Planning a trip to Venice, Italy? Looking for a list of important Venice survival tips to make the most of your trip? Or simply advice to prevent any let-downs or disappointments throughout your travels? Well, you’ve come to the right place!
The city of romance. The floating city. Queen of the Adriatic. There’s simply no other place like Venice. Which is why people travel from literally all over the world to stroll its canals, peruse its markets, tour the St. Mark’s Basilica and enjoy a world with no cars or roadways.
But sometimes places as famous as Venice can disappoint when you finally see them for yourself. Or you become overly critical when you experience them because your expectations are so high beforehand. You hear about it how enchanting Venice is throughout your entire life and then you can only hope it lives up to it the hype…
We read varying opinions during our research. Lots of people had only amazing things to say. But then there were the downer reviews…
The food sucks. The Gondolas are a rip-off. The streets are too crowded. Too touristy. Cheap souvenirs. Overrated. Confusing to navigate.
But we ignored all that nonsense and left with an open mind.
We left to discover the secrets of Venice for ourselves. And after 4 days there, we decided that not only did we like Venice, we absolutely adored this Italian floating city. And despite how much we loved it, both of us completely understood where the negativity could come.
So now we’ve made it our mission to prevent it. To provide hacks and Venice survival tips for other travelers embarking on the same journey. Because everyone deserves to fall in love with Venice Italy, just as much as we did.
13 Venice Survival Tips for Every Traveler
1) Arrive at your hotel in Venice via water.
Whether you’re driving, flying or taking the train to Venice. The last step in your journey should involve a BOAT!
It’s no surprise that Venice takes a little time to navigate and understand. So why start off your trip with heavy bags, navigating it’s confusing narrow streets, trying to get to your hotel or Airbnb rental?
From the San Lorenzo train station, hop on the water bus, with as little walking as possible, just initially. Then unload and explore after.
The water bus costs 7.50 euros to ride. You can buy the tickets right when you get off the train at Venezia Santa Lucia station (to your left).
From Marco Polo Airport, purchase Alilaguna water bus tickets at the Public Transport ticket office in the Arrivals hall. They will take you directly to the heart of Venice – San Marco, Rialto, Fondamenta Nuove and Le Guglie.
Driving? Park at Piazzale Roma and take the water bus directly into Venice.
First impressions are everything and let me tell you, arriving via water, taking in the beauty of the Grand Canal, seeing all the other little canals, waiting to be explored. That is the right way to do it.
We actually read that handy piece of travel advice and are BEYOND happy we took it. It started off our trip in the perfect, most relaxed way
As long as you’ve done your research and know the closest stop to where you’re staying, it will be super easy. If you’re confused, just ask! It’s a bit of a madhouse since everyone else is doing the same and there will definitely be a line, but stay patient. Attitude is everything here in Venice!
2) Enjoy a Gondola boat tour, but make it an experience.
If you’re on the fence about a Gondola tour, do it!
Yes, it’s touristy. Yes, it’s expensive. But it’s truly unique. In fact, this is the one place in the world where Gondola rides through medieval canals are a real thing and have been for centuries. In fact, they were the primary means of transportation for hundreds of years in Venice!
If you can make it work with your budget, pull the plug and book it. Maybe sacrifice a dinner out to make up for it. You see Venice through a totally different light – it’s special and so memorable.
To make sure your journey is everything you want and more, shop around until you find the Gondolier you get the best vibe from.
After all, they are the ones responsible for your enjoyment. Let them work for your affection (and money!) You can even shop around for your favorite Gondola too. We went on a mission to find the fanciest of Gondolas (they’re all the same price) and it was totally worth the effort.
More Gondola tips and tricks…
Bring a bottle of wine! We picked up a bottle of white wine from a local spot in Venice and enjoyed it during our journey. Sipping white wine on a romantic Gondola ride through Venice’s canals? Already perfect.
And as for timing? Avoid going fo a Gondola ride during the middle of the day, when there are tons of people everywhere.
It makes the experience less personal. Earlier in the morning or the beginning of the night, around 6:30 pm, when most tourists are getting ready for dinner or out for a spritz. Those seemed to be the best parts of the day, at least during the 4 days that we were there in April.
Before 7 pm, the price is 80 euros and after 7 pm, the price jumps to 100 euros. We went at around 6:30 pm. And since it was close to their nightly reset, our Gondola driver offered to bring us back to our apartment and give us a tour for 30 minutes (instead of 40 minutes), for only 50 euros.
