With its historical canals, gondolas, and winding streets, Venice is considered one of the most romantic and most famous cities in the world.
The city is almost always on everyone’s “must see” list.
People come here to backpack Venice, visit on honeymoons, on cruise ships, and as part of their larger Italy travel plans.
Everyone comes here.
Venice is beautiful, fun, and full of great alleys to get lost in. It’s a magical place. There are museums, palaces, and historic town squares to explore, and endless gelato to eat!
However, the city is very expensive, especially on the main island. Overtourism has become a real problem and no matter what time of the year, you’re going to find tons and tons of crowds. If you come in the summer, it’s unbearable. If you come when a cruise ship is docked, it’s even more unbearable.
You can avoid the crowds if you avoid the center of the city as well as head to some of the outer islands like Burano and Morano. Tourists tend to cluster in a few places.
This travel guide to Venice can help you plan your trip, figure out what to do, save money in this expensive destination, and avoid the crowds.
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. Take a trip to Burano
Other Things to See and Do in Venice
1. Visit the Piazza San Marco
This is the most famous and largest piazza in Venice. It has long been a popular meeting spot for Venetians and is home to many important city highlights, like 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.
2. Head to the island of Lido
If you want to escape the city, Lido is an island between Venice and the sea where people go to relax on the beach. There are lots of picturesque canals here as well, and restaurants, cafes, and bars. It’s only a 20-minute vaporetto ride (water bus) from Venice.
3. Visit Murano Island
Close to Venice, Murano island is the home of the famous Murano glass blowers. Although Murano is filled with expensive souvenirs (avoid buying anything on the island), you will still have an educational and fun afternoon learning and watching how the glass is blown.
4. Visit the markets
Venice has vibrant markets where you can buy some delicious food at a fraction of the cost than at the restaurants. The morning fish market is my favorite. Head there early to watch the restaurant owners select their fish and come back later for the locals choosing their dinners. There is also an organic produce market on Mondays.
5. Explore the Peggy Guggenheim Collection
This is a massive, avant-garde collection of art with works from more than 200 artists. There are countless pieces by surrealists, abstract expressionists, and Italian futurists. Admission is €16.50 ($18.50 USD). It’s open daily (except Tuesdays) from 10am-6pm.
6. 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. It is said that every last detail of the structure is a match. For €13 ($14.50 USD), climb up through the inner workings and get a panorama view of the city.
7. Watch the Voga Longa
The Voga Longa is a marathon rowing event held annually on May 23rd. This tradition originated as a protest to the increasing amount of powerboats taking over Venice’s waters. To receive recognition, you have to row 20 miles in under 3.5 hours.
8. 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 more date back as far as the 1st century BC. Tickets are €4 ($4.50 USD).
9. Visit the Rialto Market
The Rialto Market is Venice’s main market and it has been around for the past 700 years. You will find endless food stands selling everything from white asparagus to cantaloupe (and lots of fish). Come in the morning before the market is flooded with tourists to watch all the hustle and bustle.
10. Check out the Correr Civic Museum
The Correr Civic Museum includes an expansive collection of art and artifacts from the city’s history, as well as from the homes of former royals, including Napoleon. You’ll lose hours to viewing the ceiling frescoes, ancient maps, statues, and religious paintings all included in this collection. Your ticket is included with the standard entry to Doge’s Palace, which is €20 ($22 USD).
11. Peruse the art at the Galleria dell’Accademia
The Galleria dell’Accademia was established by Napoleon and is home to numerous artistic works from the 14th-18th centuries, including masterpieces from Bellini and Tintoretto. Its most famous piece, however, is Da Vinci’s small ink drawing titled Vitruvian Man. Tickets are €15 ($17 USD).
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. These 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 new full of restaurants, shops, museums, and synagogues. It’s a lively place to explore but is often overlooked by tourists.
