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You have probably heard some of those things if you talked to someone who has visited Venice leaving you wondering if Venice is worth it.
It’s an understandable question.
As someone who lives close to Venice, people often ask me if Venice is worth visiting and I always tell them yes.
However, before booking a trip to this iconic destination, it’s important to understand both the pros and cons of visiting Venice. While its beauty is undeniable, overcrowding and high prices during peak season can be overwhelming for some visitors.
It doesn’t have to be stressful, and it doesn’t have to be as expensive as you think it will be. And, lastly, the canals are not stinky!
So, if you’re wondering “is Venice worth visiting?”, let me give you some food for thought to help you when planning your Italian itinerary so you know if you should add it or drop it.
6 Venice Travel Tips
Despite its challenges, Venice remains a stunning destination worth visiting. By planning ahead and considering the following tips, you can minimize the drawbacks and make the most of your Venetian experience.
1 – Visit during the off-peak season
To avoid the worst of the crowds and extreme weather conditions, the best time to visit Venice is during the shoulder season of late April to early June or September to early October. During these periods, the city tends to be less crowded, and the weather is generally more pleasant than during the peak summer months under the blistering summer sun or the rainy, flood-prone winter season.
There is a lot to do in Venice in any season so really the best time to go is when you have the time. For instance, The Christmas season extends into January so visiting then will save you money but still allow you to enjoy many festivities. Easter is also a great time to visit with all the festivities.
2 – Book accommodations in advance
Venice is a popular destination, so hotels and rentals can fill up quickly, especially during peak season and events. Booking your accommodations early ensures you get the best options at a more reasonable price.
Carefully consider the location of your accommodations, as staying in the heart of the city or close to main attractions might be convenient but could also be noisy and crowded. Opting for a stay in quieter neighborhoods, such as Cannaregio, Dorsoduro, or the Castello district, can provide a more authentic Venetian experience and often better value for money.
If you’re planning a longer stay, consider renting an apartment, which can offer more space, privacy, and the option to cook your own meals, ultimately saving you money and providing a home-like atmosphere.
3 – Plan your itinerary and prioritize
Research the events, museums, and major sites you want to visit before your trip to make the most of your time in Venice. Prioritize the must-see sights and experiences that interest you the most, and create a flexible schedule that allows for spontaneous exploration or changes in plans.
Check the opening hours, admission fees, and any restrictions for the attractions you wish to visit, as this information will help you avoid disappointment due to closures, sold-out events, or unexpected costs. If possible, book tickets online for popular attractions or guided tours to secure your spot and save time waiting in lines.
When planning your daily activities, group nearby attractions together to minimize travel time between sites. Lastly, be prepared to adapt your itinerary to weather conditions, as Venice can be affected by floods (aqua alta) or rain, which may temporarily impact your plans.
4 – Consider guided tours and city passes
To gain deeper insight into Venice’s history, architecture, and culture, consider joining guided tours led by knowledgeable local guides.
There are various types of guided tours available, including walking tours, themed tours focusing on specific aspects of Venetian life (such as for art, food, or history lovers), and boat tours that explore the city’s canals and surrounding small islands. These tours can help you discover hidden gems, learn fascinating stories, and gain a better understanding of the city’s unique character.
Additionally, purchasing a Venice city pass, such as the Venezia Unica City Pass or the Venice Museum Pass, can grant you access to multiple attractions, museums, and public transportation at a discounted rate.
These passes can save you time by allowing you to bypass long queues at popular attractions and help you manage your travel budget more effectively. Be sure to check out my detailed article about the various Venice Passes so you can see which one works best for you.
5 – Get off the beaten path
While Venice’s most famous attractions, such as Piazza San Marco and the Rialto Bridge, are undoubtedly worth visiting, the city has a lot of non-touristy things to do.
Venturing into less-frequented neighborhoods and the outer islands in the Venice lagoon allows you to experience a more authentic Venice, where everyday life continues amidst the city’s historical and artistic treasures.
