Best things to do and see in Venice
In Venice there are many places to visit as it is one of the most spectacular cities in the world because of everything in it. It is located in northern Italy and is bathed by the Adriatic Sea, like Dubrovnik. Its streets, always accompanied by canals crossed by gondolas, boats or vaporettos, allow you to live a different experience than any other place can offer you. It has a main street that is the Grand Canal that is where they usually circulate (browse rather) a large number of people every day. Doing a free tour is a different way of getting to know Venice . In fact, you have the possibility of doing a more generic tour of 2-3 hours in which you can see the most representative places in the city or choose a guided tour focused on a specific neighborhood or theme. In any case, the places you should visit yes or yes being there are the following: the Ducal Palace, the Rialto Bridge, the Grand Canal, the emblematic San Marcos Square, Burano and Murano, two of the most beautiful islands in the world. archipelago of the lagoon of Venice, the palace Ca 'Rezzonico, the Basilica of San Marcos and that of San Giorgio Maggiore and the Basilica of Santa María de la Salud. All free walking tours of Venice have a local guide (guru) who can show you the least known and most beautiful part of the city. In addition, walkers who make a tour usually leave their opinions and ratings to serve other reference travelers. There are cities like Rome, Turin or Milan are also other similar destinations in this same area of Italy.
Free walking tour near Venice
Others cities to visit after venice, find other guruwalks in venice, where are you traveling to.
Free Venice Walking Tours
We provide both introductory tours and outings covering the sesterces (districts) of Dorsoduro, the Jewish Ghetto, St. Mark’s Square (Piazza San Marco), and more.
We are a group of local tour guides offering daily walking tours
Venice might not be one of the bigger cities in Italy like Rome, but there’s still a lot to see in the area, and the tours listed in this post will make it easier to discover some of the most notable locations.
Overview + Schedule
- Introduction to Venice
- Dorsoduro (South Venice)
- Jewish Ghetto + Cannaregio
- St. Mark’s Square
- Murano and Burano Islands
- Gondola Rides
- Grand Canal
There are tours covering Northern Venice, Southern Venice, the Jewish Ghetto, Cannaregio, and many smaller neighborhoods and locations in the city.
You may also want to consider a tour of specific locations and sites like St. Mark’s Square (Piazza San Marco).
There is even a free audio tour designed to be used while riding a boat down the Grand Canal.
The tours listed below are run through us. More tours are available in the following sections.
Here is a calendar with more of the best free walking tours in Venice.
As you explore the city with a tour guide, you’ll learn about Venetian history, fun facts, legends, and the mysteries of Venice.
You'll also discover the most important sites, and even receive tips and tricks about the best cuisine and great ways to save both money and time.
Most free Venice walking tours operate on a pay-what-you-wish basis, which means that at the end of the tour, you can pay your guide however much you want, even nothing if you weren’t impressed.
Most people really enjoy these types of walking tours and tip their guides an average of €10-€15 for the experience.
Although these tours can be fun, they are usually open to larger group sizes, so if you’d rather take a walking tour with small group sizes, consider going on a paid tour of Venice instead.
Some of the paid options also focus on special subjects that the free tours won’t always cover, so depending on what you want to learn about, it may be worth the extra money.
You may also want to think about experiencing Venice from one of the gondolas that float down the canals of this city.
We also offer tours throughout Europe, including:
INTRODUCTION TO VENICE TOURS
If you’re interested in learning about and discovering some of the most notable sites in the historic centre of Venice, these free walking tours will introduce you to the city.
You can expect to see incredible monuments and beautiful architecture along the way.
You’ll also get tips and tricks to avoid tourist traps and get the most out of your time and experience what life is like for Venetians.
Here are a few of the locations you will likely visit on an introductory tour:
- Santa Maria della Fava
- The Grand Canal
- San Salvador
- Rialto Bridge
Northern Venice Tour (Touring Different)
This pay-what-you-wish tour is approximately 2 ½ hours in duration and it’s currently available at 16:30 (4:30 pm) every day. They also have plans to offer a daily 10:30 am tour in the near future.
Tour itineraries can change depending on your guide, and they will often personalize the tour based on what you want to see.
Learn more or book this tour.
DORSODURO TOURS (SOUTH VENICE)
Aside from the Introductory tour, there are also outings in the Southern District of Dorsoduro which cover a variety of interesting locations.
This is considered a more “artsy” part of the city, with many student inhabitants, but there’s still plenty of history to learn about and notable sites to see in Southern Venice.
Here are a few of the stops you’ll most likely make while on one of the following free Venice walking tours:
- Campo della Carità
- Punta della Dogana
- Campo Santo Stefano
- Accademia Galleries
- Zattere Fondamenta
- Basilica della Salute
While on these tours, you may also hear stories about subjects as varied as the Napoleonic invasion, Peggy Guggenheim, the plague epidemics of the past, and much more.
Southern Venice Tour
Once again provided by Touring Different, the duration of this tour is quite extensive at around 2 ½ hours in length and it’s available daily at 10 am.
Learn about notable art in the area, interesting traditions, and even details about what is said to be the most haunted palace in Venice.
Book this tour or find out more .
JEWISH GHETTO + CANNAREGIO
Although there aren’t as many companies offering free Venice walking tours of this part of the city, there are a few options you may want to consider.
Did you know that Venice is actually home to the first Jewish Ghetto in the world?
Get lost (with a local guide) in the narrow streets of Cannaregio.
You can learn more about the Venetian history of this area and see the most notable sites in the Cannaregio district on one of the following tours.
It's also a great area to bump into resident Venetians.
While traveling around these 2 neighborhoods of Venice, you can expect to see some of the following sites:
- Jewish Ghetto
- Ponte Chiodo
- Ponte Borgoloco
- Campo San Zanipolo
- Campo Santa Maria Formosa
If you’re interested in discovering or learning more about any of these attractions, please consider one of the free Venice walking tours below.
Cannaregio: The Local Venice + Jewish Ghetto
The company Free Walk in Venice currently offers the only pay-what-you-wish tour in this district, and it’s a pretty good one to take.
Guides promise to show you the secret corners of the city, historic locations, panoramic views, and even tips on some of the best places to eat.
The duration of this free Venice walking tour is approximately 2 ½ hours long and it’s available on Thursdays at 15:00 (3 pm) and Mondays at 10:30 am.
Check our calendar for more information .
Other Cannaregio + Jewish Ghetto Tours
When it comes to free tours of the area, there aren’t many other options.
Alternatively, if you don’t mind spending a bit of money, there are some interesting paid tours you may want to consider, including a privately led service and even a ghost tour.
Check this list of paid Cannaregio + Jewish Quarter tours to find an outing you’ll enjoy.
ST. MARK'S SQUARE TOURS
Piazza San Marco is one of the most interesting and historic public squares in all of Venice, and there are a lot of things to see in the area.
So, it makes sense that there would be tours devoted to St. Mark’s Square.
We have our own free, self-guided tour for you.
If you don’t want to miss anything in this part of the city and you want to learn as much as possible about all of the historic sites, consider one of these free Venice walking tours.
While in St. Mark’s Square, you’ll likely see the exterior and learn about some of the following locations:
- The Basilica of St. Mark
- St. Mark’s Bell Tower
- St. Mark's Basilica
- Doge’s Palace
- The Paper Door
- Correr Museum
- Bridge of Sighs
Venice Free Walking Tour
This tour is run by one tour guide, David. He calls his tour the Secret and Mysterious Venice: St. Mark's and the Silk Road.
In addition to seeing a side of the city most tourists don't visit, you'll also learn about some of the most notable legends and stories from throughout the history of Venice.
Their tour is available daily at 10 am.
Book this tour here .
If you’re visiting out of season or you can’t make it to the other service, this company actually offers two audio tours which cover both the St. Mark's Basilica and St. Mark’s Square.
The nice thing about these options is that you can take an audio tour anytime you want, day or night.
That said, there is a small section of the St. Mark’s Square tour focusing on Venice after dark, so you might want to consider using that one in the evening.
Download the Basilica of St. Mark audio tour .
Download the St. Mark’s Square audio tour .
GRAND CANAL TOURS
Although there aren’t currently any pay-what-you-wish tours that cover this attraction, there is one free audio tour offered by Rick Steves that you may want to consider.
The Grand Canal curves its way through the entire city almost like a main street — but instead of cars and buses, you'll see gondolas and tour boats!
And there are a lot of interesting attractions to see along the water as it stretches from Santa Lucia Station to St. Mark’s Square, passing by the Jewish Ghetto, Cannaregio, Dorsoduro, and San Marco.
Here are some of the sites you can expect to see and learn about on this audio tour:
- Ca’ Rezzonico
- Accademia Gallery
- Peggy Guggenheim Collection
- Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute
If you’re interested in discovering more about these locations and seeing everything of interest in this area, download the Grand Canal audio tour .
You might also want to consider crossing the canals of Venice on one of the many gondolas in Venice .
MURANO AND BURANO ISLANDS
There are even free tours on the islands of Murano and Burano.
Blowing glass is a specialty of the island of Murano, and on this tour, you can visit the Canal dei Vetrai and visit a glass factory to witness a glass-blowing demonstration by a master glassmaker.
Murano is also home to the Basilica of Santa Maria and San Donato, a masterpiece of Italian Romanesque, and the Church of San Pedro Martir, known for its blown glass lights.
This company is currently offering one of the only free tours of Murano and Burano from Venice.
It's important to note that transport is not included, and entrance to the glass factory will cost an additional €3 per person.
The tour provided by your tour guide will be pay-what-you-wish, and most visitors will tip at least €10-€15 if they enjoyed their experience.
You can expect this tour to last for 4 hours and 30 minutes, and it is available to take every Wednesday - Sunday in Spanish.
Book this tour or learn more .
OTHER TOURS IN ITALY:
- Free Florence Walking Tours
- Hop-on Hop-off Florence Bus Tours
- Rome to Florence by Train
- Free Rome Walking Tours
- Hop-on Hop-off Rome Bus Tours
- Best Rome Bike Tours
- Best Rome Segway Tours
And much, much more
North america, united kingdom & ireland, middle east & india, asia & oceania.
- Tours in Venice
The Heart of Venice Free Walking Tour
Overview of the tour in Venice
On this tour, we will get to know the most important thing about the so-called Pearl of the Adriatic, the most photographed city in the world. We are going to know everything essential to organize your visit from its history, to practical details such as transport, where to eat, tricks to save money and get more out of it, etc. We will meet at the entrance of the Galleria dell'Accademia next to the Accademia Vaporetto stop. We will enjoy the Grand Canal of Venice and the palaces on its banks, highlighting the wonderful dome of the Basilica of Santa Maria Della Salute. We will walk to the temple of the most important opera in the world: La Fenice where Maria Callas sang for Onassis. We will discover the most hidden alleys, reaching where no tourist can go alone: the Contarini del Bovolo Palace, one of the most curious buildings in this city and a wonderful example of Venetian Gothic. And of course the Plaza de San Marcos, perhaps the most famous square in the world.
This activity includes:
- Palazzo Contarini del Bovolo
- St. Mark's Square
- Ponte dell'Accademia
- Rialto Bridge
- Teatro La Fenice
- Full licensed guide
Galleria della Accademia Venezia
Meet me at the entrance of the Galleria Della Accademia near Vaporetto stop ACCADEMIA in the center of the island of Venice You will recognize me by my identification as a guide and a VIOLET umbrella. It is so easy to find the meeting point, and you can arrive there with vaporetto number 1 or 2 stop is Accademia or walking to the Bridge of ACCADEMIA Please provide a valid WhatsApp number as confirmation of the tour will be through WhatsApp
Things to note
Please do note that the tour is based on donations. If you participate in the tour, the guide expects you to get a donation from you afterwards. Sadly this needs to be reminded, as some people take advantage of the generosity of the guide, and walk away without tipping. Please be kind enough to donate if you join the tour! That's really the only way we could continue doing it. IMPORTANT, Donations based tours are only for groups smaller than 5 pax. Groups bigger than that have a minimum fixed price of 10 euros. In a city like Venice where a coffee cost 5 euros, this is still a bargain!! It's very important that you make a reservation adding your full WhatsApp number, including prefix. Thank you so much! And enjoy! Wonderful Venice Team
You are free to cancel a booking anytime. We kindly remind you to cancel bookings you cannot arrive for. Being reported as absent decreases your customer level points and the benefits you can enjoy.
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Free Walking Tour Venice
Discover the authentic venice with venice free walking tour, free venice walking tour.
