The unique city of Venice is among the most visited places in Italy, and it’s not hard to see why.
Built on dozens of tiny islands connected by hundreds of bridges (over 400!), Venice is a unique maze of narrow alleys, canals, and beautiful squares, truly like no other place on earth.
The city has a rich history, and as a result, there are countless Venice landmarks worth visiting.
For a first-timer in Venice, finding your way around the city and across the canals can be overwhelming — let alone deciding which of the many churches and palaces are worth visiting!
We’ve narrowed it down for you so you can streamline your Venice itinerary and include only the most important Venice attractions.
Here are the top landmarks in Venice you should try to visit, including gorgeous bridges, impressive squares, great museums, and beautifully decorated churches!
Top Venice Landmarks
St. Mark’s Square
The number one attraction in Venice is undoubtedly Saint Mark’s Square or Piazza San Marco!
In fact, except for Venice’s canals and waterways, this is probably the most iconic landmark in Venice.
This wide square facing the Grand Canal was first built in the 9th century and later modified and paved in the 13th century.
St. Mark’s has been an important gathering place ever since!
Interesting, this square is the only one in Venice called “piazza” as opposed to “campo” — that’s just how important it is!
It’s surrounded by some of the most important landmarks in Venice, including Saint Mark’s Basilica, from which it takes its name.
Another interesting fact about St. Mark’s Square is that it’s the lowest point in Venice, and often gets flooded during Acqua Alta.
So if you visit Venice during late autumn or in the winter, make sure to pack knee-high waterproof boots!
St. Mark’s Basilica
The main landmark in St. Mark’s Square is the stunning basilica with its golden façade!
The ornate basilica was originally built to show Venice’s power and wealth, hence the massive structure.
The decorations with gold leaf on the façade serve to emphasize the Venetian Republic’s wealth and decadence.
St. Mark’s Basilica lays atop the remnants of two earlier churches, the Participazio Church of the 9th century and the Orseolo Church of the 10th century.
The current basilica was rebuilt in 1063, but only later was it embellished to its present-day state, adding on Byzantine, Romanesque, and Gothic elements.
You can visit St. Mark’s Basilica for a small fee or attend a mass for free.
If you wish to enjoy a gorgeous view of Venice from the top of the bell tower, there is an extra fee.
Note: For safety reasons, the tower is closed during adverse weather conditions.
The Doge of Venice used to be the leader of the Republic of Venice.
That was back when the city of Venice, also known as La Serenissima, was a sovereign state and maritime republic.
For most of its history, Venice was not part of Italy as we currently know it, but rather its own republic. Italy’s republics wouldn’t be unified until 1861.
The Doge’s Palace was the head of the state’s residence and the government seat at the time that Venice was its own republic.
Nowadays, the Doge’s palace is the most important museum in Venice, where you can discover more about the city’s history and the former Republi.
You’ll also get the chance to visit the impressively decorated rooms of the palace, as well as the prisons and the armory.
The most important areas are the Doge’s Apartments, the Chamber of Torment, and the Great Council Chamber.
Remember to book your tickets online in advance, especially during the high season!
The Rialto Bridge is probably the most iconic landmark in Venice, along with St. Mark’s Square and Basilica.
This large, impressive bridge crosses the Grand Canal and connects the districts (sestieri in Italian) of San Marco and San Polo.
Rialto is the oldest of the four bridges crossing the Grand Canal, dating to the 16th century.
Before the Rialto Bridge, there used to be a floating bridge over the Grand Canal built in 1181.
This was later replaced by a wooden bridge in the 13th century, to allow locals to reach the Rialto Market, another interesting Venice landmark.
The stone bridge was built between 1588 and 1591, and it features two rows of shops on both sides.
Like many buildings in Venice, it was a symbol of the wealth the Republic experienced at the time.
Bridge of Sighs
While it is now a beautiful Venice landmark, The Bridge of Sighs has a sad story behind it.
It used to be crossed by convicts on their way to prison, because the Bridge of Sighs was a fully enclosed bridge that connected the New Prisons and the interrogation rooms in the Doge’s Palace.
