Venezia – this wonderful city which is suffering under the masses of tourists and rising water levels still is such a beautiful, magical place that invites you to wander around the old streets, canals and palazzi. The more you get into the outer sestieri, or neighborhoods, the more of the authentic, local life with fewer tourists you will experience. But also the center around San Marco with its famous sights cannot be missed. Apart from the breathtaking sights, Venice also has a very special local cuisine, that is best tested in the many bacari, historic, old bars that serve good, cheap, delicious food and wine.
Stay: The hotels in Venice can be pretty expensive, especially during the Biennale or other events, so it can be difficult to find a nice and affordable accommodation. Residence Corte Grimani is a simple clean and cosy hotel and its location is as central as it gets. Another good alternative is a holiday apartment, for our last stay in Venice we booked via Views of Venice and our little home with rooftop terrace was just fantastic.
Getting around: To be able to fully admire all the historic buildings and sights it’s best to explore Venice by foot. However, the vaporetto, or water bus is great to cruise around the canals. You can’t miss the bus stops along Canal Grande and around the city, where you can also buy the tickets, but the boats are always crowded and the tickets are pretty expensive for public transportation. There is the option for a vaporetto pass for several days which is reduces in price. If you walk around Canal Grande you’ll also come across the small traghetto stations. Here you can cross the water for about 1€, which only takes a few minutes but is a fun way to experience a gondola ride.
Do: The Piazza San Marco is the touristic heart of the city, here you find the basilica San Marco which is beautiful and free to visit. Yet, there often is a long line and you have to wait to get in. Right next to it you find the equally impressive Doge’s Palace and the Campanile. Go up there for great views of the city and surrounding islands. Behind the basilica there is another famous attraction, the Ponte dei Sospiri, or Bridge of Sighs. The piazza San Marco itself and the surrounding streets are also beautiful, with the old arcades and unique shops like the truly luxury jeweler Attilio Codognato or Venetian luxury shoe boutique Rene Caovilla.
Exhibitions at Palazzo Grassi are often spectacular, but also simply visiting this old building is nice. The same applies to Palazzo Fortuny. Another church to visit is San Salvador with beautiful works of art.
Eat: It can be difficult to find a restaurant and not be completely caught in a tourist trap in the district of San Marco. Aciugheta is right behind the basilica and a good option for a simple dinner. You can also try Osteria da Carla, Da Arturo and Trattoria da Fiore. For lunch and small eats go to Enoteca Al Volto, Al Portego or I Rusteghi.
Do: This district is the oldest part of Venice, here you find the Mercato di Rialto, today the fish market. Of course you can’t miss the Rialto Bridge and the view of Canal Grande. For even more spectacular views visit the department store T Fondaco dei Tedeschi right at the bridge with its viewing platform. But consider that you have to wait long times in order to get on the roof and you only have about fifteen minutes there. However, the old palazzo itself is a fantastic place and great luxury shopping destination. The Fondazione Prada located on the other side of the canal hosts great exhibitions, as well as Ca’Pesaro. At Palazzetto Bru Zane you can enjoy all sorts of cultural events and concerts. In San Polo there is also Casa Parmigiano, an old shop full of Venetian delicacies and Antica Drogheria Mascari, one of the oldest delis and spice shops.
Eat: In San Polo you find several good bacari where you can enjoy cheap wine and simple food, like Osteria all’Arco, Osteria alla Ciurma, Cantina do Spade, Al Merca, Osteria Bancogiro, Il Diavolo E L’acqua Santa, Antiche Carampane and finally Cantina do Mori.
Do: This neighborhood is also lovely to explore by foot, for example you can see the Squero di San Trovaso, one of the last boatyards, where they still build the traditional gondolas. The Peggy Guggenheim Collection and Palazzo Ca’Rezzonico are also located here. Furthermore, Dorsoduro is great because the university is located in this sestiere, so there are many bars and cafes where you can enjoy a more inexpensive espresso or Aperol. A nice piazza is Campo San Banaba and the cafe Ai Artisti, for instance. Here, you also find one of the market ships, where they sell fruits and legumes right from the ship. Campo Santa Magherita is also a laidback place with bars and the delicious bakery Majer, which bakes a delicious basil cake.
Eat: Osteria Al Squero is right across the boatyard and close to Cantina del Vino Gia Schiavi, another fine bacaro. The wine bars Al Bocon DiVino and the more modern Al Do Draghi are located right on Campo Santa Margherita. Already located in the district of Santa Croce you find the delicious trattoria Antica Besseta, Osteria La Zucca and Chet Bar for drinks.
Do: Strada Nova is the main pedestrian street here, with lots of shops, like the lovely supermarket Despar located in the old Teatro Italia. There is also the exhibition space Palazzo Mora. The history of the first Jewish Ghetto is very interesting and today still a place where you find jewish shops like the great kosher bakery Panificio Volpe Giovanni.
Eat: Al Timon is lovely for cheap, delicious bites. Other bacari close to Strada Nova are Enoteca do Colonne, Cantina Vecia Carbonera, La Cantina, Ai Promessi Sposi and Osteria Al Ponte.
Do: Venice is always gorgeous but it is especially mesmerizing during the Biennale. The art exhibition that takes place every two years in the Arsenale complex, the Giardini park and all around the city is a joyful, abundant celebration of art. If you find yourself on Campo San Zaccaria visit the church, especially its flooded crypt, which you can see during opening hours and after request. There is also the nice beauty shop Segreti di Bellezza right next to the church. From vaporetto station San Zaccaria you can also take the boat to Murano or other small islands around the city center.
Eat: On Via Giuseppe Garibaldi there is Bar Mio with delicious sandwiches. Right at the canal next to it you find a picturesque market ship with fresh products. The pasticceria Rosa Salva is a lovely breakfast or cafe stop on Campo San Giovanni e Paolo.
There are more travel guides for destinations in Italy, the most beautiful country! Read about the islands Panarea, Salina, Stromboli and Vulcano, Sicily here, here and here, Puglia here and here, or the amazing Amalfi Coast and Capri.