Venice Free Walking Tours is operating several free and paid tours in Venice. The tours usually do not cover the touristy sites of Venice in order to let you enjoy its most authentic side instead! Wandering through the alleys of the local neighborhoods where Venetians still live today with our well trained and passionate guides, you will both see some highlights and hidden gems and learn about the city’s history, culture and traditions.
Our mission is not only to provide insiders’ tips to make your stay unforgettable, but also to make you feel like a local, experiencing the city and its culture by a local point of view.
VFWT is run by local licensed guides who really want to show their Venice to travelers since 2015 and providing the best experience in town!
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People walking in the romantic streets of Venice
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Does the tour cover touristy spots such as the rialto bridge or st.mark’s square, how long does the tour last, is there any break during the tour, do i need to make a reservation to take part to the tour, what if i changed my mind or if i cannot make it on time, get inspired by the free tour community blog.
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Venice Free Walking Tour
“ Elena did a great job, she was knowledgeable and took us to places in Venice that we probably wouldn't have found on our own. ” in 7 reviews
“ Simona was our tour guide and she was absolutely knowledgeable, humorous and friendly. ” in 5 reviews
“ Alice was very friendly and gave us a great tour! ” in 4 reviews
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My mom and I were excited about a walking tour of Venice. We had a bit of a challenge finding the meeting point location, because streets are not well marked, which we learned (on the tour) that is is common in Venice. The reason is because streets were named so long ago, before the communities grew and changed. When it was small, a street called "street behind the church" (in Italian) would have made sense when there was just one church. My suggestion is to 1. Make a reservation, group size is enforced and people without reservations were only taken if those with reservations didnt arrive. 2. Give yourself more time than you think you need to get there. Marilaura was very knowledgeable and friendly. She patiently answered everyone's questions and emphasized the common courtesy of walking on the right sides against the walls" to allow the many Venetians to pass while walking their pets, delivering items, and conducting daily business. We also learned that the gondola rides are 80 euro, and you can split that cost with up to 6 people in a shared gondola ride, which we did with a few of the other people from our walking tour. Marilaura suggested that we pick up a gondola on a side canal rather than the grand canal because it's a calmer ride (without being exposed to the ocean), and you see more architecture. Please tip the walking tour guides generously, they are committed to perpetuating their culture by educating visitors in a hospitable, sustainable and meaningful way.
Do this tour! My guide was Simona and she was awesome. The tour was about 2 hours or so and she showed the group the unbeaten path of tourists. The thoroughness of the details of Venezia was amazing. The entire tour was new to me and helped me understand Venezia and its history a lot more.
I think there are two parts to my review and the rating is more a combo of the parts. Part one is the actual tour itself and part two is based on the recommendations. 1. Tour: 4 stars and lasts about 3 hours with a 15 min break for food/restroom Simona seems very knowledgable about the history of Venice, how it came to be, the historical significance and the backdrop as well as how the people viewed themselves and were viewed in turn. It feels like a good picture of how different Venice was from the rest of the world. There were several sections broken down by food, travel tips, history, famous Venetians, cultural, housing, etc. It's a good overview but nothing too specific or detailed about one thing. I feel like there are so much to learn then on my own time. Simona is very cheery and makes a lot of jokes. The tour took about 3 hours to complete but feels like it's only an hour. It doesn't feel like a drag but very enjoyable. She spend about 5 minutes at the beginning of the tour talking about how it's free BUT for paid tours it averages about 30 Euro per person. Yet she hopes you don't have a set price in mind, and really it depends on each person's ability to pay. But you've essentially just gave people the mindset that you'd want a 30 Euro tip. Her other takeaway was that she does want Venice to become a commercial city that only caters to tourists and really wants you to buy locally instead. Venice seems to be dying in terms of the residents, the way of life, and the types of livelihood outside of mass consumerism/tourism. 2. Free map and the recommendations Near the end of the tour, we were given this map of Venice, nicknamed the wifi hotspot locator map. It has several recommendations from the local tour guides for their favorite places to visit, etc. We were also given this paper with recommendations too. That info can be wildly out of date. Some museum price was listed as 9 Euro but when we arrived, it was actually 15. Or she'd recommend not spending more than x for something yet, for us most places we went they were about 1.25x more. On the map itself listed a luggage storage spot that I feel may be a rip off for tourists as they charge 10 Euro per bag of storage. The map provides 1 Euro of total discount. So even if the map is free then it's sponsored by these vendors who benefit from being listed on the recommendations. I haven't been to any other luggage storage places, but maybe they charge even more. The price of trusting a free map was pretty steep for me.
Venice was one of the nicest places I've ever been too I loved the buildings and all the bridges. I didn't but it would be worth taking a gondola between all the buildings. The walking tour is great it lasts about 3 hours and you get to see tons of local places. The best part is it's free and they take you to places most tourist don't go. The streets are really narrow and lots of tourists so sometimes it's slow going. It's worth it though
See all photos from Tom B. for Venice Free Walking Tour
We took an official city tour, and then this free walking tour. Without a doubt, THIS one slayed in comparison! Our guide, Adam, was funny, insightful, intelligent, and passionate. He showed us many details that would have been missed otherwise. I loved seeing the streets of Venice from a new perspective! This was my second Free Walking Tour (the other was in London), and I will always search for this company when I come to new cities!
This tour wasn't what I expected, but the nice part of this tour is that I met a friend and the tour guide encouraged sustainable tourism and supporting local vendors. I also appreciated that the organizer reached out to ask how to make it a better experience next time.
Simona was our tour guide and she was absolutely knowledgeable, humorous and friendly. She shared many insightful information on Venezia; its history and culture. Thanks for allowing me understand and appreciate Venezia at a deeper level! The tour brings tourists around not-so-touristy area of the city, unravelling secrets and sights that tourists usually don't have access to. It's 3-hr, so be sure to fill your stomach before the start of the tour (though it includes a short 15-min break).
Simona was a great tour guide and gave us lots of great insights into the history of the Venetian islands it was a little hot today and she gave us lots of shady stops. Definitely recommend at the beginning of your stay if possible.
This was an amazing tour, because it wasn't focused on tourist areas. This was the true Venice type of tour. Our tour guide Mary was great she was so energetic, funny, and just brought life to the tour. Not only was this tour 100% free, but we received a Map of Venice with accurate street names and local restaurants you can visit. At the end of the tour our tour guide told us how to spot touristy locations, such as restaurants, shops and highlighted spots in Venice. This tour is a must on the first day of your visit in Venice.
Me, Mary (our tour guide) and my Sister. Mary is so amazing we love her !!
What a great way to see Venice. This tour group is licensed and dedicated to assuring that the local businesses and families not only survive but thrive in the presence of tourist. We were taken into the more residential areas and provided with both facts and studied opinions regarding Venice of yesterday and today. It was a thoroughly enjoyable excursion
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11 best venice tours: st. mark's basilica & more.
Explore one of the world's most beautiful cities on these top tours.
The Best Venice Tours
You can see the scenic city of Venice by water (on a kayak, boat or gondola) or on foot (via a walking tour or food tour). (Getty Images)
Known for its canals, waterways, bridges and other historic attractions, Venice, Italy , offers travelers everything from centuries-old history to unparalleled beauty. Some of the best Venice tours take you to the quietest areas of the city – away from the crowds – to discover Venice's cuisine, wine and culture, while others showcase the city from the water by gondola or kayak. Consulting both traveler opinion and expert input, U.S. News identified the tours below as the best Venice has to offer.
Avventure Bellissime – Venice in 1 Day Tour
Price: Adults from 109 euros (about $120); kids from 95 euros (about $104) Duration: 3 hours
If you're short on time, consider this three-hour tour that hits multiple of Venice's top attractions . You'll enjoy skip-the-line access to St. Mark's Basilica , as well as a two-hour walking tour (capped at 20 participants) passing sights like Doge's Palace , St. Mark's Square, the Bridge of Sighs , the Rialto Bridge and more. The final leg of your tour is reserved for exploring Venice's world-famous waterways on a one-hour boat ride down the Grand Canal . This is a great way to see much of Venice in just one day, according to tourgoers. Travelers also say it's a great value.
Tickets start at 109 euros (about $120) for adults and 95 euros (about $104) for children 7 to 12; kids 6 and younger can join the tour for free. Complimentary headphones are included. Tours run Monday to Saturday around 11 a.m., though you can break the tour into sections and complete it over two days if you prefer. Note: Your shoulders and knees must be covered to enter St. Mark's Basilica; large bags are prohibited inside as well. Know, too, that St. Mark's Basilica only offers skip-the-line tickets from April to October.
View & Book Tickets: Viator | GetYourGuide
Venice Free Walking Tour – Campo SS Apostoli Venice Through the Centuries: North
Price: Free Duration: 2.5 hours
This 2.5-hour tour could be a great way to start your visit to Venice. According to reviewers, valuable information is shared on the walk, including locals' recommendations of the best restaurants and places to visit, which could serve you well during the rest of your trip. Though each guide takes travelers along a slightly different route, you'll likely see some of the city's top attractions, learn about its centuries-old history and see much of its incredible architecture. Tours depart daily at 11 a.m. from Campo Santi Apostoli in front of the well and travel to the eastern part of the Cannaregio district and the western part of the Castello district.
Trips are free, but the company asks you to consider donating what you think the tour is worth at its conclusion. Additionally, you must reserve a spot online in advance (there is a booking fee of 3 euros, or about $3, per participant). The company offers a couple of other sightseeing tours throughout Venice, as well.
View & Book Tickets: Venice Free Walking Tour
Venice Kids Tours – A Thrilling Secret Journey Into the Doge's Palace
Price: From 85 euros (about $93) per hour, per party Duration: 2 hours
Ideal for families with kids ages 7 to 18, this approximately two-hour tour explores Doge's Palace. Guides lead families through some of the hidden corridors and secret passages not open to the general public as they share stories about the building's history. Also on the agenda is the attic prison, the former torture chamber and the armory, among other spots. Reviewers say their kids love the tour and recommend it to other families.
Prices for the private outing start at about 85 euros (about $93) per hour, per party (up to groups of five) but vary based on the length of the tour and number of participants, which is limited to five people. Kids must be at least 6 years old to tour; the company does not recommend the tour for pregnant women, or for those who have mobility problems or are claustrophobic. Trips depart in the morning only. Venice Kids Tours offers other family-focused activities, such as scavenger hunts, walking tours and boat tours.
View & Book Tickets: Venice Kids Tours
Food Tours of Venice – Jewish Ghetto & Cannaregio Food Tour
Price: From 105 euros (about $115) Duration: 4 hours
Explore all there is to both see and eat in Venice's Jewish Ghetto along this four-hour tour. This foodie excursion stops at more than six eateries for samplings of pasta, gelato, wine, baked goods and more. The route also takes travelers past historic synagogues, over the oldest bridge in Venice and through the city for spectacular evening views. Tour-takers say the food was plentiful and delicious, and they highly recommend the tour.
Tickets cost about 105 euros (about $115) per person, regardless of age. Tours run Saturday to Thursday at 4 p.m. Food Tours of Venice also offers a Rialto Food Tour, among others.
View & Book Tickets: Viator
City Wonders – Murano & Burano Small Group Tour with Private Boat
Price: Adults from $43 Duration: 5 hours
Explore two of Venice's most beautiful islands on this half-day tour. You'll first journey to Murano by boat to see a glassmaking demonstration followed by time to shop and explore on your own. You'll then cruise to Burano, where you'll observe Italian women crafting lace by hand, visit a lace museum and stroll around the island. Travelers say the tour is educational and are pleased with the informative guides. Others wish they were given more time to explore the islands.
Tickets start around $43 for adults with discounts available for children ages 2 to 14. Infants 1 and younger can join the tour for free. The five-hour tours run daily at a variety of times between 9 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. (and vary by season). City Wonders also operates tours of the Doge's Palace and St. Mark's Basilica, among other Venetian hot spots.
View & Book Tickets: Viator | GetYourGuide
(Courtesy of Walks of Italy)
Walks of Italy – Exclusive Alone in St. Mark's Basilica After Hours
Price: Adults from $102; kids from $98 Duration: 1.5 hours
This special 90-minute tour treats you to an inside look at St. Mark's Basilica after it closes its doors to the general public. Guides lead no more than 25 tourgoers inside the basilica, sharing stories of its history as you explore. In addition, you'll visit the crypt, which is not open to the public during normal visiting hours. The crypt is said to house St. Mark's remains, as well as the Pala d'Oro altarpiece, which is adorned with nearly 2,000 gems. Tour-takers say after-hours is a wonderful time to see the cathedral and that guides are passionate and informed.
