You’re going for the romance factor, windy alleys, canals and picture ops.
Water taxi or private boat from the airport To get to your hotel, it will depend on where you’re staying. You can arrange for a private transfer if you’re with a few people (more cost-effective that way) or take the public boat, which takes about twice as long. If you can splurge, I’d say do the private transfer because it’s a beautiful way to see the city on the way in and makes the trip feel really special right from the start.
Walking The tiny alleyways, charming streets and getting lost in the maze is part of the fun and usually your only option once on the island.
good to know
Best time to visit March through June, then September and October are ideal times to visit. July and August are packed with tourists and those adorable alleyways become human traffic jams.
eats & drinks
Bar/Pasticceria alla Bragora This is an adorable family-owned bakery with great pastries/coffee, and you can also get a spritz/drink at night. There’s basically one main street in the neighborhood, and this is on it with outdoor seating. Across from it is an organic/”bio” market that’s good for crackers, meats, cheeses, etc, if you’re doing a picnic or want some snacks for your room. $ Castello
Al Covo It’s traditional, quaint and serves great pastas, but keeping mind it is closed Wednesdays and Thursdays. $$$ Castello
Co’Vino Al Covo’s off-shoot, it’s a little trendier/more modern with about five or six tables, a prix-fixe menu and adorable interior. $$$ Castello
Gelateria Mela Verde A small and delicious gelato spot with seasonal flavors. $ Castello
Al Squero A small bacaro that’s good to stand and eat or sit and drink on a small side canal. It closes early so it’s good to go around lunch for polpette/crostini with lardo or for a pre-dinner snack and drink. Most foods sell out by 7:30/8pm — they are delicious! It’s a quiet and peaceful spot. Even if the foods are sold out, you can still get some drinks and sit on the edge of the canal outside. $ Dorsoduro
Al Casin Dei Nobili This is in that same area but more inland and away from the canal. Great pastas and salads but on the cusp of being a bit touristy. If you’re in the area and need lunch/dinner, then it’s great to sit in the little courtyard, but I wouldn’t trek out of your way to go there. $$ Dorsoduro
Estro One of the better wine bars in Venice with a vast selection of wines as well as small plates so that it can work for a drink or for dinner. $$ Dorsoduro
Dorsoduro Nico A gelato place that’s famous there on the canal. You will spot the hoard of people happily enjoying their cones on your way there. $ Dorsoduro
Bancogrio This is a few minutes walk from the market, making it a great place to stand and have an espresso inside or sit by the water and enjoy lunch, if you’re tired after the market. Crostinis, mozz salads and small bites were lovely. $$ San Polo
Birreria la Corte A pizza shop in that same area that is in an old brewery and good for a casual meal. $$ San Polo
Quaranta Ladroni Low-key, no frills and delicious at a reasonable price. The venetian cuttlefish (squid ink) with polenta and spider crab with gnocchi are musts. You can call to reserve for the garden or there are a few tables on the canal, which could be nice to watch the sunset. Around the corner and on the walk over, there is a strip of places to get a drink and sit by the canal. $$ Cannaregio
Antiche Carampane A traditional, low-key seafood resto that’s closed in the late summer. $$ Cannaregio
Locale This came highly recommended and, while it had a solid rabbit pasta, it is more formal and city-like than the other restaurants on this list. Good to go when you’re tired of local, old school restaurants. $$$ Cannaregio
Vino Vero A great wine bar recommended by a friend who lived there. It’s super cute with a ton of great, inexpensive wines and snacks. It’s by the canal, so you can sit outside and drink. Basically, it’s everything you want to do when on vacation in Venice. $$ Cannaregio
Al Timon Situated on a boat, it serves some of the best meat in Venice. It’s open at night, so definitely go for drinks and/or dinner. $$ Cannaregio
Bentigodi di Chef Domenica “The best clam pasta on our trip” as described by friend. $$ Cannaregio
Paradiso Perduto Make a booking for dinner and check out the live music on Monday nights. (Closed in August) $$ Cannaregio
see & do
Rialto Market If you’re going to picture yourself living the quintessential Venetian life, carrying home bags of beautiful artichokes, fresh herbs and other produce in a perfect wicker basket, this is the market where you can live that dream. It’s on the canal and so inexpensive for fruits. I got 16 green figs (soo insanely delicious) for five euro. This would easily be 20+ dollars in Santa Monica. The market is open all days but the fish portion is closed sunday/monday as are some of the stalls with snacks, etc, so I’d skip those days. It has a great energy to it, and if you’re into insta pictures, this is the spot. San Polo
Jogging There’s also a lovely park at the end of Venice, not far from the Castello area that’s about 3/4 mile around. They have a small stretching and exercise station with pull-up bars, etc., at one end, so you can get a complete outdoor workout.
Islands off of Venice They range in distance and are worth it if you have an extended stay or a strong passion for one of the things the islands are known for (like glass blowing).
Lido Lido is the local beach, which is great if you want to get some sun away from the city but don’t feel like traveling far away. You can take a quick ferry 15 minutes from San Marco to get there. Most of it is public, but there are areas where you can rent daybeds for 15 or 20 Euro. You’ll notice that it’s suddenly really open and devoid of people by the water whereas the rest of the beach is super crowded in the summer — that’s why.
Giudecca The Cipriani is here and good to go for a peach bellini (supposedly the best in Venice). It will be a scene but makes for great people watching. The hotel has a complimentary water taxi shuttle from San Marco that’s about 10 minutes. Otherwise, there is a church and a promenade to walk on on the island itself.
Murano Known for glass blowing. If you’re looking to purchase some, you can take a tour of the factory, but it is about an hour boat ride away.
Burano Known for the colored houses and for lace making, you can also explore the factories and purchase lace. It’s also about an hour boat ride away.
You have a choice of staying on a nearby island (hotels have their own shuttle boats) or on the main part itself.
San Clemente Palace On an island roughly 15 minutes away, this former monastery is idyllic and peaceful. The management has changed since I visited, but the property itself is a perfect combination of resort and city vacation.(Pictured left by boat) $$$$
Belmond Cipriani Obviously a massive splurge hotel, but, hey, if you’re gonna do it, then do it. Located on an island with its own boat, this hotel offers top-of-the-line service, views and peach bellinis (when in season). $$$$
Charming House With three outposts, these hotels offer sleek, contemporary rooms in a boutique setting. Convenient locations and less of the “old” Venice feel, which can sometimes feel nice after wandering the crowded streets. $$$ Dorsoduro
Hotel Sant’Antonin A small boutique hotel, it’s located on a canal and features quirky rooms and a gorgeous backyard garden. Service is minimal but very friendly. Perfect for people looking for a clean and interesting room at a low cost. $$ Castello
Chiceti is essentially the Venetian version of Spanish tapas/pinchos and kind of like Italian aperitivo where you drink and eat small bites, varying from bruschetta with lardo, meatballs, cured meats, etc. They are usually pretty inexpensive and the type will vary depending on where you are, but it’s a very local thing to do. Sit outside, drink, eat and enjoy life.
Spritz You’ve most likely seen the photos of bright orange drinks that look incredibly refreshing and seem to be “the thing” to order in the summer. A spritz is typically made with sparkling wine, soda water and either Aperol, Campari or something in the same vein. I tend to stick more with a negroni because I’m not a big fan of sweet, but it is a nice and refreshing drink to have during the day. Plus, it’s not super boozy, which will give you longevity for the night ahead.
Gelato It’s delicious here as in most parts of Italy. People say Sicily has the best gelato (I’m not one to disagree), but it never hurts to treat yourself to a refreshing cone on a hot day.
Travel by boat One of the more appealing parts about Venice is that there are no cars. Everything is still done by boat so that you’ll see groceries and online purchases all delivered by boats on the canals. This also means that’s how you have to get around once you land.