7 Things I Wish I’d Known Before Visiting Venice

I love Italy!

Granted, our recent trip to Italy was my first “proper” visit to this stunning country. (We’d previously gone skiing in the Dolomites, which was also beautiful, if a little less “Italian”)

While we only spent a week there – four days each in Venice and Florence – it was enough to get a taster (literally!)

It was SO beautiful!!!

Unusually for me, I hadn’t done a huge amount of research before we left (yes, I’m a notorious plan-aholic).

But, in hindsight, I wish I’d known about a few unique things before visiting Venice… Serves me right for deciding to just take it as it comes (although there is something to be said for that as well!)

Hopefully, these top tips for visiting Venice will help you when you’re planning your trip there. 

One thing’s for sure, it is definitely worth a visit!!! 

Just check out what you need to know before your visit right here in this Top Tips on Venice post.

7 Things I wish I'd known before visiting Venice Pin

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Top Tips For Visiting Venice – Attractions

Bring a Sarong

I know, I know… This should be a staple item in your suitcase regardless! And I normally always bring either a sarong or a shawl that can act as anything from a wrap to a towel to a blanket to a belt!

The really obvious thing I missed, since I didn’t do a lot of research or planning, is that there would be a lot of visits to churches… *facepalm*

I know… It’s Italy for God’s sake!! What was I thinking?!

If I HAD thought about it for about 2 seconds, I would have realised that you need to cover yourself up a bit when entering these churches….

Shoulders and knees should be kept under wraps (excuse the pun!) in order to be allowed to enter the church. So, make sure you wear something appropriate or take a lightweight wrap to stuff into your handbag for when the need arises!

Note: They can and DO turn people away if you’re not properly dressed

Gold mosaic of priest at St Mark's Basilica

Top Tip: You can also buy a poncho type single-use cover at St Mark’s Basilica for €1.50 but I’d rather spend that on some gelato!


Entry Fees

The key attraction in Venice (as I’m sure you know) is St Mark’s Basilica. It’s pretty impressive from the outside, but holy cow!!! The inside is just mind-blowingly spectacular!!! All that glittering gold from the tiny mosaic stones!

Just… Wow!

And, the best thing is that (unlike many attractions), entry is free!

Now, there are two key things to note here;

1 – There is a long queue. So be prepared to stand in the heat for an hour or more

2 – While it’s free to enter, not everything inside is free

There are certain areas within the cathedral where you need to pay to enter. We didn’t bother with most of them, so I can’t tell you exactly what you’re paying for, but we saw at least two areas where they charged €2 and €3 respectively. (Bring some change!)

What we did pay for was the €5 charge to go up to the second floor and rooftop.

We found that it was absolutely worth the small extra charge! The view from higher up in the church is so different to down below, and the view out over St Mark’s Square was super pretty too.

Top Tip: Make sure you put any larger backpacks or bulky bags into the bag check facility before queuing. They don’t allow you in with anything more than a small handbag. The service is free, but is away from the cathedral itself so find it before queueing.

Skip The Line

The line to get into many attractions, including the cathedral, averages at least 45 minutes and often longer. One of my absolute top tips for visiting Venice would have to be to go online and purchasing a Skip The Line ticket.

For only €3-5 per person, it’s definitely worth being able to go (more or less) straight in.

Note: This service is only available during high season (April – November) as the queues outside these months are much more manageable. You book a specific time so make sure you are able to get there for the time indicated on your ticket to avoid being turned away.

Outside of high season, you can still skip the line if you join a tour for both St Mark’s Basilica and Doge’s Palace.

Top Tip: Avoid the mornings/lunchtime if possible – most tour groups enter around this time via the Skip The Line entrance, causing there to be a line even there! Aim for 1pm or later.

Long line for St Mark's Basilica Venice



Yes, it’s an iconic Venetian thing to do; A romantic gondola ride through the picturesque canals of Venice.

We’d decided before even getting there that we would do it. Not that we’re a particularly romantic couple as such, but it just kind of felt like one of those “must-do” things.

We knew it would be expensive and were prepared to pay the €80 for a half hour gondola ride.

Unfortunately though, we hopped on close to where we were staying and realised later that we should have gone to a more central area with smaller canals and more picturesque views.

