As the flight to Venice from the UK is just over two hours, it's an ideal destination for short breaks to beautiful, unique, Serenissima
Some of the Most Enduring Memories of Venice are Free
The band at the iconic Cafe Florian in St. Mark's Square plays the theme from the film Titanic as the waters gradually flood parts of the square during high tide on Wednesday evening (a regular occurrence). A gondolier sings "Quando, Quando" to his passengers as an audience gathers on a small narrow bridge and applauds his performance. The accordion players stroll from restaurant to restaurant.
Wander through the narrow alleys to gaze into the wonderful, tiny specialist shops. There are shops that sell handmade gloves in a kaleidoscope of colours; a shop selling only upmarket gentleman's shaving apparatus and toiletries; artist shops with displays of paint pigments in the colours of Canaletto; luxury fabric boutiques, shops that make and supply fabulous gowns and masks for the carnival. And—of course—the unique architecture of Venice is free to view!
Use a Travel Guide Book to Plan in Advance for a Short Visit to Venice
To make the most of your time in Venice, pre-plan what you want to see. A travel guide is a good place to start the planning process.
An excellent, reasonably priced guidebook, providing all the essential information to help you find your way around this delightful city is Marco Polo Perfect Days in Venice. The map that is included with the book was indispensable during my first visit. The book also contains a simple map of the Vaporetto routes and stations.
Tips for Visiting Venice on a low Budget
- Take only carry-on luggage if your trip is short.
- Stay on the mainland. The journey into Venice is fast and cheap by bus or tram.
- Buy a vaporetto/bus pass to cover the duration of your visit.
- Eat your main meal at lunchtime and away from the main tourist areas.
- Buy a bottle of water cheaply at a corner store and carry it with you to avoid having to pay for expensive drinks. There are around 100 drinking fountains with good, free, drinking water in Venice where you can refill your bottle.
- Entry to the Basilica St. Mark is free. Alternatively, you could pay 3 euros to jump the queue.
- Whilst in St. Marks Square enjoy reasonably priced coffee, biscotti, and a great birdseye view of the Square at the Museo Correr. Don't join the queue for the museum—just walk upstairs.
- Spend time enjoying the wonderful shopping alleys and arcades for free!
- Take a tour of the Fenice Opera House if you can't afford a ticket for a performance. A tour ticket with audio guide costs 11 euros, or 7 euros for age concessions.
- If listening to live Vivaldi is on your must-do list, there are several churches and a couple of small concert venues where performances are relatively cheap.
- Spend an evening in a campo enjoying a glass of wine as you watch the local families gather to socialise.
- Avoid the summer high season and the Carnival, which takes place late January to early February.
Average Daily Temperatures in Venice
The Best Time of the Year to Visit Venice
We visit in May—pleasantly warm during the daytime but not too hot for sightseeing, and not too crowded. Also, May is not high tourist season, so the cost of accommodation is not at peak season prices. That said, it is likely to rain at any time of year and we have been caught in showers several times.
High summer in Venice can be unbearably hot for sightseeing.
There are frequent mists in the autumn and winter months.
What to Pack for a Trip to Venice
- Smart casual is the keynote for low-budget travellers, with something more dressy if you plan to splash out on an evening at the opera or an upmarket restaurant. (Venetian culture includes the importance of making a good impression).
- There will be a lot of walking and hopping on and off vaporetto—where at peak travel times there is often standing space only. Take comfortable, flat shoes!
- It rains quite often in Venice—take an umbrella or a light packable waterproof!
- In the winter months the weather is quite cold so pack warm clothing.
Getting to Venice and Getting Around the City
The two closest airports to Venice are Marco Polo (closest) and Treviso, which is approximately forty minutes away from the city.
As it was a short visit we were able to fit what we needed to take into carry-on suitcases. The advantages:
- avoiding the queues at the airport carousel
- keeping costs down (budget airlines charge extra if you want to put a suitcase in the hold).
Regular shuttle buses run to Piazzale Roma coach station from both airports.
The aerobus from Marco Polo to the Piazzale Roma bus station in Venice runs every thirty minutes
In Venice, the only alternatives if your chosen accommodation is not within walking distance are a private water taxi or a vaporetto (public transport waterbus). Even so, unless a hotel is situated in a prime position on a canal, with mooring that enables the water taxi to drop passengers outside the entrance, there will inevitably be some walking involved, with many steps and bridges to negotiate. It's worth bearing this in mind when deciding how much luggage you want to take.
