The Best Museums in Venice

Venice has inspired artists—and countless visitors—with its canals, palaces, and the lavish lifestyle from its heyday as La Serenissima, an influential maritime republic at a crossroads of cultures. Learn more about the Venetian good life by exploring these museums celebrating its history, craftsmanship, and even modern art.

Piazza San Marco, 1, 30124 Venezia VE, Italy
This pink-marble waterfront edifice in Piazza San Marco dates back to the 14th century, when it was the residence and seat of government for the doges (rulers) of Venice. Today the ornate Byzantine- and Moorish-influenced Gothic Palazzo Ducale is a symbol of the city, and serves as a museum hosting some of Venice’s most important art, including the famous Bacchus, Venus, and Ariadne masterpiece by Tintoretto. It also runs the popular Secret Itinerary and Doge’s Palace Hidden Treasures tours. After you’re done, treat yourself to a glass of wine in the small on-site bistro, with windows looking onto the Grand Canal adjacent to the Bridge of Sighs.
Dorsoduro, 701-704, 30123 Venezia VE, Italy
There’s plenty of art in Venice, from the churches to the Scuoli to the Accademia. But when you just can’t look at another Caravaggio, and even Titian hair doesn’t move you any more, refresh yourself with a visit to Peggy’s house. The renowned American heiress lived here for 30 years and houses a beautiful selection of her famous modern art collection. It’s a real jewel, small enough to feel manageable, significant enough to cover almost all of the modern art movements and include important pieces from Jackson Pollock and Mondrian to Picasso, Dalí and Kandinsky. The petite sculpture garden (above) has the kind of works that will make you smile, and there are also temporary exhibitions. I was there during a special Futurism collection and a young intern, seeing me with my 13-year-old friend Niambh, offered us a special one-on-one guide to the paintings. A joy.
1050 Campo della Carità, 30123 Venezia VE, Italy
The Gallerie dell’Accademia is the place to see Venice through the eyes of centuries of famous Venetians. The museum has a huge collection of paintings from the Byzantine and Gothic eras through the Renaissance and into the 18th century (including many of Canaletto’s paintings that helped draw travelers here from around the world). Before you visit, watch the Katharine Hepburn film Summertime, which has some great scenes filmed in the museum in the 1950s.
Piazza San Marco, 52, 30124 Venezia VE, Italy
Few people know about the Museo Correr and yet it is in plain sight within San Marco square. For those looking for quality time within a museum dedicated to the history of Venice - from ships flags, to visiting Popes, books, maps and old coins (to name a few) - this is the place to get away from the crowds. Of course the Venetian greats can be found decorating the walls from Canova to Giorgione and Titian. The Museo also offers an ideal view of the square as you roam the halls that were altered to become the Napoleonic Palace in 1807. Previous to this the windows offered views into the square perfect for viewing the Carnivale festivities, corporeal punishment such as beheadings and quarterings or those who strolled the Venetian “stage” as it is often referred to since it was a place to see and be seen.
Dorsoduro, 2, 30123 Venezia VE, Italy
Controlled by the François Pinault Foundation, the same trust in charge of Christie’s auction house, this is a museum-worthy gallery in the heart of Venice. Set inside a 17th-century customs house, it showcases Pinault’s impressive private collection, comprised of some 2,500 pieces of modern art. The location, at the point of land where the Grand Canal meets the Giudecca Canal, is equally spectacular. After you’ve finished browsing the art collection, grab a pastry or a small bite at the in-house Dogana Cafe.
1191 Calle Orto
The Museo Ebraico di Venezia is located between two historic synagogues in the city’s Jewish ghetto. In fact, the very word ghetto has its origins here in Venice, where Jews played an important, but segregated, part. The small museum has a comprehensive collection of artifacts, textiles, and sacred objects, and can arrange guided tours of the two adjacent synagogues. Travelers might want to pick up Erica Jong’s novel of the ghetto during Shakespeare’s time, Shylock’s Daughter, for an evocative portrayal of the area.
30122 Venice, Metropolitan City of Venice, Italy
Dating back to 1104, this impressive complex is where thousands of workers constructed the fleets so critical to Venice’s power—capable of completing a ship in a day. Nowadays, the spaces are exhibition sites for the art and architecture Biennales and host occasional concerts and other events; they aren’t open to the public on a daily basis.
More from AFAR
Sign up for our newsletter
Join more than a million of the world’s best travelers. Subscribe to the Daily Wander newsletter.
AFAR Journeys
Journeys: Europe
Journeys: Europe
Journeys: Europe
Journeys: Europe
Journeys: United States
Journeys: Sports + Adventure