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Venice, Italy – It’s not always a tourist trap!

Looking over St Marks Basilica from the bell tower

I know what you’re thinking…Venice is over-crowded, smelly and expensive! Well there is a way to beat all that. Visit in the winter! Now being from the UK I am used to chilly/wet days, but the weather was stunningly bright in Venice, and we went in December. It was cold but only around 8-11 degrees C so for me that is perfect weather for getting wrapped up to go wandering the streets for hours! Now I have done the obligatory “I’m British so I talk about the weather” line, let’s get into the nitty gritty.


Venice is smelly

Well for this one all I can say is, Venice is known for its canals. Canals = Fish. Seafood is big here as it can be plucked straight out of the Venice Lagoon, and surrounding Adriatic Sea. I have heard that in the summer the stench can be over-powering but in the winter it seems to subside. The only time we met the smell, was when we went to an outdoor food market and were surrounded by lovely fresh fish.

I recommend you try the seafood if you can. We had some gorgeous spider crab!

A bright beautiful day in Venice

Venice is expensive

Okay I’ll admit this one can be hard to avoid, but the deal we got to visit in the winter was very reasonable! We actually stayed on the mainland and got a bus into Venice each day which made it much cheaper for us. We were also able to buy the bus tickets at the hotel, and a return ticket was only around 3* euros. The bus took around 12 minutes and the public transport is well organised so I recommend staying on the mainland if you want to save some cash! And believe me you will, because once you get onto the island you’ll want to spend all your money on food!

Ah the food! Pizza and pasta of course, it is Italy after all, but you have to try the Gelato and, as I already mentioned, the seafood. If I’m honest, our stomachs always guide our trips so I had a great time in Venice. First off, pizza is a good option if you want to save money. You can generally find a large pizza for around 12* euros, so to share that between 2 people for lunch is a great way to fill up your belly and save some pennies. Another great way to save on food is to avoid the main streets. If you head out further into the island you will come across smaller hidden eateries. These won’t have such a large price tag and are just as good!

Getting lost in the streets of Venice

Another way to save is to simply get lost wandering the beautiful back streets of Venice. We felt like we saw the real Venice this way and walking costs you nothing! If you are not sure about navigating in this way then the water bus might be for you! Now a day travel pass on the water bus is 20 euros which is pretty steep but we simply took a one way journey to St Mark’s Square for 7.50* euros. When we were done we took a walking route back to the Piazzale Roma Bus Station. The water bus was great as you see a lot of the Grand Canal and Venice from it. It can be between 30-45 mins to get to St Mark’s Square depending on the boat you take and what a fantastic way to travel! It felt like an excursion in itself and a much better option than paying up to 80* euros for half an hour on a Gondola. You can see below the beautiful sights you can experience on the water bus!

Water bus is the best way to travel in Venice


A bit chilly out on the deck

Venice is over-crowded

Now I have seen photos of it in the summer and I can imagine it is hard to move in those narrow, meandering streets, full to the brim with people. Not ideal for any trip. However, in the winter it seemed peaceful and calm, and although there were a few people around, we never struggled to cross a bridge or pass through a street. Early morning is also an ideal time to get out and beat those crowds so I recommend getting a good breakfast and seeing those sights when they open. In the winter a lot of places close earlier anyway so this is the perfect excuse to get in those early starts.

Here’s me! Looking over the canals from a bridge in Venice

A few Archi-Finds I recommend starting off early for

Campanile Saint-Mark is the Bell Tower that gives you views across the whole of Venice and out to the surrounding Lido and Murano. It is open from 9:30-15:45* from November to March and costs 8 euros per person.

St Mark’s Basilica is a stunning cathedral that is free to enter. Small gold tiles glisten throughout the high ceilings and there is a gorgeous balcony that overlooks the Grand Canal. It is open 9:30-17:00* throughout November to June and there is also a museum inside that you can enjoy for a small 5* euro fee.

