Planning a trip to the city of canals? Here are my best Venice travel tips to help you as you figure things out.
Guys, I finally made it to Venice! You have no idea how long I’ve been wanting to go.
You see, back when I signed-up for my high school trip to Italy and Greece, it was historically only to Italy. The years before me visited Rome, Florence, Venice, Pompeii, and Capri. However, my year they switched programs to include Greece, and Athens and Delphi replaced Venice and Pompeii. Which, don’t get me wrong, Delphi is still one of my favorite places in memory. However, I was sorely disappointed that I wouldn’t get to visit this city of fancy masks, canal streets, and beautiful architecture.
Even as I’ve been back to Italy a handful of times, Venice just never fit in to the trip. However, when I was catching up with my friend, Elissa, she invited me to join her on her winter break trip to Venice and Florence. I did the math, figured out flights, and said yes pretty spontaneously! Just a two weeks later, I found myself emerging from the Santa Lucia Train Station to easily one of the most incredible views I’ve ever seen.
To get started on my posts about this magical City of Water, I thought I’d first list out some of my best Vencie travel tips to help you plan your own trip. I broke it all up into the following, and you can click to jump to a section.
- Before Traveling to Venice
- Top Things to Do
- How to Get Around Venice
- Tips on Eating
- Cool Souvenirs to Buy
- Miscellaneous Advice
28 Essential Venice Travel Tips
Pre-Trip Venice Travel Tips
1. Learn a little bit about Venetian history
Venice, also known as Venezia, has such a unique history. It’s worth doing a bit of research to learn more about it before you go. That way you understand why this city is made of canals, where the whole masquerade thing came from, and much more. You can probably find a decent book online, but there are also plenty of videos on Youtube as well.
2. Watch these movies to get excited
Nothing I like more than getting visual inspiration from movies and TV shows. There are quite a few films that have used Vencie as a backdrop. Some that I’ve seen and enjoyed are Casanova (2005) with Heath Ledger, Dangerous Beauty (1998), Chasing Liberty (2004) with, yes, Mandy Moore, and Just Married (2003) with, yes Ashton Kutcher and Brittany Murphy!
Other movies set in Venice:
- Casino Royale (2006)
- From Russia with Love (1964)
- The Tourist (2010)
- The Merchant of Venice (2004)
- Spider-Man: Far from Home (2019)
- The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999)
3. And/or read these books!
Funnily enough I’ve only read one book set in Venice, and that’s Bitter Greens by Kate Forsyth! One of the main characters is Selena, and her story takes place in 1513 Venice where she’s the muse for the artist, Tiziano.
Some other books that sound interesting and are now on my to-read list:
- The Glassblower of Murano by Marina Fiorato
- A Year at Hotel Gondola by Nicky Pellegrino
- Vivaldi’s Virgins by Barbara Quick
- A Thousand Days in Venice by Marlena de Blasi
- Death in Venice by Thomas Mann
- Miss Garnet’s Angel by Salley Vickers
4. Make sure you understand the weather when you go
Over all, Venice doesn’t get incredibly cold in the winter. When I was there in February it was around 40-50F (4-10C) during the day and maybe 30F (-1C) at night. However, the big thing to remember is that it’s a damp kind of cold, so even if numerically it doesn’t seem that bad, you’ll still get quite chilly if you don’t layer up properly. I recommend packing two-three heavier sweaters and then a bunch of long-sleeved Uniqlo Heattech tops. They’ll keep you warm and dry quickly, so you can wash them over night. You could layer with a trench coat, but I didn’t have room.
Of course, in the summer this means it can get pretty humid while the spring and fall seasons are fairly mild. I haven’t been to Venice in any other season, but I’ve been to Italy in all seasons except autumn, so I have a decent idea of weather and climate!
5. Keep Acqua Alta in mind
Speaking of autumn something to keep in mind is acqua alta season. Also known as high water, this is the term used for when Venice begins to flood. It can technically happen any time of year, but it’s more likely to happen from October – January. You could very easily find yourself trudging through knee deep water with your suitcase over your head!
