Venice, Italy Guide: Planning Your Trip

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Venice, or Venezia, is one of the world's most unique and beautiful cities. During its more than 1700-year history, it has been at the nexus of major European art, music and political developments. It was a maritime power for centuries and is thought to have been the world's first financial center.

Today, it is one of Italy's most important cities and a supremely romantic travel destination, where you can stroll alongside miles of criss-crossing canals. There are, in fact, 150 canals with more than 400 bridges that connect Venice's 118 small islands in the Venetian Lagoon. Almost every inch of these islands are covered with amazing architecture, magnificent churches and palaces, squares and museums, excellent restaurants, historic hotels and beautiful shops.

Planning Your Trip

Here is some basic knowledge for planning your trip to Venice.

  • Best Time to Visit: Since it's near the sea, Venice has mostly mild weather, although there can be rain nearly all year round. Summers are humid and winters can be foggy and wet. To avoid large crowds, spring and fall are the best seasons to visit. Venice experiences high-water flooding or aqua alta about 60 days a year, from October through early January. In Venice, keep an eye on the weather forecast every day, and always bring an umbrella!
  • Language: Italian is the national language of Italy, though you'll find that most hoteliers, restaurant workers and shopkeepers speak at least some English, as well as possible French, Spanish and German.
  • Currency: Venice, like the rest of Italy, uses the Euro (€). US dollars or other currencies are not accepted, though credit cards are widely accepted. Some stores may not accept credit cards for small purchases (under €10 or €20).
  • Getting Around: The Grand Canal, which cuts through the center of the city, is like Venice's main street, and the vaporetti boats are its public buses. They are the main public transport in this canal-filled city and ply the principal waterways. The #1 vaporetto runs along the Grand Canal from the train station and makes many stops, so it's a good way to cruise the main canal and get a good overview of the city. If you want something more up close and personal, take a taxi and a gondola, though they tend to be more expensive. Read more about the vaporetti system. Gondolas, a symbol of life in Venice, are a romantic way to get from point A to point B, but today these costly diversions are used mainly by tourists.
  • Travel Tip: To avoid Venice's famous;y crowded main squares and tourist attractions, here are two tips: The first is to book must-see sites like the Doge's Palace and Basilica San Marco with a private tour, so you skip the line and possibly get exclusive access to some areas. Our second tip is that when out walking, head away from Piazza San Marco and Rialto. You'll soon discover a far less crowded Venice, and one that is still inhabited by locals.
  • Read our full article on the Best Time to Visit Venice.
Venice
 Taylor McIntyre / © TripSavvy

Things to Do

Venice has several world-famous museums and attractions, but you'd be surprised how much you might love just wandering along the canals off the main tourist tracks or taking advantage of other free diversions this ancient city offers. Some of Venice's most famous attractions include:

  • Saint Mark's Square: Piazza San Marco is the main square of Venice surrounded by chic sidewalk cafés and fancy shops. While it's a great place to take in the scenery and people, you will definitely pay top euro to sit at an outdoor table. In the evening, you can listen to live music, too. Walking in the piazza and taking photos is, of course, free.
  • Saint Mark's Basilica: Basilica di San Marco, consecrated in 832 AD, is a beautiful church blending the architecture of East and West. 
  • Doge's Palace: Palazzo Ducale, also on St. Mark's Square, is the most impressive building in Venice and well worth a tour. It was the political and judicial hub of Venetian government until the fall of the Venetian Republic in 1797. The palace was connected to its prisons by the famous Bridge of Sighs.
  • Grand Canal (Canal Grande): This is the main thoroughfare of Venice. It is full of many types of boats and lined with beautiful buildings.
  • Rialto Bridge (Ponte di Rialto): This is the main bridge crossing the Grand Canal in the heart of Venice and it's more than 400 years old. Nearby is the Rialto Market, an interesting and lively food market with lots of little shops.
  • Tourist Information Offices: The train station tourist office is almost always very crowded, but agents there have lots of information and can help with hotel reservations. The main tourist office is near Saint Mark's Square. Most staff speak at least some English.