Ticket costs vary by day but start around $102 for adults, $98 for children ages 2 to 14 and are free for kids younger than 2. Tour times depend on the day, but generally depart between 7 and 9:45 p.m. several times a week. The company also offers a secret passages tour of the Doge's Palace, gondola rides and food tours, among other options.
Raphael Tours & Events – Rialto Food Tour in Venice
Price: From $98 Duration: 4 hours
On this four-hour tour, you'll explore Rialto by way of your taste buds as your guide takes you to pastry shops, wine bars, restaurants and markets. Along the way, you'll sample meats, cheeses, wines (including sparkling), polenta, olives and more. Travelers say the tour is wonderful and offers plenty to eat. They also appreciate the stories guides share during the adventure. Others warn, however, that the company may cancel the tour last minute if not enough bookings are made.
The tour operates daily, and start times are customizable. Tickets start around $98 per person. Raphael Tours also operates a walking tour of Venice.
Intrepid Urban Adventures – Cicchetti & Wine Tour of Venice
Price: From $109 Duration: 2.5 hours
Support the local economy on this foodie trip that takes you to locally owned and operated businesses to sample Venetian cuisine. During the 2.5-hour tour, you'll eat four cicchetti dishes (think: polenta, seafood and vegetables), drink five glasses of wine and indulge in one dessert. Though you may pass by some big sights like St. Mark's Square , you'll mostly visit less-touristy spots in the Cannaregio and Rialto areas of the city. Plus, you'll get to ride in a gondola. Travelers praise the tour guides and compliment the food and wine chosen.
Tickets cost approximately $109 per person for both children and adults. Children must be at least 6 years old to join the tour. Tours are typically offered Monday through Saturday at 11 a.m. and 5 p.m.
Venice Kayak – Lagoon Natural Tour
Price: Adults from 110 euros (about $121); kids from 80 euros (around $88) Duration: 2 hours
Kayak your way through the Venetian lagoon on this two-hour tour. You'll leave the city behind and immerse yourself in nature while your guide leads you through wild marsh. The company rates this excursion as a "beginner" tour, which makes it ideal for those new to kayaking. Tourgoers say this is a wonderful way to see the wildlife and islands surrounding Venice and describe it as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
Tickets cost approximately 110 euros (about $121) for adults and 80 euros (around $88) for children 14 and younger. Tickets include the use of all equipment, water, lockers and shower facilities after your tour. Trips run Tuesday to Sunday at 9 a.m. and depart from Certosa island. Venice Kayak offers canal kayaking tours as well.
View & Book Tickets: Viator
Friend in Venice Private Tours – Venice by Venetians
Price: From 120 euros (about $132) Duration: 2 hours to full day
This is a fully customizable tour that takes travelers to the lesser-known areas of Venice away from the busy city center. Along the way, your guide will teach you about Venice's history and answer all your questions about their city. Children are welcome on the tour, though the company asks that you advise them ahead, so they can tailor the tour to keep the kids' interest. Tourgoers say guides are friendly, engaging and intelligent.
Tours run for two hours, a half day or a full day; prices are tiered based on the length of your tour and start at 120 euros (about $132) for up to six people. Friend in Venice Private Tours offers a number of other themed Venice tours, such as an exploration of Marco Polo's Venice and the city's cuisine.
Gray Line/Park View Viaggi – Inside Venice: Doge's Palace and St. Mark's Basilica
Price: Adults from 95 euros (about $104); children from 80 euros (about $88) Duration: 2 hours
Breeze past the crowds of tourists waiting to see both the Doge's Palace and St. Mark's Basilica with this skip-the-line tour. During your roughly two-hour sightseeing journey, you'll see important works of art and prisons inside the Doge's Palace and learn about the history of Venice inside St. Mark's Basilica. For many reviewers, the promise to skip the line at these crowded attractions proved worth the ticket price. The knowledgeable guides also earn praise from tourgoers.
Tickets cost approximately 95 euros (about $104) for participants 15 and older and 80 euros (about $88) for children 6 to 14. Children 5 and younger can tour for free. Tours start at 10:45 a.m. and 2:45 p.m. daily and are offered in English, French, Spanish and German. Gray Line also offers wine tours, boat tours and island tours in Venice.
You may also be interested in:
- The Best Venice Hotels
- The Best Hotels in Italy
- The Best Places to Visit in Italy
- The Best Beaches in Italy
- The Best International Travel Insurance
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The Ultimate Self-Guided Venice Walking Tour [UPDATED 2023]
The city of Venice is made up of 118 islands, 400 bridges and 150 canals. But you might be surprised to learn it’s a pretty walkable city. The entire island can be explored in one, albeit long, day. No one neighbourhood is ever too far away from another. As such, there is a real connection between all the different parts of the island. Venice had only so much land to grow on before spilling into the ocean. Every brick, every stone and every bridge needed to be made with thoughtful consideration. The city’s architecture needed to be a cohesive part of this great puzzle. And walking around, it feels like entering a living art and history museum.
You could take dozens of walking tours around Venice, specializing in different themes or neighbourhoods. But this walking tour is perfect if you have limited time to see the city. Or you just want a good introductory tour to take you around the iconic places which helped form the history and culture of this city.
Walking Tour Details
How long is this walking tour.
This walking tour takes you around some of the most important landmarks around the island. I recommend leaving a whole day for it since it spans almost the entire city. Or you could break the tour into sections to spread over a few days. This tour serves as a great introduction to the various districts. Giving you a glimpse of where you might like to come back and explore more later.
When Should I do this walk?
Monday is a great day to do this tour. Most museums are closed on Mondays, yet the churches we will visit will remain open. Mondays are also when people have gone back to work, so you’ll get a better idea of what the neighbourhood looks like when all the shops are open. Businesses are bustling, and the cafes serve their daily customers. You can, of course, for this tour any day of the week, but I always recommend Mondays due to the museum’s closures.
Start the tour early in the morning. The earlier, the better. I usually wake up before dawn and go to St. Mark’s Square. As the sun rises above the city, the square is almost empty , except for the pigeons . There’s nothing like it. Well worth the sacrifice of a little bit of sleep.
When is the Best Time to Visit Venice
The best time to visit Venice is during the shoulder seasons of spring and fall, from April to June and September to November, respectively. During these months, the weather is pleasant, and the crowds are fewer, allowing you to explore the city without the hustle and bustle of peak tourist season. However, keep in mind that Venice experiences high tides, known as acqua alta, from November to March, which can make certain parts of the city inaccessible.
Venice Tourist Tax
Starting January 1st, 2023, Venice will implement a Tourist Tax for anyone staying in the city overnight. This tassa di soggiorno or tourist tax will be included in your hotel, B&B and alternative accommodation fee.
But soon, the city will be implementing a day-visit ticket. This is set to cost anywhere from €3 to €10. Visitors from cruise ships or the mainland must book their tickets to visit Venice in advance. This system has not yet been activated, but once online, day visitors will need to pre-register and select the day on which they plan to visit the city.
This new system is being implemented to help visitors contribute to the protection and safeguarding of Venice. All the money from these taxes goes directly toward improving the quality of public services and museums. As well as maintenance to prevent this historic city from sinking into the ground forever.
Start of the Tour: St. Mark’s Square
The best place to start your tour is standing in the centre of the Piazza San Marco or St. Mark’s Square. Arrive here as early as you can. There is something truly magical about being here as the sun rises on the square. You’ll see the beautiful rose-gold sunlight begin to kiss the cobblestone and bricks around you. The sun seems to bring the square to life as cafe owners take out their colourful chairs and pigeons flock around gawking tourists (but please don’t feed them!)
Standing in the centre of the square, in front of the Basilica, you can turn around 360 degrees and see one spectacular sight on top of another. In this small area, you’ll find the St Mark’s Basilica , the great Campanile (Belltower), the Procuratie, the Piazzetta, Doge’s Palace , Bridge of Sighs and Torre dell’ Orologio . There is rarely a time when you’ll visit the square when they aren’t some form of construction or renovation going on. With all these historical sights in one place, something is bound to be falling apart and in need of repair. Try to look past that and don’t let it ruin your experience.
The square is named after the patron saint of Venice, Saint Mark . In 828, a relic of St. Mark was stolen from Alexandria and brought back to Venice by La Serenissima’s great naval fleet. The Venetian Doge, awed by the acquisition of this precious relic, adopted Saint Mark as the new patron Saint of Venice (whose honour had previously been given to Saint Theodore).
A city with a saintly relic immediately rose in power and prestige. Relics were the first tourist attraction of the medieval world. Pilgrims would come from all over the world to pray at the churches that preserved these relics. Pilgrims, much like tourists today, needed food and shelter. And therefore, they brought lots of money into the city.
A grand church to house the precious artifact began to be built in 836. Even back then, the church and the nearby Doge’s palace were highlights of the medieval city of Venice. A great square was needed to further showcase the opulence the Doge wanted to project. In 1172, orchards were demolished surrounding this area, and the Piazza San Marco was built. It’s been rumoured that upon visiting St. Mark’s square for the first time, Napoleon himself degreed that it was “ the drawing room of Europe .”
The simplistic yet elegant buildings along the north and south sides of the square are called the Procuratie. The Procuratie is most identifiable by the stunning arcade that wraps around this side of the square. The arcade features distinct Byzantine arches that shield visitors from the elements.
The Procuratie once served as the offices of the Venetian Republic, also called La Serenissima . Today they house the Correr Museum , the Museum of the Risorgimento , and the Archeological Museum . Each one of these is an incredible place to visit. But the Correr Museum is my favourite with its collection of art detailing the history of the city of Venice.
The Lion of Venice
Throughout St. Mark’s square, you’ll see various lion sculptures adorning doorways, columns and facades. The official ‘Lion of Venice’ is usually seen with his paw resting upon a bible. And he is not just any lion, but St. Mark’s Lion. St. Mark was often referred to as a lion, as he preached the word of the lord so powerfully it almost seemed like a roar. Legend says that when St. Mark was travelling through Europe and arrived in Venice, he was visited by an angel. The angel told him Venice would be where his body would rest for eternity. His remains were originally interred in Alexandra but moved to Venice, where the basilica was built to honour them as the angel had foreseen.
Now housed inside one of the old Procuratie is perhaps the most sumptuous cafe in Venice or perhaps Europe itself. Although this cafe is by no means cheap, it’s a splurge that I think is worth it to experience the incredible interiors and history to be found within. The Caffe Florian was founded in 1720 and has served patrons like Charles Dickens and Lord Byron . There is a €6 cover charge to even enter the cafe. But along with enjoying the lavish interiors, you’ll also be treated to live music throughout the cafe. Palacial red velvet couches and chairs are spread across the huge cafe, a maze of cozy antechambers. Each room is covered in ornate paintings, large Murano glass mirrors, gold foiled frames and intricate frescos plastered on the ceiling.
To save money, go to the bar and order your food or drinks there. Although you won’t get a seat, the bar menu is vastly cheaper than table service. An espresso at the bar will still run you €5, but again, you’re here for the atmosphere. If you’d rather save your money, you can opt to give this a miss. Instead, grab a coffee on your way toward St. Mark’s square from any local cafe to enjoy while you peruse the sights around you.
Standing guard in the centre of the square is the 323ft tall Campanile or Belltower . The low-level buildings throughout Venice are in stark contrast to the towering red brick Campanile. Its little pointed tower pokes out atop the skyline no matter where you end up in Venice. While the original tower was built in 1514, the current one is a reconstruction from 1912 after its collapse in 1902. It’s incredible to imagine that such a tall structure could survive for so long-standing atop the shifting waters below. But it wasn’t actually the water which proved to be the biggest enemy of the tower; it was lightning. Lightning struck the tower multiple times over the years, causing several fires and severe internal damage to the structure.
The Bells of the Campanile
The tall base of the tower is designed with a fluted shaft that reaches up towards the belfry. On each side of the belfry are a series of arched windows looking out over the square. Inside the belfry are five huge bells. Each one was used to call the people of Venice to attention. The bells have their own distinctive name and special significance. The Renghiera bell announced executions. The Mezza Terza would declare that a session of the Senate was taking place. The Nona sounded the midday hour. The Trottiera was used to assemble the Maggiore Consiglio and the Marangoni, the largest of the bells, rang to mark the beginning and end of the working day. Before anyone even had watches to tell time or Twitter to announce the day’s news, these bells were all the public had to get collective, daily information.