As it was, we were on the Grand Canal for at least 10 minutes before looping back into a smaller canal and doing a small circle back to the start.

I’m sure there are better routes to take so do a bit of research before jumping straight in!

Also, in reality, it probably only took 25 minutes to do the loop, despite going über slow.

The other downside was that our gondolier wasn’t engaging in the slightest. He actually spent almost the whole time talking to someone on his phone…!! Which we found disappointing if not outright rude!

Long story short – we did not feel it was value for money.

Sure, do it if you want to tick this infamous activity off your bucket list, but make sure you know what to expect!

Top Tip: You pay per gondola, rather than per person. Find a few other savvy tourists and go with a maximum of 6 people to split the cost!

You can also book your gondola ride in Venice ahead of time, which may help in terms of selecting a “prettier” spot for your experience.

Gondoliers under the Bridge of Sighs in Venice


Top Tips For Visiting Venice – Money Matters

Tourist Tax

I know many cities charge a tourist tax these days but it’s worth noting in case you’re planning on staying in Venice for a longer period of time.

While the tourist tax is only €2 per person per day, it quickly adds up.

Bear in mind that even if you stay in an Air BnB apartment like we did, you’re still going to be paying the tax, and will likely have to pay it in cash.

Make sure you have the right amount of cash with you to pay your host!


Restaurant Charges

Be aware that all restaurants, cafes, and eateries will charge you a cover charge (coperto) for the pleasure of sitting down.

We normally found this to be around €2 per person but I’ve heard of some places charging a lot more.

Check the bottom or the back of the menu for the small print! You’ll notice a lot of locals hanging out outside the bar or cafe, drinking their beverage, to avoid this charge!

On top of that, there will be a 10-15% service fee (servizio) added to your bill. Again, this will be outlined on the menu so you can double check it before sitting down.

These are both normal charges that you will find at all food and drink establishments. Just be prepared that these will be charged on top of your order, and in addition to any tip you want to leave.

Top Tip: Tipping is not expected in Italy, especially if a service fee (servizio) is already included on your bill. If you’re used to the US, know that servers in Italy are already paid a living wage and don’t rely on tips. However, if you found the service to be really excellent, you may simply decide to round up your bill or leave the small change.

Extreme Prices

Venice has a reputation for being an expensive place, especially when it comes to food and drinks. While this is true to a point, it fully depends on where you decide to go!

The prices in the popular tourist areas like St Mark’s square are mind boggling!!!!

We decided to sit down for a drink near the waterfront by the cathedral and were shocked at the €9 for a glass of house wine.

Only the day before, we had chanced upon a lovely little square where we’d enjoyed a glass (or three!) of wine for only €2.50 each, which included the cover charge (€2.00 if you didn’t sit!)

Comparison photos of extreme price difference in drinks in venice

Prices can definitely fluctuate an unbelievable amount, depending on where you go.

While it’s nice to experience the atmosphere of having a drink in St Mark’s square amongst the hustle and bustle, I highly recommend getting of the beaten path. One of my top tips for Venice is definitely finding a local place where you can enjoy much more for less (and probably better quality to boot!)

Top Tip: Most places will give you a complimentary bowl of nibbles to enjoy!

Have you been to Venice? Did I miss anything? Please tell me what your top tips for visiting Venice are in the comments below!


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7 Things I wish I'd known before visiting Venice, Italy


44 thoughts on “7 Things I Wish I’d Known Before Visiting Venice”

  1. I just don’t get why every one likes Venice that much.
    I went 2 years ago to Venice to a few good hotels or I thought so. I didn’t like it at all!! The service was very bad and it was raining every single day. I didn’t like the experience at all and I don’t recommend you going there.

    • I’m sorry to hear you didn’t have a great experience when you visited Venice. I personally prefer smaller hotels or private rentals over big hotels these days. Definitely do your research before you go to see what other travellers’ experiences were.
      The weather probably can’t really be attributed to anyone or to Venice specifically 😅 Unfortunately the weather can be unpredictable everywhere you go…

      • We stayed on an island in the lagoon, after I had read about some challenges in staying in hotels near the tourist areas. We had our first introduction to Venice on our boat trip along the Grand Canal upon arriving by train from Florence. Amazing!
        We then took another launch to The Kempinski San Clemente, where we used this beautiful hotel as our base for day trips through the streets of Venice, well away from the crowds.
        It was not an economy style trip, but we’ll worth it, as we had such a lovely perspective of Venice from the lagoon. It was mid October 2017, and the morning fog was almost ethereal, before it burned off. I hope to visit again, but until then I shall continue to visit Venice by reading Donna Leon’s mysteries featuring Guido Brunetti…all excellent!

