It’s difficult to talk about Venice without sounding overly sentimental, so we aren’t going to try. Perhaps it’s the way the city balances itself so delicately at the natural crossroads of land and water; how it incorporates the sea into every quotidian motion and is unabashed about how precarious an endeavor that can be.
The ebb and flow of the tides tugs on your heartstrings here, and the way the sunlight dances on the canals throughout the day has inspired great art in its myriad forms for centuries. For anyone looking to see great architecture, meet fascinating people, and rethink humanity’s relationship to the natural world (told you we’d be getting sentimental), a trip to Venice is a must.
Food-loving adventurers, fans of art, architecture, and design, couples, anyone who thinks the perfect day traveling is one spent with no real plan but to wander and explore
Prices in Venice are not dissimilar to those in Rome; that is to say, it’s certainly on the higher end of European cities, but that’s only because there’s so much to see and do that a day out on the town will involve lots of stops at museums, cafes, and shops. For accommodations, $150/night is plenty for a boutique hotel or vacation rental. As for food, it’s not that everything costs a lot, it’s that you’ll want to eat a lot! Give yourself at least $50 to spend on meals, or as much as $150 (excluding drinks) for true gourmands.
Like in Rome, and much of Italy, travelers to Venice can expect a largely safe, nonthreatening city where violent crime is rare and LGBTQIA+ individuals will experience little to no animosity. Mainly, what you’ve heard before about Italy is true in this regard: Pickpocketing is not infrequent, and men can be relatively aggressive when it comes to their interactions with women on the street (this is cultural and, while perhaps unwelcome, not violent). Black travelers often report feeling stared at, but not unsafe.
Summer in Venice can be hot and sticky, with average temperatures in the 80s. Winter rarely gets cold enough to snow (typical temps are in the 40s) but it can be rainy and grey and from October to January, there’s risk of flooding, a phenomenon known as the acqua alta, or high water.
The summer is by far the most popular time to visit and when cruise ships dock, the crowds can overwhelm the city. To enjoy pleasant weather, April, May, and September are good bets. Despite potential floods and chilly days, winter can also be a lovely time for those who want to see a sleepier side of the city.
Skip the gondola ride. For many it’s a must do, and it is romantic, but if it’s getting on the water you’re after, there are other ways, from traghetto rides (there are the gondola-like boats that ferry people across the Grand Canal for just a few euros) to kayaking.
Avoid the Grand Canal and St. Mark’s for meals. While restaurants along the canals have lovely views, they also have high prices. Wandering just a few streets away from tourist spots can save you a lot of money.
Stay in Mestre. Located on the mainland, Mestre is only a 12 minute train ride from Venice, and hotels here can be much cheaper. Yes, you’ll give up the chance to see Venice late at night or early in the morning after all the crowds have gone, but if the hotels in Venice are giving you sticker shock, the savings may be worth it.
Venice has garnered a confounding reputation as being one of the worst cities in Italy to find a good meal. Don’t believe everything you read! While it isn’t quite as straightforward a hunt for the best Italian food as it is in Naples, Florence, or Rome, Venice is full of delicious, beautiful things to eat and drink. Just keep in mind that if a place looks touristy from the outside, it probably is.
Accommodation in Venice doesn’t come cheap, with few good options under the $100 mark. If you’re looking for luxury, the sky's the limit, though you can usually find something nice under $200 per night. Vacation rentals can be an excellent value, especially for families, with lots of canal-view 3-4 bedroom homes available for $300-$400 per night.
Everything in Venice is pretty darn charming, so picking where to stay doesn’t involve many tradeoffs in terms of beauty. Dorsoduro is a terrific neighborhood for anyone looking for a vibrant part of town that has a local feel but is still conveniently located (this is also where the nightlife hub can be found). To be as close to the action as possible, San Marco and San Polo are the clear favorites – but both certainly mean more crowded streets and many more tourists. Santa Croce, meanwhile, is something of a happy medium: It’s easy to reach the city’s attractions from here, as public transit is plentiful, yet it’s less crowded and still plenty photogenic.
