Venice is an enchanting maze of hundreds of islands that never fails to amaze and inspire. Although the city has a reputation for being busy, expensive and touristy, you are only one corner away from being stood on your own on a romantic bridge over the many canals, transporting you away from the crowds.
I have been fortunate enough to visit the city twice. Once in winter and then again in spring. Each season brings a new uniqueness to the Venetian landscape and I would wholly recommend seeing it in one of these periods. There are fewer crowds, more chance to get lost down quiet corners of the thriving city and the prices aren’t as inflated.
It is the perfect escape if you are looking for incredible architecture, with its handfuls of historic churches and ornate palaces, as well as a place to enjoy a good glass of Venetian red wine and a slice of pizza from the many hidden street cafes down in the art district. Venice can be anything you want it to be, a budget break, a romantic getaway or a luxury weekend.
I think that my most recent visit combined the best of both worlds. I indulged in (probably too much) great food, explored until my feet ached and saw some incredible sites, all for a reasonable price. If you are planning a weekend getaway to this historic and exquisite city, then the guide below might just help you make the most out of your trip.
How to get there
Venice is no longer just the playground of the rich and famous. You can now find several cheap flights from different providers which will take you to the city for under £35 if you manage to grab a bargain. As I always suggest, set up flight sale alerts and keep your eye on the amazing Ryanair deals that can come up – this way you might be able to secure a deal like we did for just under £30 per person return from Leeds Bradford. As it is just a two hour flight from the UK, and a weekend break is the perfect amount of time to explore the city, a budget flight with just cabin baggage will more than suffice. Save the rest of your budget for making memories in Venice.
If you fly with Ryanair, you will arrive in the Treviso airport. From here you can buy a ticket in the arrivals lounge for a bus transfer to the island (I wouldn’t recommend driving as cars aren’t actually permitted on the historic part). The bus takes just 40 minutes.
Where to stay
I have stayed in an apartment in Venice, and more recently a lovely hotel a stone’s throw away from the San Marco Square (the main square in Venice). There’s options for all budgets, and I would recommend checking AirBNB, Trivago and also Hostelworld (who actually have really lovely little B&B’s on as well as hostels for a super affordable rate).
I personally loved our hotel, the Antico Panada Hotel, because of its traditional Venetian rooms and shuttered with small balconies looking out onto the winding cobbled streets. Oh, and the location was unbelievable. It made exploring incredibly easy, and finding your way home after a Limoncello or two even easier.
What to see
If you start your day in San Marco Piazza, you will be able to see the wonder of the San Marco Basilica and Doge Palace, as well as the Bridge of Sighs and views from the Grand Canal. I would recommend enjoying a drink here at one of the pricier outside bars in the square as although you will pay above the odds for a glass of wine (around 6 euros for a small glass) you will more than make up for it in the value of people watching, absorbing the historic sites around you, and the fantastic classical quartets located next to each bar who play everything from light jazz to Disney covers in the background.
From here, I would recommend escaping the crowds and catching the vaporetto (water bus line 2) from the Grand Canal over to the Isola San Giorgio. From here, you can beat the queues that you would experience from the tower in St Mark’s Square and go up the San Giorgio bell tower (campanile) to experience breath-taking panoramic views of the Venetian city. The Island itself is quiet and gives you time to relax whilst admiring the turquoise seas and historic landscapes from across the horizon.
Having had a moment to relax, it is time to take in the hustle and bustle of Venice again, and from San Giorgio you can take the number 2 vaporetto round to the world famous Rialto Bridge. Here you can indulge in treats from their daily fresh markets, explore the touristy shops and stalls littering the bridge and canal below, or go for a delicious evening meal with great views. Something we did on our second evening and very much enjoyed.
After you’ve seen these two hotspots, it’s time for my favourite pastime in Venice…getting lost. Let your feet guide you down the winding cobbled streets, over many bridges and into lots of incredible churches, museums and local stores. Don’t plan where to walk, just go on an adventure. Our favourite place to get ‘lost in’ was the local arts district between the Academia and the Salute. This place had the most picturesque bridges, colourful homes and incredible street food.
Finally, as the day is coming to a close, take in a tranquil tour of the city on a famous and elegant Gondola. There’s nothing like floating along the canals taking in everything around you to truly make you feel like you’re in one of the most elegant and cultural cities of the world.
- Always check if the restaurant has a cover charge or what the service charge is before sitting down, to avoid getting stung when the bill is delivered.
- Trying the street food and local delicacies is a must.
- To add a taste of luxury to your visit, bottles of delicious Prosecco can be purchased for around 4 euros in local supermarkets and enjoyed in your room before adventuring out.
- Food and wine is generally cheaper the further away from the touristy areas you are. Look for somewhere local if you are really on a budget.
- It can get hot walking around all day so pack lots of water.
- There’s plenty of public rest rooms, however they do charge around 1 euro a visit
- If you plan to use the water taxi over your feet, the combined multi-day passes can give you huge savings so always check these out.