Venice is a small, pedestrian-friendly city, and if you're willing to walk or
buy a 12-hour to seven-day vaporetto travel card, you can easily get around on
Still, a guided tour can be worthwhile if you're pressed for
time, if you want to learn more about Venice than you could learn from a
guidebook, if you have mobility problems, or if you simply want to try something
different (such as an Italian wine tasting, a photographer's tour, or the chance
to learn Venetian-style rowing).
some links that will help you find the right tour for your tastes and budget:
Moderately-priced group tours, day trips, and transfers:
Tours and Transfers
Viator is a tour broker that offers a wide range of excursions and
activities in Venice, the Veneto region, and other parts of Italy--including
gondola rides, ghost tours, and "skip the line" tours of the Doge's Palace.
Viator also provides airport and cruise transfers. You can pre-book before
you leave home, with prices shown in your choice of eight currencies.
For an example of a Viator
local tour, read our Gondola Serenade article.
Vaporetto trip on the Grand Canal
For the price of an ACTV waterbus ticket, you can zig-zag up the
Canal Grande on vaporetto Line 1 (with peeks into palazzi if you ride after
If you're headed for the islands of the Lagoon (which you
can easily do with our do-it-yourself
Venice Islands Tour itinerary,
using public transportation), an option worth investigating is:
Silvia Zanella, a guide who lives on Burano, offers a "Secret Corners of
Burano" tour at very reasonable rates. The daily 45-minute walking tour
begins by the ACTV waterbus station on Burano's waterfront. (Kids under
4 are free, and you can bring your dog.)
Read our illustrated article.
More personal and expensive:
you're looking for a warm, friendly, and unflappable guide who speaks English,
Italian, German, and French, Paola deserves to be on your short list of
candidates. (We spent a week with Paola aboard the hotel barge
La Bella Vita during a
lagoon and river cruise from Venice to Mantua.)
Two licensed guides (both natives of Venice) have teamed up to offer private
tours for individuals, families, and small groups. Roberta Curiel is co-author
of The Venetian Ghetto, an outstanding book about Venice's Jewish
history and synagogues. Sara Cossiga is a freelance art historian, sommelier,
and culinary expert who organizes cooking classes, private dinners, and wine
tours at Venice & Veneto Gourmet
when she isn't guiding visitors around the city.
Venice Art Tours
Cristina Gregorin, a licensed guide and author of books
such as Venice Master Artisans,
offers guided visits of modern-art exhibitions, collections, artists' studios,
and galleries. She also leads
tours with a variety of themes.
Venice Tourist Guides Association
The A.G.T. Venezia represents licensed guides who speak 13 languages.
AIS-certified sommeliers Nan McElroy and Sara Cossiga present twice-weekly
Italian wine tastings at an enoteca in Venice. They also can arrange
private vineyard tours.
Two free alternatives:
Venice Free Walking Tour
The Association 360 Gradi
(360° Association) offers free walking tours of about 3.2 km (2 miles). The
last time we checked, tours departed from the Campo Santi Apostoli. Participation is free, although a donation is encouraged.
Free Walk in
The Isola Tour Non-Profit Association has free walking tours
in Italian and English from the Campo San Polo. The schedule varies, so
check the Web site's calendar and book in advance.
On the water:
Venezia "Hop On, Hop Off" Tours
In Venice, the familiar red open-top bus
is a vaporetto-style boat. Stops are limited, but Wi-Fi is free and the water
bus is less crowded than public vaporetti during peak tourist periods.
row the way Venetians do: Standing up and facing forward in a sandalo
or other traditional boat.
I Batelli di Brenta (The
Brenta River's Boats)
Boats leave Venice or Padua in the morning for an all-day trip through the
Brenta Canal that includes stops at three Venetian villas and the 16th Century
mills at Dolo. Other excursions, including a half-day trip from Dolo to Venice,
are also available.
Brenta Riviera and Venetian Villas
The excursion boat Città di Padova offers day cruises along the
Brenta Canal from Venice, with stops at historic villas and lunch on board.
Delta Tour also operates the hotel barge La Bella Vita for European
Waterways, which offers six-night cruises between Venice and Mantua via the
Venetian Lagoon and Po River. (See our illustrated
Explore the Venetian Lagoon on a restored bragozzo sailboat that was
built in 1946 and used for fishing until 1967. Itineraries range from daytime
sightseeing trips to multi-night cruises.
Venice and the Lagoon by the day or week, with an experienced tour guide.
(For pictures, see our
Travel Blog post.)
In the air:
Book a six- to 30-minute private tour by helicopter, with aerial views of the
Venetian Lagoon and Venice' s historic center. (See our
post with videos.)