Venice on a budget: How to see it without going broke

One thing that everyone who has been there will tell you is that Italy’s Venice is going to cost you an arm and a leg, yet if you do Venice on a budget it doesn’t need to be expensive.

Venice on a budget: San Marco
The express way to waste money is to linger too long around St. Mark’s.

We spent two days exploring the city and discovered amazing experiences that didn’t blow the budget yet enabled us to see all the things that make it so unique.

Venice on a budget
See the sights, then escape the crowds.

Tip 1: Avoid the crowds

Venice on a budget is easy to achieve in that it isn’t a large city. That means you can easily get away from the crowds and exploitative sellers. You can’t blame them – 90% of tourists congregate in 20% of it. It’s renowned for being over-touristed and if you only experience that 20% you’re missing most of the story. It’s also in these areas that every scam, every tasteless and overpriced tourist menu and faux gelateria exists. See the sights but get out and enjoy the rest of the city.

The vapporetto is a great way to see Venice on a budget
Take the Vapporetto anywhere for 7.50 Euro a ride.

Tip 2: Take the Vaporetto, not the water taxi

Ok, we get it – being driven along a canal in a 1950s-style wooden speedboat has its merits and guarantees you a Mathew McConaughey level sexy selfie but it’s the fastest way to get from a to b and rich to poor in a single rides (though if you nail the shot, it might just be worth it). The Vaporetto is like a dirty old school bus, but it’s dependable and gets you to where you need to go for 7.50 Euro, which can be used to transfer between routes for up to two hours. There is also a Vaporetto service from the airport that costs 15 Euro.

Venice on a budget: avoid water taxis
They look stylish as hell, but these babies can set you back up to 150 Euros.
Venice on a budget: seafood
The seafood in Venice is first class, but don’t dine in tourist areas if you want to save on your budget.

Tip 3: Dine with the locals

Any restaurant found along the major thoroughfares is going to let you down, take your money, and leave you feeling a little foolish. Go for a walk outside your comfort zone and find the places actual Venetians are dining at and you’ll leave fuller, more satisfied and with a story to tell. It will also cost you a few Euros less. We found a great place to sample the city’s famed cuttlefish ink pasta, and I think it came in at around 12 Euro.

Venice on a budget: Squid Ink Pasta and a Spritz
The famed squid ink pasta was a budget buy.

Tip 4: Any hour is happy hour when you can get a spritz and bruschetta for 8 Euro

Walking all those little bridges in 30+ degrees Celsius will take it out of you. Rather than spend a couple of Euro paying to use a public toilet, put that money where your mouth is – literally.

It’s hard to knock back an ice-cold Aperol Spritz and a fresh tomato and basil bruschetta in the heat of the midday sun.

Tip 5: Fill up on the bread

Every Italian restaurant will load you up on fresh bread. Take full advantage of it and dose up on those carbs before ordering. That way you can choose something cheaper on the menu or focus on the one item you really want instead of going for a starter, main and dessert.

Venice on a budget. Eat the free breakfast.
Eat at the hotel and make sure you fill up!

Tip 6: Fill up on the inclusive breakfast

Most hotels and hostels offer a free continental breakfast. The good ones serve platters of cold cut meats, cheeses, boiled eggs and fruits – then the requisite baked goods and possibly punnets of yoghurt. If you have zero shame, you can load up on food and possibly slip a couple of rolls away for later – that’s how to really do Venice on a budget.

Venice on a budget
Even 3 star hotels like the gaudy Antica Locanda Sturion will set you back over 230 Euro for one night in peak season.

Tip 7: Rethink Your Accommodation Choices

Venice accommodation is expensive – and that’s coming from people who live in New York City. We opted for two experiences – one was to stay in the heart of Venice, and the other was to spend the same amount but get a night in an exclusive wine resort.

Venice on a budget: Venissa Wine Resort
For the same amount we paid for a three star hotel in Venice, we found Venissa wine resort on Mazzorbo.

