Venice is a magical floating city that consists of 117 small islands which are built entirely on water; its canals are an incredible substitute for roads and make the city so very unique. Travel tends to be only by foot or boat in this intriguing and enchanting place on earth. Venice is one of the most instantly recognisable places in the world, and we at Trip101 want to share our insider’s top tips on how you can appreciate and experience this jaw-dropping and mesmerising destination.
1. Arrange your airport transportation in advance
To start a trip to Venice off successfully, we recommend that you arrange your transfer from the airport (which is on the mainland) to your hotel in advance. You have three choices: you can either splash out for a private water taxi, take the public boat or catch a bus to the nearest point; if you take the bus option, you should note that the bus stop is on the mainland, so you will have to do quite a bit of walking to get to your hotel. The private water taxi choice is the most luxurious and time effective option and will cost you about 110 EUR (129 USD) unless you opt for a shared water taxi (which can be purchased on Viator). The public boat option is organised by Aliaguna public boat and costs 15 EUR (18 USD) one-way and is the most economical way to reach the islands, albeit it takes the longest amount of time.
2. Stay at a hotel that overlooks the Grand Canal
Whatever transport you do take, you will have to lug your suitcases a little bit, even if it’s down a cobbled street or across a little bridge. Make your experience of Venice better by staying at a hotel that overlooks the Grand Canal. This means that you can reduce the amount of time during which you’re having a workout with your luggage and you will be able to easily reach your hotel after a day of sightseeing. We especially suggest that you stay by the Rialto Bridge or the Accademia Bridge as there are several bright yellow signs which indicate how to get there (as well as boat stops) right next to the bridges. There are hotels of various budgets, that are located on the Grand Canal by these bridges. We recommend that you stay at the amazing one-star Hotel Galleria.
3. Wake up at 5.00 am and explore the peaceful city
Venice at its best is at around 5.00 am as it is at this time that the city is free from the day trip cruise hoppers and overnight tourists that are scattered around the city. We want you to be able to wander around and cross the bridges that make up the islands peacefully rather than feeling the push and shove from people from every side. The local water buses known as vaporettos (and are different from airport transportation) are perfect to take at this time in the morning as you can cruise up and down the Grand Canal. The best places to visit at this time are the Rialto Bridge (because of its view) and Saint Mark’s Square (because of the historical monuments here such as Doge’s Palace and Saint Mark’s Basilica).
4. Embrace the culture by taking a workshop at Ca’ Macana
Venice is internationally known for its spectacular masks, which are most notably worn during the Carnival season. However, all year round, you can purchase masks that are on display in the many stores in the city. If you’re seeking a real Venetian mask, then we have to urge you to visit Ca’ Macana, which is a popular establishment for its authentic, original and unique masks. At Ca’ Macana, you can also sign up for a workshop where you can learn the production and decoration of Venetian masks (and actually make your own mask as a keepsake). We suggest that you join up to a session with Ca’ Macana and learn about the history of Venetian masks and participate in making your own. The staff at Ca’ Macana will let you go all out with the paints, feathers and gems so that you can make a fantastic mask to take home with you.
5. Appreciate and respect that Venice is a home to locals
Venice is a truly beautiful city but sadly the number of inhabitants has reduced significantly over the years, with one of the primary reasons being the mass tourism and how it has affected their cost of living, quality of life and space. We suggest that when you visit, you consider abiding to a few local rules so that you respect this city, which is a living museum. For example, don’t block the bridges by sorting out your selfie sticks (get it ready in advance) and don’t sit or drink on the steps of bridges. Respect the rules on the vaporetto in regard to where to enter and exit, don’t try to skip the queues. Thank the locals when they help you with directions (as you’re most likely one of several that has asked them for help that day). Venice can only exist if Venetians are happy to and able to stay there, so it’s in everyone’s interest that the locals feel respected and appreciated.
6. Enjoy getting lost and forget the idea of an organised tour
Venice is an intricate maze of alleys and waterways, and the best way to enjoy it is by simply wandering around. It does not require a tour guide or a set agenda but rather the opposite; be patient and explore the different parts of it by foot and boat. Enjoy the experience; embrace the unexpected excitement when you spot a private garden, a quaint little square or a welcoming church. Venetian addresses are rather unhelpful except the few yellow signs indicating which way to go for the most popular tourist spots, so anticipate getting lost and in fact, welcome it. The happier you feel about being adventurous and spontaneous, the better your trip to this one-of-a-kind place will be. This is a wonderful place to stop for a while and practice mindfulness as you observe and appreciate everything that Venice has to offer.
7. Be wary of tourist trap eateries in popular spots
Provided that you find the right spots, Venetian eateries can be an absolute delight. However, we must warn you that there are a number of dining establishments that have been catered solely for the one-in-a-lifetime tourist visitor, and these places don’t really care for your palate or repeat customers. We suggest that you steer clear of restaurants that have menus translated in several languages, are primarily located in tourist areas and the only patrons seated are tourists. If you want really tasty food, then venture out a little bit from the main spots, pass a few alleys, cross a few bridges and wander through a few squares. Some of the restaurants that we recommend that you dine in include Hostaria Osottosopra and Bar Ristorante Da Gino Venezia. These restaurants serve up delish food for a reasonable price tag (compared to other Venetian eateries). They’re dining establishments that care for and respect the ingredients that they’re cooking with and want you to have a memorable and satisfying experience.
8. Don't miss out on Caffe Florian
The exception to dining in a tourist spot is the timeless and world-famous Caffe Florian. Casanova, Charles Dickens, Henry James and Lord Byron are a few of the individuals that have sat here, sipped a cup of coffee and pondered on their thoughts. Caffe Florian is a phenomenal establishment that has a stunning indoor seating area which is lavishly decorated with mirrors, huge artworks and gold leaf; it also has a beautiful outdoor seating area which has a live orchestra playing throughout the day. Caffe Florian is more than a café and is rather an institution that has stood the test of time having been built in 1720. It offers not only drinks and food, but history and culture. It is a jewel on St. Marks’ Square that embodies and is the epitome of class. Sitting here and experiencing everything that St. Marks’ Square has to offer is the best way to enjoy Venetian culture. If you find that the price tag is too high, we suggest budgeting on other experiences during your trip instead as this is one place that we definitely recommend.
We hope you're ready for the best trip ever
Feel prepared to now have the best trip ever to Venice? We at Trip101 hope so. Plan your transportation in advance, book a hotel on the Grand Canal, enjoy the city early in the morning, be spontaneous and embrace getting lost, try delish Venetian dishes and experience its history and culture. Be thankful to the kind locals for their hospitality and tolerance; they have remained in and around Venice because of their love for their home and because they do want to share it with you. Respect and appreciate their efforts because without them there would be no Venice today.
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