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Imagine the allure of Venice, Italy – the city of canals, where gondolas glide through narrow waterways, and the air is filled with the melody of Italian serenades. Now, picture experiencing all this without breaking the bank.
Yes, you read it right.
Visiting Venice on a budget is not only possible but can also be an incredibly rewarding experience. Since I live near Venice, I have been there dozens of times and know all the money-saving tips there are.
With careful planning and my insider tips, an authentic Venetian experience can be yours without the hefty price tag usually associated with a trip to Venice.
So, are you ready to embark on an unforgettable journey to Venice that won’t drain your savings? Let’s dive into this handy guide and start planning your dream trip to Venice on a budget.
How much money do you need to visit Venice?
The average daily costs are virtually impossible to pin down as there are a lot of variables. However, I will give you a baseline to go off of by calculating the minimum costs if you are an extremely frugal traveler. Below are some of the expected costs if you stay in a hostel, rarely pay to enter any sites, and eat mainly picnics or cook yourself.
- Arrival transportation from airport: €18 (Round trip bus ticket)
- Accommodation: €56
- Food: €35
- Water: €1 (Buy one bottle and continue to fill it up at fountains)
- Local Transportation: €9.5 (Vaporetto single ticket)
- Attractions: €14
- Alcohol: €9
Navigating Venice is an experience in itself, with its labyrinth of canals and narrow streets. There are several ways to get around the city, each offering a unique perspective of Venice.
Gondola rides are one of the most iconic experiences in Venice. These traditional, flat-bottomed boats offer a unique and romantic way to explore the city’s canals. While a private gondola ride can be quite expensive, you can save money by sharing a gondola with other tourists. Alternatively, for a quick and budget-friendly cross-canal trip, you can take a traghetto.
These are gondolas that ferry passengers across the Grand Canal for just 2 euros. While not as romantic as a private gondola ride, they offer a practical and affordable way to cross the canal.
Vaporetto (Water Bus)
The Vaporetto is Venice’s primary form of public transportation. These water buses operate regular routes along the Grand Canal and to the city’s islands. They offer a cost-effective way to get around, especially if you’re planning to buy a one day or multi day pass so you aren’t buying a single ticket everytime you want to use the bus.
A water taxi is the most expensive way to get around by far. However, since the price is fixed for the whole taxi, you can split the costs with other travelers. If you are traveling in a group and need to get to the city center, then you may end up spending less money than if you each bought an Alilaguna ticket to get to the San Marco districts, for instance.
If you’re not shy, you could approach other arriving tourists at Marco Polo Airport and offer to share a taxi with them.
Venice is a remarkably walkable city. Many of its attractions are within walking distance of each other, and strolling through its narrow streets and over its small bridges is a pleasure in itself. Walking not only allows you to save money on transportation but also gives you the chance to discover hidden gems and enjoy the city at your own pace.
Remember, getting around Venice doesn’t have to be expensive. With a bit of planning ahead and some insider tips, you can explore the city without blowing your Venice budget.
Attractions and Exploring Venice on a Budget
Venice is a city teeming with historical famous sites, architectural wonders, and vibrant markets. Among the must-visit famous sights are the Rialto Market, Doge’s Palace, and Saint Mark’s Basilica. However, exploring these sites can be costly if not planned well. Here’s how you can enjoy these attractions while sticking to your budget.
Basilica di San Marco
The iconic Basilica of St Mark in the heart of the Piazza San Marco, once free to visit, now charges an admission fee of 3 € as of April 2023. However, those attending prayers, mass, and services can still enter free of charge through the side door (Porta dei Fiori).
As one of the city’s most recognizable landmarks, a visit to the Rialto Bridge and the adjacent Rialto Market is a must-do, and it’s completely free.
This is a charming wooden structure, offers one of the most picturesque views over the Canale Grande in Venice, connecting the San Marco district with the Accademia galleries in Dorsoduro.
Fondaco dei Tedeschi Rooftop
For the best views of the Grand Canal and a free alternative to the Bell Tower in St Mark’s Square, book a visit to the rooftop at Fondaco dei Tedeschi. Although you need to book in advance and arrive on time, the breathtaking views from the top of the Rialto Bridge during a 15-minute visit are well worth it. Walk-ins are usually not accommodated due to high demand, so be sure to book your spot using this link.
Bridge of Sighs
The best view of the Bridge of Sighs is from the Ponte della Paglia, and it’s completely free. To cross the Bridge of Sighs, you’ll need to pay for a full visit to the Doge Palace and the dungeons.
Basilica Santa Maria della Salute
Situated near the old customs buildings in the Dorsoduro neighborhood, this impressive church is free to visit, though admission to the sacristy costs 4 €.
Libreria Acqua Alta
Nestled in the Castello neighborhood, this unique bookstore is one of the most Instragrammable spots in all of Venice and is a must-visit for those seeking something a little different.
