WHEN TO GO? My visits to Venice have either been in October or in January. At both times I enjoyed clear, blue skies and crispy cold winter weather. I loved it! There is a lot of humidity in Venice but I prefer the humidity in winter than in summer. Additionally, even if Venice is a city that always attracts masses of tourists, there are much less of them during the winter time. Furthermore, there are nice hotel promotions during January-February.
WHERE TO SLEEP? We had hard time finding accommodation in October (it is considered a very busy month), but finally found a nice, quiet and clean B&B called Antico Portègo (http://www.bbanticoportego.com) in Cannaregio. It is conveniently located within a walking distance from the railway and bus station. The house was built in the 16th century, and charming rooms are decorated with antique furniture and frescoes. We paid just over 100€ per night.
ln January this year, we slept at Palazzo Stern in Venice, located in Dorsoduro. It is a very lovely four star hotel right by the main canal. I think my post (see the link) says it all. We paid around 150€ per night.
In my opinion Cannaregio and Dorsoduro are the best neighborhoods to sleep in in Venice, because they are less touristic areas compared to for example San Marco. Both areas are where the locals live and therefore authentic, with excellent less touristic restaurants. Dorsoduro is particularly interesting for those who are interested in visiting museums and art collections. Cannaregio is convenient because of its proximity to the stations and therefore the airport.
Just remember that wherever you end up sleeping defines pretty much (I think) where you will be having a dinner every evening. Unless you want to pay rather expensive transport costs to travel to the other side of the city, the easiest way is to stay in your own sestiere (neighborhood).
HOW TO GET AROUND? We have never purchased any of the available public transport passes but it may be a good idea if you don’t want to walk all the time (see http://www.veniceconnected.com). You can buy the pass at the airport (with or without museums and other visits).
However, as often, the best way to experience the city is by walking. Venice is relative small and you can walk from one end to the other in one hour. Whatever you decide, you will be doing a lot of walking so have good shoes!
I also think investing in a good map is important (Venice & The Veneto by Eyewitness guide book includes a very good one). I am not saying this because I think you should obsessively follow the map every meter you walk, no. I just think that if you know how to read a map, you will find some interesting places: nice canal walks, tiny bridges, cute corners.
WHERE TO EAT AND DRINK? I think my previous posts say it all!
Small snacks and lunch: Easy breakfast and lunch snacks in Venice
Dinner: Where to dine in Venice?
WHAT TO SEE? I have not seen everything in Venice, far from it, but these are the places that I have particularly appreciated (in no particular order):
- La Fenice (9€ per person). We did the audio tour of the city’s oldest theater and loved it. The theater has been badly burnt by the fire twice, but has always arisen from the ashes like the phoenix (fenice). The decoration is to say the least spectacular!
- Accademia (9€ per person). The world’s largest collection of Venetian art. Highly recommended. Fantastic! But do go during the day when you have natural light. We were in the evening and it was pretty dark.
- Punta della Dogana (15€ per person, and 20€ if you combine with Palazzo Grassi). We appreciated the contemporary art collection of French billionaire Pinault. Not crowded at all and very spacious. Also interesting architecturally.
- Gondola workshop at Squero di San Trovaso (no entrance so no fee). I don’t know how active this cute workshop remains these days but it is worth a look.
- Peggy Guggenheim Collection (14€ per person). The collection left us empty and disappointed but I let you make your own mind.
- Churches. There are many, many churches in Venice. Some are free, some ask you to pay an entrance fee. If you visit only one, make sure it is the spectacular Basilica San Marco, which is as fascinating inside as it is outside. Otherwise, just walk around the city and you will find interesting churches and events. We found one church that advertised for a ceremony to bless animals!
- The islands. We have not yet gotten this far but next time…
- Ospedale Civile. This may sound like a weird suggestion, but the hospital of Venice is actually extremely beautiful. Have a look at the entrance but also go and walk on Fondamente Nuove by the water. Do not miss the ambulance boats like the one in the photo!
- The Ghetto in Cannaregio is considered to be the first Jewish settlement in the world. The area has many synagogues and kosher-oriented restaurants and shops. For history, read http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/vjw/Venice.html
I am not done with Venice and will try to return as soon as I can to report more. Meanwhile, do you have a favorite sestiere, restaurant, hotel or museum in Venice? What do you like doing in this city of romance and canals? Please let me and the other followers know!