Venice

Venice is a truly magical place, and unlike any other city in the world.  You know you are in a different world from the moment you step out of the train station or arrive by boat.  The scenery of the bridges, backwater canals, and architecture make for unforgettable trip.

Our Venice city guide will help you navigate around Venice, save time and money, and have a more authentic experience.  Venice is a small city, and can be overrun by tourists in the busy season.  However, following a few simple tips can ensure you don’t waste valuable time in line, and help you find quaint, reasonably priced establishments.

Many visitors only spend time in and around Piazza San Marco.  If you only spend your time there, you will likely think Venice is crowded and expensive.  However, there is another Venice, one that exists just a couple blocks away from the main tourist thoroughfares.  There you can find reasonably priced establishments, cheaper Gondola rides, and truly enjoy the scenery around you.

The Basics
Top Things to do in Venice
How to get Around in Venice
Insider Tips
Clear Travel Summary

The Basics

  • Recommended Time: 2-3 Days
  • Language: Italian, but English can get you by
  • Currency: Euro
  • Airports: Venice Marco Polo (VCE)
  • Train Stations: Venezia Santa Lucia (on the island) and Venezia Miestre (on the mainland)

Top Things to do in Venice

Piazza San Marco (St. Mark’s Square)

  • Famous public square in Venice, surrounded by stunning architecture and the top sights in Venice.  The square is bordered by the main sights in Venice: Doge’s Palace, St. Marks Basilica, Campanile di San Marco (Bell Tower), and the bridge of Sighs.  If you visit Venice, you will definitely find yourself spending time in St. Mark’s Square.  Location on Google Maps.
  • How to get there:
    • Water Bus (Vaparetto): There are two stops on both the east and west side of the square.  Line 1 services both stops from the train station, down the Grand Canal, to St Mark’s square.  Lines 2, 4.2, and 5.2 get you to the Piazza from the cruse ship marina.
    • Walking: It is a short walk between the Rialto Bridge area and St. Mark’s square.  The walk between the two will take you through a main shopping street.  It is possible to get just about anywhere on foot in Venice, as it is a small town.
  • Ticket Information: None needed.
  • Insider Tips:
    • The square gets crowded with tourists when the cruise ships are docked in Venice.  Early morning or late at night will give you St. Mark’s square without the crowd.  At night, there are multiple restaurants playing music you can enjoy in the square.  We believe spending an evening in the square is the best way to enjoy it.
Doge’s Palace (Palazzo Ducale)

  • Palace that was the seat of the Republic of Venice.  Complete with the Doge’s residence (analogous to a governor), institutional chambers, high court rooms, a prison, and an armory.  The Great Hall is truly impressive, and one of the things that makes Doge’s Palace a “must see” in Venice.  Location on Google Maps.
  • How to get there:
    • Water Bus (Vaparetto): There are two stops on both the east and west side of the square.  Line 1 services both stops from the train station, down the Grand Canal, to St Mark’s square area.  Lines 2, 4.2, and 5.2 get you to the Piazza area from the cruse ship marina.
  • Ticket Information:
    • 20 EUR for a Standard Entry Ticket (also includes access to Museo Correr art/history museum), 5 EUR for an audio guide.
    • 20 EUR for a guided “Secret Itinerary Tour” tour
    • A “Secret Itinerary Tour” is a 75 min tour, with an English guide, that leaves at a designated time.  You get to see areas of the Palace, like the prison, and hidden trap doors that are not accessible to regular ticket holders.  You also get to learn the intriguing history of how the Cassanova was incarcerated, and then escaped from the “inescapable” Doge’s prison.
    • Official Ticket Office
  • Insider Tip: The line can be hours long if you do not pre-book your tickets.  If you book a secret itinerary tour, all you need to do is show up at the entrance about 15 min before your scheduled time, and you will walk right in.

