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Vegetable barge in Dorsoduro, Venice, with a gondola passing by in front of it

Secret Venice: 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.

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.

17 Beautiful Places 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 (not even counting the one 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.

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 stunning views of Burano from the top of the bell tower!

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Hit the beach.

For a city literally surrounded by water, surprisingly few travelers consider visiting the beach in Venice–but over at Venice Lido, located a mere 10-20 minutes by vaporetto from central Venice, you absolutely can!

Lido Beach generally boasts 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 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, 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).

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!

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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–but to truly enjoy this 500-year-old masterpiece, consider going inside!

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.

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.

Snap photos of the Ponte de Chiodo.

Located deep into Cannaregio, the Ponte de Chiodo is the last bridge of its kind left it 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.

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.

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.

Photo of San Giorgio Maggiore from above surrounded by the Venetian Lagoon--this small island is home to one of the best views in Venice!

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, as the entire island acts as a cemetery.

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 looking to see a unique 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.

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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–and sometimes 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–and 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!

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?

The Venice Jazz Club in Dorsoduro will take you away from the more touristy neighborhoods of San Marco and San Polo, while giving you the opportunity to listen to some great music in a cozy venue at the same time.

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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: not only is the crypt beautiful and interesting, it’s also flooded, giving the whole area an eerie atmosphere.

Exterior of Church of San Zaccaria in Venice Italy

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

Tips for Exploring Venice Off the Beaten Track

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

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.

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.

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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.

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

4 photos of Venice: gondola, Libreriar 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"

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