Secret Venice: 21 Off the Beaten Path Spots + Hidden Gems

Venice is infamous for its intense crowds of visitors, but here’s the thing: it’s incredibly easy to find a quieter, secret Venice–so easy, in fact, that peace and quiet is often literally right around the corner from the throngs of visitors on the Rialto Bridge and in St. Mark’s Square!

The city’s many canals, absolutely tiny streets, and 400+ footbridges make exploring Venice off the beaten path practically a scavenger hunt, and it is all of these unassuming hidden gems in Venice that make the city one of our absolute favorites to visit.

After many trips there in all seasons, we still find ourselves discovering something new to love about this more unknown Venice.

From tiny canals to near-empty palazzos to a flooded crypt, many of Venice’s more unusual treasures come without the side of crowds.

If you’re hoping to get off the beaten track in Venice, here’s what we suggest.

Kate Storm and Jeremy Storm standing along the Grand Canal of Venice. Kate is in a red dress and there are gondolas behind them.
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Beautiful Places to Visit in Venice Off the Beaten Path

Go searching for Venice’s leaning towers.

The Leaning Tower of Pisa may be the most famous leaning tower in Italy, but the country has plenty more to offer–including at least 3 leaning towers in Venice.

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… And that’s not even counting the leaning tower in Burano!

As you’re wandering through the streets looking for hidden gems in Venice, be sure to keep an eye out for these three leaning bell towers: Santo Stefano, San Giorgio dei Greci, and San Pietro di Castello.

We’ve marked the locations of each of them on the map linked toward the bottom of this Venice blog post.

Photo of Venice canal with leaning bell tower on the left side--seeking out Venice's leaning bell towers is a fun way to find hidden gems in Venice!

Pay a visit to Torcello.

While the word is out about the outlying Venetian islands of Murano and Burano, far fewer visitors make the trek to Torcello, a small island located in the northern part of the Venetian Lagoon.

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Technically still inhabited, Torcello was once home to over 20,000 residents, but today, only around a dozen remain.

The most famous landmark in Torcello is its Basilica di Santa Maria Assunta.

Don’t miss the magnificent mosaics inside, or the stunning views of Burano from the top of the bell tower!

view of exterior of torcello cathedral, one of the best venice hidden gems

Hit the beach.

For a city literally surrounded by water, surprisingly few travelers consider visiting the beach in Venice.

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However, over on the Venetian island of Lido, located a mere 10-20 minutes by vaporetto from central Venice, you absolutely can!

The beaches on Lido generally boast incredibly calm, shallow water, perfect for families or those who just want to enjoy a laid-back day with the sun and sea.

Sandy Lido Beach in Venice, with shady huts visible on the left and the water visible in the distance

Seek out fairytale views at Scala Contarini del Bovolo.

The view from the Scala Contarini del Bovolo is, to be perfectly honest, not the best view in Venice.

But, that being said, it is lovely, and the fairytale-worthy tower itself is well worth seeing.

The effort spent finding the tower is also a delight in and of itself and will take you off the beaten path and through some of Venice’s more deserted side streets.

Kate Storm looking toward San Marco Campanile from Scala Contarini del Bovolo, which is an excellent place to visit during 2 days in Venice

Cross the Ponte dei Pugni.

In the 1600s, rival Venetian clans had a peculiar tradition.

A couple of times each year, members of neighboring clans would have fist fights on bridges without rails, with the intention of knocking each other into the canal below.

The fights were large public events, and while they took place on several bridges around the city, the most famous location is the Ponte dei Pugni (aka Bridge of Fists) in Dorsoduro.

The bridge does have rails today, but it’s still worth stopping by when looking for hidden gems in Venice!

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… and then check out the nearby Dorsoduro vegetable barge.

Located right next door to the Ponte dei Pugni, the Dorsoduro vegetable barge is exactly what it sounds like–a vegetable stand located on a barge in the canal!

Ponte dei Pugni on the right side of the photo in Venice with Dorsoduro vegetable barge visible on the left

Indulge your inner bookworm at Libreria Acqua Alta.

Perhaps not the most unknown spot on this list of places in Venice off the beaten track, the beautiful Libreria Acqua Alta does still take a bit of finding.

This gorgeous bookstore is located on an unassuming street in Castello, and has two entrances (both of which are worth visiting).

Inside Libreria Acqua Alta, Venice’s Unique Bookstore

Libreria Acqua Alta is known for its unique method of storing books: you’ll find them stacked up in bathtubs, canoes, and even in a gondola!

All of this storage is designed to help the books survive Venice’s flooding (aka acqua alta, or high water) when it occurs–and it also doubles as very memorable decor for the store!

While you’re there, be sure to climb the staircase of books (yes, literally) on the back porch to get a fabulous view of a canal, and to say hello to the cats that call the store home.

Staircase of books at Libreria Acqua Alta, suggested spot on a 2 Day Venice Itinerary

Tour the inside of St. Mark’s Clocktower.

It’s hard to make your way through St. Mark’s Square without catching sight of the stunning St. Mark’s Clocktower (or in Italian, Torre dell’Orologio), with its gorgeous blue face complete with gold zodiac symbols.

To truly experience this 500-year-old masterpiece, though, consider going inside!

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Essentially hidden in plain sight, the interior tour of St. Mark’s Clocktower will show you a fascinating, secret side to this gorgeous building.

Visits can only be completed by guided tour and must be booked in advance.

Be sure to plan ahead if you want to experience this incredible hidden gem in Venice!

Close up photo of St. Mark's Clocktower with blue face visible. Touring the inside of this beautiful clocktower is a great way to see Venice off the beaten path.

Pay a visit to Ca’ Rezzonico.

Located right along the Grand Canal in Dorsoduro, this stunning Venetian palazzo is a delight to visit, and doesn’t attract many crowds.

The palazzo itself has its roots in the 1600s, but a tumultuous history–bankruptcies, families dying out–led to the building being more or less an empty shell when the city of Venice acquired it in 1935.

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Today, it houses the museum of 18th-century Venice, complete with magnificent frescoes, furnishings, paintings, and more.

… and the Grand Canal views are pretty magnificent, too.

If you’re looking for a beautiful museum to visit in Venice where you have plenty of elbow room to appreciate the art, Ca’ Rezzonico is a great stop.

kate storm wearing a black dress in ca' rezzonico, one of the unusual things to do in venice

Snap photos of the Ponte de Chiodo.

Located deep into Cannaregio, the Ponte de Chiodo is the last bridge of its kind left in Venice: it still has no parapets!

Originally, many of the footbridges in Venice were the same way, but over the centuries, safety features have been added to Venice’s bridges.

…With one notable exception, that is.

Close up photo of the Ponte de Chiodo in Venice with no parapets, one of the interesting off the beaten track Venice spots

Get beautiful views of Venice off the beaten path at San Giorgio Maggiore.

Situated directly across the lagoon from Piazza San Marco and the Doge’s Palace, the small island of San Giorgio Maggiore (and in particular, its bell tower) is home to one of the most unique Venice viewpoints.

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From here, you can admire the crowds of Piazza San Marco and the traffic of the waterways from a blissfully peaceful distance while exploring a beautiful and downright tiny island in the Venetian Lagoon.

The church itself was designed by the famed Renaissance architect Andrea Palladio and is well worth a visit in its own right.

While the church is free to visit, it’s well worth the fee to ride the elevator (no stairs required) to the top of the bell tower to experience one of the absolute best views of Venice!

view of st marks square from campanile san giorgio maggiore in venice august

Pay your respects on San Michele Island. 

Located a short vaporetto ride away from the hustle and bustle of central Venice, San Michele Island is certainly one of the most unique things to see in Venice.

Here, the entire island acts as a cemetery.

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The island is a beautiful, sacred place, and visitors are expected to conduct themselves with respect (and subscribe to the same dress code you would in any Italian church: covered shoulders, no cleavage, etc.).

However, if you’re for an unusual and somewhat secret Venice spot (secret from most tourists, anyway), there’s no doubt that this unusual, active cemetery is unlike anything else you’ll see in the city.

headstones on san michele island, one of the most unusual venice sights

Check out the gondolas at Squero di San Trovaso.

Want to see Venice’s gondolas as they get built and repaired?

While you can’t go inside, you can get amazing views of Venice’s gondolas in various states of completion at Squero di San Trovaso.

With a little luck, sometimes you can even see them actively being worked on!

Photo of a gondola shop in Venice with a gondola on risers out front to be repaired

Escape the crowds on the rooftop of St. Mark’s Basilica.

St. Mark’s Basilica itself, of course, is extremely crowded and hardly off the beaten track in Venice–but once inside the church, you do have a chance to ditch the crowds!

While the basilica itself is free to visit, there are several paid attractions inside–kind of like mini-museums.

The best option of them all is to pay a handful of Euros to climb to the second floor and check out the view from the rooftop.

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Only a fraction of the visitors to St. Mark’s Basilica make the climb, giving you an opportunity to enjoy the basilica without crowds.

It’s hard to say what the best part of visiting the second floor is.

The views of Piazza San Marco from above, the chance to admire the basilica’s famous mosaics from a closer angle, and the chance to see the original Horses of St. Mark (the four on top of the exterior of the basilica today are replicas, but the originals on the second floor’s interior) are all incredible.

Jeremy Storm wearing a gray t shirt on the roof of St. Mark's Basilica--definitely worth visiting this spot during your day trip to Venice from Florence!