13. Take a walking tour
While there are free walking tours available in the city if you’re on a budget, there are also plenty of in-depth walking tours (and food tours) available if you want to invest in your experience. My favorite company is Take Walks. They have amazing walking tours, boat tours, and food tours all around the city. They use expert local guides so you’ll not only have fun but you’ll learn a lot too! They’re my go-to tour company whenever I’m in Italy.
For more information on specific destinations in Italy, check out these guides:
Venice Travel Costs
Hostel prices – There are only a few hostel dorms on the actual island. The best value accommodations are just outside the city at the camping grounds. These dorms will cost around €10-15 ($11-17 USD) per night. If you wish to stay in the city, expect to pay around €30-50 ($34-56 USD) per night for a dorm room. Private rooms that sleep two start from around €50 ($56 USD). The price usually includes free wifi and linens.
Budget hotel prices – While budget hotels are as little as €50 ($56 USD) per night, you’ll likely have to pay nearly double that — around €100 ($113 USD) — if you plan on staying on the main island. Breakfast is usually included though.
On the main island, Airbnb has shared rooms starting from around €30R ($34 USD) per night or you can rent private rooms from €50 ($56 USD). Entire apartments start at €80 ($90 USD.
Average cost of food – Eating in Venice is really expensive. It’s hard to get a cheap meal in the city. It’s better to eat out for lunch rather than dinner since lunch menus are often under €20 ($22.40 USD). If you go out for dinner, expect to pay between €35-55 ($40-62 USD) for a meal with drinks. Add €3 ($3.35 USD) for the “coperto” (sit down fee) that covers service and the bread at the table.
There are a few places to get cheap snacks (pizza, sandwiches) in town as well as fast food but for the most part, budget a lot of money for food – at the very least €22 ($25 USD) per day.
If you shop at Eurospin, Lidl or Penny Market, or at the local farmer’s markets, you can get a week’s worth of groceries for about €60-70 ($67-78 USD).
Backpacking Venice Suggested Budgets
If you’re backpacking Venice, my suggested budget is around €68 ($76 USD) per day. This will cover staying in a hostel outside the main island, cooking most of your meals or eating as cheap as possible, taking local transportation, and sticking to the free activities as much as possible.
A mid-range budget of about €146 ($164 USD), you’ll get a two-star budget hotel or private room at an Airbnb, cheap lunches, occasionally dining at a restaurant, public transportation, and a few paid attractions or tours per day.. You’ll be comfortable but you won’t be living large!
For a luxury budget of at least €286 ($321 USD) per day, you will stay in a four-star hotel close to the city center, eat out for all your meals, drink whatever you want, and take guided private tours. The sky is the limit here (and it’s really easy to spend money in Venice)!
Use the chart below to get some idea of how much you need to budget daily. 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). We just want to give you a general idea of how to make your budget. Prices are in USD.
Venice Travel Guide: Money Saving Tips
It doesn’t matter what time of year you visit Venice, it’s going to be expensive. It’s always going to be that way and there are very few ways to save money in the city. Here are some ways to you can lower your expenses when you visit Venice to make the city slightly affordable:
- 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.
- Make your food – Food is one of the biggest costs in the city so cook when you can. Small markets are abundant around the city, so fill up with some fresh veggies, fruit, cheese, and wine, and enjoy a delicious meal at a fraction of the cost it would be to go out.
- Walk 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 – If you are staying for a longer period of time, consider purchasing a discount card for the floating bus, or vaporetto, services. You can potentially save 25% on a seven-day pass by going through VeniceConnected.com.
- Get the Venezia Unica Pass – If you are going to do lots of sightseeing, this pass will give 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.
- Drink the tap water – Ask for tap water or you will automatically get expensive bottled water included on your bill. Moreover, you can refill your bottles of water at any of the drinking fountains throughout the city.
- Buy your own booze – You can buy a great bottle of wine for €4 ($4.50 USD). Getting your own bottle is a much more economical way to great! Sit in one of the squares, have a glass of wine, and watch the world go by.
