Some people complain that Venice is a tourist trap. They say it is expensive, crowded, and even dirty. With these negative comments online, you are probably wondering if Venice is worth visiting? The short answer is yes because there is no place like it.
Venice is expensive but there are ways to save money. Don’t let it keep you from visiting one of my favorite places on the planet. If you’re not convinced, I will explain why you need to go to Venice and share some tips for your trip.
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8 Reasons to Visit Venice
If you haven’t visited Venice yet, it needs to be on your bucket list. The first time I visited, I fell in love with the city. There is definitely something magical about it. Here are a few reasons why you should go to Venice.
#1 It’s Unique
While there are plenty of other cities that have canals, there is no place like Venice. The gondolas, churches, bridges, architecture, history, and atmosphere make it special. When I’m there, I feel like I am in a place right out of a storybook.
The Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas does a reasonable job of capturing some of its essence, but it doesn’t feel the same. Whenever I am at the Venetian, it just makes me want to go back to Venice more.
Some people call Amsterdam the Venice of the North and there are many other cities with Venice related nicknames. It is not the same. No place I have been has the atmosphere that Venice does.
#2 It’s Romantic
I don’t think there is a more romantic city than Venice, only Paris comes close. The first time I went to Venice many years ago, I was single and on a group trip. While I still fell in love with the city, I knew I needed to come back with that special someone.
In 2019, we celebrated our 2nd wedding anniversary in Venice and had a fantastic time. It’s the perfect place for a couples getaway. You can ride in one of the iconic Venetian gondolas, have a indulgent meal, or explore some of the quieter areas. There are plenty of romantic things to do in Venice. Love seems to be in the air as you explore this one of a kind city.
#3 The Architecture
The mix of architectural styles in Venice works. It’s different from what you would see in other cities because since most visitors would arrive by boat, the sides of buildings facing the canals were given the special features while other sides would be more modest. You will find four main architectural genres when you explore the different neighborhoods:
- Byzantine: Look for the rounded archways on some of the oldest private palaces in Venice from the 13th century.
- Gothic: The Doge’s Palace, with its ogee (pointed) arches and decorative windows, is one of most famous examples of this style.
- Renaissance: A large semi-circle arch with narrower side entrances was typical during this period. You might also see Coronthian columns, round arch windows, and sculptures.
- Baroque: During the 17th century, buildings had lush ornamentation like garlands, cherubs, roses, masks, and scrolls on the facades. Also look for groups of columns that provide an interesting shadow effect.
When you are sightseeing in Venice, take note of all the intricate details inside the buildings. You will need to take a close look as some of the features are actually painted on. Don’t forget to look up or you will miss some awe-inspiring paintings on the ceilings.
#4 The Art
Art lovers will be in heaven in Venice. There are several museums showcasing all types of art. Museo Civico Correr, Ca’Rezzonico, and Galleria dell’Accademia focus on works from the 14th to 18th centuries. If you are interested in more modern art, there is the Peggy Guggenheim Collection.
The museums are not the only places to see art in Venice. Inside many of the buildings you will find large paintings similar to those you find in a top museum. You won’t want to miss the Doge’s Palace. From the bold floors, to the classical sculptures, to the elaborately painted ceilings, that whole place is a work of art.
Glass and lace making is truly an art form in Venice. I enjoyed admiring the pieces through the windows but you can also visit the Glass Museum or Lace Museum to learn more. Keep in mind these creations are not cheap. If you find a piece that is then it is probably not authentic.
The glass blowing industry moved from Venice to the island of Murano when it was decided there was a serious fire risk. When you visit Murano, you can watch the artisans at work. They turn a plain piece of glass into a colorful masterpiece with just a few tools. It is truly mesmerizing.
In Burano, women started making lace with complex patterns in their homes back in the 16th-century. Other European countries could not mimic these designs. Today, lace production in Burano is still a cherished, traditional handmade art form.
#5 The Colors
Venice is a colorful city and I think that is one of the reasons it feels like such a fairy-tale destination. The iconic reddish terracotta roofs contrast against the blue-green (or sometimes brownish) water. All the shops have the elaborate Venetian masks (called volto) and striking Venetian glass pieces.
The most colorful area is definitely Burano. It’s a small island in the lagoon that is an instagrammers dream because the houses are painted different bright colors. There are various theories about why Burano is so colorful, but most think it was to make it easier for fisherman to find their homes.
It’s easy to get to Burano on the vaporetto or you could book a tour. We did our own independent excursion to both Burano and Murano.
#6 The Views
Venice is the type of place that almost doesn’t look real when you walk around and when you take in a view of the city it looks like a painting. One of the most iconic places to see the exquisite views is St. Mark’s Tower (Campanile di San Marco in Italian). It’s popular so you will want to plan ahead. Alternatively, try San Giorgio Maggiore across the lagoon. It may not be as tall, but it’s less crowded and you get a better angle to see St. Mark’s Square and the Doge’s Palace.
You don’t have to go up a tower to get some of the best views of Venice. One of my favorite scenes is looking out over the Grand Canal from the Rialto Bridge. You can also find a postcard perfect view from the Ponte della Accademia. Another option is the T Fondacco Rooftop Terrace which you can enjoy for free if you book online in advance.