According to stories, the prisoners would take one last look at Venice through the bridges’ windows and sigh — hence the name.
The bridge is part of the Doge’s Palace, so the only way to cross is to visit the palace.
However, you can admire it from the outside when crossing Ponte della Paglia.
Venice is filled with magnificent palaces housing impressive art collections, and Ca’ Rezzonico is one of them!
You’ll notice many important attractions in Venice with names that start with Ca’. This is the abbreviation of Casa and is a term used to indicate palaces!
Ca’ Rezzonico is an 18th-century palace facing the Grand Canal and housing many artworks by important Venetian artists, both paintings and sculptures.
The palace is beautifully decorated with frescoes and displays pieces of original furniture.
Ca’ Pesaro is another awe-inspiring Venetian palace, which is now housing the International Gallery of Modern Art.
The palace was designed in the mid-17th century but was only finally completed in 1710.
Ca’ Pesaro also faces the Grand Canal, with its imposing façade featuring colossal columns and arched windows, so it has an amazing view!
In Ca’ Rezzonico you can admire a huge collection of 19th and 20th-century artworks, including works by Venetian painters and international ones such as Klimt, Kandinsky, Miró, de Chirico, and Chagall.
The gallery takes up ten rooms, each dedicated to a particular artistic movement or group of artists.
The ornate 15th-century palace Ca’ d’Oro is located on the opposite side of the Grand Canal from Ca’ Pesaro.
The prestigious gothic palace houses the art collection of Baron Giorgio Franchetti, which includes works by Titian, Van Dyck, and Van Eyck.
Aside from the permanent collection, the gallery also houses temporary exhibitions.
The highlight of the whole collection is San Sebastiano by Andrea Mantegna.
This famous painting depicts the saint stabbed with several arrows and is housed in a marble chapel that was built specifically for it.
In Sestriere Dorsoduro, Gallerie dell’Accademia is a museum gallery housed in the complex of Santa Maria della Carità.
The gallery houses a rich collection of art from the 14th to the 19th centuries, including the world’s largest Venetian art collection.
The most important work in the gallery is Leonardo da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man, although the drawing is rarely on display, as it is often loaned out or studied.
Even if you are not lucky enough to see this work, you can still admire other works by da Vinci, along with beautiful works by Titian, Tintoretto, Bellini, and Canaletto.
This Venice landmark is absolutely worth a visit — be sure to book your tickets in advance, as it’s a rather popular tourist attraction in Venice.
Teatro la Fenice
Like the legendary phoenix after which it was named, Teatro la Fenice rose from its ashes twice over the centuries!
The last fire happened in 1996 when all that was left of the building was the exterior structure.
When the theater reopened in 2004, a new tradition was born, and now each year it hosts the Venice New Year’s Concert.
Teatro la Fenice opened for the first time in 1792 and immediately became one of the leading opera houses in Europe.
Despite being completely rebuilt in the 2000s, the theater maintains the 19th-century style.
You can admire the beautiful theater during an opera or ballet show or book a visit to explore the inside.
Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute
One of the most important churches in Venice, Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute (Saint Mary of Health) was designed during the 1630 plague.
The church was a votive offering in hopes for the end of the Black Death and was therefore dedicated to Our Lady of Health — makes sense, right?
The church sits at the tip of Sestiere Dorsoduro, and its iconic dome towers over the rooftops of Venice.
Inside the church, which you can visit for free, you can admire famous works by Titian and Tintoretto.
Chiesa del Santissimo Redentore
Similarly to La Salute, Chiesa del Santissimo Redentore (simply known as Il Redentore, or “The Redeemer”) is a votive church.
This church was built to thank God for the end of the plague — this time, specifically the widespread outbreak that took place between 1575 and 1576.
The building of Il Redentore started in 1577 and ended in 1592, and the design of the church’s façade was inspired by the Pantheon in Rome.
The church is famous for its role in the Festa del Redentore, one of the most important festivities in Venice that takes place on the third Sunday of July.
The Saturday before, a bridge made of boats connects the church on Giudecca Island to the other side of the Dorsoduro district at Spirito Santo, allowing a pedestrian passage.
