Here are the 10 best tours in Venice to book for your visit to Italy’s city of water.
They cater to different interests – from the art and history of Venice to Venetian food, traditional crafts, and exclusive shopping.
Booking a tour of Venice with a reputed tour guide or travel company is a shortcut to getting to know intimately this unique, beautiful, and often overwhelming city. It equals stepping through a secret door to discover all of the best corners of Venice and the Venetian Lagoon which otherwise may be difficult to come across one by one on your own.
With a millennial history, a rich catalogue of art, and many traditional crafts with outstanding output, Venice in Italy is a delight to visit. It’s a city with canals instead of roads and boats instead of cars. It keeps many secrets that it reveals to only those in the know. No matter how many books or guidebooks you may read about Venice before coming here, the city of water can still be a shock to the system. You may find yourself traversing its narrow curving lanes unsure where to head to first and what to delve in next.
It is at this point that an expert local guide or a reputable tour company can be of great help. With a structured approach and offering tours covering specific fields of knowledge or tailored to your personal interests, you can see and experience the maximum of Venice within the shortest amount of time. Even better, in many cases, you can start exploring Venice in real-time even before stepping foot in it. Several licensed Venetian guides now offer virtual explorations of the city of water taking you behind closed doors and showing you the beauty and the history hidden there.
So, in this blog post today, I want to give you an overview of the best types of guided tours of Venice you can pick and choose from. From the traditional Venetian highlights tours to some very unusual excursions in Venice, there are many options to get to know this exciting city in a short amount of time, from an unexpected point of view or both.
To give you lots of travel inspiration and show you how many options there are at your disposal, below I have collated the best Venice tours, tours of the Venetian Lagoon, and even organised day trips from Venice. They cover a large array of interests and different portions of time – from a couple of hours to a whole day. This way you can pick and book a tour based on your particular passions, specific travel plans, budget, and length of stay in Venice.
To help you decide which sights of Venice you would like to explore during your visit, have a look at these detailed blog posts:
- 20 Venice Landmarks – for the major sights to see in the city of water. A guided tour could be the best way to approach them in order to experience fully their many layers of history, traditions, and art.
- 101 Hidden Gems in Venice – for 101 things to do and see here off the beaten track. A tailor-made tour of Venice can help you see several of them and learn their curious stories in depth.
If this is your first visit to Venice, this blog post will be of help, too:
- 45 Essential Tips for Venice – for handy tips on how to navigate the city of water and book your acommodation.
Now, let’s start!
10 Best Tours in Venice to Book for Your Visit to Italy’s City of Water
1. Best Tours of Venice by Local Licensed Guides
The best way to see Venice is in the company of a licensed Venetian guide. These are people who have undergone strict and rigorous training and are authorised by the Italian state to take visitors to Venice on guided tours. The tours can be built around particular historic periods, artistic movements or sights in Venice. Alternatively, they can be tailor-made to your specific interests. This way you get to see exactly what you want to see at a convenient for you time during your stay in the city of water.
Licensed Venetian guides have intimate knowledge of Venice and access to many unusual places and hidden corners here. They can take you to see places which, otherwise, may be closed to the general public. Best Venice Guides is an excellent resource to find a licensed Venetian guide in your language. It has the contact details of many professional and qualified guides who can help you experience Venice like a local. Best Venice Guides also has a very interesting blog which you can follow to learn more about the city of water and the many must-see places here even before your Italian holiday.
Luisella Romeo from SeeVenice and Erika Cornalli from WhenInVenice remain my two favourite Venetian guides. They are very knowledgeable and reveal to you what makes Venice special in a very engaging way. Both cover a wide range of topics in a number of sightseeing formats. Have a look here for prices and details:
From An Introduction to Venice to Family Tours and Venice Off the Beaten Path, and from Arts and Crafts to Music in Venice and even Coffee, Chocolate, and the Theatre of Marionettes, the choice is yours.
Luisella and Erika also have must-read blogs about Venice. They can give you many ideas for things to see and experiences to immerse yourself in during your visit:
2. Best Tours of Venice Highlights
Venice has a long list of major landmarks (which I have summarised in this blog post). The Doge’s Palace and St. Mark’s Basilica are two of the most important ones among them. A visit to them is a must even if your stay in the city of water is rather short. Their multilayered history, beautiful architecture, and extensive catalogue or art rank them very high in the scope of the world’s cultural heritage.
Joining an organised tour of the Doge’s Palace, St. Mark’s Basilica, and other major landmarks in Venice is a great way to experience the highlights of the history and the art of the city of water. A knowledgeable tour guide will help you skip the queues, navigate through many historic periods, and easily absorb large quantities of information. Instead of feeling overwhelmed by the sheer size of it all, you will get to feel excited and mentally stimulated by the stories of the people who had so much political and creative power and who – among many other things – created so much beauty.
