Venice: 10 Things NOT To Do (and 10 To Do Instead)

Alternative Venice

If you’re looking for things to do in Venice whilst escaping the crowds and make the most of this popular city, read on…

I hated Venice the first time I visited. I felt cheated, hustled, robbed (some of Venice’s prices should be criminal) and utterly underwhelmed. I couldn’t get close to the sights I wanted to see thanks to the crowds and at €16 for a Bellini in Venice’s most famous cocktail bar, I’d have expected fresh peaches. As I packed up my bag, I vowed never to go back. Venice wasn’t the Italy I loved. It was an anomaly to be written off as a bad experience, not to be encountered again.

But the thing is, every city deserves a second chance so 5 years later with a fresh set of eyes and a lot more experience at getting under the skin of places, I tried again and although I didn’t become spellbound by the city (and I probably won’t be visiting a third time…probably…*) I definitely had a more enjoyable experience this time because I chose to see Venice a different way.

* Guess what, I visited a third time…and a fourth time too. Learning to explore Venice without the crowds, the city has really gotten under my skin. Everything I’ve discovered from those subsequent trips has wound its way into this post.

What’s in this post?

As well as the my list of 10 things not to do in Venice and 10 to do instead, I’ve included my favourite tips on where to stay, where to eat, how to get to the airport and some suggested day trips and tours in Venice. At the end, I’ve included a few FAQs and a Google map of all the places in Venice listed in this post. If there’s anything missing, leave a comment and I’ll add it in.

What’s in this post

  • List of Top 10 Things To Do (And NOT Do) In Venice
  • Practical tips for visiting Venice
  • Booking Gondola Tours in Venice
  • Best Day Trips From Venice
  • Full And Half Day Tours In Venice
  • My Favourite Guidebooks For Venice
  • Getting to Venice from the Airport
  • Where To Stay in Venice
  • Where To Eat in Venice
  • When is the best time to go to Venice?
  • Map of Venice
  • Related: My Italy Blog Posts
  • Related: My Trip Planning Blog Posts

10 Things To Do In Venice (And 10 Things NOT To Do)

In this post I’ll share with you what to do in Venice but it won’t include your standard itinerary – that’s where I failed the first time. Instead I’ll be sharing 10 alternative ways to see the city while still enjoying the main Venice attreactions. Here goes…

1. Don’t attempt to see all the top Venice sights – pick a few and see them well

Alternative Venice Doge Palace

I’m all for cramming as many sights into as short a visit as possible (Florence: 72 hours, 72 museums and the €72 museum pass: GO!). Venice is an exception to that rule. Why? The crowds. Even in shoulder season (late April/May), the crowds in Venice are so vast it’s impossible to speed around the city – a pace that’s required for maximum sightseeing.  Do yourself a favour: take the pressure off, pick a couple of must see in Venice attractions and see them well.

St Mark’s Basilica and the Doge Palace were top of my sightseeing list and although it would have been nice to cram in a bunch of museums, I opted to take a locally guided tour of my top choices and see them properly.

A good decision, it turned out because instead of queuing to get into the sights, the guide had pre-ordered priority access (part of the ticket) and we made our way straight up to the mezzanine. There, we got close-up access to the gold mosaic basilica, which was truly one of my Venice highlights (it’s a mosaic because Venice is too humid for plaster and frescoes). But just as amazing, I got a thick slathering of history. So many times I’ve stood in a place of significance, looked up at something quite clearly of interest and thought, “what the hell is it?”

Venice has history in spades and it’s best explored with an insider to take you through the stories that make up city’s history right the way up to the 21st century. For example, did you know that the copper horses at the top of St mark’s Basilica are replicas?  The real ones, which are thought to be the oldest on earth at about 2,000 years old, are located inside the terrace. Life size, it’s hard to imagine how these four horses have moved over the centuries from Constantinople to Rome and Paris (where they sat on top of the Arc de Triomph after Napoleon stole them). You can read more here.

doge palace

The tour I took gave special access to the terrace (not available on most other tours), which comes complete with spectacular views out over Venice.

St. Mark’s Basilica and Doge’s Palace Fast Track Tour

How to do it:

I took the  St. Mark’s Basilica and Doge’s Palace Fast Track Tour (€74). The tour includes a guided visit to St Mark’s Basilica and the Doge Palace with priority access tickets for both. For me, this was one of the best things to do in Venice.

Venice Travel Tip: The crowds can be overwhelming in Venice but are most significantly influenced by the number of cruise ships docked each day. If you want to plan your trip to collide with as few Cruise ships as possible, check out this Cruise Ship Calendar.

What are the best things to do in Venice?

At the beginning of your research and not sure what are the top sights in Venice? Here’s a list of the top 10 best things to do in Venice for you to choose from:

  • St Mark’s Basilica (Basilica di San Marco): Venice’s main cathedral in gothic style with grand domes and lots of gold leaf inside. Completed in 1092.
  • Doge Palace (Palazzo Ducale): A grand palace that looks like a lacy pink wedding cake outside, now a museum so you can glimpse the residence of the Doge of Venice from 1340. Pretty sweet life, if you ask me. 
  • Bridge of Sighs – a white bridge best seen from inside (see how to below) linking the prison, interrogation and execution rooms in the Doge Palace. 
  • St Mark’s Square (Piazza San Marco) – main public square in Venice dotted with shops, cafes, restaurants and many of the best sights in Venice. Named ‘the drawing room of Europe’ by Winston Churchill, apparently.  
  • St Mark’s Campanile (Campanile di San Marco) – the bell tower to the Basilica and an iconic sight (best viewed from San Giorgio Maggiorie island, details below). Nearly 100 metres high. You can climb the tower. 
  • St Mark’s Clocktower (Torre dell’Orologio) – Clock tower in St Mark’s Square from the Renaissance period.
  • Grand Canal  – Venice’s main canal that carves up the city. Best enjoyed by boat to view the buildings that line the banks. 
  • Rialto Bridge (Pont di Rialto) and Rialto Market (Mercado di Rialto) – Rialto bridge is the oldest out of only four bridges that cross the Grand Canal. Underneath, Rialto Market is a bustling free food market.
  • Peggy Guggenheim Museum – Venice’s best modern art museum set in an 18th century palace. Works typically from the 1950s onwards.
  • Academy Gallery (Gallerie dell’Accademia) – Where you’ll find art from the old grandmasters. Venice’s fine art museum collects work from before the 19th century and focuses on Venetian and Italian painters. 
  • Venice Lagoon and its islands: Murano, Burano and Lido –  Murano is the island known for its Venetian glass. Burano is famous for its lace and brightly coloured houses. Lido is most often visited for its sandy beaches. The islands sit within Venice lagoon and its famous turquoise waters.

