best museums in Venice

With its distinctive architecture, unique history and culture, and world-famous waterways, Venice has always been a tourist hotspot.

But while you’re roaming down the cobbled streets and taking in the beautiful buildings, be sure to take some time to stop by some of the city’s museums.

The city is an art lover’s dream, with many institutions devoted to showcasing works from various eras and styles.

But if you enjoy history, science, or learning about different cultures, there will be more than enough places in town to catch your eye.

More often than not, the buildings that house the museums are wonders unto themselves, with beautiful architectural details and rich, centuries-old histories that tie into the larger story of the city.

Although there is no shortage of options to explore, these are some of the best museums in Venice for the historian, the art fan, and everyone in between.

1 – Peggy Guggenheim Collection

Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice

The name “Guggenheim” is synonymous with upscale art museums, and the collection in Venice is no exception.

The Guggenheim family’s tremendous collection of art is displayed all over the world, but the Peggy Guggenheim Collection has a somewhat unique claim to fame: it is housed within the former residence of its donor.

Sitting directly next to the Grand Canal, the sprawling white mansion is quite eye-catching in and of itself.

And that’s before you even step inside the doors, where over 300 varied and beautiful pieces from various mediums await you.

The specialty here is modern art, with pioneering works by such renowned figures as Dali, Duchamp, Picasso, and Pollock on display.

There are also regularly rotating exhibitions that showcase different pieces and explore some of the most compelling artistic movements of recent times.

Outside, the Nasher Sculpture Garden features a variety of works by renowned artists. Make your way through this peaceful space and enjoy the intricate works displayed there for a perfect ending to your visit.

At this beautiful museum, you can see the ways in which different movements – such as Cubism, Surrealism, and European Abstractionism – reflected and rejected each other.

It also offers a wonderful, comprehensive view of Western art as it grew and changed during the 20th century.

Because of the massive size of the collection, there are several tours available for visitors.

You can take a private, guided excursion through the space, accompanied by a local art historian. They’ll be able to help you see beyond the surface of these iconic pieces to better understand the creative process behind them.

Read more: 100 Best museums in the World

2 – Museo di Storia Naturale di Venezia

Museo di Storia Naturale di Venezia

Any day where you can see a dinosaur is a good day.

And at the Museo di Storia Naturale di Venezia, you can see them – or, at least, their fossilized remains – in droves, along with taxidermied animals, artifacts from around the world, and numerous stories about the history and practice of science.

The building that the museum is housed in has a unique history all its own. The Fontego dei Turchi was originally built as a home for Venetian nobility in the 13th century, and it was used for centuries as a trading post and merchant housing before becoming a natural history museum in 1923.

Today, there are over 2 million specimens housed in the facility, including plants, animals, fossils, and collections from various cultures.

Many of the creatures showcased here once roamed the area that is now the Venetian Gulf. As you browse the collections, you can learn more about how these various species influenced the area long before it was populated by humans.

Stop by the “On The Tracks Of Life” exhibit to see more fossils up close, ranging from simple stromatolites (some of the earliest creatures on Earth) to the aforementioned dinosaurs.

As you move through hundreds of millions of years of history, you can see just how life on this planet evolved in all its complexity.

And don’t miss the Cetaceans gallery, which houses the massive skeleton of a finback whale that washed ashore in Naples in 1928.

It’s a wonderful example of the biodiversity that can be found in the nearby Mediterranean Sea.

Another part of what makes this museum so special is its mixture of traditional and modern curation methods.

You can wander through galleries full of taxidermied animals, then stop by the interactive exhibits to learn more about them and their habits.

In addition to top-notch collections, the museum has several sections devoted to research opportunities, and to the study of museums themselves.

One of their exhibits, “Collecting To Astonish, Collecting For Research,” is devoted entirely to the history of collecting and displaying specimens in a museum setting.

Featuring the stories of famous Venetian explorers, as well as the various ways in which they displayed their collections, it pairs perfectly with the wonder-filled galleries next door.

With beautifully curated spaces and an innate curiosity at its core, this is one of the best museums in Venice to celebrate the sciences.

3 – Leonardo Da Vinci Museum

Leonardo da Vinci Museum, Venice

Before he was the inspiration for a ninja turtle, Leonardo Da Vinci was a true Renaissance man – an inventor, artist, and scientist, whose impact on culture resonates to this day.

