I’ve been meaning to write up this post for a long time, but as usual real life took over all of my time. In January, just after New Year, me and Jake headed to Venice for 4 days. It was an amazing short break and the city really is breath taking. You can see my video of our time here. I thought I’d tell you all a bit about our experience and some tips that we would’ve found useful knowing before we headed off!
A pre warning of Tourist Tax.
In a lot of tourist cities, there will be a charge at your hotel called ‘city tax’ or ‘tourist tax’. It never adds up to too much, only a few euros each. In Venice it’s €1 for each star of your hotel, per person, per night.
Get a City Pass prior to your visit.
A couple of weeks prior to leaving for Venice, Jake and I started looking into our transport to and from the hotel, we also started looking into the travel that’s available when we get there. We planned on walking around and exploring a lot, but we thought best that we should find out what transport was accessible. We found this website VeneziaUnica, that was super easy to use and we found an amazing deal for €29.90 (around £23) for people ages between 6-29. It included 3 days unlimited travel on the ACTV Vaporetto (water bus) as well as a Rolling Venice card that entitled you to discounts in nearly every museum and church you wanted to reach.
Bring sensible walking and waterproof shoes – it will more than likely rain (although it’s still beautiful in this weather).
Even though Venice is gorgeous in the sun, it’s still beautiful in the cold and rain. Also another plus of coming in the winter, is that there are barely any tourists around opposed to the heaving summer time. You can peacefully walk around exploring without it being absolutely rammed with people. But, do bring sensible walking and waterproof shoes. You will end up doing a lot of walking around all of the islands of Venice and you will more than likely be caught in the rain. The flood horror stories are not as bad as they seem! For 2 of our 4 days the main square was flooded, but this is the lowest point of Venice, nowhere else was as bad. They put up these cute walkways which almost look like tables that keep you far above the flood.
Don’t expect a crazy night life.
Venice seems to be large on day time/evening classy wine drinking, they’re definitely not about getting white girl wasted and popping into the nearest club to dance all night, which actually made a nice change. Although, there is one night club in the whole of Venice, in one of the small alleys in Dorsoduro – Piccolo Mondo, however the one night we ventured there on a Saturday with a bunch of young British (while Jake and I were royally wasted on Prosecco) people we found, it was shut. There’s a lot of strange and unusual stories on this place, just take to Google. I feel it may be open more often in the summer when there’s plenty of tourists wanted to go out.
Dorsoduro – The student area (latest open bars, cheap food etc.)
Even though there is no thriving ‘night life’ in Venice as previously mentioned, our hotel was located in Dorsoduro – the Venetian student district, this caused us to find that here was where the bars were open latest, as well as the cheaper food and drink deals. The latest we sort-of (Prosecco again) remember staying in one bar was about 2AM, so quite late. Although there was a sort of unusual vibe (EDM whilst people sat and sipped wine) it was actually very enjoyable. We also got our cheapest food here on our first and last night, pizza for around €5 and a 1st and main course of the day for €12. The main square here Campo Santa Margherita also had many more bars and restaurants, as well as being a gorgeous place to chill and have coffee in the day time too.
Have your coffee stood up inside like the locals, it can be much more expensive to have it sat down, especially outside.
The price difference is crazy in Venice between standing up inside and sitting down outside with your coffee. This can be the difference between a €1.50 Cappuccino and a total of €7 when they add a service charge of sitting outside (this even happens when you go in and get the coffee yourself, no service on their behalf required). The locals seemed to grab a small coffee, stand around for 5 or so minutes and drink it, so that’s what we began doing. It turned out ridiculously cheap when you do it this way and it’s also amazing coffee.
Most restaurants close between 3-5PM, be prepared to not have a warm, big, lunch.
I’ve always been big on having a nice warm lunch meal around 3-4PM, so being in Venice to find out the majority of restaurants closed around this time to reopen about 5PM for dinner was a struggle at first. However, when I finally faced the fact I actually found I really enjoyed going for a late afternoon glass of Prosecco (shock lol) and an Italian cold meat sandwich. These always tasted great and would only ever add up to about €4 (if you ventured out of San Marco etc. but more on that later).
Avoid eating where the restaurant has pictures of the meals, or 10 different languages on the menu.
We fell straight into this trap after avoiding it for so long, we were starving and right by Rialto, and we were right on the Grande Canal and we had not had much luck with finding good food. We sat down at the closest place with outdoor seating and a nice view of the Grande Canal, and what we thought would be the nicest averagely priced food we would find. Unfortunately this was absolutely not the case, the food was awful, unflavoured and lukewarm and the service was absolutely terrible. Then on top of our €40 bill we had a 12.5% service charge (for the worst service I’d ever experienced) and then we had the waiter stand and count the money in front of us and asked for a tip. We read more into this after and found a lot of restaurants were like this and they always seemed to be the ones that tried to cater for a ridiculous amount of languages and had pictures of every meal on the menu.
Look out for service charges (can be up to 12.5% of your bill!).
As mentioned above about being stumped with a 12.5% service charge, after that we started checking the small print in every menu. You have to look out for this or you can be stumped with anything up to that amount too. It’s clearly stated around the menu but it’s also easy to miss when you’re not looking for it. Try to avoid restaurants around San Marco and Rialto.
Venture out of San Marco’s Square for food and drinks.
The price difference between wanting to eat in San Marco Square and even venturing slightly into the alleys behind was crazy. If you’re planning on doing Venice on a budget like we did, you’ll definitely need to further yourself from this area when you start getting hungry. The drinks also become crazy cheap the further away you get, in San Marco Square on top of the rather expensive drink, you will automatically be charged for the band that may be playing around you, whether you were paying attention or didn’t even know they were there. In the Dorsoduro district at our favourite wine bar Osteria ai Pugni was the cutest and had the most sweet bar tenders there (we must have been in at least three times a day) and a glass of prosecco was only €2.50.
Plan ahead if you want good Venetian food.
One thing we struggled awfully with was finding good food. We went into Venice expecting to be able to find good food on every corner however this was not the case. 90% of restaurants we found were 100% tourist traps. We wanted to try real Venetian food, so we found behind our hotel there were a few restaurants, however most were full and even when there was seating available, the owners did not seem to be a fan of walking in without booking a table. At no point did we actually get to try any good Venetian food which is probably my biggest regret. I feel if we looked into it before hand, found a restaurant you’d really like to try and book ahead that we could have avoided this problem.
Leave mainland Venice for the best view – Chiesa di San Giorgio Maggiore.
One thing we did read about before hand was to avoid going to Campanile di San Marco for the view, and to venture across to San Giorgio on the Vaporetto for an even better view. I was not dissapointed in the slightest, the view was absolutely incredible, and with our Rolling Venice pass, it was only €4 each to go up for as long as we liked. The church the bell tower is a part of is also insanely beautiful inside and out.
Most important thing we did – GET LOST.
Getting lost in Venice (and you WILL, there’s no way around it, even with Google maps) will be the most incredible thing to happen to you there. Everyday Jake and I would grab breakfast at the hotel, jump on the Vaporetto and get off at a different stop every time, we’d just walk around looking at all the buildings and the people and end up in the most random places. Don’t worry though! We always seemed to find our way back in San Marco Square or near our hotel. It’s easy to get lost but easy to find your way back. Some of the places we found while lost were absolutely stunning, I can’t even explain how amazing it was. So if you only take one piece of advice from this post please, please, please just don’t plan where you’re going (expect food lols) and just see where you end up it’ll be awesome.
P.S peeps I’m looking for an online host to bulk upload photos for albums etc. Pinterest simply takes too long to do it one by one! If anyone knows of any good ones please let me know.