Above the arches of the belfry is another level of brickwork decorated with various sculptures on either side. On one farside, you’ll see the Lion of St. Mark and on the other, the female representation of Venice, in the shape of the Lady Justice. The golden weathervane which crowns the tower is sculptured into the angel Gabriel. He stands tall, reaching out toward the citizens below.
Turn to the square’s northeast corner, and look up at the bright blue and gold details decorating the fantastical Torre Dell’Orologio . In the morning light, the sun glints off the golden dials. The clock was built in the 15th century when the possession of a mechanical clock symbolized the wealth and power of a city. The clock was positioned facing out towards the water so that any foreign ships could see the time from the canals as they passed through. With a spyglass, of course, their eyesight wasn’t that good.
Atop the tower containing the clock, you can see two small bronze figures who carry large hammers in their hand. These figures move upon the hour to strike the bell, causing the bells to ring. One of the figures is a young man, and the other is an old man, symbolizing the passage of time. Once more, we see the image of the Lion of Venice above the clock, set against a blue sky of golden stars. Below the lion is the figure of the Virgin Mary with the baby Jesus wrapped in her arms. On either side of her are two blue panels with the time represented in roman numerals on the left. And on the right in Arabic numerals, as was the tradition during the Byzantine era.
The Clock Face
The most impressive feature of the clock are the blue and gold sculptural engravings set within the numerals. Each one was fantastically carved to represent the signs of the zodiac. The central dial, emblazed with the sun’s image, revolves around the zodiac signs. But rather than showing the time, the sundial marks the date. The smallest dial, closest to the central, holds a tiny orb representing the phase of the moon that changes throughout the year.
St Mark’s Basilica
St. Mark’s Basilica is one of the most precious treasures from the Byzantine period. Preserved in amber, there are so many aspects of history, art, culture and faith from that era. The most significant elements of the church’s design are the mighty, tiled onion domes that glitter against the sea-blue sky. The bulb-shaped domes with their golden finials lanterns give the church that middle eastern appearance that defined Byzantine art and architecture.
Exterior Design of St. Mark’s
The exterior of St. Mark’s Basilica can be studied by looking at its three distinctive areas; the lower level, upper level, and domes. The lower-level mosaics portray scenes from the life of Saint Mark, for whom the church derives its name. In the central arch where the enormous doorway is located, there is the largest mosaic, which depicts the Last Judgment. The original mosaic would have been made in the 13th century, but this current incarnation is from the 19th century after much-needed restorations. The portals that lead into the church are held up by marble columns in a plethora of colours and patterns. Each one is set inwards, towards the doorway, creating a foreshortening perspective. Giving the viewer the effect of being pulled into the church.
On either side of the central portal, the mosaics depict the life of St. Mark. The mosaic on the left is the only surviving piece from the 13th century. Above these central portals, we can study the arched lunettes. These mosaics depict the life of Christ.
The upper-level balcony is home to four important bronze horses. These are the Horses of Saint Mark-Lysippos . Originally stolen from Constantinople in 1252. The ones outside the church today are replicas of the original sculptures, as these suffered terribly from the elements. They were brought inside the church museum to ensure they could be preserved for years. The bronze horses date all the way back to classical antiquity. It is rumoured that perhaps they were once a part of the Arch of Trajan in Rome . Positioned pulling an emperor’s chariot. But these horses were one of the many trophies collected during the Crusades, which is how they journeyed to Venice.
Arching behind the golden horses and above the second-floor lunettes are a series of ogee arches. Ogee arches are a type of arch with an S-shaped curve consisting of two arcs that meet at a point. Not only do these designs add an aesthetically pleasing element to the building, but they also serve a functional purpose by providing additional support for the structure. Ogee arches have a rich history in architecture and can be traced back to various ancient civilizations, including the Romans and the Greeks. However, the use of ogee arches in Islamic architecture during the 12th and 13th centuries is where they gained prominence and influenced such structures as the basilica we see today.
Set within the central arch is the gilded and winged lion of Venice. Standing brightly against the blue-tiled sky and golden stars. Saint Mark and his choir of six angels decorated the top of the facade, looking down on the throngs of visitors below.
Admission & Tickets to St. Mark’s Basilica
If you want to go inside the Basilica, be warned that the queue can get very long. And you need to book your tickets in advance and select the exact arrival time. But even with these timed tickets, you will still need to wait in line. Reserved timed tickets to cost €20.50 and include an audio guide. There is also an option to purchase a skip-the-line ticket, but this will cost €39. Free cancellation is included in your ticket, which must be done 24 hours in advance for a full refund. I would choose the earliest reservation time to ensure you are the first in the door, leaving the rest of your day open.
No large bags or backpacks are allowed inside the basilica. If you have one, leave it at the Ateneo San Basso in the Piazzetta dei Leoncini (at the north facade to the left of the main entrance.) Be sure to do this before you get in line as you don’t want to be turned away and have to line up again. Remember that the basilica requires guests to adhere to their dress code. No bare shoulders or shorts, and men should wear shirts.
Interior of St. Mark’s Basilica
Upon entering the church, you’ll first notice the overwhelming amount of golden mosaics covering everything from the floors to the ceiling of the building. There are over 85,000 square feet of mosaics in St. Mark’s Basilica. The light reflects off the surface of the glass, and depending on the time of the day, the light can change the effect and the appearance of the interior. There was such a large amount of gold used in the church’s construction that the residents of Venice began to call it the Chizea d’Oro or the Gold Church .
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Because the Basilica was built during the Byzantine age, architectural methods weren’t as advanced as they are now. You’ll notice thick walls, hundreds of columns and the heavy use of marble, which were used as rudimentary supports. They needed to use the strongest of materials to help keep the multi-domed ceiling from caving in.
Inside the church are the treasures of the fourth crusade on the holy land. During the 4th century, Venice deemed itself the holiest place on earth. And therefore, all the treasures crusading armies found were brought to Venice. One such treasure was the Pala d’Oro . The Pala d’Oro is the frame enclosing the high altar inside the church. It is decorated with panels featuring 1,300 pearls, 300 emeralds, 300 sapphires, 400 garnets, 100 amethysts, rubies, and topazes. A glittering masterpiece.
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Porta Della Carta
When you exit the church, be sure to take a moment to study the Porta della Carta on the south side of the church. In 1442, the ceremonial entrance was built to connect the basilica to the Doge’s Palace . The doorway is dripping in gothic ornamentation, with two tall, thin pinnacles flanking either side of the statue of the Doge Francesco Foscari. The statue of the Doge is seen kneeling before the Lion of Saint Mark. Below each pinnacle, we can also spot various statues representing the cardinal virtues.
A Venetian Doge is something that many of you may not have heard of before. A Doge is pretty much like an English Duke; who served as the leader of the Republic of Venice from 726 to 1797. The Doge would rule over Venice from his seat of power inside the incredible Doge’s Palace . Today the building serves as a public museum .
The building itself is a wonder to behold. Despite the enormity of the upper structure, it looks almost weightless as it is supported by these delicate pink Verona marble columns. The columns are decorated with a lacy pattern, making them look even more fragile. The top of the building is adorned with spiked merlons that look like meringue frosting atop this architectural cake.
Walk through the arcade under the Doge’s Palace and study the individual capitals atop the exterior columns. Each one features a different set of sculptures with various animals, vegetal designs and more!
Past the Basilica, walk south towards the water, where you can find the Piazzetta . The Piazzetta is the smaller square to the south of the main square. In the middle of the square are two large two columns made of red marble. These two columns were where death sentences were announced during the medieval ages.
At the top of the columns are two statues. Each depicts one of the patron saints of Venice, St. Mark and St. Theodore , on the left and right, respectively, if you’re facing the water. St. Mark is depicted as the winged lion of Venice, and St. Theodore can be seen standing atop, of all things, a crocodile . In his hand, he holds a spear which we can assume he used to slay the giant crocodile. Saint Theodore is commonly known for slaying a dragon, not a crocodile. But perhaps the Venetian artists of the time had little knowledge of what a real dragon looked like, so instead, they carved the next best thing, which I guess was a crocodile. Makes sense when you think about it!
The Bridge of Sighs
Walk around the Doge’s Palace until you turn to face the Bridge of Sighs . The bridge of sighs was created to join the interrogation rooms of the Doge’s Palace to the prison across the canal. If you were found guilty by the Serenissima, you were sent to prison, but upon crossing the bridge, you were allowed to look out at Venice one last time. Two small, square windows on the bridge allowed prisoners this one moment of reflection before facing their possible lifetime of imprisonment. The windows on the bridge are covered in tightly knit wrought iron bars, so no one could make an escape.
Calle de Fabbri
Head back to the area in front of the Basilica, and walk north along the Calle de Fabbri , crossing over the Ponte dei Dai . Calle is the Italian word for a narrow street. Like many streets in Venice, this one is named after the occupation of the people who worked in this area. Fabbri means locksmith , and it was along his street where you’d once have found the city’s locksmiths at work. Head northwest on Calle dei Fabbri and turn left onto Calle S. Gallo until you reach the Ponte Tron .
Due to the proximity to St. Mark’s square, this bridge is often pretty crowded. But its old stone design and views out to the gondola-covered canals aren’t anything to whizz past. If you’re lucky enough to be here when it’s quiet, this is one of the more romantic spots in the city. Even on busy days, I love just standing here just watching the gondola traffic. Sometimes dozens of gondolas get stuck in this narrow canal. See, even Venice has traffic jams!
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Pont dei Fuseri
Continue southwest on Calle Tron, turning right onto Calle Frezzaria as it curves and becomes Calle Barcaroli. Make a right north onto Ramo dei Fuseri to the bridge Ponte Dei Fuseri. There are 400 bridges in Venice which cross 150 canals! Before Venice’s bridges were built, these little islands all acted as their own private communities. These communities needed to be self-serving with their own churches, markets, shops, and micro-culture. Even today, you can still make out the borders of these various micro-neighbourhoods as you cross from one bridge to another. As you reach the Pont dei Fusari , you are finally starting to get away from the tourist crowds, and the real Venice starts to open up for you.
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Continue along Calle dei Fuseri and turn left onto Calle de la Vida o de le Locande. Then, turn left onto Scala Contarini del Bovolo, where you’ll find the towering Palazzo Contarini del Bovolo.
Palazzo Contarini del Bovolo
This brick Palazzo Contarini del Bovolo has become an iconic viewpoint in Venice. The Palazzo’s incredible, honeycomb-like spiral staircase, with a fantastic balcony at the top, provides one of the most amazing views across the city and over St. Mark’s square. The staircase is called the “Scala Contarini del Bovolo ” or “the snail.”
Built in the 15th century for the wealthy Contarini family , the house became notable for its unique outer staircase. In 1952 Orson Welles also fell in love with the house. He even featured it in his film adaptation of Shakespeare’s Othello . The Palazzo was closed for many years, but in 2016 it opened its doors to the public. You can climb the stairs to the top for three euros and get a snap of the skyline.
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Corte Teatro & Teatro Goldoni
Head back to the Calle de la Vida o de le Locande and walk west towards the Calle de la Vida o de le Locande/Campo Manin. Turn right onto Rio Terrà S. Paternian, then make another left onto Calle Minelli. Walk along Minelli until you reach the Corte Teatro. Walking along the Corte Teatro until you come to the square at the end of the street.
This dreamy square, with a lovely nearby cafe, is surrounded by red and yellow-painted buildings. But dominating the square is also a HUGE boring grey wall. Why are we looking at a large grey wall , you ask? Well, this is the back entrance to the Teatro Goldoni . But Why are we looking at the back, not the front? Well, the front is even less interesting if you can believe it. But the history of this building is such an important part of Venice’s past that it’s worth stopping here for the story!
During the 17th century, trade had begun to twindle in Venice, with other European ports being able to accept larger ships than Venice. Rich families who had made their money in trade needed to suddenly find other means of earning funds. In the 17th century, Opera was quickly becoming the most popular activity for the aristocrats to indulge in. But at the time, it was only performed in private courts. Seeing an opportunity here, rich Venetian families began to invest in building theatres that could bring Opera and music to the public.
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Suddenly, theatres began to pop up all over Venice, each vying for the most popular singers to draw in the biggest audience. The Teatro Vendramin was the original name of the first theatre, which stood here in 1622. It was built by the illustrious Vendramin family . The theatre was renovated in 1720 and named after the infamous Venetian actor Carlo Goldoni .