2. Don’t stare across at the Bridge of Sighs – Go INSIDE the bridge and stare out

Alternative Venice Bridge of Sighs

If only Venice could triple the size of the bridge opposite the famous Bridge of Sighs, the congestion along the waterfront in Venice would ease around 50%* (*random guestimate). Clearly, that’s never going to happen and in order to get a good look at the Bridge of Sighs you’re going to need to battle with the tour groups, selfie-posing couples and people who are otherwise simply trying to squeeze by. Usually with a triple buggy.

What bemuses me most about the fracas to get a shot in front of the Bridge of Sighs is that the whole significance of the bridge is the views it gives out over Venice. In case you didn’t know, the bridge is so named because prisoners inside the Doge Palace would walk through the interior of the bridge on the way to their execution in St Mark’s Square. The bridge and the tiny lattice gaps gave prisoners their very last view out over Venice before they died. And that last view is thought to have induced a final sigh at Venice’s beauty, hence the name: Bridge of Sighs.

So, dear tourists, you might be stood at one of the most popular places to visit in Venice but – YOU’RE LOOKING THE WRONG WAY!

Instead of sticking with the crowds, take a tour of the Doge Palace and the prisons. Wander through the Bridge of Sighs, take a look out over Venice (ignoring the crowds gawking in), sigh and be grateful you’re not off to be beheaded!

How to do it:

A visit to the prisons and a walk inside the Bridge of Sighs is included in the tour I took and highly recommend:  St. Mark’s Basilica and Doge’s Palace Fast Track Tour (€74).

Fun Venice fact: How not to be beheaded in Venice

Prisoners were once executed between the two columns in St Mark’s Square. The columns are crowned with St Theodore and St Mark’s lion. Superstitious locals won’t walk between the two columns through fear it will lead to an ugly death. I didn’t risk it either.

3. Don’t pay tourist prices (€10) for coffee – spend under €1.50 like the locals

Alternative Venice Music Cover Charge

Having a coffee in St Mark’s Square was on my list of top things to do in Venice. However, a friend warned me about the coffee and drinks prices in St Mark’s Square before I visited. “You have to pay for the music.” I laughed. She was joking, right? She wasn’t.

Sit yourself down for a mid-sightseeing coffee at Caffé Florian, the most popular and obvious cafe overlooking St Mark’s Square, and you’ll be charged for the music.  I’m not talking about a collection hat that comes around. I’m talking about an actual cover charge. I took that picture a while ago – it’s likely to be more than €6 now. That’s in addition to your coffee price (€6.50 for an espresso and €10.50 for a cappuccino or Americano). Sure, it might be the oldest café in Venice, but pushing €20 each for a hit of caffeine and some accompanying music? When you consider it costs only €20 to see an entire recital in Lucca, home of Puccini, that doesn’t feel like a great deal.

Walk a few paces to the right of Caffé Florian and the coffee price plummets to €1.20 for an espresso. You have to shuffle in among the locals and drink your coffee standing (which is how the Italians do it anyway) but for a quick caffeine fix while still enjoying being in the square, this is a much better option. Bonus: you can hear the music drifting out of Caffé Florian for free.

How to do it:

Ask for a caffe (espresso) at Ai Do Leoni just to the right of St Marks Clock Tower, €1.20.

If you’re really interested in Italian coffee, you can enjoy this Lonely Planet Experience: Venice Bakery and Desserts Tour.

And if you’re after a taste of some Italian opera in Venice, you’ll enjoy this travelling opera which takes place in various historic buildings along the Grand Canal – Venice: Traveling Opera in a Historic Palace on the Grand Canal

If you just want a peak behind the scenes of one of the most famous opera theatres in the world, which is every bit as grand as you might expect, you can take the very popular 1hr tour of The Majestic Teatro La Fenice for just €20.

Venice Travel Tip: there is a whole etiquette around drinking coffee in Italy – if you’re confused about what to order and when, you can read more in my blog post How to Order Coffee in Italy.

4. Don’t take a Gondola ride – take a Venice boat tour instead

Alternative Venice Boat Ride

Read almost any article about what to do in Venice and it will tell you to take a Gondola ride. I get it. They’re iconic and compelling and some people feel entirely unable to go to Venice and not get in one – so do it, fulfil the dream and enjoy. But don’t think that’s where the waterways of Venice start and end. (I’ve got more details later on about booking a gondola tour in Venice).

One of the biggest appeals of the City of Canals is the water and how everything is conducted on it. Deliveries are made, commutes occur, children travel to school and even ambulances take the form of a boat. Once upon a time, Gondola’s used to be nothing more than a reality of Venetian life. These days, with more tourists than locals, the gondolas exist largely for tourist purposes. What’s more, unless you spend big, you’re going to be sharing a small boat space with a lot of strangers for a very short (30 minute stint) on the water.

Instead, take a 2-hour, spacious boat ride down the Grand Canal, under the Rialto bridge and out towards the smaller islands. Let the guide point out the old custom house that used to tax every boat coming in to trade with the Merchants of Venice; get to know a bit more about the Republic of Venice, the Italian government of old, see where the house of Prada sits; and sail past the Aman Grand Canal hotel where George Clooney got married

And all of this without the bumps and jolts felt by the much smaller Gondolas.

How to do it:

I took the Venice 2-Hour Boat Tour With Grand Canal & Tower Climb of San Giorgio Maggiori tower with Walks of Italy (2hrs, €98).

Since my boat tour in Venice, I’ve become a huge fan of the City Sightseeing tours. Now, whenever I get to a new city, I hop on one of these tours because I know I will both get an overview of what is where as well as the best things to do in Venice. Of course, with Venice being a city of water, the City Sightseeing tour means your Venice sightseeing is done by boat. This is on my list for my next visit to Venice.

Don’t have the time or prefer to spend less? Here’s a shorter, more budget-friendly, 1 hour Grand Canal cruise (€30).

Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute

Venice Travel Tip: don’t miss Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute (picture above), which is situated on the strip between the Grand Canal and Piazza San Marco and is best viewed from the water.

5. Don’t climb San Marco Campanile – ascend San Giorgio Maggiore for the best views in Venice

View of Venice from San Giorigo Maggiore bell tower - things to do in Venice

San Marco Campanile, the big, tall bell tower in St Marks Square is definitely one of the most iconic Venice sites and people queue forever to go up it. However, the best views aren’t from the top of the tower, they’re from across the water, looking back at San Marco campanile.

How to do it:

Head over to the small island of San Giorigo Maggiore and climb the bell tower there instead (I say climb – it’s actually a lift/elevator and there is no climbing option). By ascending the bell tower across the way, you get panoramic views across the whole of Venice island, including the famous campanile. This is one of my favourite views in Venice and always on my list when friends ask me what to see in Venice.

A visit to San Giorgio Maggiore island is included in the Venice 2-Hour Boat Tour With Grand Canal & Tower Climb tour I took (€98).

6. Don’t linger around St Marks Square – head to Canareggio for crowd-free Venice

Alternative Venice Canareggio
Don’t miss Ponte de Chiodo – one of only two bridges in Venice without a parapet.

The few locals left in Venice’s historic centre tend to spend most of their time in the Canareggio district. If you make the effort to head away from the water and the highlights of San Marco, where the main Venice tourist attractions can be found and therefore most of the day trippers tend to linger, you’ll see the crowds thin significantly. As though another part of Venice has opened up, with a modern shopping street but also the history of the Jewish Ghetto, in Canareggio you can spend a few hours getting to know real Venice without the crowds. This is definitely my favourite way to do my Venice sightseeing, soaking up local life. It’s also one of the best free things to do in Venice.

How to do it:

Take a vaporetto to Ca’ d’Oro and head to Strada Nova (New Street). Continue on to Via Emanuele and ultimately onto Rio Tera S. Leonardo (it’s all the same street but the names change as you cross the bridges). Look out for a tiny sign above an alley written in Hebrew, which will take you into the Jewish Ghetto. You can loop back via Misericordia. Canareggio is a great option for food and drinks without the tourist prices. Don’t worry, it’s all on the map at the end of the post.

If you want a local to show you around this area, you can book this Venice: Jewish Ghetto 2 Hour Tour (€74) Otherwise, you can try this more general, Private Walking Tour, for just €40.

Venice Travel Tips: If it’s your first time in Europe or Italy, the different names can be confusing. St Mark’s Square is Piazza San Marco in Italian. As well, the general area around the square (piazza) is called San Marco. 

7. Don’t play Russian Roulette with the food – take a Venice food tour with a local

Alternative Venice

One of the reasons I didn’t get along with Venice the first time was because of the food – over priced, hit and miss (at best) and served without much care (because, let’s face it, tourists don’t offer much by way of repeat-business).

This time round, I promised my stomach I would do things better and I booked straight on to a food tour. I didn’t want to waste countless attempts (and euros), trying to pick out what might be the best places for chicchetti (small pieces of bread topped with fish, meat, cheese or vegetables and eaten as a snack with an aperitivo drink), tracking down the best market to buy fresh produce (especially helpful if you’re staying in a rental apartment) or scouring the warren of streets for a memorable dinner.

For 4 hours, I followed a local lady through the streets of Venice as she told stories, pointed out places of interest and, of course, shared all her inside info on the best places to eat in the city.

With all the research in the world, I doubt I would have found the tiny chicchetti bar where gondola riders choose to snack and slurp their way through a quick bit of sustenance and a glass of wine on their breaks. Nor would I have taken myself down the narrow backstreets of old Venice, many of which are abandoned, and I definitely wouldn’t have ended up at the perfect local dinner spot. Not only was this a hugely satisfying tour (that review is left by my stomach), it was also one of the most fun things to do in Venice. Wine at 11am? Wine not?

How to do it:

Take a food tour. I took a Rialto Market Food and Wine Lunchtime Tour of Venice  (€89). This tour is a wonderful blend of eating plus history along the way and includes 7 – yes, 7 eating stops – over 4 hours. Arrive hungry.

Not got 4 hours to spare? Try this Chichetti Dishes and Wine Bar with A Local. In case you didn’t know, Chicchetti is small bites like Spanish tapas and is best enjoyed with a drink. And with this tour, you get 5 eating and drinking stops in 2.5 hours (€90) – it’s no surprise this tour is ridiculously popular.

Want a third, popular option? This Venice: 2.5 hour Street Food Tour With a Local Guide gives you the best of both worlds combining Rialto Market and Chichetti (€39) 

Venice travel tip: Even if you don’t take a food tour in Venice, do stop by the Rialto Market. Not only is it one of the best things to see in Venice, it is also one of the best free things to do in Venice…if you can resist buying 4 kilos of cheese.

8. Don’t go for a Bellini at Harry’s Bar – have an Aperol spritz with the locals

Alternative Venice

Having a Bellini at Harry’s bar in Venice is a bit like taking a Gondola ride – for some people, it’s a must do in Venice and, if that’s you, I won’t waste a second talking you out of it. But do be prepared.

If you didn’t know, the Bellini was invented in Venice by the owner of Harry’s bar. Sadly, the 1930s charm of the bar has long gone and as tourist queue up to hand over close to €30 per Bellini, it’s no surprise the process has turned into a conveyor belt. I sat at the bar and watched peach puree squeezed from a foil pack into glasses while Prosecco was squirted from a soda-style tap. No blending of peaches. No popping of corks. Not even a full 125ml champagne glass. (I’ve become a bit of an expert in Prosecco in recent years and now know that Prosecco has to be served from a bottle, so whatever was in that tap was just bog-standard sparkling wine). 

