Venice is the ultimate picture-perfect Italian city. It is, of course, famous for being completely devoid of cars. Accessible solely by boat and 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 popular 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. Just make sure you have a detailed map. And remember you can’t just ‘hop in a taxi’ back to your hotel, because cars are banned in Venice.
If you’re looking to visit Venice soon, with any luck this Venice guide and travel advice should come in handy. Let’s go…
Where to stay
We 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.
Where to eat
Below I’ve listed all the restaurants we ate in or were recommended. All of the ones we tried were wonderful, if not a little pricey – but, that’s Venice!
Bistrot de Venise – Stunning historical food recreated from the work of Renaissance cooks.
Taverna La Fenice – A warm and welcoming restaurant that services fresh, authentic food.
Trattoria Antiche Carampane – Tucked away, this is a charming restaurant that’s popular with Venetians. More traditional with delicious food.
La Cantina – Some quite imaginative dishes and definitely no tourist-friendly menu. A good atmosphere, if a little hectic.
Harry’s Bar – Famous for the birthplace of the Bellini. It’s a very small, quaint little bar and tourists tend to visit so they can say ‘I’ve had a Bellini at Harry’s Bar in Venice’. It’ll be the most expensive Bellini you’ve ever had.
What to see
Doge’s Palace – Well worth a visit. Built in a Venetian gothic style, it is absolutely breath-taking. I strongly recommend booking tickets online in advance, to avoid the queues. Tickets cost about 25 euros.
St Mark’s Square – You’ll end up walking through St Mark’s Square (Piazza San Marco) many times when exploring Venice. It’s beautiful and absolutely full of pigeons. Think Trafalgar Square but worse. I’d recommend against eating or drinking in one of the cafés, bars or restaurants on the square, as it will be absurdly expensive.
Saint Mark’s Basilica – The most famous church in Venice and comprising stunning architecture.
Rialto Bridge – One of the most famous bridges in the world, the Rialto Bridge is a historic attraction. Beautiful views over the Grand Canal.
Grand Canal – The most picture-perfect body of your water you’ll ever see.
When to visit
I visited Venice in October last year – yes, it’s taken me approximately nine months to write up the travel guide. We were pretty lucky with the weather and it was actually really warm for that time of the year. We’d all packed trousers, jeans and jumpers but it was hot enough for light tops and skirts.
I’d say September / October is a good time to go. You’ll get to miss the busyness and heat of the summer months, plus I hear it can get a bit stinky in the summer. Takes the edge off a romantic gondola ride when there’s a general aroma of eggy fart lingering. November to March is flooding season, so best avoided unless you’ve got thigh-high wellies.
How to get around?
Quite an easy one with Venice as there are literally only two options: walk or gondola. The city is small enough to get everywhere on foot easily.
But you can’t leave without having a gondola ride. Whether you use it to get from A to B, or fancy something a little more romantic.
What did I love?
Venice is undeniably beautiful. The canals, the architecture, the winding streets. You could just spend all day wandering around, taking in the sights.
And, of course, the food is to die for. You’d expect nothing less from an Italian city. Having said that, I’d recommend venturing a little off the beaten track. I was lucky to have visited with my best mate’s dad who is a serious foodie and spent a long time researching restaurants.
What did I not love?
Venice is busy. Really, really busy. I think it’s important to be aware of this before you visit, or you could be disappointed with the sheer volume of tourists. Think Piccadilly Circus in London at rush hour. Just meandering around the city can be painful, as you often find yourself queuing simply to walk over a bridge. Usually made worse by endless tourists trying to snap the perfect instagram picture. Err, guilty!
It’s also expensive. Like, really expensive. I was lucky to go with family on this one, which meant that I didn’t have to cover every bill. I don’t think I could have afforded a long weekend in Venice had I gone on my own or with a friend. Well, I could have afforded it but I would have been constantly worried about how much I was spending.
All in all, the perfect European getaway for a long weekend. A beautiful and romantic city – just make sure you budget enough to cover the costs.
Do you have any Venice travel advice or recommendations? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!