Venice Travel Tips: Things to know before visiting Venice

St Marks Square with tables outside cafes in Venice Italy

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Last Updated on August 9, 2021 by London City Calling

As one of the most famous tourist destinations in all of Europe, Venice is somewhere on almost everybody’s bucket list. From taking a gondola ride down the Grand Canal to sipping Aperol Spritz in a charming piazza, Venice has so much to offer. But this also means that the floating city can get extremely busy, crowded and a little overwhelming if you’re not equipped with some insider Venice travel tips. After numerous visits myself, I’ve put together 15 of the most important things to know before visiting Venice…

This post is split into four main sections:

    • When to go
    • Getting around
    • Money
    • Things to do


Venice Travel Tips – When To Go


Avoid peak times and public holidays

Busy canal in Venice Italy

The first thing you should know before visiting Venice is that it’s pretty much guaranteed to be busy no matter what time of year you go. Venice is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world and is as famous these days for its crowds as it is for its canals. Unfortunately, there’s nothing you can do about this.

But if you’re really not a fan of huge crowds, it’s best to try to avoid peak times and public holidays such as the summer months between late June and August, May Day (1st May), or over Easter. These are the periods when Venice is at its busiest.



But don’t visit during winter

Venice during a storm with grey clouds and flooding walkways

However, my second Venice travel tip here is that – in my opinion at least – Venice isn’t a winter city.

Temperatures in Venice drop to freezing over the winter months, and heavy rain often causes the canals to flood and cover the nearby streets in ankle-deep water. It can also get uncomfortably windy walking next to the canals in winter – take this from someone who nearly got blown into one during a storm!

So while it is best to visit Venice off-peak, don’t plan your visit for the middle of winter either.

The only reason you might want to visit Venice during winter would be for its famous Venice Carnivale celebrations in February each year. Carnival time in Venice can get extremely busy, but it’s also one of the most amazing festivals in the world so don’t let the crowds put you off for this.



Wait, so when is the best time to visit Venice?

Taking all of the above into account, the best time to visit Venice is during the shoulder months of April, May, September and October when the crowds are slightly smaller and the weather is still comfortably warm with less chance of rain.



Venice Travel Tips – Getting Around


Wear comfortable shoes

Venice on a budget

Another important thing to know before visiting Venice is that you will end up walking, a lot.

With its lack of roads, Venice is definitely a walking city, especially when you end up getting lost down the many winding streets and little alleyways – which you inevitably will do.

While it may be tempting to throw on some cute heels or strappy sandals to look good in all of your Venice snaps, you’ll probably regret that decision after a couple of hours when you’re climbing over your 20th bridge of the day.



Stay near a Vaporetto stop

Vaporettos are Venice’s public water buses that run on 20 scheduled lines around the city’s canals, as well as connecting Venice with the other nearby islands.

With Venice being completely car-less, Vaporetto is the only real public transport on the island. If you don’t want to spend your entire trip walking or are limited on time, jumping on a Vaporetto is a quick and fun way to get around while still taking in the sites along the canals on your way.

There is also a Vaporetto station directly outside Venezia Santa Lucia – the central train station in Venice – meaning Vaporetto is the most convenient way to get from the station to your hotel. Trust me, dragging your suitcase through the crowded narrow streets and across multiple bridges is not easy!

Ensuring your hotel is located close to a Vaporetto stop is a simple way to make your trip hassle-free and to avoid wasted time trying to find the nearest stop rather than enjoying your time sightseeing.



Remember that Vaporettos can come from both directions

Vaporetto stop in Venice Italy

While some Vaporetto stops only have traffic coming in from one way and leaving in the other, some smaller stops have boats coming from both directions on the same route.

Be sure sure to pay attention and to board the right direction waterbus so that you don’t end up heading off in the opposite direction to where you intended to go – a very easy mistake to make!



Don’t forget to validate your transport tickets

Another important thing to know before visiting Venice, or Italy in general for that matter, is that public transport tickets need to be validated at little machines in the station or on the platforms before you board – yes, even if you purchase your ticket there. This includes Venice’s waterbuses.