During the night, a fireworks show lightens up the sky over Venice! If you plan to visit Venice in July, make sure to be around for this event.
More than a simple landmark in Venice, the Jewish Ghetto in Venice holds a significant role in the history of the city.
Although Jews were already living in Venice in the 11th century, they were often scapegoated and subjected to cruel laws.
At the beginning of the 16th century, Venice’s Jewish population was segregated on a small island in the Cannareggio district, only accessible via two bridges.
The so-called Ghetto Nuovo remains the heart of the Jewish quarter of Venice, which occupies a total of three islands.
The most symbolic place of the Ghetto is the square Campo del Ghetto Nuovo, surrounded by colorful buildings.
If you visit the Ghetto, stop for lunch at a traditional restaurant or buy some typical Jewish pastries — they’re delicious.
You can also take a historical walking tour of the Jewish Ghetto to further develop your understanding of this unique part of Venice history.
Peggy Guggenheim Collection
Located in Peggy Guggenheim’s former house, Palazzo Venier dei Leoni, this museum houses an impressive collection of European and American modern art.
The well-known art collector bought the Venetian house in the mid-20th century, and she opened it to the public during her residence there.
The current museum opened in 1980 and houses works by Salvador Dalí, René Magritte, Vasily Kandinski, Jackson Pollock, and Pablo Picasso, to mention a few.
This is among the most visited art galleries in Venice, so it’s worth checking it out if you enjoy 20th-century art.
Book skip the line tickets in advance so you don’t have to wait with everyone else vying to see this popular Venice landmark!
Campo San Polo
The second-largest square in Venice after Piazza San Marco, Campo San Polo was originally a field used for agriculture, like most squares in Venice.
The square was only paved at the end of the 15th century and became a gathering place for events like bullfights, sermons, and masked balls.
Campo San Polo continues to be an important location for the Carnival of Venice and hosts concerts and film screenings.
In Campo San Polo, you’ll find San Polo Church, the 14th-century Palazzo Soranzo, and the gothic Palazzo Donà Brusa, which houses temporary art exhibitions.
Ponte degli Scalzi
Another one of the four bridges over the Grand Canal, Ponte degli Scalzi is the first bridge you’ll see if you arrive by train in Venice, as it connects Cannareggio to Santa Croce next to the station.
The name translates to Bridge of the Barefoot and comes from the church near the train station.
This church, Santa Maria di Nazareth, is also known as Chiesa degli Scalzi because it belongs to the Order of the Discalced Carmelites
The stone bridge was built in 1934 to replace the previous metal bridge.
This is a great spot to admire a lovely view of the Grand Canal with the boats and traditional Venetian gondolas gliding along it!
Ponte delle Tette
Of the over 400 bridges in Venice, Ponte delle Tette may look like any other bridge, but it has a curious history worth learning about!
At the time of the Republic of Venice, the area surrounding the bridge (which connects Santa Croce and San Polo) was filled with brothels as the government tried to restrict the activity of sex workers to a small area.
At the same time, the Republic was trying to discourage homosexuality, so sex workers were asked to stand at the windows near the bridge and show their breasts to passers-by.
At night, they would stand on the bridge with their breasts exposed and use lanterns to illuminate them.
Since then, the bridge is known as the Bridge of Tits!
Basilica dei Santi Giovanni e Paolo
Basilica dei Santi Giovanni e Paolo is an imposing church in the square by the same name in the Castello district.
The gothic church is better known for being the burial place of 25 former doges of Venice, along with other notable people.
For this reason, the basilica is also known as The Pantheon of the Serenissima, since so many important leaders were buried there.
The majestic basilica has a beautiful interior with tall columns and a decorated ceiling with works by Paolo Veronese.
A unique feature of the basilica is the gothic stained-glass window in Murano glass — a hallmark of Venetian craftwork.
Note that there is a small fee for visiting the basilica, but it’s worth it!
Located in St. Mark’s Square, Museo Correr is housed in a magnificent palace built in the mid-19th century during Napoleon’s reign.
