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Venice Italy is one of the places that EVERYONE has on their bucket list. Now the danger of sinking and tourism restrictions has made this beautiful destination even more popular than ever before. I have always wanted to visit Venice but had never planned for it. It was just a city on my bucket list, like many other destinations I am hoping to visit someday until that one day when I stood with a ticket in my hand. I was probably talking more about Venice than I had realized. And my darling husband who pays attention to what I say got us tickets to Venice as a surprise for my 40th birthday. We were going to VENICE, and I was super excited. If you have been to Venice, you know how romantic it is. And talking about romance, Italy is probably one of the best countries for love. Check out Kate’s post on honeymoon in Tuscany. Her itinerary is perfect for a romantic long weekend getaway too.
But what makes Venice such a desirable place? Is it the reputation of being one of the most romantic cities in the world, is it its history, its architecture or the famous carnival? For me, it was the food, the wine and prosecco, architecture, and colors. Venice is one of these places that are extremely popular at any time of the year. But its popularity is also its curse. Mass tourism increases the cost of living by an increase in prices and replacement of residential housing with shops with poor quality souvenirs. Young people are leaving Venice to find better opportunities for work in other places. And lack of local population might eventually lead to the extortion of Venetian soul. Mass tourism leads to an import of cheap goods and decreases handcrafted products made by locals due to its higher prices, destroying local businesses. So, guys, please be a responsible traveler and support local Venetian companies by getting their products. Or at least stop buying a cheap replica, which devalues the pride and soul of the local culture. Handcrafted products by locals are more expensive but also more valuable regarding handcraft, authenticity and conscious. Florence in collaboration with Venice and 3 other major tourist cities in Italy, amongst which is also Rome, launched a campaign #enjoyrespect to make tourists aware of their behavior. You can read about it more on Jaclyn’s blog yourtravelspark.com here. I trust you can behave yourself!
Like any other place in Southern Europe, the best time to travel to Venice is when the cruisers have left. It would be sometime at the end of September. The weather in September is still hot with an average of 23C (76F). The crowds will always be there, but not as many as during the summer months. You can check the weather for Venice for winter, spring, and summer HERE. We had 86F (30C) for three days in the middle of September. Most of Italy is warm during early fall, and if you are food, wine, history, and chill vibes lover, Italy is the perfect place for you. I suggest you read this article that sums up Italy pretty well for more inspiration.
For whatever reason you are traveling to Venice, I am sure it is not for the weather and the beach. So, why not go during shoulder season because there is no off-season for Venice. The lowest visiting season for Venice is the two first weeks of December and two last weeks of January. Pick a month in late fall, winter or early spring with least precipitation and go then. If you want to avoid frosts stay away from December and January, but then how many people can brag about seeing Venice canals covered in thin ice and frost? Be open-minded, check the forecast before you leave and dress for the weather!
History and a few facts about Venice Italy
Venice’s history goes back as far as to 400 A.D. From the 5th to 8th century AD, Huns, Goths, and sundry barbarians repeatedly sacked Roman towns along Veneto’s Adriatic coast, driving many Romans to leave their homes. The area of Venice was under the Byzantine grip. When it slipped in AD 726, the people of Venice elected their first doge (Duke), whose successors would lead the city for more than 1000 years. Venetians lived like seabirds, their land secured only by osier and wattle. The one great wealth that the Venetians enjoyed was the fish and salt from the lagoon, which gave them the power to purchase the things they did not possess. For nearly 1400 years, the two or three miles of shallow water separating Venice from mainland Italy had protected Venice from invaders and effectively isolated the Venetians from the Italian political life. Venice’s history is long, magnificent and reach and you can read more about it HERE.
A few fun facts about Venice Italy:
- Venice has one of the narrowest streets in the world. It is only 53 cm wide, called Calletta Varisco and is located near Campo San Canciano.
- There are 117 canals in Venice, and all the buildings have their entrance gates on the canal side. The Grand Canal divides the city in two.
- The first woman ever to graduate from University was Elena Piscopia from Venice. She was born in 1646 and graduated with a degree in Philosophy.
- Venice is home to the first ever casino. The first European “gambling house” was open by Venice Great Council to try to control illegal gambling during the Carnival season.
- Acqua Alta is a high tide caused by two winds. The water is flooding the streets, and you can see the effect of it in beautifully captured photographs of Saint Mark Square.
- The populations of Venice has dropped dramatically in the last decades and is now somewhere between 60 000 and 50 000 inhabitants. Locals are leaving Venice due to the increase in mass tourism, which has several negative impacts on Venice’s future.