It’s definitely a unique experience, but I personally would just prefer to avoid it all together.
6. Venetian is slightly different than Italian
Fun fact I learned on my walking tour is that Venetian is slightly different than the standardized Italian. You’ll see most signs written in the dialect, so don’t be surprised if you see different spellings or pronunciations. For example, the Bridge of Sighs is Ponte de i Sospiri in Venetian and Ponte dei Sospiri in Italian. Just a fun little tidbit for ya!
7. Also learn a bit about Venice’s geography
So Venice itself is actually made up of 118 small islands which are all linked by bridges. Back in the day each island basically acted like its own small community, which is why you’ll find so many squares and churches in such a small area of land. Knowing this doesn’t exactly change anything, but I think it gives a nice context to why exactly this city is made of canals and why it’s laid out like it is.
8. Stay closer to the train station and further away from San Marco
Of all my Venice travel tips, this is the one I want you to heed the most, When you begin to book your hotel, I highly recommend booking as close to the train/bus station as you can. They’re right next to each other.
Besides the water taxis, gondolas, or vaporeto, there is no transportation to get you around Venice besides your own two feet. So if you book somewhere in an awkward spot, you might find yourself lugging a suitcase across bridges and around all sorts of alleys! Not fun when you have all your stuff on you.
We stayed at Palazzo Odoni, which I recommend if you don’t mind stairs. It’s in a quieter part of Vencie and a very easy 10-12 minute walk from the train station. In general, I’d look into the Santa Croce, Cannaregio, Dorsodouro, and/or San Polo neighborhoods.
Hotels near the Train Station in Venice
|Where to Book
|Palazzo Odoni $$
|Santa Chiara Hotel $$
|Carnival Palace Hotel $$
|Hotel Principe $$
9. Figuring out how to get into Venice
The two most common ways to get to Venice are by train or plane.
If you come by train, it’s really easy to book via Tren Italia. Just make sure to use the Italian name, Venezia, and choose Santa Lucia station. Once you exit the station, you’re right on the island and can walk to wherever you want to go next.
If you fly, you’ll fly into the Marco Polo Airport (VCE). From there you have a few options for getting into Venice:
- Book a regular bus transfer. This’ll take you to the bus area next to the train station.
- Try the vaporeto (water bus) via Alilaguna. It’ll stop at San Marco, Rialto, Fondamenta Nuove, and Guglie on the main island. You can buy tickets at the machines near baggage claim carousels or on the bus itself.
- Pre-booking a water taxi transfer
10. You absolutely MUST pack light!
As I said above, I cannot emphasize how much you need to pack light for Venice. You will wind up having to cross more than one bridge with your luggage, and every bridge has stairs in the beginning and the end. It’s an absolute pain! Also because most buildings are quite old, I bet many hotels are like the one we stayed at where it’s a lot of stairs and no elevator.
I guarantee if you pack heavily with multiple suitcases, you will regret it with ever fiber of your being, especially if you ignored my advice above and didn’t stay within easy walking distance of the train or bus station. I fit everything I had into my Paravel Aviator Carry-On and my Trouboudor Goods Adventure Ember Backpack.
Top Things to Do in Venice
I have a whole list coming with all the places to visit as well as my itinerary guides, but for now I wanted to add in a little “things to do” section as part of my Venice travel tips. These are just a few top activities you don’t want to miss even if you’re here for only a weekend.
11. Visit Piazza San Marco
Also known as San Marco Square, St. Mark’s Square, or Piasa San Marco, this is the main hub of all Venetian tourism activity. The square’s history dates back to 819 when a church dedicated to St. Theodore was built in the current site of Basilica di San Marco.
Walk around the square to see the various landmarks such as the basilica, the clocktower, bell tower, Doge’s palace, and the popular blue boats that line the docks. If you don’t mind the absurd prices, Cafe Florian has been a mainstay since 1720 and has the coolest interior decor.
San Marco is definitely the busiest place in Venice, so if you want to feel like you have it all to yourself, head over early in the morning. We did a morning run over and were shocked at how deserted it seemed!
