There’s something extremely romantic and charming about Venice. Imagine strolling down alleyways, eating authentic gelato while window shopping for Italian leather handbags. Whether it’s the Basilica di San Marco located in the heart of the Piazza San Marco, the Rialto Bridge, or the Ponte dei Sospiri, there is so much history to be seen on this magical little island, it can seem very overwhelming. Here is my ultimate guide to Venice, Italy!
What to Expect in Venice
Language: Italian! Though some locals don’t speak English, most Venetians have become accustomed to English speaking tourists so you shouldn’t have a problem communicating.
Currency: Much like a lot of other countries in Europe, they use the Euro. With so much tourism, Venice widely accepts credit cards. However, it can be easier to pay for small purchases and souvenirs with cash, so keep some Euros on you at all times.
Climate: The weather in Venice is very extreme. In the summers, it is very hot out. With a massive increase in tourists, the crowds only add to the heat. In the winter, it is quite rainy and cold. Italy is on the same seasonal cycle as the USA meaning when it’s summer in the USA it’s summer in Italy. Same goes for spring, fall, and winter.
Peak Season: Peak tourist season for Venice is June-August. Since so many people visit during these months, prices get VERY expensive, even for hostels, so expect to pay more than anywhere else in Italy.
Best Time to Visit: Don’t miss my guide on The Best Time to Visit Italy for a detailed breakdown of what to expect throughout the different seasons.
Getting Around in Venice
Walking: There are a few ways to get around Venice but the most common is going to be walking. There are a lot of small busy alleyways and staircases so walking with luggage can be a bit of a hassle when making your way to your hotel. If you’re just looking to explore the shops or get food, walking to your destination will be easiest.
Water Taxi: If you’re looking to go somewhere a bit further or have heavy bags that you don’t want to carry, you can take a water taxi. If you take a train into Venice, you can walk out of the train station and the first bridge that you see is the main bridge. Right underneath there are water taxis.
Water Buses: Water buses are another option for getting around. You can buy a bus pass that will allow you to ride for your full trip.
Gondolas: Lastly, there are the gondolas. It costs close to 100 Euros ($115 USD) for 30 minutes so it’s not really worth it just for getting from place to place.
Hotel Palazzo Abadessa
This luxury hotel is set in a historical palace and it’s the best place to get away from it all after a long day of sightseeing. Visitors are treated like everyday friends. With lush gardens and frescoed rooms, you’ll be feeling like royalty in no time.
Location: Campiello Priuli
Accommodation: Historic, Luxury
The Gritti Palace
Located in San Marco, this hotel is in the perfect central spot. This 15th century hotel has some of the best views of the canal and Salute church. It offers grand rooms, a pool, and a rooftop dining area that is sure to provide one of the best views of Venice.
Location: Campo Santa Maria del Giglio
Accommodation: Historic, Luxury
Novecento Boutique Hotel
Tucked in a quiet little alleyway, this mid-range boutique hotel includes its own courtyard, North African and Middle Eastern touches, and an array of homemade breakfast goodies. It’s a five-minute walk from St. Mark’s and only a 20 minute walk to the Rialto.
Location: S. Marco
Accommodation: Mid-Range, Boutique
Residenza De L’Osmarin
This quaint little B&B wins guests over with its charm. With only three bedrooms, you’ll find well-informed hosts and cute decor. The top room also includes a rooftop terrace with views of the nearby canal. With limited space, it’s best to book a room in advance!
Location: Province of Venice
Accommodation: Bed & Breakfast
Typically Airbnbs tend to be cheaper than hotels in Venice. When booking your trip, research all your options. You will most likely be able to find an Airbnb in a central location, close to all the action for a good price!
Al Ponte Antico
This might be one of the best-located spots on this list. Located right on the Great Canal, just north of the Rialto, it’s ideal for those that want to spend their days’ sightseeing. Inside you’ll find polished wood, a lot of gold, and vibrant colors.
Location: Grand Canal
Locals love this breakfast spot. It serves some of the best Essi biscuits, a lemony treat that’s in the shape of an S. People tend to stop in for a coffee and end up leaving with a box of goodies for their family.
Helpful Tip: Avoid restaurants that have pictures of their menu outside and a staff member trying to persuade you to eat there. These are tourist traps and you will end up paying an insane amount of money for your meal.
This is another well-known local spot and known for some of the most authentic Italian food in the city. Be prepared for knitty gritty service but incredible food. Especially the risotto secoe, made with fatty beef spine.
Helpful Tip: If it’s a seafood restaurant, it’s most likely delicious. The fish is VERY good in Venice. In fact, go to the Ghetto. It’s the first real ghetto in the world, has little to no crowds, and the best seafood. Plus it’s a cool atmosphere to explore.
This spot is a party nonstop from Thursday to Monday morning. Filled with students, professors, poets, and musicians, it’s a local legend. Plus you can get spaghetti that’s cooked in a 40kg wheel of cheese until it’s coated in cheese.
Helpful Tip: Be sure to order an Aperol spritz with your meal. It’s what all the Venetians drink. It’s prosecco, Aperol, and a spritz of seltzer and is extremely refreshing.
Said to be one of the best gelato places in Venice, this is the perfect place to indulge your sweet tooth.
Do as Anthony Bourdain Does
Anthony Bourdain’s episodes of No Reservations are great resources for finding amazing restaurants and foodie experiences around the world. Don’t miss his episode on Venice!
Ponte Di Rialto
The Rialto Bridge was built in just 3 years, between 1588 and 1591 and is the true heart of Venice. It has quickly become another extremely popular tourist destination. It has three walkways that lead between two rows of shops. Beware if you have a stroller or wheelchair as this bridge consists primarily of stairs.
Bridge of Sighs
Also known as Ponte dei Sospiri in Italian, this is one of the most famous bridges in Italy. It was originally connected to the prison so prisoners had to cross the bridge, causing them to *sigh* as they entered jail. Hence the name!
Cassanova was from Venice and actually escaped that prison. It has now become a symbol of love and it is said that if you kiss your lover under the bridge, your love will last forever.
This island of colorful buildings and Venetian lace is just a water taxi away from Venice. Burano is a photographer’s paradise and the true epitome of Italian charm. Be sure to see the artists make glass sculptures., it’s quite an interesting process.
Piazza San Marco
Often known as St. Mark’s Square, this is considered one of the finest squares in the world and is definitely Venice’s prime tourist attraction. Here you’ll find the Basilica di San Marco, Palazzo Ducale, Campanile (the bell tower), restaurants, shops, and museums.
Travel Tip: I advise not to stay in Piazza San Marco. In fact, it’s best to avoid eating or drinking there (even a coffee) or buying any souvenirs. Things tend to be more expensive due to high volumes of tourists.
At about 3800 meters long, this grand canal splits the city into two sides. In fact, all of the noble palaces were built right on the water and there is no pedestrian access. One of the best ways to see the canal is to take a gondola ride or a water bus.
The gothic palace was formerly home to the Doge and the seat of the Venetian government. It opened as a museum in 1923 and features exhibits like “Secret Itineraries of the Doge’s Palace” and “the hidden treasures of the Doge.” If you’re interested in history, it’s a must-see.
San Giorgio Maggiore
Want the best view of the city without the crowds? This church is your answer. While tourists line up for hours to see the Bell Tower of Saint Mark, you can get to the top of the church in no time and have sweeping views of Venice.
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