Planning a trip to Venice Italy and want to explore the city beyond the famous attractions? Keep scrolling for my list of the best hidden gems in Venice worth adding to your itinerary!
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One of the main destinations in Italy, Venice is a major port in the Adriatic Sea. It’s a favorite spot for travelers of all types, especially those in search of beautiful architecture, deep history, and romance.
With its winding canals, gondola rides, striking architecture, labyrinths of narrow streets, and gorgeous bridges, Venice is a floating city built over a lagoon. This makes it hard to beat when it comes to uniqueness.
The City of Canals, also dubbed “Serenissima” (very serene), is one of Italy’s most picturesque cities. Millions of tourists visit every year to live the gondola experience and to explore its highlights. These include Piazza San Marco with the world-famous St. mark’s Basilica and Palazzo Ducale.
With that said, if you like to go beyond the tourist hotspots to discover the hidden gems and secrets that all destinations have in store, be assured Venice has plenty of them on its menu.
Here is a list of incredible hidden gems in Venice that await if what you’re after is to explore the city off the beaten path or create an itinerary that includes the highlights as well as lesser-known spots!
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Coolest Hidden Gems in Venice
1. Libreria Acqua Alta
One of the most charming hidden gems in Venice is Libreria Acqua Alta (High Water Library). It’s an eclectic bookstore that is dreamy for book and gift hunters.
New and used books are stacked in barrels, gondolas, and canoes, in an enchanting sort of “disarray”. This concept was actually created in order to protect books from floods!
Acqua Alta offers a great opportunity for purchasing literary treasures, souvenirs, and gifts. But it’s also great for chatting with the friendly owner and playing with the cat who roams around.
Last but not least is the garden where you’ll find a marvelous staircase made from books. This bookshop is Instagrammable eye candy for sure. But it’s also a great place to get some unique decorating ideas and get away from the bustle and hustle of the city for a while.
2. Ponte de Chiodo
With around 445 bridges in Venice that were built for crossing the numerous canals, it is difficult to explore all of them in one go. However, one that deserves special attention is Ponte de Chido in the local Cannaregio neighborhood.
It is a tiny bridge over the San Felice River, almost hidden behind the busy Strada Nuova, street.
What makes Ponte de Chiodo special is the fact that it has no parapets or guard rails. Once upon a time, most bridges in Venice were built that way, except those that were used by royalty.
Over time, for safety reasons, rails were set up on all of them, except Ponte de Chiodo and another one on Torcello Island.
After visiting and snapping some pics, you can linger a while longer and enjoy the surrounding area, which is filled with colorful houses, bars, and vintage shops.
If you aim to explore a less tourist-ridden neighborhood in Venice, Cannaregio is the place to go.
Of the six neighborhoods or sestieres in Venice, Cannaregio is the place to go to find secret treasures.
This bustling area has several attractions that draw visitors and a lively nightlife scene. However, it has somehow managed to preserve its authentic working neighborhood ambiance and a more serene feeling compared to the crowded St. Mark’s Square or Piazza.
Here is where you’ll find the locals going about their business, dining, and wining.
During your time here, make sure to explore the Color Library. This is where more than 3,500 colors of Venetian-painted glass are preserved.
Some of this Venetian craftsmanship has been used in world-famous attractions such as the Sagrada Familia church in Barcelona and the striking Buddhas in Bangkok.
Afterward, head for some shopping at the busy Strada Nuova street. Or simply spend a few hours walking around its streets and alleys before hitting the restaurant and bars.
4. Isola di San Michele (St. Michael’s Island)
As mentioned before, Venice is made up of lots of islands, many of which are worth hopping on a Vaporetto (water bus) in order to explore.
Isola di San Michele is one of them, and it’s much lesser-visited than other islands around the city and perfect for those who love all things unusual.
San Michele is basically an island used as a cemetery where Venetians have been buried since the early 1800s. It is completely nonresidential, harboring only churches and lines of marble tombs.
It may not be a particularly “fun” place to visit, but the cimitero is absolutely gorgeous and a very peaceful place to escape the main island and get a break from the crowds.
