If you've been following me for the last couple of months you probably know that I took the most amazing Mediterranean cruise on Sky Princess back in October.
The cruise embarked out of the port of Trieste, Italy so my travel buddy and photographer Chabeli and I flew into Venice (an hour and half away) for a few days before the cruise. It was the best decision we could have made!
Getting to explore, arguably one of the most beautiful and incredibly unique cities in the world on our own terms was the absolute best. I've put together this travel guide to give you the tea or cappuccino about Venice and what you need to know before going.
Venice, also known as the floating city, is the capital of Northern Italy's Veneto region. It's built completely on 118 small islands connected by 400 bridges in a lagoon on the Adriatic Sea.
Venice sits just over 3 feet above sea level – so that means no roads. None. Nada. Just canals and to get around the city you can only take a water bus, a gondola or the oldest form of transportation, walking.
The city is literally sinking – about 1-2 millimeters a year and experiences severe flooding from high tides a few times a year called acqa alta. Definitely check the trends of this before booking your trip. It would definitely be a damper on your exploring.
It's one of the oldest cities filled with historic gothic palaces. It's like walking in a real life history book.
WHEN TO GO
Venice is one of the most popular destinations in the world – 20 million visit annually! That's a lot of people for such a small city.
The most popular time to visit would obviously be the Spring and Summer season. (I don't suggest this just because I can't stand the heat and rather deal with cooler temperatures).
Because Venice is such a hot spot with tourists, you can't avoid the crowds, that's just a part of life but you can deal with less crowds traveling off season. The ideal time to visit would be late September to mid October – you bypass the Summer crowds and can enjoy walking around the city before the rain and cold set in for the winter.
We went in mid October and the weather was absolutely perfect. During the day it would reach a high in the high 60s to high 70s and in the evening low 50s. Ideal walking weather and just need a light jacket or a scarf.
Mornings in Venice are often foggy but it usually clears up by mid morning.
Since no roads exist in Venice only canals, the best ways to get around is by vaprettos (water taxis), water busses, gondolas or walking.
We purchased a 3 day bus pass from the hotel we stayed at for about €30 ($33 USD). The bus pass also included the water busses which was ideal. It saves you a lot of money. It's basically like taking the subway in NYC minus being underground.
It was really easy to navigate but pay attention. Certain waterIf you don't want to travel with so many people on a waterbus and you have the budget to flex, definitely opt for a water taxi. It's private and honestly looks super cool. A ride from the airport to your hotel can go for a bout €80.
Taking a gondola ride is a Venetian right of passage and a definite must have experience.
In the 16th century over 10,000 gondolas were in service. Gondoliers were pretty high up on the totem pole too since they only worked for the rich. They knew all the secrets about the Venetian aristocracy so just imagine the Italian tea!
Today about 430 gondolas arena use that are licensed by the city. Gondoliers train for 10,000 hours and have to take a detailed exam before becoming certified.
Gondolas go for €80 ($88) for 30 minutes. Make sure your gondolier doesn't try to pull one over on you. Some might take you on a shorter route if you're not watchful. BE ASSERTIVE!
If I could do it again I would splurge to have the gondola with the male opera singer. This goes for about €200. It's just one of those amazing, once in a lifetime experiences. Go big or go home, right?! I promise, you won't regret it.
WHERE TO STAY
Because I was traveling with a brand my accommodations were already made so I didn't have any control over that. We stayed outside of city of Venice at the Hilton Garden Inn Venice Mestre San Giuliano. The staff was really helpful and friendly with most of them speaking 4 languages.
It was a quick 12 minute bus ride to Venice and it was easy to navigate between Chabeli and me.
If I were to go to Venice on my own I would definitely stay on the main island. It's the best way to get the Venetian experience. You can literally hear opera from your balcony window.
Whatever you do, make sure your hotel room is not on the first floor. Because of aqua alta and Venice being so close to sea level, first floors of most hotels have issues with mold. So definitely be mindful when booking accommodations.
WHAT TO WEAR
Footwear is very important when traveling. You want to be comfortable but if you're like me you want to be stylish too. So trendy sneakers, boots and well cushioned sandals will be your best best.
Make sure to bring a light jacket and scarves. Scarves are a great accessory that can be worn in different ways to switch up your looks. Try it as a headband, a belt, necktie or around your purse. Anyway you wear it you will be glad you have it if the temps drop.
THAMARR'S TRAVEL TIP: Don't wear brand new shoes as your walking shoes. Wear something that's worn in. You can also try shoe inserts to provide more cushion and comfort when walking around.
SNEAKERS, SCARVES & JACKETS – OH MY!
Eating my way through Venice has to be my all time favorite pastime. There are so many amazing places to eat in Venice but it can get pretty expensive so I've rounded up a list of different places that eat for everyone's budget.
*I've rated them $-$$$ with one dollar sign meaning the lowest price was and four dollar signs indicating the most expensive.
Venice is actually known for their seafood, which makes sense, since it's a city surrounded by water. Don't get hung up on just spaghetti and pizza though (which isn't a bad thing), just try and give local traditional Venetian meal a chance too. Your best bet for that would be at Bristrot de Venise ($$$).
Café Florian $$$$
This place was absolutely beautiful. Established in 1720, Cafe Florian is the oldest coffee house in Venice! It's situated right in Saint Mark's Square with indoor and outdoor seating. I would definitely try to get a seat inside just to experience all the beauty and elegance of the decor.
Thamarr's Travel Tip: Prices go up the closer you get to Saint Mark's Square. Just a few blocks away you can find delicious food for much less.
