13 Things to Know Before Visiting Venice

July 17, 2017 48 Comments

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! 🙂 

Things to know before visiting Venice

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!

Things to know before visiting 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!

Things to know before visiting Venice

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). 

Things to know before visiting Venice

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. 

Things to know before visiting Venice

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!

Things to know before visiting Venice

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.

Things to know before visiting Venice

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.

Things to know before visiting Venice

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!

Things to know before visiting Venice

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.

Things to know before visiting Venice

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!

Things to know before visiting Venice

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!

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Julia

48 Comments

  1. Reply

    Eric

    July 17, 2017

    Of all the cities I have visited in Europe, Venice was also my least favorite. It felt to me as though it was “past its prime,” and trying to recreate an experience for tourists that was no longer authentic.
    I was also surprised at how dirty it was when I was there. I’ve been to Europe at different times when there were strikes by various workers that caused trash to pile up. My memory of my time in Venice was that there wasn’t a strike going on, but there was just litter everywhere.

    • Reply

      Julia

      July 17, 2017

      Thankfully Venice wasn’t covered in trash while I was there, but I agree that it felt like it was past its prime!

  2. Reply

    Tonya

    July 17, 2017

    Thank you for the 13 things to know. I love reading about Venice, I would love to visit one day.

    • Reply

      Julia

      July 17, 2017

      I hope this helps if you get to go!

  3. Reply

    Karina

    July 17, 2017

    Love your tips! thanks!

    • Reply

      Julia

      July 17, 2017

      Thanks, I hope they help!

  4. Reply

    Natalie

    July 19, 2017

    I’d love to travel to Italy! Thanks for all the tips!!

    • Reply

      Julia

      July 19, 2017

      I hope it helps! I loved visiting Italy!

  5. Reply

    Zei

    July 21, 2017

    Love this post and the photos are great! Thanks for sharing!

    • Reply

      Julia

      July 23, 2017

      Thank you! 🙂

  6. Reply

    Bee

    July 24, 2017

    great post and travel tips. 100 Euros for a half hour gondola ride!! I’m not too surprised but wth! I’ll skip on that one. Those 2 islands looks interesting and charming!

    • Reply

      Julia

      July 24, 2017

      Thanks! Yes I would definitely skip the gondola ride!

  7. Reply

    Helene

    July 24, 2017

    Thanks for these very useful tips! Sorry to hear that you didn’t enjoy it as much as you expected to. Venice is actually on my travel bucket list, so I’m glad that I got to manage my expectations before going:)

    • Reply

      Julia

      July 24, 2017

      I hope my tips help if you get to go there!

  8. Reply

    Michelle

    July 24, 2017

    Great read! I’d love to go to Italy and your tips are very helpful. Great photos too!

    • Reply

      Julia

      July 25, 2017

      Thank you! 🙂

  9. Reply

    Mille Mirah Seiersen

    July 29, 2017

    Venice has been on my wanderlist for such a long time! But it was great to get some tips for when I do visit!

    • Reply

      Julia

      July 29, 2017

      Thanks! I hope they help!

  10. Reply

    Kristine Li

    July 29, 2017

    Great guide here in helping to manage expectations for future visits! I visited about 10 years ago and the main square was crowded, but pretty cleared off to quietness by evening, I guess Venice is still very popular right now, ha! I did do the gondola ride but it was way cheaper at that time, I think.. perhaps 60 Euros? Somehow I knew it would be the first and last time I’ll ever do that, lol.

    • Reply

      Julia

      July 29, 2017

      Yeah I imagine it’s gotten a lot more crowded and expensive over the years!

  11. Reply

    Anekha

    July 29, 2017

    Really great guide. I wouldn’t have actually thought about needing waterproof shoes!

    • Reply

      Julia

      July 29, 2017

      Thank you! 🙂

  12. Reply

    Katie

    July 29, 2017

    Love these tips! I think Venice is one of those places that you just have to visit in your lifetime, but to be honest, it wasn’t my favorite either. I live in Italy and think some of the smaller towns are far more amazing!

    • Reply

      Julia

      July 29, 2017

      I agree, I much preferred the smaller towns!

  13. Reply

    Christine

    July 29, 2017

    Those are such great tips for visiting Venice!! I wish I had known about Row Venice before going there, I ended up skipping the gondola experience as it was far too costly. Sounds like I would have enjoyed that experience much more.

    • Reply

      Julia

      July 29, 2017

      Thanks! Yes Row Venice is a great alternative!

  14. Reply

    Hayley

    July 29, 2017

    You know you’re not the first I’ve heard that wasn’t hugely keen on Venice. I think its important to be as honest as possible when travel blogging.

    • Reply

      Julia

      July 29, 2017

      Yes I’ve heard a lot of people didn’t fall in love with Venice! I enjoyed other cities in Italy a lot more.

