Venice is undoubtedly one of the most romantic and enchanting destinations on Earth. Just picture yourself leisurely wandering through cobblestone alleyways, savoring authentic tiramisu, exploring charming boutiques, and idly gliding through the picturesque canals – that’s the essence of Venice! Moreover, this city boasts a wealth of history and culture waiting to be discovered. As someone who has had the privilege of visiting Venice on more than five occasions, I’ve decided to create the ultimate guide to Venice, Italy. So, let’s dive right in!
Venice for the Traveler – What to Know
Language: While it’s true that some locals may not speak English, many Venetians have become accustomed to English-speaking tourists, so you shouldn’t encounter significant communication issues. Nevertheless, I do recommend familiarizing yourself with a few basic Italian phrases before your visit.
Currency: Italy, like many other European countries, uses the euro as its currency. Given the high level of tourism in Venice, most establishments also accept credit cards. However, for smaller purchases and souvenirs, it’s convenient to have cash on hand, so be sure to carry some bills in your wallet as well.
Climate: Venice’s weather varies depending on the season. Summers can be scorching hot, accompanied by a substantial influx of tourists. Conversely, winters tend to be rainy and chilly.
High Season: The peak tourist season in Venice falls between June and August. Due to the high demand during these months, prices tend to soar, including those for hostels.
How to Get Around Venice:
- Walking: Walking is the most common mode of transportation in Venice. However, navigating the city’s labyrinthine alleys with luggage can be a bit challenging, especially when you’re finding your way to your hotel for the first time. If you’re simply exploring shops or restaurants, walking is your best bet.
- Boat Taxi: For longer journeys or when you’re burdened with heavy bags, you can opt for a water taxi. If you arrive in Venice by train, you can exit the train station, and the first bridge you encounter is the main bridge. Just below it, you’ll find water taxis.
- Gondolas: Lastly, there are gondolas. These iconic Venetian boats offer a memorable experience, though they are relatively expensive at around 100 euros for a 30-minute ride. Gondolas are more about the experience than practical transportation.
Recommended Hotels in Venice for Travelers
There are numerous exquisite accommodations to choose from in Venice! If it’s your first visit to the city, I suggest considering stays in the San Polo or Santa Croce areas. These locations provide a delightful blend of local charm and access to tourist attractions, all without the excessive noise.
On a personal note, I would advise against accommodations around Piazza San Marco due to the heavy traffic and constant influx of tourists, which often leads to higher prices.
Here, I’ve curated a list of some of the finest hotels in Venice:
- Hotel Palazzo Abadessa: This luxurious hotel is housed in a historic palace, offering the perfect retreat after a day of exploring the city. With its lush gardens and opulent rooms, your stay here will make you feel like true royalty.
- Palace Hotel: Located in the heart of San Marco, this 15th-century hotel boasts some of the most magnificent views of the canal and the Salute Church. Enjoy the luxury of well-appointed rooms, a rooftop pool, and a dining area that offers some of the most stunning vistas in Venice.
- Novecento: Nestled in a tranquil alley, this charming boutique hotel is adorned with captivating North African and Middle Eastern accents. It also boasts a lovely private garden and serves delectable homemade breakfasts. Just a five-minute walk from St. Mark’s and a leisurely 20-minute stroll to Rialto, it strikes a perfect balance between convenience and serenity.
The Top Venice Restaurants
When it comes to recommended restaurants in Venice, get ready to indulge in an abundance of fish and seafood dishes. And don’t forget to quench your thirst with a few refreshing Aperol spritzes to beat the heat! I strongly advise steering clear of restaurants located in overly touristy areas, as they often turn out to be tourist traps where you might end up paying a premium for mediocre food.
Here are some restaurant recommendations in Venice for travelers:
- OSTERIA FANAL DEL CODEGA STYLE: Nestled perfectly alongside a picturesque canal, this restaurant specializes in fresh and authentic Italian cuisine. With impeccable service, delightful dishes, and a serene ambiance, it’s an ideal spot for a memorable dinner in Venice.
