Venice, Italy is one of the most popular travel destinations in the world. It’s steeped in history, situated in a beautiful region in a country near the top of most tourists’ lists, and constructed in a manner that makes it seem like something out of a fantasy. Whether to tour ancient buildings, visit museums, or drift down the famous canals in a gondola, pretty much everyone wants to go to Venice.
But beyond exploring a beautiful city and taking in a few legendary landmarks, what would you actually hope to do there? Below we’re going to highlight some fun experiences you should put on your list that go beyond general exploration.
San Zaccaria Crypt
We may as well begin with an attraction that’s literally hidden beneath the city. There’s a mystique to Venice (and really all of Italy) that you may as well embrace if you’re traveling there. That’s to say go ahead and allow yourself to dream of the adventures of Dan Brown characters. There’s not really a better place to do that than at the San Zaccaria church and its flooded, beautiful crypt. According to one write-up of the place, there’s actually been a church at this location since the 9th century, which makes it all the more impressive to visit. You’ll get to see a stunning church of mixed Gothic and Renaissance influence, and then tour a flooded, mysterious crypt that feels distinctly like a place no one is really supposed to be. It’s a great option if you want to leave Venice feeling like you saw the city in a special or unusual way.
Skyline Rooftop Bar
This is a bar that might escape your notice because it doesn’t scream “authenticity,” and that’s probably more what you’re looking for as you tour an Italian city. It’s attached to the Hilton in town, and so its focus isn’t on native Italian drinks or cuisine. But it’s still an absolute must-see if you like to find cool bars and restaurants on your travels, because it lets you sit with one of the better views you’ll find of the city.
This is the oldest gaming house in Europe, and it’s a sight to behold. It’s a beautiful, old multi-story building right on the water, and even has its own dock and waterside entrance. It’s elegant and professional inside, but not without a sense of fun. Many gaming enthusiasts these days are used to finding their entertainment online. Internet casino sites simply have more games to offer, and within these offerings they often have their own mini-games and special bonuses that go beyond what you find in an actual casino. Here, however, a gaming floor featuring more than 600 slot machines offers plenty of variety, and all within an intoxicating, opulent setting. Real casinos work best these days when there’s a strong sense of atmosphere to counter the variety of online thrills, and that sense of atmosphere is just what you’ll find here. It’s a fantastic place to spend a few hours entertaining yourself.
We already went with the Skyline Rooftop Bar for a cool place to grab a cocktail, but you’ll also want to get a taste for some of the actual Italian cuisine. This is actually an interesting proposition in Venice, because particularly when compared to the rest of the country, it’s not known for good food. The general reputation is that Venice was transformed into an area catering to tourists, and that started offering kind of lazy foods to make travelers feel more comfortable. There’s something to this point, but that doesn’t mean the area is without its great food. One of the most unique experiences you can have in town is to take a hands on cooking class with a program designed to teach you about the ingredients and recipes that are native to the area. You’ll find that when you seek out this sort of authenticity, the food far exceeds the reputation.
(Your Own) Gondola
Okay, so you can’t actually own your own gondola. But you can take a kind of class to learn how to row one of the famous boats down the Venice canals. It’s a nice twist on the far more common tourist activity of riding along in one (though don’t get the wrong idea—a ride in a gondola is still a wonderful idea).
Make no mistake. Your primary goal in Venice should be to wander around. You’ll want to take a few gondola rides, stroll through Piazza San Marco and walk the Rialto Bridge. But you’ll also need a few specific activities on your list, and the above ideas could serve you well.