With its iconic canals, picturesque gondolas, and winding streets, it’s no surprise that Venice is considered one of the most romantic cities in the world. But while the city is popular with honeymooners, it’s also a huge destination for cruisers and backpackers too.
It should be obvious as to why.
Venice is beautiful, fun, and full of narrow streets and alleys to get lost in. It’s a magical place unlike any other. There are museums, palaces, historic town squares to explore, and endless gelato to eat.
Unfortunately, the city is also expensive and overtourism has become a real problem. No matter what time of the year, you’re going to encounter crowds. In fact, if you come in the summer, it’s going to be unbearable (and if you come when a cruise ship is docked, it’s even more unbearable!)
But that doesn’t mean you should skip a visit!
You can avoid the crowds if you skirt around the center of the city and head to some of the outer islands like Burano and Morano. Tourists tend to cluster in a few places and are easy to escape.
This travel guide to Venice can help you beat the crowds, save money, and make the most of your time in this famous Italian city!
Table of Contents
Top 5 Things to See and Do in Venice
1. Visit the Basilica San Marco
2. Walk across Rialto Bridge
3. Tour the Doge’s Palace
4. Attend Carnival
5. Day trip to Burano
Other Things to See and Do in Venice
1. Take a walking tour
The first thing I do when I arrive in a new city is take a free walking tour. It’s the best way to see the main sights on a budget while connecting with a local guide who can share their insider tips and advice. Venice Free Walking Tour runs regular free tours that cover all the highlights. Just be sure to tip your guide at the end!
If you want to invest in your experience and take a more detailed walking tour, my favorite company is Take Walks. They have amazing walking tours and boat tours all around the city. They use expert local guides so you’ll not only have fun but you’ll learn a lot too!
2. Wander the Piazza San Marco
This is the most famous and largest piazza (city square) in Venice. It has long been a popular meeting spot for Venetians and is home to many important city highlights, including the basilica, its bell tower, the Doges Palace, and the National Archaeological Museum. It’s most impressive when approached from the water as you get a full sense of the scale and history of these antiquated buildings.
3. Head to the island of Lido
If you want to escape the city, Lido is a nearby island where people go to relax on the beach. There are lots of picturesque canals here, as well as restaurants, cafes, and bars. It’s only a 20-minute vaporetto ride (water bus) from Venice. A round-trip ticket costs 10 EUR, or for 13 EUR you can get a round-trip ticket that can be used for the buses on Lido too.
4. Visit Murano Island
Close to Venice, this island is the home of the famous Murano glassblowers. Although Murano is filled with expensive souvenirs (avoid buying anything on the island if you’re on a budget!), you’ll still have an educational and fun afternoon learning and watching how the glass is blown. To get to Murano, you can take the ferry for 8 EUR.
5. Wander the Rialto Market
The Rialto Market is Venice’s main market and it has been around for the past 700 years. It’s a huge food market with all kinds of meat, produce, and fish. Come in the morning before the market is flooded with tourists to watch all the hustle and bustle.
6. Tour the Peggy Guggenheim Collection
This is a massive, avant-garde collection of art with works from more than 200 artists. While modern art is not my favorite kind of art, there are countless pieces by surrealists, abstract expressionists, and Italian futurists that make this worth a visit. Admission is 16.50 EUR.
7. Climb the Campanile di San Marco
Built in 1912, this tower in Piazza San Marco is a replica of the original Bell Tower of St. Mark (which was built in the 16th century and collapsed in 1902). Standing almost 100m tall, it is said that every last detail of the structure is a match. For 10 EUR, climb up through the inner workings and get a panoramic view of the city.
8. Watch the Vogalonga
The Voga Longa is a non-competitive 20-mile marathon rowing event held annually in May. This tradition originated as a protest to the increasing amount of powerboats taking over Venice’s waters. Thousands of people take part every year, in all different kinds of boats (some people even swim!). It’s incredible to watch and one of the biggest events of the year.
9. Visit the National Archaeological Museum
Although it’s a small museum, the National Archaeological Museum’s collection of Greek sculptures, Roman busts, funerary stelae, and other relics date back as far as the 1st century BCE. Tickets are 25 EUR and include entrance to the Doge’s Palace, the Correr Civic Museum, and the monumental rooms of the Marciana National Library.
10. Check out the Correr Civic Museum
The Correr Civic Museum includes an expansive collection of art and artifacts showcasing the city’s history, as well as works from the homes of former royals (including Napoleon Bonaparte). You can spend hours here viewing the frescoes, ancient maps, statues, religious paintings, and more. Tickets are 25 EUR and include entrance to the Doge’s Palace, the National Archaeological Museum, and the monumental rooms of the Marciana National Library.
