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This ancient city is one of the world’s most popular destinations and it’s not hard to see why with its winding canals, beautiful buildings and fantastic food. After you have visited some of the well-known highlights and most instagrammable locations in the city, seek out some of the hidden gems of Venice to escape the crowds and discover a different side of the city.
A Night Stroll
When you think of Venice, beauty, romance, architecture and Italian food come to mind. But there’s another thing that you might think of that cannot be avoided in any of the famous places in the world – crowds. Tens of thousands of people visit the Italian city of love every day, so long queues are common and sometimes it gets so crowded that it’s difficult to walk around.
But, it’s possible to experience another side of Venice. As many travelers visit the city on a day trip or spend a night elsewhere, the atmosphere changes towards the end of the day.
The crowds of people disperse and shortly before sunset, the empty, narrow canal streets are bathed in golden sunlight which almost creates a magical atmosphere. Only a few gondolas glide along the canals, the ever-present pigeons disappear and the laughter of the local people echoes from the bars.
Grab a slice of pizza and Aperol spritz and admire the Doge’s Palace in the almost deserted St. Mark’s Square. When it gets dark, take a night stroll through the quiet streets and across enchanting canal bridges. Indulge in window-shopping – famous Venetian masks that are displayed on window shelves look even more mysterious at night. For the perfect end of the evening have a candlelight dinner in one of the authentic restaurants along the canals which glisten in the moonlight – it just doesn’t get more romantic than this.
By Sandra from BlueMarble Vagabonds
The Jewish Quarter
The Jewish Ghetto in Venice offers a nice break away from the tourist-filled plazas and narrow streets of Venice. Once here, you will find an open courtyard with a few benches under the shade of a couple of trees, along with synagogues, pawnshops and several cute cafes and restaurants with outdoor seating. You will also come across the Jewish museum, which might be of interest to you if you’d like to learn more about Venice’s Jewish history. Guided tours of the museum are also offered, and you will need to purchase a ticket to enter.
A highly-recommend thing to do with your few days in Venice is just to aimlessly walk around the town and over the canals, and once hungry, grab takeaway food from a shop to enjoy somewhere outside. So while walking through or near the Jewish Ghetto, make sure to stop by MAJER Venezia Ghetto for a tasty panini or pizza slice. While the pizza they offer here might not be the traditional Italian pizza you get in other parts of Italy, there is something about the bread, toppings and freshness of the food here that makes it extra appetizing. This is why we stopped here twice on our Venice wanderings after all! The wait for service can be slow, though, but we thought it was worth it!
By Loredana from Destination Guides
T Fondaco dei Tedeschi
At T Fondaco dei Tedeschi you will find a hidden gem and the ultimate rooftop view of the Grand Canal in Venice. In fact, when we were there, we were the only ones admiring the view on the rooftop that is only allowed to have 40 visitors at once. The 360-degree view of the city is spectacular, including the Rialto Bridge that is right below you. There are informational signs posts on each side of the rooftop that label the important landmarks for you to photograph.
The large T Fondaco dei Tedeschi building was first built in the 13th century as a palace, but has also been a custom’s house for Napoleon and a post office for Mussolini.
It has recently become a luxury department store, still with the original archways and architecture, but now housing brand names of Gucci, Fendi, Armani and Chanel to name a few. The mall opened in 2016 to showcase fine, exquisite Italian and Venetian goods rather than the cheap imitation souvenirs that are sold all over Venice.
To visit the rooftop terrace, book your time in advance, or use the ipads on the 3rd floor, and make your way through the stores and up to the top floor. There is no requirement to buy anything and admission is FREE!
Once you make your way to the open-air rooftop, you have 15 minutes to take in the awesome view. Since there are no other activities on the rooftop, you will have plenty of time to photograph each angle of the city.
Elsewhere in Italy and a day’s travel from Venice, Palermo is still a hidden gem of a city tucked away in Sicily and waiting to be discovered by tourists.
By Michelle from Moyer Memoirs
Venice’s Most Beautiful Supermarket
In the Canareggio neighborhood of Venice stands the former Teatro Italia, a once beautiful cinema that had fallen into disrepair. Then in 2016, the Despar supermarket brand renovated the building under the supervision of the Directorate for the Architectural Heritage of Venice and turned it into a supermarket. It’s easily the most beautiful place you’ll ever do your grocery shopping! The frescoes on the high ceilings have been restored, and many of the original architectural elements have been preserved.
This is not the first historic building in Italy to be converted into a supermarket. In recent years, Despar has undertaken similar projects in Verona, Trento and Vicenza. As for what’s on offer here, there’s a good selection of both everyday products for the local population and takeaway options for tourists. If you’re staying in a hostel or apartment with a kitchen and plan to self-cater, you should definitely stock up here.
