Ah, Venice. The Romance, the history, the price tag. Venice will sweep you up very easily in it’s romantic grandeur, and invite you to get lost inside its winding streets, grand canals and faded architecture, but with many of the impressive must see sites charging an entrance fee a day or two here can really eat into your budget, especially if you succumb to the lures of the many restaurants along your wanders. So it is even more important that you enjoy the free things to do so you have some money left over for that famous gelato!
Just wander the back alleys and streets.
This may not seem like a great way to sight see some of the more famous sites, but believe me the back streets of Venice are an attraction in and of themselves. Venice isn’t too big and can easily be seen on foot if you have the time, and by foot is the perfect way to appreciate the winding, tight side streets and waterways that have barely changed since the Renaissance. You really get a feel of the Venice away from the tourists by doing this and you will find countless hidden bridges, churches, shops and cafe’s frequented by locals, as well as the occasional art class or impromptu classical orchestra training session! The Renaissance really is live and well in Venice!
Isola Di San Giorgio Maggiore.
This little island boasts great views over the Doges palace and the Grand Canal from the top of the bell tower and the church here is an absolute must see, and it never gets as crowded as some of the other major attractions either, not that I’ve seen anyway!
Scala Contarini del Bovolo.
The snail staircase has to rank as one of the least secret hidden secrets in the world, as it is one of the most popular ‘hidden’ sites in Venice. Only a short walking distance from the Rialto but hidden behind a maze of winding back streets, this huge, Gothic spiral staircase tacked on to the outside of the otherwise plain Contarini ‘palace’ utterly dominates the small courtyard it is in and is well worth a visit, especially since it is free to look at!
Chiesa di Santa Maria Assunta.
Also known as Gesuiti after the Jesuit order who built it in the early 18th Century, this unbelievably stunning and over the top church is a wonder to behold, and it even houses some important works of art and sculpture that you can view for absolutely nothing!
Basilica de San Marco.
This is one of the most famous sites – and popular tourist spots – in Venice, and most people – myself included – are surprised to find that it is free to enter! Especially considering most other major sites charge an entrance fee! There are small charges to enter the inner optional museums inside the Basilica, but you don’t need to see them if you don’t want to. There is no admission charge to enter the stunning 13th Century Basilica itself and you could spend hours just staring at the beautiful Byzantine architecture alone.
There are so many other amazing sights and activities in Venice that I haven’t mentioned on this list, such as the free tour of the Orsoni colour library (strange name but an absolute must do for anyone visiting Venice), the San Michele cemetery and many more, so it really isn’t as expensive a city as many people assume it is. Or at least it doesn’t have to be if you plan carefully and hit up a lot of these free sites! Venice is the quintessential weekend break city and easily reachable from anywhere in Europe, so get out there and explore it for yourself!
I hope you are enjoying this ‘free things to do in …’ series and find it useful, if you have any specific requests then please let me know in the comments section below. If I have been there then I’ll add it to the list!