Is it the fact that it hosts some of the best (literally) food on the face of the Earth? Is it the opera houses and streets lined with Venetian carnival masks? Is it the romance rising from the canals in the form of a gondolier’s operatic tones? Or is it simply that in Venice the wine flows like water and is probably easier to find?
If we are being honest, it is all these reasons and more that makes Venice one of the absolute best places to visit in the world.
One thing that makes Venice so tourist friendly is the accessibility. You can take a train from virtually any major European city right to the center of the old town. If you fly into Marco Polo Airport (VCE), all you need to do is grab your luggage, walk a few steps outside, pay a small fare at an automated kiosk, grab your small ticket and hop on a bus. After a 30 minute bus ride you will be dropped off at the main bus stop right on the edge of the old town. There are no roads or cars in old Venice.
Best Things to do in Venice
1. Eat If there is one thing I recommend it is eat, eat, and eat some more. Italian food is to Venice as abandoned buildings are to Detroit. Between the noodles and pastas, wine and champagne, cannolis and zeppoles, it is a carb-lover’s dream. Challenge: See if you can finish your gelato before reaching the next gelato stand. Then repeat.
2. Sightsee Get the camera ready and head out to see some of the most beautiful buildings and waterways in the world. The larger than life structures are a mixture of Byzantine, Romanesque, and Gothic architecture set in a backdrop of the most romantic waterways your heart can handle.
3. Gondola Ride There are certain things that you must do in certain cities and a gondola ride in Venice is one of those things. It really is a cool experience to lay back and take in the sights as a charming Italian man serenades you, but keep in mind, it comes at a price. A gondola ride cost roughly $100 USD for 30 to 45 minutes and seats up to six people. This is something you should do so just budget it into your trip from the beginning. You do not need to go to a specific place to find a gondola they are all over the canals.
4. Visit Murano Murano is a small series of islands about one mile off off Venice. Murano is known across the world as for it’s glass art work. Here you can see glass blowers at work, take tours, visit the Murano glass museum, and grab some very fragile souvenirs. You can access Murano by water taxi, vaporetto, or ferry for about $5 USD.
5. Go to an Opera If you are the fancy cultured type, nothing is says fancy culture than an Italian opera and Venice is the place to see it. The Teatro La Fenice is toted as the most extravagant and prestige opera house in Venice and lives up to the reputation with opulence fit for a king. Performances range in prices roughly around $150.
6. Do A Walking Tour There is so much history to know about this 2,000 year old city. The best way to hear the stories from those who live there and are passionate about sharing the stories of their homeland. Tours range from $25 and up.
7. Wine Tasting It isn’t hard to realize what brings people from around the world to this location. The wine is some of the best in the world. There are tons of wine tours that keep you inside the city or venture into the countryside. The prices range from $30 and up.
8. Make Your Own Carnival Mask If you are looking for something unique to Venice that the whole family will enjoy you can hide your face in fashion at a mask making workshop as the tutelage of real Vancian craftsman. These workshops last an hour and cost about $55 USD.
9. Pasta Making You can enter Venice a mer cooking novice and leave as your own Giada De Laurentiis. These authentic Italian kitchen trades can be taught to you in courses of an hour or up to three. Prices range from around $100 to $150 USD.
10. Get Lost In a world of unique places, Venice is near the top of the list. There is no other place on the planet with more wondering splendor. The tall stone corridors seem to entrap you like a maze as you pass interesting shops connected to ancient churches. Just let yourself go aimlessly and see where you end up.
Free and Cheap Things to Do in Venice
1. Take Pictures If you’re not doing for the gram then why do it at all. Price: Free
2. DIY Wine Tasting Buy a couple bottles of cheap wine and sit on the edge of the canal and drink away as the sunsets. Price: $15
3. Get Lost There is no better place to put your phone away, put one foot in front of the other, and take in the atmosphere that only Venice has to offer. Price: Free
4. Go People Watching at Piazza San Marco Go to the main town square and laugh at the hundreds of tourists stumbling by with their roller bags. Price: Free
5. Visit the Ghetto Ebraico (The Jewish Ghetto) The first “ghetto” in the world was originated in Venice when the Jew were forced to segregate almost 500 years ago. The area is still full of life and culture and doesn’t cost anything to enjoy. Price: Free
6. Explore the Hotel Danieli This over the top $1,000 a night hotel is worth popping into to cool off. Just grab a drink and act like you belong there. Price: Free
7. Shop the Rialto Market Toss a couple Euros to the vender and enjoy some fresh fruit while you walk this colorful market. Price: Free
8. The Crypt of San Zaccaria This is a creepy and super unique basement crypt which has surcome to Venice flooding giving indescribable eerie feel. Entry Fee: $1
9. The Scala Contarini Del Bovolo A vertigo inducing spiral tower leading to a picturesque view of the city. Price $8
10. Libreria Acqua Alta Book Store Because in Venice flooding is a way of life, this book store has made inventive ways to store their books (in tubs and boats) to keep them safe creating a picture worthy sight. Price: Free