12. See the Doge’s Palace
If you have the time, I loved wandering around the Doge’s Palace (Palazzo Ducale, Palaso Dogal) on one of our rainy days. Its design is classified as Venetian Gothic, which is different than what you’d normally imagine. Because Venice was once a major trade center with the Byzantine Empire and Asia, its gothic architecture also included Byzantine and Islamic influences.
The palace is stunning and acted as the home for the Doge of Venice (a sort of duke that’s elected for life) starting in 1340 when it was built. It’s absolutely massive, so give yourself the afternoon to wanter through the main ornate rooms and halls.
13. Do a day trip to the islands of Murano and Burano
The Venetian Lagoon in which sits Venice is also home to a number of other inhabited islands. At the very least, do a day trip to Murano and Burano, which should take up at least half a day. Murano is known for its glass and Burano is known for its lace and brightly colored buildings, so they’re quite special visits on their own! You can book a day trip or just use the vaporeto system to get everywhere, though be warned the lines grow as the day goes on!
If you can fit them in, we also managed to included the even tinier island of Torcello and San Michele, which is where all Venetians are buried.
14. Roam the many alleys and paths
Honestly, the best thing to do is to put on your most comfortable shoes and start walking. I swear every square, church, storefront, and alleyway feels like a picture. Stay away from San Marco’s crowds to really get enjoy your wandering in peace and quiet.
Getting Around Venice
15. Double check Google Maps before you start walking
Google Maps was not the most reliable while here. It gets confused once you get into the maze of alleyways, and even if you choose “walking,” it still winds up putting you in the way of a vaporeto station to get around.
There are only two big bridges over the Grand Canal (Ponte de Accademia and Rialto Bridge), so you could wind up at a station 15 minutes away from the closest bridge. It’s kind of annoying to pay 7,50 euros to literally cross the river!
16. Vaporeto vs. Water Taxi
A vaporeto is the public water bus. It costs 7,50€ for a one way ticket or you can buy 1, 2, or 3 day tourist passes for 20€, 30€, or 40€ respectively. We found they generally came on time except the one boat that was meant to come to Burano and never showed up!
A water taxi is a private boat you can book. They’re usually those nice, shiny brown boats you see in movies or on celebrity instagrams.
17. When using a vaporeto station, pay attention to the letters.
So each vaporeto station has different sub-stations that are label A, B, C, etc. I didn’t realize this at first! If you get on the wrong one, it could take you in the opposite direction, and you’ll find yourself with a ton of added time on your transport. It’ll tell you in Google Maps, so just note it when you go to board.
18. Be prepared to walk!
Realistically, you don’t need to take a vaporeto while in Venice except for the day trips to the islands. Because the city is so interconnected with bridges, you can walk everywhere. It’s just a lot of walking! Like from our hotel to San Marco was about 2.5km, but it feels like an easy walk because it’s so pretty. It’s only about day 2 or 3 when your legs are exhausted that you realize you’ve been clocking in 15-19,000 steps a day!
Foodie Venice Travel Tips
19. Venetian cuisine mainly revolves around seafood
As you might guess from its watery location, classic Venetian cuisine relies largely on seafood. The big thing to get is a seafood risotto (risotto ai frutti di mare) or squid ink risotto (risotto al nero di seppia), but most places have a pretty decent variety of antipasti, primi, and secondi dishes. I pretty just went ham on the pasta selections and ordered whatever sounded good in the moment.
20. Try fritelle during Carnevale
Here’s one of my tastiest Venice travel tips – fritelle! Fritelle are a sort of doughnut served during the Carnevale season. The Veneziane version is made without filling and with raisins. The cream is filled with cream, and the zabaione ones filled with a sort of cream and sweet wine combination. We even found a ricotta one!
You’ll see them pretty much everywhere during Carnevale, so just pick any random bakery to try, and you won’t be disappointed.
21. You absolutely need reservations, especially during busier times
This is another one of my Venice travel tips that I wish I’d paid more attention to. When it comes to dinner, always make a reservation. Really this goes for many places in Italy. You absolutely need a reservation to guarantee your dinner spot, especially during popular seasons. Many you might just need to call to make it, so ask your hotel to help you out. We missed out on a few dinner places because of this!