In these quieter districts, you can find hidden gems such as the Jewish ghetto, beautiful churches, picturesque squares, and local markets, all while avoiding the crowds that congregate around the main tourist spots.
Strolling through these neighborhoods also provides an opportunity to discover local eateries, cafes, and shops, where you can sample traditional Venetian dishes, sip on an espresso or enjoy a spritz, and shop for unique souvenirs.
Exploring beyond the main tourist areas also enables you to witness the city’s captivating charm, as you navigate through narrow streets, cross quaint bridges over narrow canals, and admire the historic architecture that defines Venice.
6 – Support local businesses and engage in sustainable tourism practices
One way to minimize the negative impact of mass tourism on Venice is to support local businesses and engage in sustainable tourism practices. Choose to dine in locally-owned restaurants, shop at artisan stores or markets, and seek out authentic experiences that provide a deeper understanding of the city’s culture and history. Respect the city’s fragile environment by avoiding littering and adhering to local guidelines for waste disposal.
Here are some activities that support local businesses:
And these are some small restaurants owned by locals where you can get an authentic meal:
Pros of Visiting Venice
The reasons to visit Venice are far too numerous to list here. And, many of them will seem pretty obvious since just about everybody understands what makes the city so charming. It is worth mentioning the obvious to make sure you understand what you get out of a trip here when you end up reading the negatives about visiting Venice.
Rich history and cultural heritage
Venice is renowned for its stunning architecture, which reflects the city’s rich history and cultural heritage. Gothic palaces, Byzantine basilicas, and Renaissance masterpieces are just a few examples of architectural wonders that can be found throughout the city. Among these notable structures are St. Mark’s Basilica, the Doge’s Palace, and the Rialto Bridge – all must-see landmarks for any visitor to Venice.
It’s one of the few cities in the world where you don’t have to imagine what it used to look like centuries ago. Like a bug trapped in amber, it looks like it has been suspended in time, and no imagination is necessary to experience what it was like during its days as the Republica Serenissima, or the Most Serene Republic.
World-class museums and art collections
In addition to its impressive architecture, Venice also boasts an abundance of world-class museums and art collections that showcase some of the most significant works in Italian art history. The Accademia Gallery houses a vast collection of Venetian paintings from the 14th to 18th centuries by artists such as Bellini, Titian, Tintoretto, and Veronese.
While the Peggy Guggenheim Collection offers lovers of modern and contemporary art a chance to view works by Dali, Picasso and other internationally recognized artists in the hieresses home-turned-museum on the Grand Canal.
Unique attractions and experiences
Gondola rides and vaporetto trips
One of the most iconic symbols of Venice is the gondola, a flat-bottomed boat used for transportation through the city’s waterways. Taking a traditional gondola ride through the canals is an experience not to be missed, offering stunning views of the architecture and sights from a different perspective.
For those looking for a more affordable option, taking a ride on one of Venice’s many vaporettos – public water buses that run along major routes in the lagoon – provides another way to explore this unique city.
Exploring the Venetian Lagoon and its islands
While Venice itself offers plenty to see and do, exploring the surrounding Venetian Lagoon and nearby islands can be just as rewarding for travelers seeking something off-the-beaten-path. The islands within the lagoon are home to charming fishing villages such as Burano with its colorful houses, historic churches with beautiful mosaics such as Torcello Cathedral or glass making factories like Murano Island, where you can witness artisans at work creating masterpieces out of molten glass.
Venetian cuisine and gastronomy
Many people complain that the food in Venice is bad and way overpriced. This will be true if you eat at a tourist trap near the major attractions. Unfortunately, you do have to dig a little bit into some off the beaten path locations to truly experience the delicious food and local wine that Venice has to offer the foodie.
Venice’s culinary scene is a highlight for many travelers, with its unique blend of Italian and seafood-focused dishes reflecting the city’s coastal location. One must-try aspect of Venetian cuisine is the cicchetti culture, which involves small plates or snacks that are typically enjoyed alongside a glass of wine in local bars called bacari.
