Insider Tips: Planning a trip to Venice, Italy
Indiana Jo has visited over 60 countries but has a special love of Italy and Venice. Her travel blog focuses on destination guides and planning tips, but she also runs wine tours in Italy's famous Prosecco region, located an hour from Venice.
What should I do on my first trip to Venice?
Head to St Mark’s Square (Piazza San Marco). It’s touristy, but it’s famous for good reason. On the grand square, you'll find St Mark’s Basilica, St Mark’s Campanile, and the Doge's Palace. The famous Bridge of Sighs is nearby too. Of course, cruising along the Grand Canal and crossing the Rialto Bridge should be on your list too.
What are some hidden gems to see in Venice?
Most visitors only stand outside and take a picture of the Bridge of Sighs, but it gets its name from the sigh-worthy views of Venice seen from inside, so book a tour of the Doge's Palace to walk across it yourself. For an even better view of the city, take a boat to San Giorgio Maggiore — the island offers a spectacular vista across the lagoon to St Mark's Square.
How much time should I spend in Venice?
I’d recommend a minimum of two nights, but make it four if you don't want to feel rushed and visit one of the nearby islands like Murano or Burano. And if you have longer, there are some really great day trips from the city or you can catch a train to the Prosecco wine region.
What food is Venice known for?
Italian food is very regional and Venetian food is heavily based on seafood and polenta rather than pizza and pasta. Famous dishes include Sepe al nero (cuttlefish in squid ink), sarde in saor (sardines with onion), and Fegato alla Veneziana (liver and onions with polenta). Venice is not a good place to order this oh-so-Italian food. Why? Proper pizza ovens are largely banned in the city for fear of fire, making it harder to get the high-quality pizza you’d expect in Italy.
What is the best way to get around Venice?
Venice is a car-free island, which can be difficult to understand at first, but fun once you get the hang of it. Walking is a great option for seeing the sights on the way, but crossing the Grand Canal can take you off-route as only four bridges cross its 2-mile length. The most popular way to get around is Vaporetto, the public water bus service which zips around the waterways. If you want to use the Vaporetto throughout your trip, buy a multi-day pass which is far cheaper than single tickets. There are also private water taxis.
What are the best months to visit Venice?
The best time to visit depends on what you want to do in the city and your tolerance for crowds. February is great for Venice Carnival. July and August are the summer peak season with the warmest weather and the most people. It’s manageable if you are happy to move slowly, book everything in advance, and pay more for hotels. Spring and fall are my favorite seasons with nice weather and fewer people. November and December can bring the acqua alta tidal flooding, which can flood parts of Venice. The city copes well if you’re up for the challenge.
What are the best neighborhoods to visit in Venice?
There aren’t very many locals still living in Venice, but those that remain mostly live in the Canareggio neighborhood, which makes it the best neighborhood to experience "real" Venice. The big-hitting sights are replaced with excellent trattorias, local bars, and a warren of truly Venetian streets. Canareggio is also the old Jewish Ghetto, so keep an eye out for signs in Hebrew. The nearest Vaporetto stop is Ca’ d’Oro.
What are the best neighborhoods for food?
Venice can be a bit tricky food-wise. It’s either difficult or expensive (or both) to get good food and a good view in the same place. The best, most authentic food is in Canareggio. Otherwise, lower your expectations around St Mark’s Square and the Grand Canal, and you’ll have a great time. My best tip is to take a local food tour early in your trip. Not only will you visit a host of great restaurants, you’ll get recommendations for the rest of your stay from a foodie in the know.
What are the best neighborhoods for shopping?
Venice isn’t a major shopping city in the same way as Milan or Rome, but there are plenty of opportunities to spend. Le Mercerie offers more affordable Italian brands, and Salizada San Moisè and Calle Larga XXII Marzo are the main streets for designer boutiques. The rest of the city’s shops are scattered throughout Venice. Look out for traditional Venetian mask makers or other artisan craft shops. If you visit the outlying islands, Burano is famous for lace while Murano is the place to buy Venetian glass.
What neighborhood should I stay in when I visit Venice?
My favorite area is Canareggio for small, local hotels and nearby dining options at night. However, if you want to be in the thick of things and don't mind a higher price tag, choosing a hotel in the San Marco area, near St Mark’s Square, will give you a premium location for seeing the sights. San Polo, just across the Grand Canal on the opposite bank from San Marco, is another great option with enough proximity to the major sights.
What's are 4 top tips for someone traveling to Venice?
1) Book at least one guided tour. You’ll see the main attractions, learn about the rich history, and typically get skip-the-line access to some sights.
2) Enjoy aperitivo. This early-evening ritual in Italy involves a small drink (like an Aperol Spritz) and small snacks (cicchetti) before dinner.
3) Buy a Vaporetto pass. Hop on and off the boats and have a great time exploring this unique road-free city.
4) Get lost. Wandering down the small alleys and over the minor bridges will show you a side of Venice you might miss if you’re darting from one big sight to another.
What are your top 5 favorite GetYourGuide experiences in Venice?
1) Doge's Palace & St. Mark's Basilica with Terrace Access Tour
2) Venice: Boat Tour with Grand Canal and San Giorgio Maggiore
3) Venice: Food Tasting Tour with Cicchetti Dishes and Wine
4) Venice: Burano, Torcello & Murano Boat Tour w/Glassblowing
5) Venice: La Fenice Opera House Entry Ticket with Audio Guide
What is one thing that surprised you about Venice?
It’s possible to have bad food in Venice, which is a surprise in a country with some of the world's best food. There is so much excellent food in the city, you just have to look a little harder to find it. Taking a food tour is a good start, as your guide can recommend places to go later in your trip. Check restaurant reviews too.