Last Updated on May 19, 2023
I love Venice. And in my opinion, it’s a place you should visit at least once in your lifetime, no matter if you dislike crowds or not. Remember that it’s popular for a reason, hence the high number of tourists. For me, Venice is magical. It is a city like no other. Some people I’ve met are jaded, complain about Venice being too touristy, too crowded, and too expensive. All of these things are true, and yet, it is a city that doesn’t compare to any other city in the world, in its beauty, the way it is set up with its canals and surrounded by waters on all sides, its stunning architecture, and the often aristocratic and elegant, sometimes crumbling and deteriorating buildings. Here are my best Venice travel tips that will help you make the most of your time in one of the most unique cities in the entire world.When I was in Milan last fall, I realized that Venice was only 2 hours away – on Italy’s high speed train. I knew I was going to leave Milan on a Monday, which is the day Venice sees the least tourists (and it was off-season). And so I booked a train to Venice on a whim – I was so close, how could I not go? It had been years since my last visit, and I was looking forward to a couple of days of simply wandering the streets and taking photos. And I took some notes to help first-time visitors to help save money in a city that is full of tourist traps. Read on to find out how to save money on your trip to Venice, where to eat and where NOT to eat, and some other useful information.Read on to find out my five best Venice travel tips.
My Top Venice travel tips
Don’t pay for a taxi to get from the airport to the city
The price for a taxi from Venice’s main airport, Marco Polo (VCE) to the city center is €40, and a water taxi will set you back at €100! Don’t waste money on a taxi, unless you don’t want to share your ride with other people. If you want to save money, however, take a bus or a water bus.
To decide which one makes more sense for you, look up where your hotel is. Cars aren’t allowed into Venice beyond Piazzale Roma. So if your hotel is on the other side of that square, a water bus makes more sense for you.
Taking the bus from the airport to Venice
The bus ride takes only 15 – 20 minutes and the buses have space for luggage as well as free WiFi. You can buy the tickets online (although the English version of the website is a little tricky to navigate – the easier way to buy tickets online would be the English-speaking website GetYourGuide which is an official ticket vendor and charges the same price) or at the ATVO ticket machines outside the terminal. A one-way ticket is € 8, and a round-trip ticket (open return) is €15.
Taking the water bus from the airport to Venice
The water bus is €15 one way, or you can save a few Euros by buying a return ticket for €27. You can buy the water bus tickets online, or you can buy them upon arrival in Venice. There are three different water bus routes, and if you are not sure which one to take, just ask a clerk – they are familiar with the hotels in Venice and can tell you which water bus route has a stop near your hotel.
Where to eat in Venice
Sadly, Venice has the reputation to have some of the worst food in Italy, which shouldn’t come as a surprise, considering most of the people who work in the city don’t actually live in Venice but in Mestre on the mainland. The majority of people who are eating in Venice are tourists who probably won’t return, so why put a lot of effort into making the food.
Eat far away from the main sights
My #1 tip: Eat as far away from Piazza San Marco as possible. The closer you get to the piazza, the worse (and the pricier!) the food gets, it seems. On the upside: Pizzeria Antico Forno is so good that it made it on Conde Nast Traveler’s list of the best ten pizzas in all of Italy (!), and i Tre Mercanti is an amazing gourmet food shop with all kinds of Italian specialties and wine. You can pick up a picnic lunch there and enjoy it somewhere along one of the canals. Another cheap – but excellent lunch is Dal Moro’s, a to-go place that makes delicious fresh pasta (can’t beat a box of homemade pasta with the sauce of your choice for €6.90!)
The best way to make sure you’ll have a decent meal in Venice? Check Tripadvisor or the reviews on GoogleMaps. Scroll through the list of best restaurants in Venice, read through the last few reviews, and mark down the place that sounds best to you in your map. If you want to leave the planning to the local experts, consider joining a food tour in Venice:
Aperol Spritz: The Classic Venetian Aperitivo
Don’t leave Venice without trying a Spritz, a typical Venetian drink with Campari (or Aperol), Prosecco and sparkling water. If you find a local place, you can get it for as little as €2, but even €4 is still a good price (if Spritz’s are on the menu for €8 or more, you’re probably sitting in a tourist trap). A good way to save money on dinner is looking for a Spritz Happy Hour in one of Venice’s many bacaros (aperitif bars). They usually start at 5pm and with your Aperol, you can snack on some local nibbles, known as cicchetti. They are included in the price of your drink!
