Venice Recommendations for Cool People

Venice canal at night

This is by no means a comprehensive guide to all Venice recommendations. These are just the things I have done or plan to do on my next trip. For your convenience I’ll put a hyperlink glossary here so you can click and skip the intro and go to the section of interest.

  1. Getting to Venice
  2. Transportation in Venice
  3. Where to Stay
  4. What to Do
  5. Eats and Drinks


I love Venice. Anthony Bourdain already wrote the perfect introduction to the city for it’s 2009 appearance in No Reservations, and nothing I can write will even come close. In his words:

She’s old, very old, and decaying in the noblest of ways. Literally sinking into the water that has protected and nourished her for centuries. The one-time base of her power. To my mind, Venice is the most extraordinarily beautiful city in the western world. Her palazzos, her monuments, public spaces, and cathedrals, unrivaled expressions of unfettered ambition and near limitless wealth. As Venetians ruled the known world, they built a city-state that let people know it.

Now, they’re spectators in their own city. Absentee landlords, witness to millions of tourists and cruise ship passengers a year.

Come to Venice, see the square, feed the pigeons, take the picture, gondola ride, buy a carnival mask – every footstep pushing the whole carnival a little bit more into the murk. 

A Steady Decline

The population of the historical center of Venice (the “island”, I’ll call it) has been steadily decreasing. In 2002, it was 64,000. In 2012, it was 58,200. It’s now (January 2023) below 50,000 (source ANSA). This is largely a result of over-tourism, causing housing costs to steadily increase, driving Venetians away. During peak season, Venice can see as many as 110,000 tourists in a single day. Many of these are day-trippers, who roll off some cruise ship and walk around the city for a day in a hasty rat race to see how many lines they can wait in and how quickly they can get pick-pocketed. 

Imagine that. A sea of foreigners roughly, equivalent to the capacity of the largest stadium in the US (Michigan Stadium), pours into your town in a single day. For reference, the island of Venice is roughly the same size as downtown Chattanooga, Tennessee.

I don’t blame these thousands of tourists, of which I am one, for wanting to see Venice. As Bourdain and millions of others have said, the city is beautiful, and everyone should experience it. Especially considering it will sadly be one of the first major cities to go as the city itself sinks and sea levels rise. 


So why this cynical and depressing preface, bemoaning the negative effects of over-tourism, on a travel blog post in which I recommend you go to Venice and contribute to the problem? My hope is that understanding some context of the city may help you appreciate it in a different way. When you see the crumbling buildings, the chain-smoking fisherman, or the two old women enjoying cicchetti and white wine while speaking Venetian dialect. Know that the authenticity is fading – yet can still be enjoyed and appreciated.

How to be a good tourist in Venice

  1. Eat Venetian food. Forget “Italian food”. You’re not here for pizza and cannolis. 
  2. Leave no trash behind. 
  3. Try not to arrive on a mega cruise ship
  4. Don’t eat at the Burger Kings (there are 2).
  5. Take it slow – the only thing you really need to see in Venice is the city itself.

Venice is not theme park. It doesn’t open and close. It’s a city. People [still] live there. 

Recommended viewing before visiting:

  • Documentary I Love Venice on Netflix
  • Anthony Bourdain No Reservations episode in Venice (Season 5, Episode 2)

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Getting to Venice

By train, your target station will be Venezia Santa Lucia

  • From Rome: Roma Termini to Venezia Santa Lucia, approximately 4 hours on high-speed train (buy train tickets on Trainline here).
  • From Florence: Firenze Santa Maria Novella to Venezia Santa Lucia, approximately 2 hours 15 minutes high-speed (buy train tickets on Trainline here).
  • From Milan: Milano Centrale to Venezia Santa Lucia, approximately 2 hours 30 minutes high-speed (buy train tickets on Trainline here).

My suggestion with buying train tickets in Italy is to skip the line at the machine and buy the tickets on Trainline. Please check out my post, Essential Resources for Italy Travel.

By plane, the closest airport is Venice Marco Polo Airport. To get from the airport to the city center, see the official ticket page here and expand “Airport Transfer Marco Polo – Venice”. Which route you take will depend on where you’re staying. 

  • Aerobus line 5 – about 15€ one way, will take you to Piazzale Roma – see ACTV – TRANSFER MARCO POLO AIRPORT (VENICE)
  • Boat – about 15€ one way, will take you around Venice and likely let you get closer to your destination without a long walk after (reference line map here) – see ALILAGUNA – TRANSFER MARCO POLO AIRPORT

By car, your target will be the rental car place to return your car, because you don’t need it in Venice. 

