Venice is one of those well-known travel destinations that are full of tourist flocks, migrating back and forth between San Marco and Rialto Bridge. Especially during the peak season of April-October.
It’s a no-brainer!
The city — a cultural and natural marvel — has the magical power to take you back in time the moment you give in to its inconspicuous seductive neighborhoods, overrun with elegance and energy.
Besides, being short on time or money shouldn’t deter you from exploring Venice… Just as it hasn’t stopped generations of travelers (or me).
Whatever the duration of your stay or budget, you can definitely live the Venetian lifestyle if you know where to look. You only need to be mindful of a few things while strolling along the picturesque canals, as distant tunes emanate from gondolas.
- First, there’ll always be two doors to every destination, one that tourists pay to open and the other that leads to the world of locals. You need to decide which one to choose.
- Second, how much you spend depends on you. By extension, you can control your travels for the most part of the itinerary.
- Third, you can see the authentic appeal of European cities by simply walking away from the visitor hotspots.
Now, this Venice guide doesn’t follow the usual ‘things to do’ or ‘cuisines to try’ posts (there are already hundreds of them out there). It simply takes you through my camera lens and shows you the best ways to make the most of your time at the places I saw, which happen to be the top places to see in Venice (or Venezia).
Truthfully, I only had 3 days to visit the city and chose the tourist door. Though the places at the other side of it were chaotic and packed, they were still radiating absolute beauty and admiration.
One thing you should consider if you’re a budget traveler: Staying in Venice is expensive. I’d recommend choosing neighboring islets like Lido (we stayed here), Murano or Burano which are more laidback, full of gorgeous, totally walkable roads full of color and vivacity and have an amazing history. Ideal to experience a more candid old Italy.
There are frequent ACTV water ferries into the main city from early morning to late evenings. You can check their timetables here.
AND — if this is your first time traveling to Venice from another country, I’d suggest coming on an airplane. You’ll feel awesome entering the city on an airport water ferry (as opposed to the usual metros or taxis).
Otherwise, because Venice is well-connected through every mode of transport, you can choose the one that works for you.
Now that you’re in the city, let’s start the tour of the floating city.
Word of caution
Venice is an intricate web of alleys and canals intertwining with one another without any reason or rhyme. You’d be wrong to think you can go from one place to another without getting lost; Google Maps won’t help.
But that’s the essence of indulging in ‘more living, less typing’.
Piazza San Marco
Arguably the most crowded place in Venice, this square is home to renaissance wonders of ancient Italy. The first thing you’ll notice is the wave of people, lined-up gondolas and local handcarts selling souvenirs.
Give it a few minutes, and you’ll come out of that layer to see extravagant architectures that are intricate yet subtle.
Good to know: There’s a high probability your belongings will be stolen in this neighborhood. Be extra alert and avoid running into people.
And whatever happens, don’t dine here if you don’t want to lose hundreds of Euros.
Another must-see attraction in Venice, Rialto Bridge is the oldest bridge on the Grand Canal, giving way to Rialto market, a community full of life and local gems. Your senses will have a field day with a number of fabulous restaurants, views and shopping stores.
As it’s another tourist hotspot, there’ll be scammers lurking around the bridge. Couples — be on the lookout for locals who hand you a rose. They start off by giving a rose for free and then follow you demanding money.
This picturesque canal is the quickest and best way to see major city attractions — including Gallerie dell’Accademia, Santa Maria della Salute, Doge’s Palace, and Ca’ d’Oro — while enjoying a relaxing water ride.
Many opt for €100 tourist gondolas, with their tempting look, but a short €2 Traghetto ride locals use will be more satisfying (that’s my guarantee), as two rowers take you from one side of the Grand Canal to another.
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Venice can take you by surprise but also grab you by the collar and turn you off. It’s understandable. There are a lot of people around you. Most of the times, you may (or may not, if you’re alert) fall victim to scams. Prices of everything are absolutely ridiculous the closer you get to the city center.
There are too many attractions to see, events to indulge in, foods to devour. Yet, there exists a space at the convergence of chaos and spirit that leaves you with endearing, unpredictable memories you won’t make anywhere else.
You owe it to yourself to explore the Venezia life, however short!
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Did you love your Venice trip? What made it special for you? Let me know in the comments below.