Some of the best tours of Venice’s highlights are:
- Venice Highlights Tour
- Doge’s Palace and St. Mark’s Basilica Tour
- Venice Small-Group Walking Tour with Gondola Ride
- Legendary Venice: St. Mark’s Basilica and Doge’s Palace Group or Private Tour
- Venice Highlights Small Tour Group
- St. Mark’s Basilica After-Hours Group or Private Tour with Optional Doge’s Palace
- St. Mark’s Basilica with a Visit to the Islands of Murano, Burano, and Torcello
3. Best Venice Boat Tours
You need to see Venice from the water to best experience its beauty. The lavish main facades of the most famous Venetian buildings traditionally face the canal on which they are built. The city’s Grand Canal – considered to be the world’s most beautiful thoroughfare – is lined by breathtaking historic palazzi on both sides. And then, St. Mark’s Square – flanked by the Doge’s Palace, St. Mark’s Basilica, the Marciana Library, and the Procuratie – was designed to inspire awe in the foreign visitors to Venice who, traditionally, approached it by boat.
You could also be like those travellers of yore and experience Venice from the water. The easiest way to do it is to get on the local water buses. Vaporetto linea 1 traverses the Grand Canal from start to finish. So, you can sit down and just take the panoramas in. Click here to buy your ticket or pass in advance.
For more ways to experience Venice and the Venetian Lagoon from the water, consider one of these boat tours:
- Venice Sunset Cruise by Typical Venetian Boat
- Venice Tour by Real Venetian Kayak
- Venice Canal Tour: 2-Hour Grand Canal and Secret Canals Semi-Private Tour
- Boat Tour of the Giudecca Canal
- Venetian Lagoon Tour and Galeon Dinner
4. Best Venice Gondola Tours
A gondola ride is one of the most iconic things to do in Venice. The gondola is an elegant boat made of eight different types of wood. It’s lacquered in mirror-shine black and it’s rowed by a single oarsman – the gondolier – who stands upright on the stern. He is dressed in a uniform of a striped top and straw hat, has undergone a strict training over several years, and most often than not his father and forefathers have also been gondoliers. Rowing a gondola is one of the oldest trades in the city of water. Centuries ago, there were over 10,000 gondolas in Venice. Nowadays, their number has shrunk to around 400.
A gondolier knows where to find all the best waterside views and hidden spots in Venice. Customarily, a gondola ride lasts around 30 mins and the prices to hire a gondola are set up by the city council – Comune di Venezia. Click here to check them on the official website. Further down on the same web page, you can find a list of the official gondola stations with email addresses and telephone numbers to contact them and book a gondola tour in advance.
In addition, you can check these Venice gondola tours to see which one will appeal to you. Many of them combine a gondola ride with another must-have experience in Venice to help you maximise your time:
- Venice Walking Tour and Gondola Ride
- Private Gondola Ride and Photo Session in Venice
- Best of Venice: Doge’s Palace and Gondola Tour
- Byzantine Venice with Gondola Ride
- Gondola Ride with Commentary
- Nighttime Private Gondola Ride
- Classic Gondola Ride with a Visit to Murano, Burano, and Torcello
5. Best Venice Food Tours
Traditional Venetian food is one of the least known components of the Italian food culture. While Italian food nowadays is customarily taken to mean pizza and pasta, Venice has its own specific culinary traditions. They were developed over 1,600 years in close contact with many cultures beyond the confines of modern-day Italy.
From baccala’ mantecato prepared with stockfish from Norway’s Lofoten Islands to pastries and cakes inspired by the Austrian Empire, from risottos coloured with cuttlefish ink to white polenta, the Venetian table has centuries-old traditions and some very unusual dishes and flavours. Plus, the Venetian Lagoon provides fresh seafood abundantly in any season, including some rather unique crustaceans. For example, moeche – crabs that shed their shells for short periods twice a year thus becoming very soft all over. They are a prized local delicacy!
Taking a food tour in Venice is a great way to discover and enjoy the local rich culinary traditions. It will also allow you to find out where the locals go when they eat out and what they order. Having a local guide to introduce you to the Venetian food customs – perplexing as they are at a first glance – is a great shortcut into a complex yet authentic culinary history. Here are some of the best Venice food tours to consider:
- The 10 Tastings of Venice with Locals: Private Food Tour
- Eat, Drink, and Repeat: Wine Tasting Tour in Venice
- Eat Like a Local: Three-Hour Venice Small Group Food Tasting Walking Tour
- Rialto Market Food and Wine Lunchtime Tour of Venice
- Morning Market Tour with Tastings
- Good Morning, Venice: Coffee and Dessers with Highlights of Venice
By the way, if you want an introduction to Venice’s food before your arrival here, I can wholeheartedly recommend these two books in English:
- A Table in Venice: Recipes from My Home by Skye McAlpine
- Veneto: Recipes from an Italian Country Kitchen by Valeria Necchio
I have them both and they are a wonderful introduction to the food of Venice in particular and the food of the Northern Italian region of Veneto in general. Beautifully illustrated and with recipes that are easy to follow in a home kitchen they will allow you to recreate the flavours of Venice long after your return from the city of water.
