Italy | Is Venice worth visiting?

One of the most popular tourist hot spots in the world, Venice is a historic city in the north east of Italy, famous for it's unique design and winding network of canals. There are over 400 bridges connecting the 128 islands that form this floating city on the Venetian lagoon and, with it's romantic notions, it's no wonder it receives 14 million visitors every year. With this in mind, you can't help but wonder if over tourism makes it an expensive and overrated destination. To answer your question - is Venice worth visiting? Absolutely, yes! Not only that, but it is still possible to visit Venice on a budget. Let me tell you how.

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Family on a gondola ride down a Venice canal

Where to Stay in Venice?

First of all, don't actually stay in Venice itself! We booked a private room in a modern hostel in Mestre on the mainland (a 10 minute train ride away), which came in at about a third of the price of an average looking hotel on the island.

The train station was literally across the road, with regular trains running into Venice until midnight, and the 10 minute journey cost just €1.45 each way.

Private double room in ANDA venice hostel with sunset view out the window

Our room on the 8th floor of ANDA Venice Hostel was clean, spacious and peaceful, with our own bathroom, as well as a hairdryer and towels provided. Of course dorm rooms are available if you're really watching your money, but as a couple we find a private room to be no different than staying in a hotel. An added bonus of staying in hostels is free entertainment, and we were given tokens for a free glass of prosecco at the bar too!

Book ANDA or AO Hostel in advance online.

Basilica di San Marco Venice

Things to see and do in Venice, Italy

In my opinion you only need 2-3 days to see the sights of Venice, unless you're particularly keen to take tours and visit every single museum and historic building!

St Mark's Square - Piazza San Marco is the main public square of Venice, where you'll find all the major historic tourist sights such as the Doges Palace and Basilica di San Marco. You can do tours of these grand buildings, but we chose to only enter one - the Campanile. For €10 each a lift whisks you to the top of the bell tower where you can enjoy 360 degree views of Venice. Honestly, I don't feel it was worth €10 as there was nothing more to the experience. Instead you might be better to visit the Basilica which costs just €3.

Bridge of Sighs - A beautiful Baroque bridge connecting the interrogation rooms of the Doge's Palace to the new prison, named after the sigh let out by prisoners as they take one last view of Venice as they cross. A tour of the Doge's Palace will allow you to cross the bridge yourself, or you can view it from the Paglia bridge by the Venice lagoon.

Sitting by the canal with a view of Rialto bridge

Rialto Bridge - One of the oldest and best known bridges in Venice, Ponte di Rialto is an iconic attraction in Venice. Lined with rows of shops and offering the best views of the grand canal, you'll also find the historic Rialto market nearby.

Peggy Guggenheim Collection - Located in her former home the Palazzo Venier dei Leoni, Peggy Guggenheim's personal collection of modern art includes work by the likes of Salvador Dali and Pablo Picasso. It is now a permanent art museum in the city. Open 10am-6pm Wednesday - Monday.

Colourful houses line the canal in Burano

Murano - Just a short vaparetto (water bus) ride from Venice, the island of Murano is known around the world for it's traditional glass-blowing. You can watch a demonstration at the island's glass museum or shop for souvenirs at one of the many glass boutiques. We simply enjoyed a wander around, stopping for spritz by the canal in the sun.

Burano - Slightly further across the lagoon, but again easily reached by vaporetto, Burano island is famous for lace making and colourful houses. Painted all colours of the rainbow, it's said this began as a way for the local fisherman to recognise their homes through the fog from sea. If you only have time to visit one island from Venice, I'd choose Burano. It's a photographer's paradise! Browse handcrafted lace in one of many boutiques, check out Burano's very own leaning tower and stop for a bellini in Piazza Baldassarre Galuppi!

Sitting on the gondola at Libreria Acqua Alta

8 Top Tips for Visiting Venice on a Budget

1. Walk everywhere! - You may feel like you should be using the vaporetto (water bus), but actually it's quite easy to get around on foot with all the bridges. We enjoyed wandering the streets and stumbling across nice views, but we also found Google maps quite helpful to navigate to specific places. You might take a wrong turn now and then, but more often than not you can find your way back just by heading in the right general direction.

2. Visit in the morning or evening - Your best bet to avoid the worst of the crowds is to plan your activities for morning or evening. We found it got busiest around lunch time until 6-7pm, plus Venice has a totally different, more romantic vibe at night which you must experience!

3. Book online - If you can't get there early, book attractions in advance online to avoid standing in lengthy queues!

4. Don't pay €80 for a gondola ride - Instead, visit the unique Libreria Acqua Alta book store and pose on their gondola out the back for free! Not only will you get that classic Venice photo op but you'll find the quirky shop's unusual staircase, book filled bath tubs, and maybe even be served by their resident cat. If you really want to experience cruising the water in a gondola, look out for the €2 traghetto (water taxi) which will take you across the Grand Canal.

