Fresh produce is sold from a colorful boat on a canal in Venice, Italy. Photo: Alison Cornford-Matheson

From the fabled canals to the maze-like streets, visiting Venice is like stepping out of this world and into another. The charming city is historic, familiar, and yet still somehow conveys an air of mystery to those who visit. While all of Italy rings out with unmatched atmosphere, if the country’s passion and mystique had an epicenter, it would surely be located in Venice. If your are visiting, there are a few things that simply must be on your to-do list. Here are eight awesome things to do while in Venice, Italy.

1. Take a Gondola Ride – It’s cliche, it’s expected, and it’s a little expensive, but if it is your first time visiting Venice, a traditional gondola ride is a must. Expect to share a ride with strangers (unless you are willing to splurge on a private ride) and expect the entire experience to last about 40 minutes. Cliche or not, once you float down the unique canals for the first time, you’ll agree – feeling like a tourist has never been more satisfying.

2. Visit St. Mark’s Cathedral – One of the most iconic symbols in Venice, the Basilica di San Marco rises majestically over the already picturesque Saint Mark’s Square. While admiring the beauty of the outside is sometimes enough, tours are also available if you want to appreciate the inside as well.

3. View Traditional Glass Blowing – The Venetian Glass industry is serious business in this city. Many stores and factories on the island of Murano (as well as in Venice’s center) offer tours and demonstrations of their impressive, time-honored glass blowing techniques.

4. Buy Traditional Souvenirs – Souvenir vendors abound in open areas like Saint Mark’s Square, where you can buy virtually anything in an Italian-flag print. However, if you want more traditional souvenirs to pick up in Europe for your loved ones, venture off the beaten path to find souvenirs that are uniquely Venetian, like a traditional masquerade mask, Venetian glass jewelry, or even an authentic gondolier hat.

5.  Eat Local Delicacies – Eating is a must-do in every Italian city. While there are many restaurants to explore in Venice, we recommend staying away from the ones located off of the Grand Canal (although their pushy hosts will try to persuade you otherwise). If you are looking for something a little more low-key, panini shops are everywhere in Venice. You are able to place your order right from the cobblestone streets, and we guarantee you will not be disappointed by the amazing quality of this “fast food.”

6. Taxi to Outlying Islands – Hopping in a water taxi (or vaporetto) and visiting Venice’s outlying islands makes for an excellent day trip. We suggest visiting the island of Lido, a laid-back, charming escape from mainland Venice’s hustle and bustle. Beaches, gelato shops, and cafes await as you meander down the island’s quiet streets.

7. Traverse Rialto Bridge – The Ponte di Rialto, or Rialto Bridge, is something you can’t miss while visiting this amazing city. Charming shops line the inside, a multitude of cafes flank its entrances, but most importantly, it provides you with the best view of Venice’s breathtaking Grand Canal. Take in the sights of the city from this extraordinary structure and you will swear you have been swept back in time.

8. Get a Little Lost – Perhaps the best thing to do while visiting Venice is to simply lose yourself on in the winding, alley-like streets of the city. The magic of this city lies in its atmosphere, so don’t be afraid to put down your map and let the city guide your journey. You’ll find your way back to the real world. Eventually.

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