By Jessica Russo
Yay! You're finally headed to Venice - the canal-filled fantasyland of cuisine and culture. Here are some fun free things to do so you can spend less on sightseeing and more on gelato.
1. Step Inside Saint Mark's Basilica (Basilica di San Marco)
This amazing must-see attraction was built in honor of Saint Mark the Evangelist and opened in 1092! Gawk at this structure's ornate Gothic-Byzantine architecture from the outside, and then step into the church's overwhelmingly beautiful interior. While admission is free, there is a small admission charge to enter the museum, if you're interested.
2. Walk Over the Rialto Bridge (Ponte di Rialto)
The oldest of the four bridges stretching over the Grand Canal, the Rialto Bridge has been rebuilt several times since it was first opened in the 12th-century. This bustling bridge is the perfect place to watch the sunset and watch gondolas float by.
3. People watch at Piazza San Marco
Piazza San Marco is the place to hang out. You'll probably even hear locals casually refer to it as "la piazza." Resting in the shadows of Basilica di San Marco, this beautiful square is the perfect spot to relax, slurp up some gelato, and immerse yourself in Venice's daily way of life.
4. Bridge of Sighs
How did the Bridge of Sighs get its sorrowful name? Designed and built in 1600, this beautiful, yet infamous bridge was used to lead prisoners from examining rooms to their cells in the Prigioni (prison). In fact, legend has it that prisoners who crossed the bridge may have been on their way to the execution chamber, and would sigh as they caught one last glimpse of beautiful Venice below. The Bridge of Sighs runs across the Rio di Palazzo and connects Doge's Palace to the Prigioni.
5. Santa Maria della Salute
Feast your eyes on this impressive Roman Catholic church adorned in the stunning styles of Baroque architecture. Santa Maria della Salute is across the Grand Canal from St. Mark's Square and is right near the Accademia art gallery.
6. Get lost in the canals
Okay, so we don't mean actually get lost, but definitely wander aimlessly. Venice's canals are a maze of surprises - cute cafes, colorful pottery shops, musical performers, and family-run restaurants. You never know what you might find around the bend!
7. Browse Rialto Market
A day at Rialto Market will make you feel like a native. Overflowing with local veggies, fresh fish, and handmade crafts, this shopping hub is beloved by tourists and locals alike. Taste some cheese, sample some olive oil, and maybe buy a souvenir, or two! Browsing around Rialto Market will give you a real taste of daily Venetian life.
8. Almost Free: Burano
This eye-popping island is like a colorful candyland of fishermen's homes and small restaurants. Of course, walking around and taking photos is free, but you will need to get there by boat, which means you'll need to buy boat tickets (however, they're only about 6-8 Euro). On the bright side, the boat ride is a spectacle in itself, as the teal water of the lagoon contrasts against the rainbow colors of Burano's mainland.