Planning a trip to Italy? Read our ultimate Venice Travel Guide – one of our favorite Italian cities!
Ahhh, Venice. There is so much written about this exquisite water city audaciously perched in the middle of a lagoon in the Veneto region of northern Italy, and rightly so. The beauty, the food, the light and the architecture make it one of Italy’s, and indeed the world’s, must-visit destinations. From cobbled laneways to crumbling bridges, gondolas to Venetian masks, every single thing about Venice lives up to its reputation. You can be forgiven at times for thinking you have landed on an elaborate film set, created almost like a sophisticated European Disneyland.
There are of course some sites you should plan to see – St Marks Basilica, the Grand Canal, Doge’s Palace and the famous 1930s establishment Harry’s Bar, however our favorite thing to do is to get hopelessly lost in the back streets and laneways (trust us not even google maps will help you here!) and stumble across a more authentic Venice away from the ever-present hoards of tourists. Read all of our tips on visiting this exquisite city with our Ultimate Venice Travel Guide.
Venice Travel Tips
- Plan your trip in advance: Venice is a popular tourist destination, so it’s essential to plan your trip in advance to avoid disappointment. Book your accommodation, tours, and tickets in advance, especially during peak season.
- Pack comfortable shoes: Venice is a city of canals, so you’ll be doing a lot of walking on cobbled streets and bridges. Make sure you wear comfortable shoes to explore the city without any discomfort.
- Get a map: Venice is a maze of narrow streets and canals, so it’s easy to get lost. Get a map of the city or download a GPS app on your phone to navigate the streets more easily.
- Use public transportation: Venice is a car-free city, so the only modes of transportation are boats and walking. Use public transportation, like vaporettos or water taxis, to get around the city. You can buy a pass that allows unlimited travel on the vaporettos for a set period.
- Avoid peak season: Venice is crowded and expensive during the summer months, especially during the Venice Biennale and the Carnival of Venice. Visit during the shoulder season (April to May and September to November) to enjoy the city without the crowds.
- Try the local cuisine: Venice is known for its seafood dishes, so try some local delicacies like sarde in saor, risotto al nero di seppia, or fegato alla veneziana. Don’t forget to try the famous Bellini cocktail made with Prosecco and peach puree.
- Respect the city: Venice is a fragile city that is suffering from overtourism, so it’s essential to respect the city and its residents. Don’t litter, don’t swim in the canals, and don’t make too much noise at night.
- Get lost: Venice is a beautiful city that is best explored by wandering its streets and canals. Get lost and discover hidden gems, like secluded squares and hidden churches, that you wouldn’t find on a map.
- Language: Venetians speak Italian although English is also widely spoken and understood in the city.
Getting To and Around Venice
The most common way to get to Venice is by plane. Venice has its airport, the Marco Polo Airport, which is located on the mainland. From the airport, you can take a taxi or a bus to Piazzale Roma, which is the gateway to the historic city. Another option is to take a train to Venice’s main train station, Venezia Santa Lucia, which is located on the edge of the Grand Canal. Venice is also accessible by car, but cars are not allowed in the historic city, so you’ll need to park in a garage on the edge of the city and take a vaporetto or water taxi to the center.
ele Tip: Arriving in to Venice in a glamorous water taxi is expensive but oh so worth it – nothing beats seeing the city from the water on a sparkling, sunny, blue-skied day.
Once you arrive in Venice, there are several ways to get around the city. The most common way to get around Venice is by walking. The historic city is relatively small, and it’s easy to walk from one side to the other in under an hour. The streets are narrow and winding, and it’s easy to get lost, but that’s part of the charm of the city. If you get lost, simply follow the signs to the major landmarks, like St. Mark’s Square or the Rialto Bridge.
Another popular way to get around Venice is by taking a vaporetto, which is a water bus. The vaporetto system is extensive and covers most of the city’s major sights. You can buy a single ticket or a multi-day pass, which is a good option if you plan to use the vaporetto frequently. The vaporetto is a bit slower than other modes of transportation, but it’s a relaxing way to see the city from the water.
If you want to get around the city quickly, you can take a water taxi. Water taxis are more expensive than the vaporetto, but they’re faster and more convenient. You can hail a water taxi from any of the city’s water taxi stands or by calling ahead to reserve one. Water taxis are a good option if you have a lot of luggage or if you want to get to a specific destination quickly.
If you’re feeling adventurous, you can rent a bicycle or a scooter to get around the city. However, keep in mind that the streets are narrow and crowded and there are alot of bridges and steps, so it can be challenging to navigate through the crowds on a bicycle or scooter. If you do decide to rent a bicycle or scooter, make sure to wear a helmet and be cautious on the roads.
Currency and Exchange
The currency used in Venice, as in the rest of Italy, is the Euro. Exchanging money in Venice is relatively easy, with many currency exchange offices located throughout the city, particularly in the tourist areas. However, it’s important to be aware that exchange rates and fees can vary widely between different exchange offices, so it’s a good idea to compare rates and fees before making a transaction.
Another option is to withdraw money from an ATM using a debit or credit card. ATMs are widely available throughout the city, particularly near major tourist areas, and they usually offer competitive exchange rates. However, it’s important to check with your bank beforehand to ensure that your card will work in Italy and to be aware of any fees that may be charged for international transactions. In general, using an ATM to withdraw cash is often the most convenient and cost-effective way to access money while in Venice.
Accommodation in Venice
Venice offers a variety of accommodation options to suit all budgets and preferences. The most popular type of accommodation in the city is the hotel, with options ranging from budget-friendly guesthouses to luxury 5-star hotels. Many of these hotels are located in historic buildings, like palaces and monasteries, adding to the charm and atmosphere of the city. Another popular option is to rent an apartment or a room in a private home, which can be a more affordable option and give you a taste of local life. For a unique and unforgettable experience, you can also choose to stay on a houseboat or a converted barge, which offer stunning views of the city from the water. Whatever your preference, there are plenty of accommodation options in Venice to choose from.
