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
Check out these 10 Tips for Your First Trip to Italy!
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 the 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 to 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 for 30 minutes so it’s not really worth it just for getting from place to place.
Where to Stay in Venice
There are so many beautiful corners of Venice! If it’s your first time visiting the city, try to stay in the San Polo or Santa Croce areas—you’ll get a great taste of local and tourist sights but it isn’t too noisy.
Personally, I don’t recommend staying around Piazza San Marco purely because of the amount of foot traffic and tourists it receives on a daily basis (and the higher prices).
I’ve compiled the best hotels to stay at in Venice, as well as my favorite accommodation options below!
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.
Located in San Marco, The Gritti Palace 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.
Tucked in a quiet little alleyway, this 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.
Booking a VRBO Rental can be cheaper than hotels in Venice, depending on the time of year and how many people you’re traveling with! When booking your trip, research all your options. You will most likely be able to find a rental in a central location, close to all the action for a good price.
This might be one of the best-located hotels on this list! Located right on the Great Canal, just north of the Rialto, Al Ponte Antico is ideal for those that want to spend their day sightseeing. Inside you’ll find polished wood, a lot of gold, and vibrant colors.
Where to Eat in Venice
Italian food is the BEST! When it comes to Venice, if it’s a seafood restaurant, it’s most likely delicious. The fish is VERY good in Venice. And try 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.
I highly recommend making dinner reservations for Venice during the peak travel times (June-August and December) because the top restaurants have limited tables and are easily filled. As with most destinations, avoid restaurants that have pictures of their menu outside, as those usually cater to foreigners. They are tourist traps and you will end up paying a very high amount of money for your meal.
Here are the top restaurants to eat at in Venice!
Osteria Fanal Del CodegaItalian, Seafood
Perfectly situated for a lovely dinner, on the canal, this restaurant is serving up fresh, Italian fare. With the delightful service, great portions, and peaceful ambiance, it’s a great spot for dinner while in Venice. My advice: try anything on the menu with fresh seafood or truffles!
Ai Mercanti has amazing handmade pasta and an extensive wine list—the perfect Italian dinner if you ask me. The restaurant is tucked away, but a true gem.
The service here is top-notch! Come for fresh seafood dishes, handmade pasta, and all sorts of Italian classics. Be sure to make a reservation in advance!
This is another well-known local spot known for some of the most authentic Italian food in the city. Be prepared for slightly unhelpful service, but incredible food. Especially the risotto secoe, made with fatty beef spine
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.
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.
Gelateria il DogeGelato, Dessert
Said to be one of the best gelato places in Venice, this is the perfect place to indulge your sweet tooth.
What to Do in Venice
Venice is definitely a great destination to enjoy on foot—wander around beautiful corridors and across the stunning, historic bridges! From wandering to shopping, eating, and exploring the historic and cultural sites, there’s something for every type of traveler. I’ve compiled some of the top things to do below, but for more hidden gems, check out 10 Things to Do in Venice (That Aren’t Gondolas).
If you’re in Venice for a few days, consider visiting the town over, Treviso, for more authentic, Italian charm—I call it The ‘Other Venice’!
Here are the top activities to do in Venice!
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.
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.
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 you not to stay around 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.
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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