But the renovation of 1720 destroyed all of the original, elaborate Renaissance architecture, and we were left with the boring interior and exterior design you can see today. Luckily, some intelligent historians preserved the archives before the renovation. This included a copy of every play, the list of previous actors and, most importantly, the original architectural drawings was saved as well.
The theatre was kept in the same family for years. And when it came time to restore it in the 19th century, architects could discover precisely what the original theatre looked like inside and restore its interior to its former beauty. Sadly, we are still waiting for the exterior to get the same treatment. Today, the theatre is used by the Teatro Stabile del Veneto to put on modern productions and musical performances.
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The Grand Canal
Continue walking north along the Corte Theatro , through an almost impossibly narrow alley, until you emerge out into the bright light of the Grand Canal along the Riva del Carbon . As this is the first time we are really faced with the view of the Grand Canal, we should talk a little bit about this ever-so-important waterway. The Venetian Grand Canal splits the city of Venice in two.
The original waterway was much narrower and was a branch of the river Brenta . Ancient Venetian fishermen were once the only ones who lived along its shores in simple stilt houses. Stilt houses ensured the rising tides didn’t wash their houses away.
History of the Grand Canal
It wasn’t until the 9th century, when the Doge moved his palace into the more protected area of what would become St Mark’s square, that the canal was widened. A broader canal was needed to make room for the enormous ships which were brought in and used to bring building materials for the grand palace. The canal soon became less of a fishing spot and more like a luxurious main street, but one made of water. Wealthy families began buying cheap property and building huge manors along the now Grand Canal.
The grand canal was now the main entryway into the city, and the Venetian Republic wanted every building lining it to demonstrate the city’s power, wealth and artistic sensibilities. Like a parade of the best architecture Europe had to offer. This huge canal is now flanked by 170 illustrious buildings. Some dating back to as early as the 13th century.
Turn right and walk along with the Riva del Carbon until you reach a stone bridge. Stop just before the bridge to admire the red building to your right. This is the Palazzo Bembo . This unbelievable building was owned by the Bembo family and was built in the 15th century! Obviously, there has been many renovations and restorations over time, but the original structure shockingly remains much unchanged.
The design of the building encompasses much of what traditional Venetian architecture looked like in the 15th century. The Byzantine influence was still going strong! And you can spot various of their traditional elements fused together here in the polyforms which cover the facade. A polyform is a multi-light window used on the upper floors to bring light into the structure by using wider openings.
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Pietro Bembo was born in Venice in 1470 and built the Palazzo Bembo as his lavish residence. Pietro Bembo was one of the most influential Venetian scholars and writers who helped develop the Tuscan language. He also spent much of his life creating and promoting a madrigal , a secular form of music developed during the Renaissance. He believed that music should be for more than just religious devotion. That music could be used to express everyday human emotion. That seems obvious to us now, but at the time, music was mainly composed for the church. And the subject matter was exclusively religious. We have Pietro Bembo to thank, in a small part, for why we have pop and rock music today!
Continue along with the Riva del Carbon as it turns into the Riva del Ferro , walking along the edge of the Grand Canal. Emerging from the last arcade, you’ll be greeted almost immediately by the sight of the bright white stones of the Rialto bridge . The Rialto Bridge is the most famous of Venice’s canal bridges. It is also the oldest of the four major bridges connecting the various districts and neighbourhoods. The original bridge built here in 1173 was first made of wood. It went by the name Ponte Della Moneta , which means “ money bridge .” The name reflected the industry of the area. This was where the largest mint in Venice once stood. People would flood into their area and cross the bridge at all hours of the day to deposit and take out their cash!
The old wooden bridge was split down the center and could be raised on either side to allow tall ships to enter these narrow canals. This was of the utmost importance, especially when the Rialto Market opened, as boats would come in mass to deliver fresh fruits, vegetables and fish to the centre of Venice. But as time passed, the old wooden bridge wasn’t up to snuff. After years and years of wear, riots, fires and crowds, eventually, it collapsed.
New Rialto Bridge
The new Rialto bridge design was completed in 1551. The architect who designed it did away with the raised wooden design and favoured stone as it was more durable and could last the test of time. Since the stone bridge couldn’t be raised, he needed to ensure that it was tall enough at its peak to accommodate the galley ships that needed to pass through. The result was this grand arched design that has such a theatrical quality to it.
Atop the stone bridge are a series of covered porticos which contain shops on either side. The addition of shops allowed the bridge to earn rent on the space. The money from this goes towards the maintenance of the bridge. A large arch, like the crown, is set in the center of the porticos atop this stunning structure.
Avoiding the Tourist Traps
Unfortunately, the shops along the bridge are somewhat of a tourist trap, selling tacky souvenirs along the entire walkway. But, if you look at it from afar, you can ignore the tourist tat and focus only on the gorgeous silhouette it forms about the teal waters of the canal.
If you’re looking for a spot to sit to enjoy the view, there are these two little nooks on the bottom of the bridge where you can sit beside the water. This is one of the most amazing places to watch boats and gondolas float by, with stacks of fruits and vegetables coming into the market as the midday sun casts its bright rays down on the city. Once you’ve taken in all, there is to see below, walk up the bridge and make sure to stop in the centre to get that iconic view across Venice and the Grand Canal.
Chiesa di San Giacomo di Rialto
Crossing the bridge and heading to the island on the other side, you’ll walk through the Campo de San Giacomo di Rialto . This unassuming square is dominated by a rather small, strange-looking church. This is the Chiesa di San Giacomo di Rialto , supposedly the oldest church in Venice, consecrated in 421! The most unique aspect of this church is the huge clock set into its 15th-century facade.
This area of Venice, known as San Silvestro , was where all the wealthy bankers of the city lived. The bankers who lived here funded the church’s renovation, and while construction went on, they added a large clock and bell tower to its design. Being able to tell the time was of the utmost importance for traders and bankers. While clockfaces aren’t that uncommon on buildings around Venice, this one is absurdly large. Those bankers really wanted the most bang for their buck! It’s also interesting to note that the hours aren’t positioned as they are on modern-day clocks. Whereas most clocks now only have 12 number positions, this one displays all 24. Ironically enough, this clock is a notoriously bad timekeeper. So don’t be fooled if you think you’ve lost an hour of your life somewhere in the streets of Venice.
Venetian Street Names
As we make our way toward the Mercado di Rialto, we walk along the Ruga Degli Oresi. Like many streets in Venice, the Ruga Degli Oresi gets its name from the professions or trades which once were active in the area. Orsi means goldsmith , as there was once a large faction of gold and jewellery traders working here. Many other notable streets in Venice have the same kind of naming convention. There is the Calle de la Malvasia, where you’d find the winemakers.
The Campiello del Remer for the rowboats, the Calle de Forni, which was where you’d find the bakers, the Botteri for the coppers, Calle de Magazine for the grocery shops and even the C alle de Fiubera for the buckle makers! This would have made finding what you were looking to buy so simple! No need for yellow pages or even google! Find the street with the corresponding name, and you’re in the right spot.
Mercado di Rialto
Now that you’ve been introduced to the city’s history, it’s time to meet the people of Venice. And there is no better place to get a peek into the real lives of its residents than to head to the Rialto Market ! The Rialto Market is one of the last remaining fresh food markets in the city and, as such, is a bustling place for locals to come and buy their food. Unlike in North America, where we shop for a week’s worth of food at a large chain grocery store, Italians buy only what they need for that day. And repeat the process every day of the week. While this might sound exhausting, it means fresh food every day and the chance to make lasting relationships with the vendors you buy your food from. Something I dearly long for and admire greatly when visiting cities like Venice.
History of the Rialto Market
But the Rialto Market is much more than just a place to get some of the best food in the city! It is also a place of great historical value. Of all the rich bankers and traders who lived in the region, the most famous were the Rivoalto family. The Rivoalto traders were one of the first families to come into the lagoon to set up a trading post. They picked this location because it was well situated along the bend of the canal. This meant it was located on higher ground and therefore was spared from some floodings that other parts of the island suffered through.
The first known market opened here in 1097. Because the family didn’t have to constantly rebuild their homes, they were in a much better financial position than many other families in the area. There wasn’t home insurance to help you back then. The Rivoaltos grew in prominence and wealth and soon controlled so much of the neighbourhood that the area was named after them.
Layout of the Market
The outdoor portion of the market is where you’ll find seasonal fruits and vegetables under brightly coloured awnings. If you’re looking for a snack, there is nothing more refreshing than a basket of fresh fruit!
Opposite the green awning of the outdoor market is the neo-gothic fish hall, or Pescheria, built in the early 1900s. Outside the red brick building, there is still a marble plaque which you should study before heading inside. This plaque denotes the different types of fish allowed to be legally sold here when the marketplace was first built. Certain varieties of fish were being overcaught, and laws were set in place to ensure there was a limit on how many a household could buy to prevent their depopulation.
The Fish Hall
The fish hall is a rustic building with dramatic arches surrounding the exterior. Towering columns continue throughout the interior, making a simple stone building feel rich and illustrious. Fresh fish has long been one of the most important resources in Venice. All they have to do is throw out their rod, and the freshest fish comes jumping out of the sea and pouring into the market. It can’t get much more local than that!
The marketplace was facing the chance of being shut down a few years ago due to a possible canal expansion for cruise ships. Thankfully, the citizens convinced the city to put a stop to this, and the market was saved. But as more and more people shop at larger grocery stores on the island, markets like this always face the chance of being closed. So if you visit, buy at least a little something to show your support. We bought some fresh raspberries and cherries, and they were absolutely delicious. The perfect on-the-go treat!
Before heading to our next stop, walk to the corner of the Fondamenta de le Prigioni, across from the Campo de la Pescaria. From here, you have a perfect view across the Canal towards the Ca’ d’Oro . The Ca’ d’Oro of Palazzo Santa Sofia was an illustrious palace built along the Grand Canal for the Contarini family in 1428. The Contarini family was responsible for rearing eight different Doges and was one of the wealthiest families in Venice.
To show off their wealth and power, they wanted to create a palace that mirrored the greatness of the Doge’s Palace in St. Mark’s square. Ca’ d’Oro means the golden house . When the building was first constructed, the entire facade was covered in gilt polychrome, giving the effect of being made entirely of gold!
The palace’s architecture is one of the best-surviving examples of Venetian Gothic architecture . The iconic elements characteristic of this style are gallery windows with heavy tracery details featuring quatrefoil designs and byzantine-inspired decorations. Ogee arches span the balcony’s facade, each capped with a wonderfully carved relief ornament.
Inside, the lavish details continue. Even the flooring was made into a work of art. Different coloured stones were used to create fanciful patterns. Since 1927, the building has served as the Galleria Giorgio Franchetti , which features a wonderful collection of 15th-century art.
Riding a Traghetto
Instead of backtracking over the Rialto bridge to get to Cannaregio island (our next stop), we’re going to opt for a very Venetian method of crossing the canal, a Traghetto ! You can find the Traghetto ferry dock along the Fondamenta de le Prigioni , across from the Campo de la Pescaria . Walk over to the water’s edge, where you’ll see a small dock and what appears to be a series of black gondolas. “ But gondolas are so expensive! ” you say. And rightly so, they are. But these are not gondolas; they are traghetti . A traghetto (or traghetti if you’re referring to them as plural) means ferry in Italian. These little ferry boats take passengers across the Grand Canal when there are no nearby bridges.
This is essentially how many Venetians would have made these crossings long ago. A trip on a traghetto costs €2, which might seem a bit pricey for a quick journey, but they save you a ton of time. Plus, it gives you a short but sweet experience on a gondola-type boat. Sure, you might have to share it with a group but it’s the same design, just less romantic. The trip across the water provides a beautiful view of the Ca’ d’Oro from afar, so you can better study all of it in all its glory before getting up close and personal. The Traghetto will let you off at the Santa Sofia in the neighbourhood of Cannaregio.
This area of the island is called Cannaregio . Cannaregio is home to the old Jewish Quarter and is where most of Venice’s permanent residents live. This means that you’ll see things more than just tourist attractions. Places like schools, corner stores, and traditional Venetian houses aren’t sprawling palazzos. If you’re looking for somewhere to stay in Venice, Cannaregio is my favourite spot, as it feels like the community’s beating heart.
We are going to set off into Cannaregio via the Strada Nova. The Strada Nova a wide pedestrian street lined with shops and cafes. Turn right from the Strada Nova onto Fondamenta S. Felice. This is such a picturesque street and peaceful canal. As you look down along the canal, you can see four different bridges all along one short stretch of water. The most interesting of these bridges is towards the end of the street, called the Ponte Chiodo. The Ponte Chiodo dates back to the fifteenth century and is one of the last two bridges that doesn’t have any balustrades to prevent people from falling right into the canal! The city built another bridge just next to it with proper railings but kept the old one as a memory of the past.