And although he didn’t live in Venice, you can still view a wonderfully curated collection of his works at the Leonardo Da Vinci Museum in Venice.

With sections loosely themed around the four elements – water, earth, air, and fire -, you can see the broad scope of Da Vinci’s projects and ideas, as well as how deeply they influenced each other.

The big draws here are the machines. Da Vinci was a man centuries ahead of his time, and that’s never more evident than when you look at the intricate prototypes for various inventions that he created.

As you move through the different rooms, you can see just how advanced his designs were, and the vast array of topics that they covered.

Check out models of flying machines, military weaponry, bridge designs, and even an early version of a bicycle. They are all functional, and you can even test some of them out yourself!

Of course, there are plenty of other fascinating displays throughout the museum that showcases Da Vinci’s extensive work in the arts and sciences.

Enjoy reproductions of his most famous paintings, and observe his detailed studies of human anatomy, which had a tremendous impact on art and the medical field alike.

Be sure to browse through the multimedia installations for more information on Da Vinci’s various projects, and stop by the bookstore afterward to snag some reading material about this fascinating, complex man.

Whether you’re a lifelong Da Vinci fan, or just starting to learn about his work, an afternoon at this museum is sure to inspire the creative side in you.

4 – Jewish Museum of Venice

Jewish Museum of Venice

Venice’s Jewish community has been a fixture for centuries, taking part in the civic and creative life of the city.

And at the Jewish Museum of Venice, you can explore this fascinating history in depth.

Located between two historical synagogues, this is one of the best museums in Venice for those that are interested in the city’s unique intersection of cultures.

It is made up of two sections: one covering the general history of Jews in the city, and the other focusing on holidays and liturgical traditions.

Goldworking and textiles were especially large parts of the Venetian Jewish tradition, and there are many wonderful artifacts from those mediums on display here.

In the room devoted to stories of Judaic festivals, you can admire a variety of beautiful ritual objects made of silver, including crowns and keys used to open the ark that holds the sacred Torah Scroll.

Then, head to the next gallery to see the intricate textiles that decorate synagogues and the Torah, the holy book of the Jewish people.

Moving into the Venice-specific history, the third room explores the ongoing story of the Jewish population in the city, including their changing relationship with other demographics.

This section also explores the various roles that Jewish people held in Venice, from finance and medicine to artistic production.

And in the final room, you can explore the full cycle of Judaism, from birth to death. The exhibits in this section cover the rituals, beliefs, and ideas that make up the backbone of traditional Jewish life.

The history of the Jewish population in the city is nuanced and fascinating; it goes far beyond the infamous depiction in Shakespeare.

And this museum is the perfect place to learn more about it, as well as about the culture and religion in general.

5 – Murano Glass Museum

Murano Glass Museum, Venice

One of the most famous artistic forms in the city, Murano glass -named for the little Venetian island on which it is produced – has a long and fascinating history.

At the Murano Glass Museum, you can learn not only about this specific creative style, but also the history of glass in general: its origins, its production methods, and the many different styles that it embodies.

Glasswork is believed to have originated in the Middle Ages, and ever since, artisans have continually developed new and wonderful ways to mold the delicate material into intricate creations.

At the museum, you can see some incredibly well-preserved pieces from the earliest days of the medium, then make your way chronologically through the galleries and observe the changes in glasswork’s shape, style, and function over the years.

While the overview sections are excellent, much of the museum’s focus, unsurprisingly, is on how the artisans of Murano Island adopted and developed their own style of glass-making.

Murano glass – which is used to make everything from vases to sculptures –  is especially famous for its beauty and unique, high-quality designs.

One of its most notable traits is the blending of different pieces of cold glass, which are then heated together so that they blend into one multi-colored work of art.

While these techniques originated in the 15th century, it wasn’t until the 19th century that it was revived by local artisans.

You can see many excellent examples of these works in the exhibition spaces, including beautifully patterned dishes, figurines, and more.

Take a look at the earliest specimens – dating back to the 10th or 11th century -, then follow the timeline to see how the medium flourished, faded, and bounced back over the course of several centuries.

With a long, layered history and a beautiful array of items, the Murano Glass Museum is a must for any art-lover.

6 – Ca’ Rezzonico Museum

Ca' Rezzonico Museum, Venice

Standing three stories tall, with massive balconies punctuated by towering columns, the Ca’rezzonico Museum makes quite the impression.