Looking down on the grand canale from the free viewpoint at Fondaco dei Tedeschi

5. Get a day pass for island hopping - Visiting the islands of Murano and Burano is a must do day trip from Venice, but save yourself a few quid and buy a day pass for €25 rather than paying as you go for each ferry.

6. Don't eat at Piazzo San Marco or the Grand Canal - Explore quieter streets and small alleyways a few blocks away instead. One coffee at Café Florian (the oldest café in the world) will cost you €11, or a Bellini at Harry's Bar (where they were first created) is a whopping €22! Insane when you can grab an espresso for €1-€2 at any other café, and sip Bellini's and spritz for just €4-€6 at most other places.

We enjoyed traditional pasta dishes at reasonable prices in the charming little Osteria Santa Fosca, with outdoor seating overlooking a canal, and Al Bagolo, where the fun and friendly service was a highlight. Expect to pay around €20 per person for dinner with drinks.

7. Try cicchetti and street food - An even more budget friendly option for eating in Venice is to buy food to take away and enjoy on the go, or find a quiet spot to sit and watch the world go by with a plate of cicchetti (small plates, often little open sandwiches).

8. Visit the free viewpoint at Fondaco dei Tedeschi - This luxury shopping mall in the centre of Venice has a terrace with outstanding views of the Rialto bridge and grand canal, which you can visit for free! All you have to do is book a 15 minute time slot online in advance.

Cones of "fritto misto" (fried mixed seafood) from Acqua e Mais in Venice

Where to Eat in Venice on a Budget

Pasticceria Dal Mas - We ate deliciously indulgent, and quick, breakfasts of freshly baked creamy pistachio croissants with espresso at the counter in this patisserie. You'll find a surprisingly local vibe so close to the Santa Lucia train station.

Rio Tera Lista di Spagna, 150, 30121, Venice

Acqua e Mais - Enjoy a cone of fritto misto (a fried seafood mix) from this Venetian street food takeaway spot, which was featured in Netflix's Somebody Feed Phil. Ours included calamari, shrimp, baby squid and more with polenta chips. Acqua e Mais is perfect for lunch on the go.

Campiello dei Meloni, 1411/1412, 30125, Venice

Looking lovely at my takeaway tiramisu on a bridge outside I Tre Mercanti in Venice

I Tre Mercanti - Tuck into delicious traditional tiramisu to takeaway for just €4.50 overlooking the nearby canal at I Tre Mercanti. You can even choose from unique twists on the classic with flavours like pistachio, amaretto and Aperol spritz, or try some freshly made cannoli instead.

Calle al Ponte de la Guerra, 5364, 30122, Venice

Bar All'Arco - Featured in Stanley Tucci's Searching for Italy, this unassuming wine bar serves authentic cicchetti with an exceptional array of toppings. We sampled the Venetian classic baccala made with salt cod, as well as mushroom and truffle, and a prosciutto version. A plate of 4 cicchetti and a bottle of water to share cost us just €12. 

S. Polo, 436, 30125, Venice

prosciutto ciccheti from all' arco in Venice

Osteria al Squero - Sip €3 Aperol spritz and watch gondolas being built and repaired at the shipyard across the canal from this simple restaurant, where cicchetti starts from €2! Again you'll find a good mix of traditional and creative toppings here.

Dorsoduro, 943, 30123, Venice

Gelatoteca Suso - You can't go to Italy and not eat gelato. Suso has a couple of central locations and offers a plethora of flavours from fresh and fruity mango to Italian favourites like Stracciatella and tiramisu, including some vegan options. I'd recommend the peanut caramel gelato! I can't remember the exact price but we were around €5 for two cones with one scoop each.

Sotoportego de la Bissa, 5453, 30124, Venice

Pistachio gelato from Suso in Venice

Farini - This bakery serves slices of pizza made with fresh local ingredients from just €4, alongside delicious pastries, and focaccia sandwiches, from 3 locations in Venice. The coffee is cheap too!

Calle Seconda de la Fava, 5602, 30122, Venice

Dal Moro's - Incredibly popular on TikTok, Dal Moro's is famous for it's fast food style fresh pasta to go! Prices range from €5 - €7, with an extra charge for additional toppings. Choose from pomodoro, carbonara, ragu d'Anatra and much more.

Calle de la Casseleria, 5324, 30122, Venice

Gondola on the grande canal in Venice

How to get to Venice?

Look out for cheap flights with Ryanair. We flew from Edinburgh to Venice's Marco Polo airport, and caught a direct bus to Mestre, which took about 30 minutes, before switching to the train into Venice. It was cheaper to book a return ticket for the bus at €18, rather than €10 individually each way.

If you're staying in Venice itself I believe you can take a ferry directly from the airport to your hotel, but I imagine it's costly!

Selfie in front of the Bridge of Sighs Venice

Despite never being top of my bucket list, I can honestly say I'm glad we visited Venice. It was definitely worth it! Plan your trip now before it succumbs to the waters. And don't forget to pack your camera!

Have you been to Venice? Share your budget tips with us in the comments!

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PIN: Venice on a Budget

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