Visit Venice on a Shoestring Budget

The Doge's Palace
The Doge's Palace | Source

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.

Gondoliers on the Grand Canal
Gondoliers on the Grand Canal | Source

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).
  • 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.

The Grand Canal
The Grand Canal | Source
The Grand Canal Viewed From Space 2001
The Grand Canal Viewed From Space 2001 | Source
St. Mark's Square
St. Mark's Square | Source

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.

Correr Museum Cafe
Correr Museum Cafe | Source

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.

Recommended Guide to Venice

Venice Marco Polo Guide (Marco Polo Guides)
Venice Marco Polo Guide (Marco Polo Guides)

An excellent guidebook, providing all the essential information to help you find your way around this delightful city. The map that is included with the book proved indispensable during out visit

A markerSt. Mark's Square, Venice -
St. Mark's Square, 30124 Venice, Italy
[get directions]

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. The are what stuck in my memory.
  • 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 life that you will be allowed 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 - which 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!

Detail on the Golden Staircase in the Doge's Palace
Detail on the Golden Staircase in the Doge's Palace | Source
9 a.m. at the Doge's Palace and the queues are forming
9 a.m. at the Doge's Palace and the queues are forming | Source
Early morning view of St. Mark's Square from the Correr Museum Cafe
Early morning view of St. Mark's Square from the Correr Museum Cafe | Source

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 in less than 10 minutes. 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 the specialised knowledge of a guide.

The stunning dome in St. Mark's Basilica, one of the world's finest examples of Byzantine architecture
The stunning dome in St. Mark's Basilica, one of the world's finest examples of Byzantine architecture | Source

Francesco da Mosta is a Venetian Architect and TV Broadcaster

Francescos Venice [DVD]
Francescos Venice [DVD]

This book complements Francesco's fabulous tv series about his home city


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.

Fenice Opera House
Fenice Opera House | Source

Be Sure to Take Comfortable Walking Shoes to Venice

Spend a Leisurely Evening in a Campo With the Locals

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 Enioteca Al Prosecco.

After a day exploring take a rest and enjoy a substantial early evening snack at Enoiteca Al Prosecco as the locals gather in the square to socialise
After a day exploring take a rest and enjoy a substantial early evening snack at Enoiteca Al Prosecco as the locals gather in the square to socialise | Source
Campo San Giacomo
Campo San Giacomo | Source

Communicating With the Venetians

Start Italian with the Michel Thomas Method
Start Italian with the Michel Thomas Method

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 Michel Thomas method is the best for me. His credentials speak for themselves - during his lifetime he taught languages to many public figures and celebrities. 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 making a trip.


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.

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

A markerCa San Rocco, Ramo Cimesin, 3078, San Polo, Venezia -
Ramo Cimesin, 3078, 30125 Venezia, Italy
[get directions]

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.

We ate a three course lunch, including a glass of wine, by one of the quieter canals and were treated to music by strolling players.
We ate a three course lunch, including a glass of wine, by one of the quieter canals and were treated to music by strolling players. | Source

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.

Restaurante Cherubino
Restaurante Cherubino | Source

What do you enjoy most about a short break?

  • The chance to experience a different culture
  • Different food
  • Museums and galleries
  • The beach
  • Getting a tan
See results without voting

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.

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AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 7 weeks ago from British Columbia, Canada

Thank you very much for sharing all the travel tips. I would love to explore Venice. It looks so interesting. If I ever visit the area it will almost certainly be on a budget, so I appreciate all your suggestions.

Glenis Rix profile image

Glenis Rix 2 months ago from UK Author

Thanks for your feedback. The times that I quoted for queues at the Basilica were based on reports from friends who experienced lengthy queues. On the basis of your comment I have now amended to "up to 45 minutes"

lobobrandon profile image

lobobrandon 2 months ago

Was in Venice earlier this month and loved it! Spent two days there before I moved on to Florence. I didn't have to wait 45 minutes in queue to enter the basilica, maybe 15 - 20 minutes. The line was pretty long around 100 meters, but it moved fairly quickly to my surprise. Anyway, once inside I was free to roam or stay put as long as I wanted to. It's weird that you say some people have to just follow the line and get just 10 minutes inside. I guess I was lucky :) Sadly didn't get to see it lit up was there around 2pm if I'm not mistaken.

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