Transportation in Venice

Once you’re in Venice, all transportation will be either by foot or boat.

Google Maps is good but not great in Venice. There are so many small alleyways with dead ends that what should be 15 minutes of walking can easily turn into 25 minutes. This is fun and charming when you don’t have an agenda, but keep it in mind if you have to make it to a tour.

The whole city is flat, with the exception of bridges connecting the islands. 

In some cases, it’s more time-effective to cross a canal via traghetto (ferry – small gondola in Venice) for 2€ than it is to walk 3 minutes down to the next bridge and come back.

How to Get Boat Tickets

You may find yourself in need of boat transport. For example when you arrive at the train station with all your bags and don’t want to walk through the streets and up/down bridge stairs. In this case, it’s back to the official ticket page here, under “PUBLIC TRANSPORT IN VENICE”.

Here is an interactive map that shows you what lines to take to get where. For example, if you arrive in Venice via train and need to get to your hotel near Rialto Bridge, you’re going from the station (Ferrovia) to Rialto.

Venice Water Taxi Interactive Map

Where to Stay In Venice

For booking accommodations, my go-to services are Hostelworld and

If you’re staying in a hostel, it will most likely be in Mestre, just off the main island. I stayed at Anda Venice and was very happy with it. Getting to historical Venice from Mestre is a 10 minute train ride that will cost 1.45€ one way. Keep in mind, the last train back to Mestre is just after midnight.

If you can afford it, stay in historical Venice (the “island”). You’ll appreciate the proximity to everything.

*Some hotel options to consider:

Recently some friends of mine stayed at and highly recommended Canal Grande Hotel and Hotel Marconi.

*Please note: as a frequent, solo traveler, I usually stay in hostels, not just for the cost savings, but also for the community experience. So, my hotel recommendations may not always be places I have personally stayed. However, most people want to stay in hotels, so I want to provide recommendations. I vet online reviews and geographical location for every place I recommend, and will only recommend places that I would stay myself.

Things to Do

The main thing that you absolutely need to make time for in Venice above anything else is to just walk around and see the city of Venice itself. It’s free, has no line, is always open, and doesn’t earn me affiliate commission. 

Another free thing to do? Download a free Rick Steves audio tour (podcast), put an ear in, and follow his guide. 

My go to places for tours are GetYourGuide and Viator. For entrance tickets, I’m a big fan of one-stop-shops, so for that reason I like Tiqets.

St. Mark’s BasilicaTickets here – Apparently some times of year it’s free (like all churches in Italy). I’ve been to a lot of churches and cathedrals in Italy, and this one is quite unique because of the mosaic design inside.

St Mark's Basilica interior
Saint Mark’s Basilica

St. Mark’s Campanile (Bell Tower) – Tickets here – The tallest building in the city, you can climb this to get a great overall view of the city. The original tower was built in the 9th century, but was reconstructed after it collapsed in 1902. 

Doge’s Palace (Palazzo Ducale) Tickets here – No, not that doge. The palace was the residence and governing seat of the Doge, the chief magistrate and leader of the Republic of Venice. It’s now a museum, displaying artwork and the political and judicial history of Venice, and the inside is nothing short of elegant. The Italian name is so much more fun, don’t you agree? 

Teatro la Fenice – Tickets hereI like this line from the Tiqets page: “Opera is to Venice what pizza is to Naples”. That may or may not be true, but this is an impressive venue nevertheless. 

Gondola ride – If you want to see Venice from the water, in a work-of-art vessel, this is the way to do it. There’s no shopping around to do here, and no affiliate links for me to provide. I see some tickets online from various 3rd parties, but I’m not sure why. The prices of gondola rides are set by the city. 80€ for 30 minutes during the day, per boat ride (up to 5 people). Just walk around and find the guys in stripes. 

Venice Canal Rowing Lesson – I didn’t have a chance to do this but I heard it was awesome.  Fun fact – nose candy is apparently becoming a thing in Venice, especially with the gondoliers. How else can they stay so energetic all day? Note: use of nose candy is not compulsory during these lessons. 

Some more basilicas: Basilica S.Maria Gloriosa dei Frari and Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute.

Murano & Burano island visit – regrettably I haven’t done this yet, but everyone and they’re Italian mom tells me it’s great. This tour includes pickup and drop-off near Saint Marco’s piazza for about $85 for a couple.

