Venice was the third city we visited in Europe, after getting the night train from Rome. We arrived at dawn, and it was a great first impression to see the sun rising over the city.
We walked to our hotel, which took about an hour and a half, but it was nice to wander through a new city when it’s early and almost empty! There were few people about, mainly those heading to work, and the city was quiet and peaceful. Early morning is a great time to explore a new city – however hauling heavy suitcases over all the little bridges gets quite difficult.
Sadly, we only had four days in the canalled city, and as I keep saying it’s just not enough time to do and see everything you want.
Venice was the first city on our trip where ATMs were more readily available and many shops and restaurants accepted credit cards.
As always, these are in no particular order.
- Palazzo Contarini del Bovolo
This place was directly next to our hotel (Alloggi alla Scala). The staircase is a point of interest for tour groups, but when we were there you couldn’t go inside. It has now been open to visitors since February 2016 and climbing to the top gives you nice views over Venetian rooftops.
2. The cat shop (not sure what the name actually is)
If you’re a crazy cat person like me, then you will love this shop. It’s only little but has a great range of cat-themed items, like bags, wallets, and t-shirts, among other things. I managed to be restrained, only buying a t-shirt and a bag.
The streets of Venice can feel like a maze if you don’t know exactly where you are going. If you want to find this little shop, the address is 1477 Campiello Dei Meloni.
3. Libreria acqua alta (library of high water)
This bookshop is a must see if you love books, cats, or both. This little shop is packed floor to ceiling with every kind of book you can imagine. Some of the books are kept in gondolas and canoes, to protect them from the rising water that creeps into the shop. The outdoor staircase is made of books that have become damaged from the canal water.
There were five or six cats just sleeping or laying about on books, which made me more of a fan. The only bad thing was that I didn’t learn about this shop until my last day in Venice, and having only two hours until I had to leave I decided to find it. It only gave me 15 minutes to look around, which was not nearly enough, and all I ended up buying were some Venetian cat postcards and a small cat notebook. I could’ve spent all day in there!
4. Have a Gondola ride
How can you go to Venice and not have a ride in a gondola? Friends of mine had a great experience riding in a gondola during the day, which I wish I had done.
I booked a night gondola tour with dinner, thinking it would be amazing, but it was rather lackluster. It was advertised as being ‘romantic’ (not that I’m normally into that stuff), but as it turned out Matt and I had to share a gondola with four other people and we didn’t get to sit next to each other because we were the last two to get on. The first two people get to sit next to each other at the back, the next two reasonably close, and the last two apart. The woman next to me talked on her phone for most of the ride, which was incredibly irritating. The dinner we had afterward was pretty terrible, as the food tasted like it had been frozen and then microwaved. My advice for booking anything like this: read the information carefully! I clearly skipped the parts that said ‘shared 6-person gondola’.
5. St Marks Clocktower (Torre dell’Orologio)
This is located in the Piazza San Marco, next to Doge’s Palace and St Mark’s Basilica. The clock shows not only the time but the current moon phase and zodiac sign.
You can book tours to climb up inside the clock tower, all the way to the roof. This wasn’t something we thought about doing at the time.
6. St Mark’s Basilica
I would highly recommend buying ‘skip the line’ tickets, as this is a very busy place! There is no entrance fee, and these tickets cost only €2 each, which is worth paying to get ahead of the crowd.
Inside there are other sections which you have to pay an entrance fee to get into like the presbytery and the treasury. From memory, it costs about €3 for each additional area.
7. Eat gelato
We tried gelato from Cioccogelateria Venchi, as we came across it near St Mark’s Basilica. It was rather pricey – about €8 each. It wasn’t the best gelato I’ve ever had – Fatamorgana in Rome was much nicer, but it was a hot day and I still enjoyed it.
There are other gelato places with similar or better recommendations in Venice, so do your research and decide what’s best for you.
8. Do a walking tour that takes you ‘off the beaten track’
We did a night ‘ghosts and legends’ tour which was really fun. The tour itself took about 90 minutes and we got to hear interesting stories about the supposed ghosts that wander certain parts of the city, serial killers, and a famous haunted hotel room at the Rialto. It was a completely different look at the history of Venice, and I would recommend doing it, or something like it.
I don’t have any good quality photos to show as I’m terrible at taking night photos. They all came out blurry!
9. Take an island tour
We visited Murano, Burano, and Torcello as a half-day tour.
Murano is the island where you can visit the famous glass making factory and watch how glass ornaments are made. Afterward, you can browse the shop, which is full of incredible blown glass ornaments (mostly very expensive). My friends and I shared a purchase between us – three glass cats for €30, or €10 each.
Burano is famous for its lace, and you can buy all sorts of pretty things. Apparently, many tourists like to buy tablecloths! The buildings on the island are lovely to look at too – they are all painted in bright colours and its gives the town a cheerful feel.
Torcello is the last stop on the tour and is home to only 75 people. At the end of the path from the dock, you will find an archaeological museum, cathedral, and an 11th-century Greek church. Inside the cathedral, you can see beautiful Byzantine mosaics that date from between the 11th and 12th centuries.
When you’re on a Venetian island tour, and you’re told to be back at the boat by a certain time you should definitely listen! A woman on our tour was left behind on Torcello because she was late back to the boat and we had already pulled out of the dock as she was returning. Lucky for her there was another boat pulling in.
10. Explore and get lost
Venice is a beautiful, fascinating and unique city that is a lot of fun to explore. There are numerous churches, cathedrals, and museums that you can stumble across and enjoy looking at. I would highly recommend just going for a wander with no destination in mind – that’s how we found the cute little cat shop and some really interesting markets.
Bear in mind that no matter what Google Maps tell you, it’s going to take you longer than that to get somewhere because of the city layout and it’s so easy to take a wrong turn. But of course, that’s half the fun.
Thanks for reading!
All images are my own.
All opinions are my own.