If you don’t want to set yourself up for an expensive disappointment, ditch the Bellini and get on the Aperol Spritz train instead. Perhaps the most popular aperitivo you will see in Venice (and the rest of Italy) the Aperol spritz is a cocktail made with a large measure of Aperol (similar to Campari but much sweeter), topped with Prosecco – actual Prosecco – chilled with ice and served with a slice of orange and a dash of soda water. Be warned, it’s hard to tell how potent this almost all-booze drink is and it has a tendency to evaporate (from your glass into your mouth).

How to do it:

Skip the waterfront (unless you want the view and are prepared to pay for it) and instead head deeper into the historic centre to look for a local’s bar. My favourite was Bacaro Risorto where they also sell very tasty chicchetti for €1.50 a piece. 

If you want more suggestions, check out my post about the Best Restaurants in Venice, which includes lots of chicchetti and bar recommendations

What about a day-trip Prosecco tasting? Just an hour from Venice, choose between a half day or full day tour of Italy’s UNESCO World Hertiage Prosecco region (from €250 per group). These are tours I have put together with local drivers to bring you private tours to small, family owned vineyards where you can taste only the premium, DOCG Prosecco.

Fun Venice fact: the owner of Harry’s bar is actually called Giuseppe Cipriani, not Harry and there’s a warm and fuzzy story behind the naming of the bar?

Venice travel tip: if you do visit Harry’s bar, try to go when white peaches are in season (summer) so you stand a chance of fresh fruit in your drink, not preserved puree.

9. Don’t order pizza in Venice – have risotto or seafood instead

Eat seafood in Venice

Did you know that there’s a law in Venice prohibiting wood-fired ovens? The rule makes sense given so much of the city is made of wood and we hardly want to see the the city of Venice catch alight. What also made sense, after learning about the law, is why the few pizzas I tried during my first trip to the city just didn’t pass muster.

Of course, the other reason to skip pizza in Venice is that pizza’s not from there. In a country where food is highly regional, you’ll do your taste buds a favour if you stick to what’s local. So, head to Naples if you’re really in Italy for good pizza, now every time I visit Venice I look out for risotto, polenta, seafood and tiramisu. If you’re brave enough, try the sepe al nero – cuttlefish served with ink. It comes second place after tripe on my list of least favourite Italian foods but, hey, at least I tried it. Twice. 

How to do it:

Taking a food tour will give you a great introduction to the city’s food scene and you can ask your guide for food recommendations. This is the tour I took and loved. Otherwise, wander through the back streets and follow your nose.

Want to find out more? Check out my list of the best restaurants in Venice, covering every dining category I can think of.

10. Don’t sweat away your day battling crowds – see Venice at night

St Marks Square at night

Finally, if all the day crowds want to make you jump into the lagoon and swim all the way out to the Adriatic sea, take some solace in the fact that once the night arrives, the city quietens considerably. Venice at night is truly magical. St Mark’s Square seems to expand back to its grand size; the bridges are passable and the narrow streets are near empty and inviting.

How to do it:

Go out, explore, get lost, enjoy. Simply wandering the quiet streets is on of the best things to do in Venice at night. Pop into a bar if you must. Maybe I’ll see you there. 

Want to find out about Venice’s spookier side? Take this Venice: 2 hour Legends and Ghosts of Cannaregio Tour (€25). Accompanied by a guide, you’ll explore the city’s narrow streets and hidden spots while you listen to the legends that surround the city. Even if you’re not a believer, you’ll get to explore parts of Venice you wouldn’t otherwise see, under the cover of night away from the crowds. 

Fun fact about Venice: it has a lesser known nickname, la serenissima, meaning serene. 

After a few nights wandering through Venice at night, I came to a strong realisation about the city. It’s not that I hate Venice – how could I? It’s beautiful, majestic and riddled with history – it’s just that I want to have it all to myself.


Practical Tips For Visiting Venice

Canals of Venice sunlight

That’s my 10 tips for things to do in Venice. What follows is my tips for planning your visit including booking tours, where to stay, where to eat, how to get to Venice from the airport and more. 

Booking a Gondola Ride in Venice

I get it. You can’t go to Venice and NOT take a gondola ride. Fair enough – it’s is an iconic part of Venice and tops most lists of Venice attractions. The question is, which one to choose? Here’s my recommendations.

Private gondola tour: If you prefer a private gondola (trust me, you should), this is the best rated private gondola ride. It’s €180 for 2 people / 20 mins but comes down to €30 per person if there are 6 of you. When I last checked the prices, there was a 25% discounted off the above price, which ran for months so do check.

Shared gondola tour: Here’s the best rated shared gondola ride in Venice (€32/30 mins).

Romantic Gondola tour: Just 2 of you? Special occasion? Want to add some sparkle (literally)? Book this very popular Romantic Private Gondola Ride for Two, (€140 for 2 people /20 mins), which includes a bottle of Prosecco.

Best Day Trips From Venice

Prosecco Tour

I’d definitely recommend adding in time for some day trips from Venice. It’s really well situated and connected for exploring nearby. Also, all the crowds can leave you feeling a bit overwhelmed. A day trip from Venice is the perfect tonic. Here are some of the best day trips from Venice to work into your trip.

Italy’s Prosecco Region – 1hr from Venice

Most of us are familiar with Prosecco, the Champagne of Italy, but did you know that the Prosecco region is just an hour away from Venice? If you have a day or night to spare, why not spend it tasting a glass (or two) while enjoying views over the rolling vineyards. Picture above.

I first visited in 2015 and created a post about How to Plan Your Own Prosecco Tour. It was so popular that I returned to the Prosecco region (as well as Venice). Since then, I’ve created a Prosecco themed travel blog (how was there not one already?) –Visit Prosecco Italy. And, as my contacts in the area have grown, I’ve connected with local drivers to offer private wine tours of the region, starting at €250 for up to 8 people. That price is per van, not per person so it’s a great deal. You can find out more here and read reviews here. Otherwise, you can find more Venice travel blog posts over there

Fun Prosecco fact: did you know there is a Prosecco vending machine nestled in the Prosecco hills? Just up the road from where the above picture was taken.

