Venice never really was on top of my bucket list due to how touristy and pricey I thought it can be. But when I was going back from Croatia to London – this is where my stopover was, giving us about 8 hours to explore before our flight home – perks of travelling on a budget. Boom!
Of course, it wasn’t planned and I didn’t really have much clue about the ‘city of love’. To my surprise, even though I was absolutely knackered after a weeks long festival, I still really enjoyed it. Wandering around the little streets and ally ways is my favourite way of exploring, but after the trip – I kept reading and hearing about places I wish I knew about before visiting Venice. Mainly including food. YES.
So here is my guide to Venice – aka how I would do it now
Interesting facts about Venice:
- The most popular Italian word ‘Ciao’ was invented in Venice.
- The first public casino in the world was opened in Venice in 1638.
- Venice has about 150 canals.
- There are 417 bridges in Venice – 72 of those are private.
- Acqua alta / higher water is a reappearing problem in Venice (which tourists usually find picturesque and interesting), It happens when the tide is about 9 cm above the standard height.
- Population of Venice decreased from over 120,000 to 60,000 in the last 50 years. Some believe it might become a ghost town by 2030.
- Venice is sinking at the rate of 0.5 to 1 mm per year.
- 18 million tourists visit Venice every year. The most busy time is during the carnival with over 3 million visitors.
- There are 118 islands and 127 squares in Venice.
- Houses in Venice are numbered according to the districts (not the streets) so it’s pretty much impossible to find anything.
- The narrowest street in Venice is Calletta Varisco, it’s only 53 cm wide.
- Venice is over 1500 years old.
- You could visit ten thousand times and never fail to get lost, I’m sure.
Getting there (from Venice Marco Polo Airport):
This can get slightly confusing if not planned in advance, so read on.
- Private Water Taxi – If you want to splash out some monies and feel a bit more luxurious then why not get one of these. They can drop you off at your apartment’s doorstep or literally as close as they can, should take under 30 minutes and will cost around €80-125. You can prebook online at the link below or just walk to the Consorzio Motoscafi Venezia desk in the Arrivals Hall.
- Bucintoro Viaggi / Airport Link – Shared taxi that should cost around €27 per person and is much faster than any other public transfers – takes about 30 minutes as well! Please note that as it’s not a private taxi, it might not drop you off as close to your apartment and it will stop to drop other passengers off as well.
- Public Boat Service / Alilaguna – Runs 3 routes to and from the airport: Blu (blue), Rossa (red April to September only), and Arancio (orange). Check www.alilaguna.it for more information. The walk to the boat can take up to 20 minutes, so be aware if you have heavy luggage. It takes over an hour to get to the centre, the fares vary depending on the route but a return should be around €15-35. Check the link below for discounted fares, return is much cheaper.
- ACTV (No.5) and Vaporetto – ACTV is a ‘local’ bus which will take you to ‘Piazzale Roma’ (takes about 25 mins) it’s the furthest it can go by land. There, you can get the Vaporetto (a water bus) to San Marco or anywhere in the centre, line 2 (to San Marco-Vallaresso stop) takes 30 mins and line 1 (to San Marco-S. Zaccaria stop) takes 45 mins. Round trip is between €12-15 when purchased together. Vaporetto is a great way to do some sightseeing as well. Click here for the Vaporetto maps. You can also get an express coach (about 20 mins) instead of ACTV but it costs €15 return on its own.
Website where you can book at usually discounted rates – www.venicelink.com
We used the ACTV & Vaporetto combination and would honestly recommend spending extra few pennies on the other options. It’s a lot less hassle, especially when being ridiculously tired and short on time. It’s not that much cheaper and much more time consuming, the Vaporreto felt like it was taking forever especially when feeling sea sick.
What to do:
➭ Rialto Bridge & Market
Rialto Bridge is known as the most stunning and famous span in Venice. It was the only bridge until the 19th century that made crossing the Grand Canal possible unless you had a boat. It was originally a crude floating pontoon affair built in 1181, then it was upgraded to wood and finally stone and marble in 1592. The Rialto Market is also great and extends all the way to San Polo, there you can find food, fish, fruit, souvenirs – you name it and it’ll be there. The market is also where Venetian chefs buy their seafood that you will most probably end up eating at dinner later on.
➭ Gondola Ride
It’s an expensive tourist trap, but I haven’t met anyone except me and my partner who did not go on one. It might be the only time you visit Venice and where else would you go on it (well, other than Las Vegas, ha!) They are relaxing and romantic – unless you’re slightly crazy like me and don’t necessarily feel safe at an open water with no life jacket on (it goes on to the lagoon and passes huge boats). The price is around €80 for 40 mins ride (up to 6 people) and extra 20 mins will cost you €40. Watch out as the price increases after 7pm to €100 for 40 mins and €50for extra 20 mins.
