Italy is definitely my favorite country in Europe I’ve visited thus far (I may be biased because I am Italian, though!). When I was 18, I visited Rome, Florence, and Assisi and fell in love with the Italian culture, food, architecture, and people! I had been dying to cross Venice off my list, and I was thrilled when I found out that Venice was a stop on the European Roadtrip I took with EF College Break this past June! And let me tell you, you will fall in love with Venice as long as you go in prepared and know the best way to visit.
Staying On The Islands Is Expensive
The first thing you should know about the part of Venice you will be visiting (which are the 118 islands connected by walking bridges that make up the “Venice” you see in photos) is that it is tiny. You can walk from one side of the city to the other in under an hour. It is much cheaper to stay on the mainland, so if you are on a budget, I recommend staying in the closest part of mainland Venice called Mestre. You will have to take public transportation (bus and ferry) to get to the chain of islands, but it’s worth the savings!
Beware The Tourists
I mentioned that the islands of Venice are very small… meaning, it gets extremely crowded with tourists. We arrived early in the morning and it was calm and quiet, and then once it hit 10am the madness commenced: an afternoon filled with more tourists than Disneyworld on a summer day. No one told me to prepare for this going in, and I wish someone had – so that is why I am telling you now.
That being said, do whatever you can to avoid high-tourist days: go during the off-season, visit on a weekday, and spend the majority of your time there in the early morning and evening. You’ll be amazed to find that once the sun starts to drop, the tourists begin to leave and you’ll be left with the beauty of Venice at dusk: the locals come out to eat dinner, the lights reflect off the waters of the canals, and you hear the sounds of wine glasses clinking and Venetians talking and laughing. It’s a magical experience, to say the least. This was my favorite time in Venice and is what truly made me fall in love with the city!
Yes, A Gondola Ride is Worth The Price
I had a few people tell me to save money and not ride a gondola, and I am so glad I didn’t listen to them! A ride costs about 80 euro and lasts around 30 minutes, so if you go with four friends you’ll spend 20 euro. That might sound like a lot for a 30 minute boat ride, but there is nothing like traveling the city by canal! It’s a great way to get off your feet and relax for awhile, the gondoliers are hilarious, and you’ll get incredible pictures!
Feed The Birds In St. Mark’s Square
If you’re the person who sees pigeons as “sky rats”, then you might want to opt out of this one. But I like birds and think you haven’t truly visited Venice unless you’ve had 5 pigeons sitting on you! For about a euro, you can get a handful of birdfeed which a man will throw into the air until the birds land on you. Hello, new Facebook Profile picture.
Eat Along The Grand Canal
My advice is to take the money you saved on accommodations and spend it on food! Eating is one of the best parts about being in Italy. I recommend eating along the Grand Canal. You’ll cross the famous Rialto Bridge on your way there and find tons of restaurants lining the water. They are a little more expensive than in other parts of the city, but it’s worth it to have a beautiful view of the canal and gondolas floating by!
Get To St. Mark’s Basilica Early
I made this mistake when I visited Venice and when I went to go inside the basilica I encountered a line that must have been an hour long. I recommend doing this first thing upon arrival since it’s in St. Mark’s Square nearby the drop-off point. It’s free to enter, which is a pretty sweet deal considering it’s over 1,000 years old! You can also pay to access the roof and get an awesome view of St. Mark’s Square from above.
Take The Ferry To Burano
This is an absolute must if you are in Venice. There are three islands about 45 minutes away from the mainland: Murano, Burano, and Torcello. Most people choose to visit Murano, which is the famous “glass-blowing” island. But Burano is by far the most beautiful of the three; it’s a small island filled with bright neon houses of all different colors. They say that the locals painted their houses these bright colors many years ago so they could recognize them more easily from the water, but whatever their reasoning – I’m very happy they did!
To get to Burano, you will have to purchase a ride on a vaporetto, which is a public water taxi. You will likely find them in the same place you were dropped off at the start of the day, right outside St. Mark’s Square. You can buy a day pass to the islands for around 20 euro – just make sure to check the departure times so you don’t miss the last boat back!
Are my photos convincing you yet?
How about now?
Told you this place is awesome!
Ride A Private Water Taxi Home
Because two friends and I had decided to stay longer in Venice and split off from our main group, we had to find our own transportation back to Mestre. We ended up deciding to pay the 60 or so euros to take a private water taxi back to the mainland because we couldn’t figure out which ferry to take. And guys… this was one of the coolest experiences ever.
The driver will take you around the perimeter of the islands which is an experience you just can’t get on foot! Not to mention you’ll feel like a celebrity while you’re riding around in a beautiful wooden boat with your friends. So worth it.
So those are some things you need to know when you’re visiting Venice! This is one of my favorite places I’ve ever visited and I’m confident if you remember these tips, you’ll have the same experience! Ciao for now 🙂