Similar to Spanish tapas, these bite-sized morsels can include everything from fried seafood to meatballs to vegetarian options like tramezzini (small sandwiches) and crostini (slices of bread topped with spreads). The tradition of cicchetti has been around since the Middle Ages, making it an authentic taste experience not to be missed.
Traditional osterias and trattorias
For those looking for a more substantial dining experience, traditional osterias and trattorias offer classic Venetian dishes made from fresh ingredients such as locally caught fish or seasonal vegetables sourced from nearby farms on the mainland like radicchio di Treviso, artichokes, or white asparagus during springtime.
Some staple dishes worth trying include sarde in saor – marinated sardines served sweet and sour style; fritto misto, mixed fried seafood platter; risotto al nero di seppia – black squid ink risotto; and baccalà mantecato – whipped salt cod spread over grilled polenta cakes, amongst others.
Atmospheric and picturesque neighborhoods
Romantic canals and bridges
Venice’s winding canals, charming bridges, and colorful buildings make it one of the most romantic cities in the world. The iconic Rialto Bridge is a must-visit landmark for its stunning views over the Grand Canal, while smaller bridges offer quieter moments to take in the city’s unique beauty. Walking along the narrow alleys also allows travelers to discover hidden gems like secluded squares or local artisan shops.
Winding streets and hidden squares
Beyond just exploring Venice’s famous landmarks, getting lost in its atmospheric neighborhoods is an experience unto itself! The city boasts numerous charming districts that each have their own character – from Dorsoduro with its art galleries and university atmosphere to Cannaregio which is home to some great culinary spots offering traditional Venetian dishes.
Meandering through these neighborhoods on foot will reveal unexpected corners full of history, such as Campo Santa Margherita, a lively square perfect for people watching, or Campo San Polo, where locals gather around fountains to sip spritz cocktails during the aperitivo hour.
Accessibility to other Italian and European destinations
Lots of day trip options
Venice is surrounded by many charming nearby cities in the Veneto region, Friuli, and Emilia Romagna that are worth visiting, like Padua with its impressive frescoes at Scrovegni Chapel; Verona, which is famous for being Romeo and Juliet’s city or Ravenna, known for its ancient Byzantine churches with exquisite mosaics. One of my favorite day trips from Venice is the Prosecco Road to visit the wineries where the sparkling wine is made.
Even taking a ferry to Piran, Slovenia, is an easy day-trip for something very different. These nearby towns offer travelers an opportunity to discover lesser-known gems while experiencing authentic Italian life outside of the tourist trail.
Convenient train and plane connections
Venice’s central location makes it a convenient base for exploring other parts of Italy by train, with direct connections to major cities such as Florence, Rome, and Milan in just a few hours’ travel time. This means that visitors can use Venice as their jumping off point to see what else Italy has waiting for them.
Venice Marco Polo Airport is also a great hub if you need to fly to another European city quickly and cheaply. Flying into Treviso gives you a lot of transportation options to get from the airport to Venice.
A rich calendar of festivities and events
Carnevale, Italy’s most famous carnival
Carnevale di Venezia is a world-renowned annual event that takes place in Venice, typically around February. The city comes alive with colorful costumes, elaborate masks, and lively street performances.
The Carnevale dates back to the 12th century, making it one of the oldest and most cherished traditions in Venice. Visitors can attend masquerade balls, enjoy live music, and marvel at the artistic creations in the form of masks and costumes.
The event culminates in a grand parade featuring floats and performers from around the world. The Venice Carnival is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, offering a glimpse into the city’s rich history and vibrant culture.
Venice Film Festival
The Venice Film Festival, held annually in late August or early September, is the world’s oldest and one of the most prestigious film festivals. It is part of the Venice Biennale and takes place at the historic Palazzo del Cinema on the Lido island.