Between that 7 pm change, most Gondoliers will head to the Grand Canal. He was going there anyways, so we got a discount for just 10 minutes less. So yes, bartering is a possibility, when it makes sense for them of course.
Pulling the plug and doing the Gondola tour is part of experiencing Venice to the fullest.
3) Cook up your own Italian feast (if you have a kitchen)
If you have a kitchen in your rental or hotel, USE IT! The very best meal we had was when we purchased freshly cut pasta from Giacomo Rizzo and a delicious peppercorn cream sauce.
Then, stopped at our favorite Cicchetti spot – Cantina Du Spade– for meatballs to go, went back to our apartment and cooked up a quick pasta feast.
We packed up our dinner and enjoyed it sitting on a dock near the Grand Canal. It was so peaceful, SO FRESH and seriously our favorite meal during our entire trip to Venice.
4) Don’t feel like you HAVE to stay in San Marco.
We stayed in both San Marco and San Palo during our trip to Venice. While San Marco has all of the main attractions, you can easily get there from some of the neighboring areas.
San Palo was like night and day when it came to the crowds. It was nice to have somewhere to escape when San Marco was getting too overwhelmed with people. Even Cannaregio is a great option, and close to the ferry that travels to other islands.
5) Venture outside of San Marco to escape the crowds.
If you decide to stay in San Marco or not, explore beyond that one area.
Of course, it has the St Mark’s Basilica, Piazza San Marco, tons of restaurants and shops, but it’s also the most touristy section. The second you get out of San Marco, the volume of tourists becomes way more manageable.
Since most people stay in that one part of Venice. You could literally be swarmed with crowds on one street and then see no one 2 streets later.
6) Set realistic food expectations (and do your research!)
Yes, some of the restaurants in Venice are not the best Italian food in Italy. And a lot of them are overpriced. But do your research and you can avoid disappointment and regret during throughout your trip to Venice.
Of course stay away from places that will obviously be overpriced – restaurants on the Grand Canal or overlooking the Rialto Bridge. Venture to little streets and search for the true local spots. They do exist, I promise!
We had a specific list of restaurants gathered from friends and from reading blogs and Tripadvisor. And there really wasn’t a night that we looked back on without being satisfied.
For the record, the best meals during our trip to Venice were from:
- Farini (great for breakfast and lunch, focaccia pizza, pastries, and coffee)
- Al Merca (mini sandwiches near Rialto Market)
- Rossopomodoro (good food, reasonable prices for dinner)
- Barcollo (little bar with snacks, rice balls etc that were delicious, affordable and filling)
- Dal Moro’s Fresh Pasta to Go (pasta to go!)
- Cantina Du Spade (the best Cicchetti and a completely local experience)
- AND the one we cooked in our Airbnb (see above!)
We limited our sit down meals to only 2 and for the rest of the time; we found cheap options without sacrificing in deliciousness.
Which brings me to my next point…
7) Fill up on ALL the apps and take advantage of the Rialto market.
There are SO many Cicchetti (Italian tapas) options throughout Venice.
Little mini sandwiches, fried rice balls, mozzarella. All of which cost about 2-3 euros each (at most). Take advantage of ALL the appetizers. And enjoy a glass of wine while you do! It’s how the Venetians do it anyways, so follow their example.
Eat a little bit of this and that. You will never be hungry. Completely satisfied and full – without getting an expensive lunch and dinner every day. Most sit down restaurants are NOT cheap and nothing is worse than spending a ton of money without satisfaction to match.
The Rialto Market (open every morning from 7am-12:30 pm, except for Monday) is the perfect place to get fruits and veggies for breakfast. Talk about the most refreshing breakfast ever and super affordable. We picked up strawberries every morning for 1.50 euros and enjoyed them as we walked around.
Also, be aware that restaurants do charge a cover, but that also acts as the tip and they might give you a spritz to start your meal!
8) Authentic crafts versus the cheap ones. Be on the lookout.
Sadly, there are a lot of touristy, cheap souvenirs in Venice, because they can get away with it. BUT if you peruse the windows, take time and get the lay of the land, before you purchase, you will soon pick up on the difference between the real stuff and the fake stuff.
Within all the mass produced crap, there are true Venetian gems. Venetian masks, paintings, jewelry. In a city that inspires so much creativity, all the good stuff can be found. There is also plenty of Murano glass, but be aware. No Murano piece should be cheap. If you see a place with prices ridiculously cheaper than other glass shops, it is not real.
We found beautiful artwork, stained glass, jewelry, glass pieces, and real Venetian masks from Ca De Sol.
