Our guide to Venice for those visiting for the first time
Glittering waters, brightly painted buildings, and arching bridges, not to mention the pervasive feeling of being in the epicentre of culture and history – a visit to Venice is a truly unique experience. It might be your first visit to the floating city, but it certainly won’t be your last – many visit Venice time and time again.
Our travel experts recently travelled to this amazing city. Read on to discover their expert insights into this magical destination, perfect for people who haven’t travelled to Venice before. Use our top tips to help plan your first visit to the city, and immerse yourself in its unique atmosphere.
Venice: The Basics
As Venice is such a popular destination, we recommend travelling in the off season. Arriving in Venice when the tourist crowds are smaller will mean you can spend minimal time queuing and more time enjoying the city’s spectacular sights. The off season in Venice runs between February and April and September to December.
Venice’s plentiful fresh pizzas are of course a favourite when it comes to local delicacies. They are also one of the most affordable options: you can sink your teeth into the crispy crust, sweet tomato and soft mozzarella of the ubiquitous margherita pizzas. Restaurants range from high-end, sophisticated options to cheaper takeaways and everything in between.
Venice is sometimes thought of as a very expensive city, but you can expect to pay around the same prices as you would in London. Prices tend to sit between €10-20 for a main course and at least €4 for a drink.
As Venice is such a touristy destination, you should have little trouble finding ATMs in the city that dispense Euros. Most places will take card as well, if you prefer. You also shouldn’t struggle to make yourself understood, as many of the service staff speak English. Museums and other tourist attractions have information available in English too!
Packing for a trip to Venice
Venice is known as the city of bridges, and any tour of the city will involve walking up and down a lot of them! Make sure you have comfortable shoes for a full day of exploring. The weather can be a little changeable, so we also recommend bringing a couple of layers for when you’re walking around.
One of the most spectacular aspects of Venice is the brightly painted buildings and the abundant canals that make up this unique city. Something first time visitors might not know is that all the reflections make the city really bright, so a pair of sunglasses will make you much more comfortable.
Regardless of the time of year, you should always plan to wear tops that cover your shoulders as well as knee-length skirts or shorts. This means you will be able to duck into the many churches and chapels that are all around the city.
Things to do in Venice
No trip to Venice is complete without a ride in a Gondola. For centuries, these iconic boats were the main method of transportation around the city, and they remain a common sight in the lagoon, although they now tend to be mainly reserved for tourists. The elegant boats, propelled by skilled scullers, make for a refined trip across the water. For a true Venetian experience, make your way down the Grand Canal.
One of the most iconic buildings in Venice is the Doge’s Palace. This sumptuous building looks out over the lagoon, with an imposing façade decorated with sculptures. The interiors are no less rich; gold, velvet and brocade abound as well as marble statues and other lavish details.
The Piazza San Marco is the epicentre of the city, and we recommend taking time to buy a cup of coffee and soak in the atmosphere. Although the prices are notoriously high, this is a classic Venetian experience and you can see some of the best architecture the city has to offer from the square. Of course, if you prefer, you could grab a gelato instead!
Venice is known for its art scene and there are many art museums to explore. Whether you prefer classical or contemporary art, you’re sure to find something that speaks to you. Discover Titian in situ above the altar at I Frari, or an astounding collection of modern art at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection. The Museo Correr also houses an impressive collection of both art and artefacts from Venetian life through the centuries.
Those with an interest veering towards the literary might be interested to visit the Casa di Giulietta. Here a charming 13th century palazzo with a beautiful balcony is a popular tourist attraction. You can add your name to the tangle of graffiti or simply admire the unique architecture and bronze statue of Shakespeare’s Juliet.
Further afield from Venice
The towns and cities that line the lagoon are no less impressive than Venice itself. The fishing port of Chioggia is a popular destination for a good reason. This delightful town is situated on an island, earning it the nickname Little Venice. The historic centre is a pleasure to explore, and foodies will enjoy the extensive fish market held on weekday mornings.
The nearby city of Padua is also a firm favourite. Home to the second oldest university in Italy, Padua oozes medieval charm, which is offset by blocky fascist-era facades. However, Padua’s main attraction is its legendary frescos, including Giotto’s Cappella degli Scrovegni, Menabuoi’s work in the Padua Baptistry and Titian’s St Anthony in the Scoletta del Santo.
The region is also known for its Murano glass, and the Venetian island itself is well worth a visit. Another firm favourite here at Jules Verne is a visit to a Venetian mask factory, where you will be able to discover the history of this legendary local tradition.
Suggested Tour of Venice
There is nothing better than discovering Venice from the Water. This four-day tour allows you to see Venice as it should be seen – from the lagoon – and includes time to explore the city as well as its stunning surroundings.