11. Peruse the art at the Galleria dell’Accademia
The Galleria dell’Accademia was established by Napoleon Bonaparte and is home to numerous artistic works from the 14th-18th centuries, including masterpieces from Bellini and Tintoretto. Its most famous piece, however, is Leonardo da Vinci’s small ink drawing titled Vitruvian Man. Tickets are 12 EUR.
12. Explore the Jewish Ghetto
The Jewish Ghetto is a neighborhood located in the north-western part of Venice. It’s considered to be the world’s first ghetto, established in 1516 when the city’s Jews were forced to move here. The Jews were only allowed out during the day and then were locked up and heavily guarded in the evening. Despite its troubling history, the Jewish Ghetto is now full of restaurants, shops, museums, and synagogues. It’s a lively place to explore but is often overlooked by tourists.
13. Take a food tour
To learn more about the history and culture behind Venice’s cuisine, take a food tour. It’s the best way to eat your way around the city sampling the best eats Venice has to offer while learning what makes the cuisine unique. Devour Tours runs in-depth food tours led by expert local guides that will introduce you to the food culture and its history. If you’re a foodie like me who wants to learn more about the history and culture behind each dish, this tour is for you!
For more information on specific destinations in Italy, check out these guides:
Venice Travel Costs
Hostel prices – A dorm bed in a hostel usually costs 15-35 EUR per night for a 6-8-bed dorm. Private rooms start at 50-100 EUR per night. Free Wi-Fi is standard, though most hostels do not include self-catering facilities or offer free breakfast.
For those traveling with a tent, camping outside the city is just 15-30 EUR per night for a basic pitch. There are also small lodges and cabins for 30-40 EUR.
Budget hotel prices – A room in a two-star budget hotel in Venice costs 65-125 EUR per night. Free Wi-Fi is included and most also offer free breakfast.
On the main island, Airbnb has private rooms starting from 40-80 EUR per night. Entire apartments go for closer to 100-150 EUR per night.
Average cost of food – Italian cuisine is beloved around the world, though every region in Italy offers its own distinct flavor. Tomatoes, pasta, olives, and olive oil form the backbone of most meals, with meat and fish and various cheeses rounding out the menu. In Venice, seafood is an important staple, with popular traditional dishes being bigoli in salsa (pasta in anchovy sauce), risotto al nero di seppia (risotto with cuttlefish ink), and fried sardines.
Overall, eating in Venice is really expensive. It’s hard to get a cheap meal in the city. If you do want to eat out, it’s better to go out for lunch rather than dinner since lunch menus are often under 20 EUR.
If you want to splash out, a mid-range meal with drinks and an appetizer costs 35-50 EUR.
Fast food (think McDonald’s) costs around 8 EUR for a combo meal. Pizza by the slice and sandwiches are usually just 2-7 EUR.
Beer is around 5 EUR while a latte/cappuccino is closer to 2 EUR. Bottled water is 1 EUR.
If you plan on cooking your own food, a week’s worth of groceries costs around 50-60 EUR. This gets you basic staples like rice, pasta, produce, and some meat or seafood.
Backpacking Venice Suggested Budgets
On a backpacking budget of 55 EUR per day, you can stay in a hostel dorm, cook all of your meals, limit your drinking, take public transportation to get around, and do mostly free activities like taking free tours and wandering the markets. If you plan on drinking, add 5-10 EUR to your daily budget.
On a mid-range budget of 120 EUR per day, you can stay in a private Airbnb or private hostel room, eat out for most meals, enjoy a few drinks, take the occasional water taxi to get around, and do more paid activities like day-tripping to the nearby islands and touring the museums and galleries.
On a “luxury” budget of 245 EUR or more per day, you can stay in a hotel, eat out for all your meals, drink as much as you want, rent a car or take more taxis, and do whatever tours and activities you want. This is just the ground floor for luxury though. The sky is the limit!
You can use the chart below to get an idea of how much you need per day. Keep in mind these are daily averages – some days you’ll spend more, some days you’ll spend less (you might spend less every day, who knows!). We just want to give you a general idea of how to budget your money. Prices are in EUR.
Venice Travel Guide: Money-Saving Tips
It doesn’t matter what time of year you visit, Venice is going to be expensive. That said, here some ways to you can lower your expenses when you visit Venice:
- Don’t eat at Piazza San Marco – This is the area with the most tourists, hence making it much more expensive. Avoid eating here at all costs, no matter how tempting the cafe patios might be.
- Cook your food – Food is one of the biggest costs in the city so if you’re on a budget it’s a good idea to cook your own meals. You’ll save a ton!