Best full and half day tours of Venice

Get Your Guide – If the tours above don’t tickle your fancy, check out Get Your Guide. You’ll find a whole host of full and half day tours in Venice and the beauty is you can compare prices and read reviews before you commit.

Intrepid Travel – And if you’re looking for a more planned trip to Italy, my favourite tour company is Intrepid travel – above all else, they’ll take you places where you’re going to get those photo moments you won’t get on most other tours.

Want to experience Venice carnival but not visiting in spring? There are some great activities on year round from a carnival themed walking tour, a carnival pub crawl to carnival mask making website. You can browse your tour options here.

My favourite guidebooks for Venice

Alternative Venice Italian Guidebook

Any excuse to buy a book and I’ll take it. Even though the web is filled with Venice travel blog posts (like this one), I always double up on my research with a good old, print travel guide. My favourites are:

Lonely Planet Pocket Venice – it really does fit in your pocket and costs under $10/£7. Perfect for a city or short break – here it is on Amazon. This one goes with me on every trip.

DK EyeWitness Venice & The Veneto – if you want a more detailed guide that covers a wider area, the DK books are expertly done. I especially love the 3D maps – here it is on Amazon.

Italian Phrasebook by Penguin (pic above) – this is one good looking (paperback) book. I learned extra Italian words just because I wanted to have it on show in cafes. I think the locals were impressed too. Or maybe they were laughing at my mangled Italian. Either way, it’s one of my favourite travel books for Venice – here it is on Amazon.

How to get to Venice from Venice airport

The important things to note about Venice is it’s a city of water and once you’re within the islands of Venice, your main mode of transport is going to be boat. The main choices are private water taxis (just like regular taxis but on water) and water buses known as the vaporetto (just like regular buses…ok, you get it).

Private water taxi: On my first trip to Venice, I treated myself to the private boat transfer. It was relatively expensive at €200 for the transfer but I was celebrating my birthday and it was a memorable treat (how to feel like the glitterati in one fell swoop). It’s actually a good deal if there are 4 – 6 of you. The major bonus – no waiting for other people or having to share your transfer. The journey takes around 50 minutes depending where your hotel is. The transfer will take you as close as it physically can. You can book a private boat transfer here.

Shared water taxi: The next best way into Venice is using a shared water taxi. That way, your first experience of Venice can be the magical, majestic arrival you’ve imagined (rather than taking the crammed tourist bus or public vaporetto ride along with the rest of the tourists). The price is around €30 and the trip takes about 50 mins with some waiting time if your fellow passengers take a while collecting luggage. You can book a shared water taxi here. 

Public vaporetto: The cheapest water transfer is the public Vaporetto at just €8 per person one-way. Do keep in mind that the Vaporetto, just like a subway system, has different lines and you might have to change. You’ll need to figure out the nearest stop to your hotel (usually mentioned on the hotel website). You can find out more here. 

By road: I’ve never taken a transfer by land – Venice is a city of water. However, you can take a bus or hire a private car. Check a man, though because wheels can only go as far as Piazzale Roma. You might need a Vaporetto or to walk from there. You’ll find a full choice of transfer options here.

Where to stay in Venice Italy

Best areas to stay in Venice: San Marco is the best area to stay in Venice if you want to be right in the heart of things but expect high prices. I tend to stay in Cannareggio because I love the location – old Venice, away from the crowds but still walkable to San Marco. However, I’m still searching for a hotel to recommend to you.  The last one I stayed in smelt of feet. My next favourite suggestion is Giudecca island, also away from the bustle. A few minutes away by vaparetto, with a good handful of restaurants to feed you at night and excellent views across towards San Marco, the island had everything you need plus a more peaceful feel.

Best 5 Star Hotel in Venice: The Gritti Palace – Centrally located, this 5-star hotel has views over the grand canal if you want a beautiful luxury stay. Ok, prices are around €800 a night but that’s Venice for you. 

Best Boutique Hotel: Canal Grande – in a restored 18th century palace, this beautiful boutique hotel is everything you hope your Venice hotel might be. Oh, and it overlooks the Grand Canal (of course it does). At around €200 per night, this is fantastic price for a great hotel.

Trip Advisor’s Travellers’ Choice: Hotel Antiche Figure – Based on the reviews of other travellers, Hotel Antiche Figure has been voted the best hotel in Venice. It’s a boutique hotel complete with four poster beds in my favourite area of Venice, near Canareggio. With prices around €175 a night, I can see why this is a winner. This is on my list for my next trip.

Best chain hotel in Venice: Hilton Molino Stucky Far removed from the boxy airport Hilton hotels you might otherwise be imagining, the building was once a flour mill and was integral to the city’s pasta production. Today, the building has been converted into a luxury space and the roof top terrace is reason enough to stay. Prices around €300 per night.

Best Hostel in Venice: Generator Hostel – Perfect if you’re on a budget in Venice. It’s very clean and has a great value happy hour (Apreol Spritz for only €2.50). Dorms and private rooms are available. Prices around €15 for a dorm bed and around €65 for a private room.

If you want more details on where to stay in Venice, I’ve written a more detailed guide setting out the various areas in Venice together with some hotel recommendations over on my Prosecco themed blog.

Where to Eat in Venice Italy

Eating is one of my favourite things to do in Venice – in any place I visit for that matter – but wow is it difficult to find a good place to eat in Venice. Unlike most of the rest of Italy where you can walk into any eatery and almost always leave delighted, Venice has a lot of bad food. But don’t worry, I’ve worked hard over several trip (and eaten far too much bad food) to find the food gems in Venice. You’ll find them in my post about the best restaurants in Venice.

When is the best time to go to Venice?

Venice, like most cities, is a year-round destination so don’t worry. If you can only get time off work at a particular time of year, go to Venice and enjoy. There are, however, a few times of year where you experience will be a little…different.