        • This is so lovely to read, Catherine! It can definitely pay to stay a little bit further out, and what better way to experience Venice than by boat. Sounds like you had the perfect mix of peace and beauty! And I must look up the books you mention, nothing quite like reading as a substitute for travel! Thanks for sharing.

        • Hello Catherine,

          Can you share where you stayed? I would really like to stay away from crowded hotels. We plan on going in October/November for my 50th Birthday. We will be there for 3-4 days. My husband also has knee issues which may hinder us a bit if he has a flare up. Any other suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

    • That’s a great suggestion, depending on your budget! We loved being in the middle of things but Mestre isn’t far and no doubt much more affordable!

  2. I have been going Venice’s Carnivale for years. It is a sight to see. My biggest tip is to buy multi day vaporetto tickets. These are great money savers if you take the vaporetto a few times in one day. It is also a great way to get pictures from the water. One of my favorites is to go from San Zaccaria to San Giorgio (the island with the church / monastery to the left if you are standing in front of the gondolas on San Marco). It has fantastic sunset views from here. This is where all the costumed people go during Carnivale. You can also take a standing gondola ride for 2-3€ from Ca’ D’ Oro to the daily market. It is mostly used by locals. If you are looking to just be able to say you’ve been on a gondola ride, this is sooo much cheaper.

    • I can only imagine the spectacle Venice’s Carnivale would be! What an amazing experience 🙂 Thanks so much for all these amazing tips! Really helpful! The €2-3 for a gondola ride certainly sounds a lot more appealing than the €80+ you have to spend for a “proper” gondola ride.

  3. Do you have recommendations on the many museums and other churches?

    On my first trip we visited a local glass artisan just off of The Devil’s Bridge (I think). I recommend it highly!

    • Oh the glass artisan sounds great! Thanks for the tip!
      I still need to write a post on some of the great attractions for sure!

  4. I’m going to Venice for my honeymoon for a few days so this was really helpful. Anymore tips would be appreciated. Places to eat/best way to get around and top places to visit xx

    • Hi Sophie! Wow, what a wonderful place to go on your honeymoon! I hope it’s an incredible trip for you both!! Getting around Venice is really best done on foot 🙂 although of course there are the water taxis too. But, I loved exploring (read – getting lost! haha) all the little streets and alleyways. There are so many great places to eat – La Zucca was definitely worthwhile (lots of vegetarian options). Ai Garzoti was great for fresh pizza. Ostaria al Vecio Pozzo served great food, although it did get busy so either book ahead or get there early!

  5. This is truly a wonderful article on Venice! I have been extremely Blessed to have traveled to Venezia almost every year for 40+ years. My dearest friend is Venetian & her apartment is one block behind The Clock Tower in Piazza San Marco! Normally I stay for 2 months or so~ I wander the streets, get lost, drink plenty of Cappuccino & Prosecco and fall in love over and over!
    I learned to design and bead Murano Glass jewelry from an elderly relative of my friend’s ~ & this has given me immense joy over the years! My condominium is filled with paintings, lamps, pottery, Murano Glass and tapestries from this most magical spot ~ Venice has stolen my heart ~ and it truly is my “Home away from Home”!

    • Oh wow!! That sounds incredible!! I’m so jealous that you get to spend so long in Venice each year. I absolutely fell in love with it and can imagine why you’re so happy go back there each time!

  6. Wandering the streets of Venice was great fun until we got hopelessly lost and the tourist map we purchased was useless. My husband wanted to toss it in the canal at one point such was his frustration. ( he didn’t) So beware you adventurers. It is easily possible to lose your way.

