Venice has fascinated me since childhood, specifically since when I first read The Merchant of Venice. In fact it still wonders me, how this tiny piece of land was once one of the greatest trading epicentres of Europe.
The city has a history dating from sixth century and it was the European end of the Silk Road trade route which transferred goods all the way from China. Apart from the hub of waterway trade, Venice is a dreamy historic city -of meandering canals laced by a labyrinth of beautiful ancient arched bridges, handsome gondolas and picture perfect views.
This floating city consists of a group of 120 small islands separated by canals and linked by bridges. It can be the most romantic place on earth, but it can also be terribly expensive and time consuming if you don’t do your research enough! Based on my research and travel experience to Venice a year back, I have listed below some of the important points to consider before planning a trip to Venice.
Best Time to Visit Venice
If plenty of sun and a day by the beach is what you’re looking for, Venice offers you its best from March onwards till August- which is the peak season. If you’re looking for an economic getaway, planning your trip around the months of November to January is an ideal option. Off-season in Venice sees lesser crowd and budgeted accommodation. Remaining months, Venice witnesses partly cloudy and foggy climate that makes up for the ideal romantic destination. However, during off season, there is a chance of encountering ”Aqua Alta”- exceptional tide peaks that occur periodically in the northern Adriatic Sea. The peaks reach their maximum in the Venetian Lagoon, where they cause partial flooding of Venice.
Venice Map with important places:
How to Reach Venice
We flew to Venice from Paris and while departing we chose a train journey. Train journeys are always beautiful but flights save time! From India, there are no direct flights to Venice. You can choose by picking a stop at middle east (via Dubai/Oman etc) or via other European cities (Eg Amsterdam, Rome etc). International flights operate from Marco Polo Airport at Venice which is quite close by to the main city. Some of the budget Airlines operate from Treviso Airport, which is far away from main city. Train is a better option for reaching /leaving Venice if you are commuting within Europe as the trains are super high speed, extremely comfortable and views are truly scenic. You can reach Rome from Venice which are 530 kms apart, in just 3.5 hours!
Where to Stay in Venice
Umn.. Very confusing! You can either choose to stay at the Mainland of Venice or at the city center or even the islands.
The best area for tourists who are deciding where to stay in Venice for one night is the San Marco neighbourhood. The majority of Venice attractions are located in this region, which centers around St. Mark’s Square. Expect to pay a premium price to stay this close to central Venice. One of the cons staying at city centre is commuting to your hotel with the heavy luggage as no Taxis are allowed inside that area. Moreover there are steps and bridges every now and then. So, walking up to your hotel with baggage is a pain point. And due to this reason (and many others)we chose to stay at Hilton Garden Inn Resort which is located at Orlanda Appia (15 mins from Marco Polo Airport). This was a beautiful and peaceful hotel. If budget is your main issue then stay in the Mestre area, easy access to the city center via Bus (takes 30 mins to reach Piazzale Roma) and has plenty of good Indian restaurants nearby.
How to commute in Venice
Being a very Touristy destination, transportation in Venice has been designed very conveniently for travellers. For those of us who are fit and strong can traverse the city by Foot. And this I find the way best to see the real Venice, as you get to see the hustle bustle and experience the Venetian culture very closely. Otherwise, there are very convenient and frequent water transport available as well. If your hotel is on the mainland of Venice, in order to reach the City, you have to take a bus and get down at Piazzale Roma stop. Tickets to from Piazzale Roma to mainland cost around 2 Euros. Once you reach Piazzale Roma, you start seeing the typical venetian waterways and bridges.
If you get lost or you’re simply too tired of walking around you can hop on and off a Vaporetto pass for just 20 Euros for24 hours of unlimited rides or 40 Euros for 36 hours unlimited rides. Please note that this same pass can be used for Island hopping as well- Isn’t that a great deal? One thing to note is that the vaporetto water buses operate from specific routes or lines. Eg Line 2 takes you to St. Marks Basilica whereas line 12 is for Murano island. There is another mode of transportation (I would rather say a joyride) which is the famous Gondolas! Gondolas cost 80 Euros for half an hour as they are regulated by the city. There’s no arguing over the price unless you pre-booked your gondola online.