The large deli section includes lots of pre-prepared dishes, perfect for a picnic. Vegetarian and vegan visitors to Venice will be happy to know that the supermarket is well stocked with meat-free products, including ready-to-eat meals like vegan lasagna and eggplant parmesan, and even vegan Nutella. The store is open seven days a week from 8 am to 9 pm.
By Wendy from The Nomadic Vegan
Murano Glass Making
Murano Glass Making in Venice is from Roman and Byzanthean glassmaking industries. To restore the ancient glassmaking techniques and to recreate some of the beautiful Roman glassware, the glass artisans of Murano experimented with chemical compositions, tools and methods of hot glass workmanship for centuries until they achieved excellence and worldwide fame.
Today Murano island in Venice is famous for excellent art glass and the place where top talent descends to learn glassmaking from the master artisans who have been crafting beautiful glass for functional and decorative purposes since generations.
To see this glass blowing demo, take Vaporetto to Murano from Fondamente Nove and stop in Venice and get off at Murano Colonna stop. There you can visit many shops engage in this extremely complex process of Murano glass making. These pieces are costly, and requires a lot of time, skill in both glass-blowing and hand-decorating, and special furnace setup.
The “bullicante” effect is amongst the most famous and unique glass making techniques and it is seen quite often around the island of Murano. If you’ve had the fortune of strolling along the streets here, you would witness beautiful glass pieces with small air bubbles trapped in the inside, possibly stopping to wonder how that seemingly impossible effect is achieved. This technique a sense of depth to the whole object and an incomparable decorative effect, famous for its originality.
By Tanayesh from Shoestring Travel
San Giorgio Maggiore
For some of the best views of the Venetian lagoon, visit the bell tower of San Giorgio Maggiore. This delightful Renaissance church is just one vaporetto stop away from San Marco, but it feels like another world away. Tucked away on a smaller island, the church is much less frequently visited than the Basilica but here you’ll find sweeping views of the city back to the Palazzo Ducale over the mouth of the Grand Canal.
San Giorgio Maggiore was first inhabited in Roman times. Later in the 10th century a monastery was established on the site that formed the foundations of the current church that dates from the 16th century. It’s an important Venetian landmark captured in a series of paintings by Monet. The church interior is somewhat plain but you appreciate that it’s the perfect backdrop for several masterpieces including one painting by Tintoretto.
There is a small charge to take the lift to the bell tower where you take in the incredible views. Visit at sunset for one of the most magical scenes in Venice. To reach San Giorgio Maggiore, take vaporetto number 2 from the San Marco S. Zaccaria stop.
By Katy from Untold Italy
Mask Painting Workshop
Hidden down a quiet cobbled alleyway in the backstreets of Venice is a tiny shop crammed with colourful masquerade masks, each one adorned with gold, feathers and ribbons.
At the back of the room is an intimate workshop space where a couple of pre-booked visitors at a time can spend a few hours learning the art of traditional mask painting in Venice. A class at Peter Pan Masks in the Santa Croce district is highly recommended if you’re looking for something a bit different to do in this famous city. It’s heaps of fun, the sisters who run the classes are welcoming and friendly, and you don’t need any artistic skill to be able to create something worthy of hanging on your wall back home.
The workshop begins with choosing the shape of the mask (there are several!), and then picking a colour scheme, before using a pencil to draw on a design. Next comes the painting part, and you can look at the other shop masks for inspiration if you need it! As the mask needs to dry before you can take it away, it’s recommended that you come back the next day to collet your masterpiece, so try and schedule it towards the start of your visit.
By Heather from Conversant Traveller
Family Treasure Hunting Tour
A great way to see another side of Venice is to take a treasure hunt, an ideal activity for all the family to take part in. Macaco Tours offer fun discovery trails across the city where a guide will facilitate the discovery of clues and challenges.
The trail will take you past some of the well-known sites from the Rialto Bridge to some of the great restaurants and family hotels in Venice. It will also get you well off the beaten track and down alleys and back lanes you would never have discovered on your own. There’s ancient graffiti to discover and find out more about, buildings to clamber to the top of and history of the city to be learnt.
This is such a fun trip and a great way to find out more about the characters that once inhabited Venice and the legacy they left behind. One of the best parts of the tour is getting to spend time with the tour leader, someone who lives in the city and who not only brings it alive but can also give you tips for subsequent days in Venice. When you think you’ve seen all that Venice has to offer, take a treasure trail and let the city come alive in ways you could only imagine.
By Nichola from Global Mouse Travels
La Scala del Bovolo
Looking for a great rooftop or panoramic viewpoint in Venice? The Contarini del Bovolo staircase near Rialto will do just that. The staircase in itself is an architectural jewel. Gothic in style and spanning four floors, the spiral staircase is open on one side with arches perforating the exterior wall, allowing you to peak out at the surrounding scenery as you ascend to the top.
