Venice, Italy: First impressions & planning tips - eNidhi India Travel Blog

Venice, Italy: First impressions & planning tips

Update: within 48 hours of me writing this post, Venice has announced 5 Euro entry fee for day visitors [news]

Venice was on my wish list for a long time. Back in 2006-07 a senior colleague had gone to Venice and had described it “a must visit once in lifetime”. Since then it has been on my bucket list.

I did get a sense of what to expect in Venice when I had visited Venetian resort in Macau in 2016 and Last Vegas in 2019, but these were artificial and didn’t give the feel of real Venice.

Finally I arrived in Venice March 2023 for a quick exploration with an overnight stay.

I landed by flight from Madrid. The Venice city is pretty far from airport, costing me 35 Euros in just bus ticket from airport. (there are different options- one way, return, 1 day pass etc. I took a 24 hour pass valid for bus & water bus)

As I landed at the Venice bus terminal, I had two options- walk 900 meters to my hotel, or take  a waterbus and walk some 400 meters. I could have just walked but as I was eager to try water taxi (included in my day pass) I went looking for it. The C gate was bit far- finally managed to find it. Went in, waited for the water bus, got off at the pier as shown in map and started walking towards my stay (Ai Botori). But Google maps was not very accurate showing right walking path through narrow lanes of Venice, so I guess I walked much more trying to find the stay

Eventually I managed to find it, got in, dropped my bag and headed out

Venice has following attractions to explore
  • The Grand Canal
  • Gondola ride
  • Realto Bridge & Market
  • Piazza San Marco
  • Basilica Di San Marco
  • Gallerie Dell’Accademia
  • Teatro La Fenice- opera house
  • Santa Maria Della Salute
  • Murano Islands
  • Several other museums & churches
The grand canal is Venice’s major waterway. The hotels located right next to the Grand Canal are often the most expensive ones as they offer great views and easy transport by boat. Budget hotels are located in interior Venice. There are public transport (Water buses) that ply regularly on the grand canal from one peer to another, if you wish to pass through. You can also hire a water taxi or walk along the bank, using one of the many bridges to pass across if you wish to. Grand canal operates 24x7, you can spend some time around it on your own, no need to book any tours or pay anything to anyone (unless you want to use water bus or taxi)

Gondola ride is Venice’s popular tourist attraction. The Gondola ride costs a whopping 80 Euros, so I felt it is not worth spending so much. (note: you may get cheaper deals for shorter duration- like 35-40 Euro for 20 or 30 mins etc).  Just watched many tourists enjoying a ride under the canal. Gondola operator will take you through various small canals in Venice and show you around. Gondolas can seat four people at a time.

Realto Bridge & Market: Nice market area around a historic bridge. Walk around, grab some food, shop if you feel like. You may also visit some pubs that offer great view of the canal from their top floors. Everything is bit expensive in Venice- a small slice of veg pizza set me back by 3.5 Euros. Could not find any veg or vegan restaurants (I didn’t search hard enough), so I managed with veg pizza and some bananas and apples from supermarkets.

Piazza San Marco and  Basilica Di San Marco

All three attractions above are located side by side. You can even directly reach here from the airport through boat. While the Plazza is free to roam around, entry tickets apply to visit the Cathedral (15-16 Euros, Guide extra if you wish) and Art Gallery. Queue to enter could also be huge depending on the season and your luck. Keep in mind entry timings as well. Many shops and restaurants are available around.

Gallerie Dell’Accademia

Teatro La Fenice - the opera house

I didn’t visit this- you can plan a visit if there are some shows scheduled during your visit. Else you can see from outside.

Murano Islands

There are many small islands around Venice- many are connected via waterbus. If you have a day pass and some time, hop on a water bus, get down at an island, roam around and return on next water bus. These islands have different attractions- museums, schools, parks and such stuff. I took an evening ride around these islands- didn’t get down though as I didn’t have lots of time.

If you have more time, there are more churches, more museums that you can explore. But Venice is pretty expensive, so if you are on a tight budget, around 1 night & 2 days is adequate to explore the main attractions of Venice. Your hotel/hostel staff will guide you more. Then you can proceed to Florence or Rome by train from Venice.

During my visit, there were news that water levels in Venice was dropping. I didn’t find any such issue- there was enough water and boats were operating normally. Overall visiting Venice was a nice experience- a different way of living where everything is dependent on the canal and boats. I didn’t find any floating markets like in Thailand though. Cars, taxis and buses are available for say airport travel but not for local commuting. (there are no wide roads-only bridges and walkways)

Venice is also reportedly suffering from over tourism, so the local govt is putting measures to limit the number of visitors. My visit was during the off season when the crowds were less, and rooms were cheap. (Had to pay 32 Euros a night for a hostel bed, not really cheap compared to what I paid in Paris or Spain)

Venice got over 3 million tourists who spent at least a night there in 2022. Add day visitors (cruise passengers, those who visit from nearby cities and return by night) would make that count 6 million or more. [News 1, News 2]That is about 16500 tourists per day crowding a small area around Grand Canal (Entire Venice is about 414 sq kms but the area around Grand Canal, the main region tourists flock-is probably one tenth of that- some 40-50 sq kms. Venice’s ecosystem isn’t prepared to handle these many tourists crowding such a small area. There are also some 50000 locals who reside in various parts of Venice. Because Italy is part of Schengen area it can’t have its own visa rules and entry restrictions, which limits how much restriction Venice can enforce on visitors.

I spent a day at Venice and proceeded to Florence on an early morning train the next day. Two police officers checked my passport and visa. Florence was raining heavily, so I decided to proceed to my next destination, Rome.

  • How much time is needed for Venice? 1 Night/2 days min, few more days at your discretion
  • Where to stay? If budget permits, take a hotel by the grand canal for best experience, else take a budget hotel in the interiors. Stay within walking distance from Grand Canal for easy exploration
  • What all to see? Refer list above
  • Should we pre-book tours? Not needed. For museums & Cathedrals your entry might be a bit faster if you have pre-booked ticket, but all depends on crowd at the time of your visit
  • What about food? Veg food is bit tricky- Veg Pizzas available
  • Nearby cities? Florence, Rome, Pisa
  • Connectivity: 1 stop flight to Venice from India are available. You may fly into Milan (MXP) and connect to Venice for cheaper fares/more options.
  • Getting around in Venice: If you are OK to walk 5-6 kms, most attractions can be covered on foot. If you have taken a day pass for public transport, you can use the water bus. Of course you can hire a water taxi as per your needs
  • When to go: Best to go in off season when tourist crowd is less, rooms are cheaper.
Cost of visiting Venice
  • Airport travel: 32 Euros (24 hour pass)
  • Stay: 32 Euros off season onwards to 100-200 Euros a night
  • Food: 25-30 Euros for decent meal per person, 120-150 Euros for 2 days
  • 1 Gondola ride: 80 Euros
  • Entry fees: 16-50 Euros (cathedral, museum etc)
  • Miscellaneous: 30-50 Euros (1 or 2 water taxi ride etc)
Total: (excluding travel to and from Venice): 300 to 500 Euros for 1 night/2 days per person. If you can skip visiting churches, museums, gondola ride, walk a lot, stay in cheap hostel then you can manage in 150 odd Euros.

Venice key locations of interest on map. [Map link]
Similar: How I did Europe trip on Budget


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