Everyone’s told before they come to Venice how touristy it is. Living in Paris and having lived in Oxford, I deal with tourists every day and have learnt all the tips and tricks to avoid them. But how do you do when you’re the tourist?
Here are a few of my tips on how to visit Venice without getting stuck in the masses so you can enjoy every minute of your stay!
Venice is made of one main island, and smaller ones. You could choose to just stay on Venezia but I really recommend exploring Giudecca, Murano and Burano. We didn’t have time to go to Lido but I hear watching the sunrise from it is beautiful.
I thus strongly recommend getting the ferry day pass. It looks pricey, but it’s really worth it as it gives you access to all the islands and you can also use it to get from one end of Venezia to the other. On top of that, it’s a great way to see Venice, from the water and feel like James Bond!
1 day pass: 20€
2 day pass: 30€ (we were there for 2 days and used it about 10 times)
3 day pass: 40€
There are many hotels and hostels on Venezia island, but we actually stayed at Generator Hostel on Giudecca island, aka: the coolest hostel I’ve ever stayed at. Seriously, they’ve heightened my hostel standards now and I don’t think I could go anywhere else!
Located on the bank of Giudecca island, we had a view of the main island and the Basilica Santa Maria della Salute from our room. It’s a bit on the expensive side for a hostel as we paid 40€/night but our dorm room was very clean, the furniture was modern, and it is well accommodated to keep your things safe with chests under the beds and lockers with codes.
The staff is super friendly and will serve you excellent cappuccino for no more than 1.70€. The hostel ground floor is composed of a cool and comfortable coffee shop with affordable sandwiches and pastries for late night snacks, as well as a cool bar.
Beware: do not reserve the breakfast buffet for 4€, it’s very disappointing, and not worth it. Instead, get them to prepare you a good old cappuccino and a pastry for 3.70€!
You can’t visit Venice without stopping by the Piazza San Marco, the Bridge of Sighs (the original!) and spot gondolas. It would be like staying in Paris and never see the Eiffel Tower, even from afar.
However, Venice has so much more to offer and it turns out tourists are only really found in one spot: the Piazza San Marco and its surroundings. As soon as you get lost in the little streets and move away from the square, Venice will suddenly look like a ghost town. We actually found ourselves wondering “where are the people?”
We were glad to stay on Giudecca island as we wouldn’t have thought of visiting it otherwise. Walking along its wide and quiet bank is a lovely walk with a beautiful view.
We avoided the Piazza San Marco at all costs during the day and actually went to see it early morning the next, when it was still quiet. I think it’s when you really get to appreciate it as you’re not stuck elbow to elbow with other tourists, or getting hit in the head by selfie-sticks.
We explored the rest of the island and walked in cute shops, including hand crafted mask shops. Don’t get a cheap, tacky Venetian mask, please… If you’re going to get one, get a hand crafted and elegant one. We had found a shop on Campo San Provolo. Masks are a bit pricey of course, if they’re authentic, but I would much rather buy a 30€ Venetian mask than spend 80€ on a gondola ride.
You also need to take a ferry to Murano island, it’s 15min away from Venezia and it is very cute. Buildings are less tall, and already more colourful. The island is known for its beautiful handcrafted glass and you can even visit glass factories. But if you’re only there for a short time you can just walk in a shop that offers demonstrations, and it’s free! Careful: no photos of filming allowed.
After Murano, you could choose to go back to Venezia, but why would you when you could hop on another ferry for just 25min and head to Burano! I’ve already done a post about it, so check it out, but make sure you try Essi buranelli when you’re there!
Being a foodie, there is nothing I hate more than falling in a tourist trap and eating at an unauthentic and overpriced restaurant. Especially when you have very little time to visit a place, you want to make sure that you appreciate every bit of it, and obviously that includes food.
I had done a fair amount of research and had asked friends to know what to avoid so I had everything covered for me and my friends.
Keep away from:
-restaurants which have their menu in several languages
-gelaterias which have strange colour gelato and where the ice cream is piled
-restaurants that have pictures of the food outside
What you’re looking for:
-a place which has good reviews IN ITALIAN online / a place where locals go and seem good friends with the waiters,managers or owners of the restaurant
-a place where the prices aren’t ridiculous (local restaurants are really affordable so you should never have to pay over 10€ for a plate of pasta)
On our last day, after getting lost in the maze of Venice, we found the Trattoria dalla Marisa. We were surrounded by locals (although the occasional American tourist who can’t even say “si” instead of “yes” will always be around…).
The place is specialised in local Venetian cuisine, which means they serve a lot of seafood. As we showed up at the end of the service, we only got the primo and all went for ragù pasta (bolognese). It was simple, yet perfect. I make a great bolognese, but this one was obviously better, probably because they don’t use 5% fat beef mince. The grease was definitely there but we felt no shame or guilt gobbling our pasta.
On the sweet side, I recommend trying out local pastries from Pasticcerias, the Essi in Burano, and if you’re going to get gelato, I hear Genateria Nico is great.
Aperetivo and Dinner:
I had read that you can’t do Venice unless you try CICHETTI: the Venetian version of tapas. We went to Al Timon and got Aperol with a selection of cichetti.
Cichetti: 1€ each.
My favourite cichetti: Arancini of course, athough I also loved the roasted potato sticks. I tried baccalà for the first time, and although I’m not your number 1 pescetarian, I really liked it!
We then stayed for dinner and enjoyed some delicious gnochetti and duck brought by a charming waiter.
I hope these tips will help you plan your stay if you ever visit Venice, and I would love to know about your experience of the city on water so share it in the comments below!!
And here’s a cheeky youtube VLOG of our stay in Venice: