I’ve been to Venice at least a million times (not literally, although it feels like it). And while most people get sick of Venice after that many trips, I haven’t. I absolutely love wandering around Venice’s canals and getting lost in the city away from the crowds. It my opinion it is one of the most charming and photogenic cities in the world. Rick Steves says that one of the best things you can do in Venice is to just get lost (it’s an island so you really can’t get too lost), and I wholeheartedly agree. Some of my best discoveries and favorite memories have been while attempting to “get lost” in Venice.
If you’ve been to Venice a bunch of times it’s easy to get burnt out on the same tourist route so I’d like to offer you a few less common suggestions (and a new take on a few of the standards) so, here it is, my guide to re-exploring Venice (and be sure to check the Google map at the bottom for help finding everything).
St Mark's Campanile
It's about 8 euro to go to the top of the campanile, definitely worth doing at least once. It is an incredible view of Venice!
Bridge of Sighs
This is a super touristy thing to do but I thought the prison was legitimately interesting and being on the inside of one of Venice's most photographed landmarks was pretty cool. Be sure to take a picture of all of the tourists gathered outside taking their "iconic Venice" picture.
At Venice Kayak you can do a kayak tour through the canals of Venice. We did this for my birthday and it is one of my favorite things I have done in Venice.
Saint Mark's Basilica
This is ridiculously touristy however, if you do decide to wait in line to go in make sure to check out the floor, the tiling is one of my favorite parts of the church.
Libreria Acqua Alta
This is a really cool book store, it's more of a destination than a shop. Lots of old books and cool art for purchase. There is even a gondola filled with books inside. Make sure you head out back and check out the book steps.
Since most gondola rides cost 80-100 euro this is a much cheaper way to say you went on a gondola. These are located strategically to help people get across the Grand Canal in places where there aren't bridges. For 2 euro they will take you across the Grand Canal. It's a cheap, silly and short, but it's fun way to get a gondola ride in.
At this art store they do screen printing; it's cool to watch and also a cool place to pick up some local art. You can even take a workshop there on how to do screen printing.
All over Venice different buildings open up with art displays for La Biennale. It is a cool way to go into different buildings, see some unusual art, and check out Venice from a different vantage point. For a list of locations click here.
To get to Burano the cheapest way is to take a Vaporetto (assuming you don’t have a friend with a boat). There are a few "attractions" on Burano but really the best thing to do on Burano is just to wander around and enjoy it's colorful and fun houses. If it wasn't a 45 minute water bus ride from Venice my threats to one day buy a vacation home out there may have been a reality.
As you probably know Italian coffee is good, in Venice there are actually a couple of local roasters so you can get extra fresh and delicious coffee. If you want to save a couple euro stand at the counter.
Caffe Del Doge
Just off the main tourist drag and close to the Realto you can find Caffe Del Dodge. The coffee shop was opened in the 1950’s and was the original location of their roasting facility (now they roast in Padova) yet they sell their coffee in the shop. The coffee with dark chocolate was delicious.
A tiny little coffee shop. There isn't much seating but it still has a cozy vibe. They do their coffee roasting in shop and you can buy the beans they roast in the store. If you happen to be there on a roasting day you can even watch them in action.
Unfortunately, food in Venice generally isn’t as good as the rest of Italy, they know that most of their customers are only one time visitors and therefore the food is not of the quality that you find in a place with more locals. However, there are still a few decent places, just make sure you avoid buying food around any of the major attractions (like San Marco or the Realto), it is crazy overpriced and the food is pretty rough. Here are my recommendations:
A tiny restaurant, just one alley over from the main tourist path. I got the white truffle (fancy/expensive mushrooms) pizza. Slightly on the pricy side (like 10-12 euro for a pizza) but very delicious!
Pasta shop where for 5 euro you get a bowl of fresh pasta and your choice of sauce. I had the eggplant one, it was delicious! I also met the coach from High School Musical eating here, no joke!
This is one of the only places close to San Marco Square that I would be comfortable recommending because its cheap and their pizza is good. If you don't sit there and just get the pizza to go you can get a decently filling meal for relatively cheap. I suggest the pesto pizza with cherry tomatoes but follow your heart.
Magnum Store Venezia
For 5 euro you can get a shot of espresso and customize your own Magnum bar (which is a delicious ice cream bar if you are unfamiliar with Magnum). You get to decide if you want vanilla or chocolate on the inside. Then a white, milk, or dark chocolate covering. Then three toppings shaken together in a tiny martini shaker poured over the top with another chocolate of your choice drizzled over the top. Very rich, very decadent. This is a chain store but I think it’s super fun.
Their gelato is pretty average and kind of over priced but in addition to gelato they also sell different types of chocolate that are made in the shop (I'm a sucker for anything locally made). Plus they will give you a free chocolate sample when you go in so definitely check it out.
If you sit out front (on the church instead of the water side) you can sit and enjoy a delicious spritz complete with a green olive and a slice of orange for only 2.50 euro, plus the people watching from there is usually pretty great.
Majer - Sant'Agostino Gelateria Pasticceria Bar Caffè Vino
In the back they have some tables where you can sit and drink, it's got kind of a cool small feel to it. And there is a bathroom.
Tiger Italia Venezia
This is definitely a chain store but it’s so fun. If you're at the train station this is a fun store to walk through. It's full of interesting little trinkets...like the Ikea of things.
Really cool art store where they do fun original works of art from famous stories as well as other interesting prints. I got a cool one of a lion with a beanie but they had a rad steam punk tiger one too.
San Lio 55 S.R.L
This store has super cute women's clothes and everything in it is 10 euro. The address from my reciept is San Polo 1060-1061 Venezia and the phone # is 04323560278
When to go:
One of the best times to go to Venice is during Carnivale, the city comes alive with it’s water parade and masquerade balls. However, if you can’t make it during Carnivale then question is really more of a “when not to go” which is basically summer. Summer is when all the cruise ships come in and it’s pretty miserably hot and full of people. If you must go in the summer do the Kayak Tour mentioned above or head out to Burano. It will let you see Venice but away from the majority of the crowds. Or if you head into Venice on a summer evening (like after 6pm) most of the cruise ships will have left and you will feel like you have Venice to yourself. Other people may say to avoid flood season (usually late fall/early winter) but I think it's fun, just bring good rain boots.
Have other great recommendations for Venice? Let me know in the comments section!