Venice is the ultimate picture-perfect Italian city. Accessible solely by boat and completely devoid of cars, the only way of getting around is on foot or by gondola. The lack of public transport and modernities that characterise other cities is very refreshing. It’s what makes Venice such a quaint destination, because it really is like nowhere else.
With winding, narrow streets, it’s easy to get lost – but that’s no bad thing. If you wander far enough, you’ll find the more untouched areas, which aren’t brimming with tourists. Stop by a local restaurant off the beaten track and enjoy authentic Venetian cuisine alongside the locals.
From packing and planning to getting around and eating out, here are my top tips for visiting Venice.
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1. Spend at least two or three days in Venice
It’s simply not possible to explore Venice on a day trip. To really discover all that this unique city has to offer, you need to stay for at least two nights.
There’s nothing worse than rushing around trying to squeeze everything in. Spend a little longer in the city and enjoy your stay at a more leisurely pace.
2. Choosing where to stay
There are some truly stunning hotels in Venice, from grand palatial properties to beautiful boutique establishments. When I visited several years ago, I stayed in Hotel Metropole, a gorgeous hotel situated right on the canal.
We’d open our bedroom window to see gondolas gliding along the water below us. Just a few minutes from Piazza S. Marco, it’s an ideal location, close to all the key sights.
The interiors were lavish and exuberant, the perfect embodiment of grandiose venetian architecture and design. Brimming with antique furniture but with an elegant feel, you felt a bit like a prince or princess.
There was also a gorgeous outdoor area, complete with palm trees and jasmines. An idyllic spot for an evening cocktail.
Read my guide to the best luxury hotels in Venice for some more high-end options. Some other great accommodation options include:
- Hotel Moresco. An elegant four-star hotel with classic 19th-century Venetian styling.
- H10 Palazzo Canova. A more modern hotel with a gorgeous terrace and bar.
- Hotel Galleria. A small, charming hotel located right on the Grand Canal.
- Hotel Cipriani. A five-star hotel in Venice with views of the Lagoon and Doge’s Palace.
3. Pack light
Given the limited modes of transport, you’ll need to carry your luggage on and off boats, as well as by foot if you’re not dropped right in front of your hotel.
It therefore follows that packing light will save you a fair bit of stress and sweat. As you are only likely to be staying for a few nights, you won’t need much with you anyway.
4. You’ll need more time than you think to get from A to B
Believe me when I say: there are a lot of tourists in Venice. So many tourists that it’s actually difficult to move. Narrow streets and bridges combined with hordes of people all vying to take pictures can create some serious human blockages.
It’s one of the biggest downsides of visiting Venice, and does take the romantic edge off it a little. But if you know what to expect then it won’t be such a shock.
5. Use a traditional map to get around
Venice can be quite tricky to navigate with all its winding streets and hidden alleys. Unfortunately, it can be difficult getting a good GPS signal for apps like Google Maps – possibly due to the tall buildings and narrow alleyways. It’s therefore better to rely on a good old fashioned map.
Having said that, there is something fun about getting a little lost in a city like Venice. You’re more likely to stumble upon hidden corners where there aren’t so many tourists.
Just make sure that you have a map handy so you can find your way back.
6. Seek out restaurants away from the tourist areas
There are a number of sensational places to eat in Venice – you just need to find them. It’s best to wander off the well-trodden tourist trails, as these tend to feature overpriced establishments with average cuisine.
Meander down the narrow streets and alleyways to seek out the authentic eateries which are popular with the locals.
Here are a few of my favourites:
- Bistrot de Venise. Stunning historical food recreated from the work of Renaissance cooks.
- Trattoria Antiche Carampane. Tucked away, this is a charming restaurant that’s popular with Venetians, offering traditional dishes.
- Osteria Alla Testiere. A smart seafood restaurant hidden on a backstreet in Castello, recommended in the Michelin guide.
- All’Arco. An authentic wine bar with a lively atmosphere serving delicious snacks like sandwiches and crostini.
Or for a perfect cocktail spot, read my guide to the best bars in Venice.
7. Avoid dining in St Mark’s Square
As an extension of the previous tip, know that you’ll need to take out a small mortgage if you plan to take a seat for a drink or some food in St Mark’s Square. It is excruciatingly expensive.
You pay a premium for the location and, in my opinion, it’s not worth it. You’ll be surrounded by masses of pigeons and tourists, plus you won’t be able to stop thinking about how much you just paid for the most expensive below average wine you’ve ever had!
8. Go on a walking tour with a local
In almost every city I visit, I take a guided walking tour with a local. It is by far the best way to discover the city, learn a bit about the history, and get some insider’s tips. Opt for a free walking tour where you can tip however much you like at the end of the tour.