- Walk around and get lost – Venice is so beautiful that it’s a thrill just strolling through the city seeing the old building, churches, artists, and, best of all, get a bit of people-watching in.
- Use discount bus tickets – Get a day pass (or multi-day pass) for the water bus if you plan on traveling around the city a lot. It can save you money after just a few trips.
- Get the Venezia Unica Pass – If you are going to do lots of sightseeing, this pass gives you discounts to the top museums, tours, and attractions. It is priced to save you money when compared to buying separate tickets. You go online and pick out what you want to see ahead of time. The price varies depending on what you want to see but you’ll save a lot.
- Buy your own booze – You can buy a great bottle of wine for 6 EUR at the store. Getting your own bottle is a much more economical way to drink. Sit in one of the squares, have a glass of wine, and watch the world go by.
- Stay with a local – Accommodation is very expensive in Venice. Try using Couchsurfing to stay with locals for free and make a new friend to show you around this amazing city.
- Go on a free walking tour – This is the best way to learn about the city on a budget. Just be sure to tip your guide at the end!
- Bring a water bottle – The tap water here is safe to drink so bring a reusable water bottle to save money and reduce your plastic use. LifeStraw is my go-to brand as their bottles have built-in filters to ensure your water is always clean and safe.
Where to Stay in Venice
Finding an affordable place to stay in Venice is challenging, but not impossible. My recommended places to stay in Venice are:
How to Get Around Venice
Venice is a pedestrian city. Unless you’re taking water taxis or floating buses, you’ll be walking everywhere.
Vaporetto – A vaporetto is a floating “bus” that can get you just about everywhere you need to go. They’re not cheap, with one-way tickets costing 7.50 EUR. Tickets are valid for 75 minutes.
You can get a 24-hour pass for 20 EUR, a 48-hour pass for 30 EUR, a 72-hour pass for 40 EUR, or a 7-day pass for 60 EUR.
If you’re traveling to Murano, Torcello, or Lido, you’ll be on the same vaporetto system but on a larger boat known as motonave. The prices are the same.
Water taxi – Private water taxis are incredibly expensive and should be avoided unless you’re in a huge rush or you have lots of luggage. Rates start at 15 EUR and then 2 EUR per minute. If you want to order a water taxi to your hotel, you’ll pay a surcharge.
When to Go to Venice
Venice is at its peak busyness in the summer. Prices skyrocket and the crowds are intense. Temperatures hover around 18-28°C (66-83°F) from June through August. If possible, I’d avoid visiting during this time as the city is bursting with cruisers and the crowds are massive.
Spring is a beautiful time to visit since temperatures are more manageable, usually between 17-22°C (63-72°F), and the city is not overly crowded.
Tourism also eases off in the fall and winter, and temperatures are cooler, ranging from 4-12°C (44-55°F). However, this is also known as the acqua alta (“high water”) period, where flooding in the streets can occur.
In February, Carnevale takes over the city. It’s a great time, but expect chaos and inflated prices.
Overall, you’re going to face crowds whenever you go, but if you can avoid peak summer you’ll find the city pleasant to visit.
How to Stay Safe in Venice
Venice is a very safe place to backpack and travel. As with most of Italy’s cities, Venice’s biggest safety risk is petty theft and pickpocketing. This is especially true in crowded tourist areas and on public transportation, so keep a close eye on your belongings and never flash your valuables when out and about.
As in any city, always keep an eye on your drink when at the bar. Also, never walk home alone if you’re intoxicated.
Scams here are rare, but if you’re worried about getting ripped off, you can read about common travel scams to avoid right here.
If you come during autumn or the winter, you may be at risk for acqua alta (“high water”). Flooding is a common occurrence due to rising ocean levels. Choose accommodations closer to the upper part of town, near Piazzale Roma or the rail station.
If you experience an emergency, dial 112 for assistance.
Always trust your gut instinct. Make copies of your personal documents, including your passport and ID.
Remember, if you wouldn’t do it at home, don’t do it in Venice!
The most important piece of advice I can offer is to purchase good travel insurance. Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. You can use the widget below to find the policy right for you:
Venice Travel Guide: The Best Booking Resources
These are my favorite companies to use when I travel. They consistently have the best deals, offer world-class customer service and great value, and overall, are better than their competitors. They are the companies I use the most and are always the starting point in my search for travel deals.
- Skyscanner – Skyscanner is my favorite flight search engine. They search small websites and budget airlines that larger search sites tend to miss. They are hands down the number one place to start.
- Hostelworld – This is the best hostel accommodation site out there with the largest inventory, best search interface, and widest availability.
