Voyaging Venice: Everything We Did, Everywhere in Venice Part 1

By Elie - 11:42 PM

Ah Venice...the not-too-little city in Italy everyone calls The City of Love. The one made of over a hundred islands connected by bridges, gondolas, and water buses to take you across canals. The one I never imagined we'd one day visit and is every bit as magical as my mum has always bragged for it to be. 

Welcome to my Venice era

We initially planned for this trip in 2021 but the pandemic clearly had different ideas - delaying my visit by two years. And now with borders open once again, my other half and I decided that we absolutely had to visit the sinking city before it was no more. Arriving on a March afternoon, we were blessed with good weather through our 5-day stay as the sun was basking in our faces 80% of the time. There were rare sprinkles of rain on our fourth evening, but nothing too drastic compared to the Netherlands. 

Now you may be wondering, what could anyone possibly do on the island for 5 whole days? For many, Venice is a day-trip destination and it can be easy to see why if you're not into a lot of walking, stair-climbing, and taking it slow. And thus I'm going to recount everything we've done, everywhere around Venice in this blog post so you'll know what to do in Venice the next time you plan to visit. 

St. Mark's Basilica

So I'll start with one of the most obvious place: the St. Mark's Basilica. Set in the very heart of Venice, it was built in the year 836 (and later rebuilt in 1094) and is an age-old basilica that you cannot miss if you're into churches and historical architecture.

Because it's just gorgeous

Do note that the lines will be long unless you have a skip-the-line ticket but the view that awaits inside is extremely worth it. Featuring grand decorations made of glass mosaics; some even reclaimed from the Byzantine eras, the walls and ceilings tells the stories of saints, prophets, and biblical scenes. What's quite interesting is that the Venetians believe the relics of Saint Mark (of whom the basilica was named after) rests here at this very church. 

The church is best viewed on a sunny day as the rays hit the glass mosaics

As of March 2023, ticket prices without the skip-the-line privilege go at just €3 per adult with a supplement of €5 if you want to see the Pala d'Oro altar up-close. It also costs another €7 if you want to visit the Loggia dei Cavalli balcony and €10 extra to visit the Bell Tower. Kids below 6 enter for free. On a Monday afternoon, we waited approximately 40-minutes before we could enter and they have strict rules on allowing only small backpacks and bags into the basilica. All other items must be locked away at the paid lockers area about 2 minutes away from the church. 

Libreria Acqua Alta

If you've ever heard of the self-proclaimed "most beautiful bookstore in the world" where books are said to be stored in gondolas and bathtubs, then you'll know all about Libreria Acqua Alta. 

Free to enter, books and cats not guaranteed

Unfortunately, despite the claim of being a beautiful bookstore, I would say that the main attraction to the bookstore is the stairs made of old books and magazines at the end of the store overlooking a random canal. Inside, the bookstore is crammed and even mildly musty and the staff are not the friendliest - rushing you through even if you stop to look at a book. 

The stairs of books was alright but also slightly wobbly so step at your own risk

Other attractions to the store are the promise of a free gondola where you can step into for a picture - but it doesn't go anywhere as it's all tied up - and cats roaming freely. I saw neither of these because it was way too packed inside and again, I was told to keep walking and hurry it up. Personally, I'd say to just look at pictures online and wouldn't recommend a visit unless you have lots of extra time on hand. 

Venice Free Walking Tour 

With the entire city being a tourist haven, walking tours are extremely common in Venice and you'll find a variety of websites offering them at various fees. In fact, it's so widely offered that you'll often see packs of people walking around with a listening device and cheap, disposable earphones hanging by their necks. There is, however, a much better way to see the city: the Venice Free Walking Tour

Ask for Simona for a really fun walk

Full disclaimer: I was not paid to say this but I definitely recommend doing this tour instead of the paid ones. This is because the tour is run by enthusiastic volunteers who either live in Venice or simply love the city so much that they've become so well immersed and versed to tell you all the little secrets you would have never otherwise seen or known. 

We personally took Campo SS Apostoli tour that lasted 2 and half hours, and I'm still grateful for our tour guide, Simona who was cheekily witty throughout. At the end of the tour, you're welcome to tip the guide with however much you feel the tour was worth and in some ways I felt like that gave them the incentive to go the extra mile. 

Not your usual stop in town

What's really nice was that you don't walk with a listening device on hand, the guide stops and explains everything along the way. They're often open for questions and you didn't just feel like you were being herded like a pack of lambs onward to a slaughterhouse. Do note though that the group can become rather big, but I did enjoy how the guide still tried her best to keep everyone as engaged by quizzing us every now and then just for the fun of it. If I were you, I'd definitely add this to my list of things to do in Venice. 

Take a Venetian gondola ride

Let's be fair, you can't actually say you've been to Venice if you haven't taken a gondola ride. Often waiting for customers - mostly couples - looking to embark on a romantic stroll down the canals by the water, gondola rides in Venice can become quite expensive. As far as we've seen, most rides go at a minimum of €80 though I'm not sure for how long and if that's charged per person. 

So how do you still get to ride a gondola? 

But if you're anything like us and you can't afford to part with €80 for a ride, then taking a cheap tour can be a great way to still experience the city from the waters without having to haggle. We booked our 30-minute ride through GetYourGuide, and that even included a 15-minute short tour about gondolas before we could hop on one. 

In love this picture my other half took.

Of course, you can't expect too much with this option as it's likely that you will share the gondola with some other tourists. Each gondola holds up to 5 guests and we also shared it with another couple. This was nice, however, as we could ask them to help us take pictures and vice versa. The gondolier had little interaction with us through the ride, but the silence through the waters was very welcome as my other half and I took in the sights in complete awe.

Albeit questionable, cheaper alternatives are always available.

If, however, you do think a €30 tour is still too steep, then it's good to remember that gondolas are not always tourist traps. Because Venice is made of multiple islands, many locals still use it as a form of transportation to get from one side of the canal to another. That said, you can always hop on the €2 (per person) gondola rides that lasts about 5 minutes as you'll often just cross the Grand Canal on it. These rides are cash only, paid to the gondolier themselves as you hop on. I mean, I guess you could still technically say you were on a gondola by the end of the day!

T Fondaco Rooftop Terrace

So since I've talked about looking at the city on foot and on water, I might as well cover a grand sight from the skies because this is the T Fondaco Rooftop Terrace. 

Overlooking Rialto Bridge

While most rooftop sights in Venice such as the St. Mark's Bell Tower and Balcony Museum requires payment to enter, the T Fondaco Rooftop Terrace is a free attraction at the DFS department store. The good news is that you don't have to be a customer to visit the rooftop but you do have to make reservations way ahead of time. Once you've gotten in, you'll be greeted by a wonderful oversight of the islands. 

If you squint, you'll see the St. Mark's Basilica!

Every reservation spot grants you a 15-minute excursion to the rooftop, and despite the reviews of grumpy staff who may turn you away if you appear without a booking, I definitely recommend coming by if you don't want to pay just to look at Venice from above. Click here if you'd like to secure a visiting spot but be warned that they're often all booked out a week in advance so do plan ahead!


At this point, I'd have to say that I've severely underestimated how much there is to do when visiting Venice and this post has become quite a long read. Hence, it's probably a smarter decision to split this series into a 2-part post but I promise it won't take too long till I come up with 2nd part of suggestions of things to do in Venice, so do stick around!

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