# 7 The History
The history of Venice is complex. For times, Venice was independent, but it has also been part of the Byzantine Empire, France, Austria, and now Italy. It’s been home to artists, writers, scientists, fisherman, and more. All these influences have helped shape Venice into the city it is today.
Originally back in the 6th century, Venice was a place for refugees but in time it turned into one of the greatest trading powers in European history because it was at the end of the Silk Road trade route. Things changed in the 17th and 18th centuries when other powers (i.e British and Dutch) secured Atlantic and African trade routes. Venice continues to face challenges with flooding and conserving the historic city.
One of the best places to learn about Venice’s history is the Doge’s Palace. In addition to being a residence for the Doge (chief magistrate), the palace housed political institutions of the Republic of Venice until 1797. The iconic Bridge of Sighs (Ponte dei Sospiri in Italian) connects the palace to what was once a prison. It got its name from prisoners sighing after looking through the window of the bridge at what may have been their last view of the outside world.
Side Note: The Bridge of Sighs in Venice does not look anything like the Bridge of Sighs in Cambridge or Oxford.
#8 The Festivals
Even when there is nothing special going on, Venice has a lot to offer. There are a few times every year where there are some bucket-list-worthy festivals that take place. While I haven’t been able to attend any in person yet, I am hoping to one day make it to Venice for:
- Carnival – It’s Italy’s Mardi Gras, which starts a couple of weeks before Fat (Shrove) Tuesday. You’ll see people everywhere in elaborate masks and costumes. Read more about it here.
- Venice International Film Festival – This festival known as La Biennale di Venezia in Italian starts in early September at Venice Lido. It is the oldest film festival in Italy and has been running for more than 75 years. Top filmmakers compete for the coveted Golden Lion award. Read about the event’s history here.
- Regata Storica – The first Sunday of September there is an elaborate rowing race full of pagentry on the Venetian lagoon. Read more about the tradition here.
How to Save Money in Venice
Venice is one of the more expensive cities to visit in Europe. I was especially surprised with the prices for hotels near St. Mark’s Square. I did some more digging and was able to find a few ways to save money.
Find Accomodation on Nearby Islands
You can find more affordable accommodation on some of the nearby islands like Lido or Murano and it’s only a 15-20 minutes boat ride to St. Mark’s Square. We stayed on Lido which was fine, but next time I think I will try Murano. Check out the hotels in Murano here.
There are also some reasonable options on Airbnb but they book up quickly so plan ahead. See what is available on Airbnb in Venice here.
Use Public Transportation
We also saved money by buying passes for the Vaporetto (water bus). The longer you buy the pass for, the cheaper the per day cost will be. There is a machine where you can buy it at the airport. Just know that this pass does not include transportation from the airport.
This method of public transportation was efficient, scenic, and fun. We did go the wrong way once, but easily got back on track. Some people use the Vaporetto as a cheaper alternative to a boat tour down the Grand Canal.
Get an Attraction Pass
There are also several attraction passes that can help you save money sightseeing in Venice. We used the Venice museum pass, but there is also the St. Mark’s City Pass, Venice City Pass, and the Venezia Unica Card.
We chose the museum card because we had limited time in Venice and wanted to focus on seeing the Doge’s Palace and a few museums. If you are staying longer one of the other cards with more attractions and public transportation included might be best.
Visit Some Free Attractions
Similar to other cities, there are some free attractions that you should see. You don’t have to spend money on these special experiences:
- Go inside some of the churches. San Zaccaria is one that doesn’t charge admission. Also, the main part of St. Mark’s Basilica is also free, although you will have to wait in line to get in (or get a skip the line ticket). We waited in line and those embellished mosaics are worth the wait.
- Check out the markets. Go to see the Rialto Bridge in the morning and you will find the bustling Rialto Market nearby. Check out the local specialties! (Note: The Rialto Market is not open on Sundays.)
- Enjoy the public parks. Giardini Pubblici is the perfect place to relax when the weather is warm.
Find Budget-Friendly Meals
We had good luck finding reasonably priced and tasty food. Note that it is common for restaurants to charge a cover fee (averaging €2 per person) to sit at a table, but this usually includes bread and butter. Be wary of restaurants that don’t show the prices. I have heard horror stories of people being outrageously overcharged for meals.
When to Visit Venice
The time of year you visit Venice plays a big role in the experience. We visited in the beginning of June so it had started to get crowded but not unbearable at that point. I would avoid the peak summer months (July and August) as the city will be packed with tourists. During the winter months it is quieter and not too cold, but there are the risks of floods. Ideally try to visit Venice in the spring or fall.
How Long to Spend in Venice
Some people say that you only need a day to see Venice. I would disagree. There are actually quite a few worthwhile tourist attractions and museums, plus you want time to do some exploring. Also, it’s ideal if you have time to visit some of the outer islands like Burano, Murano, and Lido.
We spent three days in Venice on our last trip and could have used a bit more time. There were a few churches and museums that we will have to see next time. If you choose to visit Venice on a day trip, then you will probably only have time to see the area around St. Mark’s Square and maybe the Rialto Bridge.
Is Venice Worth Visiting?
Yes! It is popular with tourists for good reason. Venice is one of those places that everyone needs to visit at least once in their lifetime. While it may be expensive, there are ways to make sure that your money goes further.
Have you been to Venice? What was your experience like?
If you are planning a trip, be sure to check out my vacation planning checklist.
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