I have been to Italy on three separate occasions, each time wondering if Venice was worth visiting. The first two jaunts I avoided Venice like the plague. I had heard from travelers and Italians alike that Venice is way overrated. The city of canals was supposedly smelly, crowded, and expensive.
On my third trip to Italy, I just could not avoid it any longer. I had to see what all this fuss was about for myself. So, in the middle of February, we took a 9-hour bus across the country to get to the city. We didn’t know what to expect. As our bus pulled in I knew we were either going to love or hate Venice.
Is Venice Worth Visiting?
Before I go into too much detail, the answer is yes. Venice is absolutely worth visiting. When I first went to Amsterdam, the Dutch were boasting that they had more canals than Venice. I’m sorry Dutchmen; as awesome as Amsterdam is no Venice.
“Wow, this is cool,” was the first thought that popped into my head when I saw the Grand Canal for the first time. However, this thought never went away during our whole stay in Venice. The beauty of the canals never got old; it truly is something out of this world. If someone were to ask me now if they should visit Venice, I would say absolutely, Venice is worth visiting. But then I would ask them:
“When are you planning to visit Venice?”
I mentioned in the beginning of this post that Venice is said to be crowded and expensive. After speaking to the locals and touring Venice first hand I would say that the time of year you plan to visit Venice crucial. We unexpectedly went there in the middle of February and hit it right with prices and with crowds. However a simple Google search of “Venice crowds” yields photos of the mass amount of tourist that flock to Venice every summer. Having the city to yourself is one of the many advantages of traveling during the off season. We also found great deals on accommodation because of the season. Venice is known to be quite an expensive destination, but we were able to do it all together on less than 40€ a day. Our hotel was amazing!
What to do in Venice
Now that you’ve decided when to visit Venice it’s time to make the most of your trip. Venice is made up of 117 small islands that are all linked by bridges. One of the best things to do in Venice is wander around and get lost. The best way to get around Venice is by foot. There are no cars on these islands. So no road rage maniacs or loud motors ruining the peace. The sounds of the Venice streets are completely blissful.
There are many things to do in Venice besides take a gondola ride. The whole pensolon of Venice is divided into 6 boroughs: Cannaregio, Castello, Dorsoduro, San Marco, San Polo, and Santa Croce. All have charming places to visit and delicious eats and drinks. Here are some attractions and activities that make Venice worth visiting.
Liberia Acqua Alta in the Castello district
This hidden bookshop/library was a unique find for us. It is off the beaten tourist path and tucked away in the Castello District. Many hours can easily be spent finding new and used books.
Ca’Macana in the Dorsoduro district
Mask shops pretty much rule the streets of Venice, but most of these are cheap imported masks marketing to tourist. Ca’Macana is a fabulous genuine mask shop in Venice that actually make all their own products. You can even find masks used in Stanley Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut here, as this is where they were made. The nice shop owners allowed us to have a lot of fun by letting us try all the masks on.
St Mark’s Square in San Marco district
No trip to Venice is complete without a visit to St. Marks Square in the San Marco district. This is the main public square in Venice and boasts stunning architecture from the Byzantine era. Here in St. Marks Square you can also find Cafe Florien; the oldest cafe in the world.
Rialto Bridge in San Polo district
It’s hard to miss the bridge that connects the districts of San Marco and San Polo. Take a walk on it, it is the first dry crossing of the Grand Canal.
Venice Eats & Drinks
Venice gets a bad rap for Italian food. Eating pizza in Venice is discouraged, as wood fired ovens are banned from the island. However, we did find great and inexpensive local fare.
Perfect local wine and cicchetti shop. The place is tiny and there are no seats inside but the wine is flavorful (and cheap) and cicchetti makes for a midday snack.
A perfect option for mouthwatering Gelato with a great view. Located around the corner from Osteria Al Squero.
For the best tiramisu in the city head to Tre Mercanti. A lovely specialty shop with a decadent collection of original tiramisus, macaroons, and wine. Standing room only so don’t come with sore feet.
Have yourself a Spritz
A Spritz Veneziano is a wine-based cocktail served as an aperitif in Northeast Italy. You can’t miss the endless signs for them around Venice. Our favorite Spritz was located at Bacareto Da Lele for a mere €1.50 .
Between walking the endless bridges, gorging on cicchetti, and drinking ourselves “spritzy,” we could have easily spent more than a week in Venice. Venice is certainly a floating city stuck in time and she is worth every second you can give.
Other Reads on Italy
- A Coffee Guide to Italy
- Know Before You Go: Italy
- The Perfect Escape from Rome
- Or visit Murano with our friend at Erika’s Travels!
What are your thoughts on Venice? Is Venice worth visiting?