Getting to Venice from the airport
Venice’s official airport is Marco Polo on the mainland. You can get to Venice from the airport either by bus or water taxi. We pre-ordered a cab pick up which took us to Venice. Our hotel was just one bridge crossing and 5 min walking from the drop-off – it was hassle-free. I recommend you decide on transportation depending on the location of your hotel, but a boat will be most convenient to get you to any place. YOU CAN CHECK PRICES AND DROP-OFF AREAS HERE
Where to stay in Venice Italy
I found Venice easy to navigate, but if you want to see Venice, I recommend you to walk as much as possible. We stayed in a small hotel “Avogaria 5 rooms”. We had a super spacious junior suite with a large bathroom, free breakfast, and free wifi. Our room had a private ground floor terrace/garden. The hotel was located 5 minutes walk from the “mainland,” 20 minutes walk to the heart of the city and 5 minutes to the sea promenade with the views over to Giudecca. We booked it through Hotels.com but received excellent service and was very happy with our stay. We paid approximately 330$ a night for two adults. Go to Avogaria 5 rooms to check availability and prices.
I have to warn you, hotels in Venice are costly, and the city tax is not included in the price, which means it will be added to your bill.
- A tax is imposed by the city: EUR 4.50 per person, per night for adults; EUR 2.25 per night for guests aged 10-16 years old. This tax does not apply to children under 10 years of age.
An overview map of Venice Italy
Here are a few other options for your stay in Venice. Venice is not big so you can stay in any area you like and still get around quickly.
Luxury hotel in Venice
- Perfect location with every main attraction within a maximum of 12 minutes walking.
- The wifi and breakfast are included
- 24-hour front desk
- Restaurant, bar/lounge, and a rooftop terrace
- Professional and friendly staff with excellent English skills
If you want to stay in the heart of Venice, experience interior in a Venetian Palace style, want to have great views from your (some) room to wake up to and have a drink on a rooftop terrace to Venetian sunset, this hotel is for you! Approximate price pr double room is 708$ a night. Go to Baure Palazzo to check the availability and prices.
Mid-range budget hotel in Venice
- Located 5 minutes walk to Rialto Bridge and a maximum of 13 minutes walking to other main attractions.
- The wifi and breakfast are included
- 24-hour front desk
- Bar/Lounge, a rooftop terrace, and a casino
- Air conditioning
- Multilingual staff
Check the availability and prices for Hotel A La Commedia here
This hotel is located in the heart of Venice a few minutes walk to Rialto Bridge. It has only 35 rooms, interior a palace worthy and great vibe. Approximate price pr double room is 433$ a night.
Budget hotel in Venice
- Located 3 minutes walk to Rialto bridge and 10 minutes walk to all the main attractions.
- The wifi and breakfast are included
- 24-hour front desk
- Restaurant, bar/lounge, and a rooftop terrace
- Air Conditioning
- Multilingual staff
- Private bathroom
- Free toiletries
Check prices and availability for Hotel Antica Locanda Al Gambero here
This hotel is located in the heart of Venice 3 minutes walk to Rialto Bridge. It has 30 non-smoking rooms and has a Venetian Palace style interior. Approximate price pr double room is 270$ a night non-refundable.
The prices stated for all three hotels are for a weekend in mid-September for 2 adults.
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Venice Italy attractions
Venice is an attraction in itself. The best things to do in Venice is to get lost, and it costs you absolutely nothing. But be careful, you may end up at the dead end by some of the canals. So don’t walk too fast and you won’t end up in the water 🙂 If end up by the dead end, don’t worry, turn around and take a different turn. Have a glass of Prosecco and a plate of prosciutto in the first alley you find on your way, and take life slowly.
Free things to do in Venice
Rialto Bridge – Ponte di Rialto
Cross Rialto Bridge – one of the most famous bridges across Grand Canal. It is the oldest bridge in Venice. Before Rialto Bridge was built, there were two other bridges on the same spot. The first bridge named Ponte della Moneta was replaced due to an increase of traffic across it in 1255. Wooden Realto bridge replaced Ponte della Moneta bridge, but it was damaged by fire and had collapsed first time in 1444 under the weight of crowd that gathered to watch boat parade in celebration of the wedding of the marquis Ferraraduring. It was rebuilt but collapsed again in 1524, and it was then decided to build a stone bridge. The design of today’s Rialto Bridge is the same as in 1255. On the left side of the bridge (if you look at the shoot) you will find a market with many stalls and further in a fish and fruit market. You can buy something to eat at the market and have your lunch by the canal.
