Forgive us for stating the blatantly obvious, but we really think the last thing the world needs is yet another guide listing the 101 top things to do in Venice. Do you really need to be told that a romantic ride long the Grand Canal may be a good activity to plan? Or that watching the sun set in St Mark’s Square is not to be missed? No? Good! To be honest, if you don’t have a vision of days spent getting hopelessly lost exploring the most hidden alleyways and canals of what is arguably the most enchanting city in the world, you don’t even deserve to go!
Instead, we thought we’d share our most tried and tested insider tips on how to get the most out of your visit.
Moreover, we’ll also tell you why we think some of our tips are truly priceless. We promise there is no madness to our thinking!
1) Travel off-season
This may not be groundbreaking news, we’ll give you that, but it is such a crucial point (in our humble opinion) that it needs to be reiterated. There is a very, very high chance that your entire opinion and experience of Venice will be completely ruined if you decide to travel there during the busy summer months. Whilst all of Europe is insanely chaotic during the months between June and September, Venice would have to rate as the most hectic of all. We’re talking every single nook and cranny of the city filled to the brim with thousands upon thousands of tourists. Every traghetto is overflowing and, in fact, there are so many more water taxi services offered that at times you’ll actually struggle to see the water. Don’t get us wrong, we luv Venice, but we don’t love it in August. No one does.
Not only will your nerves be sorely tested, but your visit will cost double what it would cost at any other time of year and the whole experience be decidedly less than romantic. If you’ve ever spent a week-end in Paris in the middle of winter you’ll know exactly what we’re talking about. Feeling like you have one of Europe’s most magnificent cities all to yourself more than makes up for having to pack an extra jumper.
2) Join an organized tour on your first day
Before you click away from this page thinking we’ve gone all mainstream; hold that index finger! Just hear us out...
You know how everyone always claims how beautiful it is to get hopelessly lost in Venice? Well it is, sort of, except when you have just spent the last 2 hours trying to find a particular place you want to visit, but can’t for the life of you figure out where it is. Or where you are. It is then, that Venice is actually bloody exasperating. Trust us when we tell you that no matter how many places you want to visit, it will take you twice as much time to get there as you anticipate because yes, you will get lost. No map or in-built GPS system is gonna help you there either. And while we are as allergic to the overly-touristy thing as anybody else, we do recognise that there are a few cities in Europe where it really, really pays to get a local guide show you around. Venice is one such city.
Spending two hours being led DIRECTLY to almost a dozen points of interest by a local guide is truly priceless. Once you get the most popular sites ‘out of the way’ you will then be able to relax and actually enjoy getting lost through the Venetian maze because you’ll have fewer boxes to tick. Our favourite guide company at the moment is Walks of Italy who are amassing an impressive collection of guided tours through all major Italian cities and are consistently receiving amazingly great reviews. Their Venice highlights tour also includes a half hour gondola ride which would actually cost you more than the tour itself (€59.00) if you booked a sail directly. Check out this website for more details. If you want to save on time and frustration, and get a clear orientation of Venice on your first day, then we’d highly recommend joining a tour. But hey, don’t just take our word for it, check out the reviews on TripAdvisor instead.
3) Know where you want to go for dinner
Everyone dreams of stumbling along a hidden little trattoria in some back street in Venice, where dinner is divine, the hosts amiable and the atmosphere authentic. However, this hardly ever becomes a reality. Walk into any old restaurant you stumble across on your walks and, unfortunately, you’re more likely to end up with a very expensive, and rather below-par, dining experience. Sad but true. Instead, scour review sites which feature guest commentaries and make sure you already have a few places in mind before you even arrive. Although some people claim that guest reviews can be ‘faked’, the majority are actually very legit. This is about the best way for you to ascertain which places you should head to and which you should avoid. If you join a tour whilst in town, then feel free to ask for personal recommendations from your guide. As these jobs are highly sought (and no Italian in their right mind would jeopardise it) there is less chance a guide will send you to a ‘tourist rip off’ place. Do your homework in Venice, more so than in any other in the whole country. The city is more like a small village where inhabitants are concerned, there really aren’t many of them and they don’t go out to restaurants every night. Almost 99% of eateries cater for visitors, so make sure you know which ones are worth visiting.