There’s no denying that the floating city of Venice enchants and delights at every turn. From exploring the iconic landmarks like Rialto bridge or the Doge’s Palace to squeezing in a quick gondola ride the list of things to do in Venice is endless. If you want to explore the real Venice that only locals know then you’ll have to put that guidebook down. These 10 hidden gems in Venice can easily be missed but with this handy guide, you’ll be able to experience them all. Here are our favorite secret sights and things to do off the beaten path in the Queen of the Adriatic.
One of the six sestiere, or districts of Venice, Dorsoduro is less crowded than most and the perfect place to escape the touristy crowds. There are several interesting churches in Dorsoduro, including the Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute and San Sebastiano. The San Sebastiano has some impressive floor length paintings by Paolo Veronese. The nearby Gallerie dell’Accademia boasts an important collection of 19th-century art spread over 3 buildings. This neighborhood is great if you’re looking to explore the arts and culture in Venice.
One of the nicknames of Venice is the City of Masks. These masks are popular during the Venice Carnival. The paper maché masks enabled the wearer to hide their social status and identity. Today, this 800-year-old tradition is alive and well. You’ll also find the secret Venice mask shop here in Dorsoduro, known for creating the masks for the Stanley Kubrick film Eyes Wide Shut. Theaters such as the Vienna Opera House also use their masks regularly. Although there are quite a few popular mask shops in the area, Ca’Macana is by far the most superior. Each mask here is hand-made and they never re-make the same design.
Skip the fancy Italian designer stores and head to Malefatte (or ‘Misdeeds’) Boutique. This boutique is a non-profit initiative run by Rio Tera dei Pensieri, a work-in-jail cooperative that sells products made by male and female prisoners from the jails in and around Venice. The hand-made goods range from T-shirts to stitched leather notebooks and canvas bags. The prices are low especially when you compare them to those in other Venetian boutiques, and the charity claims that all items are made from torturous pasts and hopeful futures. It’s a great place if you’re looking for a unique souvenir to take back home with you.
If you do find yourself in Venice on a crowded July day and need some respite from all the bustling tourist spots, the nearby town of Chioggia will provide the perfect tranquil getaway. The fishing town fancies itself as a scruffy, less touristy version of its well-loved neighbor, think “shabby chic”. With arched bridges and narrow canals it does, in places, resemble Venice. However, it has far less art and perhaps is a glimpse of how Venice might have looked had it not discovered the riches of trade. With some tasty seafood restaurants, it can make a nice day trip if you’re searching for a hidden gem in Venice that allows you to experience local life at a slower pace.
San Francesco della Vigna
Due to its position at the eastern end of the city beyond the old dockyards, this church is often empty even at the height of the tourist season. The San Francesco della Vigna was started by Italian sculptor and architect Sansovino in 1534 at the order of Doge Andrea Gritti. The façade of the church was completed by Palladio in 1572. The Renaissance interior is large and airy and houses some exquisite frescos such as the Madonna and Child Enthroned by Antonio la Negroponte.
Enrica Rocca Cookery School
If you’re looking for something a bit different to do in Venice, consider a cooking class. After all, isn’t food the best way to explore a new city? Enrica Rocca knows Venice like the back of her hand and is a skilled cook. When not catering for the most luxurious events, she runs cookery classes from her colorful home. You’ll visit Rialto Food Market with her before rustling up some delicious dishes with real Italian flair. From antipasti to cicchetti and meatballs, there is lots to learn in a fun and friendly environment. You can also learn how to make tiramisu, which was invented in the Veneto region. Then you’ll tuck into a delicious meal, accompanied by generous servings of Enrica’s very own Prosecco.
The Bridge with No Parapet
Feeling adventurous? If so then a walk over a bridge with no parapet could be right up your street. There used to be quite a few of these bridges. However these days there are only two left out of over 400 bridges in Venice. Ponte de Chiodo is located in the quiet Cannaregio area. You can easily get photos on the bridge without the usual Venice crowds. Although it looks scary with no sides, it’s actually very safe to walk over this hidden gem of a bridge. The word chiodo means nail and the bridge takes its name from the Nail family who used to own it.
Antique Venetian markets
The Antique Market in Campo San Maurizio has been the most bountiful market in Venice since it first started in 1970. It takes place in a spot close to the most crowded areas of the city, although here you can still breathe in the authenticity and intimacy like a local. If you happen to be in Venice during one of the five weekends when the historic San Maurizio antique market takes place then a visit is a must. You’ll be able to browse stalls of many Italian exhibitors that come from different cities throughout Italy. Each of them exhibits various goods, objects, and curiosities from the past: books. You’ll find pieces from the 1600s to the 1900s. Anything from Murano chandeliers to leather bags, old postcards, vintage shoes, and pocket watches, to carpets and sunglasses, and antique crockery.
All’Arco is a typical Venetian trattoria run by father and son Francesco and Matteo. This unpretentious Venice bar in the quiet area of San Polo is named after the historic arch above it. Located on a quiet back street it’s the perfect place to step away from the crowds and relax after a busy day of exploring all the things to do in Venice. A must-try food while you’re in Venice is Cicchetti, they are Venetian tapas and the ones here are among the best in the city. The tramezzini here is also delicious, varying daily depending on what is fresh and seasonal. Try the local favorites, calamari, shrimp, or the anchovies with Gorgonzola if they are available. Wash them down with a refreshing Aperol spritz. You can either stand at the counter or sit at one of the tables outside. The bar gets quite busy at lunchtime with local shoppers from the Rialto market.
Libreria Acqua Alta
This second-hand bookshop is nestled on the waterfront and, during the rainy season, has had problems with floods. Run by eccentric Venetian Luigi Frizzo, this store is home to hundreds of books both new and used as well as a pet cat. The books are chaotically stacked in old gondolas, canoes, bathtubs, and barrels. It’s the perfect place to spend many happy hours sifting through the selection of Italian and international reads on offer, but take some time to step out into the garden and see leafy plants standing beside a solid staircase made from old, colorful books.
Hello, curious traveler!
Embark on a unique experience with Hello, curious traveler!
Embark on a unique experience with Our personalized, private tours, led by local hosts, make you feel like you’re exploring the city with a knowledgeable friend. We’ll take you to well-known sights and reveal Venice’s hidden gems, unveiling stories typically missed by traditional tours. So unscript your journey, and see Venice through the eyes of our local hosts!
Top private experiences in Venice
We’ll pair you with the perfect host
There is no better way to see a city than with a friend who lives there. This is why we carefully match guests with their perfect host based on interested, personality and type of experience so they can discover a city beyond the tourist trail.
Make your inbox happy with our travel tips and inspiration as well as exclusive offers and first access to new services.