera can never do justice. It's like no place else I've ever been.
It's (quite literally) a maze of canals and small streets, whimsical bridges, and colorful buildings. And as with all mazes, you should prepare to find yourself lost a time or two.
Venice has and always will be a very popular stop for tourists in Italy. You really can see a lot of it in just one day and it's not uncommon to take day trips to visit Venice, but I'd recommend staying for at least two.
We arrived in the evening by train, had a late dinner, spent the whole next day looking around and exploring, spent another night and then left the following afternoon. It was plenty of time to soak up beautiful Venice!
Okay, so now--on to the important stuff.
What to do in Venice, Italy
The oldest bridge on the Grand Canal and is one of the famous picture taking spots in Venice.
There are little tourist shops all across the bridge. I don't care much for the tourist shops, but it's a fun place to take some pictures and get a great view of the canal. You will also see (and probably go under) this bridge if you take a Grand Canal Tour.
Oh, and as you can see--it didn't take long for me to switch from my "cute" shoes into my Nikes. Be prepared to walk A LOT in Venice!
Sidenote* I briefly mentioned this earlier but want to elaborate a bit more--YOU WILL GET LOST in Venice. It is inevitable that you will get turned around at least once (but most likely fifteen+ times) There is very little--if any--method to the madness of their streets and alleyways.
The best tip I can give you is to try and keep a sense of what direction you need to move. Eventually you'll get somewhere, because it's really not that big. And in the tourist heavy areas they will often have signs with arrows pointing to "Rialto Bridge" or other big landmarks.
Also note, my husband has an international phone/data plan--so we did have Google maps the whole time we were there and still got lost many times. So even if you're thinking "oh, we'll have data--we'll be fine"...think again & just be ready to get yourself all sorts of lost.
However, there is a plus side of getting lost and that is that you may possibly come across hidden book stores in small alley ways....
How magical is that picture?! Venice is full of gems like this.
...and this darling man who was playing/singing Simon and Garfunkel in Italian.
He won my heart pretty quick.
Small church we stopped at on our way back to hotel.
The archway was stunning.
I should also mention that there are so many galleries, museums and church/cathedrals you could wander through all day long throughout Venice. There are certain passes you can buy to get into a lot of them that have an entrance fee. We were on a tighter schedule, so we didn't purchase one of the passes, but if you time I imagine it would be amazing!
Next on the list is one that we actually didn't have recommended to us, but decided to do it last minute because the reviews on TripAdvisor were so impressive.
Not cheap, I think it was roughly $20-$30/per person, but you can probably get better deals if you buy ahead of time online (again, we decided last minute and just bought our tickets there)
Even at that price though, it was well worth it! We didn't regret our decision, and if you have the time take the audio tour as well. There is so much to see and so much history to be heard!
Outside in the courtyard area of the Palazzo Ducale...
We weren't really allowed to take pics inside, so we only got a couple but these will give you an idea of how grand it is!
I have a confession to make...we didn't take a gondola ride. Before you judge, let me explain why! For starters, we tried to talk a few of the Gondola drivers down a bit and none of them would budge (we've heard of people successfully doing this--especially during the off-season when we went--but we had no luck--so if you try and succeed, let me know your tricks!)
One of the main reasons we decided not to was because even though we had a few blue skies throughout our stay, it was quite cold and really windy. I felt like we'd basically be paying $100 to sit and freeze on the water for 45 minutes.
However, I still think it's something that needs to stay on the list! I don't regret our decision, but if the weather is good and you don't mind paying, I'm sure it is as magical as it looks!
We did take a water taxi, and it is quite beautiful viewing the buildings and streets of Venice from the water!
4. Ponte dell' Accademia
This is one of the four bridges over the Grand Canal. The view from this bridge is amazing (see above & below)
I love this guy.
A couple of random pictures from our exploring--probably one of my favorite parts of Venice! Just the random little cafes and beautiful old buildings that we'd stumble across.
...and that handsome man of mine. I mean, right?! That face!
Probably one of the most popular tourist stops in Venice, and it is a must. The architecture alone is enough to go and just stare at, but even better--you can go inside! Oh, and did I mention--it's FREE. We love when we get to do cool stuff for free. There was a small line, but it only took us about 5 minutes to get inside...so don't let the line scare you away.
6. And then of course, St. Mark's Square (Piazza San Marco)
It really is a breathtaking scene. Take time to stop and admire the architecture and enjoy some people watching. No matter what time of the year, this place will be bustling with tourists--so if you don't like large crowds you may need to hurry through this one, but it's definitely worth a stop.
Also, the sun was shining exceptionally bright while also reflecting off the water. I had glasses but poor Rob didn't...and this was the best pic we were able to get! (So, sorry Rob!)
Not going to lie, the sun was out but it was freezing this particular morning! I am glad we were prepared and came bundled up. Though by later in the afternoon, it did warm up quite a bit. For those of you considering going in the off-season (we went in February) I definitely recommend it, because the crowds are so much smaller but you do need to make sure to check the weather reports and dress accordingly. Nothing is worse then going out for the day in a new place, ready to see a million things, and then having it ruined by being too cold!
7. Just right down the way from St. Marks is the Bridge of Sighs and if you do the tour of Doge's Palace like I mentioned above, you will get to walk inside of it, and it's pretty amazing.
Why is it called the Bridge of Sighs?
The view from the Bridge of Sighs was the last view of Venice that convicts would see before taken into the prison (which you'll see on the tour is not a light and happy place) Prisoners would sigh at their last and final view of beautiful Venice.
My husband captured this shot while we were inside the Bridge of Sighs. This would have been the view that the prisoners would see as they saw their last glimpse of Venice!
8. I'd also like to give a shout-out to my FAVORITE food stop in Venice...
When you visit, please make sure to stop in for me--and honestly you can't really go wrong with any pasta/sauce combo that you choose but I do highly recommend the Creamy Broccoli Alfredo Sauce with the Fettuccini noodles.
I may or may not have gone back two days in a row :)
Overall, Venice was one of my favorite stops in Italy!
It is such a magical, romantic place with so much to do and see.
And as always, please add to my list in the comments below! I love to hear your thoughts, suggestions, and experiences!
See more of our time in Italy here!