Venice is one of the most beautiful destinations in the world. Its popularity is so high, that the staggering amount of its yearly visitors are sinking the floating city. Nearly everyone wishes to visit this gorgeous place at least once in their lifetime and most want to return. For many, a Venice trip is a dream come true and something to be flaunted happily. Thus it is no surprise that the internet is swamped with millions of peoples‘ Venice travelogues, photos, and articles. Strangely, despite the over kill, Venice in Europe manages to bewitch its visitors with its astonishing beauty and the city remains a riddle for the first two days of the visit. It is labeled as one of Italy‘s trickiest cities to visit and this is due to the heavy crowd and compact size. Planning a Venice trip, however, is easier once you do your homework right and this also saves you a lot of money. The beauty of Venice comes at a hefty price and the water transportation can be both expensive and confusing. In this post, I will be sharing some Venice trip planning ideas which helped me enjoy the city with confidence. You can use the tips in this guide to plan a smooth, hassle free budget friendly Venice trip.
Check out some of our most beautiful Venice moments in this photo essay.
Know the basics of one of the trickiest Italian cities, Venice
– The mainland and the surrounding areas
Venice is a floating city built on more than 100 islands on the Venetian lagoon, on the northern Italian coast. Venice Railroad Bridge and the causeway Ponte della Liberta connect the city with the mainland suburb of Mestre. The causeway carries road traffic to the Piazzale Roma bus station and the Tronchetto parking island in Venice. The train track runs along the causeway and ends/starts at Venice‘s Santa Lucia train station. Most important surrounding islands of Venice are San Michele (Venice‘s cemetery island), Murano (famous for glass blowing), Burano (famous for lace) and Torcello (famous for a nature reserve). Lido di Venezia is a sandy strip popular for beach resorts and this along with Pellestrina island, protect the floating city from the Adriatic Sea. Most cruise ships and ferries enter the Venetian lagoon through a gap between Lido and Punta Sabbioni suburb. The Stazione Marittima Cruise Terminal is clustered on one side of the lagoon along with the Piazzale Roma bus station, Santa Luzia train station, and Tronchetto parking island.
– The watery world of Venice
Do not let the word “island” intimidate you in Venice, because every time you cross a foot bridge in the floating city, you are stepping on another island. The historic center of Venice is around 4 kilometers and it is a city filled with churches, cathedrals, palaces, museums and exquisite mansions. Canals are the lifeline of Venice and you can think of them as city roads. Water transportation in Venice is like what bus/trams and taxis are to other cities and I will talk about them in the following paragraphs. To understand Venice is to get a mental map of the city in your head and the Grand Canal is the best place to start. Think of it as the most important thoroughfare of the city and nearly all the tourist highlights run along the Grand Canal. The second most important canal is the Guidecca Canal, and it goes around the floating city besides the Guidecca Island. There are numerous other small and big canals which are used as waterways and Venice is a city of 400 foot bridges. It is not a wheelchair/baby car friendly destination and this can be felt immediately upon arriving into Venice.
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Get your bearing right upon arriving into Venice
By air –
Venice in Italy is served by two airports. Marco Polo ( Venice International Airport) is used by most full-service airlines like Alitalia, Lufthansa and Treviso Airport caters to low-cost carriers. Both the airports are accessible by buses and land taxis. Marco Polo Airport is 6 kilometers from the city center of Venice and Treviso Airport is located further away at 26 kilometers. I flew into Marco Polo International Airport and found it at par with most world class airports around the globe. After arriving, collecting luggage on the free baggage trolley and changing money (if applicable) head over to the ground level transportation counter. Here you can buy Venice Airport Boat ticket to San Marco and other stations in the historic center. Venice Airport Boat Service is served by Alilaguna and you can get a water transportation map at the counter. Alternatively, you can take an ACTV or ATVO airport bus to Piazzale Roma (in the Venetian lagoon) or ACTV to Mestre (on the mainland). Check out the airport bus schedule here. Ask for direction to find your bus, re-confirm the bus number and your destination with the driver who also helps to stow your baggage in the luggage hold. Make sure to punch your ticket at the validation machine before starting your journey. Treviso Airport is served by ATVO and the Barzi Bus Service. Due to the distance, taking the airport coach service is the best option for those arriving/departing via Treviso Airport.
By train –
Stazione Ferroviaria Santa Lucia is the main train station for Venice. It is a modern train station, which is located in the historic center and is close to the causeway which connects to the mainland. The train station is one Vaporetto stop away from the Piazzale Roma and it is connected with all parts of the lagoon by water transportation. Most domestic and international trains arrive/depart from Santa Lucia train station and it is close to the Number 1 and Number 2 Vaporetto (water bus) stops. The Mestre Train Station is another railroad junction serving Venice and it has better connectivity. Most people change to airport buses from either Mestre Train Station or the nearby Piazzale Roma Bus Station. It is also possible to walk over Constitution Bridge (Ponte della Constituzione) to Piazzale Roma bus stop from the Santa Lucia train station.
