Venice is undoubtably one of the most well-known cities in the world. So famous in fact that Las Vegas has got its own mini-Venice hotel. Built in the 5th century AD, Venice is situated in northeastern Italy and is the capital of the Veneto region. The Metropolitan City of Venice is bigger than you probably think it is; it's actually built on over 100 islands and includes the islands of Murano, famous for its Venetian glass-making and Burano, famous for its brightly coloured fishermen's houses. You will not struggle in Venice to find that perfect Instagram-worthy picture!

Whether you decide to go for a day trip, a couple of days or for a longer trip, Venice has lots to do! From roaming the Venice streets and discovering something new with every corner you turn, to soaking up the incredible architecture, sightseeing and even, travelling further afield to the other islands. It is a city like no other which you need to experience at least once in your lifetime. Picture yourself enjoying a gelato on a gondola ride through the venetian canals. Sounds delightful, right?!

This blog post will cover:

Five interesting facts about Venice

  1. Venice is sinking at a rate of 1-2 millimetres per year. Taking into account the rate of global warming, Venice could become an underwater city by 2100. Flooding is becoming an increasing concern for locals; there is now a siren system and a flood warning app to prepare locals for any upcoming flooding.
  2. The population of the Venice city area has almost halved since the great flood of 1966, from 121,000 residents to only 62,000. Leading some to suspect that Venice city will eventually become Italy's own Disneyland. Residents held a fake funeral in 2008 to raise awareness of this decline.
  3. There are no cars in Venice - hooray! Boats and canals are the replacement service for cars and roads and they offer a nice change of pace. Surprisingly, Venice also doesn't allow the use of Skateboards, Roller Skates or Bikes and you can be issued a big fine if you use any of these methods for transport.
  4. Gondoliers in Venice can earn up to €100,000 per year, which makes them some of the highest paid workers in Venice. There are only 400 gondoliers left in Venice compared to 10,000 in the 16th century and its a male dominated profession with only one female gondolier.
  5. Thinking of buying an apartment in Venice? Be prepared to spend over €1 million. These high prices are due to the huge amount of tourism that Venice receives and often these apartments are turned into hotels and restaurants to cater to this.

How to get to Venice

By Plane - the closest airport to Venice is Venice Marco Polo (VCE). To get to Venice from this airport, take the ATVO or ACTV bus and it will only take about 20 minutes.

Other nearby airports include:

  • Venice Treviso (TSF) - takes 45-minutes to get to Venice from TSF by ATVO (bus) or the Barzi Shuttle (bus).
  • Trieste (TRS) - takes over an hour and a half to get to Venice from TRS by train (use Trenitalia to book your tickets).
  • Verona (VRN) - takes about an hour and a half to get to Venice from VRN by bus (use flixbus to book your tickets).

By Car - There are no cars allowed in the historical centre of Venice but you can still drive over the Ponte della Libertà bridge onto Venice and park in a car park just outside the historical centre, which is exactly what I did.

Here are 3 car parks to consider when parking in Venice:

  • Interparking Tronchetto Venice - On their website, they claim to be the cheapest car park in Venice. For an hour expect to pay € 3,00, 2 hours for €8,00, 3 hours for €14,00 and 24 hours will cost you €22,00. For every subsequent 24 hours it will cost €22,00. Interestingly, this car park is situated on an artificial island that was formed in the 1960s. It will be around a 40-minute walk from this car park to St. Mark's Square and you don't need to reserve a spot or book online with this car park as there is about 4,000 spaces.
  • Garage San Marco Venezia - This car park is much closer to the centre and is only a 25-minute walk to St. Mark's Square. However, the downsides with this car park is you pay for 24 hours increments and it'll cost you €39 for 24 hours. For more info, click here:
  • Autorimessa Comunale AVM S.p.A. - Situated next to the Garage San Marco Venezia, it is the largest car park in Piazzale Roma and also, around a 25-minute walk to St. Mark's Square. You can expect to pay €26 for 24 hours, or if you book online, it's €23.40.

By Bus - If arriving by bus, chances are you will stop at Piazzale Roma, which is a big open bus station. From here, it is a 25-minute walk to St. Mark's Square.