Veteran Tips For Venice
1. Take a backpack. DO NOT TAKE A ROLLER BAG!
I repeat: DO NOT TAKE A ROLLER BAG! I always recommend taking a carryon-size backpack as your luggage on any trip, if possible, but in Venice it is almost a commandment. Between the the thousands of steps, bridges, and cobblestone walkways, you will be so frustrated at your roller bag it will end up at the bottom of the Grand Canal.
2. Get a hotel close to the train station/main bus drop off.
The train station and main bus drop off are pretty much right next to one another. The reason I have this rule is because Venice is so so so easy to get lost in. Venice is an actual maze and one of the easiest places you will find the get disoriented. If you get a hotel/hostel near the train station it will be a thousand times easier for you to find and you wont have to spend half your day walking in circles in the blazing Italian heat searching for your hotel.
3. Bring a travel fan.
Like so many other places in Europe if you stay in a hostel and some hotels or Air BnB, you may not have air conditioning and if you do, the cool air will be as faint as a hummingbird. Last time I visited Venice the only way I could cool off was to jump in a cold shower and air dry to stay cool.
At this point it is getting harder and harder to find lodging under $100 in Venice. If you happen to find one, check it out before you book.
NH Venezia Santa Lucia
This a very nice hotel located right beside the train station steps with an amazing view of the San Simeone Piccolo church. Price: $180 – $250 USD/night
Hotel San Geremia
I have stayed in this compact hostel three times. You will not find a lot of luxuries, but they do have a large luggage room if you arrive early and want to drop off your bag and it has an absolutely gorgeous view of the opera house. It is located about 2 minute walk from the train station. Price: $100 and up USD/night
Located in the center of St. Mark’s Square this is a world class, high end, fine-dining Italian restaurant that turns food into art with a price. Price: $$$$
Ristorante Da Nino
This is an out of this world tiny Italian restaurant with outdoor seating on the canal located across from the train station. I have eaten many places in Venice and always come back to this one. Price: $
Best Sights To See in Venice
1. The Grand Canal
This is the iconic Venice canal we have all seen in paintings and photographs for centuries. This is the spot we all flock to Venice to enjoy. MUST SEE
2. Saint Mark’s Basilica
This Roman, Gothic style cathedral is the church of the Roman Catholic Patriarchate of Venice built around 1063. MUST SEE
3. Piazza San Marco
Also known as St. Mark’s Square, this is the main social square in Venice filled with restaurants and shops and the iconic Venusian constructions including Saint Mark’s Basilica. MUST SEE
4. Venetian Lagoon
This breathtaking view runs between the Piazza San Marco leading and Murano with picturesque gondolas lining the docks just waiting to fill your Instagram. MUST SEE
5. The Rialto Bridge
The oldest bridge that crosses the Grand Canal, you can use this Venice icon to fight other tourist to take perfect photo of gondolas cruising down the canal. MUST SEE
6. San Simeone Piccolo
When you enter Venice by bus or train this will be the giant green-domed cathedral that takes your breath away. IF YOU HAVE TIME
7. Teatro La Fenice
Considered the opera house of all opera houses it is hollowed ground for Italian theater and one of the most extravagant buildings you will ever see. IF YOU HAVE TIME
8. Doge’S Palace
This massive gothic style palace was the home of the Doge of Venice for over 1,000 years and still sits on the Venetian Lagoon like a monument. IF YOU HAVE TIME
9.The Bridge of Sighs
This limestone bridge is actually part of the Doge’s Palace, stretching over the canal to connect the palace. IF YOU HAVE TIME
10.Basilica Di Santa Maria Della Salue
Located at Punta dell Dogana, this minor basilica is a less crowded, though just as beautiful Catholic church on the canal. IF YOU HAVE TIME
Best Venice Souvenir
Venice is known for their hand made masks and they are easy to find as you will see shops filled with these masks lining the streets.
Anything Murano Glass
This famous glass comes in all forms, from jewelry to plates to small trinkets in the form of animals. They can be a cute and cheap souvenir to show a loved one you were thinking of them.