Below attractions can be covered in Venice in a day :
- Grand Canal Ride: This canal is lined with great Renaissance palaces and ride on the canal is the perfect way to witness the colourful and busy spectacle of Venice. The Grand Canal is Venice’s Main Street. You might consider taking the Line 1 Vaporetto (water bus) at the dock immediately outside the train station. It’s the slowest water bus that stops at all the stops.
- Rialto Bridge- Famously known as the ‘Lover’s Bridge’ Rialto Bridge is one of the pristine beautiful bridges in Venice. The Ponte di Rialto is the spirit of Venice. The present structure of the bridge was built between 1588 and 1591 that replaced the boat and three wooden bridges that had extended about the Grand Canal since the 12th Century. Two very popular squares in Venice- San Marco and San Polo are connected by Rialto Bridge at the highest point. The high point of the central arch reached via ample stairs on either side of the bridge serves as a sentinel perch. The bridge hosts the 700 years old Rialto Market which is packed with souvenir shops, grocery shops and fish market.
- Piazza San Marco- St Mark’s is one of the main attractions so can be overcrowded during peak hours. If you venture out very early in the morning though, you’ll find that you have the square all to yourself -an excellent opportunity for some beautiful photo ops so worth rising early! This gigantic square is the most happening place in Venice. During the day it is filled with people and thousands of pigeons. On one end of the Piazza is the Basilica di San Marco and on the other end is the Correr Museum. On both sides are shops (some very expensive) and several places to eat (again very expensive). This square has the oldest café (Café Florian) dating from 1720. Recently they celebrated their 300th anniversary!
- Doge’s Palace- A masterpiece of Gothic architecture, the building and its sculptural magnificence hails from over 1000 years. The interior has works by artists such as Titian, Veronese, Tintoretto and many others. Along the facades of the Palace run loggias that overlook St. Mark’s Square and the lagoon. The combined entrance ticket to the St. Mark’s Square Museums grants access to the Doge’s Palace, Museo Correr, Museo Archeologico Nazionale and Monumental Rooms of Biblioteca Marciana.
- St. Marks Basilica –Basilica di San Marco is a nexus of religious treasures, sacred space, history and height of Venetian Culture. It stands as an Icon in the piazza which bears its name.
- Campanile di San Marco-
Originally built as a lighthouse to assist navigation in the lagoon, visitors can be whisked by elevator to the top of St. Mark’s Campanile or bell tower to savour incredible views of Venice, the lagoon and the Alps in the distance.
If you are opting to stay in Venice for a longer duration (more than 3 days) you might opt for the below options as well:
- Day trip to Verona:
Verona is easily reachable by train leaving from “Venezia Santa Lucia” station. Throughout the day there are trains about every half hour both ways. Most trains are fast trains so you will get to Verona in less than one hour. When you arrive at “Verona Porta Nuova Station” you can ask for a city map and other information to the Touristic Information Office that is located in the station. From here you can walk to “Piazza Brà” because it only takes 15 minutes and you will be in the centre of Verona. Verona is famous all over the world for being the city of Romeo and Juliet and for the Roman “Arena”. In addition, Verona is a beautiful city with a beautiful medieval old town, romantic neighborhoods on the banks of the river Adige. It is the 4th Italian city for sightseeing (preceded by Rome, Venice and Florence).
- Day Trip to Treviso:
Treviso can be reached by bus or by train. You can take bus from “Piazzale Roma” and arrive in Treviso in 40 mins. You can also take a train from “Venezia Santa Lucia” and reach Treviso in 30 mins. Treviso does not have so many sightseeing places, but it is full of romantic corners and beautiful squares. There is also a wonderful old medieval town, which is worth visiting. Other things to see are the historical buildings, the narrow medieval lanes, the picturesque canals and the beautiful arcades. Around ”Piazza dei Signori” square, there are some very good restaurants where you can enjoy great food and chill.