Once you get to the top you will reach a beautiful arcade that leads to a terrace with 360-degree views. You don’t have a view on the Grand Canal, but you do have a clear and unobstructed view of the amazing St. Mark’s Tower. On a clear day, you can even spot the Dolomite mountains in the distance! You could just sit here amongst the Venetian rooftops for hours; listening to the bells chime or waiting for that sun to set.
The Scala del Bovolo is nestled in a quiet area of town where not too many tourists venture. Right next to Campo Manin, you will get a much more authentic taste for Venice as you wander the “calle” in this part of town.
Entrance to the palazzo is 7€ and grants you access to some of the temporary art exhibitions as well. You can buy the tickets in person or online for the same price! Don’t miss this hidden view!
By Linda from La Dolce Fit Vita
One of the most exciting Venice hidden gems when it comes to local tips is the fact that you don’t have to pay 30€ for a gondola ride. In fact, you can experience this activity for a far lower price.
Not many tourists know about it, but all along the Grand Canal in Venice, you find special gondola stations called Traghetto. They are part of the public transportation system and were created especially for local inhabitants. They serve people in transporting them from one canal side to another one in places where there is no other way to cross the water.
On Traghetto stations you can have a seat in a big gondola which is piloted by two gondoliers. For a few hours almost every day, those gondolas serve as ferries and help people to cross the canal. The journey is short but it allows you to quickly get from one place to another.
This trip can also be even more exciting than the standard romantic gondola ride. Traghetto gondolas usually take up to 12 people on board, so you’ll get a nice shot of adrenaline while trying to keep balance on a narrowboat. Luckily gondoliers are skilled people so you can still feel safe though!
Traghetto stations are shown on Google Maps so you will easily find them, and a one-way ticket for tourists costs only 2€, so it would be a shame not to try this budget attraction while spending time in Venice.
By Dominika from Sunday in Wonderland
The View from Ca’ d’Oro
One of the most beautiful hidden gems in Venice is inside of Ca’ d’Oro, a beautiful palace in Venice located on the Grand Canal. People also call Ca’ d’Oro the “Golden House”, because of the exterior decorations.
The architecture of the palace is very impressive, with the construction of the palace beginning in 1428 and completed by 1430. It was built for the Contarini family, who ruled the republic of Venice. Nowadays, this palace is a museum where you can see lots of wonderful art, such as the artworks that Giorgio Franchetti collected during his lifetime, alongside statues, paintings, medals and more.
Even though the artwork is wonderful by itself, the palace has something more to offer. If you go inside the museum (and for this you have to buy a ticket), climb the stairs and walk along the covered gallery, you will discover the most stunning views of Venice! You can see the Grand Canal and all the beautiful buildings located there. It’s an amazing place to spend some time and enjoy the beauty of this Italian city. It is also a great spot to take photos as it’s often named one of the best Instagram photo spots in Venice!
By Dymphe from Dymabroad
If you’re keen to see a part of Venice that few visitors ever experience, the lagoon island of Sant’Erasmo is a must! The rural, bucolic island was known for centuries as the Garden of the Doge, as it was literally the agricultural hub of Venice, supplying the ruling Doge and aristocracy with everything from grapes and Prosecco to local fish, game and livestock. Today, the island is still an important source of local foods for Venice restaurants and markets and makes a perfect slow travel day trip from Venice.
Sant’Erasmo itself is a small island just a 10-minute boat ride from Venice, yet a world away. Few visitors take the time to slow travel Venice like this and explore the bounty this island provides. Travelers can explore the island on foot or bike, riding past fields of violet artichokes, farms producing fresh honey, and prosecco vineyards as far as the eye can see with the most amazing views of the surrounding lagoon.
If you love unique foodie experiences — and who doesn’t? — take a slow food tour and meet the producers working in the fields, tending to their bees, or sharing a taste of their local Prosecco made from vines hundreds of years old. Stop in to Orto di Venezia overlooking the lagoon. It’s the only winery in Venice and known for their crisp white organic wines grown from Malvasia and Vermentino grapes.
By Lori from Travlinmad
Ponte dei Pugni
Tucked across a quiet canal in Dorsoduro, it would be easy to walk across the Ponte dei Pugni without knowing its history – but as with some many of Venice’s hidden gems, it’s a story worth knowing.
This small footbridge was once used as the site of competitions in which two men from different clans would hold a fist fight, with the goal of the fight being to knock the opponent into the canal. Translated into English, Ponte dei Pugni literally means “Bridge of Fists”.
Once upon a time, this was a common occurrence in Venice, even a public tradition of sorts, and the competition was the subject of a 1673 painting by Joseph Hines, Jr.
