This is a collaborative post.
Venice is a city in Italy often regarded as one of the most beautiful in the world. Made up of over 100 islands and surrounded by beautiful canals, its unique structure makes it one of Europe’s most interesting cities. Venice is also home to world-class cultural institutions, Renaissance architecture, and other incredible landmarks, making it a top tourist destination in Italy. However, the city’s popularity does come with a price — literally; exploring Venice can be quite expensive for tourists.
Between the museum tickets, top-notch Italian food, and gondola rides, you can easily spend hundreds of dollars in just a few days. Although it’s definitely worth splurging for, there are a number of ways to enjoy Venice without breaking the bank. Read on for our recommendations on free things to do in Venice. Don’t forget to utilize luggage storage in Venice for a seamless, hassle-free trip.
- Hang out at Piazza San Marco.
Also known as St. Mark’s Square, the Piazza San Marco is a grandiose public square and a major tourist spot in Venice. The square is home to some of the city’s most important monuments, historic landmarks, nice cafés, and even some live entertainment. It is also one of the best places to hang out, people watch and see what daily life is like for the Venetians.
- Walk the four bridges in the Grand Canal.
The city of Venice is surrounded by channels of water, including the Grand Canal; the canal is one of the city’s primary water-traffic corridors. While the most popular way to explore the canal is through a gondola ride, there is a way cheaper alternative — strolling through the four main bridges, namely:
- Ponte di Rialto: built in 1911, it is an architectural icon and Venice’s most popular bridge
- Ponte Degli Scalzi: a stone bridge that connects north and south Venice
- Ponte dell’ Accademia: offers one of the most stunning views of the city and a photographer’s dream spot
- Ponte della Costituzione: the bridge that connects Venice to the mainland
- Explore the Rialto market.
One of the few remaining markets in Venice, the Mercato di Rialto has been the go-to-market for locals for fresh meat, fish, fruit, and vegetables since 1097. While shopping for produce here is obviously not free, you can still have a fun time at the market by checking out the stalls and watching the Venetians go about their regular shopping day. It’s also nice to take in the authentic vibe and soak in the history of the place. If you’re lucky, you might even get some free samples for some of the vendors.
- Explore the Giardini Pubblici.
Although Venice is mostly surrounded by water and green space is hard to come by, there is actually a garden on the east side of the city where locals and tourists flock to enjoy nature. Known as the Giardini Pubblici, this is the first public green space in the city and the venue for the Venice Biennale Art Festival.
Half of the public space is open all year long and is a favorite hangout spot for families. The garden contains playgrounds and pavilions where people can engage in outdoor activities. The park’s waterfront also offers a picturesque view of the city.
- Wander around the original “ghetto”.
Not a lot of people know it but the word “ghetto” actually originated in Venice in 1516. It was during this time when the Jewish community was forced to live in a segregated area in the city, known as the “ghetto”. Since then, the term has been used mainly to describe minority groups in different parts of the world. The Jewish Ghetto is one of Venice’s most interesting spots and is filled with some significant landmarks such as historic synagogues and the Jewish Museum.
- Admire the different churches in the city.
The influence of religion in Venice is evident in the number of churches and basilicas found all over the city. These churches also double as tourist attractions because of their rich history and the eye-catching works of art and incredible details that can be seen throughout the buildings. The following are some of Venice’s noteworthy churches that are free of charge:
- Basilica di San Marco: the city’s most prominent religious establishment and serves as the church of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Venice
- Santa Maria della Salute: an octagonal, Baroque-style church that contains a number of impressive paintings, most notably the works of artist Titian
- Church of San Zaccaria: a 15th century church dedicated to St. Zechariah that hosts some artworks and paintings by prominent Italian artists
- San Giorgio dei Greci: located in Castello, it is Venice’s oldest and most important Greek Orthodox church and known for its leaning bell tower
- See unique architecture at Campo Santa Maria Formosa.
Located in Venice’s Castello neighborhood, the Campo Santa Maria Formosa is one of the city’s biggest public squares and a must-see when in Venice. The square hosts a stunning collection of palazzi, which highlights the unique architectural styles in Venice. Some of the notable buildings found here include the Palazzo Vitturi, Palazzo Dona, Palazzo Malipiero Trevisan, and Casa Venier.
- Learn about the city’s musical history.
Housed within the Chiesa di San Maurizio is one of Venice’s most interesting (and free!) museums – the Museo della Musica or Music Museum. As its name suggests, the museum is home to a unique collection of rare instruments from the 17th until the 20th century. The museum also highlights the life and story of Antonio Vivaldi, a Venetian musician and composer who played a major role in the development of the city’s musical history.
- Go window shopping.
While shopping in Venice is certainly not free and can cost an arm and a leg, window shopping will do no damage to your wallet. Aside from the usual designer labels and fashion boutiques, the city also has a number of independently-owned shops that sell unique items and trinkets, such as blown glass from Murano as well as carnival masks.
One of the best places in the city to go window shopping is at Strada Nova, a wide street that has a good mix of locally-owned stores and souvenir shops. Another cool spot is the Dorsoduro district, where you will find some antique vendors and art galleries.
- Join a walking tour.
If you’re pressed for time and you want to cover all the city highlights without any hassle, you can join one of the many guided tours being offered free of charge in the city. Perhaps the most popular is the Venice Free Walking Tour, where you make stops at most of Venice’s top attractions with the help of an experienced local guide. Although the tour itself is free, tipping your guide is highly encouraged.