Step inside the original Merchant of Venice shop.

The beautiful flagship store of the Merchant of Venice perfume company is located–where else–in the heart of Venice!

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If you’re hoping for a long-lasting and remarkable souvenir from your trip to Venice, or you just want to enjoy the beautiful shop, be sure to duck inside as you seek out offbeat spots in Venice.

Interior of Merchant of Venice flagship store. There are red bottles of perfume lining the walls, and small stone statues of women decorating the shop.

Relax for an evening at the Venice Jazz Club.

Want to get off the beaten path in Venice a bit and listen to some fabulous live music at the same time?

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The Venice Jazz Club in Dorsoduro will give you the opportunity to listen to some great music in a cozy venue in Venice!

And, as a bonus, it will get you out of Venice’s most touristy sestieri (or districts) and into a more laid-back area.

saxophone being played in a dark jazz club

Step inside the flooded crypt of San Zaccaria.

The Church of San Zaccaria is a lovely corner of Venice in its own right–but the truly unique feature lies beneath the church itself.

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Not only is the crypt beautiful and interesting, but it’s also flooded, giving the whole area an eerie atmosphere that makes it one of the most unusual things to do in Venice.

The Church of San Zaccaria is also home to Tintoretto’s stunning Birth of Saint John the Baptist.

The church itself is free to enter, and as of 2022, it costs 3 Euro to visit the small museum including the art, a chapel, and the crypt.

flooded crypt of san zaccaria, one of the best hidden gems in venice italy

Ride in a traghetto.

Slightly difficult to spot and with fickle, unpredictable hours, it’s hard to count on finding a traghetto when you want one–which makes them one of the best hidden gems in Venice!

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These large gondolas act as a form of public transportation across the Grand Canal.

For a small 2 Euro fee, you can hop on one for a quick ferry–aka gondola ride–across the Grand Canal!

We have a full guide to the details here.

kate storm and ranger storm in a traghetto gondola during summer in venice italy

Stroll across the Ponte Tre Ponti.

Venice’s Ponte Tre Ponti (Bridge of 3 Bridges) is a delightfully whimsical example of the chaos that is navigating Venice.

For starters, despite its name, this pedestrian bridge is actually composed of a mini-maze of 5 bridges!

It’s a fun, quick-to-see Venice gem that–in addition to being fun to cross–is located away from many of Venice’s tourist crowds in Santa Croce.

part of the ponte tre ponti as seen from the side with canal in the foreground

Admire work from Tintoretto at the Scuola Grande di San Rocco.

One of only two confraternities in Venice to survive the centuries, visiting the gorgeous Scuola Grande di San Rocco offers a unique opportunity to observe some of Tintoretto’s best work in the original locations where they were painted.

… While also exploring Venice off the beaten path and avoiding the crowds at the city’s popular art museums.

Map of Hidden Gems in Venice

Take This Map With You! Click each highlight to pull up the name of the destination. To save this map to “Your Places” on Google Maps, click the star to the right of the title. You’ll then be able to find it under the Maps tab of your Google Maps account! To open the map in a new window, click the button on the top right of the map.

Tips for Exploring Venice Off the Beaten Track

If you’re hoping to get off the beaten track in Venice, there are 3 very easy ways to do so in addition to seeking out specific hidden gems in Venice like those listed above.

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Spend (at least) one night in Venice.

Venice receives an extraordinary number of day-trippers, both from cruise ships and otherwise, and by spending a night in Venice and exploring after the day-trippers have left, you will experience an entirely different (read: much quieter) side of the city.

Photo of the Venetian Grand Canal at night with lights reflecting on the water--when deciding what to do in Venice at night, make sure you include seeking out a few views like this.

… and stay out after dark.

Venice is not remotely a nightlife destination–in fact, most restaurants and bars close by 11:00 PM–but you should absolutely make an effort to explore the city by foot after dark if you’re hoping to see what Venice off the beaten path is like.

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Under the cover of darkness is one of our favorite times to explore the city.

Many of the streets are empty and quiet, the soft sounds of the water moving through the canals add to the ambiance, and the atmosphere is magical.

Photo of the Doge's Palace at night taken from the Riva degli Schiavoni--touring the palace after hours is one of the best things to do in Venice at night!

Spend time in Cannaregio, Dorsoduro, and the far reaches of Castello.

There are six sestieri, or neighborhoods/districts, that make up the main section of Venice: San Marco (home to St. Mark’s Square), San Polo (connected to San Marco by the Rialto Bridge), Santa Croce, Cannaregio, Dorsoduro, and Castello.

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The first three are the most central, and therefore most crowded, and the last three are on the outskirts of Venice.

Despite being within easy walking distance of Venice’s most popular attractions (and even housing a few of them, like the Peggy Guggenheim Museum), they are far, far less crowded–especially if you wander beyond the first few streets.