We stayed at the luxurious Hotel Daneli, which has been featured in Hollywood films and has a beautiful terrace restaurant which is perfect for long lunches overlooking the canal. While the building itself is exquisite and the location perfect, at times the service can be little impersonal – no doubt due to the sheer volume of guests passing through its doors each day.
When to visit
The peak tourist season in Venice is from June to August, when the weather is warm and sunny, but the city can be crowded and prices can be high. Spring and autumn are also popular times to visit, with mild weather and fewer tourists. The winter months from November to February are the least crowded, but the weather can be cold and rainy, and some attractions may be closed. If you’re interested in experiencing the Venetian carnival, which takes place in February, or the famous Biennale art exhibition, which occurs every other year from May to November, plan your visit accordingly. Ultimately, the best time to visit Venice depends on your preferences, budget, and interests, and there’s something to see and do in the city all year round.
ele Tip – we love winter for its quietness and foggy beauty – there is nothing better than sipping a hot chocolate in a cosy cafe by the canals.
Food and Drink
Venetian cuisine is a unique blend of Italian and Mediterranean influences, and is renowned for its fresh seafood and use of seasonal ingredients. Some of the most famous Venetian dishes include sarde in saor (sweet and sour sardines), risi e bisi (rice and peas), and fegato alla veneziana (Venetian-style liver). Seafood is particularly popular, with dishes like spaghetti alle vongole (spaghetti with clams) and baccalà mantecato (creamed cod) being local favorites. Venetian cuisine also features a variety of sweet treats, including frittelle (fried doughnuts) and tiramisu, which is said to have originated in the city. Venice is also known for its traditional cicchetti, small plates of food similar to tapas, which are often served in bars and taverns throughout the city. These can include a variety of local ingredients, such as baccalà (salt cod) and polenta (cornmeal), and are usually accompanied by a glass of wine or a spritz, a popular local cocktail made with prosecco and Aperol.
One of the most famous drinks in Venice is the Aperol Spritz, a refreshing cocktail made with prosecco, Aperol, and soda water, which is often served with a slice of orange. Wine is also very popular in Venice, with the Veneto region being known for its high-quality wines, such as Prosecco, Valpolicella, and Amarone. Another popular drink is grappa, a strong and aromatic brandy made from the remnants of the winemaking process. If you’re looking for a non-alcoholic option, try a hot chocolate, or cioccolata calda, which is a thick and creamy drink made with melted chocolate and milk, and is perfect for warming up on a cold day.
ele Tip – don’t miss a Peach Bellini with fresh peach and of course world-famous Italian gelato!
Where to Stay
The San Marco neighborhood is the most popular and central location, offering easy access to the city’s major attractions such as St. Mark’s Square, the Doge’s Palace, and the Rialto Bridge. The San Polo area is also a great choice, located close to the Rialto Bridge and known for its lively atmosphere, picturesque streets, and authentic Venetian cuisine. Another option is the Cannaregio district, which is quieter and more residential, with charming canals and beautiful architecture. The Dorsoduro neighborhood is popular with art lovers, as it is home to many museums and galleries, as well as the famous Peggy Guggenheim Collection. Ultimately, the best area to stay in Venice will depend on your personal preferences and interests.
What to do in Venice
Venice is a city full of history, culture, and beauty, with countless things to see and do. One of the most iconic and recognizable sites in Venice is St. Mark’s Square, which is surrounded by famous landmarks such as St. Mark’s Basilica, the Doge’s Palace, and the Campanile bell tower. Another must-see attraction is the Rialto Bridge, which spans the Grand Canal and offers stunning views of the water and surrounding buildings. For a taste of local life, head to the vibrant neighborhoods of Cannaregio or Dorsoduro, where you can wander the streets, explore local shops and markets, and try traditional Venetian dishes. If you’re interested in art and history, the Gallerie dell’Accademia and the Peggy Guggenheim Collection are both world-renowned museums featuring a range of masterpieces and contemporary art. And of course, no visit to Venice would be complete without a gondola ride along the canals, where you can take in the stunning architecture and scenery from a unique perspective.
Shopping in Venice
From intricate glasswork to delicate lace, there are plenty of authentic Venetian souvenirs to bring back home. One of the most popular things to buy in Venice is Murano glass. Murano is a small island near Venice that has been famous for its glassmaking since the 13th century. The glassblowers of Murano are renowned for their intricate designs and vibrant colors, creating everything from delicate vases to ornate chandeliers. Be sure to visit a glass factory on the island and watch the skilled artisans at work before picking out your favorite piece to take home.
Another unique souvenir to consider is Burano lace. Burano is a small island known for its lace-making tradition, which dates back to the 16th century. The lace is delicate and intricate, and each piece is handmade using techniques that have been passed down through generations. You can find lace items such as tablecloths, doilies, and even clothing, but be aware that genuine Burano lace can be expensive.
For those who enjoy cooking and fine foods, Venetian cuisine offers plenty of opportunities to bring back some delicious treats. One option is to buy a bottle of Prosecco, a sparkling wine produced in the Veneto region, to bring home as a reminder of your trip. You could also pick up a bag of Venetian coffee, which is often roasted and blended in the city, or some locally produced olive oil or balsamic vinegar.
For a more lighthearted souvenir, consider purchasing a Venetian mask. The masks are a traditional part of Venetian culture, used for everything from elaborate costume parties to simple street performances. You can find masks of all shapes, sizes, and designs, from simple black masks to ornate, feathered creations.
Venice is a city that should be on every travel lover’s must-visit list in least once in your lifetime.