Venice is one of the most unique and beautiful cities in Europe, and arguably, the entire world. What appears to be one big island is actually 117 small islands linked together by a maze of canals, bridges, charming neighborhoods, and iconic buildings.This uniqueness has made Venice a mecca for tourism, bringing several challenges to the city as its popularity and accessibility has grown.
While planning our trip to Venice, I found that everyone I spoke to either loved it or hated it. Of course, this piqued my curiosity, and made me eager to see Venice for myself.
After visiting several times, I slowly realized why people had such strong opinions about Venice. I became determined to prepare my readers for Venice so that they would have realistic expectations, and thus, fall in love with it the same way that I did.
Let’s dive into my list of things to know before visiting Venice!
1. Venice Is Crowded
One of the top things to know before visiting is that Venice is crowded and most of the people there are tourists. Be prepared for masses of people on the narrow streets, especially around famous sites like St. Mark’s Square and the Rialto Bridge.
As tourism in the city has increased, there really isn’t a “shoulder season” in Venice. However, late spring and summer, weekends, and Carnival season bring the most visitors to Venice, so avoid visiting during these times if you don’t like crowds. Fall often brings less visitors, but this is also the time that Venice is prone to high water and flooding.
Of course, like other big cities, you can always get up early (before 7 a.m.) and stay out late (after midnight) if you would like to experience Venice with fewer people.
2. Venice Is Expensive (Especially The Gondola Rides)
Increased tourism has brought with it increased prices, so be ready to pay to play while in Venice.
Expect to pay a premium price when visiting restaurants and bars near the tourist attractions, especially around St. Mark’s Square. In addition to the higher food and drink prices, the sitting fee for tables in these areas is also much higher.
Avoid the high prices and save some money by venturing off the beaten path a little. By moving away from the tourist attractions, you can save money on food, drinks, and table fees.
If a gondola ride on the Venetian canals is a dream of yours, you might reconsider when you hear the price. A typical gondola ride that lasts about 30 minutes will set you back 80–120 euros, or around $86–130!
To save money and still cruise the canals of Venice, consider taking a vaporetto (water bus). The No. 1 Vaporetto cruises the Grand Canal, a perfect place to see some of the top sites in Venice.
3. You Walk A Lot In Venice
Venice is a maze of cobblestone streets, canals, and bridges. Since cars are not allowed in Venice, you will have to walk a lot to see the city. The bridges that allow you to pass over the canals throughout the city often have stairs, making traveling with a wheelchair difficult.
4. Cash Is King
Cash is definitely king in Venice. There are many shops and restaurants that do not accept credit cards, so it is important to always have some cash on hand.
A top tip for acquiring cash while visiting is to go online and find your bank’s affiliate bank in Italy. Withdrawing money through the affiliate bank will allow you to save on foreign transaction fees!
5. You Pay To Dine In Restaurants
Most restaurants in Venice (and Italy in general) charge a coperto (cover charge) or servizio (service charge) in order to sit at a table.
The coperto helps to cover the expenses associated with the restaurant, like water and electricity, and is usually only a few euros per person. The service charge is generally 10 percent of the bill and pays for the waitstaff. This means that tipping is not necessary in Venice as the waitstaff is paid a livable wage thanks to the service charge.
It is important to keep these fees in mind when deciding whether or not to sit in a restaurant. If you are just wanting a simple cup of coffee, then you are better off standing at the bar to avoid these fees.
You can usually view these charges prior to sitting down by taking a look at the restaurant’s menu.
6. Public Restrooms Are Hard To Find And Cost Money
In addition to the fees associated with sitting in restaurants, you should also be prepared to pay to use public restrooms.
The cost for using a public restroom is generally 1–2 euros ($1.08–2.16) per person. The money helps to keep the restrooms stocked and clean, and in my experience, they were very clean.
Of course, another option is to pop into a bar and order an espresso or a pastry. Once you have done this, you are now a paying customer and can use the restroom.
7. Buy Tickets For Top Attractions In Advance
The top attractions in Venice, like St. Mark’s Basilica and Doge’s Palace, get very crowded and often experience long waits to purchase tickets. Avoid these lines by purchasing tickets in advance to the top attractions in Venice.
Oftentimes, these tickets can also include early access or skip-the-line entry allowing you to save valuable vacation time!
8. Venice Is Like A Maze
Venice truly is like a maze. There seem to be little hidden cobblestone streets everywhere you turn. When you combine this with having to find a bridge everytime you want to cross a canal, it is easy to get turned around while walking the streets of Venice.
The majority of the streets do not have names, and some seem to suddenly dead end right into a building or canal. This can make navigating Venice a bit of a challenge.
During our time in Venice, we quickly learned to embrace this about the city. If in a hurry, use a map app on your phone to help you pre-plan your journey and give you turn-by-turn directions. If you aren’t in a hurry, just enjoy discovering the city. Even if you get lost a time or two, just remember: you are on an island. You can’t get too far away from your destination!
9. Do Not Miss The Islands Of Burano And Murano
A visit to the islands of Burano and Murano should definitely be on your Venice itinerary. While often associated with Venice proper, the islands of Burano and Murano are fabulous escapes from the hustle and bustle of the city.
Burano is famous for its colorful houses and gorgeous handmade lace, and Murano is world-renowned for its incredible tradition of glassblowing. Both islands can be easily visited during a day trip from Venice.
You can take the No. 12 Vaporetto from the Fondamente Nove platform in Venice. The ride to Burano (the farthest island) takes about 40 minutes. After visiting Burano for a few hours, you can then ride the same vaporetto to Murano and enjoy the rest of your day.
10. Tips For Dining Out In Venice
Meals in Italy, including Venice, are very different from meals in the United States. In addition to the table and service fees that we discussed above, there are several other tips for dining out in Venice that you should be aware of.
It is important to note that meals in Venice (and all of Italy) definitely run on a different schedule than typical American meal times. Generally, Italians eat their meals later than we do in America. While most Americans eat lunch around noon, most Italians eat lunch between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. This means that dinners in Venice typically start around 8 pm. Take notice of the restaurant hours as most of them close in between lunch and dinner.
As I mentioned above, things are expensive in Venice. To ensure that you save some money and have a nice dining experience, talk with the locals and take their advice on where to eat.
It is also important to note that meals in Italy seem to last longer than meals in America. The cover charge that we spoke about previously means that you have the table for as long as you want. Sit and enjoy a multi-course meal and a glass of wine. The wait staff will not rush you. In fact, they usually won’t even bring you the check until you request it!
My final dining tip is to be aware of how to order. Seafood and steaks are sold by weight unless noted on the menu. Some items on the menu are meant to be shared by two people. This will be notated with “x2.” And, although that is the case, the price you see is the price per person. Another difference is that the wait staff will often ask if you “want an appetizer for the table.” This does not mean to share. They will bring out one appetizer per person. Take note so you are not surprised when your bill comes.
Familiarizing yourself with these tips to know before visiting Venice will help to ensure that your vacation is as enjoyable as possible.
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