Venice: Free Activities

If you’ve been following me for a while, you know Venice has always been one of my favorite spots in the world. It’s not for everyone, but it is a great place to visit. It can be costly, it’s true. However, there are still ways to experience Venice without spending a lot of money. You can add these free to your itinerary.

Here are some free things – there is never an admission fee to enter – and a few offer hours free of charge on specific days. Save money by getting an extra serving of gelato.

Venice offers many free activities

  • St. St. While there is a charge to view the treasury and one to climb the steps to the museum and terrace overlooking the square, you won’t be charged anything to enter the church.
  • St. St. You can find cafes, shops and museums all around the square. The only exception is St. Mark’s Basilica. But people-watching is completely free. You can also enjoy the music if you are on the opposite side of the piazza from the dueling orchestras.
  • Getting Lost This is by far the best way to spend some time in Venice, and I daresay it’s also the most enjoyable.
  • Grand Canal The Grand Canal is the most well-known of all of Venice’s 175 canals. This large waterway runs through the middle of the islands and creates an S-shaped shape in Venice. It’s not free to ride a boat on the Grand Canal, but it is enjoyable to watch boats pass by as you stand at the side.
  • Rialto Bridge The Rialto bridge is Venice’s oldest, built in 1591. It is one of few bridges that spans the Grand Canal. This makes it photogenic as well as serving a useful purpose.
  • Rialto market – While it is bustling at its opening, it can also be a lively stop at any time. You can also see what is fresh to help you decide what to order from local menus. Rialto Market is open from 7am-2pm. The fish market is open Tuesday through Saturday, and the produce market Monday through Saturday.
  • San Giorgio Maggiore The tiny island of San Giorgio Maggiore is located across the Grand Canal to St. Mark’s at the Giudecca end. The Palladian church with the same name dominates this island. It is also free to visit. You can take the lift up to the campanile for a fee. From there, you’ll have spectacular views of Venice including St. Mark’s.
  • Santa Maria della salute This beautiful church is located on the Grand Canal and is open to all. It houses art by Tintoretto and Titian.
  • San Vidal The church of San Vidal was deconsecrated and now serves as a concert hall in the evenings. It is open to the public during the day (for no charge)
  • San Zaccaria The altarpiece of the church San Zaccaria was created by Giovanni Bellini. You may have seen his name in Harry’s Bar’s prosecco-and–peach cocktail.
  • Santa Maria Assunta — This church, also known as I Gesuiti or I Gesuiti is decorated with works of art by Tintoretto and Titian.
  • Music Museum – This museum is located inside San Maurizio Church and houses a collection violins and other instruments that date back to the 17th Century.
  • Casino Venier This former private salon belongs to a wealthy Venetian family. All that luxury is available for free.
  • Bovolo Staircase This stunning circular staircase can be found on the exterior of the building that it serves. It has become a tourist attraction in recent years. Bovolo is a Greek word that means snail shell. The staircase can be climbed for a fee, but you can still admire its exterior free of charge.
  • Santa Maria del Carmelo I Carmini This church is located in the Dorsoduro Sestiere and dates back to the late 13th-century. It has an altarpiece by Tintoretto.
  • Giardini della Biennale The Biennale is a biannual event. However, the public garden where most of the exhibitions take place is a permanent fixture. In fact, 30 Biennale pavilions have a permanent status. It is one of the most spacious gardens on the island, so it’s a great place to escape from the crowds when needed.
  • Squero di San Trovaso It’s great to see where the Venetian gondolas are made, so make sure you find this boatyard on the Rio San Trovaso. You might be able to see them at work from the narrow canal if you are lucky.

  • Islands of the Venetian Lagoon

    The boat ride to these islands may not be free but it is worth the effort.

    • Murano There are many islands within the lagoon. The most well-known is Murano. The area was once a hub for glass blowing and glassmaking. You can still visit their workshops today. You can always find the gift shop after a free demonstration.
    • Burano — After Murano the colourful island of Burano will likely be next in line. The island’s lace-making fame is its brightly-painted houses. Burano still has some hand-made lace makers.
    • Torcello The original Venetians settled on the island of Torcello. It’s now a protected area of nature with few residents, making it a tranquil haven away from the bustle. The Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta is the main attraction. It dates back to the middle of the 7th century. It is filled with mosaics that are reminiscent of the Basilica of St. Mark. The inside of the church is available for a fee. A large stone chair, known as “Attila’s Throne”, is located outside the church. It dates back to the 5th Century but has nothing in common with Attila The Hun.
    • San Michele Cemetery– Venice’s cemeteries are, naturally, located on an island. The tombs of Ezra Pound and composer Igor Stravinsky are notable among the burials. Two churches are located on the island. On November 2, the ferry to the cemetery costs nothing. Why? Because they go to pay respects to the deceased. In other words, be respectful of the mourners wherever you are.

Guided Tours of Venice

There are many free things to do in Venice

Gallerie dell’Accademia || creative commons photo by Sailko

  • Accademia Gallery – Free on the First Sunday of Every Month
  • Venice Biennale: While the main sites (Giardini & Arsenale) require an entry fee for admission, many other locations in Venice are free.
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