I am not going to lie, we went a little crazy with our purchases, but there is just SO much we loved – after we filtered through the fakes, of course.
9) Take a day trip to Burano.
If you were smart in your planning, your trip to Venice is more than just a day. Of course, some itineraries are more aggressive and some travelers prefer to pop in and pop out. But if you’re staying for 2-3+ days, take a day trip to Burano!
For 7.50 euros, you will be dropped off in rainbow paradise. Same canals, except with rainbow houses. The brightest and most cheerful island you ever did see. It’s like you’re wandering through the most colorful painting.
There is shopping (the island is famous for lace) and little local restaurants. It is more residential, but that’s what makes it so magical and peaceful. Plus, there is literally no better background for your travel photos.
Murano is another option, but we didn’t end up going there. The island has the famous Murano glass factories – if that’s what you’re interested in, but be aware that buying glass at the factory is not any cheaper than getting it in Venice.
According to our Airbnb host, Burano is a better option than its popular neighbor, Murano. And since we only wanted to spend 1 afternoon away, we listened to her. We couldn’t be happier with her travel advice because our trip to Venice simply would not have been the same without Burano.
The island you choose to explore totally and completely up to you (there are 118!) But from our experience, Burano was a magical, colorful dream that we want everyone to see for themselves.
10) Buy a bottle of wine to enjoy on the canals.
Of course in Italy, you can drink in public. Take advantage of that! Buy a 10 euro bottle of wine or Prosecco instead of paying 20+euros at a restaurant. Pop that bottle and sit on the canal each night to enjoy it (maybe grab 2 plastic cups from the store you purchase it from too, so you’re not sipping from the bottle, like me!) Watch the boats go by, watch the traffic on the Rialto Bridge. Take it all in!
It’s surprisingly peaceful at night in Venice, so this was our nightly activity.
11) Use Google maps, but not the live navigation.
One of our most helpful Venice survival tips…learned the hard way, of course!
The live navigation on your phone will not be able to keep up with all the canals and buildings you’re crammed between. Sometimes it works okay, but most of the time, it doesn’t work at all and can completely misdirect you. This can turn into a frustrating mission that will ruin your carefree Venice mood.
BUT if you simply put the address into Google Maps, map out the initial path, and press ‘Directions’, it will give you an overview of where you’re heading. Follow that screen without hitting ‘Start’. Instead of a live navigation, it will be the map overview.
It’s kind of like using a map, the old school way but with the help of technology. And it really works SO much better. The little dot will follow you as you make your way and allow you to navigate to your destination properly.
By our 4th day, we learned this lesson and mastered the art of navigating Venice’s canals. The BEST and most helpful travel hack we obtained during our trip!
12) You will get lost. Embrace it!
Roads literally just end at canals, so if you’re not familiar with its streets (and even if you are!), you will definitely get lost and confused. But who really cares?!
Wandering around Venice and getting lost is literally the best way to discover it. It’s also the best way to venture outside of the crowded streets and touristy shops. Just wear comfortable shoes (for endless cobblestones) and carve your own path!
During our research, this was one of the many Venice survival tips we came across, over and over again. But of course, it can be easier said than done. Enjoy those hidden streets that can only be discovered through getting lost.
13) Stay on the island.
Yes, you can stay on the mainland (Mestre) and commute to Venice, but do yourself a favor and make that your last resort. Of course, the prices are higher on the island, but with the time, money and effort of going back and forth every day, it’s totally worth it the extra nightly charge.
It’s just not the same experience if you’re staying in a place with no Venetian flair. The coolest aspect of our trip was living in a world with ZERO roadways and only canals for a few days. It’s what makes Venice so magical.
You came all the way here, and it definitely was not an easy (or cheap) journey. Spend the extra 25-50 bucks and sleep on the island, even for just a night. Airbnb has some amazing options as well as Booking.com and VRBO.
All in all, a trip to Venice = a MUST.
Venice is truly a one of kind destination, and that’s not just my opinion. There is literally nothing like Venice anywhere in the world. You can’t even compare it to other parts of Italy either because it’s not in the same bracket.
Treat it the way it deserves to be a treated – with an open mind and appreciation for what you are witnessing. It’s charming, enchanting and full of opportunities to make your visit your own.
Yes, there are crowds. Yes, it can be touristy, but we always say – a place is ‘touristy’ for a reason. Touristy is only negative when you make it negative. Look beyond the obvious, ignore any frustrations and dig into the heart of Venice.
That mindset, coupled with this list of essential Venice survival tips, will ensure that you leave Venice with the same memories and love as we did.