Venice is an iconic city that almost everyone has on their travel bucket list. It’s also gaining a reputation as a city plagued by over-tourism. So, is Venice worth visiting or is it overrated?
Despite the fact that Venice is far, far, far from a hidden gem, I truly think that Venice is worth visiting. Within minutes of strolling through the city, I was floored by its undeniable charm and storybook-like allure.
What sets Venice apart is its unique construction – a city built on water, with winding canals instead of bustling streets – in fact, this is what makes it a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Keep reading for my breakdown of why Venice is well worth your visit, a few cons to consider, and some insider tips to make the most of your trip.
Reasons to Visit Venice
The Canals are Exquisitely Charming
When people say Venice is a city built on water, they mean it quite literally – there are over 150 canals in the city, most of them small, narrow, and winding. Stone bridges arch over these small canals, flanked by buildings painted in colorful hues.
I seriously wanted to take a picture on every bridge that we crossed (a sentiment that I’m sure you’ll share!) While the streets of Venice could be full of people, the canals were almost always calm little oases in the city – empty, or with just a boat or two passing through.
Venice is split almost in half by the curving Grand Canal, which functions as the “main street” of Venice, and pumps life through the city. The Grand Canal isn’t just a waterway; it’s a masterpiece, with palazzos and churches standing tall along the banks.
Public buses? Nope. Subway system? Forget it. In Venice, boats are the only transit system. Whether it’s a Vaporetto (water bus), water taxi, or iconic gondola, you’ll be commuting on the water.
Being a city surrounded by water on all sides, it’s no surprise that seafood takes center stage on many menus throughout the city. Fried or grilled fish dishes abound, and you’ll find seafood gracing all different kinds of pasta dishes—always handmade because, hey, you’re in Italy.
I had some incredible seafood ravioli at 6342 A Le Tole Spaghetteria, a cute little restaurant outside the main tourist areas. My mom and I were both blown away by how delicious it was!
Another favorite dish is cicchetti, the Venetian version of tapas. These small bites are made up of slices of bread topped with various toppings, and cost about 2-3 euro.
Many toppings include seafood, but we tried one topped with tomato, mozzarella, and basil, and another with sliced ham, burrata cheese, and pesto, and they were both sublime.
There are Plenty of Attractions and Interesting Places to Visit
Don’t let Venice’s small size fool you—the city may only be 5km across, but it is full of interesting attractions and places to visit. First on the list for many is San Marco Basilica, a marvel of Italo-Byzantine architecture, covered in intricate gold mosaics on the floors, walls, and ceilings.
Doge’s Palace is another must-see. This historic building gives you a glimpse into the opulence and power Venice once wielded.
We also loved visiting the Teatro La Fenice, a world-famous opera house that oozes luxury.
The San Marco Campanile (Bell Tower) is another attraction we really enjoyed. The view from the top gives you a panoramic sweep of the city’s skyline, canals, and beyond.
And of course, you must cross the massive Rialto Bridge over the Grand Canal, stop in the historic Hotel Danieli, walk along the Riva degli Schiavoni, and admire some of Venice’s many, many incredible churches, including Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute, the Church of the Pieta, or San Giorgio Maggiore.
Gondola Rides Really Are All That
Yup, it’s definitely touristy, but you simply can’t leave Venice without taking a gondola ride. These elegant, hand-crafted boats are icons of the city for a reason. You’ll find them navigating the Grand Canal, as well as the small, intimate waterways that serve as Venice’s backstreets.
Your gondolier navigates you through the web of waterways, gliding under bridges and navigating narrow turns. You’ll experience a unique vantage point to admire Venice’s intricate architecture and hidden corners. It’s the kind of experience that makes you feel like you’ve stepped into a painting.
Though you may share the water with other gondolas and boats, especially in the bustling Grand Canal, you’ll still experience the romantic aura of the gondolas – a remnant of a bygone era.
Gondola rides cost 80 euro for 30 minutes during the day, and 100 euro for 30 minutes in the evening (past 7pm)
Venetian Architecture is *Opulent*
Venice wears its history on its sleeve, or perhaps more accurately, its facades. The city was once an epicenter of wealth and power that peaked during the 15th century, and it’s reflected in the sumptuous, ornate buildings you’ll find at every turn.
Venetian architecture takes a lot of influence from Gothic architecture, and some hallmarks include pointed arches, lace-like embellishments and details (known as tracery stonework), stained glass, and pinnacles.
Two standout examples are Doge’s Palace and San Marco Basilica, which epitomize traditional Venetian architecture. But you don’t have to stop at the famous landmarks. Look closely, and you’ll see that Venetian architectural grandeur is scattered all over the city, particularly along the well-traveled Grand Canal.
Venice is Well-Connected
Venice is very well-connected to the rest of Italy and Europe at large, boasting its own international airport and frequent train services that link it to other major cities.
Being just from the capital of Slovenia (an underrated country I adore), Venice could even be a day trip destination from Ljubljana.
Venice is located in the northeastern corner of Italy, so it is somewhat removed from the center of the country. However, it’s still close to other Italian gems like Milan, Lake Como, and the Dolomites.
The City is Easily Walkable and is a True Maze of Streets
Venice is a walker’s paradise. With the city spanning only 5km at its farthest points, virtually everything is within a comfortable walking distance. Say goodbye to cars or any motorized land vehicles; they’re non-existent here.
And honestly, you’ll rarely use the vaporetto bus or water taxis – the bus isn’t all that convenient, and the water taxis are pretty expensive. It’s just easier and faster to walk around yourself (which, isn’t the whole point of coming to Venice to amble across picturesque bridges??)