St. Mark’s Square – Piazza San Marco
Walk on St. Mark’s Square, which is deemed as the heart of Venice, and enjoy the sights of Basilica de San Marco, San Marco Campanile (the Bell tower of St. Mark’s Basilica) and the Doge Palace. A significant amount of highly overprices restaurants surround the square, but it is still an excellent place for people watching. Street performers are great entertainment too. Piazza San Marco is the place where you should avoid buying cheap souvenirs. The square is overcrowded during the day. If you have the opportunity to visit it before or after cruise ships have gone you should do that.
Bridge of Sighs
One of the most known bridges in the world Bridge of Sighs has a fascinating history. If you think that the Bridge of Sighs owes its name to the sighs of lovers you are wrong. The Bridge of Sighs connects the halls of the courts between de Duke Palace and the New Prison. The name of the bridge is based on a legend, which says that in Serenissima’s time the prisoners, crossing the bridge on their way to their execution had induced the last sigh at the last views of Venice. The legend is however unfounded, but the name still represents the last sighs of prisoners because once they were convicted in the Kingdom of Dogi, they would never return. Today is like you rightfully believe the name is connected to a romance and it is said that if a couple passes under the Bridge of Sighs, their love will last forever.
Venice walking tour
When in Venice forget about the map and street signs. Start walking and don’t be afraid to get lost. Venice is amazingly beautiful, and walking is my top #1 recommendation. Wander around without any particular direction, take a turn at the toss of a coin and see what’s around the corner. You will not get the history and legends of Venice, but you will most definitely get the vibe, atmosphere, and authenticity of the place. Venice is safe, and you may consider exploring it by evening or night to see it in a different light and experience a different atmosphere. The cruisers would probably have left, and the city will be more quiet and serene, although it will be far away from empty. And if you don’t want to walk by night, you can always take a boat cruise in the Venetian lagoon.
Aqua Alta Library
You might have seen Venice’s famous library on the Internet – now you have the chance to see it live. It is, just like any other famous places, crowded. But it is worth a look, especially if you are a book lover. The store keeps its books save from constant flooding in bathtubs and gondolas inside the store. And for Venice’s and the bookstore’s sake buy a book, even if you can’t find anything you want to read in English. Be aware the shop is filled with books and tourist trying to take pictures, so there is not much space for looking at the books.
Top things to do and see in Venice
Like any other place you visit on a long or short weekend, you have to prioritize your activities. Venice is over-crowded, and you won’t be able to rush through it and see it all. Guided tours and priority pass tickets are a good idea. So is visiting places early in the morning or later in the afternoon, after the day-trippers have gone. Depending on what you like and how many days you have you should visit at least one of the main attractions that will take you a few hours.
St. Mark’s Basilica and Doge Palace
By taking a guided tour, you will learn history and legends of the places, which will give you a more profound experience than just walking around staring at the things without getting any more in-depth knowledge. St. Mark’s Basilica and Doge Palace are located next to each other, and you have a perfect opportunity to visit both in about 2 hours with a guide. It will leave you plenty of time to do and see other things in Venice. Both landmarks have an interesting and powerful history. This tour will also take you across the Bridge of Sighs to the notorious Venetian prison where the famous Giacomo Casanova was imprisoned, among others. The guided tour gives you priority access, but security check is mandatory, which means you will have to stand in line for that. YOU CAN CHECK AVAILABILITY, DETAILS, AND PRICES FOR GUIDED TOUR HERE
St. Mark’s Bell Tower
The views from the Bell Tower covers the square and the whole Venice Lagoon. There is an elevator in the tower which will take you all the way up (and down) – there are no stairs. The tower is about 99 meters (330 feet) and was once served as a lighthouse. The tower collapsed in 1902, and it is only the largest bells out of totally five that remain today. The whole tour with skip-the-line-tickets might take you one hour, including waiting for the elevator.
Fun facts about St. Mark’s Bell Tower
This history of the campanile is linked to the memory of the traditional flight of the Angel celebration that took place on the last Thursday before Lent. A balancing act in which an acrobat descended a tightrope from the belfry to a boat in the Basin or to the loggia of the Ducal Palace where the Doge and Lords observed the spectacle.
A visit to the campanile was an attraction also offered in the past to illustrious guests, though the Lords were cautious in granting permission to foreigners for fear that they might survey the layout of the city and its ports for military purposes. Galileo used the Campanile as an observatory to study the skies, and it was there in 1609 that he demonstrated his telescope to the Lords.
