Who doesn’t love the floating city? Venice is famous for sights such as Saint Mark’s Basilica, the Doge’s Palace and the Bridge of Sighs. Yet there’s a lot more to it than meets the eye. We’ve written before about our favourite hidden gems in Venice, but the city of canals just keeps surprising us and now we’ve rounded up 10 off the beaten path Venice attractions for your reading pleasure…
Off The Beaten Path Venice Attractions – The Arsenale
There have been naval shipyards in this area since 1104, although the area really came into its own in the thirteenth century. Spread over 45 hectares, the Arsenale employed up to 16,000 people at one point. Its Renaissance gate, Porta Magna, dates from 1460 and is flanked by several magnificent lions. These days, the Arsenale is still owned by the navy and closed to the public for most of the year. However, sections of it are open during the famous Biennale art exhibition.
The Bridge with No Parapet
Eagle-eyed readers will notice that Ponte de Chiodo made an appearance in our article on Venice’s hidden gems. We couldn’t resist a return visit with the weather being warmer, it’s as photogenic as ever! The Cannaregio area where it’s located is untouristy and has quite a few other interesting sights that we’ll be sharing with you here.
If you have time, make a visit to Burano, which can be reached by vaporetto in about 45 minutes. This little island is known for its colourful houses and lace-making museum. It’s not to be confused with the nearby island of Murano, famous for its glass-making techniques and also worth a visit.
We’d highly recommend lunch at Al Gatto Nero but make sure to book or you might have a 1 hour wait as we did!
The second largest canal in Venice is located in the quiet area of Cannaregio, one of Venice’s six central districts. If you don’t have time to go to Burano then get your fix of colourful buildings here. It’s one of the largest residential areas of Venice and has some good neighbourhood restaurants dotted around.
Church of Saint Zacharias
The imposing Chiesa di San Zaccaria is an interesting mix of Gothic and Renaissance styles, built from 1458 to 1515. It’s well known for its paintings by Bellini, Tintoretto, Titian and Van Dyck. Eight doges are buried in the crypt. The church can be visited from 10 to 12 and 4 to 6 pm daily.
Just around the corner from the church, you’ll find Corte Sconta, a superb seafood restaurant. Take a seat in its sunny courtyard and feast on some of the freshest seafood in Venice.
There are several interesting museums in the Santa Croce area of Venice, including Ca’ Pesaro, the International Gallery of Modern Art, and the Museum of Natural History in Fondaco dei Turchi. One of the most impressive is Palazzo Mocenigo, the Museum of Textiles and Costumes. The Gothic palace houses an interesting display of historic fabrics and costumes. There’s also the first exhibit in Italy dedicated to the history of perfume, befitting Venice’s position as the capital of perfume in the Middle Ages. Palazzo Mocenigo is open from 10 am to 5 pm (4 pm in Winter) and closed on Mondays.
For the perfect lunch or dinner nearby, head to GLAM at Palazzo Venart, just a couple of minutes away. There’s a charming courtyard if the sun is out and the food is among the finest that you will taste in Venice.
The Venetian Ghetto
One of the darker periods in the history of Venice is that of the Venetian Ghetto. From 1516 to 1797, the city’s Jewish residents were compelled to live on this small island in the Cannaregio district. There were up to 6,000 inhabitants living in the area in 1608, in cramped conditions. Napoleon’s troops finally liberated the residents in 1797.
The Merchant of Venice
In Campo San Fantin, you’ll find a beautiful 17th century pharmacy that has kept all its original features. It’s now the flagship store of The Merchant of Venice and one of our favourite off the beaten path Venice sights. This upmarket perfume brand also has a shop in Palazzo Mocenigo, but don’t miss this ornate chemist shop, designed by Giambattista Meduna in a Neo-Gothic style.
Scuola Grande di San Rocco
The former religious confraternity, Scuola Grande di San Rocco, houses an astonishing masterpiece by Tintoretto…the ceiling considered to be one of his finest works. Created from 1564 to 1587 by Tintoretto, his son Domenico and his assistants, it’s in beautiful condition. If you don’t want to get neck ache admiring over 50 of his paintings, make use of the complimentary mirrors that will enable a detailed look at his scenes from the Old and New Testaments. It’s open daily from 9.30 am to 5.30 pm.
Vegetable Barge at Ponte dei Pugni
Venice is of course famous for its gondolas and other forms of water transport, but one of its most eclectic sights is the vegetable barge at Ponte dei Pugni in the picturesque Dorsoduro district. Known as the “bridge of fists”, it was apparently a place for settling scores with your rivals ;-). These days, it’s a photogenic place to stock up on fresh vegetables, herbs and flowers.
Stay Off The Beaten Path in Venice
As this guide has been all about “off the beaten path Venice”, we thought it fitting to include a hotel that’s a real hidden gem. Palazzo Venart is one of the very rare hotels in Venice to have a garden overlooking the Grand Canal, and is decorated with sumptuous antiques. A fitting place from which to explore the lesser known parts of this charming city, as well as the famous sights, of course!
I’m rather proud of Paul’s first time-lapse video, showing the gondolas and boats whizzing past Palazzo Venart – what do you think?
We hope that you’ve enjoyed reading our off the beaten path Venice guide, and do let us know if you have any tips that we should add to the list! Be sure to check out our guide to the best Venice hidden gems too. Which is your favourite attraction featured here?