The festival attracts the biggest names in international cinema, as well as film enthusiasts from all over the world. The event showcases a diverse selection of films, including feature films, documentaries, and short films.
The prestigious Golden Lion Award is presented to the best film, while other awards recognize outstanding achievements in various categories. The Venice Film Festival is an essential event for cinephiles, providing a platform to discover groundbreaking works and celebrate the art of filmmaking.
Festa del Redentore
Festa del Redentore is an annual celebration held on the third weekend of July, commemorating the end of the 16th-century plague that devastated Venice. The event is marked by a spectacular fireworks display over the St. Mark’s Basin, attracting thousands of visitors.
The city comes together in a festive atmosphere, with locals and tourists gathering on boats, terraces, and along the waterfront to enjoy the stunning spectacle.
The festival also includes a religious component, with a pilgrimage to the Church of the Redeemer on Giudecca island, which was built as a symbol of gratitude for the city’s deliverance from the plague.
The celebrations extend throughout the weekend, featuring live music, food stalls, and various activities for all ages. Festa del Redentore offers a unique blend of religious significance, historical context, and enchanting festivities that make it a must-experience event in Venice.
Venice Glass Week
The Venice Glass Week is an annual festival celebrating the centuries-old tradition of glass making on the island of Murano. Held in September, the event showcases the exquisite craftsmanship and artistic innovation of Murano glass through a series of exhibitions, workshops, and demonstrations.
Visitors can explore the island’s historic glass factories, attend conferences, and participate in hands-on experiences to learn about the glassmaking process.
Cons of Visiting Venice
Not all that glitters is gold, as they say. As beautiful and enchanting as Venice is, there are some downsides to consider. However, I have seen the many faces of Venice and I have to say that it is always worth a visit even considering some of the downsides.
Overtourism and crowding
Venice is a city that has long been a victim of its own success. With more than 20 million tourists visiting annually, the city’s infrastructure struggles to accommodate the sheer volume of people.
The narrow streets, historic buildings, and delicate waterways were not designed to handle such large crowds, leading to congestion, long lines, and difficulty navigating through the city, especially during peak season of June through August.
Negative impact on local communities
The high volume of visitors also has negative impacts on the daily lives of locals who call Venice home, including increased noise pollution, littering, or difficulties running their businesses due to rising rents and competition from tourist-oriented ones. The gentrification caused by tourism pressures is causing some Venetians to leave the city in search of more affordable living conditions outside its boundaries.
While tourism has brought prosperity to Venice, it’s important for travelers to be aware of these issues and take steps towards being responsible tourists when visiting this unique destination.
High costs and tourist traps
Expensive accommodations and dining options
Venice is known for being a pricey travel destination, with high costs for hotels, restaurants or even basic necessities like public bathrooms or admission fees to major attractions. Visitors should be prepared to spend more than they would in other Italian cities, especially during peak season when prices can skyrocket.
Overpriced attractions and experiences
Another issue related to the cost of visiting Venice is the prevalence of overpriced tourist traps such as gondola rides that are advertised at exorbitant rates or shops selling mass-produced souvenirs rather than authentic, locally made products. It’s important to do research beforehand on where you want to dine, shop, or visit so as not to fall victim to these scams.
While it may be tempting to splurge while in Venice, travelers should budget accordingly and look for authentic alternatives that offer better value without sacrificing quality. Luckily, there are many ways to either save money or go to places where you may pay a lot but still feel like you got value for your money.
Acqua alta (flooding) during autumn and winter months
While Venice is famous for its canals, the city’s relationship with water is a complex one. Between October and January, Venice experiences a phenomenon called “acqua alta,” or “high water.” This tidal event causes flooding in many parts of the city, sometimes rendering streets and squares impassable. If you visit during these months, you may have to contend with waterlogged streets and the inconvenience of navigating the city on raised walkways or in waterproof boots.