Before you board a boat, find a machine and hold your ticket close to the electronic reader until you see a small light flash or hear a beep.

Also, if you can’t find a ticket machine to purchase your ticket in the first place, you can also buy a ticket on board from the conductor, however, this does need to be done the minute you step on to the boat to avoid a large fine for not having a ticket.



It may be worth buying a travel pass

Boat in Venice

A single-use Vaporetto ticket is €7.50, and if you’ll only be using the waterbus for a one-way journey – such as from the train station to your hotel – this is all you’ll need.

However, if you’re thinking of using the Vaporetto multiple times in one day, either around the canals or heading off to explore the other islands, or if you’re staying in Venice for several days, it may be worth investing in a travel pass instead.

You can choose from a 24-hour travel pass for €20, 3 days for €40 or 7 days for €60, all of which can be used for unlimited journeys during that timeframe.

Travel passes can be purchased either online in advance or from ticket machines at the stops.



There is parking on Venice island

If you’re visiting Venice as part of a wider northern Italy road trip and are wondering what to do with your car, there is in fact parking on the island itself, despite being a notoriously car-free destination.

On Venice island there are two main places you can park;

  • Tronchetto – an artificial island connected to Venice island which was designed just for parking. 24 hours of parking will cost you around €21. From Tronchetto, you can take the People Mover to the Piazzale Roma or catch a Vaporetto to other locations within the city center.
  • Piazzale Roma – a large square which is the last stop for cars, taxis, and buses arriving in Venice. There are several smaller garages in Piazzale Roma, such as Garage San Marco, but being within walking distance from the historic center they can be pretty expensive.

Alternatively, a much cheaper option is to leave your car in a car park in Venice Mestre (the mainland);

  • Parcheggi San Giuliano – located in the Parco San Giuliano on the mainland at the foot of the causeway that leads to Venice. You can park your car at the ‘Porta Gialla’ (Yellow Gate) lot for about €5 per day and catch a bus or boat across to Venice Island.



Venice Travel Tips – Money


Venice doesn’t have to be as expensive as it’s made out to be

St Marks Square with tables outside cafes in Venice Italy

Venice has somewhat of a reputation for being expensive.

And while it’s certainly not the cheapest destination in Europe by a long shot, visiting Venice doesn’t have to completely break the bank.

There are plenty of things you can do to bring down the cost of your stay in Venice, from eating in restaurants away from the main tourist areas to enjoying the city’s many free attractions.

For more, check out my full article on how to visit Venice on a budget here.



Remember to budget for tourist tax

An important thing to know about visiting Venice is that you’ll need to pay additional tourist tax on top of any travel and accommodation costs.

If you’re staying overnight, you’ll pay the tourist tax directly to your accommodation, which can range between €3.50-5 per person per night depending on the star rating of the hotel.

If you’re only visiting on a day trip, you’ll still have to pay the new ‘day-tripper’ tourist tax of between €3-10 per day depending on the season you’re visiting.

Be sure to factor in these additional costs when budgeting for your time in Venice.



Public toilets aren’t free

Cafe in Venice Italy

If you’re wandering around Venice and feel the urge, there are a few public toilets dotted around the city, however, they can be a bit of a pain to find and usually cost around €1.50 to use.

Alternatively, you could pop into one of the little cafes or coffee shops and order an espresso or pastry for €1 then use their toilet for free as a paying customer.

Don’t just walk into a cafe and use the toilet without buying anything though – this is considered extremely rude in Italy.



Misbehaving in Venice can result in a large fine

Over the last few years, Venice has really started clamping down on badly behaved tourists, with fines of up to €500 (roughly £435) for things including swimming or paddling in the canals, walking around topless, littering and even sitting around on the steps of bridges or the major tourist attractions.

I once sat on the floor on St Marks Square for about 20 seconds just to take a photo of a friend from below and immediately got ushered on by a stern-looking security guard.