Chabeli and I had the best time at this small hole in the wall eatery. It was recommended by some tourists we met earlier in the day and it did not disappoint. The staff was so generous, entertaining and made sure that we had a lovely experience. I had the spaghetti bolognese and it was the best meal I had.
This place is genius. It combines the hearty deliciousness of a pasta meal to go! They also have, sandwiches and pizza.
This Venetian Chocolatier has been around since 1878. It's golden interiors are absolutely beautiful inside – it glimmers and shines and the chocolate isn't bad either. Stop in for a quick gelato.
I found this spot on every restaurant search I made when looking for places to eat. It's a small place to grab takeaway pizza, pasta and more. Grab a slice and a bottled aperol spritz and continue exploring Venezia!
Harry's Bar $$$$
Home of the very first Bellini in 1931. Unfortunately we didn't get to go to this classic spot but that's just another reason to have to go back. I recommend making reservations for this dinner locale.
PHOTO OPS / PLACES TO SEE
Finding a beautiful spot to take a picture isn't hard when you're in one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Best believe I wasn't going to travel to Venice without getting some Instagrammable shots. Here is a list of some amazing spots. Definitely try to hit up these places as early as possible to avoid the crowds.
Thamarr's Travel Tip: Go out and get lost. The best way to see Venice is to go out and walk around. Get lost going down the winding roads of this historic beautiful city.
San Marco's Square
Home of Saint Mark's Basilica, this is the main principle square in Venice. It's breathtaking and once described by Napoleon as the "Drawing Room of Europe."
Built in Venetian Gothic style and founded in 1340. It was the resident of the Doge, or head magistrate of Venice. It was turned into a museum in 1923.
Scala del Bovolo
An external multi arch stairway inside the Palazzo Contarini del Bovolo. At the top of the stairs provides a impressive view of city rooftops. You can may an entrance fee to climb to the top to get some breathtaking views of the city.
Bridge of Sighs
This enclosed limestone bridge with windows connects the New Prison to the interrogation rooms of Doge's Palace. Story goes that its name comes from the idea that prisoners would sigh as they saw their last views of Venice before being taken off to their sentencing.
Oldest bridge across the Grand Canal constructed in 1854.
Ponte Dei Conzafelzi
This spot is such an amazing view. It's one house that is situated between two canals. It's mind blowing. How did they build this way back when?! This spot is usually tourist free because not many people know or care about it but I just think it's just lovely to see in person.
DOCK BEHIND HOTEL SAN MOISÉ
This dock has to be one of the most instagrammable spots in Venice. You can easily find this location all over Pinterest. After walking around lost in Venice for an hour, Chabeli and I finally found the spot!
So you can avoid wandering the alleys of Venice, the best way to find this dock is to find Hotel San Moisé in the shopping district. It's right behind it and a great place to get shots of gondolas going by.
Thamarr's Travel Tip: I would avoid the Liberia Acqu Alta. It was on every to-do list when I was researching things to do in Venice. But to be quite honest it was very underwhelming. It's tiny and cramped and not much to look at, plus you can smell cat urine everywhere in the store. That's a no for me, dawg.
While you're in Venice you have to take a day trip to the colorful island of Burano.
It's about 4 miles north from Venice and a short 40 minute ferry ride. This colorful little island is pretty isolated from tourists. You won't find any hotels or accommodations. It's strictly for locals.
The colorful homes of Burano was a way to help fishermen navigate their way ashore amidst dense fog.
No two homes are the same color with each required to be repainted every two years. And if a homeowner happens to want to change the color of their home they have to write a letter to the local government. They get the last say and will determine the color based on a predetermined list of color options.
While in Burano, Chabeli and I just wandered the streets and took in the beautiful sights. We stopped by some lace shops and I managed to find the most delicious gelato from the entire trip.
Our bus passes included use of the water busses and ferries to Burano so there was no added charge but the trip without it is less than €10. You can easily make Burano a day trip and it's something you won't regret. We almost did! Weather forecasts predicted rain and fog on our last day in Venice so we were just going to do some indoor activities like museums. I'm so glad we ended up being persuaded by a few locals to go since we were there. Definitely a trip I won't forget!
Thamarr's Travel Tip: Don't exchange money at the airport. The rate fees are way more expensive if you were to use an ATM in Venice instead. Make sure to bring cash to Burano. None of the shops use debit, credit or ApplePay. Definitely support the local artisans because they rely largely on the economy that tourists bring.
Need To Know
- Bring colorox wipes with you to wipe down an areas that you may pop in for a bite.
- Make sure to take a bottle of water with you before you head out to explore. Some hotels provide complimentary bottle service so grab one or two before heading out to explore.
- Always try speaking the native language first even if most places speak English. It's common courtesy and out of respect to attempt to communicate in the language of the country you are visiting. Even if you don't speak it well, trying will be appreciated.
- You don't tip in Italy because it's already included – add about 10% to your bill.
- Most cafes have an upcharge if you decide to use their outdoor seating. Just be aware of this when your bill comes!
All in all, I absolutely loved my time in Venice and currently trying to find a way back to Italy! It's definitely one of my favorite countries to visit because it's different every time I go. You get to experience a different culture depending on which region you visit.
Venice is a jewel and just appears unreal. It's sheer beauty, rich culture and the fact that it's an ancient floating city is quite remarkable and worth seeing and experiencing it in person.
Writing up this travel guide was a fun way to reminisce of my time in Venice and only makes me want to go back. I do hope you find this helpful and can refer back to this guide when you embark on your own travels.