Visit Venice on a Shoestring Budget
Some of the Most Enduring Memories of Venice Cost Nothing
The band at the iconic Cafe Florian in St. Mark's Square playing the theme from the film Titanic as the waters gradually flood parts of the square during high tide on Wednesday evening (a regular occurence);a gondolier singing Quando, Quando to his passengers as an audience gathers on a small narrow bridge and applauds his performance; the accordian players strolling from restaurant to restaurant. Stroll through the narrow alleys to gaze into the wonderful tiny specialist shops. There are shops which sell handmade gloves in a kaleidescope of colours; a shop selling only 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!
Tips for Visiting Venice on a Budget
- Travel on a budget airline
- Take carry-on luggage rather than paying to check a suitcase into the hold
- Buy a ticket for the Venice airport shuttle in advance
- Buy a Vaporetto pass to cover the duration of your visit—available online.
- Search online for accommodation that suits your budget—Tripadvisor is a good place to start.
- When in Venice eat your main meal at lunchtime and away from the main tourist areas. Meals in museums and galleries are often good value for money
- All the walking is likely to make you thirsty—especially if the weather is hot. Buy bottles of water cheaply at corner stores and carry them with you to avoid having to pay for expensive drinks.
- Buy a ticket for a tour of the Basilica San Marco in advance—available online.
- If your budget is really tight, don't buy a ticket for Basilica San Marco—queue to get in for free
- 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
- If listening to live Vivaldi is on your must -do list there are numerous churches and a couple of small 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
What to Pack for a Trip to Venice
The type of clothes to pack for a stay in Venice will depend upon the season but the priority is comfort and practicality. Smart casual is the keynote.
- There will be a lot of walking (we walked up to 10k each day) 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!
- In the winter months the weather is quite cold so pack warm clothing
Getting to Venice and Getting Around
My sister and I flew from the UK to Venice on budget airlines. I travelled on Ryanair from East Midlands airport to Treviso airport and my sister flew from Bristol to Marco Polo airport.
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).
We each travelled to Venice Piazzale Roma coach station on the airport shuttle buses that run very regularly. We chose to purchase our coach tickets online before travelling but they can be bought from machines in the airports.
Our accommodation was a short walk from the station. The only alternatives if accommodation is not within walking distance are a private water taxi or a vaporetto. 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. It's worth bearing this in mind when deciding how much luggage you want to take.
Map showing Venice Bus Station in Relation to Treviso and Marco Polo Airports
A gondola ride is an expensive luxury—and the Grand Canal can become very busy, so a gondola is perhaps not a particularly relaxing ride unless it is restricted to the smaller canals.
Buy A Venice Travel Pass
- The only way of travelling around Venice is on foot and by boat. Public transport is the vaporetto (water bus).
- It is essential to purchase a ticket for a vaporetto journey in advance of boarding. There are heavy fines if you are caught without a 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 costs 40 euros, a seven day pass 60 euros.
Use a Travel Guide Book to Plan in Advance for a Short Visit to Venice
Most visitors to Venice arrive for a short stay or even a day. To make the most of your visit it's a good idea to 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 The map that is included with the book was indispensable during our visit. The book contains a simple map of the Vaporetto routes and stations Perfect Days in Venice.
Coffee at the Correr Museum Cafe in St. Mark's Square
There is a fabulous unimpeded view of St. Mark's Square from the cafe at the Correr Museum. If you are only visiting the cafe you don't need to pay for entrance to the museum. Arrive early, grab a table by a window and enjoy a reasonably priced cappuccino and biscotti whilst enjoying a birds eye view of the Square in the opulent surroundings of a former palace.
Visit the Doge's Palace
The Doge's Palace is a 'must-see' when visiting Venice. If you allow 2 hours you still will not have seen everything.
- It enhances a visit if you read a bit about the history of the Palace in advance
- The cells where prisons awaited trial are at the top of the building. These are what stayed in my memory, on account of the horrible conditions in which prisoners were confined.
- Arrive early to beat the long queues. We got there at 8.45 am. and gained admittance in 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 - but it's a bit of a hassle.
- This article describes visiting Venice on a shoestring budget but next time I might think about splurging 35 euros for a guided tour of the Doge's Palace. It can be booked online and in advance.
- 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 and then on to St. Marks Basilica. It's what we did!
It's Worth Paying for a Guided Tour of St. Mark's Basilica
It's worth investing 20 euros for a pre-booked place on a guided tour of the Basilica of St. Mark. Try to time your visit for around 11.30 a.m.—each day the lights are switched on for one hour only and this is when you will see the gilded mosaics in all their indescribable glory. The tour lasts for around an hour.
If you decide not to pay and instead join the long queues to get into the Basilica for free you will queue for up to 45 minutes (take an umbrella - it often rains in Venice!) and be rushed like cattle around a delineated path through the Basilica. You could pay two euros to jump the queue—but you would still have a very short visit—and would not have access to the specialised knowledge of a guide. (It's not worthwhile trying to tag on to a guided tour - the guides are wise to this ruse and you will suffer the indignity of being asked to leave the group. (I saw it happen).
See Venice From a Distance
If you are not planning a visit to Venice, or if you would like a fascinating insight of the city prior to visiting, then I recommend the cd collection of Francesco da Mosta's series for British television, Francesco's Venice
Francesco in an architect from an old noble Venetian family and has in-depth knowledge of the buildings and history, which he shares on the CDs.
Tour the Fenice Opera House
- If 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 10 euros. Concessions seven euros.
The Fenice was one on the highlights of my visit to Venice. We were allowed to spend as long as we wanted wandering around this wonderful building; we toured the Maria Callas Gallery, sat in the Royal Box, and visited the special function rooms. The chorus was rehearsing when we were there, so although we couldn't see them live opera was in the background during our visit.
- 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.
Be Sure to Take Comfortable Walking Shoes to Venice
Spend a Leisurely Evening in a Campo With the Locals
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.
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. I have tried different methods of learning and find that the is the best for me. His credentials speak for themselves - during his lifetime he 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. Michel Thomas method
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 andseniors.
The Guggenheim is fairly close to the Accademia and 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 package deals.
Official Tourist Site for Venice
- VeneziaUnica City Pass
The Best Time to Visit Venice
We visited in May—not too hot for sightseeing and it's 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, so take an umbrella..
Budget Accommodation in Venice
It's possible to stay in Venice for a reasonable price. My sister and I rented a ground floor apartment, which was an annex to a no-frills B & B, a cost of 700 euros ( £533 in May 2016) for four nights, including breakfast, plus 2.50 euros per night tourist tax. To be honest, it was a very spartan apartment and the breakfast was uninspired.
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 Venezia Palace Barocci for around 850 euros per night.
Where We Stayed in Venice
Camping in Venice
- Accommodations near Venice | Camping Rialto
Accommodation 10 minutes from centre of Venice . Chalets, Tents, Glamping Bungalows-Tents.
Plan of the Rialto Campsite in Venice
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. It's worth searching for a place where the locals are eating. Alternatively, the cafes in some of the museums are good value for money.
Of course, no 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.
What do you enjoy most about a short break?
Accessibility Limitations in Venice
Venice is really not suitable for people with physical and mobility problems. There are numerous bridges and only a few of them have ramps or lifts.
Similarly, Venice is not toddler friendly and there is little to maintain the interest of very small children.
Venice - First Impressions
- Venice; A Brief History of a Unique City, and the First Impressions of a Visiting Tourist
This photoessay is a collection of first impressions of the historic city of Venice, and advice on how to make the most of a short visit to this architectural and scenic wonder of the world
© 2016 Glenis Rix