On the first Sunday of each month, many of the civic museums in Venice offer free entry. Here is a list of museums in Venice, Italy that have free entry on the first Sunday of the month:
- Giorgio Franchetti Gallery at the Ca’ d’Oro: This museum is located in the Ca’ d’Oro, one of the most famous palaces in Venice. It houses the art collection of Baron Giorgio Franchetti, including works from various periods and regions.
- Accademia Galleries: This museum is one of the most important in Italy for Venetian painting, offering a comprehensive overview of the great pictorial tradition of Venice from the 14th to the 18th centuries, with works by artists like Carpaccio, Giorgione, Veronese, Tintoretto, Titian, Tiepolo, Canaletto, Guardi, Bellotto, and Longhi.
- Archaeological Museum of Venice: Located in St. Mark’s Square, this museum holds a large collection of antiquities, including Greek and Roman sculptures, ceramics, coins, and gems.
- Oriental Art Museum at Ca’ Pesaro: This museum showcases an impressive collection of works of Oriental art, mainly from Japan and China, with a total of about 30,000 pieces.
- Grimani Palace Museum in Santa Maria Formosa: This museum is located in the historical Grimani Palace, which is notable for its unique rooms with 1500 frescoes.
- Monumental Rooms at the Marciana National Library: These rooms give visitors the opportunity to appreciate the beauty of the ancient Library of St. Mark’s Square, which is rich in valuable manuscripts and books.
Alternatively, you could buy a Musem Pass if you plan to visit multiple museums and that will save you money if you don’t visit Venice on a Sunday.
The entrance fee to the museum is 14 euros which may be a lot for those on a tight budget, however, you also get access to the antique communal oven and entrance to the synagogues.
Visiting churches is a Venice budget friendly way to see some amazing architecture and artistic masterpieces. In fact, seeing the art in the churches of Venice is better than any museum since you are seeing the pieces as they were intended when they were commissioned and created. You could even attend a mass in English.
Many churches are free to enter which is great if you are on a tight budget, but, some churches have a modest entrance fee to get in. If you are planning to visit many of them, again I recommend a pass. It’s called the Chorus Pass and you can read my full article about it here so you can understand if it is worth it for you or not.
Free walking tours
One of the best ways to explore Venice and learn about its rich history is by joining a free walking tour. This is a guided tour led by a knowledgeable local guide who can provide insights into the city’s culture, architecture, and traditions. They cover various areas of the city, including the enchanting Dorsoduro district, the vibrant northern part of Venice, and the majestic Castello district.
Free walking tours are an excellent option for budget-conscious travelers as they operate on a tip-based system. This means that while there’s no upfront cost, it’s customary to give your guide a tip at the end of the tour as a show of appreciation for their service. So, while not completely free, these tours can be a more affordable option compared to standard guided tours.
Remember, while the tours are free, it’s important to book in advance as they can fill up quickly, especially during peak tourist season. So, if you’re planning a trip to Venice on a budget, consider adding a free walking tour to your itinerary. It’s a cost-effective way to see the city and learn about its history from a local perspective.
Food and Drink in Venice
Venice is not just a feast for the eyes, but also for the palate. The city’s culinary scene is as rich and diverse as its history, with a variety of dishes that reflect its unique geography and cultural influences. It can be expensive to eat here if you aren’t careful and don’t plan things well. Check out some tips on how to eat cheaply.
Cicchetti are small snacks or side dishes that are a staple of Venetian cuisine. They are similar to Spanish tapas and can range from bite-sized sandwiches, known as ‘panini’, to seafood delicacies and various types of cheese and olives. Cicchetti are typically enjoyed with a small glass of local wine, called an ‘ombra’, and are served in traditional Venetian bars known as ‘bacari’. These delightful treats offer a taste of authentic Venice and are a must-try for any food lover visiting the city.
They are a good way to sample a lot of different foods and still stay on budget. A typical cicchetto costs between 1.2 euros and 2.5 euros each. You can easily fill up on 4 of these and spend less than 10 euro for your meal, including wine.
One of the must-try wines in Venice is the Prosecco, a popular sparkling Italian wine often enjoyed in the city. But if you’re visiting Venice on a budget, you might want to consider trying an “ombra”, a small glass of local wine that is more affordable.
A Spritz is the national drink in Northern Italy and likely originated in Venice. They can be found for around 2.5 euros in some of the off the beaten path bars such as in Cannaregio. However, if you are particularly thrifty, you can buy a premixed one at any supermarket and take it to your favorite panoramic spot in the city for less than 1 euro.
For a truly Venetian experience, consider having a picnic. While you can’t have picnics in public squares or on the steps of bridges, there are many parks in the city where you can enjoy a meal amidst greenery. Some of these include the Giardini of the Biennale, Parco Savorgnan, and Giardini Papadopoli.