➭ Piazza San Marco
The most famous part of Venice, filled with a lot of pigeons (which you cannot feed by the way.) It’s beautiful with incredible architecture and many cafes. It is also extremely packed with tourists, for me it was probably the least favourite place. Unless, you go up the Campanile di San Marco – A bell tower located in the San Marco square. It is one of the most recognised symbols in the city and is believed to have the best views. You take the elevator to the top, which costs €8.
➭ Doge’s Palace
One of the most iconic landmarks in Venice. The palace was (re)built in 1577 in a Venetian Gothic style after the previous one was destroyed in a fire. You can pre-book a tour called ‘Secret Itineraries’ which lasts between 60-90 mins and allows you to visit the hidden offices of the Palace, the Casanova’s attic cells as well as the inquisition chamber. You can then go exploring around the rest of the palace by yourself.
➭ Accademia Galleries
It is known for having an incredible collection of some of the best Italian paintings from the 13th to the 18th centuries. There is a lot of religious art, but you can also see how Venice has changed throughout the years as demonstrated by some of the paintings.
➭ Grand Canal Cruise
If you don’t want to pay for a gondola, or you are short on time, there is always the Vaporetto water bus. You can hop on the number 1 or 2 line and go up or down the Grand Canal, it’s around €5 and you can use it as part of the transport from the airport and back as mentioned in ‘Getting there’ section. Win win.
Foods to try in Venice:
(Now the best part! As hard as it might be, try not to go for the obvious options like I did of course – pizza. It’s not Naples and there are many interesting dishes that will surprise you!)
Venice’s type of tapas, they can be anything from calamari, cheese, fried olives, polpette (beef or tuna meatballs), salami, sarde in soar (sweet-and-sour sardines) and so much more! Cicchetti can be found in bars called ‘Bacari’ – they are all over the place and cost around €1-2 if standing at the bar or more when you prefer to sit down. The traditional way is to wash it down with some ombra – a small glass of wine.
➭ Sarde in saor
Fried fresh sardines marinated in cooked white onions, flavoured with vinegar, raisins and pine nuts. Can also be purchased as a cicchetti.
Or ‘Venetian nuggets’ is a dish made out of green crabs usually served in the spring. The crabs are caught as they are changing their shell. They can be then fried and eaten as a whole without taking any parts apart.
➭ Spaghetti with cuttlefish ink
This is not one of the prettiest meals out there and I personally haven’t tried it, but apparently it’s a must when visiting Venice. So, try to distract yourself from the colour and go for it. Somehow. Then, let me know how it went in the comment section!
Italian fried doughnuts made of eggs, flour, sugar, raisins and pine nuts. You can also get chocolate and custard fillings and all of them are a delight!
Not a typically traditional ‘dish’ in Venice but read on for more info!
Where to eat in Venice:
➭ Cantina Do Mori
If you are imagining an old, history-packed, classic Italian wine bar, this is probably it. It is full of locals and some believe that even Casanova used to go there. It’s known for it’s cicchetti and wine but don’t ask for a ‘Spritz’ as they don’t have it. It’s located just a 5-minute walk from the Rialto bridge.
➭ Cantinone Gia’ Schiavi
A family run bar and wine shop. Another place known for its cicchetti and it’s so incredible that you can even buy a cookbook to follow their recipes! The prices are great too – a glass of wine or a snack start at €1 each!
➭ Osteria a la Campana
In the window it just says ‘Osteria’ and it’s a locals gem hidden in the most touristy location in Venice, just a few minutes from San Marco. The place doesn’t look fancy or extremely pretty and there is no menu. But the food will be incredible, prepared with the cooking at home mentality at an amazing price. The lasagna is meant to be a m a z i n g.
➭ Dal Moro‘s
Fresh Pasta, best for quick on the go lunch located few mins from San Marco. I’m sad to say that I didn’t know about this place when I visited Venice, but heard so many good things about it! They make the pasta themselves, cook it in front of you and mix it with your chosen sauce. There are no seats or toilets and the price is very reasonable compared to the restaurants in the area.
➭ La Boutique del Gelato
This place will blow your mind. I’m an ice cream freak and after discovering what I believed to be the best gelato in the world in a small town called Trieste a few years ago, I was stunned to discover this one. They only have a few flavours to choose from but oh my.. I won’t even try to describe how incredible they are. Some locals believe that it’s the best gelato in Venice or even Italy, but to me it’s just out of this world.
So here it is, my guide to Venice! Do you have any suggestions or know something that I’ve missed out?
Let me know in the comment section below!
I hope you will enjoy you’re trip!