With its historical canals, gondolas, and winding streets, Venice is considered one of the most romantic cities in the world. The city is almost always on everyone’s “must see” list when visiting Italy. I find Venice to beautiful and charming though greatly overpriced. However, the city doesn’t need to cost a fortune, and a few blocks off the main streets you will find a local Venice filled with wonderful markets, cheap bars, and affordable food.
Hostel prices – There are no cheap dorms or hostels on the actual island. The best value accommodations are just outside the city at the camping grounds. These dorms will cost around $16 USD per night. If you wish to stay in the city, expect to pay around $40 USD per night for a dorm room.
Budget hotel prices – Cheap hotels in Venice start at $60 USD per night and head upwards of $150 USD in the city center.
Average cost of food – Eating in Venice is really expensive. It’s better to eat out lunch rather than dinner with lunch menus costing about $20 USD. If you go out for dinner, expect to pay between $40-60 USD for a meal with drinks. There are a few places to get cheap snacks (pizza, sandwiches) but for the most part, budget a lot for food. You can cook for a week for around $70 USD especially if you shop at the local farmer’s markets.
Transportation costs – The floating buses, or vaporetto, cost $9 USD for a one way, one hour trip. A 24-hour ticket is $25.50 USD and a seven-day pass is $77 USD.
Money Saving Tips
Don’t eat at Piazza San Marco – This is the area with the most tourist, hence making it much more expensive. Avoid eating here at all costs, not matter how tempting the cafe patios might be.
Pack a picnic – Small markets are abundant around the city, so fill up with some fresh veggies, fruit, cheese, and wine, and enjoy a delicious meal at a fraction of the cost it would be to go out.
Walk and get lost – Venice is so beautiful that you can spend time strolling through the city seeing old building, churches, artists, and, best of all, a bit of people watching. The island is small, so don’t worry, you can’t get that lost.
Discount bus tickets – If you are staying for a longer period of time, consider purchasing a discount card for the floating bus, or vaperatto, services. You can save almost $15 USD on a seven day pass by going through VeniceConnected.com.
Top Things to See and Do
Visit the Piazza San Marco – This is the most famous piazza in Venice. It’s crowded, full of pigeons, and occasionally flooded but, despite the crowds, it’s a majestic place.
Enter Basilica San Marco – St. Mark’s Basilica is the third building on its spot on the Piazza San Marco. Two other churches were there previously, the first built to hold the stolen bones of St. Mark.The current is filled with amazing mosaics, domes, statues, and the High Altar that supposedly contains some of the saint’s remains.
Tour the Doge’s Palace – A series of 120 doges ruled Venice, and their incredible three story palace predates the Renaissance. The facade features beautiful arches and pink and white marble. The palace is located on St. Mark’s Square. The inside of the palace is remarkable, and filled with artwork. Tours will take visitors across the Bridge of Sighs to the nearby prison cells, one of which once housed famous Cassanova.
Take a Gondola ride – Some may say the gondolas of Venice are a tourist trap, but so are a lot of other fun things! A gondola ride can be very romantic if taken around dusk, and if the price seems too high, split with ride others. A typical ride costs $100 USD during the day, expect closer to $150 USD at night.
Go explore Lido – If you want to escape the city, Lido is an island between Venice and the sea that has a beach on where you can relax. Cabanas can also be rented.
Visit Murano island – Close to Venice, nearby Murano island is the tourist trap home of the famous glass blowers of the famous Murano glass. Although the island is filled with expensive souvenirs (avoid buying anything on the island!), it can still be an educational and fun afternoon learning and watching how the glass is blown.
Visit the markets – Venice has great markets where you can buy some delicious food at a fraction of the cost than at the restaurants. The morning fish market is my favorite. Head there early to watch the restaurant owners pick their fish and stay for the old ladies picking their dinners. There is also an organic produce market on Mondays.
Explore the Peggy Guggenheim Collection – This is a massive, avant-garde collection of art, comprised of more than 200 artists. There are countless pieces by surrealists, abstract expressionists, and Italian futurists. In addition to works by Max Ernst, Jackson Pollock, and various other big-name artists, the collection also includes local works. Admission is $18 USD.
Climb the Campanile di San Marco – Built in 1912, this tower is actually a replica of the original Bell Tower of St. Mark. It is said that every last detail of the structure is a match. For $11 USD, you can climb up through the inner workings and get a great view of the city.
Watch the Voga Longa – Held annually on May 23rd, this is a marathon rowing event in which thousands of people come out to participate. At over 1,500 vessels strong, this tradition originated as a protest to the increasing amount of power boats throughout Venice waters. In order to receive recognition, you have to row 20 miles in under 3.5 hours.
I Tre Mercanti – For the foodies out there, this food gallery can be found just a stone’s skip away from St. Marco’s Square. The specialty here is Italian dishes but the cool part is the number of regional specialties from around Italy. There are over 97 pasta sauces here! It’s kind of like heaven, really, especially the tiramisu.
Take a trip to Burano – Another one of the islands around Venice is Burano, which is known for its colorful, block-like buildings. The government actually regulates house-painting on this island. Wander the streets, and admire the many art galleries and shops along the way.