Have you been to the most romantic city in the world? Venice, the Italian city of canals, bridges, and delightfully crumbling buildings is a must for any couple. Venice vacations will be full of charm, delicious cuisine, and street after street that feels more like a movie set than reality.
Venice travel may have a reputation for being expensive, but a savvy traveler will know that any city can be seen affordably. This travel guide will show you what to see and do to stick to a budget, and let VacationRentals.com reveal the apartment that can make your Venetian dreams a reality.
Get Lost in Narrow Streets
One of the pleasures of vacations in Venice is wandering aimlessly. It is possible to walk from one end of the city to the other in an hour, so getting lost is never too much of a problem. Winding pathways, quaint bridges, and small squares are all a part of the other-worldly charm of Venice. Pack your walking shoes and get ready to see some of Italy’s most famous sites.
Following the signs to Piazza San Marco, it is hard to believe that the narrow pathways will open up to one of the most stunning squares in all of Europe. And then it does; you emerge from the shade of narrow alleyways to the vast space of the piazza and in front of you is Basilica San Marco and a tall bell tower. Continue your exploration of Venice on foot by crossing the Rialto Bridge, browsing the Rialto Fish Market, and sipping a glass of prossecco in Piazza Santa Margherita.
Grab a Bird’s Eye View
Venice travel wouldn’t be complete without seeing what the city of canals looks like from above. The most popular way to see this view is from the top of the bell tower in Piazza San Marco. For approximately 8 euros, you can take an elevator to the top of the bell tower, high above the piazza, the basilica, and all surrounding buildings. From this view, the red roofs of Venice and the lagoon beyond are guaranteed to take your breath away.
Another option for a bird’s eye view of Venice is from the bell tower of San Giorgio Maggiore. You’ll have to hop aboard the vaporetto, or water bus, to reach this church but, for a cheaper fare of 3 euros, you can take the elevator to the top of this bell tower looking back across the water at Piazza San Marco. The vast beauty of Venice will surround you on all sides from this perch.
Take to the Water
Venice vacations must include a boat ride. Whether you choose to purchase a pass for the vaporetto and sail down the Grand Canal or splurge on one of the city’s famous gondolas, it is imperative to see the sinking city from the seat of a boat. The vaporetto is the less expensive, but also less romantic option. Expect to pay at least 100 euros for a private gondola, but many visitors say this price is worth it for the unique experience.
Another way to take to the water, although briefly, is the traghetto. These gondolas cross the grand canal for a fee of 50 cents. Climb aboard and watch the skilled gondolier cross the canal swiftly, often while smoking a cigarette. However you see the water during your trip, don’t miss this essential view of Venice.
While vacations in Venice are full of romance, they can also be great fun for families. The small size of the city makes it great for families to go for walks and explore together. Visit the archeology museum, enjoy a cone of famous gelato from Nico, explore the Naval Museum, or see the masterpieces at Galleria dell’Accademia.
Kids will also love the markets. Arrive early at the Rialto Fish market to see the majority of the action. If you’re looking for souvenirs, the area around the Rialto Bridge has many options. Because of the festival Carnival, Venice also has many beautiful hand-painted masks and costumes. Let your kids pick out their next Halloween costume no matter what time of year you plan Venice vacations!
If you plan on visiting one museum during Venice vacations, it should be the Peggy Guggenheim Museum. The heiress purchased a beautiful palazzo and filled it with masterpieces of Modern Art. After her death, the museum opened to the public, and today visitors can see works by Jackson Pollock, Max Ernst, Picasso, and Kandinsky.
Entire vacations in Venice could be spent exploring the city’s palaces. If you must choose one, visit Ca’d’Oro. This Byzantine Palace on the Grand Canal is open to visitors and hosts an impressive art collection. Another interesting attraction is Madonna Dell’Orto, often considered the most beautiful Gothic Church in Venice. Don’t miss seeing La Fenice, the opera house, where Rigoletto and La Traviata both premiered.
If you want to plan Venice vacations around a festival, visit during Carnival. This annual festival takes place during the two weeks before Ash Wednesday. The mysterious city becomes even more exciting as locals wear elaborate masks and capes during the celebrations.
Shop for Chic
During vacations in Venice you will find an incredible variety of shops. From delicate Murano glass to the top Italian designers to antiques, Venice truly has it all. There are many artisans still practicing their craft in Venice, so whether you pick up a hand-painted paper-mâché mask or a leather-bound journal, you will be supporting local craftsmen.
For designer labels take a stroll down Calle Larga XXII. You will find every major designer from Valentino to Armani to Dolce & Gabbana. The streets directly around Piazza San Marco are also home to upscale shops. Whether you’re shopping for clothes, lace, glass, or crafts you will find something tempting around most corners in Venice.
Dine in Style
During Venice travel make the time to sit down to lengthy meals. Indulge in a long lunch and go out to dinner later in the evening. Like any city, Venice is full of restaurants that are amazing and some that are disappointing. To avoid the disappointing ones, stay away from options that are next to main tourist attractions or along the Grand Canal. These will often be expensive and of lesser quality.
One of the most famous places to eat in Venice is Harry’s Bar. Home of the peach bellini, Harry’s also serves a variety of things to eat. For the most famous gelato in town, head to Nico and choose from a wide variety of flavors. Don’t miss the opportunity to try local fresh fish and traditional Venetian dishes such as risotto or tiramisu.
There is a time of year for Venice travel for every type of traveler. Many visitors envision Venice in the summer, but the truth is July and August aren’t the most popular times of the year to visit. Heat can be extreme during these months and many local people leave the city to spend the summer at nearby beaches. The best time of year to visit Venice is in the spring months of April, May, and June and during the fall months of September and October. Generally, weather is mild throughout the winter, so if you want the city of Venice to yourself, travel during the winter and just bring a warm jacket.
You won’t need much during vacations in Venice, but most importantly, remember a comfortable pair of shoes for walking. Remember your digital camera, battery charger, and voltage adaptor if you plan on charging any electronics. A small umbrella might come in handy in Venice as well. Restaurants aren’t too fancy, but feel free to bring a few nicer outfits for nights on the town.
During Venice travel you will discover that local services keep very regular hours. Don’t expect anything to open too early or stay open into the evening. ATMs are widely available in Venice and local transportation is very quick and efficient. The vaporetto can be quite expensive, but purchasing a multi-day pass makes it worth your investment.
A few words of Italian will go a long way in Venice. Many people do speak English, but greeting waiters in Italian might just earn you a valuable recommendation about what to eat!
The best time to see the Rialto Fish Market is early in the morning. By around 12 noon the whole affair is being closed down for the day, so be sure to wake early one day and see this attraction at its finest.
Flights arrive to Venice Marco Polo Airport. From the airport you can take a private water taxi into Venice (a very expensive option) or hop on the bus which will bring you to the nearest vaporetto stop. If you are arriving in Venice from other parts of Italy and Europe, the train station is right in the center of the action. You can climb aboard the vaporetto right outside of the train station and reach almost any destination in the city easily.
Venice travel can be like taking a step back in time. Restaurants and bakeries have been unchanged for generations and homes stay within families. For a bit of this local experience, choose vacation rentals over impersonal hotels. You can bring back a piece of fish from the Rialto Fish Market and play out your Italian fantasy. A vacation rental will also help you to discover corners of Venice you might not have seen otherwise!
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