Having always been associated with romanticism of the Grand Canal, splendid sunset above the waterline and medieval bridges above the floating vaporettos, Venice is one of the most visited city in Italy. Couples come to venice for honeymoon whilst artists seek Venice for inspirations. For visitors reaching Venice for regular vacation, getting around the city’s main attraction can be extremely expensive, considering the fact that one single public boat ride costs 7.5 EUR. However, there are many ways for visitors to enjoy Venice for free or on a low budget. Here’s how:
1. Learn Italian music history at the Music Museum of Venice
The Music Museum of Venice, created by the Interpreti Veneziani (the famous group of Venetian master musicians playing mainly classical Baroque music on original instruments since 1987), can be visited for free. Music-lovers will enjoy spending hours learning about the making of different instruments (including the liuteria) that originated from various cities all around Italy, while listening to classical music. The museum is open everyday from 10 AM to 7 PM.
2. Visit many churches
Venice is not only well-known for the Saint Mark’s Basilica but also plenty of other churches that you can visit for free. Some of the churches do not allow photographs and others don’t allow tourists. Several churches and basilicas that tourists can visit for free are: St. Mark’s Basilica, Santa Maria della Salute, San Vidal and the Church of Santa Maria del Carmelo.
3. Explore plenty of art galleries
It goes without saying that Venice is the place to be for many artists, with its stunning sights all over the city that are their source of inspiration. Beautiful landscapes that you thought you could only find in old movies and famous paintings seem to be everywhere. Don’t be astonished to find art everywhere here! There are dozens of art galleries and studios around Dorsoduro (e.g. Galleria d’Arte l’Occhio, Living Art Gallery Di De Lazzari Livia) that visitors can just enter to take a look for free. You will need to spend days or weeks to visit all of them.
4. Walk along the Arsenal from Castello to S. Mark’s Square
Many locals say you will get the best view of Venice from the famous Punta della Dogana. However, I think the most magnificent view of Venice can be seen around the waterline in Castello, close to Arsenal. During the day, this area is less crowded. You can enjoy the beautiful sunlight, have a cup of coffee at a cafes or sit by a terrace. To see the sunset, the Grand Canal is one of the most popular viewpoints of Venice.
5. Paint your own mask
There are plenty of mask shops around Venice’s central area. The handmade Venetian masks tend to be more expensive but they are of better quality than the mass-produced masks or those imported from abroad. One of my favourite places to get a traditional handmade Venetian mask is La Vetrinetta - an artisan workshop where you can find paper mâché and plaster masks made by the craftswoman Claudia. Avoid buying masks from the street-stands that offers more expensive masks for 10 EUR or 15 EUR (around 12 USD or 17 USD). In La Vetrinetta you will find cheaper masks, with prices starting from 5 EUR (roughly 6 USD). It’s even possible to get the cheaper blank ones if you like making your own mask!
6. Taste a gelato at Gelateria Nico
Many visitors to Italy are obsessed with this top must-do: to try the gelato. One of the best gelatos, rated by the locals in Venice, is the Gelateria Nico at Dorsoduro. The gelato here is homemade and sold for as cheap low price as 1.5 EUR (roughly 2 USD) for a cone with one scoop and 2.5 EUR (roughly 3 USD) for two scoops. If you love Italian cuisine and dining out, be prepared to pay extra charges for the seats in some restaurants around Venice. Ask them before making your order! You can also take away the food, especially just a slice of pizza for a quick lunch, which you can find for only 2.5 EUR to 3 EUR (roughly 3-3.5 USD). One of the best pizza restaurants you can find in Venice is Antico Forno.
Traveling in Europe and especially Italy is not expensive at all. There are numerous free and cheap things you can enjoy, from sightseeing to eating. Venice is such a small city that you can walk around and thus save on transportation. For nightlife enthusiasts, tasting good Italian wine at bars is also affordable. There’s only one club in Venice called Piccolo Mondo, that would charge you 12 EUR (roughly 13.5 USD) to get in. Note that drinks are extremely expensive here.
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