The best way to get around Venice is by gondola, of course. Just kidding! The most common form of transit in the city is one’s own two feet. The water bus (or vaporetto) is also a great option, and it runs 24 hours a day. The water taxi, meanwhile, is a good option for large groups but typically not the preferred mode of transportation for locals as it’s quite pricey.
Venice is primarily served by Venice Marco Polo Airport (VCE), which sits on the mainland less than five miles from the islands. Though the airport is relatively small, it's Italy's fourth-busiest and both easyJet and Volotea have their bases at the Venice airport. Treviso Airport (TSF) is a little under 20 miles from Venice, though it's sometimes listed as "Venice–Treviso Airport." Treviso's airport is even smaller, with flights on only three airlines—including Ryanair and Wizz Air.
You can get from VCE onto the Venetian islands via the one road that connects the islands to the mainland, or you can take a boat across the lagoon. Buses take 20-30 minutes and cost around €8 for a one-way trip (round-trip tickets are about €15). A public transit boats, called a vaporetto, cost €7.50 and the trip takes at least 30 minutes (and can take more than an hour, depending on where you're disembarking in Venice and how many stops there are along the way). Private water taxis are also available, and though they're faster than a vaporetto they can also set you back €100-150.
Take a trip to one of the many nearby islands. Burano is full of colorful buildings and offers a quaint atmosphere. Murano is famous for its glass-blowing factories, which you can visit to watch demonstrations, shop, and even take a class. San Giorgio Maggiore is where you’ll find the eponymous 16th-century church; Torcello is where you can glimpse the famed Venetian-Byzantine mosaics at the Torcello Cathedral.
Make your way to Verona (an hour away via train), an absolute must for Shakespeare fans, and for anybody on a romantic getaway (or anyone looking to fall in love with Italy). It’s also incredibly photogenic and boasts some of the best wine in the region.
Hop aboard a ferry to visit Chioggia (a 2.25-hour journey altogether), a small fishing town where the seafood is divine.
Take a 90-minute train and a day to explore beautiful Lake Garda, the largest lake in Italy. Bardolino and Peschiera del Garda are two lakeside areas in close range to Venice, known for wineries and seafood, respectively.
Rent a car and drive 1 hour north to the Grotte del Caglieron, coves where you’ll find beautiful lagoons and waterfalls. You won’t be able to swim in the lagoons, but you will be able to witness the Cheese Cave (it’s what it sounds like, and yes, you can eat it).
Take a 1.5-hour train ride west for a few days in Bologna, a town that can be explored on bicycles, to try its excellent cuisine.
Board a 3-hour ferry to visit Rovinj, in Croatia, a lovely little town that makes for a perfect day trip, but an even better vacation extension. Consider road-tripping down the coast of Croatia from Rovinj (definitely go to Split) after your visit and then flying out of Dubrovnik.
Explore the exquisite city of Florence, known for its culinary scene and a hot spot for art lovers.
Rent a car and make your way to the Dolomites, 2.5 hours north of Venice, an incredible mountain range known for its skiing in the winter and its hiking, mountain biking, and paragliding in the warmer months.
Shakespeare set both “The Merchant of Venice” and “Othello” in Venice, as did Donna Leon with her series of detective novels. And you can read the true story of the fire that destroyed Venice’s opera house in 1996 (the third time that the aptly named La Fenice, or “The Phoenix,” has burned down) in John Berendt’s The City of Falling Angels.
Venice has also played many roles on the silver screen, including in The Italian Job, which replaces the usual action thriller car chase with a boat chase through the canals. Fellini’s 1976 film, Casanova, was not only filmed in Venice, its protagonist was one of the city’s most famous sons—18th-century writer and infamous womanizer, Giacomo Casanova.