Your guide to the wonders of Venice
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September 21, 2022 | View OnlineSign Up

There aren’t many ways to describe Venice without resorting to cliche.

Soaked in history and impossibly beautiful, the Floating City is an icon. From the grandeur of Piazza San Marco to its tangle of ethereal canals, it’s hard not to be swept away by the romanticism of it all. Churches, museums, and incomparable architecture punctuate every turn, while the only thing richer than its culture is the risotto.

And although the much-documented increase in cost, crowds, and cruise ships may cast an intimidating shadow across the lagoon, it’s still possible for the curious wanderer to find some solace among the Venetian backstreets. 

Grab an Aperol and take it slow.

Benvenuti a Venezia


Venice doesn’t really float

While its nickname might be “the Floating City,” it should really be called the Stilted City.” 

Venice and its centuries-old buildings are perched on more than ten million tree trunks. These stilts function as the city’s foundations and prevent it from sinking into the marshy land beneath. They were drilled down about 25 meters into a layer of clay under the marsh. Keep in mind this ingenious way of building began in the 5th Century AD, with most of the building happening in the 13th and 18th centuries.

Of course, it’s common knowledge that Venice is slowly sinking and even tilts slightly to the east. It’s one of the many reasons that tourists and cruise ships are now controlled so heavily in the city.


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It’s very crowded and very expensive

Venice is one of the most visited cities in the world, and for good reason. But with that comes increased prices and brutal crowds. Do your best to accept that it’s going to be busy, and set aside enough funds to stay for a few days. This will give you the flexibility of seeing things earlier in the morning or later in the evening after day-trippers leave. For a taster of the cost, a gondola ride could set you back well over $100 for half an hour.

Avoid eating around the tourist center wherever possible (there are exceptions). The meals are going to be priced sky-high and cooked at rock-bottom quality. Patience, deep pockets, and some good walking shoes will be your friend. And if you can, avoid weekends.

You’re going to need a reservation

And we’re not talking about dinner. In an attempt to curb some of the over-tourism in Venice, government officials have brought in a new system for day-trippers to the city. From January 2023, day-trippers will be required to make reservations for the day of their trip and pay a fee.

The cost will vary depending on the time of year, time of day, and how far in advance they pay. The max is only around $10, but those caught without paying could be fined as much as $300. If you’re staying overnight, there’s no need to pay or reserve a spot.

Brace yourself for floods

If you visit between the months of October and January, it’s not uncommon for high tides to combine with the stronger winds and flood parts of the city. This phenomenon is called “Acqua Alta,” or high water.

When this happens, a siren will sound a few hours before the peak, and local authorities will place raised walking platforms around the flooded area. It’s nothing to be worried about and shouldn’t impact your stay much. If you have space in your suitcase, it might be worth throwing in a pair of rainboots just in case.


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Take a gondola ride

What else could be at the top of the list? It doesn’t matter if it’s the ‘touristy’ thing to do. Taking a gondola ride through the canals of Venice is one of the most iconic things to do in the city. The best views are from the water, and it’s impossible to feel the town in a better way.

Once used as the main form of transport by wealthy Venetians, all gondolas today are for tourist use only. There are only four hundred of them left in the city, so count it as a small privilege, even if it is one of the biggest tourist draws in the world.

They are expensive, but you can at least rest easy knowing that the prices are set at a standard price across the city. Gondoliers won’t negotiate with you as they’re not allowed to change the price. Currently, it costs 80 euros for a private 30-minute tour, with every extra twenty minutes priced at 40 euros. An evening ride is 120 euros for the same length.

If you’re not fussed or don’t think it's worth it but still want some views from the water, pay for a water bus day ticket. Not only will you get to see the sights from the canals, but you’ll also have the fastest mode of transport at your disposal whenever you need it.