Read more of our guides for things to do in Venice:

What to Eat and Drink

Seafood is a big part of the delicious Venetian cuisine, as are polenta and rice. Seppia, or cuttlefish, is popular and risotto nero (black rice) is colored with its ink. Try the zuppa di pesce (fish soup) here, too. Radicchio trevisano, red chicory, comes from nearby Treviso. Cicchetti, or little appetizers, are served in the bars of Venice and are often eaten before lunch or dinner, but, like Spanish tapas or Greek meze, you can also order a few for a light meal. Finish with an exquisite Venetian pastry and an espresso.

Typical wines of Venice are made from grapes grown in the Veneto, the surrounding region. These include citrusy Soave, sparkiling prosecco, and deep red Valpolicella. Cocktails are popular here, from the peachy Bellini, invented in Venice, to the Aperol Spritz, Negroni and other classic Italian mixed drinks. There's a burgeoning craft beer scene in Venice, as well as a handful of Irish pubs catering to the younger crowd.

Read more about the Best Restaurants in Venice and the Best Nightlife in Venice.

Where to Stay

The old city center of Venice is divided into six districts or sestieri. The Cannaregio district, the most populated, is near the station. The Castello district, the largest, and the famous San Marco district, home to its namesake square and basilica, are on the same side of the Grand Canal. The Santa Croce district, the only one with a bridge to the mainland and some car traffic, is across the Grand Canal from the train station. The San Polo district with its famous eponymous church and the Dorsoduro district, situated on Venice's hardest and most stable island, are across the canal from St. Mark's. Read more about Venice's neighborhoods.

Start your hotel search by looking through our list of top-rated Venice hotels, many of which are in the San Marco neighborhood, near Piazza San Marco, which is the most popular tourist popular area. One of our favorite hotels, right near San Marco but remarkably quiet, is the family-run Hotel Flora. If you decide to go with an Airbnb-type rental, make sure you go with a licensed facility, like these recommended by Venice Tourism.

Check our list of top-rated Venice hotels.

Getting There

Venice is in the Veneto region, on the northeast coast of Italy and is protected from the Adriatic Sea by a strip of land called the Lido.

The best way to arrive in Venice is by train, to the Santa Lucia Train Station on the northwestern edge of the city. There's also a bus terminal and parking garages nearby, at Piazzale Roma. Venice also has the small Marco Polo Venice Airport, and from there, you can take a bus or boat into Venice.

Check our articles on how to reach Venice from Rome or from Milan.

Culture and Customs

There aren't many "need to know" factoids about Venetian customs and culture, but here are a few to keep in mind:

  • When entering Venice's many churches, you need to dress modestly. That means no short-shorts or skirts and no bare shoulders. Those rules apply to women and men. If you're underdressed, bring a large, lightweight scarf to drape over you.
  • Though drinking is a big part of Venetian and Italian culture, public drunkeness is not, and Venice shuts down surprisingly early. Don't overdo it, and always be respectful of residents. Your voices on the street carry right up to their apartment windows.
  • To help the city deal with its overtourism issues, try bringing refillable water bottles instead of buying plastic, and always dispose of your garbage in the marked recycling bins.

Money-Saving Tips

Venice is an expensive city, but here are our recommendations for saving a few euros during your visit.

  • Eat cicchetti. Skip a big evening meal and snack instead on the Venetian equivalent of tapas, small bites that can be purchased for €1 or €2 apiece. Pair a few of these with a €2 glass of wine and you've got a great, cheap (for Venice) meal.
  • Head to Cannaregio. This working-class district is lined with affordable bars and restaurants filled with locals, not tourists.
  • Buy a VeneziaUnica City Pass, which includes public transportation and free or discounted admission to most major attractions and museums.
  • Read our list of the Best Free Things to Do in Venice.
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Article Sources
TripSavvy uses only high-quality, trusted sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial policy to learn more about how we keep our content accurate, reliable and trustworthy.
  1. UNESCO World Heritage Centre, Venice and its Lagoon, 1987

  2. ACTV, Tickets and Pricing, 2020

  3. VeneziaUnica, #EnjoyRespectVenice, 2020

  4. VeneziaUnica, The Sestiere of Cannaregio, 2020

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