6. Best Full-Day Venice Tours
Time is never enough and often visitors to Venice are on a very tight schedule. You may only have a couple of days here or you may want to see Venice on a day trip from a different city in Italy or even Slovenia and Croatia. This can feel like a Herculean task. After all, Venice took 1,600 years to evolve from a cluster of marshy islands in the heart of the Venetian Lagoon into one of the world’s most stunning and unusual cities. Is it possible to see it all in a day? The answer is yes, in a way, and a full-day tour of Venice could be just what you need.
It will be a very active day filled with emotional discoveries and lots of walking. Yet, you will be able to truly maximise your time, cover a lot of ground, and tick off many of Venice’s landmarks and hidden corners. One way to do it is to book a private guide (see point 1 above). He or she will be able to tailor your day in Venice specifically to your interests as well as recommend many little-known yet outstanding sights to visit.
Alternatively, have a look at these highly rated full-day tours of Venice. The last one also includes transport from Milan to make your travel planning even easier:
- Group or Private Venice in a Day: St. Mark’s Basilica, Doge’s Palace, and a Gondola Ride
- Venice in a Day Tour with St. Mark’s Square, Doge’s Palace, and a Gondola Ride
- Venice in a Day
- Private Full Day Tour from Milan to Venice with Local Tour Guide and Fast Train
7. Best Hidden Venice Tours
Venice is a city that doesn’t reveal its secrets easily. It stashes them both in hidden corners and in plain sight and you have to be in the know to find them and understand their meaning. It could be a statue designed by the teacher of Leonardo da Vinci, churches hosting priceless works of intarsia art, huge paintings that cover whole walls or ceilings, or simply the world’s oldest coffee house. Or it could be a crypt covered in faded frescoes which you enter candle in hand and which has chambers that haven’t been opened for centuries. Or it could be a spot in the city that, according to local beliefs, is haunted by a disgruntled ghost or two.
The best way to discover the hidden Venice is to see it with someone in the know. This excellent guidebook dedicated to the many secrets of the city of water is a good starting point for your research. Still, you will need to spend weeks in Venice to cover them all by yourself. Otherwise, consider joining some of the best hidden Venice tours to help you explore the city of water and get to know its secrets:
- The Real Hidden Venice
- Venice: Jewish Ghetto Walking Tour
- San Giorgio Maggiore Island: 3 Tour Package
- Private Venice Tour – Hidden Gems and Main Attractions with a Local
- Legends of Venice Private Walking Tour with a Local Guide
- Ghosts and Legends Tour of Venice
8. Best Venice Shopping Tours
Venice is a great city to go shopping in. It’s both the cradle of many centuries-old crafts and a place where all the high fashion brands and high street chains have a shop. You can visit the workshops of artisans who make unique pieces of jewellery, paper, and mosaics using ancient techniques. You can buy typical Venetian items like Murano glass objects and chandeliers, handmade lace, imaginative Venetian masks, and lavish costumes in the traditions of the Venetian Carnival. You can even see silk brocade and velvet fabrics being woven on 18th-century looms.
To explore Venice’s craft traditions and enjoy a shopping session like no other, the best course of action is to book a private licensed Venetian guide. Have a look at point 1 above for contact details. They can tailor a special experience for you and take you to visit curious places like the studio of a marionette maker and the workshop of Venice’s only goldbeater.
Alternatively, during the high season you can take the shuttle bus to Noventa di Piave. There is a huge McArthur Glen Designer Outlet with dozens of shops by famous international brands.
9. Best Murano and Burano Tours
The Venetian Lagoon is a vast place and apart from the cluster of islands on which Venice is built, there are dozens of other islands here with their unique environment, customs, and food. The two most famous islands here are Murano and Burano.
The first is known for its centuries-old glassmaking traditions. Jewellery, objects, and chandeliers made of Murano glass are highly prized. Observing a Murano glass artisan at work is one of the best experiences to have in Italy. Burano, on the other hand, is known for its technocolour houses, the local handmade lace, and the traditional risotto di go‘. It’s a wonderful place to visit – so vibrant and full of life.
