Venice Canals
The waterways of Venice (Photo credit: Unsplash)

Venice Travel Guide

QUICK FACTS

  • Located in the north-east of Italy, Venice is a small city (160 sq. miles) of 270,000 people.
  • Built on many small islands, Venice is famous for its canals and gondolas. Truly a romantic destination, the whole city has been listed as a UNESCO world heritage site.
  • Only 60,000 people live in the historical part – the rest live on the mainland.
  • Nicknames: La Serenissima, City of Water, City of Canals, City of Bridges, Queen of the Adriatic.

PRACTICAL INFORMATION

  • Currency: Euro (EUR).
  • Spoken languages: predominantly Italian (English widely spoken to/among tourists).
  • Best time to visit: from March to November. Gets very crowded in the summers.
  • Arriving via airport: there is public bus service from Marco Polo (Venice International) airport to the Santa Lucia Railway Station. The airport is located 8 km north of the city. Other options include motorboat or taxi.

WHERE TO STAY

Although accommodations can get very expensive in the historical part of Venice, it’s still much more convenient than trying to stay on the mainland. For cheaper options, try to find hotels near the Santa Lucia Station, in the northern part of the city, or in the eastern side of the main group of islands.

GETTING AROUND

  • If there is one city in the world where you should walk everywhere, that city is Venice. Con over 100 small islands, connected by bridges and separated by canals, the transportation in Venice is either on foot or on water. You can walk from one end of the city to the other in an hour.
  • For pleasure or speed, you will have to use the water transport system. This includes the public water buses (vaporetto – ACTV boats) and the private transport options (e.g. water taxis and gondolas). Gondolas are mostly for leisure purposes, as they are a relatively expensive way to simply get around.
  • Waterbus tickets are 7 EUR (valid for 1 hour). A day pass is 20 EUR, while a 3-day pass will set you back 35 EUR.

VENICE NIGHTLIFE

  • Drinking age is 18.
  • There aren’t many clubs or discos in the old city of Venice. If you want to party, your best bet is to head over to the Mestre (on the mainland).
  • In the historic city, you could spend the evening or night in small clubs, pubs and bars, sometimes with live music. The streets of Venice are also quite lively, so head over to a piazza (square).

UNIQUE LANDMARKS TO VISIT

  • Technically, the entire city is one big landmark! From the canals to the houses seemingly floating right on the water, Venice is a magical package.
  • The San Marco Square (Piazza San Marco) contains the San Marco Basilica, one of the most beautiful cathedrals in the world. Don’t miss the tomb of Saint Mark. Check out Palazzo Ducale (Dogi Palace), one of the oldest administrative buildings in the city.
  • The Campanile Tower is the tallest building in the city, offering a breathtaking view of city at from almost 100 meters up.
  • Venice is famous for its magnificent churches and basilicas. Not to be missed: Santa Maria della Salute, Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari, San Giorgio Maggiore. 
  • Take a look at some of the spectacular palaces and villas, many of which are located on both sides of the Canal Grande. The most famous ones are: Ca’ D’Oro, Palazzo Giustinian, Ca’ Rezzonico, Palazzo Contarini, Palazzo Franchetti, Palazzo Grassi.
  • If you visit only one museum, make it the Galleria dell’Accademia.
  • Take a trip out to some of the other islands, especially Murano and Burano.

INTERESTING WALKS

  • Note: be careful while walking the narrow streets of Venice – if you forget to look up while taking a picture, you may find yourself going for a bath in one of the canals!
  • Take a walk along each side of the Canal Grande – discover all the magnificent palaces and villas on the waterfront.
  • Walk from the Santa Maria dei Frari towards the Rialto Bridge, then head over to the Piazza San Marco. End your journey in front of Santa Maria delle Salute.
  • Head over to the other islands (e.g. Murano, Burano, Lido, Giudecca, San Giorgio) and explore the streets. Finally – less tourists!

LOCAL WISDOM

  • One of the most interesting and unique festivals in Venice is the world famous Venice Carnival, which takes place during the beginning of spring. Visitors don costumes and masks, and many shows take place all over the city.
  • While everyone is visiting the main sights, try the following to explore the less-traveled: head over to the seafront, on any side of the main city. Alternatively, head straight to one of the other islands.
  • There are times when the streets of Venice are flooded (the locals call this Aqua Alta, or “high waters”). Be careful, as this could throw a wrench in your vacation plans.
  • Where to find good cheap eats: if you want to try a local restaurant, do not go in the historical center (where the prices are extremely high). Instead, find a more secluded street with smaller traditional restaurants (osteria) and be careful to pay for only what you ordered.
  • Dangerous areas: Venice is very safe (safer than other Italian cities). Just to be sure, try to avoid the train station and side alleys at night.

RECOMMENDED VENICE GUIDE BOOKS

Recommended trip duration: 3-4 days


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Venice Travel Guide was last modified: September 25th, 2016 by Nick
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