- AI MERCANTI: Ai Mercanti is renowned for its superb handmade pasta and an impressive wine selection – a perfect choice for an authentic Italian dining experience.
- Della Marisa: This local gem is celebrated for offering some of the most authentic Italian cuisine in the city. I highly recommend trying their delectable risotto.
- PERDUTO: From Thursday to Monday, Perduto turns into a lively gathering spot frequented by local students, professors, poets, and musicians. Alongside the festive atmosphere, they serve outstanding food, and any of their pasta dishes are sure to please your palate.
- PESTICCERIA TONOLO: Beloved by locals, this bakery and cafe are cherished for their scrumptious breakfasts and coffee. You’ll discover an array of delightful pastries and freshly baked bread here.
- GELATERIA IL DOGE: Craving something sweet? Make sure to pay a visit to Gelateria Il Doge for the finest gelato in the city.
What to do in Venice? Travel Guide
Explore St. Mark’s Basilica:
This magnificent basilica is dedicated to the city’s patron saint and resides in the heart of Piazza San Marco. While there has been a place of worship on this site since 820 AD, the current basilica, a stunning testament to 11th-century architecture, was erected in 1063. Its interior boasts breathtaking mosaics from the same era, walls adorned with marble, an array of statues, and five resplendent Byzantine domes covered in gold leaf. The high altar is said to house some of St. Mark’s remains. Admission to the basilica is €3.
Visit the Rialto Bridge:
The Rialto Bridge, now one of four bridges spanning the Grand Canal, has held a crucial role for centuries as the primary link between two sides of the canal. Initially constructed as a floating bridge in the 12th century, it was designed to facilitate access to the bustling Rialto Market, from which the bridge derives its name. The present iteration of the bridge, completed in 1591 by Antonio da Ponte, is entirely crafted from Istrian stone. It spans the Grand Canal at its narrowest point, linking the districts of San Polo and San Marco. If you desire a perfect photo opportunity with fewer crowds, I recommend arriving early at sunrise.
Explore Doge’s Palace:
Nestled in St. Mark’s Square, Doge’s Palace stands as one of Venice’s most prominent landmarks and served as the residence of the ruling Duke of Venice. This immense structure, initially constructed in the 14th century, showcases the Venetian Gothic architectural style, though it has undergone various renovations, expansions, and alterations over the years. Inside, the palace is adorned with a wealth of art and opulent gilded ceilings. Admission is €26, inclusive of the combined ticket granting access to St. Mark’s Museums, which encompasses entry to the civic Correr Museum, the National Archaeological Museum, and the grand chambers of the National Library of Marciana.
Participate in Carnival:
Carnival is a spirited ten-day celebration, a masquerade festival held each February. Rooted in tradition since the 12th century, it reached its zenith of popularity in the 18th century. The festival experienced a long hiatus, spanning nearly two centuries starting in 1798, during the Austrian rule when masks were prohibited. It wasn’t until 1979 that Carnival was resurrected. Today, it ranks as one of Italy’s grandest festivals, drawing millions of attendees annually. The exquisite, handcrafted masks constitute a central element of the festivities, and each year sees a competition to crown the most beautiful mask.
Embark on a Walking Tour:
My preferred method of acquainting myself with a new city is by joining a free walking tour upon arrival. In my opinion, it provides an excellent way to explore the city’s main attractions while connecting with a knowledgeable local guide who can offer valuable travel insights.
If you’re willing to pay for a more comprehensive experience, I highly recommend Take Walks. They offer exceptional walking and boat tours throughout the city, led by expert local guides. These tours promise not only enjoyment but also a deeper understanding of Venice.
Stroll through Piazza San Marco:
As Venice’s most renowned and expansive square, Piazza San Marco has historically served as a popular meeting point for Venetians. It is home to several iconic landmarks in the city, including the basilica, the bell tower, Doge’s Palace, and the National Archaeological Museum.