For some, the unique experience of being in Venice during Acqua Alta is a pro and not a con so it does all come down to perspective. It’s also not as big a hassles as you would think since the city is always ready for this event with walkways through the squares and over the bridges to allow people to get around. Keep in mind that since it is a tidal phenomenon, the water receds after 6 hours or so.
Hot and humid summers with intense tourist crowds
Venice is most crowded during the peak summer months of June, July, and August, when tourists flock to the city to enjoy its famous sights and warm weather. However, the combination of heat, humidity, and crowds can make for an uncomfortable experience. Additionally, the high number of visitors during this time can lead to overcrowding at popular attractions, making it difficult to fully appreciate the city’s beauty.
There are many off-the-beaten path areas of the city where you can go and get away from the masses even during the peak of the summer. For instance, the Castello neighborhood has hardly any tourists and taking a picnic to the parks there will have you feel like you have the island to yourself.
Limited accessibility for people with mobility issues
Numerous bridges and uneven streets
Venice’s charm lies in its winding streets, narrow alleys, and countless bridges. However, this unique urban layout can pose significant challenges for people with mobility issues. The city has over 400 bridges, many of which feature stairs, making it difficult for individuals using wheelchairs, walkers, or strollers to navigate the city independently. The uneven streets and cobblestones also make it challenging for those with mobility impairments to move around comfortably.
Limited wheelchair-friendly transportation options
The city’s primary mode of public transportation is the vaporetto, a water bus that traverses the canals. While some vaporetto stops have been adapted to accommodate wheelchair users, not all are fully accessible.
In many cases, individuals with mobility issues may have difficulty boarding or disembarking due to the lack of ramps or the presence of narrow gangways. Venice’s famous gondolas are not wheelchair-friendly, making this iconic experience inaccessible to many visitors with mobility limitations.
Advance bookings for popular attractions like St. Mark’s Basilica or the Doge’s Palace can help you avoid long lines and ensure a smoother experience.
What kind of clothing is recommended when visiting Venice?
When visiting Venice, it’s essential to wear comfortable and weather-appropriate clothing. For the spring and fall shoulder seasons, pack layers to accommodate fluctuating temperatures, including a light jacket and sweaters.
During the hot and humid summer months, opt for breathable fabrics like cotton and linen. Comfortable walking shoes are crucial, as you’ll likely spend a lot of time on your feet navigating the city’s streets and bridges.
If you’re visiting during the acqua alta season, waterproof boots or shoes are a good idea. Additionally, keep in mind that some religious sites, such as St. Mark’s Basilica, require modest attire, meaning shoulders and knees should be covered.
How can I avoid tourist traps and high costs while visiting Venice?
To avoid tourist traps and high costs in Venice, consider staying in less-touristy neighborhoods, dining in local restaurants, and shopping at local markets or artisan stores. Pre-booking popular attractions can also help save time and money. Planning ahead is essential and sticking to an itinerary will help you avoid tourist traps.
When is the best time of year to visit Venice to avoid crowds and extreme weather?
The best time to visit Venice to avoid large crowds and extreme weather is during the shoulder seasons of late April to early June or September to early October. During these periods, the city tends to be less crowded, and the weather is generally more pleasant.
Is Venice pet-friendly?
The short answer is that it can be, but sometimes it isn’t. I know that’s ambiguous, but there are some pet-friendly hotels where you can stay. And you are out walking around, so your pet is free to accompany you. However, the streets are narrow and crowded, and many restaurants can’t accommodate your pet. It takes a lot of planning to visit Venice with your pet, but it can be done.
Wrapping It Up
So, is Venice worth visiting? I think after considering the pros and cons I wrote above, and just how much there really is to do, it should be clear that Venice is worth visiting. However, assess your priorities, interests, and travel needs to determine if Venice is the right destination for you. Although Venice can be more challenging than other Italian cities, it is very worth visiting, in my opinion.
It takes good planning and being ready for some adventure to really appreciate this intriguing and unique city.
Make sure to check out some of the articles below that I think can help you plan your dream vacation to Venice.