Venice is infamous for its crowds, which make getting the perfect shot difficult. So rise up and enjoy views of the city unencumbered by large tour groups and influencers taking selfies. Or wander to some lesser known areas popular with locals for their atmosphere and views.
Fondaco dei Tedeschi
Founded in the 13th century and rebuilt at the beginning of the 16th century, this Renaissance building was the marketplace, warehouse, and home to Venice’s German merchants, who weren’t allowed to live freely in the city. By the 20th century, Venice’s restrictions had long been relaxed, and the building became the city’s postal headquarters.
Several years ago, the building began yet another new life, as a luxury shopping mall. Fortunately, the exterior and courtyard were preserved. The building’s best attraction is the free rooftop terrace. There can be a line, since space is limited, but this is the city’s only free rooftop open to the public, and its 360 degree views are well worth the wait, especially around sunset.
St. Mark’s Campanile
Venice’s highest point, and one of its most recognizable symbols, Saint Mark’s Campanile, the bell tower for St. Mark’s Basilica, is an obvious place for a view. The view is easily the city’s best, with many of its major landmarks close by. Naturally, the line to enter is always very long, due to its popularity and the small size of its observation deck, so be sure to buy entrance tickets online.
The tower looks as it has since 1514, despite being completely rebuilt following a collapse in 1902 (fortunately only the caretaker’s cat was hurt). The rebuilt tower was officially opened in 1912, exactly 1,000 years after its foundations were supposedly laid. Many towers have been based on this simply yet recognizable design, from the bell towers overlooking Piran and Rovinj, to the Met Life Tower in New York City, Seattle’s King Street Station, and the town hall of Kiel in Germany.
Skyline Rooftop Bar
For a view with drinks, head down to the Hilton Molino Stucky Hotel, and up to its roof. The Skyline Rooftop Bar delivers the type of modern, international spectacle you’d expect from a five-star hotel, especially thanks to its pool. Located on Giudecca Island, southwest of St. Mark’s, you’ll need to take a boat across the water, but the views will reward you, especially at sunset.
Located on Venice’s main body, directly across the Giudecca Canal from the Skyline Rooftop Bar, this residential area isn’t so famous among visitors, but is a great place for a walk. Pick up a gelato from one of the many bars and cafes along the waterfront, then stroll along (especially at dusk). You can head here by crossing the Grand Canal via the Ponte dell’Accademia, then walk east along the Zattere until you reach the Punta della Dogana.
Along the way, you can stop at the Academy of Fine Arts, housed in the former Hospital of the Incurables. Initially built for those whose illnesses could not be cured (especially the syphilitic), many of the female patients were trained in music, and achieved international fame. This being Venice, the hospital was full of fine art, although much was sold as the institution transformed over time into an orphanage, civil hospital, and Napoleonic barracks. If you look carefully along the Zattere, you can find a plaque devoted to Joseph Brodsky, whose book “Watermark” was initially named after the Zattere. Even though he died in New York City, you can visit his grave at the Isola di San Michele, alongside other great artists.
Not all of the city’s best views require a climb. One of only four bridges across the Grand Canal, Venice’s largest bridges, the Academic Bridge affords visitors one of the city’s most famous views, of San Marco. This bridge is named for the Academy of Fine Arts mentioned above. In the 15th century, a governor’s proposal to build a bridge at this site was laughed at and not put to a vote, but as technology improved, a bridge was finally built in the 19th century.
Punta della Dogana
Located at the triangular corner of the Grand Canal, Giudecca Canal, and St. Mark’s Canal, this “Edge of the Customs” was once one of the city’s customs stations. Now its sizable chambers host art. There are excellent views here of St. Mark’s, the Doge’s Palace, and San Giorgio Island, especially from the very tip, which is illuminated by a single lamppost.
Venice can be overwhelming, so we recommend finding a good view, to get oriented, and figure out where to go next. While the city’s most popular viewpoints attract crowds for a reason, our local staff will be happy to help you find less trafficked areas that are no less memorable, and a good deal cheaper and less crowded.