The Napoleonic Wing was finished when Venice was under Austrian rule, so the Hapsburg Court used it as their residence when they visited the city.
The museum features opulent rooms decorated in the 19th-century style and houses important Venetian works of art.
The Neoclassical Rooms house sculptures by Antonio Canova, whereas the Imperial Rooms were used by Empress Elizabeth of Austria to display the furniture and décor of the time.
You’ll also find an area dedicated to Venetian Culture, which houses various documents from the city’s history.
Chiesa di San Zaccaria
Another important church in Venice, Chiesa di San Zaccaria is not far from St. Mark’s Square, making it an easy landmark to add to your Venice itinerary.
The current 15th-century church was built on the site of a former church of the 9th century that housed the body of St. Zechariah.
Originally, the church was attached to a Benedictine monastery, which was destroyed in a fire in 1105.
The most important feature of the current church is the San Zaccaria Altarpiece painted by Giovanni Bellini.
San Zaccaria church also houses works by artists such as Tintoretto and van Dyck.
Isola di San Michele
An unusual sight in Venice is the small island of San Michele in the Cannaregio district, which houses Venice’s cemetery.
The cemetery occupies the entire island, which is located halfway between Venice and Murano.
The San Michele Cemetery was built in the 19th century and is the resting place of notable figures such as American poet Ezra Pound, composer Igor Stravinsky, and Russian-American poet Joseph Brodsky.
The tiny island is a peaceful place to escape the buzzing city and ponder the lives of the important figures who were buried here.
Basilica S. Maria Gloriosa dei Frari
Also known as Basilica dei Frari, this gothic church in the district of San Polo dates to the 14th century and houses the tomb of Titian along with many works by the artist.
The church’s bell tower is the second tallest in Venice, after the one of St. Mark’s Basilica.
Inside the church, you will see many works of art, including beautiful sculptures, paintings, and monuments.
Aside from Titian’s tomb, the church also houses monuments dedicated to Antonio Canova and several doges of Venice.
Libreria Acqua Alta
Although it is not technically a landmark, the famous bookstore is one of the top attractions in Venice!
After many books got damaged during the Acqua Alta, the bookstore owners came up with a unique idea to store books and protect them from future flooding by placing them in gondolas, boats, and bathtubs.
The damaged books were used to create a stairway in the tiny backyard facing the canal.
The spot is now one of the most iconic ones in Venice and a top Instagram spot in the city!
Make sure to pay a visit to this bookstore if not to buy books, at least to check out a unique place.
The Venetian Arsenal is a Byzantine shipyard from the early 12th century, once the greatest ship factory in the world.
The shipyard saw continued growth for centuries, until its decline during the 20th century.
In 1980, the space became a location for the Venice Biennale, a cultural exhibition spanning a variety of arts, from music and theater to architecture, cinematography, and contemporary art.
The best time to visit the Venetian Arsenal is during one of the many events taking place there, including those of the Venice Biennale.
However, you can visit the area any time of the year!
Though not technically part of Venice city, the island of Murano is only 20 minutes away by Vaporetto (public ferry) from Cannaregio.
No wonder it (and its sibling island of Burano) are such popular Venice day trips!
Murano is world-renowned for glass making, so the must-see place is the Glass Museum!
In the museum, you can see beautiful Murano glass creations and learn about the history of Venetian glassmaking.
Another way to experience Murano is by booking a guided tour that will allow you to witness a glass-blowing show — or even take part in a glass workshop!
All over the island, you will find many stores selling all sorts of Murano glass objects and decorations, but it’s fun to see the work at its source!
Allison Green is a former teacher who has been travel blogging since 2016. She has a Masters in Teaching and a B.A. in English and Creative Writing. Her blog posts merge her background as an educator with her experience traveling to 70+ countries to encourage ethical, meaningful travel. She has been a speaker at the World Travel Writers Conference and her writing, photography, and podcasting work has appeared in National Geographic, CNN Arabic, CBC Canada, and Forbes, amongst others. Now a full-time traveler, she has lived in Prague, Sofia, New York City, and the San Francisco Bay Area.