A comprehensive guide to visiting Venice on a budget

Venice on a budget

With its winding canals, narrow alleyways and grand historic buildings, Venice has long been one of Europe’s most popular and luxurious travel destinations.

But with this exclusive status also comes a pretty hefty price tag for the many tourists wanting to explore Italy’s famous floating city each year.

Between the accommodation, travel and numerous attraction fees, a trip to Venice can really add up.

However, exploring Venice on a budget is still possible as long as you know how…

Budget Venice Guide

This comprehensive guide will help you plan your visit to the romantic city of Venice without completely breaking the bank, from how to find cheap accommodation and where to eat on a budget to the best free attractions and things to do and general tips for saving money in Venice.

 

Where to stay in Venice on a budget

Unfortunately, being the desirable tourist hotspot that it is, Venice is never going to be the cheapest destination when it comes to finding accommodation.

A 3-4* hotel in Venice can easily cost between €150-250 a night, while the most luxurious 5* hotels can charge a whopping €500-€1,000+ for a one night stay.

That’s not to say that staying in Venice on a budget is impossible; you just might have to compromise a little on any dreams of a grand Venetian Palace with a balcony overlooking the Grand Canal.

Where you’ll be able to stay in Venice depends very much on how limited your budget really is, so let’s go through a few options…

 

Staying on Venice Island

If you want to stay in central Venice itself, there are two main ways of doing it on a budget;

Hostels in Venice:

  • Generator Hostel – located on the island of Guidecca just a few minutes ride across the lagoon from iconic San Marco Square, Generator is slightly more luxurious than your average hostel. Still, it’s one of the cheapest places to stay in Venice with a single bed in a 16 person dorm costing between €15 (off-peak) and €35 (peak) per person.

Cheap Hotels in Venice:

If the whole sharing a hostel dorm room thing isn’t for you, you’re going to want to find an affordable hotel instead.

One thing to look out for when searching for cheap hotels in Venice is that many of the smaller B&B’s offer simply a bedroom with a shared bathroom and living facilities.

If you don’t mind this then check out one of these;

  • B&B Exclusive – traditional Venetian rooms in a house close to Venezia Santa Lucia.
  • Haus Ormesini – large modern rooms in the Cannaregio district.

However, if like me you enjoy your privacy and space, try this option instead…

  • Combo Venicea converted 12th-century monastery in Venice’s Cannaregio district which is now home to one of the city’s most unique hotels. Combo is often used as private student accommodation, hence its unusual dorm-style rooms, however, it’s also one of the most affordable hotels in Venice. Private twin and double rooms with ensuites cost as little as €60 per night.

Combo unusual Venice hotel

 

Staying in Venice Mestre

Another option for finding cheap accommodation in Venice is to stay in Venice Mestre (the mainland).

While there’s not a huge amount to do in Mestre itself, it is a far more affordable place to stay in Venice than on the main island.

All you need to do is choose a hotel close to Mestre train station from which you can reach Venice Santa Lucia in just 11 minutes, with tickets costing as little as €1 each way.

A few options for cheap accommodation in Venice Mestre are;

  • ao Hotel Venezia Mestre – a cheap and cheerful hostel/hotel which offers both beds in hostel-style dorm rooms for as little as €20 a night, as well as private rooms for up to 6 people, making it a great option for staying in Venice on a budget for bigger groups.
  • Hotel Plaza – a bright and modern 4* hotel right in front of Mestre train station which has rates for as low as €44 per night for a double room.
  • Staycity Aparthotels Venice Mestre – a modern and stylish 4* aparthotel offering studios and apartments with their own fully equipped kitchenette for €43 per night.

 

Staying in nearby Treviso

A third and lesser-known option for visiting Venice on a budget is to base yourself in the nearby city of Treviso and travel into Venice.

Treviso is just a 30 minute direct train journey from Venice Santa Lucia station, with trains running roughly every 20 minutes and costing just €3.60 each way.

Being a small city, Treviso train station is only a 5-10 minute walk from the city center.

Treviso is a lovely little city in its own right, with an impressive neoclassical cathedral, a series of charming canals and the restaurant where the famous Italian dessert Tiramisu was first invented.

Hotels in Treviso are also significantly cheaper than those in Venice;

  • B&B Hotel Treviso – a cool and modern 3* hotel right in Treviso city center with spacious rooms for €45 a night.
  • Hotel Continental – a large 4* hotel opposite Treviso train station with classicly decorated rooms for around €60 a night.
Treviso Fountain

Fontana Delle Tette “The Fountain of Tits” in Treviso

 

The best time of year to visit Venice

When is the cheapest time to visit Venice?

If you’re visiting Venice on a budget, the most important thing will be to avoid the peak summer months of July and August, as well as Venice Carnival in February.

