I recently shared my tips for making the most of your visit to Venice, Italy on Destination42.com. Here is a guide for what to know, where to stay, what to eat, see and do.
1. It’s called the City of Love, so where better to honeymoon? Many dream of the ultimate honeymoon in Venice, but it’s easy to be left disappointed from the heaving crowds and overpriced tourist traps. Don’t be put off! We have all the tips you need for a truly wonderful time.
2. We recommend visiting in March, April or late September, which are on the edges of the peak season. Let’s face it – Venice is busy year-round, but you’ll have a little more breathing room outside of summer. I visited in early March, and even then it was crowded, but not suffocating like it is in July-August. We were also blessed with brilliant blue skies and sunshine, with a brisk wind. Very pleasant walking around weather!
3. Then again, you could also go in January – you’ll experience a completely different side of Venice and the crowds will be far smaller. Be prepared for cold temperatures, but what could be more romantic than snuggling up close beneath a blanket during a gondola tour through a misty city?
4. Yes, a Venice honeymoon is expensive. We have a few tips to help you avoid overpriced tourist traps – but also be aware that it’s not a city that easily lends itself to strict budgets. Venice is designed to be done in style!
5. The cost of a water taxi at €120 per ride seems ludicrous, but it’s also a surefire way to make you feel like a movie star. Remember Angelina Jolie in “The Tourist?” If you’re going to splurge, we recommend taking a water taxi from the airport into Venice. It’s a longer journey (but the same price), you’ll experience spectacular views of Venice as you approach from the sea, and if your hotel is in the heart of town, you’ll get a joyride down the Grand Canal thrown in, before being dropped right at your hotel door. It’s far more glamorous than lugging suitcases from the waterbus terminal through crowded streets! A great way to start your honeymoon in style.
6. If you want to cut the cost of a water taxi, hover at the bookings desk in the airport terminal, look for another couple, and offer to split the fare. As long as their destination is close to yours, you can pretend you’re a group – the same experience for half the price!
7. The other, cheaper option is the waterbus, which carries about 40 people at a time. The ticket is €20 per person — just know which stop is best for your hotel.
8. Waiters, hotel staff and taxi drivers have become used to American tourists tipping and are more than happy to accept it. However — tipping is not the local custom, and many Venetians do not tip at all. There are many conflicting views on the subject, but a safe rule of thumb is just to round up your bill and leave a small amount. Some restaurants add a service charge to the bill (servizio) of 10-12 percent, but this often goes to the management, not the waiter.
9. There are six sestieri (districts) of Venice, and all have their own unique atmosphere. Shockingly, the vast majority of tourists only explore San Marco, where most of the most famous sights are located, and don’t bother venturing further. Don’t make this mistake, as you will miss the true Venice.
10. San Marco is crammed with things to see. St Mark’s Square, Doge’s Palace, Bridge of Sighs and Harry’s Bar are all in San Marco. This means, of course, that most of the restaurants and bars in this neighborhood are overpriced and inauthentic. Our advice? See the sights, but sit down for a dinner in another sestiere.
11. San Polo is the smallest and oldest Venice neighborhood, but just as bustling as San Marco, to which it is connected by Rialto Bridge. In San Polo you’ll find the lively Rialto Market for fish, fruit and vegetables, Church of San Giacomo di Rialto (the oldest church in the city) and Campo San Polo, a large and historic square.
12. Cannareggio is considered the “real Venice”. The vast majority of Venetians live in this district and it’s a great place to explore and truly get a feel for how the locals live.
13. Dorsoduro is a treasure and far too often ignored by visitors. It is home to the Peggy Guggenheim Collection and the Accademia Gallery, but also many serene streets and tranquil corners – it’s hard to believe such peace and quiet can exist so close to San Marco.
14. Santa Croce is one of the least touristy sestieri, and therefore great value for accommodation. The photogenic 13th-century palazzo Fondaco dei Turchi is here.
15. Castello is a tale of two sestieri. It borders San Marco and the streets surrounding this area are still very touristy. Further away from the center of town, though, Castello is a raw, authentic neighborhood where you’ll see locals hanging out, laundry being dried on public lines, and kids running around playing soccer in the streets. Castello is conveniently located for exploring Murano, Burano and Torcello islands, as the express ferry leaves from the port here.
16. Venice has hundreds of hotels, and the choice can be overwhelming. Remember, Venice is one of the most expensive destinations for accommodation, so expect to pay more for what you get. A four star will be the price of a five star in a less in-demand city.
17. If you want a true local experience, you might consider renting an apartment. Venice-rentals.com has a range of apartments to suit most budgets.
18. The most expensive hotels sit on the Grand Canal, offering spectacular views of the wide waterway, passing water taxis and gondolas. If you want that iconic, Venice honeymoon hotel experience, this is probably it.
19. You can find more reasonably priced accommodation overlooking one of the many tiny canals around the city. While not as flashy as the Grand Canal, these have much quieter, more intimate (and in our opinion, more romantic) ambience. Castello is also a good option if you’re looking for more wallet-friendly accommodation, as long as you look towards the Eastern side, away from San Marco.
20. San Marco is undoubtedly the place to stay for convenience. Almost all the main attractions will be right on your doorstep – but be aware: Hotels in San Marco are the most expensive, and it’s the busiest neighborhood.
21. If you are spending enough time in Venice to take in the sights at leisure, you may consider staying in one of the lesser known sestieri, which will help you get to know a more local side of Venice. Cannareggio is our favorite of the less-touristy sestieri.
