I’ve been to Venice a couple of times – once during the winter (I was thoroughly underwhelmed) and a few years later during the summertime when I fell head over heels for the Italian city of romance. So what made my first trip a failure and the second a resounding success? I’m not exactly sure, but I do know that now I’ve found my love for Venice…it’s only right to share it. Read on for my top tips on what to see, do and enjoy on a Venetian escape!
My number one tip for enjoying Venice is to stay away from the main island of Venizia. My friend and I booked a hotel at Lido and this is the single best thing we did. Yes it does take a little longer to get the Vaporetto to see San Marco’s BUT you’re within walking distance to the beach, there is an array of (much cheaper) gelato shops and local restaurants just a hop, skip and a jump from your hotel and you’re not constantly having to elbow your way past fellow tourists.
So first up, ‘getting lost’ amongst the canals should be number one on your list of things to do in Venice but if you’re looking for a more definitive checklist these are the must see/do when in Venice:
- San Marco’s Basilica and Square – a truly beautiful sight, especially in the afternoons. I had to physically pinch myself when wandering around this square to remind myself it was all real. You are likely to see tourists feeding and posting #selfies with pigeons here but can I just say… bird lice and eew! – avoid the birds if you can and especially don’t encourage them!
- The Rialto Bridge is another gorgeous landmark of Venice and it also offers the best view of the famous Grand Canal. Spend some time here watching the world go by then hop on a Vaporetto to cruise around the canals. Avoid the markets near Rialto unless you’re happy to pay an inflated price.
- Doge’s Palace and The Bridge of Sighs are like nothing you have, or will ever see again. Doge’s Palace is the very literally, the symbol of Venice and a terrific example of italian gothic architecture.
- Striped shirt, brimmed hat, and an overly exaggerated italian accent are all fantastic features of the most expensive and memorable mode of Italian transportation – the Gondala ride. Not particularly romantic these days in my personal opinion but still a good one to tick off the ol’ bucket list.
- While in Venice, you should make the time to visit both Murano (traditionally known as the ‘Glass Island’ due to the local glass blowing tradition) and Burano – the ‘Lace Island’ and former fishing village with rows of colourfully painted homed. Burano is a picturesque place to walk around and one of the loveliest places I’ve ever visited. You can do tours to Murano and Burano but we caught local transportation and explored on our own as we didn’t want to be restricted with time.
- You’re in Italy so you’re be crazy not to eat all the food. I have no idea where we ate in Venice but I do know that we avoided anywhere even remotely close to the main tourist attractions, because of our backpacker budgets. During our time there, we sampled a range of culinary delights including fresh pasta, risotto, gelato and tiramisu – all consumed in lively cafes and dimly lit restaurants, washed down with Prosecco or italian coffee and every last sip or bite were thoroughly enjoyed. The way it should be in Venizia.
- We visited the Venice Biennale whilst in Venice and it was an absolute highlight of our stay. It’s not for everyone, and you have to be lucky to catch it, but if it’s on while you’re visiting and you like art, do not miss it. It really was a once in a lifetime experience for us both.
I fully expect that if you’re visiting Venice, you’ll also potentially be travelling throughout Italy so here’s one more tip for you. When using the Italian rail system, try to reserve your seats in advance if you can. We ended up sitting on the floor for one four hour journey between towns and whilst it added to our backpacking experience it’s certainly not for everyone.