After two years of living in Italy, I finally made it to Venice! I don’t know what took me so long, but I wish I would have gone sooner. Venice is truly a magical floating city. We spent the weekend there exploring the narrow bridges and labyrinth of canals, stopping into museums and cicchetti bars along the way. In this guide, I’ll share where to stay, where to eat, the best cicchietti bars and things to do during your trip to Venice.
Where to Stay in Venice
Hotel Bisanzio was quite a find! It was the perfect location, close enough to walk to everything but also in the quieter Castello district. The breakfast was hearty and we really enjoyed the views on the terrace outside our room. They were so kind and upgraded us because we had Alfie! We paid about 95 euros a night, which is a steal for Venice (you can’t compete with off season prices).
Where to Eat
Many restaurants were closed when we visited. Winter is the perfect time to Venice, but for a few weeks in January, a lot of the places I had intended on visiting where closed. I had read so much about Al Timon and Osteria Mocenigo. We also ate at Scalinetto. The place was full and I was glad I made a reservation. The black ink calamari risotto was excellent and the prices were reasonable.
I feel like Venice is always synonymous with expensive, mediocre food. So do your research and try to avoid tourist traps (places with photos on the menu or someone outside trying to get you to eat there).
Opening in 1720, Caffè Florian is one of the oldest coffee houses in the world. I cheaped out on spending 7 times the usual cost of an espresso shot in Italy (and I read there’s a 6 euro charge per person if there is music playing), but I understand visiting here is more of an experience than simply coffee. So, if visiting the world’s oldest coffee house is on your bucket list, this will fit the bill (just don’t be shocked when you get it).
The Best Cicchetti Bars
You don’t have to have a fancy sit down meal to eat well in Venice. You’ll find little snacks and open-faced sandwiches at the cicchetti bars and enotecas all around the city. The Bellini is said to have been invented in Venice, so better get one (or two) of those for good measure.
Al Merca – Drinks were only 3 or 4 euros each and the bartenders were very friendly. There’s a few benches, but it’s mainly standing room and people stand around the small piazza in front of the shop. We actually ended up going here two nights in a row. Get an Aperol Select Spritz, it’s the less bitter version of the bright orange Aperol Spritz you might be more familiar with.
Birreria Forst – We were eating peanuts and pecorino and drinking wine when a group of gondola drivers came in. They stood at the bar with their matching striped shirts and had several drinks before leaving. I loved it.
Cantina Do Mori – This cozy little spot had quite the wine selection and was reasonably priced.
Things to do in Venice
We got the Museums Pass because we wanted to visit multiple museums in Venice. Visit the Doge’s Palace to actually walk inside the Bridge of Sighs. There was a large crowd around the bridge outside, but inside the museum there was hardly anyone. Be sure to look for signs though because we almost missed this when were were exiting.
Find ticket and museum pass information here.
Another insider spot you should visit is the cafe inside the Correr Museum. You can see all of San Marco square from above.
As with most cities in Italy, the top activity is simply strolling the narrow passage ways and getting lost in the beauty that is Italy! Venice was a labyrinth and I actually got a little anxious at one time when were were trying to get back to the hotel. Google Maps was a lifesaver! Even if you don’t have an international data plan, GPS will still work and you can see the little blue dot (you) when you’re in airplane mode.
We made sure to walk over to the Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute and see where the island comes to a point.
Visiting the rooftop terrace of the DFS store is simply a must do! It is free and there are stunning views of Venice to be seen from the top.
The instafamous Acqua Alta Library is also a must see! From Santorini to Paris, I love visiting unique bookstores and had to check it out. A few spots feel a little staged and people were waiting to take their photos (how could you not snap photos of this place?). However, there was also a quality inventory of interesting books, vintage postcards and reasonable priced wall art.
How to get to Venice
I took a train right to the Santa Lucia train station. Venice also has an airport with frequent departures on European budget airlines. If you’re coming from the USA, you might want to look at flying into Rome or Paris and then taking an EasyJet or RyanAir flight to Venice. I usually check Skyscanner to see who is offering the best deal.
Getting around Venice was doable on foot, but there are also plenty of water ferries and frequent ports. We only used a water ferry once to get from the train station to the hotel. Be careful when you are using Google Maps to walk around and be sure to adjust the setting to “Avoid Ferries.” Once the directions showed us walking right across the water! Needless to say, we had to backtrack quite a bit to find an actual bridge.
What to Wear
Keep in mind that it’s not uncommon for Venice to flood in the winter. I decided to wear my rain boots so I didn’t have to worry about it. These aren’t as clunky as other rain boots so you can still be comfortable walking all day. If the flooding gets really bad, there will be a place where you can buy plastic bag covers.