Morning Walking tour of Venice and a gondola ride
Walking tour with a local guide is one of the best ways to learn the history of the place. You will see some of Venice’s main attractions from the outside, but you will get there by taking off the beaten path allies, avoiding the largest tourist crowds. Venice is extremely hot during high season so I would recommend you going on a morning walking tour. This way you will avoid the most intense heat and the largest tourist crowds. There is a tour you can combine with a gondola ride. As cliche as it sounds and looks, I found it quite amusing. The gondolier won’t tell you any stories, and he might sing you a short song, but he will pose for you in the background of your selfies. The walking tour is in small groups and takes approximately 1,5 – 2 hours, while a gondola ride takes about 25-30 minutes. The gondola ride might be shared with others depending on how many participants on your tour. If you are lucky, you will be the only one booking your gondola ride, as we were. The gondola ride alone costs 80 Euro, so this deal is super convenient. CHECK LATEST PRICES AND REVIEWS FOR THIS COMBO TOUR HERE.
Eat like a local tour
Who doesn’t love Italian food and wine? And who wouldn’t want to eat like a local visiting a new place for the first time? Wouldn’t it be great to get away from over-priced tourist restaurants with at best an average food quality? Eat like a local tour takes about 2,5 – 3 hours and you will get to taste many different dishes. The samples are not big, but you will get your stomach filled up, trust me! During the walking towards the places, the guide will take you sightseeing along your route and will tell stories and tales about Venitian food recipes. This tour will take you to 8 different places where you will taste typical Venetian dishes, and is a must for foodies.
Cicchetti is kind of Venetian tapas and a tour of its own. This tour goes to five different wine bars where you will get to taste the tapas and wine. CHECK LATEST PRICES AND AVAILABILITY FOR FOOD TOUR HERE or PRICES AND AVAILABILITY FOR CICCHETTI AND WINE TOUR HERE
Murano and Burano Islands – gems of Venetian Lagoon
Island of Murano
Murano Island is well known worldwide for its glass blowing craft. If you are interested in such, you can visit operating factories, blow your glass or buy whatever is already made. In 1925 all the glass blowing factories were moved from Venice to Murano to preserve the city from the fires that were often caused by the factories. Another reason for running the factories out of Venice was to protect the art form unwanted eyes and ears. The glass masters were forced to live on the island and couldn’t leave the city unless they had a special pass. It is a charming island, but be aware of the scammers. Book your glass blowing tour through the Viator or Get your guide. A tip – if you want to buy Venetian glass you can do it in Venice at half price.
Island of Burano
Have you seen the colorful images of Burano flourishing on the Internet? They are all true! Burano Island is stunning! Such vibrancy and colors in one little spot! You don’t need a guided tour to either of islands, but I recommend to take a private boat tour, instead of public transportation. We had to change boats, and it was difficult to navigate and read timetables due to poor language skills on the islands, but the boats were overfilled, and unless you can stand right next to gangway you won’t be able to see the views either. Burano island is known for its needle lace craft, leaning tower and colorful houses. You don’t need more than a few hours to explore Murano and Burano Islands. CHECK PRICES FOR YOUR PRIVATE TOUR AND AVAILABILITY HERE
Lido island is another famous island in Venice lagoon. It is a sandbank, and the island is known for the Venice film festival and beach. The Venice festival takes place between the end of August and the beginning of September and together with Berlin and Cannes one of the major three festivals in Europe. The festival is the oldest of its kind and was started in 1932. During the festival, you may spot celebrities on Lido Island. On the north tip of the island – the actual Lido, you will find a casino, few luxury hotels, great restaurants, and cool nightlife. Lido island is where the Venice film festival takes place. You can get to Lido by hop on hop off water bus. GET YOUR 24 OR 48 HOURS PASS HERE
The Venice Carnival takes place in February, and exact dates depend on Easter dates, which you can find HERE.
How fun would it be to hire a costume and walk around the city pretending to be somebody else? Imagine the colors, the masks, and the vibes. Most Carnival events are free to attend. St Mark’s Square (Piazza San Marco) is the central hub of Carnival celebrations with daily parades, pageants, and other activities. If you wish to attend a masquerade ball or a gala dinner you can check different type of parties and prices HERE. I picture the Venice Carnival is like a fairytale whether you are attending free activities or a masquerade ball. You can read Mila’s post from Worldtravelconnector on Carnival in Venice and Venetian Carnival Masks to get an overview.
One day itinerary for a day tripper
If you are coming off a cruiser for one-day exploration in Venice, your choices are slightly reduced. We spent three days in Venice, and if I can give you my humble opinion, I would book a guided tour to San Marco Basilica, Doge Palace and a Bridge of Sighs. The tour will take approximately 2 hours, and you will still have time for other activities. He/she will tell you stories and legends of Venice and guide you pass the queue lines. After the tour, you can go up to San Marco Campanile for great views of Venice lagoon and San Marco Square.