- Couchsurf – Accommodation is very expensive in Venice. Try to use Couchsurfing to stay with locals for free and get a new friend to show you around this amazing city.
- Go on a free walking tour – This is a great way to learn the history behind the places you are seeing and to avoid missing any must-see stops. Venice Free Walking Tour has a few tours that will show you what the city has to offer. Booking in advance is required.
Where To Stay in Venice
Finding an affordable place to stay in Venice is challenging, but not impossible. My recommended places are:
How to Get Around Venice
Venice is a pedestrian’s city. Unless you’re taking water taxis or floating buses, you’ll be walking. You can cross the canals by foot using bridges or take a “traghetto” (a gondola) for €4 ($4.50 USD).
Vaporetto – A vaporetto is a floating “bus” that will get you just about everywhere you need to go. They’re not cheap, with one-way tickets costing €7.50 ($8.40 USD).
A 1-day ticket is €20 ($22.40 USD), a 48-hour ticket is €30 ($33.60 USD), a 72-hour ticket is €40 ($45 USD), and a 7-day pass is €60 ($67 USD).
If you’re traveling inter-island 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 ($17 USD) and then €2 ($2.25 USD) per minute. Taxis are metered, or negotiate in advance. If you want to order a water taxi to your hotel, you’ll pay a surcharge.
When to Go to Venice
Spring is a beautiful time to visit, especially since temperatures are between 63-72°F (17-22°C) and it’s not overly crowded until June.
Venice is at its peak busyness in the summer months. Prices skyrocket, and the crowds are intense. Temperatures are around 82°F (28°C) daily from June through August.
Tourism eases off in the fall and winter, and temperatures are still pleasant. However, this is also known as the acqua alta (“high water”) period, where flooding in the streets is frequent.
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 or April when school is out and the city is filled with a lot of school groups on vacation, 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 pick pocketing. This is especially true in the crowded tourist areas and on vaporettos.
If you’re worried about getting scammed, you can read about the 14 travel scams to avoid right here.
If you come during autumn or winter months, you may be at risk for acqua alta (“high water”). Flooding is a common occurrence thee days due to rising ocean levels. Choose accommodations closer to the upper part of town, like near Piazzale Roma or the rail station.
Always trust your gut instinct. Make copies of your personal documents, including your passport and ID.
As follow the most important of travel rules: If you don’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 to Venice. They are included here because they consistently find deals, offer world-class customer service and great value, and overall, are better than their competitors. They are the ones I use the most and are always the starting points in my search for travel deals.
- Momondo – This is my favorite booking site. I never book a flight without checking here first.
- Skyscanner – Skyscanner is another great flight search engline which searches a lot of different airlines, including many of the budget carriers that larger sites miss. While I always start with Momondo, I use this site too as a way to compare prices.
- Airbnb – Airbnb is a great accommodation alternative for connecting with homeowners who rent out their homes or apartments.
- Hostelworld – This is the best hostel accommodation site out there, with the largest inventory, best search interface, and widest availability.
- Couchsurfing – This website allows you to stay on people’s couches or spare rooms for free. It’s a great way to save money while meeting locals who can tell you the ins and outs of their city. The site also lists events you can attend to meet people (even if you’re not staying with someone).
- Booking.com – The best all around booking site that constantly provides the cheapest and lowest rates. They have a no money down policy, great interface, and the widest selection of budget accommodation. In all my tests, they’ve always had the cheapest rates out of all the booking websites.
- ItaliaRail – A great resource to use when planning your trip via train around Italy is ItaliaRail. You can compare prices, routes, and schedules and save up to 60% on your tickets.
- Intrepid Travel – If you want to do a group tour around Europe, go with Intrepid Travel. They offer good small group tours that use local operators and leave a small environmental footprint. If you go on a tour with anyone, go with them. And, as a reader of this site, you’ll get a discount when you click the link!
