What you need to know before visiting Venice

What you need to know before visiting Venice

We’ve spent several days in Venice over the years and it really is like nowhere else we’ve have ever been!

Every time we visit, the atmosphere, tiny streets and ancient buildings seem to take me by surprise.

During our time there, we’ve learnt some valuable lessons that we wanted to share.

What you need to know before visiting Venice, Rialto

Be prepared to spend big if you fancy a drink or bite to eat in Piazza San Marco

Piazza San Marco is Venice’s most popular landmark and tourist attraction. Around its edges are the most beautiful and important buildings in Venice – including Basilica of San Marco and Doge’s Palace. As well as the buildings in square, you are treated to beautiful views of the surrounding open water, and the smaller surrounding islands in the distance.

Bars and cafes such as Caffe Florian Venezia line the edges of Piazza San Marco, where you can enjoy a snack and a drink in a truly beautiful and historical setting. Watch out though! You pay for the location. A small coffee in one of the bars in Piazza San Marco will likely set you back around 12 Euros, with alcohol being even more expensive!

What you need to know before visiting Venice, Piazza San Marco

If you want a snack or are feeling thirsty, we’d suggest moving away from the crowds to find a coffee shop or bar on a side street after you’ve had your fill wandering around the Piazza. We got stung for about 20 Euros for a couple of bottles of beer once, so have learnt this lesson the hard way! A café only a couple of minutes’ walk away will offer refreshments at much more reasonable prices. It’ll be calmer too, away from the hustle and bustle of the tour groups.

Head to the student area for a laid back bohemian vibe, cheap drinks and great food

Venice can be expensive, as Piazza San Marco proves only too well. For a change of pace and somewhere to spend a cheap afternoon or evening eating and drinking, head to the student area, near the University. We stumbled across Campo Santa Margherita one evening trying to find our way around the city and spent a great night there.

The large square is close to the University and is lined with bars and restaurants. They’re nothing fancy – rustic décor and basic seating outside – but the square has a really laid back feel that is quite different than many of the high energy, sometimes frantic tourist traps elsewhere in the city.

Here you can grab a good glass of wine for around 2 Euros, and sit amongst Venetians rather than tourists as they chill out in the evening sun.

Skip dinner, eat cicchetti

Venice isn’t all about fine dining and expensive meals. Bacari are traditional wine bars that serve cicchetti – Venetian tapas – that you eat standing up at the bar.

We found a tiny bar – Bacereto Da Lele – close to the main bus stop where visitors from outside the city disembark. The bar’s too small to stand and drink inside, so people spill out on surrounding steps and canal side spots to enjoy their food and drink.

A glass of wine or prosecco costs around 1.50 Euros and they sell delicious fresh bread rolls with cured meats and cheeses for about another Euro each. You can eat and drink very well there for as little as 10 Euros – try it for dinner one day if you don’t fancy settling down for a formal, conventional meal.

What you need to know before visiting Venice,
This place gets busy and is a favourite with locals, but that all adds to the atmosphere!

Get lost

No matter how hard you try, you will get lost in Venice. Try to embrace it and give yourself up to the maze like streets and walkways – you’ll often discover things by accident you would never have found otherwise.

Using a map is sometimes futile too, as some streets aren’t well signposted, and with the tiny streets funnelling thousands of tourists through each day, stopping to check a map is a luxury you may not have! You sometimes have to keep walking as you’re swept along with the throngs, especially in the most popular areas.

Remember, Venice is an island (or an island of mini islands), so you won’t be able to go miles out of your way. Try to leave the map at the hotel for at least an afternoon, and just stroll around, admire the beauty of the buildings and get lost in the romantic atmosphere of the city.

What you need to know before visiting Venice,

Get out of Venice

There are several islands that surround Venice that are well worth an afternoon trip. Most are easily accessible via the Vaparetto (water bus).

We visited Lido during our time in Venice, an 11-kilometre long sandbar home to about 20,000 residents. Lido hosts the Venice Film Festival every September.

A boat runs to Lido from the Vaparetto stop next to Piazza San Marco every 10 minutes or so and it only takes about 15 minutes to reach the sandbar – single tickets are 6.50 Euros.

Lido has a huge sandy beach that we enjoyed an afternoon on – quite different to the ancient buildings of Venice! It was a total change of scene and we felt like we were on a beach holiday for a few hours.

What you need to know before visiting Venice, Lido
Others islands you can visit to escape the city for a few hours include Murano, famous for its glass making and Burano – both easily accessible by Vaparetto.

Enjoy Venice!