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Visit Piazza San Marco (St Marks Square)

No trip to Venice is complete without a visit to one of the most famous squares in the world - Piazza San Marco or St Marks Square. It’s easily one of the most remarkable architectural sites in the world; from the majesty of the basilica to the stunning Torre dell Orologio Clock Tower, there’s a lot to see.

St Mark’s Basilica should be the main stop here. Set aside around two hours to explore the thousand-year-old church and try to get there early. It’s highly recommended to book in advance to skip some of the lines. Inside you’ll find an astonishingly beautiful collection of treasures from the Byzantine era and beyond. History buff or not, it’s still worth a look. The view from the terrace is worth the entrance alone.

The nearby Doge’s Palace is the perfect place to learn about the Venetian Empire. Once home to Venice’s Doges, the highest political position in the republic, the sprawling Gothic building was at the heart of Venice’s daily life for centuries until Napoleon’s troops took the city. It’s an excellent visit and a wonderful opportunity to learn about the immense impact Venice had on the world.

Of course, one of the joys of St Mark’s Square is enjoying the scenery itself. That’s fine and well, but make sure you don’t sit anywhere you’re not supposed to, and definitely don’t eat on the steps of any buildings - you can expect a steep fine.

Explore some of the other islands

Venice is built on 120 little islands, and not all of them are close to the central tourist area surrounding St Marks. Some require a day trip but can offer a far more authentic experience of life in Venice, far from the chaotic crowds.

Burano is a popular choice. Forty minutes via the Vaporetto ferry, the fishing town is as picturesque as they come. Colorful buildings line the canals, and with only 2000 residents and a handful of tourists every day, you can enjoy a far quieter experience. Highlights include the leaning bell tower and the Museo del Merletto, where tourists can learn about the lace industry, which was pivotal on the island.

Murano could be even prettier than Burano but does come with more crowds. It’s not as far from the old city and has its own Grand Canal as well as the same colorful houses. It’s still a more intimate place than the traditional areas and is home to a stunning basilica and a glass-blowing industry - perfect for a unique souvenir.


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In the thick of it all

Staying in Venice is the key to having a great visit. A day trip is fast and hectic, and you’ll be herded around like a sheep all day. Staying a few days lets you slow down, be strategic, and take advantage of the less busy early mornings and evenings.

There are a number of stunning accommodations, from quaint tucked-away gems to full-on luxurious hotels. And while you can’t expect the lowest prices, there are some fair rates out there. Whatever you choose, make it central.

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Our Top Pick: Palazzo Morosini Degli Spezieri

Venice, Italy
$$$ | See inside

A renovated spice market and palace are the setting for this luxurious but ever-so understated hotel.There’s only nine apartments and they’re all uniquely designed with modern flair, and even come with a washer and dryer for longer stays.

The beauty of this stay comes in the location. Nestled in a residential area but easy walking distance to all of Venice’s greatest sites, you really couldn’t do better. And it's phenomenal value to boot.

Book Your Stay

Other Top Picks


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Choose wisely

As the home of one of the greatest maritime empires in history, it shouldn’t be a surprise that seafood rules supreme in Venice. You’ll find an array of different dishes, from risottos to bite-sized meals called Cicchetti.

The greatest barrier to your enjoyment is finding the best versions of these. The tourist district is rife with low-quality restaurants charging crazy sums of money for mediocre food. Get away from the crowds, ask around, and do some research to ensure you find the best of this wonderful culinary tradition.

Our Top Pick: Trattoria Al Gatto Nero

Venice, Italy
$$$$$ Menu

Founded in 1965, the family run business pairs Chef Ruggero Bovo with his son Massmiliano who together offer locally-sourced fresh seafood cooked to the highest quality. You’ll have to head to Burano to grab a table, but it’s more than worth the journey.

A stellar wine list compliments a wide selection of food, but the best idea is to order the tasting menu where you’ll be walked through a smaller portion of five or seven of the restaurant’s signature dishes like risotto, scampi, grilled cuttlefish and more.

Reserve a table

The Best of the Rest


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