Though the bridge features parapets today, at the time, it wouldn’t have, making the competition all the more intense.
Today, right next door to the Ponte dei Pugni, you can find Dorsoduro’s vegetable barge, which is exactly what it sounds like: a small vegetable stand being run out of a floating barge! This is Venice, after all – why shouldn’t even commerce take place over the water?
By seeking out these quiet corners of Venice, you’ll enhance any Venice itinerary – the city of canals is arguably best experienced in its quieter neighborhoods and any excuse to wander into charming Dorsoduro is worth the long walk from Piazza San Marco.
By Kate from Our Escape Clause
Libreria Acqua Alta
Libreria Acqua Alta is a cute little bookshop in Venice, located only a 7-minute walk away from the famous Rialto Bridge. The name ‘Libreria Acqua Alta’ translates to ‘Book Store of High Water’ and the name is not a coincidence. Venice is known for its constant flooding waters and to protect the books from the water, the owners placed them into waterproof bins and other creative things like bathtubs and a gondola.
Right after entering the store you will be greeted with a ‘Welcome to the most beautiful bookshop in the world’ sign which feels quite appropriate after seeing how the store looks inside. The whole store is packed with colorful books and magazines from floor to ceiling and the life size gondola placed in the middle just adds to the charm. If it weren’t enough, you will also be greeted by many adorable cats who happily live their life among the books.
The real attraction of the bookstore is the courtyard in the back where they created a staircase of old books which can be used as a reading corner and you can also enjoy an amazing view over the canals from the top.
All in all, paying a short visit to the Libreria Acqua Alta bookstore is a must when visiting Venice – you won’t be disappointed!
By Krisztina from She Wanders Abroad
Punta della Dogana
After a couple of days in Venice, you have toured the canals by gondola, eaten all the gelato you can stomach, and dined on enough Italian cuisine to feed a small army. You’re looking for a special activity to delve deeper into this classic city, right?
Spend an afternoon touring Punta della Dogana, nestled neatly between the Grand and Giudecca Canals, on the tip of an island in the Dorsoduro district. Here you can peruse the outdoor sculptures surrounding the art museum, or marvel at the architecture of the buildings on the island.
Make sure to leave some time to walk to the tip of the island to absorb and photograph the views. From this unique vantage point, you’ll love this fresh, new side of Venice, perhaps even more than the main city.
Punta della Dogana is adjacent to Dogana da Mar, Patriarchal Seminary, and Santa Maria della Salute and diagonal from the Piazza San Marco. You need to cross the Grand Canal to reach the island which you can do by bus, train, water taxi, canal ferry or private charter. The most convenient drop-off point is Salute.
One thing is for certain: you will be grateful you visited this much-overlooked jewel in Venice!
By Amy from Amy Guides
Burano is an island in the northern part of Venetian Lagoon that is well worth visiting due to the vivid colors of the houses and buildings scattered around the island. The story is that they were painted this way so fishermen could find their way back in foggy conditions.
With canals intersecting through it, the island is divided into 4 smaller islands and 5 quarters (sestriere), which provided the security that the people that first lived here from the 5th century needed.
Since the 15th century, lace has been the main export from this island since, with a dedicated museum that you can visit and lots of opportunities to pick up some lace to take home with you from one of the numerous shops. On the main square Piazza Baldassarre Galuppi, there is a church with paintings by Giambattista Tiepolo (Crucifixion, 1727) and a leaning 53 meter high bell tower (campanile).
I recommend you arrive early in the morning with a Vaporetto to avoid crowds and enjoy the colors in the morning sun. You have two options; water bus number 12 from Venice, 45 minutes ride, or from Treporti, 15 minutes.
From the port, start by exploring the area north of the main square and stop by to the church and museum. Continue to the south of the island, exploring the small streets over the canals as you go. Finish in the central area where you can enjoy some seafood before you return to Venice (with an optional stop in Murano on the way), or come back the other way to Treporti and Lido.
By Džangir from Dr Jam Travels
Isola di San Michele
Also known as Venice’s floating cemetery, Isola di San Michele is a unique little island in the Venetian Lagoon which has been home to Venice’s main cemetery since the early 1800s. The island is only reachable by a 10-minute Valporetto ride from the main island.
Complete with its own church, chapel and thousands of impressive and well-maintained tombs and graves, San Michele is still a working cemetery where regular burials are held, however, the island is also open for anyone to come and pay their respects as well.
So if you dress respectfully and ditch the camera, you can go and take a stroll around one of the quietest and most peacefully serene places in the whole of Venice. Keep an eye out for the special WW1 memorial, as well as the dedicated area of the cemetery for Venice’s gondoliers. A truly unique and special Venetian experience.
By Emily from London City Calling