- 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.
- Rome 2 Rio – 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 – German based Flixbus has routes between 20 European countries with prices starting as low €5 ($6 USD)! Their buses include WiFi, electrical outlets, and up to three 3 free bags.
- Bla Bla Car – 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 travel than by bus or train!
- Take Walks – A day tour company in Italy (as well as other destinations). What makes them so good is they get you inside access to attractions and places you can’t get elsewhere.
- EatWith – This website allows you to eat home cooked meal with locals. Locals post listings for dinner parties and specialty meals that you can sign up for. There is a fee (everyone sets their own price) but this is a great way to do something different, pick a local’s brain, and make a new friend.
- World Nomads – I buy all my travel insurance from World Nomads. They have great customer service, competitive prices, and in-depth coverage. I’ve been using them since I started traveling in 2003. Don’t leave home without it!
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, large 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: Suggested Reading
Inferno, by Dante Alighieri
Inferno is the first part of Italian writer Dante’s 14th-century epic poem, The Divine Comedy. It tells the story of Dante’s journey through Hell, guided by the ancient poet Virgil. Here, Hell is depicted as nine circles of torment located within Earth – it’s a dense read, but it’s pretty incredible. The book mentioned here is the beautifully translated version of Dante’s masterpiece. You can also get your hands on the full volume with all three epic poems. It’s been inspiring people for 700 years!
City Of Fortune: How Venice Ruled The Seas, by Roger Crowley
Roger Crowley explores Venice’s fascinating 500-year-old advance to the pinnacle of power to become a city unrivalled for drama and majesty. City of Fortune traces the Venetian imperial saga, from the Fourth Crusade to the fall of Constantinople, to the Ottoman-Venetian War of 1499-1503, which eventually led the Ottoman Turks to becoming the preeminent naval power in the Mediterranean. You’ll also learn about how a small city of “lagoon dwellers” became the richest place on the planet. This isn’t a boring history book – it’s a vivid, beautifully written account of Venice and its people through the ages.
Angels and Demons, by Dan Brown
Robert Langdon is summoned to an assignment at a Swiss research facility to analyze a symbol seared into the chest of a murdered physicist – and discovers the resurgence of an ancient secret brotherhood known as the Illuminati. Then the brotherhood announces they’ve left a time bomb inside Vatican City, and Langdon must take off to Rome to find it. Even if Dan Brown isn’t your thing, this book will get you pumped to go sightseeing in Rome.
Under the Tuscan Sun, by Frances Mayes
Have you ever dreamt of buying up a crumbling villa in Italy and restoring it to its former glory? That’s exactly what Frances Mayes did 20 years ago with an abandoned property named Bramsole in the Tuscan countryside. This story recounts her restoration journey, along with what it’s like adjusting to live in rural Tuscany. Mayes is a poet, gourmet cook, and a travel writer – you will literally be drooling over her prose and evocative language. Mayes paints the dreamiest picture of life in Italy. You have to read this book.
La Bella Figura: A Field Guide to the Italian Mind, by Beppe Severgnini
Written about Italians by an Italian, Beppe Severgnini wants you to forget all the romantic notions of Italy and its people. This laugh-out-loud book takes you beyond the historical attractions and scenic areas, and into places where Italians are at their best and worst: including the highway, the airport, and the small town. Severgnini describes the chaos of the roads and the “theatrical spirit of the hypermarkets” in a way that will give you some deep insight into the Italian psyche.
A Room With a View, by E.M. Forster
Well-bred Lucy Honeychurch sets out on an adventure touring Italy with her overbearing cousin, and soon falls in love with the handsome (but entirely unsuitable) George Emerson, and yet somehow becomes engaged to Mr. Cecil Vyse. Lucy is easily lured away from the upper-middle-class Edwardian society by her longing for the man she left behind. This is a funny, satirical read that takes the English notion of respectability and turns it on its head. This is Forster’s most beloved book!
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: