Venice is one of Italy’s most popular tourist destinations. The city gets scores of tourists daily, all keen to experience one of the most unique cities in Europe. The city is built on over 100 islands connected by tiny bridges and canals is perfect for a weekend getaway. But due to the major influx of tourists in the city, it is also one of the most expensive cities to visit in the country. For those looking for some of the free things to do to enjoy the city on budget, here are some of the best free things to do in Venice:
Best Free Things To Do In Venice City Center
Rialto Bridge is one of Venice’s most iconic landmarks. The Bridge can be admired both by taking a walk on it and by going under it on a water bus (Vaporetto). The Bridge presents you with an amazing view of the Grand Canal while you walk through it. It also has a market built on it which was initially used as a means to generate the revenue of building the Bridge. For some amazing pictures of and with the Bridge, you can find a spot near the canal on one of the jetties/piers and get yourself a classic Venetian picture. All that the Bridge has to offer is free of charge, so enjoy the Rialto Bridge in all its glory.
Rialto Market is the last of its kind where the locals gather in the morning to buy fresh produce of fish, fruits, and vegetables. You can visit the market early in the morning to witness the setting up of the market and the arrangement of the fresh produce. Later you can grab a snack at any local Bacari Bars, which serve amazing Wine with assortments of finger foods. Visit the Mercato Di Rialto any day between Tuesday to Saturday and take a peek into how the Venetians live.
The San Giacometto is just in the vicinity; it is one of the first churches made in Venice in around 471. The market is almost as old as the church, and in today’s time, its existence is under threat as the visitors don’t buy a lot of produce from the market. So if you are visiting the Rialto bridge, please do visit the market as well and buy something from the locals to keep the market alive.
St. Mark’s Square
St. Mark’s Square is the most famous tourist destination in Venice, and it’s completely free for you to visit. There are quite a few historical monuments and buildings around the square for you to admire, but if you want to have a closer look at them, for example, if you want to climb the famous clock tower and enjoy the view from the top, it would only cost you an Eight Euros. However, there are a few rules that you need to follow around the Piazza; you are not allowed to sit on the floor or steps or feed the Pigeons.
The shops around the Piazza are pricey, and you should avoid buying fake products sold around the Piazza. The cafes around are quite exquisite but very expensive. One cafe you can visit is the Florian Caffe which has been a popular spot since the 1720s. The locals use the hashtag #VsitiRespectVenezia which aims at keeping the beauty and the authenticity of the city free from external destruction, so you must respect the beautiful city.
Basilica San Marco
Basilica San Marco is one of the most popular monuments in Venice and is always filled with tourists. The basilica displays impressive Byzantine-style architecture complemented by detailed gold mosaics. Not everything inside the basilica is free. You will have to pay a token amount if you want to see the treasure of St. Mark, the museum, and the Pala d’Oro. This ticket also includes access to the terrace from where you can enjoy the panoramic view of St. Mark square and get a closer look at the intricate roof mosaics.
As the place is always populated with tourists, you might have to reach the monument early in the morning before it opens to avoid peak rush. Even if you have to stay in a queue to get in, the queue will move in quickly, and you will not have to wait for a long time. However, you will have to follow the crowd around the basilica and make your way through all the exhibits inside.
There are a few things that you need to be aware of when visiting St. Marks Basilica to have a hassle-free experience. You are not allowed to carry heavy luggage inside and will have to deposit anything you are carrying with you at the baggage deposit outside the basilica before joining the queue. It’s a place of worship, so you have to dress appropriately, or you will have to buy a cover-up at the basilica. Photography inside the basilica is prohibited, and this should be followed to respect the boundaries set in place to maintain the decorum of the basilica. All the rules aside, the basilica is a must-visit place if you are in Venice, and it’s completely free.
Bridge of Sighs
The Bridge of Sighs is a beautiful Venetian bridge with a dark past. Long ago, this Bridge was used to transport prisoners, and their last breath was associated with the Bridge as that was the last thing they crossed before they were taken to prison. The Bridge today is not associated with its depressing past but is now a very popular spot for tourists to visit. The best vantage point to admire the Bridge is from a gondola passing beneath the Bridge. It’s one of the best free places for you to visit on your next trip to Venice.
Free Walking Tour of the City
Venice can be best explored by wandering around the city, meeting the locals and exploring the areas off the beaten path. Anyhow it’s always better to get a local guide who can walk you through the city and tells you interesting things about the city, its history and its culture. There are various walking tours led by locals which take you on fun and exciting walks around the city, and these tours are free, but it’s recommended to tip the guide as a token of appreciation for their effort and work.
This is an initiative taken up by the local Venetians to give tourists like you an authentic Venetian experience. In this process, you might learn something completely unknown to you before about this beautiful city. It’s a great way to explore and discover Venice when travelling on a budget.
Best Free Views Points in Venice City Center
View from Accademia Bridge
The Grand Canal is like the main street that passes through Venice. The best place to admire the canal in all its glory is the Accademia Bridge. The Bridge crosses the Grand Canal, and you can stroll over the Bridge and admire the beautiful surroundings as far as the eye can see.
The Bridge leads to the Galleria dell Accademia and also to the Basilica Santa Maria Della Salute. You can also visit Galleria dell’accademia, the Galleria generally charges 16.50 Euros for entry tickets, but you can visit it for free on the first Sundays of every month.
View from the Mall Top
For an exquisite panoramic view of Venice, you can head over to the Mall Top at the Fondaco dei Tedeschi shopping arcade. You can get one of the most amazing 360-degree views of Venice with notable monuments like the Rialto bridge and St. Mark’s square.
It is free to visit, and you will have to reserve a spot in advance. The spot is yours for 15 minutes, and you can utilise this time to admire the beauty of the floating city.
Free Things Off-The-Beaten Path In Venice
Picnic in Giardini
Even though the gardens of Venice don’t enjoy the spotlight as much as some of the other places to visit in Venice, you will come across some amazing gardens here. To get away from the crowds and enjoy your time peacefully, head over to one of these parks where you can have a picnic or just sit back and relax. You are more likely to encounter locals inside these parks rather than tourists.
One such place is Giardini Della Biennale which can be busy during the Biennale season when people visit the exhibits in the pavilions of the park. Another one is Remembrance Park which is a large area covered in lush green grass and shaded by pine trees and a lagoon where you can rejuvenate in the midst of nature. This park is full of locals who come there to unwind. You may as well spot some seabirds that are present in Venice. The simplicity of the park reminds you that this city is home to so many people, and places like these are an integral part of the Venetian lifestyle.
Basilica Santa Maria Della Salute
Basilica Santa Maria Della Salute is set in the Dorsoduro neighbourhood and is one of the most photographed churches in Venice. The location of the basilica is such that it serves as a great backdrop for any picture that you click of the Venetian canal. This beautiful octagonal church is visible from St. Mark’s Square and flaunts its Istrian stone entrance. The interiors are picturesque and magnificently displayed, and all of this magnificence is free for you to see.
The basilica was constructed in the 17th century to mark the end of the plague epidemic in Venice. Every year on the 21st of November, a temporary bridge is laid across the Grand Canal for Venetians to walk across to the basilica. A strict and conservative dress code is followed, and you would want to be properly covered or carry a cover-up along when you visit the basilica.
Libreria Acqua Alta
Libreria Acqua Alta is a unique bookstore in Venice that will leave you speechless. The books here are stored in gondolas and bathtubs, and another thing that is fascinating about this place is the staircase made out of books ruined by Venetian high tide. While you are there, make sure you check out the fabulous view of the canal at the back by climbing up the staircase made of books. There is a gondola on display at the library as well, and you can click photos on it for free. The best time to visit this place is early in the morning or during lunchtime as at other times the place is full of crowds. The library appreciates donations, especially cat food. This one of its kind libraries is a must-visit for you the next time you are in Venice.
Though being a cluster of islands, Venice is rarely considered a beach destination. The island of Lido, which is a part of this cluster, has many miles of sandy beaches for you to enjoy. To get to Lido, you will have to use the Vaporetto, for which you can get a transport ticket. Once at the beach you can enjoy the whole day there enjoying the blue waters in the Italian sun. Another great way to explore the beach and the island of Lido is to get a bike on hire from the mainland and take it on the ferry and have fun exploring the island on your bike.
Lido is generally not a very crowded island, but this is also the place where the Venice Film Festival is held every year, and during that time, the island transforms into a hub for Film Makers and Film Stars that come to take part in the festival from all over the world.
The area gets its name from the time when the Jewish community was confined to an island, and it was called the Ghetto. Even today, the Jewish community is settled around this area. The multi-storied buildings that were built to accommodate the Jews can still be seen in the area.
The Jewish Ghetto is divided into two sections, the Ghetto Vecchio (old) and Ghetto Nuovo (new) and the centre of the district is the square of campo del Ghetto Nuovo. You can explore the area and aimlessly take a stroll to experience the atmosphere of the Jewish Ghetto. Visiting the Museo Ebraico di Venezia is another way to find out about the history of Jews in Venice. The museum even provides a guided tour for 10 Euros that will take you around the three ancient Synagogues in the area.
Musical History Museum
The Museo della Musica lies inside the beautiful San Maurizio Church and is one of the only few museums in Venice that does not charge an entrance fee. The museum houses a vast collection of some amazing historical musical instruments, which range from the 1600s to the 1960s, and this collection will for sure leave you awestruck.
There is a particular section of the museum dedicated to the Italian composer and musical maestro Vivaldi. This exhibit is called the “Antonio Vivaldi e il Suo Tempo”, which gives you an interesting and vivid look at the composer’s life. Another notable exhibit that the museum houses is about violin making, which is a must-see for any music enthusiast or for anyone with a keen sense of curiosity. This museum is a treasure trove of knowledge and cultural history, and you should definitely experience this on your next trip to Venice, especially if you’re on a budget.
San Giorgio Maggiore Church
San Giorgio Maggiore Church is possibly the oldest and historically the most important church of the orthodox Greek diaspora living in Venice and one of the best free things to do in Venice. The church is located in the Castello region of Venice, which is home to a large Greek population. The church is vividly beautiful, with interiors appearing to be pieces that can be displayed in art galleries. The walls adorn some of the most profoundly picturesque paintings, and one of the most iconic paintings in the church is “The Last Supper” by Tintoretto, which was his last painting. You can get information cards at the church to learn more about the paintings on display inside the church.
The walls inside possess some exquisite iconography which is accented with gold; it houses wood stalls, post- Byzantine mosaics and a frescoed cupola which was completed under the supervision of Tintoretto himself. The church also has a leaning bell tower which can be climbed and presents you with a beautiful panoramic view of Venice and that will cost you a fee of 6 Euros but is totally worth it.
Fondamenta delle Zattere is a 1.7 km long deck in Dorsoduro, the south of Venice. This Deck/walkway was built in 1516 and went from San Basilio (west) to Punta Della Dogana (east). This deck is free of crowds and is the perfect place to unwind and relax by taking long walks along the path or by sitting on the benches and admiring the Giudecca Canal. The Zattere is one of the free places to visit in Venice that should definitely be on your list.
Palazzo Contarini del Bovolo
This beautiful tower often goes unnoticed by the tourists, but it gives a very unique and amazing view of the Venetian skyline. This is one of the hidden gems of Venice that not a lot of people know about and is definitely one of the best free things to do in Venice. The tower is one of the best places to get the perfect Venetian picture.
The tower usually opens at 10 AM, and there is a small entrance fee to climb the tower and get that perfect view. Not just the view from the top of the building is worth your while but even that from the ground. The tower stands tall, flaunting its spiral staircase, which gives it that vintage Italian architectural glow.
Church and Cemetery of San Michele (Isola di San Michele)
Isola di San Michele is a red-walled islet in the Venetian lagoon between Venice and Murano, also known as Venice’s island of the dead. This former prison is now the main cemetery of Venice which was established by Napoleon. It also houses a Roman Catholic church which was the first Renaissance church in Venice.
The name of the island is not just a coincidence. Instead, it is named after Saint Michael, the angel of death and the church is dedicated to him. The cemetery around the church is functioning to date, and you will come across people visiting the island to pay respect to their long lost loved ones. Many famous personalities are buried on the island, and you can visit their graves. This island is just a short Vaporetto ride from mainland Venice and is one of the interesting free things to do in Venice off the beaten path.
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