Museum of Natural HistoryTickets here – a less-touristy attraction. Apparently the owner/curator is kind of eccentric, so among dinosaur bones there’s also stuff like this.

Farmacia Morelli – this is literally just a pharmacy, but in the window they have a digital counter that shows the population of Venice. This pharmacy was featured in the aforementioned documentary I Love Venice.

Farmacia Moricelli Population Counter
Farmacia Morelli – population counter showing 48,767 (November 2022)

If you only have 2 nights in Venice

My suggestion is to pick one or two ticketed items from above at maximum, and spend the rest of the day just walking around, drinking wine, and snacking on cicchetti. 

Eats and Drinks

General warning: avoid most places near Ponte degli Scalzi (when you leave the train station and turn left). They fill the windows with some colorful pastries like cannoli, and they’re the kind of overpriced fake, synthetic, food coloring-filled items that will make you miss Twinkies. 

Typical Venetian food:

Cicchetti – (pronounced cheek-et-ti). It’s basically a word that covers various types of small appetizers, usually a small piece of bread with some type of fish, meat, or vegetable on top. People will often have these throughout the day with a glass of wine. Places that specialize in cicchetti (called bacari, or singular bacaro) are usually small with little-to-no seating. 

cicchetti at corner pub
Cicchetti and wine at Corner Pub

Moeche – It’s basically small, fried soft shell crabs, and it’s amazing. Seasonal and only available in spring and fall. I’ve seen them range in size from about 2″ to 4″ (like below).

Moeche soft shell fried crabs
Moeche at Casa Bonita

Spaghetti al Nero di Seppia – spaghetti with black squid ink. Is it weird that we eat cephalapod ink? Yes. Should you try it? Yeah, sure. It’s nothing too crazy – the ink adds a savory flavor, but don’t let the black appearance make you think it’s going to be an intense flavor explosion – it’s deceptively subtle. 

Risotto – yes I know, I know. Risotto comes from Milan. But seafood risotto, including the black squid ink variant, has a pretty strong presence in Venice and you would be missing out if you didn’t try it. 


  • Osteria Ai 40 Ladroni – Traditional Venetian food – popular with locals. Here’s the menu. Recommended: Risotto di pesce (fish risotto) and spaghetti alla veneziana con seppie (spaghetti with cuttlefish ink).
  • Ristorante Casa Bonita – Traditional Venetian food – I had moeche here (see above). The place was a little overpriced for Italy standards, but still really good. 
  • Al Timon – This is good for both aperitivo and dinner. Get the big steak for 2. It comes with potatoes and vegetables. They don’t take reservations, so you’ll need to show up and put your name in. 
  • These spots were recommended to me by a French chef who lived in Venice (I have not been to any of these places)

Appetizers, Aperitivo, & Cicchetti

Cantina do Mori – Great place for cicchetti. I wanted to go here because Anthony Bourdain went here and it was awesome. Small, dark, and popular at lunchtime. 

Cantina do Mori

Al Mariner – very good and super local. The locals tend to make neighborhoods “their spot” until the tourists find out about it and take over. At the moment this neighborhood is in the pre-tourist phase (could change at any moment).

Osteria Al Squero – Another popular spot for cicchetti – this place is right across the canal from a boat yard where you can see the gondolas being maintained.

Boatyard at Osteria Squaro
Boatyard across from Osteria al Squero

Corner Pub – this place was hoppin’ at lunchtime with the locals. This has both a tight standing room space as well as some tables in the back. 

Bacaro Quebrado – This place has these little sandwiches that are lightly fried, and the bread alone is…sublime. I’ve also been told they have great lasagna.

Al Timon – This is good for both aperitivo and dinner. Get the big steak for 2. It comes with potatoes and vegetables.

Taverna al Remer – good spot for cocktails in a cool setting. Live music. The food is good too, though a bit pricey. 

Chet Bar – popular bar especially for international students. Drinks only.


  • Majer – Good bakery for pastries
  • Gelato – you don’t have to be too picky but the general rules of thumb:
    • you want to see “artigianale” meaning home-made
    • The more boring the presentation, the better quality (usually). When you see gelato towering out of the tubs with all kinds of colors, it usually means they had to put all kinds of additives in so it doesn’t melt. 

That’s All For Now

I sincerely hope you found value in this article.  If you have recommendations of your own or have suggestions on what else you would like to see covered here, please write in the comments below. Additionally, if you’re planning a trip to Italy and need one-on-one support or guidance, check out my services page where you can get in touch with me.

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