22. A great compromise is Dorsoduro: it’s close to the main sights but also has a more chilled-out, peaceful vibe. A perfect escape when you’ve tired of the crowds!
23. Flush with cash? The Gritti Palace is widely considered the most opulent luxury hotel in Venice, and has superb views of the Grand Canal. If you want somewhere just as luxurious but tucked away in a romantic corner of the city, Ca’ Maria Adele hotel is a very popular choice.(image)
24. Of the mid-range hotels, we like The Splendid for its modern luxe style and convenient location halfway between Rialto Bridge and St Mark’s Square. The Charming House, in Dorsoduro, has a sexy, design vibe perfect for honeymooners.
25. While you might go to Italy craving pizza and pasta, seafood features heavily in the Venetian cuisine. Take advantage of the fresh produce specialties to eat like a local! Save the pizza for Rome.
26. Do it like a local and snack on cicchetti (small snacks) at a bàcari (bar). You choose from a selection of hot and cold small plates at a counter that range from €1 to €5. They are delicious (and very wallet-friendly!) Add a glass of spritz, and you could be mistaken for a Venetian!
27. The Cannareggio Jewish ghetto is a must see, but in particular, we love this neighborhood for tiny authentic bars and restaurants. You’ll also find lots of great restaurants in the foodie hub of San Polo.
28. You will have the best meatballs of your life at local haunt Ca D’Oro “Alla Vedova” in Cannareggio. (calle del Pistor no. 3912)
29. There are plenty of amazing gelato shops in Venice, but our favorite was Gelato Nico, along the Zaterre in Dorsoduro.
30. While on the island of Torcello, have lunch at famed Locanda Cipriani. It has hosted countless movie stars and royalty over the years, so it’s only right you enjoy their hospitality too! Go on a sunny day, sit in the al fresco courtyard and splash out on an elegant lunch in the sunshine. One of my favorite memories from Venice is the long lazy lunch in the sun we enjoyed at Locanda Cipriani. It was elegant and understated, and not ridiculously overpriced for such a wonderful meal.
31. While we’re on the Cipriani subject, Harry’s Bar is a must. It certainly falls under the “overpriced and full of tourists” category, but it is steeped in history, and they invented the Bellini! It would be a crime not to pay your respects to the masters of prosecco and peach purée.
SEE & DO
32. Even in peak season, there are ways to beat the crowds. Get up early and enjoy a pre-breakfast stroll around St Mark’s Square and along Rialto Bridge at 7 a.m. It will be a far more serene experience, you’ll have plenty of space to take in the view, and your photos won’t be photobombed by tour groups.
33. Cross the Accademia Bridge from San Marco for a glorious view of the Grand Canal, and then lose yourself among the narrow passages.
34. Take in the main sights from a different perspective: Enjoy the panoramic view of the city from the campanile (bell tower) of San Giorgio Maggiore, across the water from its more famous sibling in St Mark’s Square. I spent a peaceful 15 minutes gazing at the magnificent Rialto Bridge from an abandoned jetty 200 yards away that I stumbled upon, as others pushed and shoved on the bridge.
35. … Which leads us to our most important piece of advice: Get Lost. Stow your map, take the first turn off the main path that you come across and just see where it leads you. Ninety percent of tourists in Venice follow one another around the same route, ensuring the city lives up to its overcrowded stereotype. All you have to do is go off the beaten path, and you’ll find yourselves enjoying the peace of a quiet canal without another soul in sight. Remember: Venice is a collection of tiny islands … you’re not going to go too far, so be brave and wander!
36. If you want a little help in this area, take a tour with Friend In Venice. We started off our stay in Venice with a tour with Nadia on our first morning, and I can’t recommend her highly enough. She takes you to parts of the cities you would have missed, and is passionate about making you feel like a local. After an hour with her, you’ll be hooked on exploring all the hidden corners of the city. St Mark’s who?
37. Opinions are divided on gondola rides. Some say they’re tacky and ridiculously expensive (which they are), while others insist they are a must-do (which they are). We say: you’re taking a Venice honeymoon! Do you really want to spend the rest of your life explaining why you didn’t take a gondola ride in Venice? It’s a lovely, romantic (and yes, expensive, starting from €80 per ride) hour of sightseeing. We suppose you could split the fare with another couple, but this is one we recommend keeping to just the two of you.
38. For a different sort of gondola experience, you can see them being built at the Squero San Trovaso. It’s the only remaining gondola boatyard in Venice.
39. Once you’ve exhausted Venice, it’s time to explore the Venetian Lagoon. Dedicate a day to wandering the islands, accessed by water taxi or waterbus.
40. Murano is the home of glassmaking, and you can tour the glassmaking factory where you’ll witness glassblowing artisans working with blistering hot glass, and effortlessly creating stunning chandeliers, vases and stemware.
41. Burano is our favorite Venetian island. It’s famous for lacemaking but the real reason for visiting is the candy-like assortment of multicolored houses. It is said that the fishermen who lived on Burano struggled to find their homes in the fog when they returned, so they painted them bright colors.
42. Compared to the neon brightness and higgledy-piggledy crammed streets of Burano, Torcello seems sparse, sunbleached and wild. Ernest Hemingway fell in love with Torcello and he based parts of “Across The River and Into The Trees” on his time there. And if it’s good enough for him …
This article originally appeared on Destination42.com.