Venice on the Cheap
All photos by Josh Meister Photo.
Venice is a pretty pricey destination. Most budget travelers either write it off completely, only stay for the day, or make it a quick overnight. But if you're in the know, there's lots of ways to visit and stay within budget!
- Skip the gondola ride + take a private boat tour. We were lucky to get hooked up with a local with a boat, but VeniceBoatRent.com offers a 2-hr tour for €130. (A great deal compared to €80+ for 30 minutes on a gondola mostly sitting in traffic.)
- Or opt for a shared gondola experience for a more affordable rate.
- Or ride on a traghetto, the poor man's gondola. It's essentially a ferry gondola and costs only €2 to cross over the Grand Canal, which takes under 5 minutes. To find a traghetto, go down any street named “Calle del Traghetto” towards the Grand Canal. (You'll see a yellow sign with a black gondola on it.)
- Many of the churches are pretty expensive to visit, but a few are free – Basilica di San Marco is surprisingly gratis, as is Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute. A hidden gem free-admission church is Chiesa di S. Pantaleone, right around the corner from San Rocco (which costs €10). The only expense here is to feed the meters to light up the ceiling or other displays, which we highly recommend!
- For an amazing view of the city over the Grand Canal for free, visit the Rooftop Terrace of the T Fondaco department store by the Rialto Bridge. This is a nice alternative to climbing St. Mark's Bell Tower for a view that costs €8.
- There's also tons of galleries that are free to visit at any time. And if you happen to be visiting Venice between May and November, during the Biennale art and architecture exhibit, there's tons of additional free exhibits (at least 80) to check out. Basically, any Biennale exhibit other than the main ones are free.
- A great Venice activity, even if you're not on a budget, is to just wander and get lost. It's a charming city with lots of winding alleyways to explore.
- Visit the islands and tack on some extra destinations. Buy a Vaporetto (water taxi) ACTV Tourist Ticket all-day pass for €20 (as opposed to €7.50 for each ride segment). This is actually a 24-hr pass, so make sure you're making good use of this ticket. You can visit the islands of Murano, Burano, and Torcello all in one circuit and then also head over to Isola di San Michele (the cemetery island) or Giudecca to check out some galleries or just take a ride along the Grand Canal.
- Avoid any restaurants around the top sights, and eat in less congested areas like Cannaregio or Castello.
- In the more popular sections of the city, look for “pasta to go” places. Dal Maro's and Pasta & Sugo were our favorites.
- Go tapas! Cicheti are the Venetian version, and you can fill up on lots of delicious small bites at both lunchtime and in the early dinner hours.
- Drink local – Prosecco and Aperol Spritzs are affordable refreshing options, and are often available even cheaper during happy hour.
- If you've got points you can use, this is a great place to do it! We cashed in just under 60,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points for 4 nights at a beautiful luxury hotel, which including the most amazing breakfast spread that we gorged on every morning (and from which we also pocketed some fruit to snack on throughout the day – don't judge!)
- If you're paying cash, look to Airbnb or small budget hotels in the more affordable parts of the city, Cannaregio and Castello. A benefit to staying in these areas is that you've got the cheaper restaurant and bar options right at your doorstep! (Check out some affordable options put together by The Telegraph and Budget Traveler.)
Venice is a really unique city and one that deserves farther exploration than just the typical tourist attractions. We hope you visit and do it affordably!