Venice has an incredible variety of art in its museums, ranging from Renaissance paintings hung below elaborately carved ceilings to masterpieces of modern art. Following is a list of the biggest and best of Venice's museums and a summary of what to see in them. To maximize your visit to Venice's museums, consider purchasing the Museum pass, which is valid for entry to the first three museums listed below as well as several other minor museums. Separate admission fees are required for admission to the Peggy Guggenheim Collection and the Galleria dell'Accademia.
Also called the Palazzo Ducale, the Doges' Palace sits right on the Piazza San Marco and is, in fact, an exhaustive collection of smaller museums, a courtyard, and a trove of over-the-top ornamentation, including frescoed walls, gilded ceilings, and intricately carved statues and friezes. Part palace and part fortress, the Doges' Palace held both the home of the Doge and, for a while, its prison. Visitors to the Doges' Palace can see the Doges' opulent apartments, where there are paintings by the likes of Veronese, Titian, and Tintoretto, and the prisons, some of which are accessed via one of Venice's most famous bridges, the Bridge of Sighs.
Tip: To avoid the large number of tour groups, visit the Doges' Palace right at opening time.
Also located on Piazza San Marco, the Museo Correr is dedicated to Venice's civic history. The museum is named after Venetian artistrocrat Teodoro Correr, whose last will and testament bequeathed many of the items in the collection, from paintings, drawings, copperplates, coins, seals, and classical antiquities. Of particular interest in the Museo Correr are the fine marble sculptures by Antonio Canova and the many paintings and drawings of the Venetian cityscape as it has changed through the centuries. Admission to the Museo Correr is included with that of the Doges' Palace.
Venice's largest cache of 18th century art is located in the Ca'Rezzonico, which is named after the patrician Rezzonico family. Their former Baroque palace on the Grand Canal displays three floors of paintings, sculpture, and decadent furnishings, as well as four rooms containing significant works by Giambattista Tiepolo. Other highlights include the palace's grand staircase and the Gallery Portego, which contains portraits and landscape paintings from Venetian artists of the Settecento.
Most of the artworks in the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, among Italy's most important museums for modern art, were acquired by American socialite Peggy Guggenheim, who was throughout her lifetime a patron of the arts. The museum contains works from the most famous European and American artists of the first half of the 20th century, including Pablo Picasso, Jackson Pollock, and Alexander Calder, and it also hosts special exhibitions throughout the year. The Peggy Guggenheim Collection is located in Palazzo Venier dei Leoni, Guggenheim's former home on the Grand Canal, not far from the Galleria dell'Accademia.
Not to be confused with the Accademia in Florence, which houses Michelangelo's David and a lot of Tuscan art, Venice's Galleria dell'Accademia boasts its own stunning treasures, most of which are of Venetian heritage. The greats of Venetian painting from the 14th to the 18th centuries are represented, including Paolo Veneziano, Giovanni Bellini, Giorgione, Titian, and Tiepolo.
Save time by buying a Venice Museums Pass. The San Marco Square Pass includes admission to the 4 major sites on Piazza San Marco plus one additional museum. The Museums Pass gives admission to 11 museums, including two on Murano and Burano Islands. Cards are valid for three months from the pick-up date.