View of small canal in Dorsoduro Venice with colorful buildings to the right and motorboats parked in the canal. Quiet spots like this are common when seeking out Venice hidden gems

Get lost and find your own hidden gems in Venice.

Yes, this is cliche, but it’s still excellent advice, and the best tip we have for exploring Venice off the beaten path.

Out of the hundreds of cities and towns we’ve visited, Venice is by far one of the most rewarding to get lost in, as each and every tiny canal, footbridge, street, and piazza has a treasure to offer.

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The city’s crowds may be infamous, but they’re also extraordinarily easy to ditch!

All you have to do is literally step slightly off the beaten track in Venice, and suddenly, you just may find yourself enjoying stunning canal views that you have all to yourself.

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4 photos of Venice: gondola, Libreria Acqua Alta, St Marks Clocktower, view from Scala Contarini del Bovolo. Black and red text on a white background reads "secret venice offbeat spots and hidden gems in venice"
About Kate Storm
Image of the author, Kate Storm

In May 2016, I left my suburban life in the USA and became a full-time traveler. Since then, I have visited 50+ countries on 5 continents and lived in Portugal, developing a special love of traveling in Europe (especially Italy) along the way. Today, along with my husband Jeremy and dog Ranger, I’m working toward my eventual goal of splitting my life between Europe and the USA.

6 thoughts on “Secret Venice: 21 Off the Beaten Path Spots + Hidden Gems”

    • Hi CeCe,

      Happy it was helpful!

      Splitting our time in between the US and Europe is an ongoing journey that has had many versions, alterations, etc, and we expect several more in the future!

      Right now we’re finishing up a year of living in Portugal, next year will be back to basing ourselves in the US (for a time).

      By far the simplest way of splitting your time, though, and the one that can be implemented without fuss by people from the US or other strong-passport coutnries, is to spend no about 90 days out of every 180 in the Schengen Zone (a group of 26 European countries with shared borders). If you want more time in Europe after that, you can supplement with stops in non-Schengen countries, which include the UK, Croatia (for now), Bulgaria, Montenegro, and more.

      If you divide your year (more or less) into fourths this way, it’s fairly straightforward to spend half a year on each side of the Atlantic.

      This topic really deserves a very long blog post one day, there’s a lot of nuance and options that don’t fit here! But I hope that helps answer your question. 🙂

  1. Hi Kate,

    Super helpful article, and plan to heed your advise on staying out late and explore Venice at night however the location of my airbnb is in Mestre. It’s my first time going to Venice so i’m still in the midst of figuring out with the public transportation there like the tram, vaporetto…. If i were to stay out late in Venice itself will there be a problem with the going back to our airbnb as it’s almost 10km away so there’s no way we can walk back and if the last means of transport is say at,10pm would be a downer as we’ll have to rush through Venice night just to catch the last transport. What would you suggest? Love to hear from you xx

    • Hi Aryana,

      Honestly, there’s no reason you can’t enjoy the best of Venice at night before 10:00 PM and just make sure you’re back in time, especially if you’re not visiting during the longest days of the year.

      Since Venice isn’t much of a nightlife city, enjoying the city after dark doesn’t have to mean the dead of night! 🙂

  2. Hi – this was very helpful as we’re visiting Venice in July! One question about St. Mark’s Basilica – the official website is a bit confusing. It looks like it’s free to enter and pray, but there’s a fee and timed ticket to enter. If we wanted to climb to the second floor like you mentioned, could we do that by entering for free and climbing, or would we need to purchase a ticket (and it looks like ticket are needed to see the 4 horses etc.) Just a bit confused and appreciate any help!

    • Hi Mary,

      A few years back, it was free to visit but you could opt out of the line (or more realistically, into a shorter line) with a 3 Euro timed entrance ticket, which is what we would recommend in July regardless! However, it looks like they’ve changed it to charge all visitors the 3 Euro.

      As for the second floor, you’ll want to purchase the “Museum – Loggia dei Cavalli” ticket as well, which will grant you access to the viewpoint, the four horses (both the originals inside and the copies on the roof today), and some other museum exhibits as well.

      Climbing the bell tower or seeing the Gold Cloth are still separate from that, and the bell tower isn’t even in the same building.

      The free entrance for prayer is something separate that’s available in virtually all European churches that have an entrance fee.

      Because the vast majority of the churches are still active houses of worship, there’s usually another entrance specifically for prayer that doesn’t include a charge. Typically, the entrance is off to the side somewhere and only allows access to a small part of the church. It’s not intended for (non-worshiping) tourists, though generally anyone is welcome to pray there.

      Also, we spent a week in Venice last July and wrote this summer-specific guide after that which you might find helpful:

      I hope that helps clarify things a bit and that you have a wonderful time!


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