 

St. Mark’s Basilica

  • Famous basilica in Venice with stunning Byzantine architecture, elaborate decorations, and gold mosaics that symbolize the power and wealth of the Venetian Empire.  Location on Google Maps.
  • How to get there:
    • Water Bus (Vaparetto): There are two stops on both the east and west side of the square.  Line 1 services both stops from the train station, down the Grand Canal, to St Mark’s square area.  Lines 2, 4.2, and 5.2 get you to the Piazza area from the cruse ship marina.
  • Ticket Information: 3 EUR to skip the line
  • Insider Tip: Both St. Mark’s Basilica and the Bell Tower typically have long lines.  If you are interested in seeing either, it is best to pay to skip the line to save valuable vacation hours.
Grand Canal

  • Iconic water highway that winds down the middle of Venice.  Beautiful homes and architecture. Location on Google Maps.
  • How to get there:
    • Water Bus (Vaparetto): Lines 1 and 2 run down the length of the Grand Canal, from the train station to St. Mark’s Square.
    • Water Taxi: An expensive way to get around, the water taxi can take you anywhere you want to go, including a tour of the Grand Canal.
  • Ticket Information: Water Bus ticket
  • Insider Tip: If you are leaving from St. Mark’s Square area and want a better shot at an outside seat on the Water Bus (highly recommended for the best canal views), then try walking down one stop to the Arsenal Vaparetto stop, and get your outside seat before the water bus arrives at the busier St. Mark’s Square stops.
  • Insider Tip: Each island in Venice was once owned by a Noble family, later connected by bridges.  As you are cruising down the Grand Canal, and walking through Venice, look for the many the hidden palace on each island.  There will be a large, impressive house on each island.

 

Rialto Bridge

  • Famous white stone bridge across the Grand Canal.  Location on Google Maps.
  • How to get there:
    • Water Bus (Vaparetto): Lines 1 and 2 run up and down the length of the Grand Canal, and stop at the Rialto Bridge.
    • Walk from St. Mark’s Square area, or from elsewhere in Venice.
  • Ticket Information: None needed
Venetian Arsenal/Museo Storico Navale

  • Venice was a naval and trading powerhouse in the Mediterranean from the middle ages to the 18th century.  The Arsenal and shipyard complex was the engine for Venice’s naval and industrial power during those times.  Today, there is an interesting naval museum near the entrance of the Arsenal.  Location on Google Maps.
  • How to get there:
    • Water Bus (Vaparetto): Line 1 stops at the Arsenale stop.
    • Walk from St. Mark’s Square area
  • Ticket Information: 10 EUR for the Naval Museum.  Not near the crowds, so you shouldn’t have to pre-book.
Bridge of Sighs

  • Famous bridge in Venice connecting Doge’s Palace interrogation rooms with the prison.  Named the Bridge of Sighs for the prisoners sighing while they got a quick look of Venetian beauty before going back in to prison.  Location on Google Maps.
  • How to get there:
    • Water Bus (Vaparetto): There are two stops on both the east and west side of St Mark’s square.  Line 1 services both stops from the train station, down the Grand Canal, to St Mark’s square area.  Lines 2, 4.2, and 5.2 get you to the Piazza area from the cruse ship marina.
  • Ticket Information: None needed
Gondola Rides

  • Relaxing boat ride through some of Venice’s backwater canals to enjoy the atmosphere and sights from an unique perspective.
  • How to get there:
    • There are Gondola stands throughout the city, primarily in and around  the busy tourist areas like the Rialto Bridge and St. Mark’s Square.
  • Cost: 80 EUR for 30 min ride
    • 80 EUR posted rate for a max of 6 people, during the day.  If you Gondolier is telling you a higher price, find another Gondolier.
  • Insider Tip: Negotiate the terms of your Gondola ride.  There are posted city prices per half hour ride, but prices for rides longer than a half hour, or whether your want you Gondolier to sing, are negotiable.
Cicchetti Food and Wine Tour

  • Cicchetti is the Venetian version of tapas: small bites and appetizers served at local bars.  Served in small establishments frequented by locals, just a few blocks away from the main thoroughfares, you will enjoy an authentic Venetian experience.  You will see locals catching up on their days, enjoying their small sandwiches, olives, veggies, and seafood skewers along with a glass of the house wine or spritz.  These small, neighborhood establishments often have chalk board menus (not in English, of course) but are plenty welcoming of those adventurous enough to try them.
  • Insider Tip: Some of the restaurants in the touristy areas put “Cicchetti” on the menu at 4-5 EUR per small plate.  Just a couple blocks away you can find the real thing.  The wine should be 2-3 EUR/glass, and the Cicchetti plates 1-3 EUR each.   Here are some recommendations of places, in no particular order, and by no means a complete list: Ai Divini, Cantine del Vino già SchiavOsteria al TajerBacaro Risoto, Vino Vero, il Caffe RossoCantina Vecia Carbonera.
  • Insider Tip: Cicchetti bars often do not have large signs letting you know they are there, like the one in the photo above.  Some are even in relatively busy areas, but you would walk right by them if you did not know they were there (for instance: Ai Divini, 30 feet away from a busy shopping area, but tucked in a small alley.)  Wander down a back street, keep your eyes open, and you will find them.
Campanile di San Marco

