When you think of Venice, you certainly think directly of the small romantic alleys, the many gondola riders making their way along the colourful houses and the numerous bridges that run through the city and make the sight perfect. You may have even read articles about Venice over on blogs like Access 2 Europe and planned exactly what you would do were you to ever visit. But, if you really do want to see the picturesque atmosphere with your own eyes, you have to do it lined up next to many other tourists. Because every year, more than 30 million tourists from all over the world flock to the city of 59,000 inhabitants. You need real Venice insider tips to avoid the crowds. Venice is also a hot spot for pickpockets which is why travel insurance from a service like one sure might appeal to some travellers.
Is Venice still worthwhile?
The fact that at peak times there are almost three times as many tourists as inhabitants is crazy, isn’t it? The gondola city can only be enjoyed by escaping the big tourist rush and instead moving through the city like a local. Maybe you do it the Italian way, and rent out a Vespa Scooter to ride through the streets of Venice, taking in all its beauty!
In this blog post I would like to show you the best way to do this, what my Venice insider tips are and what else you should know for your trip to the lagoon city.
The most important Venice travel tips
When is the best time to visit Venice?
This is probably one of the most important questions to ask yourself before a trip to Venice.
In general, I would advise against travelling in the summer months and on public holidays, as well as during holiday periods – because then most of the alleys are crowded, accommodation prices are skyrocketing and you have to wait several hours to visit sights.
The best time to travel is therefore spring and autumn. The weather in Venice is pleasantly mild at these times of year and the crowds of tourists are comparatively manageable.
Arrival to Venice
Since cars are not allowed in Venice anyway, you can save a lot of stress and money by travelling by train or plane. Starting from the big cities like Frankfurt, Berlin or Cologne, it is not uncommon to find tickets for less than 60.00 EUR for a return flight.
The Venice Airport is only 13km from the city centre and you can usually reach your destination within 30 minutes by taxi boat, city bus or express bus. Depending on the means of transport, you will pay between €6.00 and €15.00 for the transfer.
Travelling by train is also easy, as Venice has a well-developed train network. If you choose your travel time wisely and travel overnight, you can simply sleep through most of the journey and start sightseeing straight away the next day.
Where to stay in Venice?
The Venice hotel “Ca’ del Modena” in the heart of Venice is very recommendable. Despite the great location, the area around the bed & breakfast is quiet and not full of tourists. Having been recently renovated, the hotel is now decorated with beautiful frescoes, mosaics and parquet flooring. Typical Venetian furniture completes the great look of the hotel. Overall, I was offered a very nice and familiar atmosphere there with super clean and large rooms at a reasonable price!
Another charming accommodation that I would like to recommend is the Hotel “Giorgione”. It was built at the end of the 19th century and is only a few minutes‘ walk away from popular sights. When you look at the furnishings, the facades and the works of art, it seems as if time has stood still here. A real experience!
Venice Trip: Language
Venice lives from tourism – so it is hardly surprising that the people have also adapted their language to the tourists. Even if the locals’ knowledge of English was often mixed, you can get by quite well everywhere.
However, if you can communicate in Italian, you will receive a much friendlier welcome and people are more willing to reveal one or two insider tips.
Now, I would like to introduce you to these insider tips:
My 12 Venice insider tips for exploring Venice as a local
1. Venice Insider Tips: Giardini della Biennale
To get away from the crowds, I recommend a visit to the city’s parks. Venice has parks? Yes! Because the lagoon city actually offers several retreats where you can wonderfully recharge your batteries. Particularly the “Giardini della Biennale” is worth a visit- a beautiful park that shows Venice from a completely different side. Here you can relax, picnic Venetian delicacies and let the charm of this oasis impress you.
2. Venice Insider Tips: Burano & Murano
In addition to the beautiful Venice itself, many of the surrounding islands are a real feast for the eyes and should not be missed on a Venice trip. Especially the fishing village of Burano with its colourful house facades radiates an incredibly positive atmosphere. With the water bus, you can get to Burano in just 40 minutes for about €7.50. Burano is a great place to relax – with a portion of fresh seafood as a culinary highlight.
