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10 things to know before visiting Venice

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Venice is one of the most unique and beautiful cities in Europe, and arguably the whole world. What appears to be one large island is actually 117 small islands linked together by a maze of canals, bridges, charming neighborhoods and iconic buildings. This singularity has made Venice a mecca for tourism, bringing several challenges to the city such as its popularity and accessibility. grew up.

While planning our trip to Venice, I found that everyone I spoke to either loved it or hated it. Of course, it piqued my curiosity and made me want to see Venice for myself.

After visiting several times, I slowly understood why people had such strong opinions about Venice. I became determined to prepare my readers for Venice so that they had realistic expectations and fell in love with it the same way I did.

Let’s dive into my list of things to know before visiting Venice!

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1. Venice is crowded

One of the main things to know before visiting is that Venice is crowded and most of the people there are tourists. Be prepared to battle masses of people in the narrow streets, especially around famous sites like St. Mark’s Square and the Rialto Bridge.

As tourism to the city has increased, there really isn’t a “shoulder season” in Venice. However, late spring and summer, weekends, and carnival season attract the most visitors to Venice, so avoid visiting during these times if you don’t like crowds. Autumn often attracts fewer visitors, but it is also the time when Venice is prone to flooding and flooding.

Of course, like in other big cities, you can always get up early (before 7am) and go out late (after midnight) if you want to experience Venice with less crowds.

Tourists on the crowded bridge in Venice with a gondola below.
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2. Venice is expensive (especially gondola rides)

Increased tourism has led to higher prices, so be prepared to pay to gamble in Venice.

Expect to pay a premium price when visiting restaurants and bars near tourist attractions, especially around St. Mark’s Square. In addition to higher food and drink prices, sitting fees for tables in these areas are also much higher.

Avoid high prices and save money by venturing a bit off the beaten path. By staying away from tourist attractions, you can save money on food, drinks and table fees.

If a gondola ride through the Venetian canals is one of your dreams, you might reconsider your decision when you hear the price. A typical gondola ride that lasts about 30 minutes will cost you 80-120 Euros, or about $86-130!

To save money while still cruising the canals of Venice, consider taking a vaporetto (water bus). Vaporetto No. 1 navigates the Grand Canal, a perfect place to see some of Venice’s best sights.

Lots of people walking along the Grand Canal in Venice.
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3. You walk a lot in Venice

Venice is a maze of cobbled streets, canals and bridges. As cars are not allowed in Venice, you will have to walk a lot to see the city. The bridges that cross the city-wide canals often have stairs, making it difficult to get around in a wheelchair.

4. Cash is King

Cash is definitely king in Venice. There are many stores and restaurants that don’t accept credit cards, so it’s important to always have cash on hand.

A good tip for acquiring money when visiting is to go online and find your bank’s affiliate bank in Italy. Withdrawing money via the affiliated bank will allow you to save on foreign transaction fees!

Outdoor romantic restaurant in Venice, Italy in a winter day.
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5. You pay to dine in restaurants

Most restaurants in Venice (and Italy in general) charge a cooperto (cover charge) or service (service charge) to sit at a table.

The coperto helps cover restaurant-related expenses, such as water and electricity, and is usually only a few euros per person. The service fee is usually 10% of the bill and pays for the servers. This means that tipping is not necessary in Venice as waiters are paid a living wage through service charges.

It’s important to keep these fees in mind when deciding whether or not to sit in a restaurant. If you only want a simple cup of coffee, you better stay at the bar to avoid this charge.

You can usually view these fees before you sit down by looking at the restaurant menu.

6. Public restrooms are hard to find and cost money

In addition to the fees associated with going to restaurants, you should also be prepared to pay to use public restrooms.

The cost of using public restrooms is usually 1-2 euros ($1.08-2.16) per person. The money helps keep the washrooms stocked and clean, and in my experience they were very clean.

Of course, another option is to walk into a bar and order an espresso or a pastry. Once you have done this you are now a paying customer and can use the restroom.

St. Mark's Square (San Marco), St. Mark's Basilica, Venice.
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7. Buy tickets to top attractions in advance

The main attractions of Venice, such as St. Mark’s Basilica and Doge’s Palace, are very crowded and often experience long waits to purchase tickets. Avoid those lines by purchasing tickets to top Venice attractions in advance.

Often these tickets can also include early access or skip-the-line entry saving you valuable vacation time!

Cobbled street in Venice, Italy.
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8. Venice is like a maze

Venice really looks like a maze. There seem to be little hidden cobbled streets everywhere you turn. When you combine that with having to find a bridge every time you want to cross a canal, it’s easy to turn around while walking the streets of Venice.

The majority of streets are unnamed, and some suddenly seem to cul-de-sac into a building or a canal. This can make navigating Venice a bit difficult.

During our stay in Venice, we quickly learned to embrace this city. If you’re in a hurry, use a map app on your phone to help you plan your trip and give you turn-by-turn directions. If you’re not in a hurry, just enjoy exploring the city. Even if you get lost once or twice, remember: you are on an island. You can’t stray too far from your destination!

Old colorful houses on the island of Burano near Venice, Italy.
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9. Do not miss the islands of Burano and Murano

A visit to the islands of Burano and Murano should definitely be on your Venice itinerary. Although often associated with Venice proper, the islands of Burano and Murano are fabulous escapes from the hustle and bustle of the city.

Burano is famous for its colorful houses and beautiful handmade lace, and Murano is world famous for its incredible glassblowing tradition. Both islands can be easily visited on a day trip from Venice.

You can take Vaporetto No. 12 from the Fondamente Nove platform in Venice. The journey to Burano (the furthest island) takes about 40 minutes. After visiting Burano for a few hours, you can then take the same vaporetto to Murano and enjoy the rest of your day.

Nightly dinners at a restaurant in Venice, Italy.
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10. Tips for dining in Venice

Meals in Italy, including Venice, are very different from meals in the United States. In addition to the table and service charges we discussed above, there are several other tips for dining in Venice that you should know.

It’s important to note that dining in Venice (and throughout Italy) is definitely on a different schedule than typical American dining. Generally, Italians eat their meals later than us in America. While most Americans have lunch around noon, most Italians have lunch between 1 and 3 p.m. This means that dinners in Venice usually start around 8 p.m. Take into account the opening hours of the restaurant because most of them close between lunch and dinner.

As I mentioned above, things are expensive in Venice. To ensure you save money and have a pleasant dining experience, chat with the locals and take their advice on where to eat.

It’s also important to note that meals in Italy seem to last longer than meals in America. The cover charge we talked about earlier means you have the table for as long as you want. Sit down and enjoy a multi-course meal and a glass of wine. Servers won’t rush you. In fact, they won’t even bring you the check until you ask for it!

My final cooking tip is how to order. Seafood and steaks are sold by weight unless otherwise specified on the menu. Some menu items are meant to be shared by two people. This will be noted with “x2”. And, while this is the case, the price you see is the price per person. Another difference is that servers will often ask you if you “want an appetizer for the table.” It does not mean sharing. They will bring one entry per person. Take note so you won’t be surprised when your bill arrives.

Reading these must-know tips before visiting Venice will help make your vacation as enjoyable as possible.

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