Virtual Venice: How to explore Venice from anywhere in the world

Virtual tours are a great way to experience a destination, either as research beforehand or because we ran out of time and couldn’t make a spot we wanted to see, or simply because travel has been largely frozen over the past nearly 2 years.

Whatever the reason, we are extremely fortunate that so much of the world is now available online for us to explore.

La Serenissima is a city perfect for virtual tours. There is so much to see, and often we have limited time with packed to-do lists, and if it is peak tourism season – forget it. Crowds can make it extremely difficult to be able to truly appreciate what we are seeing.

A truly unique and captivating city subject to the slow ravages of time and climate change, Venice is a must see in any form. So, whether you have been there, or it is still on your bucket list, here is list of virtual tours and experiences across Venice that you can do from anywhere in the world:

1 – Live Stream Venice with the Locals

Did you know Venice has its own YouTube channel? I Love You Venice currently has 21 live streams and dozens of videos taking you through all the different aspects of life in Venice.

From live guided tours through all the different areas, to witnessing the effects of the Aqua Alta through the city, Carnival and even cooking classes, there is something here to interest anyone wanting to learn more about this amazing city.

There is even rolling footage playing live from hotel CCTV cameras across Venice, with classical music (no filters or editing required) playing in the background. See La Serenissima during its peaceful lows to its busy peaks

Screenshot image of the I Love You Venice Youtube page

2 – Use Google Art & Culture to see the city in a whole new way

Google Arts & Culture is an incredible free resource that has partnered with museums, institutions and cities around the world to showcase their history, art and culture. There are online exhibitions from different museums, links to google street view so you can ‘walk’ through cities (and even some museums), virtual tours and more.

It can be hard to know where to start with the sheer amount of information available on Google Arts & Culture, so I recommend beginning in the dedicated Venice page.

Use Google Earth to get a truly birds eye view of the lagoon and its islands, and switch to 3D for more detail or alternate map styles to get different views.

When you are ready to get to street level head to Google Street View to ‘walk’ the canals of Venice. Watch the short video of the Google drone walking through Venice to map out the streets – normally it is done by car but since Venice is a strict no car zone, you can see the person carrying the camera as he explores the islands of Venice.

For an alternative street view, visit Photo360tours where you can also explore some of the streets and architecture of Venice using virtual reality.

Screenshot of Google Earth 3D view over Venice, Italy

3 – Take a virtual Gondola ride through the canals

Want to see what Venice looks like from the water? Tech company Geneeo have filmed a 20-minute virtual gondola ride through some of the main highlights of Venice.

Make yourself an Aperol spritz and enjoy the (virtual) ride. To get 360 degree views simply move your mouse or phone.

Screenshot of the VR Geneeo Gondola ride in Venice

4 – Explore Basilica San Marco online

St Mark’s Basilica is a stunning and incredibly ornate cathedral. It is usually one of the first buildings visitors to Venice see. Originally built as the Doge’s chapel in 828 and rebuilt in its current form around 1063, with expansions added to it over the years. It only became the Cathedral of Venice in 1807. Uniquely St Mark’s interior is painted using mosaics instead of frescoes which is possibly how the colours have retained their vibrancy, when so many others have faded over time.

To learn more about the history of the Basilica you can visit their dedicated website. Google Arts & Culture also have a page with vintage images and drawings.  For a virtual tour of the Basilica, watch Smart History’s video on Youtube.

Basilica San Marco (Image by Anne & Saturnino Miranda from Pixabay)

5 – Visit the Palazzo Ducale virtually

Also known as the Doge’s Palace, the Palazzo Ducale was historically the home of Venice’s Doge and set of the Venetian government. An iconic landmark filled with awe-inspiring works of art, this Gothic-Renaissance building is stunning even when seen through the lens of virtual reality.

Palazzo Ducale is one of several museums in Venice that have allowed Google Street View to take high resolution images of some of its impressive collection while you virtually ‘walk’ through the museum.

Some of the famous works include the San Cristoforo fresco by Titian; Old Oriental and young woman, Juno offers Venice the doge’s horn and The Apotheosis of Venice by Paolo Veronese; Neptune offers Venice the riches of the sea by Giambattista Tiepolo; and Paradise by Jacopo and Domenico Tintoretto (the largest canvas in the world).

Some alternative virtual tours of the Doge’s Palace include this 360 video tour, and this YouTube video by Rick Steves.

