In this article we’ll lay out the best free things to do in Venice if you are travelling on a budget through Italy.
We know that traveling to Venice can be very expensive, but you can also travel to the city on a budget. There are hostels and budget hotels that can be less than €100 a night.
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The city also offers many free activities that will reveal the area’s beauty and history without costing you nothing. While you may want to splurge on a few activities, such as a nice dinner, souvenirs, and a gondola ride, there are a lot of free things to do in Venice.
This is a guide to the top 10 free things to do in Venice that won’t cost you a dime and will make your visit unforgettable.
There are so many iconic sites in Venice that you will instantly recognize from movies, but the most memorable and first-stop for you should be St. Mark’s Square, which featured in the James Bond blockbuster Casino Royale.
Venice is designed around 118 islands, and each little island has a square. However, the primary piazza to see is St. Mark’s. Locals will often just refer to it as Piazza San Marco or la Piazza. Other squares are much smaller on the other islands and are only called campi rather than a piazza.
At one end of the square is the Basilica di San Marco. In addition to the beautiful, aristocratic architecture surrounding the square, you’ll see street performers and even wedding shoots. It’s a great place to walk through and spend some time people-watching.
The islands of Venice are connected by bridges–400, to be exact. You will cross many bridges while roaming the streets of Venice, but the one you much visit is the Rialto Bridge.
This bridge is the oldest of the four bridges that cross the Grand Canal’s narrowest point in Venice. It has been rebuilt many times since its original construction in 1173.
A stone’s throw from the Rialto Bridge is the Rialto Market. Cross the bridge from San Marco and take a right to head toward the fish market. You won’t get lost if you walk along the canal; the Rialto Market is before the fish market.
This is a traditional market dating back centuries. Locals still come to pick up their daily fresh vegetables at the Rialto Market. Walking through it presents a culinary journey that will transport you back in time.
Bridge of Sighs
Second to the Rialto Bridge is the famous Bridge of Sighs, which was built in the 16th century. Unlike other bridges in Venice, this is a covered bridge connecting two buildings over the canal.
The bridge got its name from prisoners that crossed it to go to the Prigioni, the prisons. As they caught their last sight of beautiful Venice, they would sigh with longing and sadness.
Ironically, this legend is mostly false. When you are on the Bridge of Sighs, it is hard to glimpse much of Venice. Most likely, the prisoners were sighing in desperation.
Since its creation, travelers and Italians alike have romanticized the Bridge of Sighs. Lovers who want their love to last forever should kiss in a gondola underneath the bridge at sunset as St. Mark’s bells toll.
In the 1500s, Venice’s Jewish community was forced to live in a cluster of islands that became known as the ghetto. The area got its name because this was where iron was smelted or in Italian, “gettato.”
The area today does not show the hardships that people endured in this part of the city. The Museo Ebraico offers guided tours for €10 to tour the three synagogues in the community, but walking through the streets is enough to get a sense of the solemnity of one of the world’s oldest Jewish ghettos.
Free Walking Tour in Venice
Venice’s architecture is beautiful and free to view from the streets, bridges, and canals of the city. Therefore, consider taking one of the free walking tours of the city. Make sure to wear comfortable walking shoes.
Many companies offer free tours that fill up fast. Still, a tour is a great way to get a better sense of the city and the rich history underneath its surface. You can learn a lot about Venice just by walking through the city.
Basilica Santa Maria Della Salute
Venice, like most of Italy, has amazing old churches. The Basilica Santa Maria Della Salute is a must-visit building in Venice that was built in the 1630s. The church’s old dome is often featured in postcards. Locals sometimes only refer to it as the Salute.
The basilica commemorates the end of the plague, and its name honors “Our Lady of Health”. The baroque style is ornate and stunning to admire from the outside. It is also free to enter!
Glass Exhibition in the Stanze del Vetro
Behind the church on the island of Saint Giorgio Maggiore is the Stanze del Vetro, which features glass art from the 20th and 21st centuries. The free museum has two major exhibitions each year. From September to January, the museum highlights local glass designers, and from April to July, it has other European glass on display.
Musical History Museum
An old church that is now converted into the Musical History Museum in Venice exhibits a small collection of string instruments. Visit this small museum to learn about Antonio Vivaldi and his music, which will make for a great escape from the crowded streets of Venice.
While you have to pay for the boat ride to visit Burano island, it is worth it to stroll the streets for free. What makes this island so memorable from the others in Venice? It is filled with brightly colored houses. The best souvenirs to purchase here are the very famous handmade Murano glass objects.
No matter where you go in Venice, there is something to be seen or experienced for free. These are only a few ideas on the best free things to do in Venice and I hope that my little guide gives you some ideas to start with. For more advive on things to do in Venice check our article here