5. San Giorgio Maggiore Belltower (Campanile)
Located on the San Giorgio Maggiore island, the church’s bell tower offers Venice’s best 360° views.
A glass-walled elevator will take you up to the top, where you will get splendid vistas of the Venetian main island, including Piazza San Marco and Doge’s Palace.
In truth, San Giorgio Maggiore and its church are not really a hidden gem in Venice because they can be sighted from St. Mark’s Square across the lagoon and are actually part of many postcards and photos.
However, very few people actually cross over to get the vistas from the other side. This is reason enough to include it in this list.
Aside from the fabulous views, the basilica is beautiful and worth looking at. It was designed by famed architect Andrea Palladio in the 16th century. The island itself served as inspiration for Monet’s San Giorgio at Dusk.
While you’re visiting the island, check out the Borges Labyrinth. It’s a maze that was built to honor Argentinian writer Jorge Luis Borges.
6. Despar Supermarket
It is not uncommon to visit supermarkets while traveling since we all need to grab a few goods no matter where we are. But have you ever visited a supermarket for sightseeing purposes?
Venice is home to one of the most beautiful grocery stores ever, and it is a hidden gem not to be missed!
Despar Supermarket is housed inside the former Teatro Italia, a gorgeous cinema that had fallen into disrepair and decay.
In 2016, the Despar chain took on the building’s renovation and turned it into a supermarket. They also restored the stunning frescoes on the high ceilings and preserved many architectural elements.
Whether you need to stock up on some groceries or just pop in to get a couple of things and catch a glimpse, this is probably the prettiest supermarket you’ll ever visit.
7. San Francesco della Vigna
Located in the Castello district of Venice, San Francesco Della Vigna is a Roman Catholic church that was built on the spot where a vineyard used to lie.
Designed by Tuscan architect Jacopo Sansovino, it features a 220 feet high bell tower. It’s one of the tallest in Venice. Plus there’s a wonderful facade by Palladio.
The front was added a few decades later to enhance the original construction, which was very simple in accordance with the monastic rule of its inhabitants.
Inside the impressive church, you’ll have the chance to admire Bellini’s Enthroned Madonna and Saints painted inside de Capella Santa (holy chapel). Two fabulous cloisters on the campo or field are an added bonus to this hidden gem in Venice.
8. Palazzo Contarini del Bovolo
One of the most interesting palaces in Venice, Palazzo Contarini del Bovolo is mostly famous for the external spiral staircase that wraps around the somewhat eclectic building.
The staircase and adjoining loggia were designed around the year 1499 by Giovanni Candi. It features a unique mix of Byzantine, Gothic, and Renaissance styles capped by a flamboyant staircase. This makes its unique architecture an interesting extension of the palace itself.
The remarkable Contarini Staircase or Scala offers great views of Venice as well as great photo ops. It was actually featured in Orson Welle’s Othello film (1952).
9. Dorsoduro Mask Shops
Venice is dubbed the City of Masks because of the world-famous papier mache masks that are traditionally worn during the carnival.
This tradition is still very much alive today. Most visitors are eager to take home one or more of these creations. If that is your case, your best bet is Dorsoduro, a working-class neighborhood where you’ll find plenty of mask shops.
Among the various mask stores, Ca’Macana is pretty famous for the high quality of their creations, so much so that they designed the masks for Stanley Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut.
Besides offering their unique hand-made wares, they host two-hour mask-making workshops in case you’re interested in learning how to create your own!
10. Palazzo Mocenigo Museum
Located in the Santa Croce area just south of the Grand Canal, Palazzo Mocenigo is a Gothic palace that exhibits a fine collection of historic textiles and fashions.
They also have an entire section dedicated to perfumes and Venice’s history as the perfume capital of the world during the Middle Ages.
Here, you’ll find mannequins displaying gorgeous dresses and outfits. some of which date back to the 17th century!
The building itself contains furnishings and decorations of a nobleman’s mansion from three centuries ago, so a visit here very much feels like taking a trip back in time.
Venice Hidden Gems Wrap Up
Have you ever explored Venice beyond the tourist surface? Which hidden gems did you discover? If you have any other recommendations, please feel free to share them in the comment section below!