These walking tours are best done on your first day in Venice. It will help you get your bearings and prioritise which areas and attractions you’d like to see more of.
9. Skip The Line tickets are essential
Some of the queues for the main attractions in Venice, such as Doge’s Palace, are ridiculous. I cannot stress enough the importance of buying Skip The Line tickets so you can bypass these queues.
If you’re visiting a city as beautiful as Venice, you don’t want to be spending most of your time in a never-ending queue.
10. Don’t leave without a gondola ride
It may seem touristy but you cannot leave Venice without having a gondola ride. The gondola is an icon of Venice and is wonderfully romantic.
Sit back and relax while your gondolier steers you through the winding canals of the beautiful city.
11. Be wary of public toilet fees and availability
Venice is actually quite limited in terms of the number of public toilets throughout the city. Plus, they are expensive to use (as far as toilet fees go). You can expect to pay €1,50 unless you have the Venice Connected Pass.
In some museums and galleries, the toilets are free. Don’t be alarmed by unisex facilities too, as these are quite common in the museums.
On the plus side, the toilets are generally very clean for public toilets – which goes some way to justifying the excessive fee!
If you can’t face paying for the use of a public toilet, personally I’d recommend putting that money towards a coffee or pastry in one of the many cafes. You can then use their toilet and enjoy a pleasant stop-off!
12. Bring a refillable water bottle
There are countless fountains dotted around the city with perfectly safe drinking water. Carry a refillable water bottle with you and fill up from the fountains.
Not only is it better for the environment, but it’s significantly cheaper too.
13. Beware of flooding in Venice
It’s true that Venice does have a bit of a problem with flooding. However, it’s not really something that visitors need to worry about too much. On the whole, the flooding is only bad for a few hours on a limited number of days.
It’s rare for vast areas of the city to be affected. So generally, you should be just fine – unless you’re really unlucky.
Do you need wellies in Venice? No, you do not need wellies when visiting Venice. You need to travel relatively light to this city, so don’t use up precious luggage space with big rubber boots.
If worse comes to worse and the city is badly flooded when you visit, you can buy some temporary wellies when you’re there. Or you can just avoid the flooded parts.
14. Take time to visit the local markets
A vision of bright colours and diverse smells, an amble around the local markets is one of the best things to do in Venice. Discover fresh local produce and a vibrant atmosphere. The best markets include:
- Mercato di Rialto – in the heart of Venice and probably the most well-known.
- Campo San Barnaba – sells fruit and veg from a boat on the canal, for over 70 years.
- Calle Longhi – a farmer’s market with the freshest produce.
- Mercatino di San Giobbe – find antiques at this quaint flea market.
- Mestre market – for fruit vegetable, meat, cheese, and flowers, as well as other snacks and household items such as organic dates or nuts.
15. Don’t miss the artisan shops
A fantastic way of immersing yourself in the rich culture of Venice is by exploring the various artisan shops. You’ll have the chance to discover artistic artisans and centuries-old crafts.
If you’re a big fan of arts and crafts then join one of their workshops for a truly authentic Venetian experience. These traditional techniques and souvenirs are a breath of fresh air in the age of mass-production and manufacturing.
16. Indulge in some authentic gelato
Typical of any Italian city, you’ll find a number of enticing gelato shops around Venice. It’s the perfect snack for a warm day exploring Venice.
Try to uncover the more traditional gelato shops. You can usually tell by the colour of the gelato – if it is brightly coloured then it probably means it contains artificial flavours.
17. Leave your high heels at home
As you will primarily be getting around on foot, it pays to have comfortable shoes. Leave the high heels at home, unless you want to tackle long walks on uneven streets.
Add to that the crowds, steps and bridges, and it’s easy to see why you could be creating a problem for yourself.
18. Visit the beach if the weather permits
If the sun is shining, the temperature hot, and you fancy a relaxing break, then head to Lido. Many are surprised to hear that Venice has a beach.
Lido is one of Venice’s islands and has an eight mile stretch of sandy beach. Sit back, relax, and enjoy the sound of the Adriatic waves. Sun beds are available to rent.
Costs and tourists aside, Venice is the perfect European getaway for a long weekend and an absolute must for your Europe bucket list. A beautiful and romantic city – just make sure you budget enough to cover the costs.
If you’re planning a trip to Venice, be sure to check out my Venice travel guide. You may also like:
20 best luxury hotels in Venice
20 amazing things to do in Venice
It’s definitely cheaper to stay in another town like Joesolo/Veneto are at and take a boy there rather than right in Venice. I went in June and it was busy but not overwhelming busy. The seagulls in Venice are crazy! I had one swipe my sandwich right out of my hands as I was getting ready to take a bite!
What a great post! I’ve always wanted to go to Venice 🙂
Brianna | https://briannamarielifestyle.com/