I am a sucker for a good view, and for that, you usually have to go up high. However, Venice is full of beautiful vistas from the ground up, so you don’t need to get vertigo while enjoying a beautiful view. Here are my favourite places to visit with the best views in Venice – some of which you have to pay for, and five of which are absolutely free!
The Best Free Views in Venice
If you’re visiting Venice on a budget, then you can see some of the most beautiful views in Venice without spending a penny. Finding free things to do in Venice is one of my specialities, so I tracked down these spectacular free views of Venice just for you!
Ponte della Accademia
For me, this is the best view in Venice and appears on so many postcards of Venice! From the bridge, you get a gorgeous view of the Grand Canal, with gondolas, vaporettos and water taxis all vying for space, with the stunning backdrop of the Basilica di Santa Maria Della Salute. The view is priceless, and best of all, it’s free!
The Bridge of Sighs
It is a classic view of Venice, and with the gondolas floating underneath it, you can’t miss the view of the Bridge of Sighs. A favourite viewpoint is to crouch down to look through the stonework on the Ponte della Paglia so you can see the bridge with a frame, and fit in a gondolier as well!
Although this is one of the most popular places to visit in Venice, the view from Rialto Bridge is not one of my favourites. Because the bridge itself is so photogenic, why take a photo from the bridge when you can’t even see it? Instead, find a jetty in the canal close to the bridge where you can get a view of the bridge for free, or take Vaporetto 1 under the bridge to see it from the water (see below for more information).
Any Little Bridge Around Venice
OK so this is a bit of a cop-out recommendation, but seriously there are so many beautiful views around Venice that you just need to wander the streets and get lost. If you end up on the main thoroughfare with all the other tourists in Venice, just turn off and you’ll get the streets and gorgeous bridges (almost) to yourself. Gondolas make for perfect photo opportunities, providing some of the best views in Venice without having to pay to ride in one!
The Waterfront by Traghetto Molo
This is one of my favourite places to visit in Venice, although it’s proximity to St Marks Square makes it popular with tourists and quite busy. However, walk along here in the evening once the cruise ships and day trippers have left, and the evening light is stunning. Rows of gondolas rock in the breeze, making perfect models with a backdrop of the Venice Lagoon and the Chiesa di San Giorgio Maggiore in front of you (see feature image), or the Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute to your right.
T Fondaco Rooftop Terrace
The fancy Fondaco dei Tedeschi shopping arcade next to the Rialto Bridge is easily missed, but the views from the rooftop terrace are some of the best in Venice, and it is completely free, as long as you reserve your spot online in advance. The free visits to their terrace are offered in 15-minute timeslots throughout the day, and in June I was able to book a timeslot on the day, but in peak times book as far in advance as you can. Arrive at least 5 minutes before your reserved time to make your way up to the top floor. Book your tickets here.
Colourful Houses in Burano
I adore colour and the rainbow houses in Burano are worth the hour or so journey across the lagoon. Every street in Burano is bright and beautiful, and the various bridges give wonderful views of the canals and houses alongside them. A popular photo spot is the Love Viewing Bridge, but be sure to explore the whole island for more colourful views.
Free to explore but you’ll need to buy a Vaporetto transport ticket for €7.50 each way or a 24/48/72-hour transport card.
The Best Views in Venice Worth Paying For
Vaporetto 1 Along the Grand Canal
One of the best ways to see Venice is from the water. However, instead of splashing out on a pricey gondola ride, one of the best things to do in Venice is to take the waterbus Vaporetto 1 all along the Grand Canal from the bus station to St Mark’s Square (and beyond). I’d recommend getting on at the first stop on the line, which is P.le Roma, where the buses from the mainland arrive. That way, you can be the first person on the boat and pick the best spot for soaking up the views. Depending on the boat, some have seats right at the front, others just have seats inside or at the back, so choose your spot carefully. The vaporetto will take you along the Grand Canal where you can immerse yourself in the sights and sounds of Venice from the water, including passing under the famous Rialto Bridge.
Tickets cost €7.50 one way or are included in the 24/48-hour transport tickets.