One final note about Venice’s streets: I’ve explored numerous European cities, many boasting quaint Old Towns with narrow lanes, but none even come close to Venice. The city is a labyrinth of tight, zigzagging alleys, laid out with what seems like no logic at all. It’s seriously crazy walking around!
Day Trips to Murano and Burano
Murano and Burano are two nearby islands that make for easy and delightful day trips from the center of Venice. Famous for lace-making, Burano is filled with bright, vividly colored buildings – every house is a different hue.
Murano, on the other hand, is world-renowned for its exquisite glassmaking. You can watch artisans breathe life into molten glass, crafting everything from intricate sculptures to delicate jewelry. The glass of Murano is world famous, and is sold on the island as well as in Venice as well (and makes for a great souvenir).
Both islands can be tackled in one day if you’re short on time. Getting there is easy—opt for a tour if you prefer a guided experience or you can easily take the vaporetto water bus over by yourself.
Some Cons To Be Aware Of:
Like many tourist hotspots, Venice has its share of pickpockets, particularly in crowded zones like San Marco. It’s crucial to be vigilant and take extra care with your belongings while navigating these areas.
Simple precautions like keeping your wallet in a front pocket or keeping a crossbody bag zipped and in front of your body can go a long way in preventing any unfortunate incidents.
Honestly, the birds (mainly seagulls and pigeons) that flock around San Marco Square are almost even worse than the threat of pickpocketing.
Vendors around the square deliberately feed the birds to entice travelers to pay for photo-ops, and these vendors can be incredibly pushy. One even grabbed my aunt’s arm, sprinkled some bird food into her hand, and expected payment after a cloud of birds swooped down.
Plus, because of this constant human interaction, the birds have become bold—too bold. Case in point: I was savoring a delicious focaccia sandwich in line for the basilica when a seagull swooped down and snagged a bite right from my hand!
Venice Can Get Very Crowded
Venice has neighborhoods, but most of the big-ticket attractions are packed into San Marco. As you can imagine, this area gets incredibly busy, especially during peak months like July and August. Even the shoulder seasons of May, June, and September are still very busy. Your best bet for avoiding crowds? Visit in the winter months.
But don’t worry if your travel plans are set for the busy season, there are definitely still ways to enjoy Venice without being shoulder to shoulder with strangers for your entire visit.
First, consider staying outside San Marco to get some respite from the crowds. Consider getting out early to take in iconic spots like the Grand Canal, Rialto Bridge, and San Marco Square before they’re overrun. Lastly, buy entrance tickets in advance to avoid the worst of the lines.
Lots of Tourist Shops
Along the same vein, most of the shops you’ll see in Venice, particularly in the San Marco neighborhood, are shops catering to tourists.
We rarely saw “regular” shops selling goods that locals would need to buy. They certainly exist, but the lack definitely added to the air of Venice being more for tourists than for locals these days.
Other Travel Tips and Things to Know
Is Venice Safe?
As far as safety goes in Venice, there’s good news—outside of the pickpocketing issue, the city is very safe. You can wander the winding streets and cross the countless canals at any hour without concern for your physical safety.
Is Venice Expensive?
Yes. There’s no way around it, Venice can be pretty expensive, particularly when it comes to accommodations. While you might find slightly more affordable options outside of San Marco, prepare for the reality that staying anywhere in Venice will be pricier compared to other Italian cities.
When it comes to dining, restaurant prices are comparable to other popular tourist destinations in Italy. You can expect main courses to set you back between 10 and 30 euros.
While you will rarely need transportation in Venice, when you do, it’s fairly expensive. The vaporetto water bus is 10 euro per ride, a gondola is 80-100 euro per 30 minutes, and getting from the airport into Venice can range from a few euro to a few hundred euro. (More on that next).
How to Get to Venice from the Airport
There are several methods to get from the airport into Venice: you can take a regular bus, water bus, shared taxi, or private taxi.
The regular bus just takes you to the very outskirts of the city, and then you’ll need to navigate through Venice to get to your hotel. However, it only costs a few euro to ride.
Water buses are relatively cheap and take you through the canals (a very fun way to arrive in Venice), but can take an extremely long time (1.5-2 hours, depending on where you are going).
If price is no concern, then hiring a private water taxi is certainly the most romantic way to arrive in Venice.
Otherwise, I’d recommend taking a shared water taxi, which runs about $35. You and a small group of other travelers will arrive by speedboat in the city, getting dropped off as close as possible to your accommodations, with a map on how to reach your hotel from the drop-off point.
How Many Days Do You Need?
I’d recommend at least 2 days in Venice to see the sights and enjoy the atmosphere. I’d recommend a third day to visit Murano and Burano.
Buy Tickets Online in Advance
I’ve mentioned this above a couple of times, but you definitely want to buy your tickets online in advance – you’ll save a lot of time in the lines, and sometimes tickets will actually sell out!
If you’re worried about long lines and dealing with entrance tickets, a guided tour of the top sites in Venice is a great way to avoid logistics and learn more about the fascinating history of Venice.
Stay outside of San Marco
Staying outside the most touristy area of San Marco will allow you to enjoy wandering the streets and canals, free from heavy crowds.
Is Venice Worth a Visit? The Wrap Up
I absolutely think that Venice deserves a spot on your bucket list – the city is the epitome of romantic and charming. There is a lot to see and do, and it’s a really unique destination that you won’t soon forget!