If you plan on visiting Venice one day, you don’t want to miss this post ! Early February, I was lucky enough to spend five whole days in the most romantic city on earth. I’ve already posted a post about Venice and the winter carnival, in which I shared some of the best pictures I took during my trip.
As I promised, I am back with a more detailed Venice city guide, in which I will tell you more about my experience in Venice, and give you my best addresses in the city.
The different areas of Venice.
Where to stay in Venice
When we travel, my boyfriend and I often choose to rent a Air BnB. Staying in Venice can be really expensive, especially during the Carnival, so I strongly advise you to book your hotel or your rental early if you have a limited budget.
We rented a very nice flat, in the Santa Croce area, really close to the Campo Santa Margherita, one of the most popular squares where the young venetians like to gather for a few drinks. We really enjoyed this area : it’s quiet and residential, but you can still find a lot of bars, shops and restaurants, and the fact that it was so close to the Santa Margherita square was a nice asset.
Besides, this area is quite central, juste a few minutes away from the train station and the Piazzale Roma – the bus station. You can easily access all of Venice by feet from Santa Croce.
What to visit in Venice
Before we left for Venice, we had decided not to rush like we did during our previous trip to Rome, but to visit Venice at our own pace, while avoiding the main touristic attractions. The city was going to be very crowded, especially during the Carnival. Credo of our stay : let’s relax and enjoy the beauty of the city.
In five days, we managed to visit the entire city, always by feet. We didn’t even take the vaporetto – the “bus-boat” – once ! On a map, Venice can seem pretty wide, but we were surprised to realise that this is not the case, and it is in fact quite quick to go from an area to the other by feet.
→ Museo di Storia Naturale : we had read a lot of nice things about the Venice Natural History Museum, so, as the rain was threatening to fall, we decided to go visit it. The museum was empty and Gleb and I were alone most of the time, which was really nice to visit quietly.
The place is nicely arranged, with lights displays and amazing curiosities. For 8€ per person, we saw a lot of interesting things (as well as a beautiful dinosaur skeleton that made the place famous in the first place !). I really spent a good time there, and I encourage you to visit this museum, especially if you are traveling with children.
→ The piazza San Marco : of course, Saint Mark’s square is a must see. We went there a few times during our stay, because this is where the main festivities of the Carnival took place. Saint Mark’s basilica is majestuous and I really wanted to visit it, but I got discouraged by the crowd and the fact that we had to leave our bags in an external deposit. We intend to go back to Venice in the future, at a most quiet period, and we won’t miss it this time !
Saint Mark’s square also has three museums and the emblematic Campanile, from where you can observe an amazing view over all Venice.
Near Saint Mark’s square, you can also admire the famous Bridge of Sighs.
→ Cannaregio, the jewish ghetto: this area, situated in the north of Venice, is mainly residential. A good part of the population lives there, and you can also find a few restaurants, kosher obviously. We went walking in Cannaregio in the late morning, and the place was absolutely peaceful ! I really enjoyed strolling through the little streets of this beautiful neighborhood, and I encourage you to visit it too.
→ During your stay in Venice, I strongly advise you to get lost in the streets of the city, this is really pleasant. You will discover pretty bridges, pretty churches, pretty squares all the time…
Where to eat in Venice
A list of the places where we really enjoyed the food.
→ Artisti da Piero (restaurant & pizzeria) : we found this place by accident at lunch time. The service was excellent, the decor was pleasant, and the food was delicious (we had a plate of cold cuts as a starter, fried calamari and lasagna for the main course, and a panna cotta in dessert). Everything was at a reasonable price. I don’t understand the bad reviews on Trip Advisor, because we truly enjoyed this place.
→ Pane Vino e San Daniele (restaurant) : for dinner, we opted for this restaurant that was not really far from our place. We have been well received, and I had the best gnocchi of my life. However, the portions are a bit small and the menu is quite limited… I still recommend this place for the good service and the delicious cuisine.
→ Ristorante Pizzeria Dolfin (restaurant & pizzeria) : this is the first restaurant that we tried when we arrived in Venice. Here again, plaesant decor and service. We had two pizzas that were very good and copious. The pizza menu is huge and they have original pizzas (try the Ovni !), for a small price.
→ Cantina Arnaldi (wine bar) : we went to this wine bar one night, after we found out that we could also grab a bite there. The place – very small – was crowded and we had to wait a bit before we got a table. We ordered a platter with cold cuts and cheese served with bread, onion confit and pear marmelade. A delight ! Regarding the wines, you will find a nice selection.
→ Bigoi (takeaway pasta) : one lazy night, we decided to try the takeaway pasta Bigoi, that is really famous among venetians and tourists. The pasta (bigoli, a kind of spaghetti) is fresh and made on the spot, served with the sauce of your liking (rabbit, nero di sepia, pesto, bolognese…). For 5€ a portion, this is really worth it if you want to eat on the go !
→ At every street corner, you will find snacks and bakeries that sell pizza slices or delicious sandwiches or paninis with parma ham, mozarella, grilled vegetables… This is ideal if you want to eat on the go while visiting the city.
Where to go out in Venice
→ Campo Santa Margherita : this big square is bordered with coffees, trendy bars, traditional wine bars, and a few restaurants. This is where the venetian youth usually goes out.
→ Wine bars : Venice is full of wine bars, that also serve cold cuts platters, bruschettas… You will easily find one in your area ! In Santa Croce, I recommend the Cantina Arnaldi, that I already mentioned earlier.
Where to go shopping in Venice
→ You will find all the luxury stores in the San Marco area, especially on the west side of Saint Mark’s square. Chanel, Dior, Hermès, Louis Vuitton, Burberry, Prada… Choose your poison !
→ The best location for a more affordable shopping is also the San Marco area, especially its nothern part. You will find a lot of stores there, like H&M, Promod, Sephora…
→ While visiting the city, you will see a lot of clothes, leatherwork and souvenirs shops. The prices are usually affordable and you can find a lot of pretty things, but beware of counterfeits if you want to buy a leather bag, for example.
→ Murano glass : Murano is a small island situated in the north of Venice, apparently very pretty because the houses are multicolored (we didn’t visit this island because we wanted to focus of Venice). You can find a lot of artisans that work the glass to make jewels or decorative objects. This is a typical venetian art, and everywhere, you will find shops where you can buy Murano glass.
→ Signor Blum : a small shop that I loved ! Situated just near the Santa Margherita square, they sell pretty handmade wooden toys or mobiles, made in Venice. Perfect if you want to bring a souvenir to a child.
→ Book shops : if you speak italian, I envy you ! Venice is full of pretty book shops that really makes you want to buy a lot of books… Unfortunately, since I’m not speaking italian, I had to skip my turn.
Venetian specialties to try
→ Fritelle : these are like little donuts filled with cream or chocolate, and covered with icing sugar. A delight for breakfast !
→ Fish and sea food : not saying anything new if I tell you that Venice is surrounded by water… Therefore, restaurants serve a lot of fish, calamari, shellfish… Grilled, fried, with pasta, you will have plenty of choice. The products are usually very fresh, and I advise you to opt for sea food dishes instead of meat dishes, which are usually not as good.
→ Mulled wine and spritz : if you like mulled wine, you will find it everywhere in Venice (in winter time). If you prefer sweet drinks, the spritz, recognizable thanks to its orange colour, is the most popular aperitif in Venice.
I hope that this Venice city guide will be helpful during your trip, and if you have any question, don’t hesitate to ask it in the comments below !