Buy Venice's Official City Pass for Discounted Entrance Packages for Museums and Galleries
By far the cheapest way to get the best prices is by purchasing a pass online for entrance to most popular visitor attractions.
The Rolling Venice pass is a terrific bargain for young people age 6–29 years. There are a number of different packages available to suit different requirements and budgets and include travel within the city.
Other package deals are available for different ages and for groups.
Check the website Venezia Unica for more information.
Buy a Venice Travel Pass
- The only way of traveling around Venice is on foot and by boat. Public transport is the Vaporetto (water bus).
- It is essential to validate a ticket for a vaporetto journey in advance of boarding. There are heavy fines if you are caught without a validated ticket. Machines are situated at every Vaporetto stop.
- Single trip tickets are expensive. To get the best deal on Vaporetto transport buy a pass online to cover the duration of your visit.
- A three-day pass, entitling the user to journeys on vaporetto and buses to and from the mainland costs 40 euros. A a seven-day pass costs 60 euros. You may want to add-on the various sites that you hope to visit to your pass. Pre-loaded cards can be purchased on the Venezia Unica website.
An Early Morning Visit to St. Mark's Square
Take a close look at the price list if you are tempted to occupy an outside table at a cafe in St. Mark's Square. Yes, we all would like the experience. But you will be charged a staggeringly high price for drinks, and a premium when the band is playing.
Visiting the Doge's Palace in Venice
The Doge's Palace, situated in St.Mark's Square, is a 'must-see' when visiting Venice. If you allow 2 hours, you still will not have seen everything.
Combined tickets for entry to the civic museums of Venice are available in advance of visiting, at a greatly reduced price on the Palazzo Ducale official website.
- It enhances a visit if you read a little about the history of the Palace in advance.
- Arrive early to beat the long queues. We got there at 8.45 am and gained admittance quite quickly.
- Don't take large bags, as you won't be allowed to carry them around and will have to queue to check them in.
- There are lots of stairs which might be a problem for those with mobility issues. There is a service lift that you will be allowed, on request, to use (as I did on my first visit, having recently had knee surgery), but it's a bit of a hassle.
- A good way to make use of limited time—an early visit to the Palace, followed by a rest and a snack in the Correr Museum cafe, in preparation for crossing the square to visit St. Marks Basilica. It's what we did!
When in Venice, it's Worth Paying for a Guided Tour of St. Mark's Basilica
If your visit to Venice is once-in-a-lifetime, it is worth splashing out on a pre-booked place on a guided tour of the Basilica of St. Mark. Tours,starting at 12 noon, are timed to coincide with lights being on -which is for only one hour each day. This is when the gilded mosaics can been seen in all their indescribable glory.
Alternatively, if the budget is tight, queue for free entrance.
Tour the Fenice Opera House
The Fenice was one on the highlights of my visit to Venice.
If, like me, you don't want to splash out on hearing a performance at the world famous Fenice Opera House do the next best thing. Take an audio tour of the building.
- Full price 11 euros. Concessions 7 euros.
- Tip: you will be asked to leave your passport on the desk. If you feel reluctant to do this take a photocopy with you and offer that.
See Venice From a Distance
If you are not planning a visit to Venice, or if you would like a fascinating insight into the city prior to visiting, then I recommend the CD collection of Francesco da Mosta's series for British television, Francesco's Venice.
Spend a Leisurely Evening With the Locals in a Venetian Campo
When evening starts to fall in Venice the hoards of day-trippers who have disembarked from the cruise ships leave the city. It's quieter and the locals emerge to socialise in the many squares.
We particularly enjoyed an early evening in Campo San Giacomo, where we sat out of doors watching families spending time together whilst we enjoyed a glass of bio-dynamic prosecco and a substantial tasting platter of local speciality cheeses at the wine bar/delicatessen Enoteca Al Prosecco.
Giving Tips for Service in Venice
The American service economy expects customers to be generous with tips, but Italians aren't big on tipping. A service charge is often added to the bill in restaurants. If is isn't, between 5% and 10% is about right.Or round up to the nearest five or ten euros.
In attended lavatories, it's usual to drop between 50 cents and 1 euro in the saucer.
No need to tip for service in bars and cafes but if you feel that service was particularly good, and are feeling generous, you might leave a few cents of your loose change.
Learn a Few Phrases of Italian Before Visiting Venice
When travelling in Europe, I like to have a basic grasp of the language; it's both reassuring and polite to be able to communicate with the local people. Fewer Venetians speak English than you might imagine!