These are the busiest times for tourism in Venice so the prices of travel and accomodation are usually greatly inflated.

Plus the city can get extremely busy and overcrowded during the peak periods.

Instead, try visiting during the months of May or September when the weather will still be warm for wandering around outside, the crowds are smaller and prices are generally lower.

 

Tips for visiting Venice on a budget

The best things you can do to save money while exploring Venice…

Skip the restaurants and bars on Piazza San Marco

Everyone’s heard a horror story from someone who went for dinner on St Marks Square and ended up with a bill of €250 for a two-course meal and wine.

But that’s what you get for eating on St Marks Square!

Yes, the view out across the square and over to the majestic Basilica is one of the best and most iconic in all of Venice, but you’ll certainly end up paying for it.

St Mark’s Square is somewhere that can be visited at any time of day without sitting down to a full meal, and there are far better and cheaper restaurants elsewhere in Venice.

If you do really want to sit and take in the view for a while then treat yourself to a quick coffee or spritz instead – they’ll still be far more expensive than anywhere else in the city but at least this won’t completely break the bank! 

Try the Correr Museum Cafe for one of the most affordable coffees with views over St Mark’s Square.

St Mark's Square Venice on a budget

 

Skip the gondola ride and jump on a Vaporetto

While it would be wrong not to explore Venice from its famous waterways, that doesn’t mean you have to fork out an arm and a leg for a gondola ride.

Private gondola rides can cost €80-100 for a 40-minute ride for 2 people.

Instead, take a ride on a Vaporetto (Venice’s water buses) down the Grand Canal (take a round trip on route number 1 or 2) or across the lagoon to explore the other islands.

A single-use ticket is €7.50 while a 24-hour pass costs €20 (3 days for €40, 7 days for €60.) and can be used for unlimited journeys.

Alternatively, if you’re desperate to at least step foot on a gondola, jump on a Traghetto.

Traghettos are gondola ferries that transfer people from one side of the Grand Canal to another. It won’t be the romantic private gondola ride you see in movies but you will at least be able to take a short 5 minute gondola ride for just €2 each.

 

Buy a Venice City Pass

Although the cheapest way to visit Venice would be to skip the attractions with entrance fees altogether, it would be a shame to miss out on the city’s many beautiful historic buildings, galleries and museums.

So instead of paying each entrance fee individually, which really can add up, consider investing in the Venezia Unica City Pass.

The card is customisable in advance so you can choose your own packages which include free and discounted entry into multiple tourist attractions around the city.

The Rolling Venice Card is another great option for young people between 6 and 29 years. At just €6, the card is valid for a year and gets you heavy discounts on transportation and attractions in Venice.

Free things to do in Venice

 

Things to do in Venice on a budget

Budget-friendly and free things to do in Venice…

Admire the beautiful Venetian architecture

Many of Venice’s most famous historic buildings can be still be admired for free from outside, even if your budget doesn’t allow for the often expensive entrance fees.

Head to St Mark’s Square and take in the impressive architecture of the Basilica di San Marco, Campanile di San Marco (bell tower) and Doges Palace, then hunt out the Scala Contarini del Bovolo, the unique spiral staircase often referred to as Venice’s Snail Staircase.

Plus don’t miss the city’s numerous spectacular churches such as Santa Maria della Salute, Santa Maria dei Miracoli and Scuola Grande di San Marco.

 

Let yourself get lost down the maze of alleyways

Whether you’re on a budget or not, one of the best things to do in Venice is to take a stroll through the city’s elaborate maze of alleyways and canals.

Once you’re done seeing the main attractions, turn off from the tourist areas and let yourself get lost down the narrow cobblestone streets which take you into the more local neighbourhoods.

Before you know it you’ll find yourself stumbling across charming courtyards where residents hang washing from their windows and osterias where groups of locals sit enjoying an aperitivo while their children kick a ball around in the nearby piazza.

You don’t need to spend a penny to really experience authentic Venitian life.

Venice off the beaten path, quiet neighbourhoods of Venice

 

Go on a Venice bridge walk

One of the best free attractions in Venice has to be its many bridges, in particular the Rialto Bridge, the oldest and most famous of the four bridges spanning the Grand Canal.

Not only is the architecturally impressive Renaissance bridge beautiful to admire from afar, but it also has the most spectacular views back down the canal from both sides once you take a walk over it. Don’t forget your camera for this one!

The center of the large stone bridge is formed by two inclined ramps with arcades of shops on each side and covered by a portico. The shops are mainly tourist shops and jewelers.

Aside from the famous Rialto Bridge, be sure to also visit Scalzi Bridge (Ponte degli Scalzi) close to the station and wooden Accademia Bridge (Ponte dell Accademia).