Out of 120 islands in Venice, most popular are 3 islands- Murano, Burano and Torcello. There are few others as well like San Mitchelle (Vaporetto line no. 41/42) and San’ Erasmo (Vaporetto line no. 13)- which are not so popular as we did not visit them.
- Murano Island, famous for glass-making, is the most popular Venetian island among tourists. A few centuries ago, all glassmakers were required to live on the island to protect the glass-making secrets. Some glass factories allow visitors or tours and there are many shops selling glass creations and souvenirs. Murano also has canals, bridges and sidewalk cafes. Vaporetto Line number 12,13, 41 or 42 goes to Murano island from Venice city.
- Burano Island is an island of picturesque canals connected with beautiful bridges and lined with colourful houses. The whole of Burano can be traversed by foot within an hour! It has many good restaurants that serve great local fish. Vaporetto Line number 12 also goes to Burano. Burano is also famous for handmade laces, which you can buy as well.
- Torcello is a quiet, green island and much of it is a nature reserve. There is a 7th-century Cathedral of Santa Maria Dell’Assunta which has spectacular 11th and 12th-century Byzantine mosaics. Torcello is a good place to get away from the crowds and enjoy a peaceful stroll.
Venice is surrounded by water and Seafood plays an important role in Venetian cuisine. Cicchetti is probably the most popular food in Venice. Cicchetti is essentially small portions of fried food like deep-fried olives stuffed with meat, or individual slices of baguette bread topped with something delicious.Sarde in saor is a sweet n sour fish dish which is worth a try. There is no shortage of amazing restaurants in Venice. Rialto Market is the best place to buy fresh food in Venice.
In case you want to try out Indian Food, you need to travel a bit more to Mestre. You can take bus from Piazzale Rome and reach Mestre in 30 mins. We tried that as well, dined in a Bangladeshi restaurant and food was pretty good.
Venice is a shopper’s paradise. However, shopping without overpaying is something we as tourists need to be careful about. One of the don’ts is not to buy any Murano glass items from Murano itself. The glass factories and local shops at Murano are super-duper pricey. Same quality of glass products can be purchased from Venice market place at half the price.
Venice has a history of exquisite craftsmanship, whether its Murano glass and Burano lace or carnival masks, handmade paper and stationery, and leather goods. Hence it is the shopper’s paradise. Shops start from back of the Rialto bridge and continue till Saint Marks Square. For daily needs, I would suggest to drop in at ”CONAD City” which is an extremely affordable supermarket which is just 150 mts from the St. Mark’s Square.
- All glass Factories remain closed on Sundays. So, avoid visiting Murano island on a Sunday.
- If you are visiting Venice during off season (September to December), pack a pair of water-proof boots. During Aqua Alta, water can reach above the knees. Street vendors sell these rubber boots at 10 times the price!
- Reservations for certain museums is a must. Often you’ll need to make reservations more than a day ahead of the time you want to visit. So plan accordingly.
- If you’re in Venice for a week, the 7 day vaporetto ticket is the cheapest way to have endless travel from place to place and island to island.
- I would not recommend going for a packaged tour for island trips because with the 24 hrs or more vaporetto passes you can easily do island hopping. You don’t really need a guide as everything is pretty straight forward. Only thing which you need to know is the route number which I already mentioned and enquire about the next available return water bus timings
- For water transport: https://www.venetoinside.com/transport-in-venice-and-veneto/public-transport-in-venice/
- For Travel Card: https://www.introducingvenice.com/travel-card
- Gondola Trip: https://www.venetoinside.com/tours-activities-in-veneto/listing/gondola-tours/
- Island Trip packaged Tours: https://www.venetoinside.com/tours-activities-in-veneto/listing/venice-lagoon-island-tours/
Do Check out the other destinations in my blog if you are planning for a Euro Trip: