Visit Venice – St Mark’s Square
St Mark’s Square is the tourist center when you visit Venice. You can walk or catch hop on hop off water taxi (vaporetto) to St Mark’s Square from the train station. For those who walk, you can only cross the main section of the Grand Canal at the Rialto Bridge. There are some signs providing directions once you cross the Rialto Bridge. St Mark’s Square includes the St Mark’s Basilica, the Campanile tower and the Doge’s Palace. St Mark’s Bascilica has no admission, while the Doge’s Palace and the Campanile charge a fee. The Campanile fee is well worth it, as you can then ride the elevator up to the top. The views and cool breezes at the top are very enjoyable. Skip the Line tours are a good idea during the height of the tourist season in July and August. Consider making your own Venice Self Guided Tour.
Visit Venice – Rialto Bridge
The Rialto Bridge is almost as popular as St Mark’s Square. You can wander the maze of pathways and canals from the train station to the bridge. The Rialto Bridge is the only way you can cross the Grand Canal on foot and reach St Mark’s Square. Walk a couple of blocks up the Grand Canal from the Rialto Bridge to reach the fish and vegetable markets. Spend some time near the Rialto Bridge in the evening. The Grand Canal at the Rialto Bridge is lined with waterfront restaurants. Have dinner and watch the gondolas go by at the same time.
Taking a gondola ride is one of the classic Venice experiences. You will have a number of options, but none of them will be cheap. The gondoliers of Venice belong to a tightly controlled union. Fares are clearly posted and not negotiable. The posted price for a private gondola ride is the same whether you start at St Mark’s or find a small secluded spot far from other tourists. The private ride won’t get you a serenade though. Gondola serenades start near St Mark’s square and you typically share the ride with others. Try a classic gondola ride, a gondola serenade or a Venice by Gondola Tour.
Traghetto Grand Canal Crossing for Locals
You can also find a few places where you can cross the Grand Canal on a short, inexpensive traghetto ride in a gondola. It’s basically a public transit gondola which is used mainly by locals. Simply walk right on to the gondola and hand the gondolier a few Euros. The price is posted at the dock. The public transit gondola leaves when there are enough passengers. You make the trip by standing, which doesn’t feel very safe but is part of the adventure.
Vaporetto Grand Canal Tour
Another great sight seeing option in Venice is a Vaporetto Grand Canal Tour. These start at St Mark’s Square in a vaporetto, which is a small water taxi. Vaporettos typically take about 6 passengers. The interior of the vaporetto is half height, but the roof slides so that you can stand up during the tour. You get a completely unobstructed view that way. The Grand Canal Tour passes underneath the Rialto Bridge and winds through the narrower canals near the train station too. Don’t miss the chance to see Venice on a Vaporetto Grand Canal Boat Tour.
Visit Venice – More Sights
- Try Viator’s Hidden Venice Half-Day Walking Tour for an experience in the Rialto, Carampane and San Polo neighborhoods.
- Travel to the nearby island of Murano and watch classic glassmakers in action or to Burano for the lace making. Visit 3 islands on a Murano, Burano and Torcello Half-Day Sightseeing Tour.
- Teatro La Fenice Tour – see the famous theater in Venice.
- Attend the Carnaval of Venice in February. Be prepared to dress for the occasion and wear a mask.
Visit Venice – Hotels
Savor the Tastes of Venice
- Prosecco – sparkling white Italian wine.
- Spaghetti al fruiti de la mare – seafood spaghetti. Don’t miss out on some authentic spaghetti. Try Ristorante Terrazza Sommariva and sit along the Grand Canal by the Rialto Bridge.
- Polenta – cornmeal boiled into a porridge.
- Visit a cicchetti bar – the Venice version of tapas. Try Viator’s Venice Food Tour: Cicchetti and Wine.
- Try a four course meal with Viator’s Veneto Wine and Dinner Pairing.
Day Trips from Venice
- Florence Day Trip from Venice by High-Speed Train – transfer to Florence to see its famous cathedral.
- Dolomite Mountains Small Group Day Trip from Venice
The presence of the Adriatic Sea keeps Venice weather from falling below freezing in winter, but it can snow at times. Summer weather has highs in July and August of about 84 F (29 C), while lows are about 66 F (19 C). From December to February average highs are 46 F (8 C) and average lows stay at or near freezing. Rainfall is lightest from January to March and is fairly evenly spread throughout the rest of the year. Spring and fall are good Venice weather months and the best time to visit for smaller crowds of tourists.
Visit Venice by Rail, Bus or Cruise Ship
You can visit Venice by rail, bus or cruise ship. If you are traveling through Italy by rail, book your train ticket to the Venice St Lucia train station. It’s at the end of the causeway that extends from the Venice Mestre station on the mainland to the island of Venice. The St Lucia train station is right beside the bus station and Piazzale Roma square. Buses also use the causeway to reach Venice. The cruise ship port is right beside the bus and rail station. For a small fee, a people mover takes you on a short 3 minute ride from the cruise ship terminal to the pedestrian area of Venice at Piazzale Roma square.
Visit Venice by Air
When you visit Venice by air, you will arrive at Marco Polo Airport on the mainland. The best way to reach Venice from the airport is by boat with Alilaguna. Fares are reasonable. You can buy your ticket at the airport and board your boat in the airport terminal. Alilaguna stops at several islands along the way, but the major stops are at St Marks Square and the Venice St Lucia train station. For the return ticket, make sure you have Euros, as you most ticket sales are from small convenience stores that don’t take credit cards. It’s a unique experience to travel to the airport on a boat that docks at the airport terminal.
Visit Venice – Walk, ACTV or Water Taxi
After you reach Venice, there are no roads. Your options are to walk, use the local ACTV public transit boats or pay for a private water taxi (vaporetto). Make sure you know in advance how you are going to get to your hotel in Venice. If you bring roller bag luggage, you will find it to be a noisy, inconvenient journey on the cobblestone streets and small bridges. You can buy ACTV public transit boat tickets at the Venice St Lucia train station and St Mark’s Square. You can also buy ACTV tickets from small convenience stores at lots of other stops. The ACTV operates just like a public transit system, but you wait for your ride on small docks instead. Make sure you have Euros to buy your ACTV tickets. A day pass costs less than two single fares.
If you choose to walk to the Rialto Bridge and St Mark’s Square, there are signs along the way that direct you through some of the trickier sections. Returning to a hotel after a day of sightseeing can be a challenging experience. You might feel like laboratory looking for cheese in a maze of pathways.
Visit Venice – Background
Venice is an island called Venezia San Lucia by Italians. Make sure not to confuse this with Venice Mestre, which is a few minutes away on the mainland. If you get off the train when it arrives in Venice Mestre you will be disappointed by Venice because you’ve actually missed it. Venice was a major maritime power during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. Today Venice is famous for St Mark’s Square, gondoliers and glass blowing. Its architecture, canals and its complete independence from motor vehicles make it one of the world’s most unique and romantic cities.