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Scuola Grande della Misericordia
We continue west into Cannaregio across the Ponte della Misericordia to the first of two old schools we will look at. The Scuola Grande della Misericordia dominates the northern side of the sestiere Cannaregio. The Scuola Grande della Misericordia (New School of Mercy) was one of seven Scuole Grandi in Venice. These “Scuole Grandi” or “Great Schools” were religious and charitable organizations. Developed in the 13th century, they were the most important social institutions in the Serenissima Republic of Venice. The secular institutions played a crucial role in the fabric of political and religious life. The Old School of Mercy was built in 1308 in the typical gothic style (we will see this building at the next stop.)
But as the organization grew in size, a new building was commissioned to house the growing organization. Jacopo Sansovino was brought on to build the “Scuola Nuova,” or New School. Built in 1532, the imposing quadrangular structure was strongly influenced by Roman classicism. Building work continued over the next fifty years; unfortunately, Sansovino died before the building was completed. Today the building is used as a gallery and events space, but the exterior architecture has been preserved for us to admire.
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Scuola Vecchia della Misericordia
Head northeast on Sestiere Cannaregio toward Campo de l’Abazia . In this small square, you can see the old Chiesa dell’Abbazia della Misericordia in one corner and the original Scuola Vecchia della Misericordia in the other. The Scuola Vecchia della Misericordia (“Old School of Mercy”) was the first seat of the organization. When they built the new school, this building was sold off to the guild of the silk weavers in 1634.
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Casa del Tintoretto
Continue west along Fondamenta de l’Abazia, across the wooden Ponte dei Muti, then along Corte dei Muti and turn left toward Fondamenta dei Mori. Along this canal-side street is the old Casa del Tintoretto . This crumbling old house bears a small plaque with the bust of a man on the top. This is the Casa del Tintoretto, where the artist Tintoretto lived from 1574 to 1594. Tintoretto is one of the few artists who lived and worked in Venice but who was also born here . Many artists flocked to Venice during the Renaissance as the art scene exploded, but Tintoretto was the original trendsetter. His great work helped form the Venetian school of art and even perhaps the artist style which defined the Renaissance itself.
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Campo dei Mori
Continuing west, you are greeted by the small, peaceful square Campo dei Mori . As you turn into the square, take note of the strange statue on the corner of the Osteria l’Orto dei Mori . This statue looks almost as if it has a beak. Three carvings were made in the 13th century, one in each corner. They represent the three merchant brothers who famously opposed the Republic of Venice. Back then, it was treason to speak up against your government. In reaction to their controversial attitude, these unflattering carvings were made to mark their treason in stone forever. Years later, their bravery in speaking out against injustice is honoured, and the statues are revered. Venetians today are known to hang satirical comments on these statues. Addressing and airing their problems with local politicians.
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Church of Madonna dell’ Orto
Continue north, along the Campo Dei Mori , and head across the bridge. Here you’ll come face to face with the grand Church of Madonna dell Orto. Considering this church’s history and beauty, you’d think it would be overrun with tourists. But, since it’s located so far away from the city centre, often you’ll find this square empty and all to yourself!
The church was first constructed in the mid-14th century for the Humailiati order. Never heard of them? Not surprising since they were ousted from Italy in 1462. Despite their name Humiliati , meaning “ humble ,” the pope famously referred to them as humiliating . He believed them to take part in sacrilegious behaviours, which included gluttony and lust. One of their members even tried to assassinate archbishop Carlo Borromeo, whose task was to reform their order. While the order was definitely not the most pious, they were certainly great art lovers, which can be seen in the design and decoration of this great church.
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This church’s facade is one of my favourite pieces of architecture. There are so many tiny details packed into this small space. The current facade dates back to 1460. The sloped sides of the church are lined with a series of twelve niches, where dozens of statues are placed depicting the twelve Apostles. The niches are each framed in bright white columns creating this very visually powerful ribbon effect along the roofline. On either side of the entrance door are two huge quadruple-mullioned windows that allow light to flow into the church’s interior.
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Atop the ornate ogee archway leading into the church is the statue of St. Christopher, the patron saint of travellers. This was the saint the church was initially dedicated to. However, it changed consecration to the Holy Virgin later in the century. On either side of St. Christoper are statues of the Madonna and the Archangel Gabriel. Above St. Christoper, the pointed roof is decorated in small arches and bas-reliefs with geometrical motifs. The large Eastern-style onion-domed bell tower is surrounded by four statues of the Evangelists. And at the very top is a statue of the Redeemer made in white marble.
Enter the church if it’s open, as this church contains some fantastic works of art. As this is the district where Tintoretto lived, this church contains three different pieces from the great artist. Works by Tintoretto in the church include a Presentation in the Temple ( South aisle, close to the East end), Adoration of the Golden Calf, Last Judgement (both in the apse, either side of the main altar) and the Four Cardinal Virtues (in the upper storey of the apse, behind the altar), all from 1562 to 1564. Walk into the apse and find your way to the right Chapel. On the floor is a simple engraved tomb where master Tintoretto is now laid to rest. Happily surrounded by his amazing works of art.
From the Campo della Madonna dell’Orto head southwest along the Fondamenta Madona de l’Orto. Turn left onto Calle Loredan, where you’ll pass over a few little wooden bridges. When you arrive at Ponte del Forno, cross over onto the Calle del Forno. Turn right onto Fondamenta dei Ormesini and walk for a few minutes admiring the many different cafes and restaurants along this street beside the canal. When you spot the gorgeous iron bridge covered in swirling filagree, turn left onto Cl. Ghetto Vecchio into the heart of the Jewish Quarter. Hearing the words Jewish Ghetto , you might think we are entering an area built during WWII, but this ghetto had nothing to do with the Nazis. This neighbourhood actually area predates WWII by more than 400 years!
History of the Jewish Quarter in Venice
In 1509, a large portion of the Jewish community from Germany fled the mainland and moved to Venice. Venice had agreed to allow these Jewish refugees to live inside a small neighbourhood on the island of Cannaregio. But in that area alone. The area they were segregated inside was no bigger than an acre and contained hundreds of Jewish refugees. The old district had once been the location of the old copper foundries. The word ghetto was actually coined in Venice. In Italian, the word ghetto or ‘ get’ translates to ‘ foundry’ or ‘ foundries .’ But over time, the word became synonymous with an area where members of a minority group live, as was in the case of the original Jewish ghetto in Venice.
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Although Venice had given them a place to live, that didn’t mean their life was free and easy. Jewish Venetians were forced to make their living only by selling rags and running pawnshops. This was the only type of employment they were allowed to have at the time. The only exception was Jewish doctors and those with skills in the printing press industries. They worked on printing Hebrew texts and keeping their religion and culture alive in the Ghetto Ebraico or Jewish Ghetto .
Merchant of Venice
In the 16th century, Jewish citizens from Spain fleeing the Spanish inquisition also arrived in the ghetto. These Jewish Spaniards developed the narrative of the “ merchants of Venice .” They were skilled and sought-after traders and merchants. Soon, the Jewish quarter was the centre of foreign trade in Venice. This new industry brought in a substantial amount of money to the Serenissima, allowing them to stay in business despite previous restrictions on this kind of work in the quarter.
Although Venice allowed Jewish people to live and worship in this area, their lives were highly regulated and segregated. As early as the 16th century, Jewish citizens had to wear either yellow hats or yellow badges to distinguish them from Venetian Christians. The ghetto also had a strict curfew which the residents had to follow. Boats filled with members of the Serenissima would circle the canals at night to ensure no one broke curfew. The punishment for doing so was severe. To many residents, this area must have felt more like a prison than an escape from the persecution they had been trying to flee.
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The First Vertical City
Despite these restrictions, the Jewish quarter’s population grew and flourished. More synagogues began to be constructed. But residential development was difficult. Since they were limited to this small island, their only chance for expansion was to go up vertically. The Jewish quarter in Venice was known to be the first real “vertical city.” Even today, walking around this part of Cannaerigio, you’ll see how much taller these buildings are compared to the rest of the city.
In 1797, Napoleon’s entry into Venice freed the Jewish people from their ghetto. Napoleon abolished these divisions. Jewish Venetians were finally free to buy property throughout the rest of the city. Since they were now some of the wealthiest citizens, they were able to buy up some of the most beautiful palazzos on the Grand Canal. Over the years, these Jewish citizens became as much a part of Venice as any other native Italian. Perhaps because they were such an important part of the fabric of Venetian society, their betrayal at the hands of Italian fascists later in WWII was so devastating. And almost led to their extinction.
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World War II in Venice
Jewish people throughout Europe were rounded up and sent to concentration camps during WWII. But, thanks to the sacrifice of Giuseppe Jona , head of the Jewish Community in Venice, a large portion of Jewish Venetians managed to escape. When the Nazis demanded Jona make a list of Jewish people living in Venice, he agreed but used the time to warn his community. On the day he was told to deliver the list, he burnt the papers and took his own life, fearing he would be murdered for his actions. The Nazis were only able to find 243 Jewish Venetians who were deported. Only eight of them returned home.
Before WWII, Venice had a Jewish population of around 150,000. After the war, little more than 1,200 people returned to their homes. On one side of the Ghetto Nuovo square is a large bronze monument in honour of the victims of the Nazis. It was created in 1980 by artist Arbit Blata . The seven bronze panels depict several horrific tragedies Jewish people suffered during WWII. Today there are merely 450 Jewish Venetians left in Cannaregio. But they work hard to preserve and share their history with locals and visitors alike.
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The Scuola Spagnola , or Great Spanish Synagogue , is one of the last remaining synagogues in modern Venice. The synagogue was built in 1555, founded by Jewish Venetians who had been expelled from the Iberian peninsula. The great synagogue was built by one of Venice’s most famous architects, Baldassare Longhena . He is also notable for designing other iconic Venetian buildings, such as; the church of the Madonna Della Salute, Ca’ Pesaro and Ca’ Rezzonico .
But the exterior of the synagogue isn’t anything like these other buildings. The facade is rather austere, with a plain, four-story cream-coloured finish. But it wasn’t for lack of inspiration, funding or skill that the exterior was so lacklustre. It was a condition of the Venetian state government in the 16th century. Although Jewish citizens were allowed to build their own places of worship, they needed to be concealed within a building that gave no appearance of being a house of worship. Essentially hiding their religion from the eyes of Christian Venetians.
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Inscribed upon the arch on the entrance of the building is a piece of script that reads, “ Blessed are they that dwell in Thy House and continue to praise Thee .” On the side of the building, there is also a stone plaque with the names of all the deported Jewish Venetian families who suffered death at the hands of the Nazis. Take a moment to pay respect as you pass by.
How to Visit a Synagogue?
Although tourists can’t enter the synagogue on their own (unless attending a service), I recommend booking a guided tour through the Jewish Museum of Venice if you are interested. They have a great connection with the local community, and you know this way you are supporting the preservation of their history through your contributions.
If you were to peek inside, you would be amazed at what you’d find. Stepping inside is like walking into a fantastical jewel box. Ornate carved wooden balustrade frames the ceiling in a variety of geometric shapes. Lavish red velvet curtains with golden tassels hand in front of the windows. Giant brass chandeliers drip from the ceiling and illuminate the rest of the room with warm candlelight. The highlight of the interior is the magestic sanctuary lamp known by its Hebrew name, Ner Tamid . The light inside this holy lamp symbolizes God’s eternal presence, which will never be extinguished.
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Panificio Giovanni Volpe
Just down the street from the old Spanish Synagogue is Panificio Giovanni Volpe , one of Venice’s last remaining kosher bakeries. While visiting the Jewish quarter, it’s a good tourist practice to patronize their businesses. This is such an easy way to ensure their community continues to flourish. In this bakery, they still make many traditional Venetian desserts and also some unique Jewish recipes. Don’t be shy to ask what they recommend! Everything is delicious though.
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To cross onto the next island of Santa Croce , we need to pass over the great Guglie Bridge . This crossing was established in 1285 with an early wooden bridge, but the current stone incarnation was built in 1580. The large balustrades which run over either side of the bridge are inlaid with gargoyles that watch over the canal. It is therefore dubbed the “ bridge of spies .”
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Chiesa di San Geremia
Standing in the centre of the Campo San Geremia is the church of the same name. The Church of San Geremia has stood here since the 13th century, and the old brickwork on the bell tower is some of the only remaining pieces of the original church. The rest of the edifice dates back to 1753.