Visiting Venice during Acqua Alta (Oct-Dec): A lot of first time visitors don’t realise but Venice floods once a year. It’s called the acqua alta meaning high water. It’s a natural phenomenon based on tides and atmospheric pressure and winds (rather than the common assumption that it’s because Venice is sinking). When does it happen? Well, it can happen any time of year if the natural factors combine but you’re most likely to experience it between late September and early April but more realistically, in November, December and October – in that order of likelihood. Does it mean you can’t or shouldn’t visit. Absolutely not. It’s a normal part of life in Venice and the city is prepared with elevated boardwalks and, of course, there are street vendors galore flogging elegant (?!) plastic booties. My suggestion, expect it, embrace it and get set for a pretty amazing lifetime travel adventure you’re not going to get in many other places. Just think of the photos!

Visiting Venice during peak summer season (Jul-Aug): honestly, I’d rather spend time in Venice during acqua alta than in July or August when the largest throngs of people descend upon the city. However, you can still enjoy the city at it’s peak months – just be prepared to go slow, book hotels and tours in advance and get out at night when the temperature cools and the crowds decrease. 

Easter over Easter and Christmas: I’ve visited Venice over Easter Sunday as everything was open and the city was very festive with a huge easter egg smashed up for breakfast (now that’s my kind of breakfast). I did book ahead and there were more people but it was otherwise manageable. Over Christmas, many shops and restaurants will close on Christmas Day (25 December). Not a problem if you plan ahead but something to keep in mind. 

Best time to visit Venice (Mar-May and September)? I would vote for the shoulder seasons – spring and autumn (fall) – as the best time to go to Venice. This will help you avoid the summer crowds as well as acqua alta. I’ve visited in both shoulder seasons and enjoyed these trips to Venice most. 


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Article written by

Jo Fitzsimons is a freelance travel writer who has visited over 60 countries. www.indianajo.com is the place where she shares destination details, travel itineraries, planning and booking tips and trip tales. Her aim: to help you plan your travel adventure on your terms and to your budget.

79 Responses

  1. Paul Meyerson
    Paul Meyerson at | | Reply

    Hi Jo,

    Excellent and informative post, and we will certainly take your advice. I’ve been to Venice 3x, but not in 25 years or so. I don’t recall massive crowds anywhere, so I expect this Venice will be very different from the one I remember. That said, we’re absolutely going AirB&B. The choices are overwhelming, though–there are so many good places available at reasonable prices! So, what I’m looking for is to pick an area to search for a place and I’m just adrift here. We’d like to be reasonably close to “touristy” stuff, but out of the main hubbub. Can you recommend an area–even down to a street or two–that you’d say “hey, if you can get a place here, you’ll be close to the thick of things but it’s also kind of where locals hang out!”? If that’s too tall an order, can you recommend an area (more detail = better!) that you’d happily stay?

    Thanks so much!

    Paul

  2. Elizabeth
    Elizabeth at | | Reply

    Really enjoyed this post – thank you. We’re heading to Venice in a few weeks and this has certainly helped us focus and given us the lowdown. All good info, which we will certainly use.

  3. Steven B
    Steven B at | | Reply

    It’s a long bit away, but I’m surprising my wife with a trip to Italy…Venice and Rome, with a stint in Sweden as well. 🙂 I’m definitely using your tips to ensure we have a memorable experience! I saw some things about spending time @ Dolimite. Any suggestions about that?

    1. Di
      Di at | | Reply

      Just back from the Dolomites and wish I’d had more than the 8 days there with my son. We were there for the climbing, via ferrate and some walking but the place is amazing. The hub is Cortina but we stated 15mins drive from there which was great. All l can say is we are already planning a return visit. If your going out of ski season however lots of restaurants are closed and so, unless you research, it looks like pizza and more pizza – not true – we did source some really tasty Italian classics of the region. Enjoy if you head up there – the mountains and colours with the light are amazing.

  4. Deanna Ngo
    Deanna Ngo at | | Reply

    Hi, I was just wondering for the St Mark Basilica and Doge’s Palace tour that you recommended, did it include the Secret Itineraries tour of the Doge’s Palace?

  5. Muralidhar Sagi
    Muralidhar Sagi at | | Reply

    Hi Jo,

    I see the real hard work involved in writing such a detailed and informative blog.Really appreciated. I am staying 3 days in Lido for a conference, and then in Cannaregio for 3 days.

    I need your inputs on how to actually manage my evenings in Lido( till evening, I am in conference) and then in Cannaregio as well..
    I am looking for a serene, memorable historic holiday!

    Need your valuable suggestions please.

    Muralidhar

  6. Gennaro
    Gennaro at | | Reply

    Hi Jo,
    I am Italian and I think this article is very interesting. You have identified some points that are useful for every tourist (even for an Italian tourist coming from another region).
    I hope my notes can be useful: I noticed that some foreign tourists have a wrong perception of Italy (especially if they come from outside Europe).

    In Italy tourism activities are very important and many people work for tourists. This is true.
    About 13% of GDP in Italy comes from tourism-related activities and about 7% of working people are employed in hotel and restaurant activities. We can say that tourism is important in Italy. But I believe that we cannot say that the country lives only on tourism (I read in some websites about tourism destinations that 60% of the GDP in Italy comes from tourism !).

    When some tourists say that Italy is very touristy they often refer to these three places:
    Rome, Florence, Venice. The true is that they talk about some neighborhoods in these cities. Among these cities the one closest to the definition “it lives on tourism ” is definitely Venice. But at the same time the part of the city that tourists usually visit is included in a larger one that has about 260.000 inhabitants (Venice – 55.000 on the islands and the rest on the mainland).

    I think a lot of italian people look at that places as “dead neighborhoods” without social, cultural and economic vitality (outside tourism).
    The real country is in the neighboring districts, a few blocks away. I ask this question: what are you looking for ? a real country or a perception of a country ?

    You have to go off the beaten path!
    It is very likely that you will find something that is very different from what you know ..