“Murano” lies between Venice and Burano. It is worth taking a detour to the glass museum here, as glass production has a long tradition on this island. The colourful unique glass pieces make great souvenirs. Attention: store them safely!
All in all, these beautiful small towns with a lot of charm, but now well known among tourists and therefore increasingly visited.
3. Venice Insider Tips: San Giorgio Maggiore & the St. Mark’s Tower
You want to admire the beautiful lagoon city from above? From the bell tower of the San Giorgio Maggiore Church it’s possible! A magnificent view of Venice’s skyline awaits you! The church is located on a small neighbour island in the Venice lagoon, which you can reach in about 15 minutes by car. For an entrance fee of €6.00, you can visit the church between 07:00 and 18:00 and complete your Venice trip with a must-see!
If you haven’t had enough of panoramic views yet, then take a look at the Markusturm. As the tallest building in the city, it once served as a lighthouse for ships. Nowadays it is the city’s landmark and is depicted on numerous postcards. For around €8.00 per person, you can take the lift up to the viewing point. Et voil – a view that could hardly be more beautiful!
You can reach the tower from Santa Lucia train station or Piazzale Roma bus station with water bus lines 1 and 2.
4. Venice Insider Tips: Culinary tour of the Rialto market
Those who want to indulge in culinary delights should pay a visit to the Rialto Market. This important trading centre offers a variety of fruit and vegetables, but you can also buy fish and seafood at the nearby fish market. Since the market is open every day (except Sundays), you can also make a spontaneous detour here.
You don’t even have to walk far to the market, as it’s only a 5-minute walk from the famous Rialto Bridge!
Tip: Try the numerous street food or join a tour directly and discover delicious food and regional dishes!
5. Venice Insider Tips: Harry’s Bar
The birthplace of the original Bellini makes this bar a real cult place. What began with a cocktail made of prosecco and peach pulp developed into a real legend over time. Where world stars such as Ernest Hemingway used to come and go, this bar is now a listed building.
At over 20.00€ per cocktail, this bar is probably not a cheap choice. But there is a lot of history and special flair here – if the price is worth it, is for everyone to decide for themselves.
6. Venice insider Tips: Certosa
Never heard of Certosa? You’re certainly not the only one, because very few visitors have heard of this nature paradise. The island of Certosa is a great balance to the otherwise overcrowded city centre of Venice. Away from the crowds of tourists, it’s a great place to relax and enjoy nature.
The original intention was to develop this island into a sustainable destination – slow tourism and its own energy supply. Not much has been done yet – but the island’s own hotel offers overnight accommodation for its guests. A real alternative when the hustle and bustle of the city becomes too much.
You can reach this idyllic secret island from St Mark’s Square by water bus on lines 41 and 42.
7. Venice Insider Tips: Cannaregio
Cannaregio is a particularly exciting district in Venice: Authentic Venetian life meets the tourist mile Strada Nova. There are both very lively places, but also squares that invite you to linger longer. Here you will find all kinds of shops, cafés, bars and restaurants, but also bridges, churches and palaces.
You should also make a detour to the Jewish quarter. Here you can see the Jewish museum, some monuments and the synagogue.
In the evening, it’s good to relax by the Canale, with a portion of homemade gnocchi at La Colombina or with good wine at Osteria Anice Stellato.
8. Venice Insider Tips: Squero di San Trovaso (boat yard)
A piece of history still lives here: This is one of the last places where the typical Venetian gondolas are built and older gondolas are refurbished. This is the most famous and also the oldest squero in the city. In the past, as today, almost every step is made by hand.
Opposite the shipyard, there are many locals, especially in the evening. The atmosphere is relaxed and there is little hustle and bustle – the bars and restaurants are a great place to unwind with a cocktail or a glass of wine.