    • Haha, I know what you mean – it’s easy to take a wrong turn with the maze of streets and dead-ends in Venice! I would suggest just going with it, forget the map, simply get out there and explore. The yellow signs to the main sights like Rialto Bridge and St Mark’s square are pretty frequent so you won’t be lost for too long. The benefit of Venice is that it’s pretty contained so you’ll never go too far. Besides, sometimes you find the most special spots when you take an unexpected turn! 😀

  7. I just came back from a week in Italy, we visited Milan, Venice (including Murano), and Florence (including Pisa, San Gimignano, and Sienna). It was a magical trip and I can’t wait to go back. This post is very accurate and helpful! One thing I think it important to share as well is public restrooms are not free! So my US people be prepared. Most places charge .80 cents to 1 euro in order to use the bathroom. So while you’re walking around exploring and feel the urge, just pop into one of the bars, order an espresso or water (don’t sit to avoid the seat charge) and you’ll be able to use their bathroom as a result of being a customer.

    • Ooohh!! How lovely!! Sounds like a busy week – you fit so much in!! Ah yes, the old paid restrooms… Totally agree that sometimes you’re better off going for a drink at a cafe and using their facilities instead! Great tip 🙂

  8. Hi.. I recently visited Venice .though it was just for two days only. However we covered almost all the must go places, even two of the islands nearby Venice ; Murano and burano. Overall it was a dream come true trip. For traveling through Venetian streets , we purchased the boat plus water taxi tickets .They are for the government run buses n water taxis. Something like a whole day pass , for( 20 Euros for one day n 30 for two days) each . Venice is a must go place once. 🙂

    • Two days is still great though. I’m sure you got to see loads with the water bus and taxis! We didn’t get out to Murano and Burano on this occasion but no doubt we’ll be back!

  9. Thank you for the wonderful and honest post about Venice.
    We are planning a trip to Italy for a few years away and this is definitely a post I will return to before we make our plans and budget our trip. Who would’ve imagined that there’d be so many fees for everything.
    Thanks again!

    • It’s so exciting planning trips, even if it is still a little while away! I’m so glad you found the post useful! 🙂

  10. We booked a gondola ride that included dinner, wine and dessert through Viator before we left home. It was wonderful, we were in flotilla of gondolas with the main gondola serenading all of us. I highly recommend Viators. The meal after was very good as well.

    • Oooh, that sounds lovely!! Definitely a bit more like the romantic gondola ride most people have in mind! Thanks for the tip!

    • Hi Catherine,

      I’m heading to Venice in October and this sounds like something I’d really enjoy. Can you remember where you booked this?



  11. I have been to Venice once and I remember loving it. This post brings back memories.
    We didn’t go on the gondola ride (SOOO expensive) but if I ever go back I will definitely consider your tip and go near a lot of smaller and more picturesque canals.

    Great blog btw xx

    • Thank you, Manon! I absolutely LOVED Venice too 🙂 Popular and well-known cities don’t always live up to expectations but I really felt Venice did!

  12. Also be aware that the cost for a vaporetto ticket was 7euros a few years ago. The trip from St. Mark’s to the train station cost us 28 euros r/t! I found it impossible to get around on foot.

    • Oh, that’s a great additional tip, thanks Kathryn! Seems a bit steep… We actually never took the Vaporetto water bus at all while we were in Venice, we walked absolutely everywhere 🙂 But it was definitely a bit of a maze! We were lucky and had our accommodation not too far from the train station so didn’t have to drag our suitcases all over the cobblestone streets 🙂

      • I definitely think it depends hugely on where you go. Like any country, there are tourist traps and there are the places locals do that are more affordable. There were definitely some fantastic deals to be had although it does depend on where you’re comparing it to I guess!

  13. I’m so happy you’re back and posting!! I didn’t go to Venice the last time I was in Italy but will definitely make the trip next time I’m in the area. Good pro-tip about sharing gondolas-I would’ve never thought about that, but we’re all for saving some $$. Great post, as always!

    • Aw, thanks Lexie!! I really appreciate your support 🙂 Definitely try to include Venice the next time, it is such a different city!!

  14. These are some great tips. Brought back memories from our very short time in Venice. I loved Venice. Thought it was beautiful and magical, but oh so expensive. I really do feel they gouge tourist ther, but I guess that’s the norm in touristy areas. Glad you enjoyed your time!

    • I loved Venice too!! I actually preferred it to Florence. How about you? Although the pizza was better in Florence 😇🍕


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