The Ultimate Travel Guide to Venice, Italy
Table of Contents
Venice, La Serenissima, built on 118 islands in the middle of the Venetian Lagoon between the mouths of the rivers Po and Piave emptying into the Adriatic Sea, is a dream destination for many travelers. More than 400 bridges connect the islands. The original buildings were constructed on wooden piles, driven deep into the mud and silt of the lagoon, topped with a platform of limestone which formed the foundation of the houses and palaces. Because the wood is under water, it doesn’t rot and till today you can find centuries year old buildings still standing.
Of course, another nickname is ‘the sinking city’ although there is no indication that Venice will disappear into the water any time soon. You have sufficient time to visit and be enchanted by the art, the stunning Renaissance architecture of the churches and palaces, the glass blowers of Murano and the mysterious tiny alleys, lively markets and, for music lovers, a performance in the La Fenice Opera House.
In this Venice Travel Guide blog, we listed helpful DIY Venice travel tips and advice on how to get around, recommended activities, places to eat, accommodation, tour packages and more.
Best time to visit
Venice has a rather humid climate with hot summers and cool winters. More than by the weather, the best time to visit should be determined by the mind-boggling number of tourists which descent onto Venice each year. Overtourism and pollution are a much bigger danger to Venice than the sinking. You want to see the beautiful sights, not the heads and backs (and backpacks) of other tourists.
Hence fall and spring are the best times, especially when cruise ships with their thousands of passengers stop to come to Venice. It might be raining and you might experience the dreaded acqua alta, as is the case right now, but on the other hand, not everybody can cross St Mark’s Square on planks and wearing wellies! Very high water doesn’t happen very often.
For a special occasion, plan to experience the Carnival which in 2019 takes place from 16th February to 5th March.
How to get there
Venice’s International Marco Polo airport is located on the mainland. Several lines of Vaporettos take you into various points in the city. Turn left after immigration and follow the signs. An additional bonus is a sightseeing tour you get whilst approaching Venice.
The train station is also on the mainland, in Mestre. Buses take you to various Vaporetto stops.
Obviously, there are no cars in Venice. Your main means of getting around are your feet. Then there are many lines of Vaporettos and, for a more romantic trip, gondolas.
Places to stay
From super luxury to reasonable, Venice offers plenty of accommodation for every taste and budget.
I stayed at the aptly named Hotel Serenissima in the equally aptly named Calle Goldoni.
I loved the hotel for several reasons: it’s only steps from St Mark Square and easily reached from the Rialto Bridge Vaporetto stop. Porters are there to bring your luggage to the hotel. It’s family run with ‘mama’ in her white apron preparing your breakfast of piles of hot brioches, homemade jams and plenty of coffee and butter. And, for Venice, it’s rather cheap at an average of $80 per night for a single room. The hotel is located in a historical townhouse, with rather small but comfortable rooms, a tiny balcony, and an adequate bathroom. WiFi is available and the cozy bar downstairs has beautiful murals.
Danieli Hotel in Riva Degli Schiavoni
If you want to pull out all the stops. Venice’s emblematic Danieli Hotel in Riva Degli Schiavoni could be your choice. Made up of three combines Renaissance palaces, the hotel looks out over the lagoon and the islands. It’s the super luxury abode of movie stars and celebrities and ordinary folks with very deep pockets.
Hotel Diana in Calle Specchieri
This hotel is a centrally located 3star hotel is highly recommended for flashpackers. Recently refurbished rooms are decorated in modern Venetian style, ample and comfortable and a continental breakfast, as well as wifi, is included in the price.
Best places to eat
Pasta, pasta and more pasta with an incredible variety of sauces is what you will find in kid-friendly Bigoi in Calle Crosera.
If take out Venetian style is what you fancy, head for Dal Moro’s Fresh Pasta to go in Calle Casseleria. You get boxes of hot fresh pasta and a container of a sauce you can mix yourself.
I went again and again to the legendary Caffe Florian in St Mark’s square.
Supposedly the oldest café in the world and located under the arcades of St Mark’s Square, the Florian not only has a fabulous flair and beautiful decoration but also serves the best hot chocolate. They offer a daily varying menu of hot food. Listen to a piano player in the afternoon and watch the world go by. A magic experience is to have breakfast there if you happen to visit during carnival and to rub shoulders with the tired masks in their sumptuous costumes sipping said hot chocolate.
Money and other matters
The currency is the EURO. WiFi is great throughout the city. Credit cards are accepted everywhere, but, this being Italy, cash is highly appreciated and often leads to big discounts. Cash only in the Rialto market, cafes and smaller shops.
Be prepared that nothing in Venice is really cheap.
Venice Travel Guide: Things to do and see in Venice
There is so much to do and see in Venice that you should plan for at least two full days. You want to visit the spectacular St Mark’s Cathedral, the Palace of the Doge and the Santa Maria Della Salute church and the arcades around the massive marble floored St. Mark’s Square. Walk over Venice’s two most famous bridges, Rialto and the Bridge of Sighs.
Art and history lovers will want to wander around the Museum of Naval History and the Peggy Guggenheim Collection museum. The greatest pleasure is exploring Venice, map in hand, on your own feet. Or to join a mystery tour. A number of those are available and start from St. Marks’s Square. Your guide is an actor in period costume who tells you stories of murder, mayhem, and Casanova and leads you into dark alleys and over narrow bridges.
Carnival, masks, and Venice are inseparable and you have an opportunity to learn about mask making and creating one of your own by participating a two-hour mask making class at the workshop of Ca’Macana.
Find out about one of the most extraordinary bookshops in the world by making your way to Libreria Acqua Alta.
Due to its location, the bookshop is prone to flooding, so the books are stored in gondolas and boats. Plenty of cats are around too and a pretty eccentric owner.
By all means, go on a gondola ride and glide under bridged and past one majestic renaissance place after another.
You should visit at least one of the islands and Murano will enchant you with the extraordinary masterpieces made of glass. Huge glass sculptures grace public places on Murano too. If you think of buying something your purchases will be shipped anywhere in the world.
Enjoy lace? Then head for Burano and watch old and young ladies with nifty fingers produce the finest lace.
Even in winter, the Venice Lido warrants a visit as the seat of the world’s oldest film festival: the Biennale and Film Festival of Venice and a crucial scene in Thomas Mann’s famous novel ‘Death in Venice’.
And that’s just scratching the surface. You’ll easily see why you need ample time in Venice.
Best places to shop
It’s not so much a question of where to shop in Venice but of what to shop. My favorites are lace, glass, and pearls. Venetian artificial pearls have even more luster than the real thing and there are plenty of jewelry shops around which sell them…at a price.
Glass in Murano and lace everywhere. For ladies: get a velvet handbag by iconic designer Roberta di Camerino. Nobody else will have it.
If you can’t live without a visit to a shopping mall, you have to head for the mainland and to see Galleria Barcella in Mestre.
Otherwise, there are so many boutiques and shops on the streets of Venice you’ll be able to find anything you fancy. Don’t miss out on the Rialto Market either, but be prepared, it’s huge and haggling is a sport.
The insider trick is to avoid the crowds. If you plan accordingly, your Venice visit will indeed be a dream experience.
Venice Travel and Tour Packages
Venice Gondola Ride
There is only one way to see Venice, famously known as the city of water – and it is aboard a gondola on the beautiful Grand Canal.
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