We haven’t been to a place prettier than Venice. Even though years have passed, I still remember our time there vividly. I still remember sweet-scented roses from our hotel garden and delicious bruschettas, I remember the historical San Polo district and I remember falling in love again.
Persistently claiming The Most Romantic City in the World title, this Italian wonder certainly knows how to put on a show for first-time visitors and return travellers.
Beautiful Venice was the last big stop on our EuroRail journey before heading back home, and it was the most memorable one. We arrived with an overnight train from Salzburg Station, stayed a few nights and navigated towards Bergamo for the outbound flight.
This was our fifth time in Italy, and apart from renting a car to explore the Dolomites, all the other times we always travelled by train. It’s an inexpensive, effortless and very efficient way of travel.
In Italy, trains link just about every town or major city. It’s a much more relaxing way of travel, especially if you compare it to driving. The trains hardly ever sell out so you can buy a ticket on the day or the day before. Just don’t forget to validate the local/regional ticket before you get on the train in one of the machines provided at the entrance of the platform.
Venice travel tips: 10 things to know before visiting the beautiful lagoon
To make the most of our time away, especially if we visit famous European cities, there are a few key points we try to check off the list.
Preparing in advance, having a flexible schedule, making time to relax, going off the beaten track and visiting one or two highlights are just a few things to put into practice.
Below is a small list of little things to exercise while on holiday to make your journey around Venice more meaningful and enjoyable.
#1. Do your research before you travel to Venice
The most useful advice we can give to anyone visiting the beautiful Venice lagoon-be a respectful visitor and don’t complain about prices!
If you refer to yourself as a globetrotter who regular reads travel news and updates, you may have noticed a new trend appearing where many posts about ‘What places to visit are replaced with ‘What places not to visit.”
Venice is pretty much on every single list accompanied by stories about native Venetians fighting hard to protect the delicate lagoon from swollen holidaymaker masses. Even though we look at Venice as one of the desired holiday spots, people live and work there just like in any other European city.
Don’t be spooked, but instead, before you go, do some research regarding local customs on how to dress, tip and behave in public. Keep in mind that actual rules and fines have been introduced for visitors to Venice, ranging from 40 -240 euros!
So, don’t switch your brain off once you leave home, but mind your surroundings and be respectful of other people, after all, travel is more about learning and growing as a person, and not so much about taking selfies and collecting likes on Instagram and other social media platforms.
On top of that, stay away from McDonald’s (why would you travel to Italy and end up with BigMac in your hands in the first place?), savour local cuisine and support local restaurants, keep politics at home, and don’t pose on the bridges for too long and don’t leave the trash behind.
Plenty of budget airlines from Ireland, the UK and the rest of Europe offer direct flights to Venice. Remember that Ryanair actually lands at Treviso airport, which is about an hour’s bus ride from Venice. The Marco Polo airport is the closest one to the historic centre, and you’ll need to use the water taxi, public or shuttle bus to get farther into the city.
Quite a lot of people arrive in Venice by train because Italian cities like Verona, Milan, Florence and Rome are all well connected to the Venezia-St.Lucia station. If you choose to travel by train, keep in mind that there are two train stations in Venice; Venezia-Mestre and Venezia-Stazione-Santa Lucia.
As you may know, Venice is surrounded by water, and the only way of getting around is on foot or by using water buses and taxis. Do your research before regarding schedules, times and prices.
#3. Find the best neighbourhood for your stay in Venice
We booked beautifully presented Ca Niagra Lagoon resort, dating back to the 17th century, located 100 m from Santa Lucia train station and didn’t have to carry luggage too far, didn’t have to pay for a water taxi and had all significant sites were within easy reach.
If you are scratching your head and don’t know where to book accommodation, then scroll through its neighbourhoods and find the best to suit your needs. Venice is divided into six districts: Castello, San Polo, Cannaregio, Dorsoduro, Santa Croce and San Marco.
If time is crucial and you prefer to be very close to all the notable attractions and most famous sights, then book one of the elegant hotels or chick boutiques around Saint Marcus Square as it is the most central location in Venice.
Prices will be much higher than anywhere else, but Doges Palace, St. Marks Basilica and the Bell Tower are close by and where else can you splurge and feel entirely pampered if not in Venice?