Outside the Palazzo Ducale, Venice, Italy
Palazzo Ducale (Doge Palace)

6 – Explore Ca’Rezzonico – the Museo del Settecento Veneziano

The Palazzo Rezzonico is a baroque and rococo styled 18th Century Venetian palace, which was built over two original (heavily decayed) houses. With a particular focus on 18th Century Venetian works, this museum is an interesting window to a period in Venetian history.

Like Palazzo Ducale, Ca’Rezzonico partnered with Google Arts & Culture to create a dedicated page, complete with a virtual tour that allows you to zoom into some of the incredible artwork. There are over 50 high resolution images available of some of the most high-profile works of art.

These include ceiling frescoes such as Nobility and Virtue that overthrow ignorance and The Triumph of Zephyr and Flora by Giambattista Tiepolo and landscapes of Venice by Canaletto.

You can visit the Google Arts & Culture page through this link, and while you are there make sure to spend a few minutes exploring the online exhibits – Canaletto’s Secret and A journey in 18th Century Venice.

Inside the Palazzo Rezzonico, Venice, Italy
Palazzo Rezzonico, Venice (Image: Marc Ryckaert, CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons)

7 – Ca’ Pesaro – International Gallery of Modern Art

The Ca’Pesaro is a baroque marble palazzo along the Grand Canal in the Santa Croce district. Unusually there are two museums housed within the building, one is the International Gallery of Modern Art, the other is the Museum of Oriental Art.

Founded by Prince Alberto Giovanelli in 1897 when he purchased six works of art at the second Biennale in Venice and donated them to the City Council of Venice. Several other noble families followed suit, and soon the City of Venice had the beginnings of its own modern art museum.

Ca’Pesaro like other Civic Museums of Venice, has partnered with Google Arts & Culture to create a dedicated page, complete with a virtual tour that allows you to zoom into some of the incredible artwork. There are over 50 high resolution images available of some of the most high-profile works of art.

These include: The Rabbi of Vitebsk by Marc Chagall; Judith II by Gustav Klimt; Sewing the Canvas by Joaquin Sorolla y Bastida; The Thinker by Auguste Rodin; Madame X by Medardo Rosso; Le Signorine by Felice Casorati and Zig Zag by Wassily Kandinsky.

Ca'Pesaro Museum of Modern Art, Venice, Italy
The Ca'Pesaro Museum of Modern Art (Image by Adriano, CC BY-SA 3.0 , via Wikimedia Commons)

8 – Palazzo Fortuny – an exhibition and museum space

Palazzo Fortuny is a 15th century gothic palazzo found in the San Marco district of Venice. Unlike most of museums and large palazzos, large sections of Palazzo Fortuny have not yet been fully restored. At the wishes of its last owner, the Palazzo is used for special exhibitions focussing on fabrics, photography, light and paintings.

Luckily several of the past exhibitions are available online through Google Arts & Culture, and you can also learn about Fortuny and his unique fabric printing workshop. There is also a small virtual tour some of the restored sections of the Palazzo.

Inside the Palazzo Fortuny, Venice, Italy
Inside the Palazzo Fortuny, Venice, Italy (Image by Kotomi_ Flickr)

9 – Palazzo Mocenigo – home of Museo di Palazzo Mocenigo

Dedicated to fabrics and costumes, the Palazzo Mocenigo is a hidden gem that would normally be easy to miss. The Palazzo is near the Church of San Stae in Santa Croce and was rebuilt during the 17th century in Gothic style.

The Mocenigo family were once an incredibly powerful Venetian family, with seven of their ancestors elected as Doge. Sadly, the last remaining descendent passed away in 1945, and bequeathed the building to the City of Venice to be used as a gallery.

Today it is the home of the Museum and Study centre for the History of Fabrics and Garments. For anyone who loves costume and design, this is a great way to explore the historic outfits that Venetians once wore. The detail in the designs and fabrics are stunning. The Palazzo also has frescoes throughout by Giambattista Canal, Giovanni Scajaro and Jacopo Guarana.

You can explore the collections on Palazzo Mocenigo’s dedicated Google page or visit their website.

Inside one of the rooms of Palazzo Mocenigo, Venice
Palazzo Mocenigo, Venice

Try these Virtual Venetian Classes

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How to Explore Venice with Virtual Tours

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