  15. Reply

    Gina

    July 29, 2017

    I went to Venice when I was still in college and my friend and I were on too much of a tight budget to go on the gondola ride and I’ve always wanted to go back and do one. Interesting to hear that you recommend skipping it and what to do instead!

    • Reply

      Julia

      July 29, 2017

      I would definitely recommend checking out Row Venice if you get the chance!

  16. Reply

    Karin

    July 29, 2017

    I have been to Venice as a child with my parents and I remember it being very crowded. I haven´t heard about Murano and Burano until recently though but would love to visit these instead if I ever go back!

    • Reply

      Julia

      July 29, 2017

      Yes I definitely recommend visiting Murano and Burano if you go back!

  17. Reply

    jin

    July 29, 2017

    oh i love venice! i went around this time, 3 years ago, and pretty much did the same stuff that you’ve done. we woke up early to beat the crowd (and the heat!), took rowing lessons, and pretty much ate at places that are far from the touristy spots. although it was sunny the entire 4 days we were there! it didn’t rain once! so it’s quite interesting to read about your experience with that. great post!

    • Reply

      Julia

      July 29, 2017

      You’re lucky you didn’t get any rain! Though thankfully it cooled things down for us.

  18. Reply

    Candiss

    July 29, 2017

    We had such completely different experiences! I loved Venice though I did go in October so there were less tourists even in the main areas. Some how though my sister friend and I managed to avoid bad food and spent most our time in the more local’s neighborhoods and spots.
    I definitely plan on going back but I will make sure it is not in high season because it does not sound pleasant that way!

    • Reply

      Julia

      July 29, 2017

      Yes I would definitely recommend not going when it’s so crowded!

  19. Reply

    Katherine

    July 29, 2017

    All excellent advice that I was nodding along to as I read it. I’ve only ever spent one day in Venice 🙁 But it was so very crowded. I should have expected it, but it wasn’t something that I was really thinking about to be honest. That and the pigeons. So. Many. Pigeons!

    • Reply

      Julia

      July 29, 2017

      Yes there were pigeons everywhere when I was there, too!

  20. Reply

    Danielle

    July 29, 2017

    Love this post! This reminds me a lot of my love/hate relationship with the Cinque Terre. I’ll be working on that post in the coming weeks and am very nervous about it as it’s my first “I didn’t love it” post! Great job keeping yours well-balanced and informative!

    • Reply

      Julia

      July 29, 2017

      Thanks, I’m glad it helped!

  21. Reply

    Lisa - The Wandering Lens

    July 30, 2017

    Really great points you mention there! I’ve been to Venice a few times now but have fallen under it’s spell, I can’t get enough. That said, I try to avoid touristy spots like you’ve mentioned and your point of getting up early is absolutely essential. Also I’ve found wandering the streets at night is really peaceful too, even as a solo female traveller I’ve never had any issues…but I could be too focused on photos haha.
    The point you’ve mentioned about Row Venice is fantastic! Definitely going to check them out when I go back. I only ever did one Gondola ride and like you, was shocked at the price and it did feel like a tourist factory.

    • Reply

      Julia

      July 30, 2017

      Yes I definitely suggest checking out Row Venice the next time you go back!

  22. Reply

    Ruth

    August 1, 2017

    Venice is a must for a lot of people but I agree people have to do a bit of research and be realistic about what they are going to encounter. I think this is true for several cities in Europe. Crowds are a big turn off for me. I have read post where local and unique things about Venice are discussed. So, there is hope but some research is needed.

    • Reply

      Julia

      August 1, 2017

      Agreed! We did get to see some local spots, which were much less crowded than the touristy spots.

  23. Reply

    Lena

    September 7, 2017

    I’ve always wanted to go to Venice, it seems so charming, but I HATE crowds so I wonder if I won’t like it because of that. Thank you for your honest thoughts. Your photos are gorgeous as always!

    • Reply

      Julia

      September 7, 2017

      Thank you! 🙂 I would definitely go to Venice in the off season if you get the chance to go!

  24. Reply

    Samantha

    September 8, 2017

    I’m very sorry you didn’t like Venezia. I live very close to it, I’ve visited it a billion times and I’m actually about to start university there.
    Most of the things you mentioned are the characteristics that make Venezia so unique and beautiful and I’m very sorry you couldn’t catch that.
    The buildings, the art, the atmosphere are so amazing in my opinion but I get your inconveniences.
    Maybe give it another try during fall, which is the perfect time to visit it because the crowds of tourists are start to go away, therefore the street artists will be less insistent – the restaurants will be still expensive but a look on Tripadvisor can prevent you from spending lots of money – and you can truly appreciate the city.
    I hope you’ll come back and enjoy it more!
    I love your photos anyway, and the islands are certainly beautiful.

    • Reply

      Julia

      September 8, 2017

      Thank you! I wholeheartedly agree that the city is beautiful, I couldn’t stop taking pictures at every turn 🙂 I would like to visit again when it isn’t so crowded!

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