You can view all posts from my trip to Italy here.
If you’ve been keeping up with my posts about Italy, you’ll know that Venice wasn’t my favorite. I found it to be overly crowded, and restaurants and vendors catered to tourists so it didn’t feel like the authentic Italian experience that I got in other cities. But it is a beautiful city and very unique – how many other cities sit on canals? I can see why people visit Venice and I don’t regret going (though I’m not sure I would want to return), especially since I loved Murano and Burano so much! If you do want to go, here are some things to know before visiting Venice so you can have a better experience than I did! 🙂
1. Be prepared for big crowds
I live in Philadelphia, which may not be as touristy as other U.S. cities, but I’m still used to crowds of tourists. But nothing prepared me for Venice. St. Mark’s Square was absolutely overrun with crowds of people, and it was one of the few places in Italy where I was worried about pickpockets. And this wasn’t even during the main tourist season. I experienced crowds of tourists other places in Italy, of course, but absolutely nothing compared to the crowds in Venice!
One of the less crowded parts of St. Mark’s Square
2. Many streets (and canals) are verrrry narrow
The streets in Venice are winding and much more narrow than I was expecting. It’s fine until you’re trying to fight your way through the crowds of tourists, and then it feels very claustrophobic. You can take water taxis to some places, but the easiest way to get around is walking, so just brace yourself if you tend to get claustrophobic. I was also surprised how narrow many of the canals are, and it gave me a new appreciation for how well the rowers navigate!
3. It’s expensive and caters to tourists
This was my least favorite thing about Venice. Yes, I understand that Venice gets many tourists, but so does Florence, and I didn’t have a single bad meal in Florence. With expensive gondola rides to street performers following you for money to expensive gelato, it often felt like Venice was a tourist trap. The famous Harry’s Bar gets so many tourists that their bellinis are now 15 euros (and I’ve been told they’re not even that great anymore).
4. Do your restaurant research
Like I said in my first post on Venice, I had the worst Italian food at a restaurant our first day there. It was just so lame and bland, and I’ve had better “Italian” food at Olive Garden. We had done research on restaurants but they were all full and we were starving, so we found a restaurant away from the main tourists sites and hoped for the best. It wasn’t great, and reviews agreed with me.
But the next day, we happened to find a restaurant with amazing food! So not all hope for good food in Venice is lost, but make sure you do your research before eating at any restaurant. And avoid Pizzeria Pasqualigo and go to Hostaria da Noni instead.
5. Street performers can be persistent about money
I knew better than to get close to street performers, but I could see them following people around and asking for money. When we ate dinner outside the first time, there were some street musicians that came up to all the tables outside asking for money. You don’t have to give them anything (I didn’t), but just be aware that many of them are pretty persistent.
6. Pack waterproof shoes
I’m sure you know that it rains quite a bit in Venice, and we definitely got to experience that! It didn’t flood while we were there (but I’ve been told by several people that it does flood often), but there were definitely big puddles all over the place. My shoes were somewhat waterproof, but I wished I had brought better ones, especially since they were sandals and the rain cooled the temperatures down into the 50s!
7. Get ready to walk a lot (especially up and down stairs)
Since I live in a big city, I’m used to walking a lot, so I thought I was prepared for Venice. The walking wasn’t an issue, but I definitely wasn’t prepared for all the stairs on the bridges. I had (wrongly) assumed that the bridges were just smooth like ramps, but nope, all of them were stairs! This was especially tough when you have to walk a mile to your Airbnb with rolling luggage after traveling for a day with no sleep. The bridges are very pretty and all the walking is doable, but just be prepared.
8. Go sightseeing as early as possible
I actually really liked Venice, until the afternoon. We got up early to explore and there were very few people out, so it was quiet and empty. But on our walk back in the afternoon, we could barely even get across the Rialto Bridge because of the crowds. So if you’re not a fan of crowds of tourists like me, do your sightseeing as early as possible in the morning.
The Rialto Bridge is beautiful, but man, does it get crowded
9. Skip the crazy expensive gondola ride
You may have always dreamed of riding in a gondola down canals in Venice, and if that quintessential Venetian experience is on your bucket list, go for it. But be aware that prices can get as high as 100 euros for half an hour, and there are other options if you’re interested. My friends and I did a tour with Row Venice that was cheaper, they taught us how to row on historic batellina boats, they took us to local restaurants for delicious food and wine, and most of the rowers with Row Venice are female since they can’t be gondoliers. Our experience was amazing, and I highly recommend them!
10. Study the water taxi schedule
I mentioned this in the Murano and Burano posts, but we got on a water taxi from Burano going the wrong way and had to go to the end of the line! It added almost an hour onto our itinerary, and I can laugh about it now, but we were cold, wet, and exhausted at that point so I would have preferred getting to a hot shower earlier. So don’t make the same mistake as us, and make sure you pay attention to which water taxi is going which direction.
11. Try to visit local areas
I love getting to experience local culture whenever I travel, and I definitely preferred the local areas in Venice to the touristy ones. We got to visit the areas where locals live during our boat tour with Row Venice, and it was so much quieter and just as beautiful as other areas. The food and wine at the local restaurants we stopped at were delicious! During our boat tour, we also got to ask our guide Elena about what it was like to grow up and live in Venice, so it was nice to get to learn about life.
I loved how everyone hangs up their laundry outside!
12. You won’t necessarily get lost
I’ve always heard that you will get lost in Venice, but thanks to modern technology, we actually didn’t get lost. We made a wrong turn once or twice, but that was about it. I’ve been told that it is nice to get lost in Venice and wander the streets, so if you don’t have a strict schedule to follow, try going without Google Maps!
13. Venture away from the city and visit the islands
So I didn’t really love Venice, but I absolutely loved Murano and Burano! (We were going to visit Torcello, too, but we ran out of time) The islands were much emptier than Venice, and we got to see some gorgeous buildings and see glass and lace being made by hand (plus, I got some pretty awesome souvenirs!). If you have the time, I HIGHLY recommend getting out of the city for a bit and exploring the islands!
I didn’t write this post to keep anyone from visiting Venice; I did enjoy parts of it and it’s a very photogenic city. I just want you to be prepared for you go since I wasn’t all that prepared. I definitely suggest going when it’s not tourist season, and I hope this list of things to know before visiting Venice helps! 🙂
If you’ve been to Venice, what other tips do you have? Comment below!