While the interior lacks any flashy ornamentation, this church is often seen as a pilgrimage sight because it carries the relics of Saint Lucy inside. Saint Lucy is the patron saint of eye illnesses. The story goes that she had devoted her virginity to God and would not marry. To make herself less desirable, she tore out her own eyes. When she was buried in the family mausoleum, they discovered her eyes had been miraculously restored, a sign of her martydom. She is seen frequently in paintings holding a golden plate with a pair of eyes laid upon it. Many people make a pilgrimage to this sight to pray for their own eye related illnesses.
Pasticceria Dal Mas
You’ll find my favourite bakery on the charming Rio Terà Lista di Spagna street. The Pasticceria Dal Mas has some of the best cream-filled pastries in town! Their bright green pistachio cannolis are a dream. There are a few seats inside where you can sit and order an espresso or even an Aperol spritz to enjoy with your food. If you’d rather just stand at the counter and chat, you can also do that; how very Italian of you.
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You’ll come upon the Scalzi Bridge at the end of this street before reaching the train station. The Scalzi Bridge means “ bridge of the barefoot monks ” in Italian. The first bridge to be built here was right beside the old Carmelite order, also known as the “order of the barefoot monks.” But this current incarnation of the bridge is one of the city’s newest, completed in 1934. While the bridge isn’t as remarkable as some others, its modernity allows it to feel light and airy, almost defying the laws of gravity.
Walking over the bridge, we are moving into the Santa Croce district. Santa Croce is where you’ll find the large train station, which brings people in and out of Venice every day. Leading to this neighbourhood being referred to as the city’s “transport hub.” Being located away from the top attractions, you’ll also find that Santa Croce has the least amount of tourists. This may be one of the reasons I find it the most pleasant to walk around. The people you’ll find on the street are locals, and there is an honest air about this neighbourhood.
Crossing over the bridge, walk southwest on the Fondamenta del Monastero to tread along water’s edge. This area of the Grand Canal is bustling with action. You’ll find more than just gondolas and vaporettos here. Motorboats carrying fruits and vegetables chug up and down the water, and boats piled with wooden beams and other construction equipment jet over to their various destinations.
Turn left down Fondamenta Papadopoli where you’ll quickly see the bright green trees sticking their heads above a brick wall. This is the Giardino Papadopoli , a beautifully manicured garden where locals Venetians come to get some shade and enjoy a bit of green space. The park spans more than 8,800 square meters and was built in 1834. While Venice has ample squares and waterways, there is surprisingly little greenery and lush parkland. The Giardino Papadopoli is Venice’s version of Central Park .
Among the gravel and stone paths are a variety of different trees like cypress, cedar, different fruits, elm, oleander, mulberries, and laurel. If you are even looking for someplace to come to escape the crowds and the noise, this is the oasis you’ve been looking for!
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Campo San Rocco
Walking through the park, exit at the south end, and cross the bridge over to the Calle dei Amai. Walking along the Calle dei Amai (which turns into the Calle de le Sechere) and turn right onto Ramo Cimesin. Ramo Cimesin veers slightly right and becomes Calle Tintoretto, and passes through Campo San Rocco.
Campo San Rocco is a charming square whose centrepiece is the church of San Rocco, an impressive Renaissance structure adorned with intricate marble carvings and frescoes. The surrounding buildings feature colourful facades and elegant balconies, creating a picturesque backdrop for a leisurely stroll or a cup of coffee at one of the outdoor cafes.
Basilica dei Frari
From the Campo San Rocco, walk toward Calle Fianco de la Scuola and continue onto Salizada S. Rocco. Turn left onto Campo dei Frari, where you are immediately struck by the towering Basilica dei Frari or Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari . But most people just call it the “ Frari ” for short. The church is the beating heart of this neighbourhood. In 1231 the Doge Jacopo Tiepolo donated this land to the Franciscans. The original church he had built was very small. As the Franciscans rose to power, they demolished it in exchange for a larger, more impressive design that better reflected their status in the city. The current version we see today was built in the 14th century in a high Venetian Gothic style.
Looming over church is the great campanile, the second tallest tower in the city. The bell tower was built in 1396 and somehow still stands today! The unassuming facade might fool you into thinking at first blush this church isn’t very important. But in actuality, it is perhaps one of the most significant churches in the entire city.
Entry into the Church
There is a small fee to enter the church (€ 3,00), but it is more than worth it to gaze upon the interior of this church and the famous works of art found inside.
Many Doges were buried here under the watchful eye of masterful works of art by the painter Titian . Titian, a Venetian himself, painted the great altarpiece inside the church. The Assumption of the Virgin by Titian is one of the first things your eye is drawn toward as you enter the church. It sits behind the high altar, lit by the glow of the stained glass windows behind it. This piece is perhaps the best example of Titan’s masterful work. Setting the standard for Venetian art during the Renaissance.
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Titian died of the plague at 94 years old, and a memorial to his life and death stands inside the great Basilica. The monument is gigantic! Looking like a small structure rather than a statue. A version of his famous painting is carved in relief into the stone. The image of the great master himself sitting in front. On either side of the artist are two figures representing universal nature and the genius of knowledge . The other four figures set in between the large columns represent Painting, Sculpture, Graphic Art and Architecture, each one being a critical force possessed by Titian’s art.
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Campo Santa Margherita
From the church, head south through the Campo dei Frari. Turn right along Salizada San Rocco and left onto Calle S. Rocco. Cross over the Sestiere Dorsoduro and continue south down Calle S. Pantalon as it passes over the bridge, and the street turns into the Sestiere Dorsoduro. Leading you right in the Campo Santa Margherita.
The Campo Santa Margherita is a huge square in Dorsoduro District . Surrounding this square are houses that date back to the 14th and 15th centuries. Cafes have a tremendous amount of outdoor space in this large square, so you’ll hear the murmur of people laughing and the clinking of wine glasses at all hours of the day. Lovers lounge on the bright red benches, kissing under the sunlight. If you’re tired, this is a great place to end the tour early if you don’t want to explore the rest of the Dorsoduro District.
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The Dorsoduro district is located on the bottom of the Venetian islands. This area borders the Grand Canal and the Venetian Lagoon, making it a prime spot for traders to live. While it’s not as flashy as the other districts, think of this as a blue-collar neighbourhood. I still find it to be one of the most charming areas in Venice. Dorsoduro lacks the pretensions of the other spots. Since it’s home to Venice’s Ca’ Foscari University , you’ll also find the new blood of Venetian society, its students, who liven up the streets with modern music, food and entertainment.
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Ponte dei Pugni
Head to the southern end of the Campo Santa Margherita and make a sharp left onto the Rio Terà Canal. Turn right to stay on Rio Terà Canal until you reach the Ponte dei Pugni . I love the view from this bridge. If you look towards the west, you can see the brick bell tower from the church of Santa Maria del Carmelo sticking its head up above the other buildings.
On either side of the bridge are a pair of footsteps marked onto the stones. This marking reveals a strange practice from the 18th century. Whenever two rival families were feuding, they would come here to battle it out with their fists. Unlike gun duals in the United States which were common to settle violent disputes, Venetians would fight each other with their fists. The first one to fall into the canal off this bridge was deemed the loser.
Cantine del Vino già Schiavi
We are approaching the evening by this time, but it’s not time for just yet dinner. Oh no, first we must have an aperitif ! And one of the best places to get it in Dorsoduro is Cantine del Vino già Schiavi . This bar sells Cicchetti (small snacks), which include Venetian classics like crostini topped with salt cod and wild garlic, pistachio cream or aioli with flower petals. Grab an Aperol spritz to drink while standing at the bar to feel very much like a local.
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Calle Nuova Sant’Agnese
Head northeast until you reach the Calle Nuova Sant’Agnese . This narrow street is filled with a variety of different shops. Being so far away from the touristy areas, these stores are known to sell authentic Venetian goods but at reasonable prices . In addition to the tourist shops, you’ll also find unique boutiques, which are a great way to support local businesses.
Basilica di Santa Maria Della Salute
If you’re still feeling up for it, continue walking through Dorsoduro, eastwards, along the Calle Nuova Sant’Agnese (which turns into Piscina Forner.) Continue onto Calle de la Chiesa and make a slight left onto Fondamenta Venier dai Leon walking along as it becomes Fondamenta Venier dai Leon. Turns left along Dorsoduro Street and follow the street into the Campiello Barbaro. Walk east along the Calle Barbaro as it becomes Calle San Gregorio and veer onto Calle de l’Abazia.
Stepping onto the stone of the Fondamenta Salute, you find yourself standing in front of the stunning white marble church of Basilica di Santa Maria Della Salute. Take a moment to both soak in the view of the church but also turn around to look at the great view of Saint Mark’s square across the river. This is where we first started the tour, and it’s amazing to see this spot from another perspective.
The Venetian Plague
In 1630 Venice was being ravaged by the plague. At the time, one of the ways people thought you could stop the plague was by making an offering to God and praying he would send deliverance to the city. So, the Republic of Venice built the church of Our Lady of Health as a last resort . Eventually, the plague period passed, and the city was able to start rebuilding itself. Nearly a third of the population of Venice died during the plague. Those that survived would remember that harrowing experience forever. Since the church was made in honour of stopping the plague, most of the art and symbolism you’ll find throughout the church in some way refers to death or the plague. Making it a very uniquely themed church.
The church is most notable for its humongous white dome, which dominates the sky. The dome, which almost seems to defy gravity, became a symbol of inspiration for artists in the city. To support the huge dome and weighty marble church, 1 million wooden piles were used to hold up the floating building.
To finish the evening, walk down south towards the island’s far edge. The stone promenade which flanks the large waterway is called the Zattere . Zattere in Italian means rafts . In the 16th century, timber would arrive in the city on large rafts. Timber was not only used to construct the walls of grand palazzos and houses in Venice; it was literally the ground on which the houses were built. Timber was one of the most important imports in the city. It was also used to make gondolas up until the 18th century. Suffice it to say, the city was built around the timber industry, so its importance is not to be ignored. The earliest parts of the Zattere date as far back as 1520. Today the wide promenade is a great place to watch the sunset, reflection down against the mirror like waters of the canals.
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Trattoria San Basilio
If you’re feeling like you would like to dine somewhere close to your accommodation, there are Vaporetto stops all along the Fondamenta Zattere . But if you’re looking for something special along the water’s edge but away from the touristy hub, you should check out Trattoria San Basilio .
This down-to-earth restaurant is located inside the corner of one of the older buildings in the Zattere. It barely looks like a restaurant except for the awning and a few tables and chairs out front. But don’t let its modesty fool you; here, you’ll find a relaxing atmosphere, friendly staff, and traditional Venetian cuisine. Their seafood spaghetti with mussels, clams and squid tastes so fresh you’d swear the food jumped right onto your plate straight from the water. Try to get a spot outside to enjoy the sunset or watch as gondolas paddle past into the moonlight.
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Phew, well, that brings us to the end of this tour. Hopefully, if you packed this all into one day, you found things along the way to return to see tomorrow! Let me know which neighbourhood was your favourite or what you’re most looking forward to visiting!
Happy Travels, Adventurers!
Buy the downloadable pdf for this walking tour.
With our downloadable PDF guide, you can take the tour at your own pace, without worrying about schedules or large tour groups. Plus, you can download the PDF to your phone or tablet to use even while offline.
Happy Travels Adventurers!
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My wife and I took this walking tour just last week – June 2022. It was fantastic! We spread it out over two days as we stopped at lots of places to shop, east, and in 2022 there are lots of free art exhibits. Add a night tour of the Palace and the basilica and you will have a great trip!
Thanks for the comment Phil, I’m so happy you and your wife enjoyed yourself on the walking tour. Two days is the perfect leisurely way to spread it out and make your own stops along the way. I’ve never known they had a night tour of the palace and Basilica but I looked it up and it looks incredible! What a special way to spend an evening in Venice!
Hello Laura, thanks so much for putting together these amazing walking tours! I’m heading to Italy next week and would love to do your Venice tour. However, wondering if it is possible to download it into my phone to follow it while I’m in Venice. Do you know if that is possible?
Thanks in advance, Juliana
The Creative Adventurer
Hi Juliana, I’m still working on the downloadable version of this walking tour! But you can always copy and paste the text to you notes app in your phone and download the google map I provided. Google has an offline map option you can download before you leave if you won’t have roaming while you’re in Italy. Hope this helps 🙂
Hi Laura Thank you so much for sharing this wonderful walking tour of Venice. My husband and I are going in April and as the previous commentator wondered if you had managed to complete a downloadable version yet? I am not very techy so not sure I could manage to copy and paste! My thanks in anticipation , Judi
Hi Judy! We finally have the downloadable version of the walking tour available in our store! You can purchase the PDF here to get all the information in this post and more available on your phone, iPad or desktop even when offline!
