Venice has approximately 100 museums, monuments, and galleries to enjoy if you are a historian. Among the canals of the Venetian Lagoon connected by over 400 bridges, you can explore the 100+ islands alone or with a guide who will give you all the history you want to know about the city.
First inhabited by Venetians in the 10th century BC, this popular destination was the capital of the Republic of Venice until 1797. The city began as a seaport for trading and fishing but expanded into a vibrant metropolis of businesses, with many old historic buildings in between.
Between visiting museums and wandering the city, you can talk to locals about the history or head over to the library where you can find out more. Shop at the street markets where you may be able to find some old treasures. But first, drop off your bags at a luggage storage locker in Venice to make your way around the city hands-free.
Palaces, Castles, and Other Historic Structures
This Gothic-style Venetian Palace was built in 1340 and became a museum in 1923. Decorated with 14th-century sculptures, capitals, and pinnacles, the outside is a stunning sight to see. But when you get inside, that is when you will really be astounded. In the Chamber of the Great Council behind the Doge’s throne, you can see the longest oil canvas painting in the world, the Il Paradiso. But every way you look has paintings, even the ceiling!
Ca’ da Mosto
You can see many ruins all over Venice, dating back to the oldest structure from the Byzantine era of the 13th century. The castle Ca’ da Mosto was once owned by Alvise Cadamosto, an Italian explorer who was born in the castle in 1432. You can find this ancient structure on the Grand Canal between the Palazzo Bollani Erizzo and the Rio dei Santi Apostoli. It has recently gone through renovations to become a luxury hotel.
Also known as La Malcontenta is a Palladian-style villa built in the 1500s for Adrea Palladio and used for receptions such as the one with Henry III of France in 1574. Today, it is open to the public and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Surrounded by the lagoon and the River Brenta as well as thick greenery, you can enter over the lagoon on the ceremonial access ramps. Learn all about the history of the building and see the frescoes by Giambattista Zelotti and Battista Franco.
This castle is also known as Palazzo Santa Sofia and its name means golden house because of the polychrome and golden gilt adorning its façade. The Venetian Gothic architecture is stunning, with loggia windows and small columns of quatrefoil openings above. The roof is a byzantine style with fancy colored stones and an ogee arch. Built between 1428 and 1430, the history of the building holds is yours to explore.
The exquisite 18th century Ca’ Rezzonico has a white marble façade with amazing architecture. Arrive by gondola on the Grand Canal and take the passage to the inner courtyard fountain and up the grand stairway. The ballroom is full of history, including the Chariot of Apollo on the ceiling and a huge golden chandelier. The Salon of Pastels has a large collection of portraits from the Madonna orante by Rosalba Carriera to Cecilia Guardi Tiepolo by Lorenzo Tiepolo.
The Gallerie dell’Accademia
The Gallerie dell’Accademia is the most prestigious and important art gallery with an amazing collection of Venetian paintings by hundreds of famous artists like Mantegna, Titian, and Bellini. Founded in 1750, the gallery has a plethora of artistry to teach you the history of Italy with art instead of words. Giorgione’s Vecchia from 1506 was Michelangelo’s inspiration for the Sistine Chapel.
Palazzo Loredan Cini
Between the Gallerie dell’Accademia and the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, the Palazzo Loredan Cini is a Gothic palace with a magnificent historic art collection of Vittorio Cini. There are two floors of art with Tuscan paintings from the 13th to the 16th centuries, as well as artifacts like Gothic ivory pieces and enamel copper Renaissance objects. See paintings, glass works, bronzes, enamels, and sculptures done by many famous artists like Giunta Pisano, Lorenzo Monaco, and Pietro di Giovanni D'Ambrogio.
Peggy Guggenheim Collection
Located in the Palazzo Venier dei Leoni, one of the most important collections of European art is the Peggy Guggenheim Collection. See Pablo Picasso’s 1928 The Studio and the 1929 painting by Vasily Kandinsky called Upward. The Birth of Liquid Desires by Salvador Dali and Jackson Pollock’s 1947 Enchanted Forest are true works of art not to be missed. You can also see collections of studio glass, statuary, and sculptures.
Natural History Museum of Venice
The history in this museum dates back 700 million years with two million pieces from fossils to botanical collections and entomological to zoological finds. The library alone has over 40 thousand volumes. The ground floor hosts the Cetaceans Gallery of amazing items like whalebones, finbacks, and other cetacean artifacts as well as the Tegnue Aquarium with over 50 species of fish. You can find fossils, naturalist collections, and paleontology items on the second floor.
Marina Museum of Venice
Over 1,000 years of marine history lies in the Salone Nautico Venezia, or Marina Museum of Venice. See indoor and outdoor exhibitions and a huge edutainment area where you can learn the history of Italy’s marine works while you enjoy yourself. Being a group of 100+ islands on miles of canals and lagoons, boats are important to Venice. Learn about the first gondolas and yachts as well as the newest technology.
Italian Navy Marina Military Museum
For some more historic marine exhibits, check out the Italian Navy Marina Military Museum. Many of the attractions here date back to the two World Wars and you can see the first Venetian Arsenal. The museum was built by the Italian Royal Navy (Regia Marina) in 1919 and has a large number of weapons, ships, and other naval artefacts on display.
No matter where you go in Venice, make sure you take a gondola ride at least once. The experience is one that you can only get in this amazing city. Don’t miss out on the Italian and Venetian cuisine while you are in the city either. Pasta and wine are popular, but you should also try the Venetian shrimp, cicchetti, and baccala.