Venice Italy, one of the most iconic sights of Europe, lures visitors from around the world. Romantic gondola rides, canal front restaurants, and charming hotels may be calling your name too, but do not pack your bags yet. To make your trip to Venice successful, you need to learn about the challenges that visitors face and how to go around them. In this post, you will learn all the practical tips on visiting Venice. The specific topics include: where to stay, places to visit, things to do, and more.
PRACTICAL TIPS ON VISITING VENICE ITALY
My solo visit to Venice certainly tops the list of my experiences in Europe which I could categorize as “I wish I knew”. When planning that trip, I followed my usual routine: I booked my flight first then made hotel reservations. I did not take into consideration that visiting the city needed a special approach. What makes Venice so different? It is built on 118 islands connected with 400 bridges, which makes getting there and navigating it challenging.
How to get to Venice:
You cannot drive into historic Venice!
The city can be navigated by boats or on foot only. If you are touring Italy by car, you need to leave it parked for the duration of your visit. The closer to the center you get, the most expensive parking will be.
Learn details about parking around Venice here.
How to get to Venice by train
Venice has two main railroad stations. Venezia Santa Lucia in the city’s historic center. It is the terminal of most trains coming from the rest of Italy and other European cities. But not all trains come into the historic center. Some stop at the mainland station of Venezia Mestre. If your train doesn’t continue into the city, you’ll need to change to a local train in Mestre for the short trip to Venezia Santa Lucia. Those local trains run frequently and the trip takes about 10 minutes.
Learn more important details about arriving by train here.
How to get to Venice by plane
Marco Polo Venice International Airport (airport code: VCE) is located 13 km (8 miles) from the city center. Getting from the airport to Venice requires knowledge, so come prepared. The least expensive option is the bus. Boat service is also available, ranging from the water bus to very expensive water taxi. Check your options here.
Where to stay in Venice:
The number one practical tip on visiting Venice is to choose your hotel wisely.
Hotels in Venice: staying in the historic center
Stay close to Venice water taxis stop
Of course, you want to be in the center of the action and have a nice hotel, but practical thinking when choosing your accommodation is extremely important when visiting Venice. Remember, you will need to carry your luggage or drag it over the cobblestones, steps, and bridges. For that reason, try to stay as close as possible to the public Venice water taxi stops, The Vaporetto.
Stay close to major landmarks
Everyone gets lost in Venice. At night, the common scene is tourists hopelessly looking at their phones and maps trying to find the way back to their hotels. With low light, all little alleys look the same. If you get lost, you are on your own. Venice water taxi system operates only on major canals so it will not come to the rescue. The best way to navigate the city is following signs to major attractions. If you stay near them, your chances of getting lost will be slimmer.
Pick a hotel that serves breakfast
Especially during the summer, crowds can easily become overwhelming. The best way to escape them is to start touring early when others are still in bed. The downside of this approach is that not only tourists but also locals are still asleep so finding a place to eat could be challenging.
For the list of hotels sorted by budget and interest check out: here
Hotels in Venice: staying on the mainland near Maestre train station
When looking for hotels in Venice, consider staying on the mainland. It actually makes a lot of sense, especially if you are on the budget, arrived by car, or have a lot of luggage. Hotels in that area are cheaper and deliver better facilities than most of the old hotels in Venice. You will not need to carry your luggage and your chances of getting lost will decrease.
List of Venice Mestre & Marghera Hotels here
Venice Gondola Rides – book them online
The gondola ride is a must-do thing in Venice. The good news is, you do not need to break your bank to buy that memory. Take a short ride, no need to circle the city, especially if you are sensitive to motion. You can get a 30-minute ride on Viator for $37 per person. Booking online lets you make a choice without being pressured.
See here what kinds of gondola rides Viator tour company has to offer.
Bring good walking shoes
Walking is practically the only logical choice to explore Venice, bring comfortable shoes!
Do your sightseeing early in the morning to avoid crowds and the heat
This tip is especially important in high season. Getting up soon after sunrise is a simple trick that I am using all the time to avoid crowds and often the summer heat. It truly works magic.
Guard your belongings
One of the very important tips on visiting Venice is to watch your belonging closely all the time even though the city is considered one the safest in Europe, with a violent crime almost nonexisting. Unfortunately, pickpocketing is still existing and doing well. Avoid crowds and do let anyone distract you!
Read here how to prevent pickpocketing in Venice.
Venice Restaurants – try to dine away from the major tourist attractions
Venice restaurants are very charming and your overall dining experience will most likely be great, but do not expect a culinary delight everywhere you go. In fact, some of the worst food I ever had while on vacations was in Venice. The city is small and depending on tourism. There is no time for sophistication or local flavor when you need to serve 20 million visitors per year. Venture out from the most touristy areas to find more authentic food. Even if the food is not top notch, the vibe of the city will make up for it.
Do not be afraid of eating by Venice canals, they do not smell. They used to when I visited the city for the first time over 30 years ago but not anymore. Actually, with no cars and scooters around, the air quality seems to be better than in other Italian cities.
Things to do in Venice:
Venice is small so you can cover all its major attractions in 3 days.
Must-see in Venice:
St. Mark’s Square and Basilica di San Marco
Piazza San Marco is the heart of the city. To fully appreciate it, go early in the morning when there are fewer people, and in the evening when music is playing all around you. Basilica San Marco, the grand church on Saint Mark’s Square, is one of Venice’s top attractions and one of Italy’s most spectacular cathedrals.
Palazzo Ducale (Doge’s Palace)
Palazzo Ducale is a massive Gothic-Renaissance structure raised in 1309 and rebuilt after a 1577 fire. Today, the Doge’s palace serves as a museum and it is open to the public.
The Rialto, over the Grand Canal, is an elegant arched stone bridge formed of three sets of stairs divided by arcades with shops. It a great spot for photography.
Burano – day trip
The island of Burano, famous for its brightly colored houses and handmade lace, makes a great day trip from Venice. Visit it on your own since most tours do not give enough time to enjoy it. Learn more about Burano and how to visit it here.
Murano – day trip
If you have more time, the island of Murano is worth a trip. This is where you can tour a glass factory known worldwide for its exquisite hand-crafted glass. Learn more about Murano and how to get there here.