Venice is unlike any other city in the world and it may just be the most romantic city in the world. It’s also one of the world’s great engineering feats as the whole city is built on more than 100 islands in a marshy lagoon. Visitors flock here to get lost in Venice’s maze of streets and wander along its canals. But do be warned, Venice is expensive, there are practically no hostels, the food is generally poor and the place is completely overrun with tourists. However, it’s still one of those places that everyone needs to see at least once — and you better hurry up because the city is slowly sinking into the ocean.
It’s no secret that Venice is a giant tourist hotspot so that makes it more expensive than the average town — which is tough for the budget traveler. You just have to accept that you’re going to pay a premium on accommodation and food ‚ but hey, Venice is one of the most beautiful places in the world so it’s worth the extra costs.
We recommend budgeting €50-€80/day for travelers on a backpacker’s budget — you can easily spend more and you might be able to spend less, but this is a good range for planning purposes. You can read our Venice Daily Price Guide for more in-depth cost details.
A lot of people only spend a day in Venice but you’re doing yourself a disservice if you don’t at least say overnight. That’s because most people flood into the city in the morning and leave as night falls — this is a great opportunity for you because it lets you explore the city in peace at night.
If you can, spend two or three full days in Venice. Venice is fairly expensive so you may want to limit your time in the city if you’re on a tight budget.
Summers in Venice can be fairly hot and humid with highs in the low 80s. It’s also peak tourist season so it’s very crowded. There are also lots of mosquitoes and flies.
Winters are fairly cold with temperatures in the low 40s but the city does empty out a bit so that’s nice.
We’d recommend visiting late April-Mid June and September-October as temperatures are a comfortable 60°F-70°F.
Venice is a favorite destination for a reason, but even this city has positives and negatives that we wanted to share before you visit.
Strolling. Yes, Venice has plenty of museums and other attractions but the best thing about this city is strolling through the streets. If you can, stay overnight so you can experience the city in the peace of night.
Canals and Bridges. Venice is, after all, famous for its canals and bridges.
Romance. It only takes a few minutes to see why Venice is considered the most romantic city in the world. It’s also the birthplace of Casanova, if that tells you anything.
Tourists. Tourists. Tourists. Venice is pretty much all tourists so there isn’t really any local culture that doesn’t revolve around tourism. In fact, the main part of the city only has a population of around 60,000 people. During the busy season you can’t turn around without running into someone. It also means you’re paying tourist prices for everything.
Expensive. It’s hard to find good deals in Venice so budget travelers find it difficult to stay here more than a day or two. Expect to pay a lot for everything from food to lodging — you’ll have to visit the mainland to find better deals.
Bad food. The food in Venice just isn’t good. Ok, there might be a few quality restaurants but a large majority are mediocre.
Tough to navigate with suitcases. Venice has tiny streets and hundreds of bridges so it’s not very conducive to traveling with a suitcase. A backpack is obviously easier.
You simply can’t come to Venice without seeing St. Mark’s. A fascinating mix of Eastern and Western architectural styles and history (the relics of St. Mark himself were smuggled from Egypt to Venice in the 9th Century, with the basilica subsequently built in their honor) make it truly special. It looks and feels unlike any other church in Italy on the outside and the glittering mosaics on the inside are equally spectacular. The only downside? The lines, but you can get your tickets online for €2 to avoid them or just wait your turn and get in for free. Website: basilicasanmarco.it
The largest of all Venice’s canals, the Grand Canal snakes its way through town under four romantic bridges and right past some of the most magnificent palazzos in all of town. A glide on a gondola or budget-friendly vaporetto is the best way to see the splendor of the Grand Canal and it also allows you to see a peak of day-to-day Venetian life as the canal is still a watery thoroughfare for goods and commuters.
Venice’s famous opera house has been recently restored, and Teatro La Fenice is now more than ever a fantastic place to take in soak up some culture while in town. Opulent is an understatement, as the gilded boxes and ornate decorations that line the walls make for a truly special setting for a show. If you just want to get the overall feel of the place, you can take tours of the theater for €10. Website: teatrolafenice.it
Located directly next door to Saint Mark’s Basilica, the Campanile di San Marco is quite possibly the most famous landmark of Venice. Yes, this bell tower has been replicated around the world (most famously in Las Vegas), and for many, seeing it is the moment they have truly arrived in Venice. You can climb to the top, and while the ticket will cost you €8, the views over Venice are priceless.
This fully enclosed white limestone bridge is said to have gotten its name from the fact that prisoners would pause to sigh while crossing it – as it was their final glimpse of Venice on their way to their cell and/or execution. While we can’t confirm the veracity of that legend, we can confirm that it is worth seeing, as the ornate Renaissance architecture is as gorgeous as it is intricate. It can be crossed in person only on the Secret Itineraries Tour of the Doge Palace (€20, tickets available online), but it also looks great from the seat of a gondola.