The interior is even more spectacular, with elegant tapestries, antique furniture, and beautiful paintings arranged just as they were when their original owners lived there.

This spectacular mansion was originally commissioned by the Bon family, before being completed by the Rezzonico family. The Rezzonicos were prominent nobles in Venice, and their home soon became a fixture for the city’s elite.

It was later rented by several notable figures, and was the death place of the poet Robert Browning.

The space opened as a museum to the public in 1936, and has served as a time capsule of Venetian splendor ever since.

As you wander around the vast rooms and great halls of this historic space, you can experience life as the wealthy Venetians of the 17th and 18th centuries did.

Take some time to admire the stunning frescoes by Giandomenico Tieopolo, as well as works of art by Pietro Longhi and Canaletto.

You can also see the elegant furniture that the former residents of the home used – but whatever you do, don’t sit on it!

This is one of the best museums in Venice to explore Baroque architecture and immerse yourself in the upper-crust lives of earlier eras.

7 – Mestre M9 Museum

Mestre M9 Museum, Venice

Of course, an old and distinguished city like Venice has many options for those looking to explore the past.

But to learn about the more recent history of the area – and of the nation in general -, be sure to stop by the Mestre M9 Museum.

As with every country, the 1900s were a tumultuous time for Italy, and this establishment tackles some of the more complicated issues of that era while also celebrating the iconic moments and objects from 20th-century Italian culture.

The museum’s focus on modern approaches starts with its building design, which is part of a larger plan to promote urban renewal in the Mestre area.

With its distinctive multicolored glazed tile exterior and impressive size, the museum is the center point of a public square and pedestrian pathway that are meant to better connect citizens with the main city of Venice.

Once you step into the equally impressive interior, there will be no shortage of topics to explore.

With exhibits such as “The Italian Way Of Life,” “Money, Money, Money,” and “Forging The Italian Identity,” the museum takes a simultaneously broad and nuanced approach to the story of modern Italy.

And fittingly for a century that was all about images, there are lots of multimedia installations for visitors to enjoy.

M9 is Italy’s first all-digital history museum, so you can easily access and explore all of its extensive archives during your visit.

Browse through historical papers, watch old newsreel footage, and explore the ads, posters, and videos that capture the spirit of Italy during this transformative time.

Examine the wall-sized interactive maps covering social trends across the decades, or spend some time in the image galleries, taking in the striking photographs that capture life in those turbulent times.

And take plenty of time to engage with the various smaller displays throughout the museum.

Using touchscreens, audio recordings, and even virtual reality headsets, you’ll be able to engage with history in a whole different way.

For an educational and nostalgic experience, the M9 Museum is a must. It’s one of the best museums in Venice to learn about the past while working with the technologies of the future.

8 – Correr Museum

Correr Museum, Venice

Located near Saint Mark’s Basilica and Doge’s Palace, the Correr Museum offers another opportunity to admire the luxurious trappings of mansions from the past.

The museum features excellent examples of neo-classical and Empire design styles, and the beautiful architectural details are only matched by its impressive historical collections.

Its biggest claim to fame is probably its collection of artifacts from the rise (and fall) of the Venetian Republic era.

All of the rooms on the first floor feature some fantastic artifacts from this time period, including coins, navigational instruments for ships, military items, and rare manuscripts.

But with such a long and storied role in the life of the city, there are plenty of other sections of the building to explore, each with its own specialties.

Stroll through the opulent Napoleonic Wing – whose construction started when the famed general was ruling over the country  – and learn about the many notable nobles that lived within its walls, from the Austrian Hapsburgs to the King of Italy.

Stop by the Neoclassical Rooms to admire the creations of sculptor Antonio Canova, as well as some incredible architectural details.

Or visit the Imperial Rooms to learn more about the daily life of the Hapsburgs during their time ruling over Venice.

In the Procuratie Nuove, you can examine the artifacts of public life in the city, including a wide variety of items from military and holiday celebrations.

And on the upper level, you can look through amazing works of art from the 16th century all the way back to the city’s founding.

You can often combine tours of the museum with a visit to some of its famous neighbors in Saint Mark’s Square for a comprehensive view of the area’s historical significance.

9 – Punta della Dogana

Punta della Dogana, Venice

Are you loving the art scene in the city, but looking for something a little different from classical works? If so, give the Punta della Dogana a try.