By Train - If arriving by train, you will go to Venice's main station (Venice Santa Lucia) which is located right on the grand canal. This station is well connected to other European cities. From here, it is a 25-minute walk to St. Mark's Square.

If you don't fancy walking, you can opt for a water taxi to get around.

Things to do in Venice

  • Intentionally get lost in the streets of Venice

This might seem a wee bit strange but one of the best things to do in Venice is to simply walk around the streets. It's easy to get lost but thats the beauty of Venice, there is always something unexpected around every corner. The streets will be quieter away from the main tourist spots and you get to really experience the layout of this city by simply wondering. Cafes and restaurants off the beaten track will be cheaper too. And finally, enjoy!

A walk around an Italian city isn't complete without gelato. Go on, treat yourself!

An essential stop for gelato.
  • Appreciate the scale of St Mark's Square

St Mark's Square (a.k.a Piazza San Marco) is the place you want to be, the architecture of the square is incredible and it's got four of Venice's major tourist attractions including the St Mark's Basilica, St Mark's Campanile, St Mark's Clocktower and Doge's Palace.

St Mark's Square is the heart of Venice and is considered one of the finest squares in the world. Napoleon famously referred to the square as the "drawing room of Europe". If you visit Venice in Autumn/Winter, you might even see the square flooded. You can also see the massive cruise ships that come into Venice from the square.

Be prepared for St Mark's Square to get very busy about midday, try to get there earlier before the crowds descend. I wouldn't recommend getting anything from cafes or restaurants around the square as the prices are extortionate and definitely geared towards tourists.

Piazza San Marco
Photo by Diogo Pereira / Unsplash
  • Visit the St Mark's Basilica

St Mark's Basilica is the cathedral church of the Roman Catholic Patriarchate of Venice. It's one of the most famous landmarks in Venice. The basilica was built in the 9th century AD as a place to house the body of St Mark the Evangelist, one of the four apostles. The body was stolen in Egypt by merchants from Venice; they managed to sneak past the guards but were nearly killed in a storm at sea, when St Mark appeared to them and saved them from a shipwreck! This entire story is pictured on the 13th-century mosaic above the left door as you enter the basilica. So keep an eye out for it, when you visit!

There is no charge to enter the church but you can buy skip-the-line tickets, which I would highly recommend as the queues for the basilica can get very long!

To enter the church, you need to check your bag in at the luggage storage and cover your shoulders and knees.

  • Climb the St Mark's Campanile

St Mark's Campanile is the bell tower of the St Mark's basilica. It stands 98.6 metres tall, dominating the skyline of Venice and offering incredible panaromic views over the city. In 1902, St Mark's Campanile collapsed; luckily no one was hurt and the basilica wasn't damaged. It was rebuilt in 1912 into the bell tower you see today.

A ticket to St Mark's Campanile will cost around €10 and you can take an elevator right to the top. I would definitely recommend this as the views over Venice are incredible.

The views over Venice at the top of St Mark's Campanile are magnificent.
  • St Mark's Clock Tower

St Mark's Clock Tower is situated to the left of St Mark's Basilica. The clock is an incredible piece of 15th century engineering. It not only displays the time but also the phase of the moon, and the dominant sign of the Zodiac. So beautiful that in Venetian legend it is said that the clockmakers were blinded so they could not make another to rival its beauty.

You can book a one-hour guided tour to see the clock in action. A ticket will cost you €12.

The beautiful architecture of Venice, Veneto, Italy
Photo by Árpád Czapp / Unsplash
  • Hear about the dodgy dealings of the Doge's Palace

The Doge's Palace was built in the early 14th century in a Venetian Gothic style. The architecture of the building is beautiful! Once the home of the ruler of Venice (the Doge) and the seat of the Venetian government, the palace is steeped in history. The Doge's Palace connects to the bridge of spies, contains secret passageways and has interrogation and torture rooms. The palace was full of dark secrets and you can learn about the dodgy dealings that happened here by going on the "secret itineraries" tour. The tour will cost €28, it will take an hour and 15 minutes and you will be accompanied by a specialised guide.

San Marco square. Doge palace.
Venice, Italy.
Photo by Denys Barabanov / Unsplash
  • Marvel at the architecture of Rialto Bridge

The oldest of the four bridges over the Grand Canal, it was first built in 1178. However, following several collapses, it was reconstructed into the Rialto Bridge you see today in the 16th century. Until 1854, it was the only place where you could cross the canal on foot. It was built to provide access to Rialto, which was the primary financial and commercial centre of Venice. Rialto Bridge is so famous, even Shakespeare included it in "Merchants of Venice". It also contains numerous shops on the bridge and offers amazing views down the Grand Canal.

Views down the Grand Canal from the Rialto Bridge.
  • Go on a gondola ride down the Grand Canal

If you are only planning on being in Venice once, I would suggest you go on a gondola ride through the city. Not going on a gondola in Venice is equivalent to not going up the Eiffel Tower in Paris. Don't get me wrong, I understand a gondola ride in Venice is really expensive and yes, it's a bit of a novelty but it does offer a different perspective on the city and you get to appreciate the network of canals through the city. You can expect to pay €80 for a private 30-minute tour. The more of you on the gondola, it will obviously cut down your price per person. We had 5 of us, so it worked out as €16 which is a more palatable price. Except to pay slightly more for a sunset tour or night time tour.

Gondola ride down the Grand Canal.
  • Learn about the history of the Bridge of Sighs

A rather dark history surrounds the Bridge of Sighs. It was built in 1600 as part of the Doge's Palace prison complex and convicts had to cross the bridge from the Doge's interrogation rooms to the New Prison once they had received their sentence. It's name derives from the audible sighs let out by the prisoners as they caught one last glimpse of beautiful Venice before walking towards their fate. Thankfully, today its architecture is the main reason people visit it.

The Bridge of Sighs
Photo by Nick Karvounis / Unsplash
  • Learn about glass-making in Murano

The island of Murano is located just 1.5km away from the historical centre of Venice. The island is famous for its glass making. So popular was Murano glass back in the day that the glassmakers weren't allowed to leave Murano but they were treated like royalty. You can visit the Murano glass museum, if you are interested in learning how its made. A ticket to the museum will cost you €10.

To get to Murano, you can take the public ferry (aka Italian vaporetto). Get on the ferry at F.te Nove and it will only take about 8-10 minutes to reach Murano. You can expect to pay about €20 for a 24-hour ticket.

  • Take an Instagram worthy picture of the colourful houses in Burano

Sure to brighten up your day are the colourful fishermen's houses in Burano. It's located 7km from the historical centre of Venice and is known for its lace-making as well as its colourful houses. Murano and Burano are both ideal options to escape to during midday when the historical centre gets really crowded.

To get to Burano, take the public ferry (aka Italian vaporetto) from F.te Nove. It will only take about 45-minutes to reach Burano and you can expect to pay about €20 for a 24-hour ticket.

Photo by Tjaard Krusch / Unsplash

When to visit Venice

The best times to visit Venice is late Spring (April-May) and Autumn (September-October). This is when the average temperatures can vary between 12-20 degrees, which is still comfortable enough to walk around Venice. There is also less tourists and a noticeable change in prices compared to the height of the summer season.

Contrary to popular belief, summer in Venice is not smelly or overrun by tourists. I actually found the opposite especially if you plan your day to take it to account when it will be at its busiest. I would suggest getting to Venice really early in the morning about 7-9am. I was shocked by how quiet the city was at this time, there were very few tourists and you get so much freedom to roam the city and sightsee. A stark contrast to midday in Venice, when St Mark's square is rammed! This is prime time to go and visit the other islands to get away from the busyness. I didn't find the smell bad in Venice but I did find the amount of rubbish left over in St Mark's square at the end of the day was disgusting!

Is Venice worth it?

Venice is definitely somewhere you have to visit at least once - just to experience it! It is beautiful but it can be a very costly trip. A few suggestions to make your trip better: get up early to sightsee, plan your days thoroughly and be prepared for busyness and long queues.

Rialto Bridge
Photo by Damiano Baschiera / Unsplash