I hope you have a fantastic time on your vacation to Venice.
All the best, Laura (the Creative Adventurer)
I am going to Venice next year and am so excited to do this walk. The effort and detail you put into this is incredible. What a wonderful person you are to share this. So appreciate. Can’t wait to discover this walk.
Thanks so much Nicole! I hope you have a fantastic time, Venice is spectacular and a true dream of a location.
Amazing, very well done! Anyone that wants to get of feel of venice should read and walk this. You should really make a documentary…..getting to know venice. thank you
Wow! Thanks for the amazing comment Jim!
I purchased the PDF on my computer but trying to figure out how to now open/save it on my phone. There wasn’t a follow up sent to my email with a link or anything. Please let me know how to obtain it, thanks!
Hi Tommy, I just sent you an email but you should receive an email shortly after payment with the link to the download. If you don’t get one shortly just reply to the email I sent and I will email it to you directly.
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- 11AM – Campo SS Apostoli – Venice through the centuries North
- Legends and curiosities of Venice
- Venice stunning views and uniquenesses
- Meeting points
- Private Tours
Venice Free Walking Tours are organized by Professional Guides and Tour Leaders. We encourage sustainable tourism, support local businesses, local culture and traditions. Each tour is both fun and educational, the perfect introduction to this fascinating city! Why do you […]
Venice Free Walking Tours are organized by Professional Guides and Tour Leaders. We encourage sustainable tourism, support local businesses, local culture and traditions.
Each tour is both fun and educational, the perfect introduction to this fascinating city!
Why do you offer free tours? Why do you do it? How do you get funded?
The Venice Free Walking Tours are performed by professionals who love Venice. We would like to give a warm welcome to everyone who decides to visit our city. We are open and curious people that enjoy meeting new friends from all over the world. We think that everyone should be permitted to take a guided tour for a price they feel it was worth – even free if you don’t enjoy the tour.
Maybe it’s not obvious to everybody, but we manage to keep offering you our tours only because of your donations. At the end of the tour each one of you is free to decide the price and the value of this tour for yourself.
All our guides are freelance professionals and these free tours are part of their job, that’s why they pay regular taxes on your donations.
Who we are?
We all live in Venice and we will tell you things about Venice that you cannot find in most common travel books. All our guides have a degree in different disciplines – Art History, Architecture, Sociology, Economics, Foreign Languages and each of us has a different perspective, different guiding style, different route and personality! One thing that we have in common – passion for this special place and willingness to share it with you.
We know plenty about Venice history, culture, local traditions and we can help you with any general or practical questions you have regarding your stay in our city.
Where will you take me?
Each guide has a different route because each one of us has different approach to the city, that’s why there is no list of places that you will see – each guide will take you on a different route and there is no way to know the route in advance – take the adventure!
If you would like to book more than one tour, please contact us in advance and we will let you know if the guide for the tours of your interest are the same or different.
Our Free Walking Tour will allow you to know the authentic face of Venice, a sightseeing walk through narrow streets and canals, beautiful squares with their palaces, wells and churches. We will help you to know areas of Venice less frequented by the bustle of tourists and more authentic in contrast of the classic tourist routes.
Please kindly note that we do not include St. Mark’s square and Rialto Bridge in our routes, just in the night tour.
more information HERE
Please keep this into consideration to plan your time in Venice at best!
We highly recommend participating at this tour on your first day here, to have many useful hints about what to do and what to see after the tour and some precious tips that will help you to feel like a local while in Venice!
Do the tours end where they start?
No. Each tour ends at a different location.
What if I am coming with a bigger group (6+ people)?
Our tours have been created for single travellers, couples and small families. We are not allowed to accept groups bigger than 6 on legal basis.
Please do not try and book for a big group with different names because this might cause problems both for you and the guide. Moreover, if you do it, the guide will not accept your group anyway.
Please kindly note that there are lots of other Free Tours in Venice that will not have problems accepting you.
Do I need to make a reservation?
Yes, booking is necessary. Reservations help us determine the number of guides we need to ensure that our groups remain manageable and enjoyable, and they allow us to notify you of changes to the tour due to weather or anything that could disturb the tours. Groups of 6 or more MUST contact us before reserving. Walk-up guests for these tours will be admitted if space is available.
I cannot book the tour because the date isn’t scheduled on the calendar, what does it mean?
If the date is not on the calendar the tour is either sold out or it’s not scheduled.
If the date you cannot book is within one month, please book the next available tour – the tour is fully booked or there will be no tour on that day.
Usually we schedule the tours about 60 days before they will be performed. Please check on our website a few weeks before the tour of your interest.
What if I have to leave before the end?
We highly recommend you to stay until the very end, therefore please choose the time slot of the tour that will fit perfectly into your time schedule.
Are Venice Free Walking Tours guided in English?
Venice Free Walking Tour is guided only in English and it is oriented towards advanced level English speakers and our guides speak quite fast. It’s necessary to have this level of English to participate because some of our tours are interactive.
Is Venice Free Walking Tours available also in Spanish? – Hay un tour en espanol?
Venice Free walking tour esta solamente en inglés y está pensado para personas con un nivel avanzado de comprensión de ingles, porque el guia habla muy rápido. Para participar al tour es necesario tener un nivel avanzado de ingles porque muchos tour son interactivos. Por gran parte del tour el guia hablará y si no conoces bien el idioma inglés no vale la pena pasar mas de tres horas así.
How long is the tour?
Average lenght of our tours is about three hours, but just like the route, please consider our tours as an artesan product – each tour will be different, because it might take less if there is no intermediate stop or it might take even longer, if our guests have many questions or have some walking problems. Please inform your guide at the check in if you have any particular necessities.
Do you stop for any breaks?
Some of our guides have planned stops during the tour. If you have any particular necessities, please let your guide know about that before you start the tour.
How to find the MEETING POINT?
On your booking confirmation you will find a map and a description of the meeting point.
Please note that Venice Free Walking Tour have many different starting points at different times, please double check your booking confirmation to find yourself in the right place at the right time!
We highly recommend you to consult Google maps and even to print it to avoid getting lost. Please consult your concierge or Google Maps if you are reaching the meeting point from other areas. If you are asking information on how to reach the meeting point in your hotel, please specify the name of the square (Campo) which is indicated as your meeting point. It has happened in the past that some people have been mislead by the concierge, and they have been indicated completely different area and, as a consequence have missed the tour.
How to reach the Meeting point from the CRUISE SHIP
From the cruise ship port you might use two ways to reach Venice: shuttle provided by the cruise ship company or the People Mover. Reaching Venice by shuttle you will arrive near St. Mark’s square. On the People Mover you will arrive to Piazzale Roma. Once you know how you will reach Venice, please put the Meeting point GPS coordinates on Google maps (you will find them on your booking confirmation) and then type Piazzale Roma or Piazza San Marco (St. Mark’s square). Please add some time to the amount of time indicated on Google Maps because in summer time Venice might be really crowded. You might save the itinerary on your phone or tablet or print it out.
What if I am late for the tour?
Please, please, please be on time.
You have to reach the meeting point 10 minutes before the tour starts to complete the check in procedures because the tour will start on exact time. We also recommend checking with your concierge or online (google maps) how much time you need to make it to the tour on time and allow some extra buffer time, because it’s really easy to get lost in Venice. In case you still miss us, unfortunately there is no possibility to join the group later.
Please note that if you will arrive late, the guides will not be able to accept you anymore even if you have a booking.
I have changed my mind and cannot come to the tour. Do I have to let you know?
Yes! You can cancel your booking directly through the Eventbrite link on your booking confirmation email.
Otherwise please give us at least a 24-hour notice before your tour starts, because very often our tours are fully booked and other potential participants cannot book it, as we limit number of people who can attend the tour to provide you the highest quality tours.
PLEASE REMEMBER: if you have booked more than one tour and you don’t show up at the first one and do not warn us in time, all your further bookings will be automatically cancelled.
Is there a lot of walking involved?
The total distance that we cover is about 3 km (2 miles), but you should be prepared for a walking tour.
Is the tour suitable for children?
As long as they can keep up with the group, they are more than welcome.
Is the tour wheelchair accessible?
Unfortunately Venice is not very wheelchair-friendly, either – lots of bridges and narrow streets. Please keep in mind that we will cross many bridges that are not wheelchair – accessible during the tour. Only the tour from St. Mark’s Square is wheel cheir accessible.
What if the weather is bad?
Are you scared of a few drops of rain? We are not. The show must go on! Snow or shine we will be there waiting for you. Please dress appropriately for the conditions = really warm clothes in winter season & protection from the humidity in case of rain or flooding. Comfortable walking shoes are recommended.
However, Free Walking Tours may cancel or postpone the tour due to extreme weather. Please contact us or check our website for updates.
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- Support JM Cause
- Venice Free Walking Tour
One of the best things to do in Venice
VENICE FREE WALKING TOUR
Let's unmask Venice with local guides!
Our "free-tours concept" are based solely on donations .
The JM Walkingtour project is dedicated to all those who, thanks to our guided visits, wish to get to know the cities and at the same time contribute to the fundraising for the removal of architectural barriers which hamper the day-to-day life of people with disabilities.
Our volunteers are authorized no-profit guides and carry out their tasks for free, in favor of all those joining the program; the love for their own city and their art-historical competences make our tours unique.
We are strongly convinced, and this is why at the end of the tour we will ask you for a donation , that a remuneration in exchange for a bit of extra knowledge would be fair and gratifying for all. Thank you for your generous contribution.
Due of its peculiarity, this tour is NOT suitable for people with reduced motor skills . You may book the alternative free from architectural barriers itinerary on our website by clicking on the item "Accessible Tour".
Venice Morning Tour
Click here and reserve your spot
Venice Afternoon Tour
Venice Evening Tour
Venice Accessible Tour
Venice Private Tour
Venice free walking tour presentation.
Venice counts more than 400 bridges which connect its several little islands between them, giving shape to the city itself, it alternates chaotic areas to incredibly calm ones. Venice is a millenary city, unique in its genre , it is so rich of monuments and art pieces that only our local guides can give you the chance to discover.
Guided through narrow calli and marvelous campielli, towards the discovery of another side of Venice, the more picturesque one, the one of its inhabitants, far from the always crowded main touristic attractions, but equally important on a historical and cultural level, we will introduce you to the real story of the most beautiful city in the world .
It is not easy to discover this side of Venice on your own because the city is like a small labyrinth where it is very easy to get lost and no one can even imagine how many things there are be discover in addition to the generally known spots.
The beauty of this tour is that you will discover the curiosities, the anecdotes and the amusing events in an informal way , by interacting with the other participants, stimulated by the questions raised by the guide, in which you will not only find the answers related to the history of the glorious “Serenissima”, but also to the contemporary and daily life of the inhabitants living in this unique city, in their own unique way.
JM is a walking tour that differs from the others because our local guides, besides from the historical notions, can give you some advice on how to fully live the city, exactly in the same way a local inhabitant would live it, with it amusements, its wineries, the religious and local neighborhood celebrations, the popular restaurants and also many eno-gastronomical advice. In short, all that which is needed in order to go back home with a unique and unforgettable memory of Venice .
You will find the meeting point written down on the electronic ticket you will receive in the moment of your registration.
How does Venice Walking Tour work?
Please arrive 15 minutes early , so that we may start the visit on time.
During our tour there will be a 10 minutes coffee break . We suggest to wear comfortable clothes, depending on the season, to wear trainer shoes and to carry a bottle of water with you.
Do not forget to bring an umbrella in the event of rain or sun during hot summer days.
The itinerary may vary due to weather conditions.
The tour takes place through narrow calli and bridges and given its peculiarity it is suitable for young people or dynamic adults . If kept on a leash, four-legged friends are welcome.
The tour will take place exclusively on foot , it lasts about two hours and may include a maximum of 20 participants.
The tour will end in a different place from the meeting point and your guide will give you the directions to get back to the starting point.
In order to make the most out of our suggestions, we suggest to attend the JM tour at the beginning of your stay.
FAQ Venice tour
Find answers to frequently asked questions about our walking tours. There's all the information you need about meeting point, tour duration, what to do when you're late or you can't join the tour.
Read the answers