Don’t waste your holiday money by making any of these mistakes!



Venice Travel Tips – Things To Do


Gondolas aren’t the only way to explore the canals

Free things to do in Venice

Most people visit Venice with the dream of taking a romantic gondola ride down the canals.

And while this most definitely is still a great thing to do in Venice, there are plenty of other ways to explore the canals that aren’t quite as touristy or crazily expensive.

The cheapest way to cruise down the Venetian canals is on a Vaporetto (Venice’s waterbuses that I’ve already discussed above). Take a round trip on lines 1 or 2 down the Grand Canal to see some of the city’s best sites.

Other cool ways to hit the water in Venice include going kayaking on the canals or taking a Venetian rowing lesson where you can try steering through the canals for yourself.



Always carry something to cover yourself with

St. Marks Basilica Venice Italy travel tips

If you’re visiting during Spring and Autumn, it’s best to travel to Venice with a few layers anyway.

But even if you are in Venice during the hot summer months, one of my best Venice travel tips for you is to be sure to carry a shawl or sarong with you when out exploring.

This is because many of the big attractions in Venice you’re going to want to visit (like much of Italy) are churches and religious buildings, meaning that you may need to cover your knees and shoulders to enter.

Such a simple thing yet something so many visitors to Venice forget and end up having to return to their hotel room to change or buy an overpriced item from a nearby shop.



Utilize skip-the-line tickets

As I mentioned towards the start of this post, Venice is an extremely popular destination and is pretty much guaranteed to be busy no matter when you visit.

This, unfortunately, also means that there are often long queues for the most famous tourist attractions, especially during peak times. St Mark’s Basilica, in particular, has a notoriously long queue time of between 45min and 2 hours.

If you want to shorten the time you’re waiting around during your trip, there are two main things you can do. The first is to make sure to arrive at the major attractions early in the morning when they first open and are usually less busy. The second is to purchase skip-the-line tickets.

Some skip-the-line tickets you can buy online in advance include;



Visit the other islands too

Colourful houses on the island of Burano in Venice

If you’re completely new to Venice, you may be slightly confused about the ‘other islands’ I keep on mentioning throughout this post.

Well, Venice is actually just only one of 118 small islands that sit within the Venetian lagoon.

Sadly, it took me until my fourth time in Venice to venture out to any of the other islands, and wow… I certainly didn’t realise what I was missing!

From the colourful fisherman’s houses of Burano and the historic glass blowing industry of Murano to the tranquil Isola di San Michele (Venice’s floating cemetery) and beautiful beaches of Lido, there’s so much more to discover in the Venetian lagoon than just the canals of Venice.

So one of my biggest Venice travel tips to you is to not make the same mistake as I did and be sure to include at least a day trip out to some of the other islands in your first-time Venice itinerary.

Learn more about the islands in my guide to the most unusual things to do in Venice here.



There’s more to the Veneto region than just Venice

Visit the Prosecco region of Italy

As well as the other islands, there are plenty of other fantastic places in wider Veneto (the region in which Venice sits) that you could also add to your trip.

Just a 30 minute train from Venice you have the charming city of Treviso where you can eat tiramisu at the very restaurant where the famous Italian dessert was first invented.

Or just a one hour train journey from Venice – or another 30 minutes on from Treviso – you have Italy’s beautiful Prosecco hills. Take a stroll amongst the rolling vineyards, visit family-run wineries and go Prosecco tasting in the small region known for producing Italy’s highest quality sparkling wine.

Also an hour away from Venice by train is one of my favourite places in all of Italy, the historic city of Verona, which is best known as the fictional setting of Shakespeare’s romantic tragedy Romeo and Juliet. Then close to Verona is another of northern Italy most popular summer destinationsLake Garda.



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London City Calling

Emily is a born and raised London girl, starting life in the north of the capital then moving down to Fulham in the southwest. She has a master’s degree in Social and Cultural Anthropology from University College London and now works full-time running this blog and as a freelance travel writer, splitting her life between London and travelling the world as a digital nomad.

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