- Booking.com – The best all around booking site that constantly provides the cheapest and lowest rates. They have the widest selection of budget accommodation. In all my tests, they’ve always had the cheapest rates out of all the booking websites.
- HostelPass – This new card gives you up to 20% off hostels throughout Europe. It’s a great way to save money. They’re constantly adding new hostels too. I’ve always wanted something like this and glad it finallt exists.
- Intrepid Travel – If you want to do group tours, go with Intrepid. They offer good small group tours that use local operators and leave a small environmental footprint. And, as a reader of this site, you’ll get exclusive discounts with them too!
- Get Your Guide – Get Your Guide is a huge online marketplace for tours and excursions. They have tons of tour options available in cities all around the world, including everything from cooking classes, walking tours, street art lessons, and more!
- Eurail – If you are going to Europe and taking a lot of high speed or long distance trains, get a rail pass. I’ve used a rail pass three times and saved hundreds of dollars each time. The math just works.
- The Man in Seat 61 – This website is the ultimate guide to train travel anywhere in the world. They have the most comprehensive information on routes, times, prices, and train conditions. If you are planning a long train journey or some epic train trip, consult this site.
- Rome2Rio – This website allows you to see how to get from point A to point B the best and cheapest way possible. It will give you all the bus, train, plane, or boat routes that can get you there as well as how much they cost.
- FlixBus – Flixbus has routes between 20 European countries with prices starting as low 5 EUR! Their buses include WiFi, electrical outlets, a free checked bag.
- SafetyWing – Safety Wing offers convenient and affordable plans tailored to digital nomads and long-term travelers. They have cheap monthly plans, great customer service, and an easy-to-use claims process that makes it perfect for those on the road.
- ItaliaRail – A great resource to use when planning your trip via train around Italy as you can compare prices, routes, and schedules and save up to 60% on your tickets.
- Take Walks – This walking tour company provides inside access to attractions and places you can’t get elsewhere. Their guides rock and they have some of the best and most insightful tours in all of Italy.
- BlaBlaCar – BlaBlaCar is a ridesharing website that lets you share rides with vetted local drivers by pitching in for gas. You simply request a seat, they approve, and off you go! It’s a cheaper and more interesting way to travel than by bus or train!
Venice Gear and Packing Guide
If you’re heading on the road and need some gear suggestions, here are my tips for the best travel backpack and for what to pack!
The Best Backpack for Travelers
Straps: Thick and cushy with compression technology that pulls the pack’s load up and inwards so it doesn’t feel as heavy.
Features: Removable top lid, pocket at the front, hydration compatible, contoured hip belt
If you want something different, refer to my article on how to choose the best travel backpack for tips on picking a pack and other backpack suggestions.
What to Pack for Your Trip
- 1 pair of jeans (heavy and not easily dried, but I like them; a good alternative is khaki pants)
- 1 pair of shorts
- 1 bathing suit
- 5 T-shirts (Unbound Merino is my preferred company. If you’re a member of NM+, you can get 15% off your purchase)
- 1 long-sleeved T-shirt
- 1 pair of flip-flops
- 1 pair of sneakers
- 6 pairs of socks (I always end up losing half)
- 5 pairs of boxer shorts (I’m not a briefs guy!)
- 1 toothbrush
- 1 tube of toothpaste
- 1 razor
- 1 package of dental floss
- 1 small bottle of shampoo
- 1 small bottle of shower gel
- 1 towel
Small Medical Kit (safety is important!!!)
- Hydrocortisone cream
- Antibacterial cream
- Hand sanitizer (germs = sick = bad holiday)
- A key or combination lock (safety first)
- Zip-lock bags (keeps things from leaking or exploding)
- Plastic bags (great for laundry)
- Universal charger/adaptor (this applies to everyone)
- LifeStraw (A water bottle with a purifier)
Female Travel Packing List
I’m not a woman, so I don’t know what a woman wears, but Kristin Addis, our solo female travel guru, wrote this list as an addition to the basics above:
- 1 swimsuit
- 1 sarong
- 1 pair of stretchy jeans (they wash and dry easily)
- 1 pair of leggings (if it’s cold, they can go under your jeans, otherwise with a dress or shirt)
- 2-3 long-sleeve tops
- 2-3 T-shirts
- 3-4 spaghetti tops
- 1 light cardigan
- 1 dry shampoo spray & talc powder (keeps long hair grease-free in between washes)
- 1 hairbrush
- Makeup you use
- Hair bands & hair clips
- Feminine hygiene products (you can opt to buy there too, but I prefer not to count on it, and most people have their preferred products)
For more on packing, check out these posts:
Venice Travel Guide: Related Articles
Want more info? Check out all the articles I’ve written on backpacking/traveling Italy and continue planning your trip: