“Venice is too expensive, don’t go there.” People always say Venice is super expensive, but that’s not necessarily true. If you don’t go to the most touristy neighbourhoods for your drinks and meals, say the San Marco square or the Rialto Bridge, than you don’t have to spend a fortune.
Venice on a budget
San Marco square and Rialto Bridge are of course the go to places if you’ve never been to Venice, and I’m not saying you should avoid these areas all together. Just that there is so much more to explore!
My favorite neighborhood is Dorsoduro, it’s central and has a lot of Venetian highlights. And most importantly: great and affordable places to eat and drink. Let me show you my Venice and you’ll see there’s something for every budget.
Venice is first and foremost a city to just wander around. Leave your map and Lonely Planet in your hotel room and let the islands guide you across their bridges, along the canals and piazzas and you’ll get to know the real Venice. You’ll be surprised at the number of tourists you’ll see, or should I say not see, if you wander off the beaten track.
There are streets and alleyways where you won’t meet a soul. And that’s just the way I like it, away from those annoying tourists with their selfiesticks and no attention to anything real that goes on around them.
So first things first, you’ve found a cheap flight on Skyscanner or Kayak or Expedia. Next on your list, where should you stay?
Hotels in Venice
Hotels can get pretty pricey on one the islands. Hotels on the mainland (Mestre) are often cheaper, but you have to take a bus to the busstation at Piazalle Roma and walk or take a Vaporetto from there to get into Venice, which can be pretty annoying if you’re only there for a few days.
Personally I feel that it’s worth the extra money to stay directly in Venice itself. As long as you avoid areas such as San Marco and San Polo, there are really good deals to find on Booking.com or (my personal favorite) hotwire.com.
The place where I have stayed 9 out of 10 times is a hostel in a converted monastery, and part of this Capucin monastery is still functional. It’s called Foresteria Redentore and located on the island Giudecca. Just a 5 minute boat ride to Dorsoduro. The hostel is very Spartan, but it’s clean and quiet and it has all the basics. Every room has one or two single beds, a desk, a closet and a fridge.
You also have your own (very tiny) bathroom, so you don’t have to share anything. There is a kitchen and dining room for you to make your own breakfast, lunch and dinner, should you wish to do so. The absolute bonus of this place has to be their beautiful garden with a gorgeous view! The rooms are 80 euros per night (for a double), which really is supercheap for Venetian standards.
Hotel Domus Cavanis
I have also stayed at Hotel Domus Cavanis, in Dorsoduro. It’s a cute little hotel near the Academia bridge. The rooms are very Italian and over the top, with upholstered walls and big chandeliers, but I love it! When I stayed there a few years ago in late August, the double rooms were only 75 euro per night, but depending on the month it’ll cost you between 65 euros in early December to 200 euros in mid June, apparently. I did a quick search through Booking.com and those are the results that came up.
If you don’t mind a bit of a surprise, I would suggest booking through hotwire.com. You select the neighbourhood and price range and they show you the name of the hotel you’ll be staying in after you’ve paid. I haven’t tried it for Venice yet, but have had some great deals in other cities!
There are some great places to eat or just have a drink and a quick bite in Dorsoduro. For instance on Piazza Santa Margharita. This is a quiet, picturesque square where you can get a very nice lunch and it’s also the place to go for a glass of wine or a cocktail in the evening. During the day there is usually a food and fish market in the square.
Piazza Santa Margharita
Go to Club Orange for the biggest clubsandwich I’ve ever seen, in case you’re getting tired of all that delicious Italian food! One sandwich is more than enough for two people, so start sharing!
Across from Club Orange is a cafe called Margaret Duchamp, which is perfect for after dinner cocktails.
But I would actually recommend you go to Cafe Rosso. This place is smaller and maybe less modern-looking than Orange, but it has better service and they serve these little finger sandwiches called tramezzine for only 1,60 euro each that are delicious! The place itself is really tiny inside, that’s where you go to pick out your tramezzine, but they have a big terrace in front for you to relax and have a few drinks.
Dinner by the canal
For dinner go to Fondamenta Zattere ai Gesuati for a nice, delicious and not too expensive meal with a view of the canal and Giudecca. Much better than the expensive and overrated restaurants near the Rialto bridge for example. There are a few restaurants along this boulevard, I usually go to ‘Alla Zattere‘.
Dinner under a bridge
If you wanna have dinner under a beautiful bridge, go to the Academia bridge, the only wooden bridge in Venice. ‘Bar Foscarini‘ has a great view of the church Santa Maria della Salute and they serve delicious pizza!
Dinner with the locals
Taverna San Trovaso is a small bar where the locals hang out. There’s another one in the same street, but I’ve forgotten the name, but both are equally good. They serve small bites with a glass of wine which you eat and drink standing outside. Get some tips from the locals while you’re there!
Getting around in Venice
You’re nowhere without a boat in Venice. Everything happens on the canals: from watertaxis and Vaporetti (floating public transportation) to ambulances, fire fighters, delivery boats and mailboats, everything floats! For someone who loves being on the water, like myself, this place is paradise!
The easiest and most of all cheapest way to get from one place to the next without walking, is by taking a Vaporetto. There are several tickets you can buy, depending on how much time you’ll be spending in Venice. You can get these at the ACTV/HelloVenezia ticketdesk or at one of the ticket machines. These cards allow you unlimited travel by boat and bus (except the bus to the airport, you’ll need a separate ticket which costs about 6 euro one way to Marco Polo).
An unlimited day ticket costs 20 euros and for 30 euros you’ll get a two day pass. If you want a three day pass you’ll pay 40 euros and for seven days 70 euros. Unfortunately they don’t sell passes for 4, 5 or 6 days. It’s worth checking if it might be cheaper to get a pass for seven days, or combine passes to match the number of days you’re staying, because a single ticket on the Vaporetto costs 5 euros.
If you’re between 14 and 29 years old, you can get a discount pass, called the Rolling Venice Card. It’s a three day pass and costs only 26 euros. You can get these at the HelloVenezia ticket office. I remember needing a passport photo for the pass, so be sure to bring one just in case.
Vaporetto route 1
Vaporetto 1 takes you all the way from Piazalle Roma, along the Grand Canal to San Marco square. It’s a great way to see al lot of the highlights in one trip.
Try to make this outing at the end of the day, when all of the tourists who are there for a day are heading in the opposite direction, out if the city. There are a few outside seats on the deck of the boats. On the older ones these are at the front of the boat and the newer ones have outside seating at the back. But there’s also enough room to stand outside.
Just make sure you keep your backpack turned in front of you, this way it’s harder for pickpockets to get to it, but also prevents you from whacking people in the head when you turn around to see yet another great view on the other side of the boat!
If you’re an early riser, I recommend taking this boat trip at around 6 or 7 in the morning. You’ll see the sun rise over the canals and experience Venice waking up for another busy day. I happen to know this by having to catch a really early flight one time.
If you wanna experience a gondola ride but, understandably, don’t wanna pay 100 bucks for a 45 minute ride, there is an alternative. It’s not quite the real deal, but with a little imagination and a tight budget it’s almost the same, almost. This sober gondola will take you from one side of the canal to the other, so it’s a quick fare, but it’ll only set you back 2 euros so you can go back and forth as many times as your budget allows! You can get on at Traghetto di Santa Maria del Giglio.
Supermarkets in Venice
In case you took my advice and are staying at the monastery, or if you’ve found another location with a kitchen, I thought it only useful to mention a couple of supermarkets as well.
Most of the supermarkets are located in the touristy areas of San Marco and San Polo but there are a few in the quieter areas, like Dorsoduro.
For fresh vegetables and fruit, nothing beats the Mercato at Rialto at Campo della Pescheria 30125 in San Polo. Or head to the Fondamenta Gherardini in Dorsoduro for the fruit and veg boat, right next to a bridge near Piazza Santa Margharita.
- Conad City: Fondamenta Zattere al Punto Longo 1491/1492 (Dorsoduro)
- Supermercato Punto Simply: Piazza Santa Margharita (Dorsoduro)
- Prix Quality: Fondamenta S. Giacomo 203, on Giudecca, between the Vaporetto stop and the monastery (Giudecca)
- Coop on Fondamenta Santa Chiara 506/A, all the way at the end.
- Antonello F. Lli Dion Via Comunale 1
- Coop Rialto: Riva del Carbon 4173/4177
- Coop: San Polo 1338a (San Polo)
- Despar: Riva del Carbon 4790 (San Marco)
- Coop: Calle Larga Rosa 6077
- Coop: Fondamenta S. Girolamo 30121
- Organic supermarket La Serenissima: Corte Coppo 4350 (San Marco)
- Coop: Campo S. Giacomo dell’Orio, 1491/A (Santa Croce)
- Supermercato Punto Simply: S. Marco, 3988 (San Marco)
Or just type supermarcato in Google maps and you’ll find one near you!
One last tip: go to the island Lido if you fancy a day at the beach.
I hope you enjoy Dorsoduro and Venice just as much as I do every time I visit! Ciao!