Venice’s Hidden Gem: 13 Unique Things to Do in Cannaregio

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Welcome to Cannaregio, my favorite of the six sestieri or neighborhoods of Venice. I live near Venice and get to go there very often. When I do, I end up spending most of my time in the Cannaregio district.

This charming district, brimming with history and culture just steps from the Santa Lucia train station, is a must-visit for anyone seeking to experience the real Venice. Away from the bustling crowds of San Marco, Cannaregio offers a tranquil retreat where you can immerse yourself in the local lifestyle.

This doesn’t mean that there aren’t a lot of things to do in Cannaregio. On the contrary, you can fill a couple of days just in this neighborhood without stepping foot outside of it. 

From the picturesque canals to the narrowest street in Venice, Cannaregio is a treasure trove of unique attractions. 

In this guide, I will give you a breakdown of all the things to do in Cannaregio. 

The 13 Best Things to Do in Cannaregio Venice

1 – Visit the First Jewish Ghetto in the World

signs for jewish ghetto venice

The Jewish Ghetto in Venice, located near Santa Lucia and just beyond the Ponte delle Guglie, is a place of rich history and cultural significance one of the most popular things to do in Cannaregio. The term ‘ghetto’ itself originates from this very place, derived from the Venetian word ‘geto’, which referred to an ancient foundry in the area. 

When the Republic of the Serenissima decreed in 1516 that all Jews should reside here, the term ‘geto’ was transformed into ‘ghetto’, a term now used worldwide.

holocaust memorial jewish ghetto

The Venetian Ghetto is the oldest in Europe and is unique in its architecture. Due to space constraints, the buildings were built vertically, resulting in unusually tall structures for the time. Today, you can still see the remnants of the sturdy gates that once guarded the two entrances to the Jewish quarter, which were closed and guarded at night.

The Jewish Ghetto in Venice was home to five different Jewish communities, and today you can visit the five synagogues that remain a daily part of Jewish life. There are still 500 Jewish people that call the Ghetto home and regularly use the synagogues there.

These synagogues, which are considered among the most interesting and unique in Europe, can be visited through guided tours offered by the Jewish Museum of Venice. 

jewish pastries cannaregio

From the outside, the synagogues are inconspicuous, blending into the surrounding buildings narrow streets. However, their interiors are richly decorated, reflecting the vibrant culture and traditions of the Jewish community still living here.

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2 – Visit the Beautiful Churches

Admiring the Madonna dell’Orto Church

madonna del orto cannaregio

The Madonna dell’Orto Church, located in the Cannaregio district, is one of the most beautiful examples of Venetian Gothic architecture. 

This church, often overlooked by many tourists, is a hidden gem that houses some of the most beautiful artworks in Venice. It’s also known as “Tintoretto’s Church” as it contains many of the artist’s masterpieces, is where he is buried, and is conveniently located near Tintoretto’s House. 

madonna del orto interior

The church’s name, which translates to “Madonna of the Garden,” comes from a miraculous statue of the Virgin Mary that was found in a nearby garden. The church’s interior is as impressive as its exterior, with its high ceilings, beautiful altar, and stunning artwork. It’s a must-visit for art and architecture lovers and one of the things to do in Cannaregio that I love to recommend.

There is an entry fee for the church as it is part of the Chorus Churches. Get a pass to enter all of the Chorus Churches and save a few euros.

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Exploring the Santa Maria dei Miracoli Church

The Santa Maria dei Miracoli Church, often referred to as the “marble church,” is another architectural marvel in Cannaregio. This church is renowned for its beautiful facade made entirely of marble, a rarity in Venice. 

 Santa Maria dei Miracoli Church

The church was built in the late 15th century to house a miraculous image of the Virgin Mary, which is still venerated today. The church’s interior is equally impressive, with its coffered wooden ceiling and walls lined with polychrome marble.

The Santa Maria dei Miracoli Church is a must-visit for its unique architecture and as one of the most beautiful churches in Venice.

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Visiting the Church of Santa Maria di Nazareth

The Church of Santa Maria di Nazareth, also known as the Church of the Scalzi, is a significant monument in the Cannaregio district of Venice. Located near the Santa Lucia Railway Station and the Ponte degli Scalzi, this church is a masterpiece of late Venetian Baroque architecture.