Another option is to take a street food tour or a walking tour. This way you will see most of Venice attractions, get some interesting stories about Venice and avoid the largest tourist masses. You can decide whether you want your tour to last 2, 4 or 6 hours. If you are a foodie you can read our post on our food tour in Hong Kong – it was terrific.
No matter how much time you have in Venice, remember to sit down and have a Spritz. Spritz Aperol is thought to be a Venetian drink, but it was not invented by Venetians. Venetians found the original drink was lacking character, so they added liqueurs: thus the Venetian SPRITZ was born.
The typical recipe is:
1/5 Aperol (Select or Bitter)
3/5 White Wine
1/5 Sparkling water or Seltz
A peel of lemon or orange, green olive, and salted snacks.
The drink is too bitter for my taste, so I usually stick to Prosecco which is produced in the area around Venice.
And two last things – get the Venetian Carnival Mask and don’t bring your high hills. We got our masks in Ca’ Macana atelier. We could decorate our masks any way we liked if we had found this atelier sooner and had more time. The variety of masks and colors will take your breath away, just as Venice will still your heart. As for the shoes – you will not need them. The cobblestone streets, the bridges, and all the walking will make your high hills kill your feet.
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3 days itinerary for Venice
Day 1 is usually the arrival day unless you arrive very late, and I always find it useful to stroll around and get oriented. It will give you an excellent opportunity to GET LOST in Venice. As you walk around corners in awe trying to find your way out of dead ends you might as well visit RIALTO BRIDGE and see what all the fuss is. Remember to take time to have a glass of Prosecco or Aperol Spritz and some ham at a small restaurant in one of the alleys you pass on your way.
I hope you got your skip the line tickets because you really should. Venice is one of the places where you want to avoid spending your time in queues.
St. Mark’s Basilica and Doge Palace is a must if you are a history lover. This tour includes the Bridge of Sighs too, so it’s a three for the price of one! The tour starts at 10:45 and lasts for 2 hours, which will give you plenty of time for several activities.
GET YOUR TICKETS HERE
While you are still on San Marco’s Square, you should get your skip the line tickets for San Marco Campanile for great views over the square and Venice Lagoon. You can stay at the top as long as you want, but there are only the views and the bells. You will probably use no more than 15-20 minutes at most. It is not a guided tour; you get only admission tickets.
Since it is now probably time for lunch, I hope you get away from the square to any of the side alleys a few blocks away to have some lunch in peace.
As touristy and cliche as it is, the gondola ride is still a must. It is rather expensive, has the same price all over Venice, and you can’t bargain. You can get a guided walking tour including a gondola ride, along with the stories and history of Venice. The tour starts at 3 PM and lasts for 2 hours including a gondola ride.
When you want to enjoy a great dinner in a cool atmosphere, you should try a place cold Enoteca Ai Artisti. They only have a few tables, and you should make a reservation if you want to have your dinner here. They serve great Proscuitto, pasta, and wine. YOU CAN CHECK THEIR REVIEWS ON TRIPADVISOR HERE
BURANO ISLAND – is an absolute must! Such a colorful, vibrant and quirky place – I loved it! You can either take a Vaporetto – water bus, or book a private. We took a Vaporetto and had to switch to a different one on Murano Island, which made our trip much longer and more stressful than it was necessary. I suggest you book your tour with “Get your Guide” or “Viator” to save you some time and hassle. You will stop at Murano and visit a glass blowing factory. Then you will be taking to Burano where you can do your own thing. Have lunch at Riva Rosa, where they have great seafood, or somewhere else and do people watching. We had some funny experience with that, which I won’t tell, cause I don’t want to offend anybody. YOU CAN CHECK THEIR REVIEWS HERE. Check out Burano’s Leaning tower; it is difficult to miss. This tour starts at 11 AM and lasts for 4 hours.
When you get back, it will be early afternoon, around 3 PM. After your well-deserved rest, what would be a better way than ending your trip by doing “Eat like a local tour”? The tour starts at 5:15 PM and will not collide with your Murano/Burano trip.
In all your spare time in between, I suggest you grab some espresso, Prosecco, Gelato or whatever, but by all means, take life easy. The only way you will feel the vibe of the city is to allow your self to take it all in. Not a single tour in the world will make your experience complete unless you sit down in a small coffee shop or a prosecco bar, and watch the locals and tourists drift by.
I hope you will have a fantastic time as we did! Remember to get your authentic Venetian Carnival mask and have fun in Venice.