Budget travellers can stay in one of the incredible Venetian hostels. Built inside a renovated 12th-century monastery, We Crociferi, is based in the Cannaregio district of Venice. Generator Venice Hostel is situated on the shores of Giudecca Island, and you can choose from private rooms and suits traditional shared dormitory rooms.
#4. Learn the beauty of doing nothing
Although, we both love planning and lining up the sites to see (usually as many as possible) while in Venice, we took a different approach and borrowed a suggestion from the Italian concept—the beauty of doing nothing!
Photographed and featured about million times on different media platforms, with its painted and repainted facades, Venice really is a unique and characteristic place to visit and can become an unforgettable experience, especially if you visit on your own terms.
Instead of rushing off to St.Mark’s square or Piazza San Marco, the very core of the tourist gathering point, we spent a great deal of the day at leisure in hushed alleyways nearby our hotel and embarked on the surface as the sun was vanishing behind the ginger rooftops.
The city is truly magical and quiet place at night after day-trippers return to cruise ships and the mainland, leaving more room to breathe. Much to our delight, the moon appeared and serenaded our patience tossing vibrant shadows over mallow canal waters.
It wasn’t easy to leave this place; each corner represented a new discovery, and each bridge led us deeper into the wonderland.
#5. Follow your heart and not the crowds
While gondola rides are unquestionably touristy and somewhat pricey, you can’t really get a sense of Venice, unless you lose yourself along its beautiful waterways on traditional, flat-bottomed Venetian rowing boat, aka Gondola.
Or, so I thought before we arrived in the sinking city, where instead of streets there are canals and were couples holding hands jump into the vessels, clink champagne glasses and kiss passionately once on the water.
I suddenly realised while Venice has been on my list of places to visit, going for a gondola ride, wasn’t and I was Ok with that.
If you are dying to go for a quick spin, there are a few things you should know. First of all, the city of Venice sets official rates for gondola rides, so be prepared to pay 80 euros for 40 minutes and even more for the evening rides and special sunset cruises. Second, agree upon the price and the duration of the trip before you set foot on the boat.
A great alternative to Venetian Gondolas is to take the Water Bus down the entire length of the Grand Canal. Just pick a seat and take in the views of beautifully decaying facades. You can listen to the singing gondoliers and capture your surroundings.
If you look past today’s commercial enterprise of the boat business and sink your teeth into the history, you’ll find that only after passing very demanding, six-month course, gondoliers are allowed to operate these black and sleek boats, tastefully decorated, trough its crisscrossed myriad of canals.
Today, these floating symbols of Venice are approximately 35 feet long, weigh 1,100 lbs, have 280 components and use eight types of wood. They cost staggering 30,000 EUR and last for about 20 years.
Tips, hints, and things to do in Venice
- Wear comfortable walking shoes (I can’t emphasise this enough) and buy a good map as the tourist offices don’t provide free maps to tourists.
- Don’t eat in a restaurant with menus translated into six languages, where food is overpriced and served without much care. Do your research beforehand or go on a Cicchetti Tour of Venice.
- Sit yourself down in one of the cafés in Piazza San Marco, aka St.Mark’s Square and in addition to your coffee, you’ll be charged 6 euros for the music.
- Visit Venice during the world-famous Carnival, taking place annually. Admire extravagant costumes, fireworks, and musical performances on display or even dress up yourself and attend one of the glamorous Venetian balls.
- Don’t attempt to see all sites and allow yourself extra time to get from point A to point B. The crowds in Venice are staggering, bridges are narrow, and there are so many things to see and do. Pick a few and examine them thoroughly.
- Brush up your Italian. Just a few simple phrases will go a long way. Gracie – Thank you. Per favour – Please. Buongiorno! – Hello and Good morning!
- Visit outer islands, like Burano, a 40-minute motorboat ride away from Venice, known for its brightly coloured fisherman’s houses, leaning Bell Tower and lacemaking.
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Now, over to you!
Have you been to Venice? Do you have any tips for visiting? Let us know in the comments below!
Let us know if you are plotting a visit to Venice and have travel-related questions!