I have tried different methods of learning foreign languages and find that the Michel Thomas method is the best for me. His credentials speak for themselves. During his lifetime, Michel Thomas taught languages to many public figures and celebrities, including Bill Clinton and the actress Emma Thompson.
His CDs may be available from your local library but I like to own a few so that I can practice and revise for some time before embarking on a trip. The full set is quite expensive but cheaper introductory sets are available in several languages.
Alternatively, if you just want a few basic phrases to make your visit easier, the Collins easy learning Italian is available cheaply as an audible download with associated downloadable PDF.
Visiting Museums and Galleries in Venice
The wealth of ecclessiastical and Renaissance art in Venice is overwhelming. There are numerous galleries to choose from but the costs can quickly mount if you visit a lot of them, so it's a good idea to do a little research and then make a couple of choices in advance.Alternatively, restrict your cultural visits to the churches, some of which offer free access to works of art by major artists.
The major gallery is the Gallerie dell Accademia. Tickets can be booked online. Prices vary if there are special temporary exhibitions. Arrive here in the early morning if visiting in the summer months as the indoor temperature quickly starts to climb. Tickets cost upwards of 18 euros.
If you prefer modern art a visit to the Peggy Guggenheim Gallery in her former home overlooking the Grand Canal is worthwhile. Ticket price 15 euros for adults with reductions for students and seniors.
The Guggenheim is fairly close to the Accademia and it's quick to get from there if you get on a Vaparetto at the Accademia stop.
Alternatively, look at the official Venice Tourism site for some very good museum package deals.
Official Tourist Site for Venice
- VeneziaUnica City Pass
Budget Accommodation in Venice
It's possible to stay in Venice for a reasonable price, providing your expectations are not too high. But it is essential to book early.
My sister and I rented a one-bedroom self-contained ground-floor apartment in a historic area, San Rocco, at a cost of 700 euros ( £533 in May 2016) for four nights, including breakfast at the building to which it is an annex (a two-star Bed and Breakfast establishment). Tourist tax costs an additional 2.50 euros per night for each guest. To be honest, the accommodation was a very spartan apartment and the buffet breakfast, though adequate, was uninspired. Hot food, not unusual for this type of accommodation, was not offered.
If You Want the Bells and Whistles, Be Ready to Pay
If you expect more, then you will have to pay more. We met up with friends who were having a special anniversary break, staying in the Junior Suite at the ultra-stylish Venezia Palace Barocci for around 850 euros per night.
If a stylish hotel on the Grand Canal is beyond your budget, try searching for reasonably priced self-catering accommodation on the Airbnb website.
It's cheaper to stay on the mainland. Mestre is a small town which has regular buses and trains to Venice. The bus ride takes 20 minutes. Prepare to be thrilled by the approach across the bridge that links the island to the mainland.
Camping in Venice
- Accommodations near Venice | Camping Rialto
Accommodation 10 minutes from centre of Venice . Chalets, Tents, Glamping Bungalows-Tents.
When and Where to Eat Cheaply in Venice
- It's cheaper to eat a main meal at lunchtime, rather than in the evening.
- Expect to pay up to 18 euros for a three-course lunch at a trattoria or an osteria.
- The quality of the fixed price lunch menus variable. Avoid all places where a menu printed in several languages is displayed in the window! It's worth searching for an out-of-the-way restaurant where the locals are eating. Alternatively, the cafes in some of the museums provide good value for money.
- Or eat like a local, touring back street bars (bacari) to enjoy the cinchetti snacks unique to Venice, washed down in the traditional way with an ombra (a small glass of local wine). Cincetti are the Venetian cultural equivalent of Spanish tapas. Savour a bite-size morsel standing at the bar and sipping your ombra before moving on to the next bacari.
Fish and Shellfish are Venetian Specialities
For me, a visit to Venice is complete without trying at least one of the many fabulous restaurants. We enjoyed a superb lunch at Ristorante Cherubino. We had Antipasti followed by tagliatelle with crabmeat, dolce della casa (divine chocolate and caramel torte), and a glass of excellent vino bianco della casa for 40 euros each, including a generous tip for the great service.
Location of the Places Mentioned in This Article
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2016 Glen Rix
Gupi on June 12, 2019:
Thank you for sharing this very detailed article.
Liz Westwood from UK on May 28, 2018:
This is an extremely helpful article. A lot of your tips are useful for other destinations. Thanks for the advice. This is a really useful guide to getting the most from Venice without breaking the bank. The illustrations were top quality as well.
Claire-louise on August 11, 2017:
Sooooo beautiful, I am dying to go there!