Explore the Rialto Market:
The Rialto Market, Venice’s central marketplace, boasts a rich history spanning nearly 700 years. It’s a sprawling food market offering a wide variety of meats, sausages, and fish. It’s advisable to visit in the morning before the market becomes crowded with tourists. You’ll find the market situated northwest of the Rialto Bridge in the San Polo district.
Visit the National Archaeological Museum:
Established in 1523 by the Italian nobleman and cardinal, Domenico Grimani, this museum may be small but houses a remarkable collection of Greek sculptures, Roman statues, funerary ateliers, and other relics dating back to the 1st century BC. Tickets are priced at €26 as part of the combined museums of Piazza San Marco, which grants access to the Doge’s Palace, the National Archaeological Museum, and the grand chambers of the National Library of Marciana.
Explore the Civic Museum of Correr:
The Civic Museum of Correr showcases an extensive array of art and artifacts that narrate the city’s history, along with pieces from the residences of former royalty, including Napoleon Bonaparte. Visitors can spend hours here marveling at frescoes, antique maps, statues, religious paintings, and more. Tickets are available for €26 as part of the combined museums of Piazza San Marco, offering access to the Doge’s Palace, the National Archaeological Museum, and the monumental rooms of the National Library of Marciana.
Admire the Art at Galleria dell’Accademia:
Founded by Napoleon Bonaparte, the Galleria dell’Accademia houses an impressive collection of artworks spanning the 14th to 18th centuries, featuring masterpieces by artists like Bellini and Tintoretto. One of its most renowned pieces is Leonardo da Vinci’s delicate ink drawing known as “Vitruvian Man,” though it is rarely displayed due to its fragility and sensitivity to light. Tickets are priced at €12.
Explore the Jewish Ghetto
The Jewish Ghetto is a neighborhood located in the northwestern part of Venice. It is considered the first ghetto in the world and was established in 1516 when the entire Jewish community of the city was forced to move here. They were allowed to leave only during the day and were then locked in until the morning. Despite its disturbing history, the Jewish ghetto is now full of cool restaurants, shops, museums, and synagogues.
Sign Up for a Food Tour
As a fun and tasty way to learn more about the history and culture behind Venice’s cuisine, take a food tour. It’s the perfect opportunity to eat your way around the city and experience the best cuisine Venice has to offer.
How to save money on a trip to Venice?
Regardless of the time of year you visit Venice, it’s important to be prepared for the city’s reputation as an expensive destination. However, there are savvy ways to save money during your trip to Venice. Here are some money-saving tips:
- Avoid Dining in Piazza San Marco: The restaurants in Piazza San Marco are notoriously pricey due to its popularity among tourists. It’s advisable to steer clear of dining in this area to save on food costs.
- Cook Your Own Food: Venice can be costly when it comes to dining out. If you’re on a budget, consider cooking meals at your accommodation. Buy fresh bread rolls from a bakery and pick up some groceries in the morning to prepare sandwiches for lunch. You can then enjoy dining out at restaurants in the evening.
- Make Time for Exploring: Venice’s beauty lies in its picturesque streets, historic houses, churches, and artwork. Take pleasure in simply wandering around the city, and don’t forget the fascinating people-watching opportunities it offers.
- Purchase a Combined Museum Ticket: Consider investing in a combined museum ticket for savings on cultural attractions. The St. Mark’s Square Museum ticket, priced at €26, grants access to all the attractions in St. Mark’s Square. Alternatively, the Venice Museum ticket, costing €36, provides admission to the St. Mark’s Square museums and nine other museums, including the Murano Glass Museum.
- Buy Alcohol from Shops: To save on your beverage expenses, purchase wine or other alcoholic drinks from local shops. You can find excellent bottles of wine for less than 10 euros, which is a much more budget-friendly option than ordering drinks at restaurants.
- Participate in a Free Walking Tour: Opting for a free walking tour is an excellent way to explore the city on a budget. While the tour itself is typically free, it’s customary to tip your guide at the end as a token of appreciation.
- Consider an eSIM from eSimple: For convenient and cost-effective data and internet packages while traveling abroad, consider purchasing an eSIM from eSimple. This can help you stay connected without incurring exorbitant roaming charges.