Every year since 2015 I've been heading to Venice. Mind you, when I go, it's only for 24 hours, but after three of these 24-hour visits I've gotten to know the City of Bridges pretty darn well.
I'd have to say it's one of my favourite getaways. Getting around is super easy. I love walking the labyrinth of calli (streets) and hopping on a vaperotto and discovering something new each time I go. The best part—you don't even need to enter a single building to enjoy the art around you. The history, architecture, it's like the entire city a piece of art.
So here's my round-up of useful tips to maximize your own Venice getaway - whether it's for 24 hours or more!
1. WHEN TO GO
Damp and rainy, cold and foggy or hot and smelly? Before I went to Venice, every single person I know that's been there told me to prepare for the smelliness. These people obviously did not know the right time to visit Venezia.
- June, July and August: Yes it's summer and everyone is on summer vacation—like everyone—so not only is Venice unbearably hot and humid, but that's when masses of people (something like 60,000 per day) invade the city. Understandably, this is where the hot and smelly comments come into play.
- September and October: Temperatures get much cooler at night and creep up during the day, and by far, this is my fave time period to visit Venice. You'll get a good amount of sunshine (though, it's a good idea to dress in layers), and clear blue skies without the hordes of tourists cramping your style.
- November, December and January: It's winter time in Venice too. It gets cold, like the kind of damp cold that settles into your bones. But nothing that dressing up warmly and a hot cup of hot chocolate won't fix. Note that if you want to experience acqua alta (high tide), it's usually at its peak in November and December.
- February: Carnival time. The city gets festive and colourful (though still remains cold), and it's also probably one of the busiest and priciest times to go.
- March, April and May: While March can still feel a tad wintry, spring definitely makes its arrival in April and May. Another great time to go if you want to avoid the interesting smells along the canals that the summer brings.
2. WHERE TO STAY
To save on costs, most will opt to stay in Mestre, or Lido di Venezia. Hell, I even came this close to camping in the Marghera area just to save on the cost of a hotel on the island of Venice.
But, if you're only going to be in Venice for 24 hours (even 48 or 72 hours), trust me, you want to be in on the island. So now the question becomes: hotel, B&B or apartment? Again, trust me when I tell you: apartment. Why?
- First, it's just kind of cool to stay in your very own apartment in Venice.
- Second, you can find one that fits a solo traveller, a couple, a family or even a group of friends (good luck finding a hotel that'll hold more than 2 people!).
- Third, they all have a kitchen, so you can grab food at the market and cook for yourself or simply be grateful for a fridge to keep that pinot grigio nice and chilled.
My go-to for spacious apartments is Dolce Vita Apartments. Forget Airbnb, and head to Dolce Vita Apartments site instead. These guys handle over 350 apartments in Venice - all located in the historical centre of the city, all are reasonably priced and... to help your wallet even more, they even give you a gondola tour (conditions apply). Check out a few of my top picks:
- Apartment N. 127: it can sleep up to 5 people, it's a 5-minute walk to the Rialto Bridge, and you can get it for as low as 75 € per night.
- Apartment N. 152: it's in the Castello area, on the 1st floor (no walking up flights of stairs!) and the best part - a gorgeous terrace.
- Apartment N. 164: the cutest apartment, perfect for 2 people.
3. HOW TO GET AROUND
- From the airport, your best bet is the ATVO express bus. For 15 € roundtrip, it's the quickest option that will get you to Piazzale Roma (the last point where you'll see land transportation on the island).
- Walking is best to get around the city—and probably the most fun. Prepared to get lost. A lot. Even being fairly good with directions and armed with a GPS, it's a given that you're going to get lost. Frequently. Just accept it.
- Vaporettos: Or, there's public transport. Which in Venice, public transport is in the form of a vaporetto (water bus). I've always opted to get the Venezia Unica Pass (1-day is 20€, 2-day is 30€ and 3-day is 40€). While walking is quite doable, my main reason for the pass it to visit Guidecca, Murano and Burano.
4. WHAT TO SEE
Everything! Even with no destination in mind, just wandering around and getting lost in the maze that is Venice streets is a feast for the eyes. The city does have recommended routes with little yellow-ish signs that help keep tourists moving in the right direction to the main attractions. Here's a list of some of the obvious and not-so-obvious things to see in Venice:
- Piazza San Marco area: The busiest and most tourist-crammed spot in Venice, but it is a must. Around here you'll see the basilica, the clock tower, Doge's Palace and the Bridge of Sighs. Tip: To get a bit of break from the crowds, just behind the square, there's almost like a secret garden of sorts, Giardini Reali. Everyone is so busy seeing the square, that no one goes to this cute garden where you can sit and chill in peace and quiet.
- Bridges: There's tons of bridges in Venice, but the ones that span the Grand Canal are worth seeking out—and they also have the best photo ops. Rialto Bridge is probably the top one that folks come to see, but don't forget to check out Ponte dell'Accademia (great for sunset photos), Ponte degli Scalzi (great for sunrise photos), and Ponte della Costituzione.
- Libreria Acqua Alta: I try to make it here on every trip, just because it's so cute and quirky and you never know what kind of book you'll find.
- Murano & Burano: Even though I only spend a day in Venice when I go, I still manage to hit both Murano and Burano each time. Murano (about a 20-minute vaporetto ride from Fondamente Nove) kind of looks exactly like Venice but with Murano glass stores everywhere, but Burano (50-minute vaporetto ride from Murano-Faro)—oh my, it's so incredibly colourful and pretty that it looks almost like a movie set.
5. WHERE TO EAT
So many options in Venice, as well as so many tourist traps. You can find a great restaurant pretty much anywhere in Venice, and great bars too. I really wish I could give you the locations of the spots I found but...I honestly have no idea where they are. I've always just happened upon restaurants or streets whenever I got lost—which was like all the time—and say "Oh, that looks good, I think I'll eat here". So here's just a general guide on approximately where and what you should look for.
- Bàcari: These are tiny neighbourhood bars—sometimes little hole-in-the-wall type places and sometimes super cute and trendy spots—are the places you want to hit for an authentic taste of Venice as well as the best bang for your buck (prices vary from €1.50 to €3).
- Cicchetti: Technically these are small tapas like dishes served up in bàcari or cicchetti bars (which I guess is really the same thing). These places usually have a few tables inside or outside, and if there's no table available, no problem—locals happily spill out onto the street and grab any available spot on the edge of whatever canal the place is in front of.
Remember, these places are sprinkled throughout the city, usually off the main tourist routes. So keep your eyes open for local people ducking into a back alley and semi-stalk them—you're bound to follow them to a great spot.
Photos taken | written by JENNIFER MAHON
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