Don’t sit down!
Well of course you can sit down and take a break (and you should – you’ll be on your feet a lot!) but if you want to sit down in a cafe to sip a cappuccino, be aware that it’ll cost you a lot of money. Venice’s cafes are notorious for their overpriced coffees and unexpected surcharges – a €6 surcharge for a live band playing nearby is not uncommon, and with tip and the already pricey drink you can easily end up with a €15 bill for a cup of coffee, so be warned. The safest way to make sure you’re not overpaying for a coffee is to drink it like the locals: standing at the counter. That way, you’ll avoid the service charge and other possible surcharges, and shouldn’t pay more than €2 for a cappuccino or €1 for an espresso.
Explore more of the lagoon
Venice is amazing, yes, but there are a couple of other islands nearby that are well worth a visit, too, and they are easy to get to from Venice via water bus. Burano, a little island (actually four islands, so you still have canals and boats here) is famous for its colorful pastel houses; Murano is famous for its glass art but is also incredibly picturesque, Torcello is a tranquil little island with a famous ancient church. San Michele Cemetery Island is also a welcome escape from the crowds and has some beautiful tomb stones and graves.
Staying on the mainland will cost you less
If you’ve looked up where to stay, you’ll know there are some amazing boutique hotels in Venice, but you’ve probably also noticed that prices for hotels are quite steep. If you want to save money on your hotel, consider staying on the mainland. That part of Venice is known as Mestre. Hotels and Airbn’s in Mestre are considerably cheaper, but it’s just a short 11-minute train ride from San Marco Manuzio station to Liberta’ Santa Chiara in Venice. Trains run very frequently – including during the night.
The best-rated cheap hotels in Mestre are:
- Hotel Venezia – from US$73 per night
- Campanile Venice Mestre – from US$76 per night
- Leonardo Royal Hotel Venice Mestre – from US$104 per night
- Four Points by Sheraton – from US$105 per night
- Hilton Garden Inn – from US$112 per night
The best-rated cheap hotels in Venice are:
- Hotel Olimpia Venice, BW Signature Collection – excellent budget hotel, from US$177 per night
- Hotel Al Piave – budget hotel with free breakfast, from US$180 per night
- Palazzo Odoni – traditional hotel in a Gothic building, from US$227 including breakfast
- Hotel Moresco – traditional Venezian-style 19th century 4* hotel, from US$296 per night
- CasaNova Venezia – Rialto Artistic Apartment – 1-bedroom apartment with AC and kitchenette – from US$275 per night
Buy a Venice Travelcard
If you want to make the most of your time in Venice, use the vaporetti (water buses) and water taxis. You’ll get the best value for money by buying a travel card, which you can buy through the Venezia Unica website. To see your options, scroll down until you see “Public transportation in Venice” and check out the different options. An unlimited one-day ticket is €21, a 2-day ticket is €30, a 3-day ticket costs €40 – the longer you stay in Venice, the more economic the ticket becomes. A 7-day ticket is the greatest value at €60, which comes to less than 10 per day (but of course not a lot of people spend that much time in Venice). You can also buy single rides through Venezia Unica – a water taxi ticket is €7.50, for example.
To buy a Venezia Unica card, you click the +Add Card on the right hand side of the website, put in your name, and then you’ll be able to add the travel card of your choice.
Additionally, you can add a City Pass to the Venezia Unica card – take a look at the different options and see if they make sense for you, depending on your itinerary. If you are planning to visit the Doge Palace, museums and some of the many famous churches, a City Pass is definitely worth it.
Tip: Also remember that Venice is quite compact and it’s easy to explore the city on foot. If you’re in good health, you may want to forgo the day ticket and just opt for water bus tickets whenever needed instead. If you do buy an unlimited travel card, definitely take a golden hour/ sunset ride!
Wednesday 1st of March 2017
Great summary of a truly magical place. I will never forget my first time in Venice, walking into San Marco square at around 10pm, crowds gone, a little rain, thinking "This can't be real".