Everyone who has ever been to Venice develops a strong opinion of it. It seems they either love or hate it. I admit, I was nervous to go. I had such high expectations and was worried that the haters would be right. However, after experiencing it for myself (and believe me, Venice is definitely an experience) I honestly don't understand how anyone could possibly dislike Venice. Hopefully the tips in this post will help you to visit Venice and fall in love with it just like I did.
*Please note that this post contains affiliate links.
*Also, I partnered with Venezia Unica during my trip but all opinions in this post are my own.
Where to Stay
There are a few different sections of Venice, called sestieri, to know about before choosing where to stay. These are what I consider to be the top 3 options:
1. San Marco is the most well known neighbourhood and has the benefit of being close to most of the attractions you will be visiting while in Venice. However, because of it's prime location it is also the most expensive.
2. San Polo is another good option as it is central to the island and cheaper than San Marco. It is right next to the Rialto Bridge which makes it easy to find your way back to your place at the end of the day.
3. Cannaregio is the one of the cheapest places to stay on the island (note: everywhere in Vencie is expensive but you will definitely save a few bucks by staying here). However, it is also further from the popular sights of Vencie so you will be doing lots more walking or investing in the Venezia Unica City Pass to take advantage of the water bus system on the canal.
We finally decided on the middle ground of San Polo and were lucky enough to book into a charming B and B called Rialto1082. Like its name suggests, it was just a short walk from the Rialto Bridge. It also had AC which is essential if you are traveling during the summer months. But the best part was the included breakfast of pastries, meats, cheeses, fruit, and an authentic cappuccino made for you each morning by the owner!
For more information on these and the other sestieri of Venice check out this Lonely Planet article.
How to Get Around
Venice is a very walkable city (depending on where you are staying). However there are several times where walking just won't cut it. In that case, your best bet is to use the waterbus system. For instance, when we arrived by train it would've been a 30 minute walk from the station to our hotel with our 25 pound backpacks. Instead we hopped on a waterbus and were there in 10 minutes! We also did the same on the way back to the train station. We also used it to get out to the island of Burano! It is definitely the cheapest option for travel within and around Venice. And honestly, it was neat to see Venice in a different perspective from the water!
You can buy separate tickets for each trip you make or you can purchase a City Pass card from Venezia Unica. This option makes life so much easier! You can put all your travel on one card to scan and there are also options for unlimited travel for a certain number of days. Visit the website here for more information!
What to Eat
If you are anything like me, when you think of Italy you probably think of pizza, pasta, and wine. Well Venice offers an abundance of all of these and more!
Our favourite quick dinner was from a pasta-to-go place called Dal Moro's. It was a budget friendly option and sooo delicious! The first photo below is my pasta from Dal Moro's. The second is my pasta from a similar place called Pasta Pasta.
Another must-try is cicchetti which is like a Venetian version of tapas! We checked out a little hole in the wall place called Osteria Alla Ciurma. You could tell this place was popular with locals. The best part? 2 euro wine!
What to See
There is so much to see and do in Venice! I would strongly recommend at least 3 days but more would be even better. We were in Venice for 3 nights but basically had two full days as we arrived late at night the first day and then left early in the morning the last day. Below is a sample itinerary of what to see and how to break it up!
Since the Palace and the Basilica are the two most popular attractions we decided to do one a day as to not exhaust ourselves. Also, both get very long queues very quick. So we hit each one first thing each morning.
Day 1: Doge's Palace and Museums
We got to the palace at 9am and walked right up to the ticket office without a wait. We spent almost 3 hours here touring around the various government rooms and the dungeons. My hubby loved the history of the place and stopped to read every piece of information. My favourite part was the view you get of San Giorgio Maggiore looking out through the holes in the Bridge of Sighs.
Next up was a spot I had found on Pinterest that I just had to see in person, Libreria Acqua Alta. This little book store was so unique, I could've spent an hour looking through all its nooks and crannies. The main reason it is so popular is the book staircase it has in the back along the canal.
We spent the rest of the day eating, drinking, and wandering. One of the best parts of Venice is the ability to get lost. One minute you can be in the insanely crowded St. Marks Square and the next you turn a corner and you are completely alone. Our favourite activity was simply buying a bottle of wine (or two) and finding our own spot on a little canal to sit and enjoy it.
Day 2: St. Marks Basilica and Burano
We got to the church at 9am and there was already an hour long line up! But we lined up and waited our turn. Learn from our mistake and make sure you are dressed appropriately (shoulders and legs covered) otherwise you will have to buy a coverup before going in. Once in, we only spent about 15 minutes looking around before being done. Personally, I found it to be more impressive from the outside.
After getting out we were planning on going up the Tower for views over Vencie. But by that time that line was even longer than the line for the church! We checked the hours posted and decided to leave it until later that night. Instead, we headed over to the Grand Canal to catch a water bus to the island of Burano. We used our Venezia Unica City Pass for the trip out to the island and back. I highly recommend visiting Burano as a day trip from Venice. It was about an hour each way on the boat and we spent about three hours there. I think we explored every inch of the island and saw every house. It is such a cute little town! I'll let the photos do the talking!
When we got back to Venice, we grabbed some dinner and wine before heading back to St. Mark's Square to go up the Tower. Leaving this until evening was the BEST decision. There was no line when we got there at about 7:30pm and the lighting at that time made for the most magical views. It was the perfect ending to our time in Venice.
It's no wonder they call Venice the City of Love. Everything about it is mesmerizing. I don't know if I'll ever be back, there are just too many places to see to repeat places I've been, but I have no regrets about choosing to visit this magical city.
Have you been to Venice? What was your opinion? What are your must-dos for this city? Still have some unanswered questions? Please leave a comment below and I'll be sure to respond!