canal-venezia best free things to do in venice italy

Spread over 118 small islands in a sparkling emerald-green lagoon in the Adriatic Sea, Venice is one of the most unique and unforgettable cities. Its majestic canals are lined with marble palazzi and sumptuous basilicas, and the narrow alleyways – filled with delightful boutiques and art galleries – open out into charming, secret squares. Here are top 7 free things to do in Venice you shouldn’t miss when traveling to Venice.

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Grand canal
rialto bridge venice
Rialto bridge, the most beautiful bridge in Venice
Piazza San Marco and the Basilica San Marco in Venice, Italy
Piazza San Marco
gondola venice italy
Gondolas

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canal-venezia best free things to do in venice italy
Canal Venezia

Yes, the city is ridiculously expensive, but, with stunning sights and works of art around every corner, you don’t have to spend a fortune to enjoy it. Believe it or not, from picturesque bridges and mesmerizing piazzas to churches that double as art galleries, there are tons of free things to do in Venice for all ages and interests. Here are 7 worth adding to your next quick getaway to La Serenissima.

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Venice at night

Walk the Rialto Bridge

rialto-bridge-venice best free things to do in venice italy
Rialto Bridge, Venice

Built entirely of marble, the iconic Rialto Bridge is probably the best spot in town to watch the gondolas and vaporettos sliding up and down the Grand Canal. Nevertheless, this is the most famous of all the 400 bridges in Venice, and one of the city’s top tourist attractions. It was designed by Antonio da Ponte in the 16th century, and is considered a Renaissance architectural and engineering marvel.

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Rialto Bridge

In addition to the lovely canal views, you’ll also find a series of arcades and pricey souvenir shops filled with colorful jewelry and Murano glass. Walking the Rialto Bridge is free and brings up some wonderful photo opportunities.

rialto bridge venice
Rialto bridge, the most beautiful bridge in Venice
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Rialto Bridge, Venice at night. Credit Venice travel blog.
rialto-bridge-venice best free things to do in venice italy
Rialto Bridge, Venice
Hotel Rialto
Hotel Rialto

Do Some People Watching in Piazza San Marco

square-san-marco best free things to do in venice italy
San Marco Square

Napoleon was right. Piazza San Marco really feels like the “drawing room of Europe”, especially during summertime, when the city is at its busiest. Framing the monumental square are some of Venice’s most recognizable landmarks and historic buildings, including the stunning St. Mark’s Basilica, the glorious Doge’s Palace, and the towering Campanile.

san marco square in summer
San Marco Cathedral
Piazza San Marco and the Basilica San Marco in Venice, Italy
Piazza San Marco and the Basilica San Marco in Venice, Italy

Piazza San Marco and the Basilica San Marco in Venice, Italy

Piazza San Marco and the Basilica San Marco in Venice, Italy
Piazza San Marco look down from Campanile

Piazza San Marco and the Basilica San Marco in Venice, Italy

Piazza San Marco and the Basilica San Marco in Venice, Italy

Piazza San Marco and the Basilica San Marco in Venice, Italy
Piazza San Marco
Piazza San Marco and the Basilica San Marco in Venice, Italy
Aerial view of Piazza San Marco
Saint Mark’s Basilica Venice
Murals
Saint Mark’s Basilica Venice
San Marco Cathedral

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Being a popular meeting place for both tourists and Venetians, the swanky boutiques and alfresco cafes here are extremely expensive, but that doesn’t mean you can’t walk around, soak up the atmosphere, and marvel at the outstanding architecture.

Indulge in Renaissance Art at Galleria dell’Accademia

galeria-arte-venezia best free things to do in venice italy
Galleria dell’Accademia

Replete with Venetian art from the 14th to the 18th century, Galleria dell’Accademia makes for a fascinating visit, especially if you’re a fan of Renaissance painting. Highlights include masterpieces by artists such as Bellini, Titian, and Veronese. Admission is free in the first Sunday of every month.

Gallerie Dell’Accademia

Tour the Rialto Market

rialto-market best free things to do in venice italy
Rialto Market

Nestled along the Grand Canal, in the district of San Polo, the bustling Rialto Market is a true feast for the senses.

The commercial heart of Venice for more than seven centuries, this is still one of the great medieval markets of Europe and the best place in town to buy seasonal fruits and vegetables, fresh meat, and locally caught seafood.

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Sounds, smells, and colors apart, a visit to Mercato di Rialto (open Tuesday to Saturday) is a great way to gain some insight into the Venetians’ way of life and their food culture.

Pescheria (Fish) Market
Pescheria (Fish) Market

Erberia rialto market3

Erberia rialto market
Erberia Zone
The Rialto Market

Step Inside Basilica di San Marco

san-marco-cathedral best free things to do in venice italy
Basilica di San Marco

Some tourists would pay anything to step inside the spectacular St. Mark’s Basilica, but the free admission makes it an absolute must.

A gorgeous example of Italo-Byzantine architecture, the grandiose church stands proudly at the eastern end of Piazza San Marco as a vivid reminder of Venice’s glorious past.

Saint Mark’s Basilica Venice
Murals

Saint Mark’s Basilica Venice

Saint Mark’s Basilica Venice
Interior
Saint Mark’s Basilica Venice
Mosaici
Saint Mark’s Basilica Venice
Exterior of Saint Mark’s

Its exterior is beautiful, but not as breathtaking as its interiors, where artworks, jewels, and glistening golden mosaics adorn every square foot, from the floor to the altars to the huge domed ceilings.

See the Titians in Santa Maria della Salute

basilica-santa-maria-della-salute best free things to do in venice italy
Santa Maria della Salute

Built in the 17th century to mark the end of Venice’s final plague epidemic, Santa Maria della Salute is a Roman Catholic church dedicated to Virgin Mary.

Santa Maria della Salute

Santa Maria della Salute

Italy, Veneto, Venice, Santa Maria della Salute church on Grand Canal at sunset
Italy, Veneto, Venice. Santa Maria della Salute church on the Grand Canal, at sunset
Santa Maria della Salute by GeorgeDement

The grand, octagonal structure can be found at the entrance to the Grand Canal and is worth visiting not only for its splendid Baroque architecture, but also for the treasures housed inside. The sacristy is bursting with Titian masterpieces, while fabulous paintings by Palma il Giovane and Tintoretto celebrate the city’s survival from plague.

Enjoy Some Window Shopping

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Shopping street in Venice

Venice is notoriously famous for its pricey shops and exclusive fashion boutiques, but window shopping is almost as fun as the real thing, and it doesn’t cost you a dime.

Bursting with colorful Carnival masks, exquisite Burano lace, and Murano glassware, the city’s window displays immerse passersby into the local craftsmanship traditions and exceptional artisan scene.

window-shopping-venice best free things to do in venice italy 2

Jewelry, leather goods, and antiques are very well represented in Venice, and so are luxurious textiles, fine wines, and cartapesta (papier-mâché).

Handbag shop in Venice

venice shop

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Small street shop

shopping in venice

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For high-end designer fashion, head to the streets just off Piazza San Marco, where the latest collections from Gucci, Armani, and Versace are beautifully displayed in the shops’ lustrous windows.

San Giorgio Maggiore
San Giorgio Maggiore

Are you looking for more Venice travel guide and top things to do in Venice: Tours, activities, attractions and other things? Read more: Venice travel blog — The fullest Venice city guide for a great trip to Venice on a budget for the first-timers.

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