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Accommodation tips for your stress-free Venice trip
Accommodation is one of the most expensive factors of a Venice trip. Hotels in the Venetian lagoon, especially in the historic center are some of the best in the world, even though they burn holes in the pockets. For most people like me, who visit Venice on a budget or prefer quieter and more family friendly residential areas, Mestre in the mainland is the best option. It has a well-served train station, great connectivity to the airport, and good public transportation system. Mestre also has good hotels, cafes, restaurants and super markets and I stayed at an excellent self-catering apartment there. My daily commute to Venice took around 15 minutes one way and it was very cheap as well. Accommodation options are also available on the islands of Lido, Burano, Murano and the fishing village of Chioggia. For those wishing to experience hotels in the historic center of Venice (or on the islands), make sure that you do not choose a location or neighbourhood which is expensive or inconvenient to reach. Avoid lugging heavy luggage around the bridges and narrow lanes of Venice, by selecting a hotel closest to the Vaporetto stations. San Marco, San Polo and Dorsoduro are the most popular areas to stay in Venice, with other places like Canareggio gaining popularity as well.
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Understand the Venice districts to enjoy the city to the fullest
To enjoy a hassle free Venice trip and save money, one needs to keep a few travel hacks handy. Having a Vaporetto timetable along with a Venice map with its sestiere, Vaporetto stations and landmarks marked can go a long way in saving time, money and energy. Also knowing the city and its different areas will help in planning your day itineraries better. It will also save money and time if you consolidate your areas of interests according to the neighbourhoods. For example, you may plan an early start of the day with San Marco attractions and combine them with a half day visit to the beach at Lido.
– Neighbourhoods to know during your Venice trip
Sestieri are neighbourhoods in Venice and the city has six in total. The Grand Canal, Venice’s main thoroughfare, runs down the Venetian lagoon and the sestieri stretch on either side of it. San Marco is the heart of Venice and is the most visited sestiere. Venice‘s most important attractions like the Correr Museum, San Marco Piazza, Doges Palace, Cathedral and Bell Tower are located there along with exquisite historic mansions, expensive shops, cafes, and restaurants. The large sestiere of Dorsoduro lie across the Accademia Bridge from San Marco and is home to the two of Venice‘s best museums, Accademia Museum and Guggenheim Art Collection. Guidecca Canal goes by one side of Dorsoduro and the Venice University is also there. The famous Rialto Bridge spans the Grand Canal connecting San Marco with San Polo sestiere and it is one of the oldest parts of Venice. The Frari Church in San Polo sestiere has a gorgeous collection of Titian masterpieces and this is a popular area for shopping, hotels, and restaurants. The San Croce sestiere lies next to San Polo along the same side of the Grand Canal and it is one of the least touristy areas of Venice. The Piazzale Roma Bus Station is located here. Across the Grand Canal from San Croce, is the Canareggio sestiere and this has the Santa Lucia Train Station. It stretches from the Rialto Bridge and the Canareggio Canal connects the lagoon with the Grand Canal. This is one of the upcoming areas of Venice and is home to many churches, cafes, restaurants, and bars which are favoured by the locals. The picturesque Jewish Ghettos are also at Canareggio. The last, but not the least Castello is another less touristy Venice sestiere. It is on the opposite side of San Marco, and has a shipyard, and interesting museums along with a park (one of the rarest things to find in Venice). All the sestieri are well connected by many lines of Vaporetto (ACTV water taxi) and you can get a sestieri map with ACTV stops at a ACTV ticket office.
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Master the local transportation for a hassle free Venice trip
This is another mega budget killer for any Venice trip. Water transport is to Venice, what buses, trams, and taxis are to any other city in the world. The floating city moves on boats and they come in form of water buses, water taxis, gondolas, and traghettos. The water transport, however, is outrageously expensive and most people buy Tourist Travel Cards on their Venice trips. The Venezia Unica, and Hello Venezia‘s Venice Card are great options to get discounted rates on a combination package of water transport, admission to churches, museums, and temporary exhibits. The local transit authority of Venice, ACTV also offers Tourist Travel Cards which allows unlimited travel on ACTV water and land buses for one, two, three or seven days (depending on which version you buy). These electronic cards do not come cheap, so plan your itinerary right and consolidate your excursions to use them to the fullest. Also, keep an ACTV Vaporetto map handy to make your visit smooth. Walk as much as possible in Venice, since most attractions are just a bridge or two away and the city is best explored on foot. Combining excursions like visits to the outlying islands together with an evening Vaporetto ride back on the Grand Canal utilizes this resource to the fullest. Don‘t forget to validate your card on the white electronic card reader before every trip and the clock does not start ticking until the pass is validated. The ACTV Tourist Travel Card is not valid on ACTV airport buses and Alilaguna airport boats. If you have the budget, then opt for water taxis which make Venice transportation and transfers faster and more comfortable.
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Prioritize the highlights of your Venice trip
Venice comes with a bouquet of iconic travel experiences, all of which are expensive affairs. Dining, pubbing, sightseeing, shopping, gondola rides and day trips to the outlying islands in Venice burn holes in the pockets and prioritizing your travel aims keep the budget stable. So choose your Venice travel experience and figure out what you want to do the most during your Venice trip. Is it visiting the museums or the main attractions, shopping and dining well or doing plenty of excursions in and around Venice? You may also get to enjoy most of your things on the “to do” list by opting for cheaper versions of Venice iconic experiences. One of the best examples of this is the humble traghetto. Slowly gaining popularity among budget travelers to Venice, traghettos are best answers to the horrendously expensive gondola rides. While an hour gondola ride charges something around 50 USD, a traghetto transfer costs a Euro or so. Traghettos are basically gondolas which are used for mass transportation of visitors across the canals. It is best for those who want to enjoy an iconic gondola experience in Venice without spending a lot.
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Coming up in the next posts are travel hacks to enjoy Venice on a budget. Stay tuned for these tried and tested tips.
RESPONSIBLE TRAVELING-BECAUSE I CARE