Ah, Venice. . . the Floating City. One of the most recognizable UNESCO World Heritage cities, Venice, Italy, is on every traveler’s bucket list. No matter when you plan your pilgrimage to this beloved corner of the world, you’ll enjoy picturesque waterways, colorful gondolas, priceless works of art, and Venetian cuisine you simply can’t find anywhere else.

Find out how to plan the perfect visit to Venice and discover the city’s best-kept secrets.

Arriving in Venice

Venice, Italy, is serviced by the Venice Marco Polo Airport (VCE), which services all major airlines. Arrivals exit on the ground floor. When traveling home, you will need to check in and go through security on the first floor.

Several public transport options are available at the airport, including taxis, chauffeur services, rental cars, car sharing, and bus. Venice Airport is also connected to area train stations via bus and taxi. Bus stops are situated in the second lane outside the arrivals hall.

St. Mark's Square
St. Mark’s Square in Venice.

Stroll Through St. Mark’s Square at Sunrise

Venice has long been such a cherished destination that it is bustling with visitors no matter when you visit, even in the low season. As a result, you could find yourself shoulder-to-shoulder with tourists trying to get a decent snapshot of the city’s principal square: St. Mark’s.

Sunrise, however, is the perfect time for a Venetian stroll. There’s a sweet stillness to the city that you won’t find at any other hour.

Have Breakfast at a Pasticceria

Venice is brimming with quaint pasticcerias, or cake shops, where you can start your day with a hot cup of coffee and a freshly baked pastry. The more popular shops are often standing-room only, but it’s a small price to pay for savoring the authentic Venetian breakfast experience.

Head to Pasticceria Tonolo for apricot-filled doughnuts, chocolate croissants, frittelle di crema, or brioche. Wash it all down with espresso at the bar, and be sure to bag another pastry for later. For outdoor seating, try Caffe Diemme at Piazza 27 Ottobre with its wonderfully thick cocoas. You can’t walk down a street in Venice without spotting a wonderful pasticceria, so don’t feel bad for starting your day with dessert!

For help navigating the city, download the Venice Travel Guide and Offline City Map app by Ulmon for iPhone or Android.

Explore the Grand Canal on a Gondola

Venice’s Grand Canal is the city’s major water-traffic corridor. The best way to experience the canal is to take a water bus or private water taxi — or, even better, a romantic gondola ride!

Despite being one of the more touristy things to do in Venice, riding a gondola is a must. Gondolas were the traditional form of Venetian transportation from the 12th century all the way up to the invention of the speedboat, so there’s no better way to immerse yourself in the local culture than touring the Grand Canal while being serenaded by your gondolier.

The city has officially set gondola tour rates from €80 for a 40-minute ride, with prices rising to €100 or more after 7 p.m. Most gondoliers, however, will charge more. Go early in the day to save money and avoid the crowds.

Eat Lunch Like a Local

Although it’s impossible to find a restaurant in Venice not frequented by tourists, local favorites are among the best options for a relaxing lunch. Paradiso Perduto near the Jewish Ghetto is a neighborhood favorite with hearty portions and delicious house wines. Try the seafood pasta if you’ve worked up an appetite or the cicchetti if you’re still full from breakfast. In fact, embarking on a cicchetti crawl throughout the various pubs in Venice is one of the most memorable ways to eat lunch while sightseeing.

Cicchetti is the local word for appetizers, and you can find them all over town. Essentially, cicchetti consists of anything you can stick a toothpick in, so you’ll find everything from calamari to deep-fried cheese. There’s even a name for the cicchetti pub crawl: giro d’ombra. Look for the best cicchetti bars tucked away in the back streets, like the hard-to-find Cantina Do Mori.

For a charming, more traditional sit-down meal, make your way to Ristorante La Madonna, an establishment that’s been going strong since 1954. This wonderful eatery features an array of fresh seafood dishes prepared in the most natural ways possible. You simply can’t go wrong with risotto alla pescatora and Venetian grilled fish.

Eat Gelato

Okay, so you’ve just had lunch, but it’s not a trip to Italy without gelato! Although you can barely turn a corner in Venice without running into an authentic gelato shop, look for an artisan shop that makes gelato fresh daily. La Mela Verde is a local favorite. It’s a small artisan gelateria close to Piazza San Marco that won’t overcharge you. Flavors include strawberry grape, Sicilian almond, pistachio, caramel, and green apple.

Grand Canal
Grand Canal gondola ride.

Sightsee

Venice’s architecture is legendary, which is why you’ll want to set aside plenty of time to wander around and take it all in. Visit the Ca’ d’Oro, or the Golden House, a renowned 15th-century Gothic home built between 1420 and 1434. The landmark building also houses the Galleria Giorgio Franchetti museum. Baron Franchetti donated his collection and the building itself in 1916. His collection consists of paintings, furniture, sculptures, tapestries, and other one-of-a-kind works of art.

Looking for the perfect photo-op? Cross the famous Rialto Bridge over the Grand Canal. This architectural marvel gives you an elevated view of the canal at its highest point. You’ll capture the hubbub of Venetian life as the gondolas, people, and seagulls move across the frame.

If you plan to do some shopping, skip the overpriced shops around the bridge and check out the stalls in the Rialto Market on the San Polo side. The outdoor market boasts a variety of souvenir stands, plus fresh fish, flowers, and other delights. This central market has been thriving since 1097, so there’s no better way to take home a piece of Venice.

