Venice is best known for its romantic atmosphere, created by the legendary canals and intimate, winding streets that make up the city. And while it’s certainly the ideal summer destination for couples, with no shortage of luxurious hotel rooms, candlelit restaurants and wine lists, it’s also perfect for friends, families and solo travelers. There’s so much to discover in Venice, from historic buildings to Italian theatres to speciality restaurants, it’s bound to be the European getaway of a lifetime for anyone who ventures there.
While there are obvious must-sees in Venice, including the Basilica in San Marco Square, the Rialto bridge and the gondolas, there is far more to this beautiful city than meets the eye. Whether you’ve been a hundred times before or are visiting for the first time, there are unknown treasures lurking down those narrow streets, just waiting to be discovered! So put away your phones and all of your expectations, and get ready for an adventure in Venice.
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Where To Stay
There are endless lists of hotels in Venice, which can make it pretty difficult to decide which is right for you. If you haven’t visited before, it’s a good idea to check out Trip Advisor for tips on finding a hotel that fits your specifications. If you’re looking for somewhere luxurious, don’t just pick the first posh place you come across, you might be being overcharged. Equally, if you’re looking for somewhere on a budget, you don’t necessarily need to choose somewhere away from the main city. So look around and follow the advice of others, it’s likely you’ll find somewhere that you never would have picked on your own!
The growing popularity of Airbnb has meant that more affordable and independent accommodation choices are becoming available for travelers. If you’d like to meet some locals and stay in a residential building rather than a hotel, searching for a place on Airbnb could help you to find your dream location! Just be sure to read the reviews and all of the information, and you’ll be on your way to the holiday of a lifetime in no time.
What To Do
Whatever you plan on doing in Venice, one thing is for certain: you will get lost. All of those winding streets and tiny alleyways were built in Medieval times, seemingly without the expertise of a town planner, and as such are the perfect place for getting lost and discover secret treasures. The key to enjoying your exploration of Venice is the let yourself be lost. Your phone won’t be able to get a decent GPS signal and maps will only get confusing, so put everything away and do some wandering, letting your adventurous spirit do the navigating. You never know what you might find!
Speaking of Medieval streets, it’s a good idea to do your research on Venice before you visit. By learning about the history of the city and architecture before you get there, you’ll be able to enjoy it a lot more and get a different perspective that is often missed by tourists. If you don’t fancy reading a travel guide, check out the BBC’s documentary ‘Francesco’s Venice’, which clearly explains the phases of Venice’s life. It was first built in the Dark Ages, rose to power and dominance with the Venetian Empire, then declined and reinvented itself as a decadent ‘party town’ in the 18th century. It’s a truly fascinating story, so don’t miss out!
Although visiting San Marco is a must, don’t spend too much time there. Take a few pictures, do the tours and then venture out to the quieter areas of San Polo, Dorsoduro and Santa Croce. This will provide you with a more authentic Venetian experience, as well as helping you to find some shops and cafes that aren’t plagued by tourist prices! If you’d like to experience gondolas at a cheaper price, several points along the Grand Canal have traghetto stops such as the one at Santa Maria del Giglio. They have gondolas operating as ferries where there is no convenient bridge, and it only costs €2 one-way.
What To Eat
Although it might be tempting, don’t waste your money on drinking or eating in the Piazza San Marco, there will be surcharges for everything from music playing nearby to moving tables inside when it rains! Instead, try to find smaller restaurants on quieter parts of the canal that don’t have special tourist menus. If you can, get a recommendation from your hotel or host so that you can eat where the locals eat – it’ll be cheaper and far more delicious!
Bacari, Venetian wine bars, serve the local take on tapas, cichetti. Cantina Do Mori in San Polo has reputedly been open since the mid-15th century, so try the tuna polpetti or tiny sandwiches known as tramezzini washed down with an ombra (a small glass of wine). Alternatively, cross over the Grand Canal to Dorsoduro. For some this represents the real local side of Venice, often with a more raucous atmosphere thanks to its proximity to the university. Order an Aperol spritz from one of the tables outside Caffè Rosso on Campo Santa Margherita, and enjoy the vibrant, authentic setting.
For something more casual, Pane Vino e San Daniele has tables spilling out onto the peaceful Campo dell’Angelo Raffaele in Dorsoduro. It specialises in wine, cheese and cured meats from the Friuli area, which is perfect for a light lunch. For more sublime small restaurants of the beaten track, take a boat over to Murano and stroll along the canals. You’ll soon find somewhere serving late lunches and spritzes in beautiful locally-made glasses. If you’re on the move, try one of the city’s sublime pastry shops for a coffee and a sugar boost, it’ll remind you that you’re in one of the best countries in the world for cuisine!
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