Anyone in a struggling relationship should book a flight and hotel in Venice stat. This is a city of romance indeed. Fellas, need to top up your mojo to James Bond-like levels? Go to Venice. Ladies, if you are desperate to be held, squeezed and shown a little tenderness, get in formation. All signs are pointing to Venice.
Nat and I weren’t actually too sure about Venice. The prices to stay in the city and on the island are absolutely heinous (the only hostel we could find was €40 a night) and we’d heard mixed reviews. We ended up staying an hour out of town by train in a little place called Conegliano (if anyone wants to know where, hit us up in the comments and we will hook you up with the most beautiful Airbnb host you ever did meet) so this meant we had absolutely no idea what to expect of the city.
With trepidation, we took the train to Venice. After the crowds in Florence, we were a little worried. Would Venice just be the overpriced, overrated, tourist-soaked cliche that we were only visiting to tick off our list? Or would the crowds be justified?
Safe to say, it was without doubt the latter. Holy crap, as soon as we stepped out of the train station the beauty and uniqueness of Venice hit us like a brick to the face. Everywhere you look, it’s stunning, even with crowds (and crowds, and crowds) of tourists. The architecture, the canals, the bridges, the gleaming boats. And my God, do these Venetians know a) their colour combinations and b) how to dress a balcony!
We quickly saw we had made an error in judgment – even though there was no way we could afford to stay in Venice or one of the islands on this trip, we most definitely wished we’d allowed more than a day and a half to visit. You live and you learn – Venice, don’t worry, we’ll be back! In the meantime, if you only have the time or money to stop in Venice for the day, check out some of our recommendations below:
What to do during a day in Venice
Wander with your camera out and around your neck, lens cap off. Seriously. Just cruise around. This city is a photographer’s wet goddamn dream. Venezia is the original 90’s supermodel of cities, with a body to die for, a stare to strike you down and an effortless glide to leave you wallowing in its wake. There is a photo around every corner, so go for your life.
Buy a souvenir. Perhaps a striped shirt, a glass trinket, a Venetian mask? There’s no shortage in Venice. We don’t normally buy souvenirs, but Nat couldn’t resist a striped shirt with Venezia embroidered in gold for €12. The last thing I need is another oversized t-shirt but as I write this she’s wearing it and I can’t help it. I have to admit it – I’m jealous!
Check out the lucky bastards partaking in gondola rides around the city. For €80 for half-an-hour, this is a possible option for a group of friends or a family as a gondola can take up to six. You can also get a super cheap ride across the Grand Canal for just €1, which we’ll be chasing down in the future. However, even to watch is highly entertaining, with some cheekier paddlers accidentally on-purpose nearly upending their boats , some serenading their guests as well as the surrounding boats who gather in close to listen and the less dedicated casually checking their phones as they paddle in full costume and hat, completely ignoring their premium-paying passengers.
Hit Piazza San Marco. Yes, yes, it’s a tourist trap, we know, but guess what?! Neither of us are scared of a few germs and feeding the pigeons took me back to being a kid and trying to lure magpies into our house with mincemeat. If taking a pigeon selfie doesn’t put a smile on your face we don’t know what will. The Basilica San Marco is also stunning and if you don’t mind queuing you can also view Venice from the bell tower of San Marco. Once here, you’re also close to the harbour, so after checking it out it’s super convenient to jump on a ferry to the islands.
Ponte dell’Academia is where it’s at for sunset (even better for sunrise on a clear day). The only wooden bridge in Venice looks out on the most incredible view, one out to the waterfront and the other towards the sunset. It’s a perfect way to end your day. For more photos as the light fades, explore the surrounding canals and smaller bridges.
You must without question find some decent gelato. There is good gelato and there is bad gelato, and we found both in Venice. Avoid the tackier looking shopfronts housing standard flavours that could easily have come from a 50 litre vat and head to Gelateria Ca’d’Oro. If they have passionfruit and yoghurt, try it. Further down the street is Gelato di Natura. The tragic fact I didn’t get to try the gelato here is genuinely haunting me. The only reassurance is we know we’ll be back.
Handy things to know
Avoid visiting on a Sunday
Most of the shops and many of the restaurants are closed. It is a little quieter, but we wouldn’t say the reduction in tourist numbers makes up for the reduced buzzing atmosphere.
Invaluable to day-trippers, there is a luggage storage area at the train, but it’s highly likely you’ll be waiting for over an hour in line to store it. Instead, you’ll find cheaper and far more efficient luggage storage at “Keep Calm and Enjoy Venice” Point. This facility is located just behind the tourist office outside the Venezia Santa Lucia station and will store your luggage until 7.00 pm for €5. Better yet, not a single line in sight. This place seriously saved us!
Be prepared to pay for your supper
Restaurants are expensive; drinks are expensive; cafes are expensive. You’ll pay at least €2.50 for an espresso and around €4.50 for an iced tea. Luckily alcohol is cheaper – keep an eye out for happy hours or for signs touting cheap wine and beer – we saw a few for €2.50 a glass and enjoyed a couple of generous glasses of Prosecco for €4 each. In addition, it’s a well known truth the food in a lot of the cheaper Venetian restaurants is average at best. We’d recommend staying somewhere with a kitchen as there are quite a few supermarkets around. This being said, if you’ve got the time to hunt out some quality eats there are some great recommendations here and here.
Follow the Wi-fi… or not
Every international traveller knows sitting down at a restaurant or cafe with decent complimentary wi-fi is like striking gold. Sadly, we found no gold mines in Venice. Most cafes advertise free wi-fi, but this is generally for a limited period (we encountered one for 10 minutes, the other for 30). Have everything arranged in the morning as you mayn’t be able to plan your day over a leisurely lunch or a morning coffee without forking over some moolah after you exceed the time limit.
It’s very, very easy to get lost in Venice and spend quite a while stumbling around backstreets. If you have a number of places you want to visit in a short time, map your day out. Ensure all the places can be located in HERE Wego and have your devices charged so you don’t waste precious time getting lost. It’s a big city to move around in on foot and quite slow due to the number of people in the narrow streets.
When Nature Calls
Public toilet locations are marked with small blue and white “WC” signs and arrows. They are also €1.50 a pop. It’s blatant exploitation of our bodily functions but there’s little that can be done about it.
Most mornings in Venice it rains, so don’t stress if you get there a little later in the day. Also, don’t necessarily trust the weather forecast – it was supposed to be raining and overcast when we stopped by and it was pretty damn gorgeous.
The Venetian Islands
Schedule in some time for Venice’s islands! Unfortunately we didn’t but next time we’ll be touring these in style. They can be accessed via the ferries (“vaporetti”) from stops along the waterfront during the day. We’ve read the best option is to purchase a one day pass for €20. Last ferries head back to Venice between 7.00 pm and 8.00 so ensure you keep an eye on the time. You can find more information regarding fares for boats around Venice Lagoon here.
- Burano in particular is Instabrag heaven. If you need to be convinced check the hashtag here.
- Our waiter at a bar recommended climbing Guidecca’s bell tower for sunset for panoramic views of all of Venice. If anyone has experienced this please let us know your thoughts!
- One friend of mine who has spent a considerable amount of time in Italy recommended staying on one of the islands, rather than in the city of Venice. It is more expensive, but she said it was absolutely magical and after seeing how amazing the city is we can only assume staying on one of the islands would be blissful.
So there you have it, a day trip in beautiful Venice. We’d like an eternity of these, please.