9. Venice Insider Tips: Hotel San Moise
Just a 5-minute walk from St. Mark’s Square lies this charming hotel. It’s special feature: The most beautiful photo spot in Venice is right by the water and also in front of the hotel! An absolute Instagrammable insider spot!
The hotel itself is convincing as well with comfortably furnished rooms in Venetian style. I also liked the inner courtyard, where you can have a bite to eat and a drink.
10. Venice Insider Tips: Spot to relax
A really worthwhile place to linger is just behind the Rialto Bridge (Ponte di Rialto) in the street “Fondamenta Vin Castello”. It’s best to stock up on tasty snacks and maybe a bottle of wine beforehand and sit right by the water. I couldn’t get enough of this beautiful spot!
11. Venice Insider Tips: Ancora Bar
Here you can make yourself comfortable directly on the Grand Canal and enjoy a cool Aperol Spritz. The Spritz gets served in its original version, as it was invented in Venice: With white wine (instead of prosecco) including a small aperitivo. You shouldn’t miss it!
12. Venice Insider Tips: Eat like the locals
It may sound unbelievable, but there is hardly any good pizza in Venice. That’s why I advise you: Stay away from pizzas of any kind!
You can have a really authentic Venetian meal here:
The family-run restaurant Osteria Antico Giardinetto di Virgilio e Larisa focuses on simple traditional and creative dishes that are freshly prepared. Instead of pizza, homemade pasta and delicious desserts are on the menu here.
The Pane Vino e San Daniele Rialto serves specialities in the Venetian tradition. The owners place particular emphasis on high-quality and seasonal ingredients, which they source daily directly from the regional market.
Located directly in the centre, quality and homemade dishes are also very important at Ristorante Casa Cappellari. What makes it special is that the kitchen is completely open – transparency towards the guests is a priority here. Creatively arranged pasta and a large selection of seafood are parts of the restaurant’s menu.
Top 3 Venice Sights
For the sake of completeness, here are my Top 3 Things To Do, which are not Venice insider tips, but which you still shouldn’t miss:
1. Venice Gondola Ride
A romantic gondola ride through the city’s canals is simply part of a real Venice trip. The official price for a gondola ride is around 100€ per gondola – there is room for 6 people per gondola. In the evening, especially at sunset, demand is higher and prices usually rise to 120 – 130€. If you want to save money, simply share a gondola with other travellers. If you catch the “right” gondolier, with a little luck you will receive numerous Venice insider tips and exciting insights into the life of the Venetians.
2. Beach near Venice
Especially in the summer months when the temperatures are warm, it is worth taking a trip to the relaxing Venice beaches. On Lido di Venezia, the Venetian Adriatic coast, there are numerous free and paid beach sections to relax on. From the centre of Venice, water buses will take you to the narrow strip of sand in front of the city at regular intervals.
Probably the most beautiful beach on Lido di Venezia is Spiaggia di San Nicolò. It is not only the turquoise water that makes the beach so worthwhile – because of its relatively wild character and the little developed infrastructure, this section is still visited by relatively few tourists.
3. St. Mark’s Square
The St. Mark’s Square – the heart of Venice and one of the most famous city squares in the world. Although the square is a real tourist magnet, you should at least take a look at theDoge’s Palace and St. Mark’s Basilica. It’s worth it!
What I would definitely advise you not to do is eat or order drinks on site! The prices are outrageously high, and the quality of the food is usually inferior to what you’ll find in other places. It’s better to walk a few minutes and enjoy your food without the hustle and bustle around you.
Even a city as well visited by tourists as Venice can be explored without too much hustle and bustle. The important thing is to avoid the big tourist strongholds and instead immerse yourself in the “real” Venetian quarters. These were my Venice insider tips for exploring Venice as a local and leaving the city with a positive impression. I hope these tips were helpful for you!
More tips about Italy?
If you want to know more about Italy you can find here another article about Milan.