The building got its start as a custom house for the city of Venice, before undergoing massive renovations.

It has long been known for its beauty and unusual shape: a large, triangular wedge jutting out into the water, capped with a large tower featuring two sculptures of the mythical strongman Atlas hoisting a large golden sphere.

The statue on top, depicting Fortune, turns in the direction of the wind.

Despite this beautiful design, it took many years for the building to gain a new life.

Its current form, which blends the traditional architecture with more modern touches, is considered an iconic piece of local design.

Its unique floorplan is a perfect home for a rotating catalog of contemporary art, all of which comes from the Francois Pinault collection.

Since 2009, it has offered a continual slate of innovative exhibits, often in the form of large-scale media installments.

This is one of the best museums in Venice to visit if you’re interested in ambitious, often unusual projects.

For some truly unique art in a historic, creatively repurposed setting, take some time to visit Punta della Dogana.

10 – Ca’ Pesaro – International Gallery of Modern Art

Ca' Pesaro Museum, Venice

If you’d like to explore some art with a more global background, be sure to visit the Ca’Pesaro International Gallery of Modern Art and the Museum of Oriental Art.

With a focus on works from the 19th and 20th centuries, the International Gallery celebrates the interconnected art scenes in Venice and around the world.

In addition to striking baroque architecture, you can enjoy the works of such notable artists as Klimt, Klee, Rodin, and Chagall.

There’s also a section showcasing graphic art, as well as some important works by Italian artists.

Then, head upstairs to enjoy the offerings at the Museum of Oriental Art, which is included in the price of admission.

The space hosts an impressive display of Islamic ceramics, as well as one of the largest collections of Edo-era Japanese art in Europe.

There are also sections devoted to the art of Southeast Asia, China, and Indonesia.

With artifacts ranging from woodblock prints and textiles to musical instruments and jade items, the museum’s 13 rooms – which were originally part of the personal collection of the late Prince Enrico – offer something for everyone.

These beautiful and fascinating museums provide a different perspective on art and culture in the city.

11 – Burano Lace Museum

Burano Lace Museum, Venice

Lace may not be something you’d normally think to look at in great detail, but at the Burano Lace Museum, you can learn more than you’d ever imagine about this elegant medium.

Although it is known mostly as a form of decoration, lace has been a crucial part of design in Venice for centuries.

It was even used to help the economy in the 19th century, when Napoleon decreed that lace would be used in court ceremonial robes in order to employ professionals in the field who had lost their jobs.

You can see some excellent examples of its many uses, from decorating Carnival costume capes to the corners of handkerchiefs.

After learning about the various techniques used to create different styles of lacework, you can observe beautifully preserved artifacts from the 16th – 20th centuries, and learn more about how this medium grew and evolved in the city.

Depending on when you visit, you may be able to see the winning entries from the “Lace for Venice” competition, in which contestants create their own works in either contemporary or traditional forms.

Given that this was once the home of the Burano Lace School, which taught the trade to locals for almost 100 years, it seems fitting that the medium is still practiced here.

As an added bonus after your visit, you can experience the charms of Burano, often called the “most island-like” of all the small plots of land dotting the Venetian lagoons.

With splendid scenery and a peaceful atmosphere, it has long been a place of inspiration for artists of all types.

Once you’re done learning about the unique facets of lace, take a stroll around the grounds and enjoy the area for yourself.

12 – Galleria Giorgio Franchetti alla Ca’ d’Oro

Ca' d'Oro, Venice

This monument to Venetian Gothic design is well-known for its stunning architecture. It was built in 1420, and is known for its striking outer facade, featuring detailed marble work and intricate carvings of vines and flowers.

Since the building’s initial construction, it changed hands many times, losing several of its original design elements to renovations.

Baron Giorgio Franchetti, its final owner, undertook some restorations before donating it to the state in 1922.

Over the years, structural wear and tear particularly impacted the exterior details, nearly destroying them altogether.

But since the 1960s, numerous refurbishment efforts have brought back some of the beautiful features that once made this such an iconic palazzo.

Stop by to admire the building for yourself, and to learn more about the story of nobility and architectural design in Venice.

And don’t forget to head inside Galleria Giorgio Franchetti alla Ca’ d’Oro to see some lovely pieces of art, including ceramics, sculptures, and paintings from both the Tuscan and Venetian schools.

13 – Gallerie dell’Accademia

Accademia Galleries, Venice

Clearly, there is no shortage of artistic venues for travelers to Venice to enjoy. But if you’re specifically interested in paintings, there is one place that you absolutely must go.

The Gallerie dell’Accademia of Venice is one of the best museums in town to see a massive concentration of Italian works, and its massive collections represent some of the finest painting traditions in the country.

Since 1750, the gallery has been a home for many of the city’s finest painters, and it still serves as a place for artists and visitors alike to examine and appreciate the medium.

The focus of this museum is the vast collection of paintings; there are over 800 of them, spanning from the 12th to the 18th centuries and covering a wide variety of artistic movements.

From landscape art to Renaissance-era methods, there is no shortage of themes and styles to explore in the galleries.

This is a particularly good place to see works from the famed Venetian School of art, which flourished throughout much of the 1500s.

You can also enjoy original works by such renowned artists as Tintoretto, Bellini, and Veronese.

If you’re really lucky, you may be able to see the Vitruvian Man on display. This iconic Da Vinci drawing – widely used in studies of anatomy – is only occasionally brought out in public, so keep an eye out during your visit!

Much like the Guggenheim Collection, this extensive collection is well worth seeing with a guide.

Tours through the many different collections can help you further understand the context of the art that you’re seeing, while also highlighting some of the most important pieces.

After you’re done exploring, take some time to wander through Sestiere Dorsoduro, the adjacent neighborhood, which is known for its creative atmosphere.

14 – Museo Fortuny

Museo Fortuny, Venice

The charming and elegant Museo Fortuny recently reopened after two years of renovations due to flooding, and with a unique design and wonderful assortment of objects, it’s well worth a visit.

The historic building was the longtime residence of the artist Mariano Fortuny. A brilliant and polymathic artist, he worked in painting, set design, fabric production, and many other mediums over a long and distinguished career.

Fortuny originally rented studio space in the building in 1898, and continued to purchase and renovate additional sections of the property.

By 1907, the entire building was serving as his personal home and workspace, and after his death in 1949, it was donated to the city to serve as a museum of arts and culture.

Today, you can roam through the halls and rooms of this spacious residence and enjoy exhibitions that showcase the many different dimensions of Fortuny’s work.

In tribute to his theatrical background, the space is designed to look like the wings of a stage.

As you move through each of the galleries, you will be treated to a whole range of artifacts.

From paintings to innovative lighting designs and intricately designed dresses, Fortuny’s creations truly run the gamut, and this is one of the best museums in Venice to visit if you enjoy diverse mediums and celebrating unique individuals.

15 – Naval History Museum

Venice Naval Historical Museum

Of course, a city literally submerged in the water is bound to have a rich shipping history, and the Naval History Museum is a wonderful place to explore those stories.

The building in which the museum is housed has a long nautical history of its own; it was built in the mid-16th century as an oar-building and storing facility, and today, it houses an extensive collection of maritime items.

With over 25,000 artifacts, including an impressive fleet of restored historical boats, this is one of the best museums in Venice to learn about the sea’s impact on the city, and vice versa.

You can learn all about Italy’s days as a distinguished naval empire, and examine the tools and items that were used out at sea.

Naturally, the ships are the big draw here. Start with the scale models of various vessels – from Chinese fishing boats to Italian battleships – then make your way out to the Ship Pavilion, where you can see the full-size boats.

In addition to military watercraft, there are some traditional lagoon and canal vessels on display, further demonstrating the diverse role of boats in the culture and economy of the region.

Whether you’re a military fan, a history buff, or just a lover of all things oceanic, the Naval Historical Museum will offer plenty of entertainment and education.

Final thoughts

Venice is a world-class destination if you love history and art, and its museums are often much more than they appear.

Not only do they feature stunning exteriors with fascinating backstories, but their collections run the gamut from elegant to thought-provoking and everything in between.

So while you’re busy catching gondolas, eating gelato, taking a walking tour, and trying all of the other phenomenal things to do in Venice, be sure to save some time to visit these top-notch institutions!

Kiernyn Orne-Adams is a reader, writer, and roamer who currently resides in Seattle, Washington. She has spent the last several years traveling around the U.S. and the world, and is always on the hunt for unique museums and beautiful outdoor spots. Her work has been featured in Roadtrippers, SouthSoundTalk, Beloit College Magazine, and Fodor’s.