Water buses – called vaporetto in Italian – crisscross the Venetian Lagoon all throughout the day. They can take you across to Murano and Burano from Venice for a fun day out. Alternatively, you can book one of these handpicked guided tours. Some of them even include a visit to Torcello – the island where nowadays only a handful of people live and which 1,600 years ago was the first populated place in the Venetian Lagoon. There, you can admire the splendid gold mosaics in the Torcello Basilica, enjoy a meal in Locanda Cipriani which has been a hotspot for famous people for decades, and see the Devil’s Bridge – one of only two remaining bridges without railings in the whole of the Venetian Lagoon.
- Murano and Burano Islands Half-Day Guided Tour by Private Boat
- Six-Hour Lagoon Tour to Murano, Burano, and Torcello
- Private Excursion by Typical Venetian Motorboat to Murano, Burano, and Torcello
- Tickets for the Islands of Murano, Burano, and Torcello: Excursion from Venice
10. Best Organised Day Trips from Venice
Venice is the capital of the Italian region of Veneto and it also stands an easy distance away from several large Italian cities like Padua, Vicenza, Verona, and even Bologna and Milan. Near the city of water you can explore some of Italy’s most famous natural sights, too. From the Delta of the River Po and the Euganean Hills (dotted with spa resorts) to Italy’s largest lake – Lago di Garda – and the majestic mountain group of the Dolomites, there are many wonderful places to visit coming from Venice. Prosecco Country is also among them. This is a UNESCO World Heritage Site on account of the local production of the famous prosecco wine.
If you are spending more than a few days in the city of water and you have already explored by organised tour or independently its sights and some of the other islands in the Venetian Lagoon, consider joining a guided trip to one or more of the following destinations:
- Prosecco Wine Tour from Venice
- Dolomite Mountains and Cortina Semi Private Day Trip from Venice
- Day Cruise on a Traditional Burchiello Boat from Venice to Padua with stopovers at historic Venetian villas
- Hilltowns of Veneto Day Trip from Venice
There are many things to see and enjoy in Venice, Italy and time is never enough. Booking a guided tour or two to take during your stay in the city of water can make it so much easier to learn about the history, art, and traditions of this fascinating place.
In this blog post I share with you the ten best types of guided tours you can take in Venice. From an exploration of the Venetian highlights to exciting boat trips around the Venetian Lagoon, there are many ways to get to know Venice with the help of a local guide. To make your travel planning even easier, I have also included contact details for licensed Venetian guides and handpicked guided tours.
I hope that the information shared herewith will pique your curiosity, give you lots of ideas for things to do in Venice, and – at the end of the day – provide you with a great experience to enjoy during your Venice trip.
Have a wonderful time touring Venice in Italy with a guide or by yourself!
More Helpful Venice Info for You
Venice: Essential Tips, Hidden Gems, Venice in a Day for Art Lovers, Nearest Airports, Boats in Venice, Haunted Venice, Day Trips from Venice, Arco del Paradiso
Venice Videos: Grand Canal, St. Mark’s Square at Carnival, St. Mark’s Square, View from Rialto Bridge, View from Accademia Bridge, Venetian gondolas, Historical Regatta, Squero di San Trovaso, Palazzo Contarini del Bovolo, Fondazione Querini Stampalia, Palazzo Grimani, Rialto Fish Market, Ca’ Macana, Festa della Madonna della Salute
More Helpful Italy Info for You
Italian Food: Budget Italian Food, Italian Markets, Rules of Italian Breakfast, Italian Breakfast Foods and Drinks, Italian Food Gifts
Italian Coffee: Rules of Italian Coffee Culture, Italian Coffee Drinks, History of Italian Coffee Culture
Christmas in Italy: Facts, Nativity Scenes, Things to Do, Christmas Guide
Northern Italy: Best Cities to Visit, Major Airports
Lake Garda: Best Towns, Nearest Airports, Travel Options, Lake Garda with Kids, Malcesine, Riva del Garda, Torri del Benaco
Lake Como: Things to See, Nesso
Veneto: Best Cities to Visit, Prettiest Small Towns, Beautiful Villages, Top 15 Places, 30 Adventures, Most Colourful Places, Beautiful Piazzas, Must-See Lakes
Friuli Venezia Giulia: Venzone, Most Beautiful Villages
Emilia Romagna: Bologna, Ravenna, Comacchio, Most Beautiful Villages
Marche: 6 Reasons to Visit, Gradara, Frasassi Caves, Temple of Valadier
Verona: Things to Do in One Day, Day Trips from Verona
Padua: Things to Do in One Day, 101 Facts About Padua, 10 Reasons to Visit Padua, Day Trips from Padua
Vicenza: Things to Do, 10 Must-See Museums, Day Trips from Vicenza
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