Rialto Market
The Rialto Market in Venice, Italy.

Tour a Modern Art Gallery

While Venice is known for its old-world charm and classic art galleries, it’s also home to one of Europe’s best galleries of early modern artwork. The Peggy Guggenheim Museum on the Grand Canal is sandwiched between the Gallerie dell’Accademia and the Santa Maria della Salute. Entirely devoted to modern art, it contains Peggy Guggenheim’s personal collection of masterpieces ranging from Abstract Expressionism to Cubism. Artists on display include Dali, Picasso, Giacometti, Duchamp, and Ernst.

Enjoy Dinner and a Show

Planning your night out in Venice should include dinner at a top-rated restaurant followed by a memorable concert at least once during your stay. While you can plan your evening on your own, tour companies also offer a night on the town, complete with a baroque concert experience.

Savor a three-course dinner at Osteria Leon Bianco with its intimate atmosphere before heading to the Chiesa di San Vidal for a violin concert you’ll never forget.

Where to Stay in Venice

Since Venice is such a popular European destination, there are various types of accommodations to consider. Research the best Venice hotels, private rentals, and hostels to create the perfect experience in Venice.

To get around Venice, it’s important to familiarize yourself with the vaporetto, or waterbus. The public transport service is efficient, but boats tend to fill up fast, especially during Carnival and peak season. Stops can also be confusing. Check the signs at the landing dock, since certain stops have two separate docks for the same waterbus line. If you’re staying in the mainland area, it’s a good idea to purchase an ACTV vaporetto Travel Card for unlimited travel.

There are a couple of options for traveling to and from the airport. Hire a private water taxi at Marco Polo Airport at the taxi service desks or on the dock. Solo travelers, couples, and smaller groups can take the shared Venice Shuttle, which costs about €25 per person and can accommodate up to 10 bags and eight people. You will need to book your seats in advance.

In most cases, getting from the airport to your accommodation in Venice can take anywhere from 45 to 90 minutes. Plan ahead so you don’t need to be in a hurry to reach your accommodation when you arrive.

Top Hotels

Venice features some of the world’s most luxurious hotels, so if you plan to splurge, you’re going to pay a pretty penny. The five-star Gritti Palace along the Grand Canal is an exceptional accommodation in the heart of the action. Enjoy a meal on the hotel’s famous terrace with impeccable customer service that’s well worth the expense. Other high-end accommodations to consider include Al Ponte Antico Hotel, CimaRosa, and Hotel Ai Cavalieri di Venezia.

Many of Venice’s luxury hotels are located on the island of Giudecca. If you book an accommodation on the island, keep in mind that a ferry ride from Giudecca to Piazza San Marco takes about 10 minutes.

More affordable hotel options include the urbane Al Ponte Mocenigo, the conveniently located Cà del Nobile, and the family-run Ca’ Dogaressa. For travelers on a tight budget, these hotels tend to be better options. You can even enjoy a boutique hotel experience at the Hotel Alloggi Serena, which features intimate rooms, friendly staff, breakfast, and artful decorations.

You’ll undoubtedly find affordable accommodations on the Mestre mainland, but since getting to the city’s most notable sights from there can be time-consuming, you may want to avoid this neighborhood. Regardless, write down your hotel’s phone number and keep it with you just in case you get lost while sightseeing.

Best Hostels

Backpackers and budget travelers alike will find plenty of Venice hostels offering dormitory-style rooms and low prices.

One of the highest-rated hostels in the city is Ostello Santa Fosca, which is located inside a former 15th-century church. The low-key accommodation is situated close to Rialto Bridge and the Venezia Santa Lucia train station, making it a great base for exploring the city. It offers both mixed and female-only dorms and doesn’t have a curfew.

Generator Venice is another premier hostel right on the waterfront of Guidecca. Originally a warehouse, this chic hostel offers a blend of character and history with all the modern necessities. Every room boasts a view of either the Lido, the Grand Canal, San Marco, or the gardens. Choose from a stylish private suite, a private quad room, an en-suite family room, a small shared dorm, or a large coed or all-female dormitory. As with many hostels in the area, Generator Venice serves as a pickup and drop-off point for group tours.

You may also want to consider the Sunny Terrace Hostel with its incredible views, the Haven Hostel San Toma overlooking Campo S. Tomas Square, and the Ostello Domus Civica urban block with its impressive communal lounge, which happens to feature a piano.

Palazzo Pisani Moretta
Palazzo Pisani Moretta along the Grand Canal.

Best Private Rentals

Whether you’re traveling as a couple, with a few friends, or with the whole family, booking a private rental provides the extra space and amenities you need. It’s an especially smart choice if you plan to shop the Venetian fish markets and cook your own meals to save money.

Booking a private rental gives you access to the entire apartment or a private room within a homey apartment. There’s no better way to experience how Venetian locals live than to stay in a quaint flat overlooking a narrow canal. Best of all, a private rental gives you a direct communication line to a local. Feel free to ask for personal suggestions regarding the best places to eat, see a concert, or shop.

Regardless of your accommodation style, you probably want to be in the heart of Venice, so snag a rental in the San Marco neighborhood. It is tricky to get to since you’ll need to take a water taxi and will be juggling your luggage to and from the airport, but accommodations in San Marco are worth the extra effort.

Are you ready to take the trip of a lifetime? Plan your trip to Venice, Italy right here on GoDoTrip. From transportation and accommodations to attractions and sightseeing tours, we’ve got you covered!