San Giorgio Maggiore Bell Tower
The lovely Chiesa di San Giorgio Maggiore is well worth visiting in its own right, for the magnificent art works inside, including several by Tintoretto. The church itself is free to enter, but the piece de resistance is the bell tower, which you have to pay for. A lift whisks you up the tower, where you get unrivalled 360° views of Venice, from Lido on one side, Giudecca canal (and passing cruise ships!) across the islands to Venice and St Mark’s Square. This is my favourite view of Venice, without a doubt. Visit in the morning for a better chance of clear views, when I visited late afternoon the haze made some areas difficult to see properly.
Tickets cost €7 per person.
St Mark’s Bell Tower
A trip up the famous bell tower in St Mark’s Square is one of the most popular views in Venice, simply because of the location. This does mean that the queues can get long, so pick your times carefully – either as soon as it opens, late in the evening, or lunch times can also have some of the least painful wait times. From here you get a bird’s eye view of St Mark’s Basilica, although I have to admit it is more beautiful from the front it’s still interesting to see it from above.
Tickets cost €8 per person, with reductions available.
Palazzo Contarini del Bovolo
One of the hidden gems of Venice, this palace is best known for its external spiral staircase known as the Scala Contarini del Bovolo, with “bovolo” meaning “snail”. The staircase is beautiful from the outside (which you can see without buying an entrance ticket), but the views from the top of the staircase are worth the cash. When I was there, there was an art exhibit which blocked some of the windows with coloured plastic, and I couldn’t get all of the photos I wanted inside – but it was still worth the walk upstairs!
Tickets cost €7 per person
Skyline Rooftop Bar at the Hilton Molino Stucky
The Hilton Hotel’s panoramic rooftop bar is a favourite for tourists to watch the sunset. Although the bar is technically free to enter, you are expected to wait to be seated and to buy something if you are not a guest. Guests can also access the rooftop pool area, which is closed to the public. Drinks prices reflect the hotel and the location, but the views are quite spectacular. To guarantee a table along the edges with the best views, it is best to reserve in advance, especially on the weekends. I managed to sneak in a table for 20 minutes between reservations and treated myself to a bellini (you only live once!).
Expect to pay €12-€20 euros per drink, which are served with olives and peanuts
The Bonus View of Venice: Torcello Cathedral Bell Tower
Torcello is one of the islands in the Venice Lagoon, close to colourful Burano. Relatively few people make the journey to Torcello, which is mainly made up of farmland, with a couple of museums and churches. Torcello was the first inhabited island of the people who fled the mainland from the invasions of the Huns, and the Museo Provinciale di Torcello explains more about the history of the island and the beginnings of Venice.
Torcello Cathedral has some spectacular golden mosaics inside (no photographs allowed) and the adjoining bell tower has impressive views over the lagoon. Although it lacks some of the famous landmarks of some of the other views, I still wanted to include it as one of the best views in Venice as it is unique. Make sure you have enough time to visit the cathedral, bell tower and the museum if you want to visit all three, the last admission for the bell tower is 4pm in off season/5pm from March to October.
A combined ticket for the Museum, Cathedral and Bell Tower costs €12, or you can purchase individual tickets for each part you want to visit. You’ll also need a vaporetto transport ticket to get to the island.
How to Find the Best Views in Venice
I’ve added all of these beautiful viewpoints to a Google Maps list here, so you can easily find all the best views in Venice.
Where to Stay in Venice
Hotels in Venice are notoriously expensive, but if you stay in nearby Mestre on the mainland, the prices are dramatically lower. I’m the #WombatsTraveller ambassador for wombat’s City Hostels, and they are opening a brand-new hostel in Mestre on 10th July. I went to check out the hostel to see how it is coming along and you can find more information about the hostel’s progress here.
Booking is available online for private rooms and dorms and there are some fabulous offers on for July, August and September. Having stayed in wombat’s London, Budapest and Vienna, I have no hesitation in recommending wombat’s Venice Mestre as an excellent place to stay in Venice once it’s opened.
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