There are small grocery stores and supermarkets scattered all over Venice city where you can buy local cheeses, charcuterie, and a cheap bottle of local wine to wash it all down.
Avoid buying bottled water and instead bring a bottle of your own to fill up at the many fountains all over the city. The water is clean and nicely chilled.
Pasta to go
There are also many pasta to go joints all over the city. The pasta is usually freshly made and served with a homemade sauce. Often you can get a pasta within minutes and for less than 9 euros which makes for an economical and hearty lunch on the go.
One of the best ways to truly immerse yourself in the local culture and save money while visiting Venice is to cook your own meals. The Rialto Market, a bustling hub of activity in the heart of the city, is the perfect place to source fresh, local ingredients.
Here, you’ll find a wide array of fresh seafood, from clams to shrimp, as well as a variety of fruits and vegetables. Shopping at the Rialto Market not only allows you to experience the city like a local, but it also gives you the opportunity to prepare a delicious, home-cooked meal back at your suite or hostel with a kitchen. It’s a unique and budget-friendly way to enjoy the culinary delights of Venice.
Where to stay in Venice on a budget
When it comes to accommodation in Venice, there’s something for every budget and preference. From luxurious hotels with canal views to budget-friendly hostels, the city offers a wide range of options. However, one key tip to remember is to book your hotel accommodation early, especially during peak tourist seasons. This not only ensures you secure a place to stay but also gives you a wider range of options to choose from.
If you’re visiting Venice on a budget, consider staying in a hostel. Hostels in Venice offer affordable accommodation options without compromising on comfort. These hostels are located in the heart of the city, providing easy access to major attractions. What’s more, they often come with communal kitchens, allowing you to prepare your own meals and save on dining out.
For instance, you could visit the Rialto Market, a popular spot in Venice, where you can buy fresh fish and vegetables. With these ingredients, you can whip up a delicious meal back at your hostel, immersing yourself in the local culture while saving money.
Although it is a challenge in Venice to find cheap accommodations, there are some hotels that do fit well into your budget and still offer a comfortable experience. In fact, my pick for the best cheap accommodation in Venice even has a view of a canal and is close to the famous sights. It’s called Hotel dalla Mora and you can find it here.
Alternatively, you can stay in Mestre on the mainland and get a much cheaper hotel than what you can find in Venice city center. Taking the tram into the historic center is an experience and costs only 3 euros for a round trip ticket.
Practical Tips to Maintain Your Travel Budget
Choosing the Right Time to Visit
Venice is a city that can be enjoyed all year round, but choosing the right time to visit can significantly enhance your experience. The shoulder seasons of spring (April to June) and fall (September to November) are ideal times to visit. During these periods, the weather is generally pleasant, and the city is less crowded. Try to avoid the summer season when prices skyrocket and there are lots of crowds.
Winter can also be a magical time to visit Venice, with fewer tourists and a unique atmosphere. Just keep in mind that December in Venice can get expensive if you are there around Christmas and New Year’s Eve. However, coming in January allows you to still take in many of the Christmas events since the season extends all the way to the Epiphany but without the crowds.
Be careful when visiting Venice in February as during Carnevale it can be quite crowded and expensive.
Check out my full article on the best time to visit Venice so you can get an idea of when things will work for you.
Alternatively, you can also read to the worst times to visit Venice to see what you should avoid.
Making the Most of Passes
Venice offers various passes that can help you save money on transportation and sightseeing. The Venice Card offers unlimited use of public transportation and access to various museums and churches. Similarly, the Museum Pass allows access to a number of civic museums in Venice, including the Doge’s Palace and Museo Correr. Buying these passes can not only save you money but also provide skip-the-line access to popular sights.
Avoiding Tourist Traps
Venice is a popular tourist destination, and as such, it has its share of tourist traps. Here are a few tips to avoid them:
Be wary of restaurants with multilingual menus and pictures of the food. These are often geared towards tourists and may charge higher prices. Instead, seek out places where locals eat.
Avoid buying souvenirs from street vendors. These items are often overpriced and not of the best quality. Instead, look for local shops or markets for authentic and reasonably priced souvenirs.
Be cautious of being approached to do a “free” tour. While some are legitimate, others may expect a hefty tip at the end or take you to places where you feel pressured to make a purchase. Make sure to book in advance to be sure that you are getting an actual tour.
Wrapping It Up
While it may seem like a luxury destination, visiting Venice on a budget is entirely possible with a bit of planning and savvy decision-making. From choosing budget-friendly accommodations and making the most of free walking tours to savoring local delicacies at the Rialto Market, there are numerous ways to experience the magic of Venice without breaking the bank.
So, pack your bags and get ready for an unforgettable journey to the City of Canals, all within your budget.
Check out some of the articles below to help you plan your ideal trip to Venice.