  7. terwixonse
    terwixonse at | | Reply

    Help. I am looking for guide

  8. Maggie McLaughlin
    Maggie McLaughlin at | | Reply

    Jo,
    I just got back from a trip from Italy that I will remember my whole life! My fiance and I took your advice in Venice and saw the bridge from the prison. The Doge’s palace was opulent and definitely worth it. We also went to the opera and literally got caught in flooding canals in our formal wear. Quite a story. I bought the phrasebook you suggested and learned basic Italian which saved us many times (my fiance’s thick NY accent was received warily, but the sentiment was appreciated). We also met up with French friends in Conegliano and the surrounding area and had wonderful food (cut to us driving up a steep mountain and my fiancee pointing to a brochure with smoked pork and asking our concierge “can I eat this?”), to which they are recommending to their loved ones. Thank you for your great advice. I can send pictures if you like!

  9. janice
    janice at | | Reply

    great advise, my husband and I have been to Venice four times now, we always stay out of the main tourist area. We love to get up early in the morning and walk around, it is so much quieter. We have always planned our trips for early April or late September, and we find that Venice is less busy, but that is changing too!
    Mostly we enjoy getting lost in the little lanes and buying food at the quieter little family-run shops, rather than the busy places near Saint Mark’s Square.

  10. Kent Johnson
    Kent Johnson at | | Reply

    My partner and I were in Venice for a few weeks, late summer last year (she’s a travel writer too like you). I was terrified before we left Sydney that we would be eating terrible over priced food; and yet. I found this not to be the case at all, as we/I found good food in many locations and even several very close to pont Rialto. We were even complimented on our manners by our very Venetian host at one – though we did nothing except eat and drink and enjoy!

    That said, our first impressions of VENICE were both over and, underwhelming. The crowds certainly come as a shock even if you are expecting them – of course, we were also part of crowds..

    Thanks for the article, very good advice; just pick a couple of things and get stuck right in. The best way to enjoy Venice, i agree.

  11. Sandi
    Sandi at | | Reply

    Hi Jo
    Love your site. So informative. Going to Venice in May. Staying two nights at the Hotel Danieli. We are using Marriott points. My daughter woukd love to go on a processco tour. I see above you recommend a local. Do you know anyone we can contact?
    Also we like authentic food not touristy restaurants. Where do you recommend
    Thank you for your help

  12. Jim Epperson
    Jim Epperson at | | Reply

    I am in Venice and just read your tips and responses, and I agree completely. I arrived from Milan around noon yesterday and after getting to my hotel near St. Mark’s Square went on a walking tour of the neighborhood which include a Gondola launching point. 80 Euro for 30 minutes, or you could share with strangers (I’m traveling solo). I somehow ended up at the Basilica at 4:00 PM and was surprised to find a ten minute line and went right in. Same thing happened again today. After going to Murano my boat returned to the dock by the Doges Palace and there was zero, yes, zero people in a line that had to be 200 when passed in the morning. I paid my 20 Euros for the ticker and another 5 for the audioguide and walked right in. Last night after the Basilica I took the slow Vaporetto down the Grand Canal and tonight after dark I’m going to hang out in the square, which is about 100 feet from my hotel. Tomorrow is my last full and taking the advice above I’m going to go where my feet will take me with no map hope I get lost. I do have a three day Vaporetto Pass in case i get too lost. Thanks for your good advice.

    PS Tell Donna there is no comparison between Venice and the Road to Hana

    1. Jenifer Fritz
      Jenifer Fritz at | | Reply

      This has been very, very helpful, Jo. It will be our first time in Venice and you will help us save a lot of time. One thing I’d love to know is the name of the “perfect local dinner spot” you mention above. I’d really love to find that spot. Thanks again.

  13. Donna in CA
    Donna in CA at | | Reply

    Oh, Jo,
    It’s like you are my travel spirit animal! Never have I had someone sum up my feelings re: Venice so accurately and concisely! For me, it was like the road to Hana, once is enough! Although I did that twice, too, and now 27 years later I find myself a guest on a trip to Italy w/my brother, sister-in-law and 3 teenage nieces. Naturally, Venice is on the must-do list, and naturally I began feeling dread and ungrateful, at a minimum! A trip to The Veneto w/Prosecco valley being so close by would suit my restaurant-owner self so nicely, but this is my niece’s sweet 16 present from her family, so I want it to be amazing. Your article has given me new enthusiasm, and hope, and the tools to make this part of the trip a highlight! Luckily, my suggestion of staying on the Lido and getting on the complimentary water taxi from our hotel waz well received so I am also looking forward to that! Thank you, thank you for such a gem- well written advice and solid alternatives to back it up!

  14. Menorca@Europe Diaries
    Menorca@Europe Diaries at | | Reply

    Wow! I’m visiting Venice for the first time this month and loved your suggestions! Have saved the post and am going to follow as many of your tips as I can 🙂 Thanks again!

  15. Jeanine
    Jeanine at | | Reply

    This advice while valuable, is easily found by people who do their homework before they travel. Hope this article helps novice travelers.

  16. Ilona
    Ilona at | | Reply

    May I add one of the most important advices for ALL of Italy: Don’t sit down to drink your coffee (“Caffè” is what you order and you get “Espresso” – and you should try that. It’s the best you will ever get). The cities (I think?) have a max price (~1€) for Coffee at the bar – and if they want to charge you more they are betraying you.
    And by the way: Sitting down with an espresso is a bad idea, because a coffee shot “dies” after a few seconds. So enjoy it immediately!

  17. Curt
    Curt at | | Reply

    Any recommendation about a wine bar in Venice?

  18. Teresa Young
    Teresa Young at | | Reply

    Thank You for this wonderful article…I am traveling in May to Venice for the first time. I am saving all this useful info! Teresa

  19. Where to Go in Sardinia - Self-Drive Itinerary | Indiana Jo
    Where to Go in Sardinia - Self-Drive Itinerary | Indiana Jo at |

    […] Alternative Venice: 10 Things NOT To Do and 10 To Do Instead […]

  20. Lisa.
    Lisa. at | | Reply

    I live in Venice and we would like to have it to ourselves too…The food is mostly frozen and it is very overpriced. The summer is so crowded. Even at night. We get around 30million visitors a year. In fact when we go out for dinner we go to the mainland to eat. It is an amazing city. But mass tourism has taken its toll.

