Welcome to one of the most romantic cities in the world! Home of the gondola and famous for its canal structure, Venice is truly unique in the world despite many countries attempting to copy the ambience.
If you arrived here by train (which I assume so as this is the easiest way to get to Venice) you’ll find yourself at Santa Lucia station which opens out onto the famous Grand Canal. This is on the north west side of Venice which is the opposite side to St Mark’s Square. We actually decided to day trip here from Milan as it is quite cheap to do so. Weather wise it is very similar to Milan however you do get some slight changes due it being a coastal area.
Getting around Venice can be done a few ways. The most obvious is by walking! Walking around Venice is just spectacular due to the narrow winding paths, the old buildings and the amazing little restaurants and stores dotted about. The second is taking the water bus (or vaporetto) which functions the same way a bus would but uses the canals and stops at various points around Venice. This can take around 30 mins to get from one end of Venice to the other and costs around €7 but you will get a great view of the city from the Canal; passing a lot of the main sites. You can get this just outside the station and go straight to the St Marks square.
A third option is a traghetti which only takes you across the Grand Canal but can be very useful if the nearest bridge is quite far away and you plan on going the other direction. They cost around €1 so a good option if you are a bit tired!
The main spot you’ll want to head to is St. Mark’s Square which is the most famous part of Venice. This is where the Doge Palace, Saint Mark’s Basilica and St Mark’s Campanile (the large tower you will see in a lot of pictures). This is a very popular area which is lined with stores and cafes. They are typically more expensive than the rest and there is no sitting allowed in this square. There are very few seats in Venice so you will likely get tired unless you are a hiking pro so remember to pop into a café if it gets too much. This area is very liable to flood (it is a floating city after all) but it is hard to predict when this might happen. Assume a summer season is dry and you should be fine! A great place, if you have the cash, is Caffè Florian which is famous for having celebrities like Andy Warhol eat here.
One thing to note is if you intend on sitting outside in the square by one of the cafes you will get a large charge on your bill for the privilege! A good idea is to walk a street or two over and get something from a nearby café / restaurant as it will save you a lot of money.
Nearby to St Marks Square is the most popular place to rent a Gondola and let’s face it, that is something everyone wants to do! A good tip is not to rent a Gondola here. It is a very big tourist trap here and the prices are very high for the time you get (they vary depending on which dock you go to along this section so I won’t list exact prices but can be upwards of €100 easily). If you head further along the “coastline” you can find Gondola stations which are independent and can save you a lot of money or give you a longer ride for the same amount! Taking one of these is a must even for the cost as it really is a magical way to see Venice especially in good weather. Canals here also light up around dusk so you may want to consider this.
If you head further along the “coastline” you can find Gondola stations which are independent and can save you a lot of money or give you a longer ride for the same amount!
If you have less cash to spend then try visiting the Castello area. This is a much calmer area about 15 mins from St Marks Square but is cheaper and has more independent owners. As we came here on a day trip we decided to spend the time walking around the area as Venice really is a romantic place to visit. The only downside to Venice is the lack of Italians! Another site to tick off is Rialto bridge which often has food markets lining the shore.
For those with more time I would recommend Burano island. With all the coloured buildings it has a little Amsterdam vibe to it and we would have visited if we had the time. It takes around 40 mins to get there from Venice using one of the vaporetto.
Enjoy this stunning city and, if you can, spend more time here than we did and tell us all about it!
Other things you can do include
- Murano – An island similar to Venice which is famous for glass making. Less busy then it’s bigger sister.
- Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute which is the building opposite to St Marks Square
- Torcello island is a less populated destination with a lot more greenery to admire.