One of the best ways to see Venice is getting lost in its narrow and picturesque streets. A bridge here, a hidden palazzo there; there are always new spots to discover. But what if you don’t have time to get lost? There’s no need to worry – I’ve got lost in the city so you don’t have to.
From the unmissable and classic to hidden gems and delicious lunch spots, use these handy tips to create your ideal Venice experience.
St Mark’s Square and Basilica + Doge’s Palace
While St Mark’s Square is a basic on any Venice must-see list, there’s nothing basic about it. The square appears in every tourist photo, with ever present flocks of pigeons flapping around in the background. Best of all, all three of the city’s main attractions can be found here: St Mark’s Basilica, the Doge’s Palace and St Mark’s Campanile.
Huge amounts of tourists can mean endless lines – a big no-no if you want to make the most of your day. Think ahead and book tickets in advance. There are plenty of options available to help you skip the lines and learn your fill with guided tours. You could even cover both St. Mark’s Basilica and Doge’s Palace at once, so there’s no excuse to waste time standing around. Head straight in and prepare to gawk.
Fancy seeing another amazing landmark? Rialto Bridge is the most famous out of Venice’s four main bridges. It dates back to the 16th century and has just been restored after an extensive 18-month program.
Rialto is located around the centre of Canal Grande. You’ll get the best pictures at sunset, a truly magical time to navigate the city. Leave Rialto and cross Campo San Bartolomeo to reach the Mercerie, Venice’s luxury fashion quarter, which leads right back to St. Mark’s Square. Pretty handy, right?
Fondaco dei Tedeschi
If you’re in the Rialto area (and why wouldn’t you be?), don’t miss the opportunity to go to Fondaco dei Tedeschi, a recently renovated Renaissance building converted into a luxury shopping centre. However, this place holds a hidden gem among the Gucci and Prada: a glorious rooftop view of Rialto Bridge and Canal Grande. Entrance is free, so all you need to do is book a timeslot to access the terrace.
Once you’re up there, you’ll see how experiencing one of the best panoramas in Venice doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg.
Gondolas are a classic when it comes to exploring the city’s hidden treasures. There’s nothing quite like it anywhere else in the world!
Rides in these beautiful boats are popular with first-time visitors, and some gondoliers can ask for up to €100 per ride – a ridiculous price indeed. Be crafty: save money by booking your tickets through a trustworthy site before hopping aboard.
Peggy Guggenheim Collection
Psssst, did you know that you don’t have to fly to NYC to see the Guggenheim? Facing the Canal Grande, inside Palazzo Venier, you’ll find the Venice’s Guggenheim HQ. Here you’ll get the chance to admire works by Picasso, Dalí, Magritte, Pollock and many more. The museum also has temporary exhibitions, so make sure to check out what’s currently on.
Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute
Past the Guggenheim’s contemporary hub, you’ll come across a small architectural treasure. The Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute, dedicated to the Virgin Mary, was built in the 17th century after a wave of plague hit Venice. Just the exterior is worth hours of contemplation (and tons of pics), but you shouldn’t miss the opportunity to see the Titian’s altarpiece inside. Entrance is free, so what are you waiting for?
Libreria Acqua Alta
Whether you like to read or not, Libreria Acqua Alta is worth a visit. A stone’s throw away from St Mark’s Square, it has a rather unique (or Venetian) way of storing books. The store is flooded (see what I did there?) with books stacked on boats, gondolas, canoes and bathtubs. There’s no clear system, but you can always sneak a peek under the gaze of the few fat cats that live here.
Teatro La Fenice
Looking for a great performance? Go to Teatro la Fenice. Searching for a majestic theater with a fascinating history? Go to Teatro la Fenice. Want both? You guessed it – head to Teatro La Fenice.
This is, without a doubt, one of the most important opera houses not only in Venice, but in all of Italy. Just like its namesake,‘The Phoenix’, this theater has risen from its ashes after burning down in several fires. This venue is a survivor and, as such, it more than deserves a visit.
Eat and drink like a local
They say that, when in Rome, do as the Romans do, and the same applies in Venice when it comes to food. The restaurants surrounding St Mark’s Square are quite pricey so, for a cheaper option (but just as delicious), head to a cicchetteria. These typical hole in the wall restaurants are tiny and full of fantastic regional dishes.
One of the most famous joints is Bacareto da Lele, known for its fresh cicchetti (which looks like a little panini or crostini), for all of €1. The norm is to stand up whilst eating, but you can get by with a glass of ombra (the Venetian term for a small glass of wine) or a spritz (a wine-based cocktail commonly served as an aperitif). This joint is frequented by students and locals alike on a regular basis, so you know it’s a place you can trust.
And the food fun isn’t over yet! You can find many other typical places within walking distance. Better wear something with an elasticated waistband – it’s a feast for the eyes (and belly!):
You don’t have any excuse now, open Google Maps and go try ’em all.
Transport in Venice
Public transport in Venice will come as a novelty to many tourists. How many people can say that their daily commute involves gliding along sparkling waterways?
However, truth be told, not many locals use public transport. Aside from being quite costly, it’s easy to get to most places by foot. Just make sure to pack comfortable shoes along with a good dose of willpower.
If you’re still interested in navigating the city from the water, you can take a vaporetto along the Canal Grande or Giudecca Canal. Lines 1 and 2 leave from Tronchetto (car park) or Piazzale Roma (bus station) and go through the entire Lido.
If you’re planning to visit the Venice Lagoon islands instead, you can take lines 3, 4.1, 4.2, 12, 13 or N to Murano or lines 9, 12 or N to Burano. You can also reach Torcello from Burano taking line 9 or N.
Packed with everything in this guide, you should be ready to take the city by storm. It’s time to explore Venice for yourself!