Experiencing Venice (without breaking the bank!)
Updated: Jul 19
Ahh, Venice. This gem is a must-see in Italy, especially due to the fact that the city is sinking, and it could be as soon as 2100 that it’s completely underwater. Such a sad fact due to the city’s rich history, but it just gives you one more reason to put it at the top of your bucket list! The only downfall to Venice is the fact that it is much more expensive than many other cities in Italy. As with most places though, there are still ways to make this trip fantastic without blowing your budget!
I went to Venice in the Spring of 2016 on a two-week backpacking trip with my sister. I took the two-hour train up from Florence, where I had been for a day and a half, and met my sister in Venice after her flight from the US. We spent three days exploring the city, which we felt was a great amount of time on our first trip to Venice. We also had a chance to meet up with our friends Zoanne and Skyler while we were there. It was great to have some company for a day and to find some of the more hidden gems.
Best of Venice
Honestly, taking some time to wander around and get lost in the streets of Venice was definitely the best part of the trip here. The streets and alleys are so cute and look exactly like you would picture them. You can spend a whole day just wandering around stumbling upon all the little hidden gems Venice has to offer.
There are also a plethora of churches in Venice that are free to enter, which is one of my favorite ways to spend a trip to Europe. I just love all the architecture and history that comes along with them!
If you’re tired of what the city has to offer, check out some of the surrounding islands. Our hostel was on the island of Guidecca, which is definitely more residential – very quiet, which was nice! There are several other islands which we didn’t have time to visit, but I would make time for on a return trip – the colorful glass blowing and lace making islands of Murano and Burano, and the beach on Lido.
One of our favorite places in Venice was a little coffee shop off the beaten path called Pasticceria Tonolo. This was near Zoanne’s apartment, and we definitely wouldn’t have found it without her! Located near the university and off the main tourist track, the pasticceria caters to mainly university students and locals. Here a fantastic espresso and a little cannoli that only cost €1,50 each! Allison and I came back here the next day with some help from Google Maps because we just loved the atmosphere so much.
Zoanne also recommended a pizza place called Rossopomodoro. Allison and I splurged on dinner here, and we were so glad we did. The whole meal was phenomenal - we each had a personal pizza and shared bruschetta and a bottle of wine, and the whole meal was €44. It was definitely worth it! This is actually a chain restaurant with locations all over Italy, which I only found out as I was updating this post. Regardless, the food was delicious and the prices were really good! It just might not be the best choice if you're looking for something that is locally owned and operated.
Buy a transport pass
This is the opposite of what I usually reccommend but its a huge money saver in Venice. You can buy a 1, 2, 3, or 7 day pass with pricing between €20-60. I know that sounds like a lot, but when you consider that a 75 minute waterbus ticket is €7.50, you'll realise the pass quickly pays for itself. Add in trips to other islands - the popular Murano, Burano, and the beach on the Lido, and this pass is definitely worth it. For an extra €6, you can add a round trip transfer from Venice Marco Polo airport.
Travel tip: For those between ages 6-29, check out the Rolling Venice card. This card is €6 and offers discounts at many of the museums, restaurants, and shops in Venice as well as a discount on the transport pass - bringing the cost of the 3 day transport pass down to €22!
Skip the gondola ride
A gondola ride through Venice will set you back around €80. Unless you’re on a romantic getaway or riding in a gondola is at the top of your bucket list, I would skip this experience. Instead, I suggest taking the Vaporetto line #1 from Piazza San Marco to the Santa Lucia train station (or vice versa). You’ll get just as good views, and this ride is covered by your transport pass!
See the view from the San Giorgio Maggiore bell tower
Choose to climb the bell tower of the San Giorgio Maggiore church instead of the Campanile in Piazza San Marco. You’ll get views that are even better for half the cost! It’s right across the lagoon from Piazza San Marco, and it was right next to the island of Guidecca that we were staying on. A trip to the top of the bell tower will only set you back €6, and you don't even need to climb and stairs! The inside of the church is beautiful too, and well worth a look around.
Check into a hostel or Airbnb
It's not secret that accommodation in Venice is pricey. Even the hostels there are on the higher end of many people's budgets. Don't let that scare you away from visiting Venice though. There are ways to find cheaper accommodation. Allison and I stayed in the Generator Hostel. Don't be fooled by the name - despite the fact that it's a hostel, it's also a very beautiful and upscale one. They have an onsite bar & restaurant, and private rooms that a suitable for those wanting their privacy. Rates start at €15 for a dorm bed (but expect to pay around €30 on weekends and peak times), €60 for a double room for a room with 4 beds.
If you'd like a bit more privacy and space, check out one of the many beautiful Airbnbs that Venice has to offer. These range from a room in someone's house to your own apartment. Prices vary, but expect to pay from €60-100+ per night depending on location and amenities.
While Venice can be expensive, there are ways to do it without breaking the bank. It's definitely worth a stop, especially in the off season when it's less crowded but no less charming!
Allison and I both felt that Venice was a great first stop for our sisters’ Europe trip. We ended our last evening there eating gelato in the Santa Lucia train station while waiting for our overnight train to Munich!