Rialto Bridge is one you may likely come across simply walking through Venice. Starting early will enable you to see this bridge in all its glory without the bustle of tourists.

Entrance to St Mark’s Basilica

Architecture in Venice

There are plenty more Archi-Finds throughout Venice but I find that generally just walking around and appreciating the surroundings is enough to get a feel for the style. Venetian Gothic Architecture is the staple but there are many Islamic architectural influences here too.

Of course Venice is also home to the Architecture Biennale. If you’re not familiar with this you should take a look! It involves a number of exhibitions taking place in venues around Venice that show case built or unbuilt works of Architecture. The next one is in 2018 and the theme is “Freespace”. It runs from May to November so you could still catch some exhibitions in the off-season!

Plenty of Architecture to see on the water bus

Finally, you may have seen recently in the news about a lot of European cities having residents protest about tourism taking over and pushing up housing costs (do you blame them?!). Venice is one of those. So if you really want to visit but want to be more thoughtful about your trip and how it affects the residents, then this is the way! Off season for Venice is generally November to March.

Looking over the canal from the bell tower

Are there any places you have visited off-season that were just as awesome? I’d love to hear about them, so let me know in the comments!

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*All prices/times are approximate at the time of writing this article and Sundays/Public Holidays may have different schedules.


26 thoughts on “Venice, Italy – It’s not always a tourist trap!”

  • I totally agree with your point about feeling for locals. I was recently in Barcelona, where tensions are high on this topic- and I get it! We have to remember it’s our vacation but it’s their home. Great post!

    • Thanks for taking a look! Yes you are so right! If us travellers can, then we should try to be respectful of people’s homes!

  • Such a good tip to visit Venice in winter!! It can also get sooo warm there, so actually it’s much better to go in a different time of the year. Your pictures still look beautiful (if that’s why people would want to go in summer) so definitely going to Venice this winter! Great tips and Venice looks amazing!

  • Great tips about visiting Venice for less! I also visited Venice during semi-off-season (early April), and had a fantastic experience in the city. Due to the cooler weather, I also didn’t smell much fish. While I didn’t take any water taxis, I found a deal on viator that let me go on a gondola ride for 25 Euros!

    • I agree! It’s a much better time. Oh wow that’s awesome! Such a great tip for a gondola ride. We certainly couldn’t afford 80 euros 😂

    • Thank you! It was a beautiful back drop so photos came easy 🙂 I agree it is the best way to save money! Then you have more to stop off for gelato 😀

  • I don’t know if the prices or the bad manners of turists what I hate more during high season. So good pointers in your post. I haven’t been to Venice because of the whole pricing issue, so I need to dig a little deeper in to some research for maybe beggining of next March 🙂

  • I love your article. I have never been to Venice but I am planning on going next year. I will definitely keep in mind all of your great advices. Thank you.

  • Yeah, I have heard mixed things about Venice but I think visiting in the wintwr is an amazing idea. I hate crowds and don’t mind the cold. Great tips and good to know I still need to save before I go. Lol

    • I’m the same! The cold doesn’t bother me so it’s the perfect time. And it’s stunning all year round! Yeah still pretty expensive but off season is so much more affordable!

  • I really enjoyed reading this post! A lot of really great points. I was considering going to Venice in more of an off season like Winter, but read that the weather is not that great. Its really foggy and rainy? Did you find that when you were there? Great photos too!

    • Thanks! No it was very bright and sunny when I went just bitterly cold. The weather is always a gamble but it’s worth risking for the quiet and cheaper periods! I have heard March can be great for weather too so maybe try then!

  • I have visited Venice both in winter and in summer. What a huge difference! I am glad I visited first in winter, so I could properly fell in love with the city and try to forget it’s summer chaos, blaming the tourists. It is such a beautiful city, shame the tourists are ruining it. I don’t think that Venice can handle its current number of tourists and that’s why it feels like such a rip off if you go in summer.

    • Yeah that’s the best way sometimes! We went to Rome after this trip to Venice and it was the same! No queues and still sunny 😊

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