Church of Santa Maria di Nazareth

The church’s interior is a marvel of art and architecture. The high altar, designed by Fra Giuseppe Pozzo, is a colossal canopy supported by twisted columns, reminiscent of Bernini’s work in the church of San Pietro. 

The altar houses the tabernacle of the canteen from the island of Santa Maria di Nazareth, to which the church is named. Twelve statues of sibyls, created by various artists, surround this structure.

The church also houses numerous chapels, each containing treasures and testimonies of the history of Venice’s most important families of the time. These include the Giovanelli Chapel, the Ruzzini Chapel, the Snail Chapel, the Venier Chapel, and the Manini Chapel, where the remains of the last doge of the Serenissima Ludovico Manin, who died in 1802, are kept.

4 – Discover the Unique Bridges of Cannaregio

tre archi bridge

Cannaregio is home to some of the city’s most unique and interesting bridges that make ideal pictures. Although the Ponte di Rialto or Rialto Bridge gets all the love from tourists, these ones are worth checking out for their quirks. Here are a few that are worth exploring:

Ponte delle Guglie: This is the only bridge in Venice with spires (guglie in Italian). It’s a beautiful stone bridge that crosses the Cannaregio Canal and is a perfect spot for picturesque canal views.

ponte chiodo

Ponte del Chiodo: Located along Fondamenta San Felice, this bridge is quite unusual as it lacks a parapet. It’s the only surviving example of a bridge without balustrades in Venice (Aside from the Ponte del Diavolo on the island of Torcello), leading a little canal to the doors of some houses. It’s a private bridge that belonged to the Chiodo family.

3 arches bridge cannaregio

Ponte dei Tre Archi: This bridge, on the Cannaregio canal, is the only example of a bridge with three arches in the city. It features two small lateral arches and a large central one. Originally made of wood, it was built of stone in 1503 and took its current form in 1688. It’s a unique destination to include in your Venetian itinerary.

5 – Walking through Campo dei Mori

campo dei mori cannaregio

Campo dei Mori is a place steeped in history and local lore and serves as a reminder to the importance of the trade routes to the East. The name of the square, which translates to “Field of the Moors,” comes from the presence of four 14th-century statues made of Istrian stone, embedded in the walls of the houses surrounding the square including on Tintoretto’s house.

campo dei mori cannaregio

These statues of Turkish merchants are said to represent three brothers and their servant or porter, who came from Morea, leading the Venetians to call them “Moors.”

You’ll also notice an interesting figure on the corner of one wall with an iron nose. This is Signor Antonio Rioba, a satirist of the 14th century. Legend tells that you should rub the nose as you pass by for good luck, although it’s hard to reach.

iron nose campo dei mori cannaregio

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6 – Walking through Calle Varisco: The Narrowest Street in Venice

Tucked away in the Cannaregio district of Venice, you’ll find Calle Varisco, the city’s narrowest street. Named after the once world famous Venetian painter Francesco Varisco, this tiny passageway is a unique feature of Venice’s labyrinthine layout.

Despite its narrowness, Calle Varisco is a popular tourist attraction and has become one of the most popular things to do in Cannaregio. Visitors often enjoy the challenge of navigating through this slender street, which adds a sense of adventure to their exploration of the city. The street is so narrow that you can touch both sides of it at the same time!

The legend says that if impure souls attempt to walk through, the walls will close in on them and crush them to death!

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7 – Exploring the Ca’ Doro Palace

ca d'oro museum

The Ca’ D’oro Palace, also known as Palazzo Santa Sofia, is a stunning example of Venetian Gothic architecture. Located on the Grand Canal in the Cannaregio district, this palace is one of the oldest and most spectacular in Venice. Its name, which translates to “Golden House,” is a testament to its breathtaking facade adorned with remarkable external decorations.

Built in the 15th century by Giovanni and Bartolomeo Bon, the palace was later bought by Baron Giorgio Franchetti in 1894. Franchetti significantly enriched the artistic collections of the palace and later donated it to the Italian state in 1916.

Today, the Ca’ Doro Palace houses the Galleria Giorgio Franchetti, a museum that showcases a diverse collection of artworks, including pieces from the Baron’s personal collection. As you explore the Ca’ D’Oro, you’ll be captivated by its intricate design, rich history, and the stunning views it offers of the Grand Canal.

8 – Visiting the Colour Library

The Colour Library, located within the historic Orsoni Venezia 1888 furnace, is a treasure trove of color, boasting around 5000 colored glass plates cataloged in more than 3500 shades. This unique place is a hotspot for mosaicists, designers, and artists from around the world and even inspired Anton Gaudì for his work on the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona.

Visiting the library is one of the most nontouristy things to do in Venice that you won’t find in any Venice itinerary. The Colour Library is more than just a collection of colored glass plates. It’s a living testament to the rich history of Venetian smalti and gold mosaics production. 

The Orsoni furnace, the only one allowed to operate in the city, has been producing these beautiful mosaics for more than a century. As you explore the library, you’ll also get to see the antique rotating cylinder press invented by Angelo Orsoni and the precious golden casket, a luxury bathroom completely decorated with golden tiles.

Visiting the Colour Library is a unique experience that you won’t want to miss. However, due to its popularity and the fact that it is only open to the public two days per month, it is sold out for the rest of 2023. You’ll need to book now if you plan to visit in 2024.

9 – Shopping at Despar Teatro Italia for Picnic Ingredients

In the heart of Cannaregio, Venice, you’ll find Despar Teatro Italia, a supermarket that’s as much a feast for the eyes as it is for the palate. Housed in the former Cinema Teatro Italia, a neo-Gothic and Art Nouveau jewel of the early 20th century, Despar Teatro Italia is often referred to as ‘the most beautiful supermarket in Italy’.

So, if you’re in Cannaregio and planning a picnic, make sure to stop by Despar Teatro Italia. Not only will you find all the ingredients you need, but you’ll also get to experience shopping in a truly unique setting. Right next door, you’ll find the Gelateria di Natura which is one of the best gelato shops in Venice.

Just remember when you are planning a picnic to find a suitable place. You aren’t allowed to sit on the steps of bridges to eat and should try to avoid sitting in some piazzas. There are a couple of parks in Cannaregio here and here where you can eat your picnic in the shade on a sunny day. 

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10 – Shopping on Strada Nuova

Strada Nuova, one of the main arteries of Venice, is a shopper’s paradise located in the Cannaregio district. This street, dedicated to the King of Italy Vittorio Emanuele II, was inaugurated in 1871 and later renamed “Strada Nuova” by the Venetian people. 

With its 400 m length and 10 m width, it is the longest street in Venice and represents a clear exception in the city’s typically chaotic and overcrowded urban landscape.

As you stroll along this “boulevard,” you’ll find an uninterrupted line of shops, restaurants, and osterie (traditional Italian restaurants) on both sides. Whether you’re souvenir shopping or looking for fashionable clothing, you’re sure to find it on Strada Nuova. The street is always bustling with passers-by, adding to the vibrant atmosphere.

11 – Take a Gondola Ride

gondola ride cannaregio

While the Grand Canal is undeniably beautiful, there’s something to be said for the quieter, less crowded canals of Cannaregio. Here, you can enjoy a gondola ride that offers a more serene and intimate experience. 

As you glide through the water, you’ll get a glimpse of the real Venice, away from the hustle and bustle of the tourist hotspots. You’ll pass by beautiful old buildings, under charming bridges, and might even catch a glimpse of local Venetians going about their day.

If you’re looking for something a bit more adventurous and less touristy, consider taking a kayak tour of Cannaregio’s canals. Kayaking gives you the freedom to explore the canals at your own pace, and it’s a great way to get some exercise while sightseeing. 

Plus, it offers a unique perspective that you just can’t get from the sidewalks or bridges. Whether you’re an experienced kayaker or a beginner, there are tours available to suit all skill levels.

12 – Taking a Rowing Class

If you’re looking for a unique and authentic Venetian experience during your visit to Cannaregio, consider taking a rowing class. When you take a rowing class you can learn the traditional Venetian rowing technique, a skill that is completely unique to Venice. 

The classes take place the entire day along the picturesque Venetian canals and are conducted by local expert rowers.

During the class, you’ll have the opportunity to row a traditional wooden Venetian boat, known as a Batella. This experience allows you to enjoy a quieter side of Venice, giving you space to row freely and soak in the city’s beauty from a unique perspective. 

The rowing experts will share secret tips of this rowing technique, making it a fun and educational experience. Get more info and book your class here.

13 – Games of Chance at the Casinò of Venice

The Casinò of Venice, located in the historic Ca’ Vendramin Calergi, is a sophisticated venue for classic games. Established in 1638, it quickly became a center of international entertainment and moved to its current location in the 1950s. The casino is open from 11:00 AM to 2:45 AM, offering visitors a chance to partake in a variety of games.

The casino is not just for gamblers, but also for classical music lovers. The building is where the renowned opera composer, Richard Wagner, died in 1883. There are plaques commemorating this on both the canal and street side of the building, and a small museum dedicated to Wagner memorabilia. However, a visit to the museum needs to be arranged before arriving.

Visitors have mixed reviews about the casino. Some enjoyed the experience, appreciating the professional staff and the old-world charm of the venue. Others found the casino lacking in atmosphere and criticized the staff’s attitude. Despite the mixed reviews, I think it’s worth a visit for the historical significance and the unique experience it offers.

NB: The casino has a dress code and requires an entrance fee. 

Where to Eat in Cannaregio

If you are looking to eat like the locals eat, then Cannaregio is your best bet. Since it is still a residential area, it has the best restaurants in Venice to try to local cuisine and typical Venetian dishes

There are many restaurants that offer authentic cuisine but here are some of my favorite places to eat when I go to Venice.

Gam Gam

gam gam jewish restaurant

Located in the Jewish Ghetto of Venice, Gam Gam is a kosher restaurant that offers a unique blend of Italian and Middle Eastern cuisine. 


Gam Gam is a small, nicely decorated restaurant located on the banks of a canal. The atmosphere is cozy and welcoming, making it a great place for small groups. It’s recommended to make a reservation due to its popularity. (Also, keep in mind that they close early on Friday to observe the Shabbat and are closed on Saturday)


The prices at Gam Gam are very reasonable, especially given the quality of the food. It’s also noted as one of the few places in Venice that doesn’t have inflated prices, making it a great value for money.


The restaurant offers a wide range of dishes, with the Gam Gam appetizers, which include 9 different antipastos and falafel, being a popular choice. Other standout dishes include the spaghetti salmon pasta, and the baked branzino (sea bass). If you are there on a Thursday and cholent (Braised beef with vegetables, potatoes, and beans) is on the menu then this is a must try. The restaurant also offers vegan options.

Ai Promessi Sposi

Ai Promessi Sposi is a charming restaurant that offers a cozy and classy dining experience. The restaurant is highly recommended for its excellent service and knowledgeable staff who are great at food and wine pairings.


The food at Ai Promessi Sposi is some of the best in Venice in my opinion. The Bigoli with smoked pork and mixed veggies is a standout dish, as is the orecchiette with scallops and prawns. Grilled sea bass and pan fried monkfish are also standouts.


However, it’s not just the food that makes Ai Promessi Sposi a great place to dine. The ambiance of the restaurant is warm and inviting, making it a perfect spot for couples. The restaurant can get busy, so making a reservation is advised.


Seafood can be expensive so expect higher prices, but compared to its peers, the prices are very good. 

Al Timon

Al Timon is a popular steakhouse and wine bar located right by a canal. It’s known for its lively atmosphere and canal-side seating complete with two boats for seating (First come first serve so get there early for a spot on deck), making it a great spot for a fun and memorable dining experience.


The restaurant is particularly famous for its Florentine steak, which is a rare find in Venice, a city known for its seafood. The steak is cooked to perfection and is tender and well-seasoned. The restaurant also offers a variety of other dishes, including gnocchi with Gorgonzola and beet sauce, which is rich, creamy, and amazing in both presentation and taste.


The restaurant’s ambiance is among the best in Cannaregio. It has a fun vibe with great music and a bustling atmosphere. The outdoor seating area is particularly popular as it sits right along a picturesque canal, offering a quintessential Venetian dining experience.


You can end up spending a lot of money at Al Timon especially if you get the steak. However, you don’t need to spend a lot by getting some of the cicchetti, or Venetian tapas. It’s recommended to make a reservation to ensure a table.

Dalla Marisa

Dalla Marisa is a family-run restaurant located a few steps from the Ponte dei Tre Archi. This hidden gem is one of my favorite restaurants in Venice and is mainly frequented by locals. The menu changes daily and is based on what the owner, Anna Bianchi, decides to prepare with fresh ingredients.


The restaurant is known for its home-style cooking and variety of traditional Venetian dishes, most of which contain seafood. It’s, in fact, very heavy on the seafood in many forms such as fried and even a seafood lasagna. However, since the family comes from a long line of butchers, there are some meat dishes present on the menu as well. 


Dalla Marisa has a warm and welcoming atmosphere but be warned that service can be a bit slow. There are some tables outside right on the canal but these go quickly so make sure to make a reservation to sit outside. 


You simply cannot eat more seafood at a lower price in Venice. There is a fixed price seafood menu at 40 euro that is so big that you’ll wonder if you could possibly finish everything. 

Il Paradiso Perduto

Tucked away in the Fondamenta della Misericordia, Il Paradiso Perduto is a treasure that offers a vibrant and immersive dining experience. This is a place where you can enjoy lunch, dinner, a drink, or even a live concert or poetry reading.


Il Paradiso Perduto is renowned for its traditional Venetian cuisine. The menu features unforgettable dishes like “bigoli in nero”, a type of pasta served with a rich squid ink sauce, and a variety of seafood dishes that capture the essence of Venice’s culinary heritage. The restaurant’s winning formula of “oysters, prosecco, and live music” has made it a favorite among locals and tourists alike.


The restaurant’s atmosphere is as enticing as its food. It regularly hosts live jazz concerts, DJ sets, and even performances of Jewish music, creating a lively and dynamic ambiance. Over the years, the restaurant’s stage has been graced by notable artists such as Chet Baker, Keith Richards, Bill Frisell, Massimo Urbani, and Archie Shepp.


Of all the restaurants on my list, this one could be the most expensive. However, considering that you can end up with a show with dinner it is worth it. 

Torrefazione Cannaregio

torrefazione cannaregio outside

In the heart of Venice’s Cannaregio district, you’ll find a unique coffee shop that’s steeped in history and tradition – Torrefazione Cannaregio. This coffee haven has been a part of the neighborhood since 1930 and is much more than your average café.


The rustic interior, with its exposed brick walls, wooden beams, and jute coffee sacks, creates a warm and inviting ambiance. The aroma of freshly brewed coffee is the first thing that hits you as you enter. 


The shop offers a variety of house blends, each with its unique flavor profile. The Remer, a blend of eight different types of coffee, is the shop’s signature offering, boasting nutty fruit flavors. Other blends include the Ghetto, a tribute to the nearby Jewish Ghetto, and the Bricola, a robust blend with a creamy body.

torrefazione cannaregio coffee beans

For those who prefer single-origin coffee, the shop offers a selection of beans from Ethiopia, Colombia, and India, among others. They also feature a rotating “Specialty” coffee, an exceptional brew that changes regularly. Each coffee is served with a small card detailing its name and characteristics, adding a personal touch to the experience.

But Torrefazione Cannaregio isn’t just about coffee. They also offer a selection of classic pastries and cakes, both vegan and non-vegan, made with locally sourced ingredients. From brioches filled with pistachio or jam to the traditional torta della nonna, there’s something to satisfy every sweet tooth.


Not only is this going to be some of the freshest coffee in Venice, it is also the cheapest cup of espresso on the island at 90 cents euro. 

Wrapping it Up

From exploring the narrowest street in Venice, Calle Varisco, to admiring the stunning architecture of the Madonna dell’Orto Church, there’s no shortage of sights to see and hidden gems to enjoy.

Whether you’re a history buff, a foodie, or simply a curious traveler, Cannaregio has something to offer.

It’s a place where tradition meets modernity, where every corner holds a story, and where every visit promises a new discovery. So why wait? Start planning your visit to Cannaregio today and experience the real Venice.

Sal Presti

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