Grand Canal Venice

The view along the Grand Canal from Accademia Bridge

 

Take a stroll around Rialto Market

Once you’ve crossed over the iconic Rialto Bridge, head next door to 700-year-old Rialto Market.

Open daily from around 7am-1pm (except Sundays), you’ll find historic Rialto Market on the Campo della Pescheria and its surrounding streets; the exact location of a market in Venice since 1097.

The market is made up of two sections; a fresh fruit and veg market and a fish market.

If you opted for an apartment or hotel with a kitchen in order to save money on eating out, the market is the perfect spot to pick up some delicious local ingredients for dinner.

And even if you’re not on the lookout for any fresh produce, the busy and vibrant market is still a great place to take a stroll around and watch Venice’s local residents go about their daily lives.

Arrive early in the morning for the most authentic local experience.

 

Snap some photos at Venice’s coolest bookshop

A trip to Libreria Acqua Alta is another one of the best free things to do in Venice, especially for book lovers or simply those looking to get some cool photos for the ‘gram.

The unusual bookshop became famous after deciding to protect itself from Venice’s constant flooding by keeping its book collection in a series of bathtubs, bins, boats and even a full-size gondola.

Outside, a pile of old encyclopedias, which unfortunately did succumb to water damage, have been turned into a colourful staircase which visitors are welcome to climb and take a look over the wall to the neighbouring canal.

It’s also not that uncommon to see one of Venice’s many feline residents taking a wander around the cosy little bookshop too.

Venice bookshop

 

Visit a free museum on the first Sunday of the month

While the majority of Venice’s main attractions come with an admission fee, if you can plan your trip to coincide with the first Sunday of the month, you’ll be able to visit some of the city’s top museums and galleries completely for free.

A few of the free museums in Venice on the first Sunday of the month include;

  • Gallerie dell’Accademia – featuring masterpieces by pre-19th-century Venetian painters.
  • Giorgio Franchetti Gallery at the Ca’ d’Oro – the beautiful art collection of Baron Giorgio Franchetti, located inside one of the world’s most famous Venetian palaces, also known as the ‘Golden House’.
  • The National Archaeological Museum of Venice – home to a large collection of antiquities right in St Mark’s Square.
  • Oriental Art Museum at Ca’ Pesaro – showcasing an impressive collection of works of Oriental art (primarily Japanese and Chinese).

 

Take a Vaporetto ride out to explore some of the other islands

Another great way to explore Venice on a budget is to jump on a Vaporetto and explore some of the other islands in the Venetian lagoon.

Other than the cost of the Vaporetto ticket, many of Venice’s islands can easily be enjoyed without spending anything.

  • Burano – A quaint and colourful fisherman’s town on the northern edge of the Venetian lagoon. Trust me, all you’ll want to do is walk around and admire the pretty rainbow streets.
  • Murano – The hub of Venice’s luxury glass-blowing industry. Wander around the shops and step inside the multiple free Murano glass galleries and museums.
  • Isola di San Michele – Pay a visit to Venice’s serene and peaceful floating cemetery.
  • Lido – Relax on one of the island’s several sandy beaches.
Burano Venice

The colourful island of Burano in the Venetian lagoon at sunset

 

Discover more about visiting Venice’s islands plus other cool under-the-radar attractions in my guide to the most unual things to do in Venice.

 

Where to eat in Venice on a budget

While Venice gets a bad reputation for its expensive restaurants, as long as you stay away from the tourist traps and luxury Michelin-Starred dining establishments, it’s actually not too difficult to find somewhere to eat in Venice on a budget at all.

Venetian street food

If you’re travelling on an extremely limited budget, save money by popping into one of the casual streetfood style pizzerias around the city which serve huge slices of pizza for around €2 each.

Cheap restaurants in Venice

If you’d rather go for a sit-down meal, try one of my favourite affordable restaurants in Venice.

Puppa Bar is an amazing local hidden gem in the Cannaregio district, with delicious food, great wine and extremely affordable deals including pizza, pasta or salad, a glass of wine and coffee for just €15.

Cicchetti and wine

Alternatively, ditch the full meal and stop for a glass of wine and some traditional Cicchetti instead.

Cicchetti is Venetian finger food which usually comes in the form of small open-faced sandwiches (with a whole array of toppings), tramezzini (stuffed white bread sandwiches), polpette (fried meatballs), arancini (fried rice balls) and plenty more, eaten to accompany a glass of wine or spritz.

Each piece of Cicchetti usually costs around €2-4, so opting for this style of dining can be a cheaper way to enjoy a local bite to eat in Venice on a budget.

Bacarando Corte dell’Orso is one of my favourite local spots for a tasty and varied offering of Cicchetti.

Venice Cicchetti, cheap restaurants in Venice


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