The most historic bridge over the Grand Canal, the Renaissance-era Rialto Bridge is a majestic arched beauty that arches gracefully over the waters below. It was the first bridge built over the Grand Canal in Venice, and its romantic faded steps are still flanked by covered arcades that used to home merchants. Like many attractions, the best views of the bridge are not from the bridge itself, so stake out a quiet place on the canal for those selfies.
Located directly in front of the Saint Mark’s Basilica, St. Mark’s Square is the central square of the city. Lined by cafes, a clock tower, plenty of pigeons, and tour groups touting umbrellas, you definitely need to see it, but we don’t recommend eating or drinking here. It can be very romantic late at night though when the crowds are thin and the light is dim.
This grand mansion was once the home to the Doge (the ruler of Venice), back when it was its own independent empire. The Doge’s Palace impresses from the outside with its arcades and archways and is full of historical relics and lavish rooms that take you back in time on the inside. Regular admission is €19 and you can buy tickets online (tickets also include admission to the Museo Correr, Museo Archeologico Nazionale and Monumental Rooms of the Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana). Website: palazzoducale.visitmuve.it
Tracing the arc of Venetian art throughout the centuries, a trip to the Academy Gallery is located in a former convent and is guaranteed to impress. Works from some of the greats (Bellini and Tintoretto just to name two) are on full display, brilliantly showing off Venice’s signature vibrant style. Regular admission is €12 plus €1.50 booking fee and you can buy tickets online. Website: gallerieaccademia.org
A hidden gem among Venice churches, the Basilica di Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari is home to a simple yet beautiful brick facade. Inside, the artwork on display is museum worthy, starring Titian’s Assumption, which adorns the altar. Regular admission is €3. Website: basilicadeifrari.it
Fusing together art and history, this museum is located on St. Mark’s Square and offers a nice glimpse of both. The neoclassical Napoleonic Wing is a star, as this former palace is home to sensational sculptures by Canova. Regular admission is €19 and you can buy tickets online (tickets also include admission to the Doge’s Palace, Museo Archeologico Nazionale and Monumental Rooms of the Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana). Website: correr.visitmuve.it
The world’s first ghetto, this small district of Venice is where the Jewish residents of the city were moved in the 16th Century. Today, you can learn about the history of this district through tours and try traditional Jewish foods in an area that still retains a different feel to the rest of Venice.
Located in a palatial complex on the Grand Canal, Peggy Guggenheim Collection shows off some of the finest American and European modern artists of the 20th Century. Expect to see plenty of cubism and abstract pieces, and in an ancient city like Venice, it can be truly refreshing. Regular admission is €15 and you can buy tickets online. Website: guggenheim-venice.it
Standing like a sentry at the entrance to the Grand Canal, this beautiful basilica was built by Venetians to thank the Virgin Mary for saving them from the plague. Another example of the truly unique architecture used on houses of worship in Venice, this majestic stone structure stuns from the outside with its soaring dome and unique octagonal shape; with intricate marble tiling and a fine collection of Titian art impressing inside. Admission: free.
Offering a glimpse of the glamorous and decadent days of 18th Century Venice, Ca’ Rezzonico is a pristine palazzo located directly on the Grand Canal. The former residence-turned-museum is covered in frescoes, marble, and gold, in addition to many fine pieces of art from the 18th Century – all offering a true time capsule of this era. Basically, it’s the perfect place to learn or just pretend to be a Venetian socialite. Regular Admission is €10, and you can buy tickets online. Website: carezzonico.visitmuve.it
The place in Venice to see works by Tintoretto, the Scuola Grande di San Rocco used to be a pious members club dedicated to Saint Rocco. Saint Rocco was revered for his power in combating the plague, and this club thrived, becoming the only one of its kind to survive the fall of the Venetian Empire. This stately building and its collection of grand halls and Tintoretto’s vivid biblical paintings are as gorgeous as they were in the club’s heyday. Regular admission: €10. Website: scuolagrandesanrocco.org
Despite being located in a centuries old customs house, this unique triangular shaped edifice at the tip of the Grand Canal is a hotspot for modern art appreciation in Venice. Renovated in 2009, its interior strikingly blends ‘centuries old’ with ‘contemporary’, showing off works by exhilarating modern artists with a backdrop of rough bricks and monumental columns. Regular admission is €15, and you can buy tickets online. Website: palazzograssi.it
One of the best day trips from Venice, Burano Island is famous for two things: producing lace and being home to row-after-row of brightly painted houses. Like Venice, Burano is a collection of islands connected by bridges, and while it may be only 40 minutes away by Vaporetto, it feels much further away. The pace is slower here, and if you wander off the main street won’t be surrounded by tourists, just buildings begging to have their picture taken.
Directly across the water from Venice, San Giorgio Maggiore Island is home to a brilliant pearl white church (The Church of San Giorgio Maggiore) and a soaring bell tower. Many people swear that the view from its bell tower is better than the one in St. Mark’s Square as in includes all of Venice. Even if you don’t make it over the island, the magic of the ghostly white church contrasting against the sea can be admired from Venice.
Walking tours great ways to explore and learn more about the city you’re visiting. I like to take one on my first day in a new city as I find it’s an excellent way to get my bearings and it gives me an idea of where I want to revisit.
The free walking tours are great for overviews. However, you’ll have to pay if you want a better quality guide or more specialized information (food tours, etc.).
Below is a list of the free walking tours:
If you’re looking for a paid tour we recommend checking out Trip Advisor to find reviews.
Ok, here’s the deal… Venice is known for having some of the worst food in all of Italy — especially the pizza. Avoid any restaurant with a waiter outside trying to drum up business. Do your research if you want a quality meal or you’re likely going to end up with a subpar experience.
We’ve gathered some of our favorite online resources and food bloggers:
Venice doesn’t have wild nightlife like you’ll find in other cities in Italy — it’s a much sleepier town. In fact, the only people that really live in Venice are people that work with tourists, so things get pretty quiet around 9pm.
You’ll mainly find quiet bars and restaurants in the center of the city. The best nightlife is located in the area around the Campo Santa Margherita in the Dorsoduro neighborhood — which is near the University in Venice and Ca’ Foscari University. Here you’ll find the best bars, clubs, and all that fun stuff.
Venice is a killer when it comes to accommodation — especially in the summer. There are very few hostels, so prices are constantly high and the quality isn’t great. Also, in the summer it can be difficult to find a room/bed since because of the large number of visitors. Hotels and rental apartments aren’t much better. You’ll have to venture off the main island to find a better deal.
Expect to spend anywhere from €30-€48/night if you want to stay near the center. If you stay on the mainland Venice or Lido you’ll save quite a bit.
I’ve always used Hostel World to book our hostels so you’ll want to poke around there to find the perfect hostel. Here are a few of the best-rated hostels:
If you’re not having much luck with hostels you can usually find some good hotel deals through Booking.com
Venice’s transit system consists of buses and waterbuses. Vaporetti are waterbuses and ferries used for public transportation around the city’s Grand Canal. Private water taxis can also be hired, at a much higher cost, for moving about the city.
75 minutes of water services: €7.50
Ferry crossing: €5.00
ACTV offers travel cards for visitors for unlimited Venice travel:
Additionally, for €6 (one-way) or €12 (round-trip), visitors can add transit to and from the Marco Polo Airport.
Airport transit from city center (bus, taxi):
Not only is Verona famous for being the setting of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, it’s also a famous for its grand Area — a 1st-century Roman amphitheater that still has concerts. Other highlights are the San Zeno Maggiore Church and Ponte Scaligero. Verona is a little over an hour train ride from Venice.
Located a little over 30 miles from Venice, Vicenza is a beautiful city surrounded by equally beautiful hills and countryside. The city is also famous for its architecture by Andrea Palladio — which is a major reason it’s a UNESCO world heritage site.
Built in the 12 century BC, Padua is the oldest city in northern Italy. It’s famous for the Scrovegni Chapel and its 14th-centuryis frescos masterpiece painted by Giotto. Padua is located around a 30-minute train ride from Venice.
Located in northeastern Italy, the Dolomites is a mountain range that is extremely popular with hikers in the summer and skiers in the winter. It will take about 2.5-3 hours so it’s a bit of a long day trip so it might make sense to do an overnight trip there.
Visit the islands. There are many islands around the more core of Venice. The best are Murano, Burano, and Torcella. There is boat service between all the islands but lines can be long.
Beware of Floods. The canals do flood if they there is a lot of rain.
Don’t touch the water in the canals. While some buildings have septic tanks in buildings, a majority don’t so much of the raw sewage is dumped directly into the canals.
Don’t fall into the canals. Some streets and alleyways are quite small and poorly lit — which makes it easy to fall into the canals if you’re not careful.
Book early. Hostels and hotels fill up fast.
I’m still a fan of ol’ fashion guidebooks as they give you a quick, easy and curated way to research your destination. If nothing else, head to the library or bookstore and spend an hour or so thumbing through a guidebook — it’s worth it. We’ve also listed a few websites/blogs that will help with your planning.
Packing your bag and knowing what clothes to bring shouldn’t be a huge hassle. That’s why we created our packing guides:
Backpacking Europe Packing List For Women – Our famous packing list that’s specifically for the ladies.
Backpacking Europe Packing List For Men – Our famous packing list that’s specifically for the dudes.
Best Travel Backpacks For Europe – We review our favorite travel backpacks, luggage and other packing aides.
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