22. The times on Google Maps are usually a lie
Do not trust Google Maps to tell you what time these restaurants are open. For the most part, you only have between 12:00PM and 3:00PM and then 7:00PM and onwards. Nearly all restaurants worth eating at close between 3PM and 7PM. Even then restaurants don’t open strictly on time!
If Google Maps tells you a restaurant is open some long window like 12PM – 10PM, it’s probably lying.
23. Prices are definitely higher
Compared to the rest of Italy, dinner prices in Venice are definitely pricier. It’s not that much, but something to factor into your budget.
Cool Souvenirs from Venice
24. Pick out a Venetian mask
I mean… this is the most obvious! Masks are a Carnevale tradition that goes back centuries. On our walking tour we learned a lot about the history and significance of masks during the Carenvale season. Basically, because they made you anonymous, it allowed for a sort of societal freedom in Venice. Suddenly, there were no rules and no class division.
Over time, different mask styles indicated different things. The cat mask, for example, meant you were more open to LGTBQ+ adventures while a mask with a stick meant the wearer was a married woman (and thus more open for an affair).
Obviously, today you can buy whichever mask you want and most people won’t assign any particular meaning to it. It’s easy to find a variety of masks on every corner. However, most are just typical, low quality souvenir tat that’s made in China and resold en mass. Which is fine if that’s what you want, but at that point why bother buying in Venice? Just order it online and save yourself the suitcase space.
I recommend looking into more artisan shops or even doing a workshop to make your own. We actually stumbled across Casin Dei Nobili Masks Venezia and immediately saved the shop to return to on a later visit!
25. Buy something lacey from Burano
Should you make it over to the island of Burano, you’ll find it’s known for its lace. This practice dates back to at least 1500, and you can learn more about it in their museum.
Elissa did some research on finding authentic lace shops on the island, and we wound up buying from Emilia Burano. The shop itself has been in the family for four generations and has quite the list of past clientele. I picked up a very pretty lace handkerchief with handmade ago e file style lace. (I’m not sure what this means, so if you know more about lace, let me know!)
26. Pick up glass from Murano
As Burano is known for its lace, Murano is known for its glass. Again, you can learn more about it in their glass museum. It’s been a practice for centuries going back to the Roman Empire. Murano became the main place for glass-making in 1291 because they moved all the furnaces on the island to avoid fires on Venice.
One day when I have my nice house and can afford it, I’d like to return to Murano to buy some gorgeous pieces to decorate with! For now, however, I picked up a very simple black glass bead necklace from Manuela Zanvettori Murano.
We actually found the shop accidentally and went in because it felt like a proper jewelry store. Lo and behold, the Zanvettori family has worked in glass since the 1960s! Manuela herself worked in fashion houses in London and Paris before opening up her own brand back in Venice.
Another place we planned on looking at was called Tommasi, but they were closed when we went by.
Miscellaneous Venice Travel Tips
27. Overall, Venice is quite safe.
If you’re wondering about safety and pickpocketing, we found Venice to be incredibly safe. It was one of those places where walking down narrow alleys at night didn’t make us uncomfortable. I imagine it’d be hard to deal in petty crimes on an island city where making your escape involves some kind of boat!
28. It’s easy to find restrooms when needed.
Venice has quite a few public washrooms around the island, just look for the WC signs. Nearly all restaurants also have their own restrooms as well and, when it doubt, go to McDonald’s, buy a tea, and get the code for their bathroom on your receipt. We did this when we discovered the closest public WC was locked and we were desperate for the toilet.
And those are my best Venice travel tips as you plan your own trip. Let me know if you have anything to add or questions of your own.
For more Italy travel, read these next:
- Where to Eat in Bologna: 10 Mouthwatering Recommendations
- Charming Things to Do in Verona in 2 Days
- How to Spend 3 Days in Milan
- Visiting Cinque Terre: A Complete Travel Guide
- How to Visit Trento, a Charming Italian Town in the Dolomites
- Pitigliano: A Guide to this Beautiful Tuscan Village
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