  21. Iris Pase
    Iris Pase at | | Reply

    As an italian I cannot but agree with you! If it doesn’t bother you, I’ve shared your article on my blog’s fb page!

  22. Debbie
    Debbie at | | Reply

    We are going to Venice in September. I love your recommendations on the tours and will check them out

  23. olivialaurendreyer
    olivialaurendreyer at | | Reply

    Most helpful blog I’ve read yet, I was just going to devote half a day to Venice and do basically all the things you’re saying not to do that are touristy (which I would love to avoid). Thanks!

  24. Christie Sultemeier
    Christie Sultemeier at | | Reply

    Best article I’ve found! Thanks for sharing.

  25. Stephanie-Marie
    Stephanie-Marie at | | Reply

    Venice is home to my favourite little gallery. Peggy Guggenheim put together the loveliest collection and it’s worth an hour or two to browse through. My favourite was the Jackson Pollock room and the wishing tree in the courtyard. You write your wish on a piece of paper and hang it on the tree. I wished it would cool off as it had been 40C for days and later that day it rained and the temperature dropped considerably. In retrospect I should have wished for a million dollars!

  26. Marlies
    Marlies at | | Reply

    Thanks for these tips! I am looking for my parents and I love this!
    and now I wanna go as well of course!

    Marlies, Magnificent Escape

  27. dnardi710
    dnardi710 at | | Reply

    So glad I found this post! I am in the process of planning for a trip to Italy and was planning on booking a few of the Walks of Italy tours – glad to hear that are worth it!

  28. Martha
    Martha at | | Reply

    Your advice and suggestions are spot on. I made Venice my home for 35 years and living as a local is much different than experiencing it as a tourist. The farther you get from the Square the better.

  29. Rena
    Rena at | | Reply

    I agree with Paul tat the very best tip is to be prepared to spend some cash, and do your homework so you can make wise choices about where to splurge. We are getting ready to spend 10 days in Venice in Jan, arriving a few days before Carnivale starts. This will be our 3rd trip to beautiful Venice. Id love some advice about dos and don’ts during Carnivale. ere are a few things I’ve learned in previous trips: The Secret Tour of the Doge’s Palace is worth the 24 euro fee. No lines and the extra back stage places toured were cool. Did I mention no lines? I usually like traveling to discover but Venice is one place were some research and restaurant reservations come in handy. On our first trip, we had the worst meal of the trip at a pizza place ran by obviously non-Italians which seemed to be a front for the gambling going on in the back room. Sketchy. One last bit is to learn the Italian words for foods that you don’t like to eat so you know what you are ordering for a meal, or so you can ask questions wen pointing at cichetti bar. If you learn Italian vocabulary for all the items you like, it can be a long list and hard to recall wen looking at a menu. I TOTALLY agree with you about Canareggio but disagree about the gondola. Its pretty amazing to see the architecture up close from the view point of the slowly moving gondola. It is a splurge but I suggest using it as real transportation rater than making a loop – tell your gondolier that you’d like to get to ____ via the most beautiful canals and negotiate the price. Were renting an apartment tis time for about 129 euro per night, Ill let you know how that goes.

  30. stephentravels
    stephentravels at | | Reply

    I spent eight full days in Venice for my 40th birthday — plenty of time to see it all, or so I thought. Fighting the crowds, of course, was a constant battle, so your #5, #6, and #10 are particularly spot on, terrific ways to escape the masses and still see what makes Venice so irresistibly attractive. I would argue that taking a gondola ride is something that every visitor to this city should do, however, regardless of how touristy it is. But then, to counterbalance that, a ride on the very inexpensive vaporetto down the Grand Canal from start to finish, is the way to go.

  31. Paul
    Paul at | | Reply

    I agree with you about the Bellini. Must be one of the biggest rip offs in Venice. Not to mention the surly bartenders. After at least 5 trips to Venice, I would say to most people that you have to be prepared to spend some money.Venice is never going to be a cheap holiday destination. As an example, I find a private water taxi the best way to get to your hotel. It will cost around $110 Euro, but will save you a lot of time and aggravation. Regarding Cafe Florian, personally, I don’t go for the coffee, which indeed may be over priced, but sitting in San Marco at Cafe Florian with a a bottle of Prosecco in the early evening of a sunny day is one of life’s greatest pleasures.

  32. Nina
    Nina at | | Reply

    What is the best ticket to buy if I’m going from the airport to Venice but would also like to go to Lido.. I know I want to use the alilaguna, I’m just a little confused on how to use it. trip on the 25

  33. Michaell @ Foodscape
    Michaell @ Foodscape at | | Reply

    Wow do I wish I had read this before I went to Venice! I, also, was disappointed. Thanks for the great tips! If my husband and I ever go together I will be reading this first.

  34. Kelsie Kleinmeyer
    Kelsie Kleinmeyer at | | Reply

    Thanks for the tips! We will be there in late July. Planning to do the Rolling Venice card and then get the discounted youth travel cards. I’m also going to look into that tour you mentioned, as St. Marks and the Doge were the main two things I wanted to see. Otherwise, we plan to relax and explore!

  35. Bebett
    Bebett at | | Reply

    We will be in Italy June 17-July 2. We will start in Venice and have been apprehensive about the crowds. Are the crowds mostly from the cruises so that is why it is quieter at night? So glad to have found your website! Will be reading your other posts. Thank you!

  36. nicaraguayestravel (@nicaraguayes)
    nicaraguayestravel (@nicaraguayes) at | | Reply

    Cool blog and awesome post about my country, Italy I miss it so much although I love to travel and to live where I have been living in the past 6 years, Nicaragua a wounderful country!!
    keep up this nice blog I just stumbled here but I make sure to mark your page among my favourites!
    …and maybe we can work together some how, we are just launching a blog about travelling in Nicaragua and Central America…have you ever been here??

  37. Asi
    Asi at | | Reply

    I will be in Venice this Friday!! Great info !! Thank you 🙂

  38. Ayngelina
    Ayngelina at | | Reply

    Thanks for sharing my coffee post – who knew a cup of joe could be so complicated!

  39. Emma O'Reilly
    Emma O'Reilly at | | Reply

    Great feature, Jo – lots of useful information

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