  • Bell tower of St. Mark’s Basilica.  You can go to the top to get incredible 360 views of Venice.  Location on Google Maps.
  • How to get there:
    • Water Bus (Vaparetto): There are two stops on both the east and west side of the square.  Line 1 services both stops from the train station, down the Grand Canal, to St Mark’s square area.  Lines 2, 4.2, and 5.2 get you to the Piazza area from the cruse ship marina.
  • Ticket Information: 13 EUR to skip the line
  • Insider Tip: Both St. Mark’s Basilica and the Bell Tower typically have long lines.  If you are interested in seeing either, it is best to pay to skip the line to save valuable vacation hours.

How to Get Around in Venice

To/From the Airport to Venice:
  • By Bus: 
    • ACTV Line 5 will take you from the airport to Piazzale Roma on the island.

 

  • By Ferry:
    • Ferry company Alilaguna operates frequent boats that connect Venice with the Marco Polo Airport. Line Blu connects the airport to the cruise terminal, line Arancio goes down the Grand Canal.

 

  • By Private Water Taxi:
    • You can pre-book a water taxi to pick you up at the airport and take you to your hotel dock, or from your hotel dock to the airport.  It is a truly unique experience to ride through Venice in your private boat. This is the most expensive option, but also the fastest (if you have an early morning flight.)
    • The link below has access to hundreds of boats, and you can book your tickets online.  We had our hotel front desk verify our confirmation, and we enjoyed a private boat to the airport after getting picked up at our hotel dock.
    • Venice Motoscafi 

 

In the City Center:
  • By Water Bus “Vaparetto”:
    • There are frequent lines running through the Grand Canal and around the perimeter of Venice.  The 1 and the 2 lines will take you to most places throughout the city.
    • Cost: 7.50 EUR one trip, 20 EUR for a 24 hours, 30 EUR for 48 hours 40 EUR for 72 hours.
    • Tickets are available at kiosks or ticket stands when you arrive on the island.  If you are exiting the train station, walk to the water, and you will see the official ticket booths on the dock.
    • ACTV Timetables and Maps
  • By Car: Just kidding, there are no cars on the island.

 

 

Insider Tips for Venice

  • Pre-book your Doge’s Palace and St. Mark’s Basilica tickets.  During peak season (Mar-Nov) the lines for both can be hours long.  Skipping the line at both will hardly cost you any premium over those waiting in line (same cost for Doge’s Palace and only 3 EUR for the Basilica) and you will get to enjoy more of Venice.  Smile that you saved hours of vacation time for 10 minutes of research.
  • An evening pub crawl of Cicchetti and wine, mingling with locals, is a night you will never forget.  You absolutely will enjoy it more than eating a 50 EUR plate of pasta in a packed St. Mark’s Square restaurant around dinner time.
  • Limit time with luggage. Consistent with other Italian cities, staying in relative close proximity of the train station or Vaparetto stop is convenient with plenty of hotel options.  We like to limit time wheeling around heavy luggage on busy stone streets. 
  • It’s OK to get compeltely lost in the winding backstreets and canals of Venice.  That’s part of the fun of visiting!  You will always find friendly locals along the way, and will likely run in to a Cicchetti bar or two along the way that you can ask for directions (after enjoying a glass of wine first!)

Clear Travel Summary

The top sights in Venice can be seen in 1-2 days.  Staying at a hotel/Airbnb close to a Vaparetto stop will help you find your accommodations each night, as directions in Venice can be confusing.  Pre-booking your Doge’s Palace,  St. Marks Basillica, and Campanile di San Marco tickets will save you valuable vacation hours so you can enjoy more of what Venice has to offer.  The Vaparatto system is the easiest and cheapest way to get around, or simply to take a cruise down the Grand Canal.  Venice is a city like no other: full of proud history, culture, unique architecture, and incredible backwater canals to enjoy.

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