With advanced planning, you can book an AirBNB out of the main tourist areas that won’t completely break the bank.

The city is tiny and easy to walk around in a timely manner, so don’t be afraid to book something a little out of the way. The cheapest option is to stay away from Venice at Mestre (the mainland) and commute in on a ferry. We once stayed at www.campingfusina.com/en/ and it has tent sites, bungalows, and onsite vans for hire.

Venice on a budget: Classical music
See amazing, world class performers in original venues.

Tip 8: Seek out authentic entertainment not tourist traps

Venice isn’t going to send you broke in terms of nightlife, mainly as it doesn’t really exist. The high water table means that you won’t find basement clubs and while there are local bands and bars with live music, it has to be at a low volume and over by 10. But who comes to Venice to club anyway? To enjoy a taste of Venice’s baroque past, seek out an authentic period music ensemble rather than the tourist trap operetta performances or small orchestras who stick to playing the tried and tested The Four Seasons by Vivaldi. Those shows can set you back anywhere from 30 to 50 Euros, while the truly authentic baroque recreation groups can cost around 15 to 25 Euros.

venice on a budget - refill your waterbottle
You will find fresh water in every square.

Tip 9: Refill your water bottle at every opportunity

One of the truly beautiful aspects of Venice is the fact that every part of town has its churches and squares, each with free water fountains. It’s the antidote to the horrific heat.  

venice on a budget: learn to row a gondola
Why pay for a gondolier when you can do it yourself!

Tip 10: Row your own gondola

Most people come to Venice with a romantic vision of being serenaded by a gondolier while drifting down narrow canals. Damn it Hollywood, you lied! The canals are crowded with gondolas, mostly with couples and groups, not caught in the moment, but watching the whole experience through their mobile phone screen. You can forego outlaying 80 Euros for the standard gondola ride and do it yourself for less. We took a lesson with Venice on Board, a not-for-profit small business initiative that teaches visitors how to row traditional Venetian boats to raise funds for preserving them. For 40 euros per person, you got triple the time on the water, learned how to row and even took over out on the Grand Canal.

Venice on a Budget: Gondolas
Share the workload, save some bucks and see Venice’s cute canals.

Tip 11: Choose your souvenirs wisely

Those wicked steampunk carnival masks? Some shops have them for 40 euros, others 20. In all reality, you can buy them for around $20US on Amazon – plus the leather handbags in some of the shops look great until the dye starts rubbing off and seams start unraveling before you’re even back home. Be savvy as to the types of souvenirs you want to take back with you and understand that there are likely to be versions of the same item going for cheaper in another part of the city.

Venice on a budget: Walking tours
Escape the crowds and see more of the city.

Tip 12: Take a free walking tour – or do it yourself

Free walking tours are a great idea. You get to learn about the place, hear a local’s perspective, and hopefully come out of it not over-tipping out of guilt. With the help of the internet or a well-marked google map, you can easily create your own walking tour – you just won’t get the interesting tidbits of information that come with a guided tour.

Tip 13: Some of the best attractions are free

Free entry’s something that ensures you pay for it with time spent in queues, so if you want to play the budget card, be prepared to get up before the crowds. The Basilica di San Marco is free, with an option to pay to 2 euros to see the ornate casket of Saint Mark or a skip the queue ticket for 13 Euro.

Venice on a budget: Bridge of Sighs
The Bridge of Sighs for free (no sighing at your bank balance).

To get up the Campanile, the iconic 325-foot clock tower costs 8 Euros and also has an option for a skip the queue ticket. The Rialto Bridge is of course free, though it can be a pain in the neck to navigate through the thick crowds. The Bridge of Sighs is something you can see for zilch, but to actually go inside the Palace of the Doges you will pay 25 to 28 Euros.

The Rialto Market and Pescaria are free to look, though the fish market is smelly!

Venice on a budget Museo di musica
Discover an incredible collection of historical instruments – for free at the Museo di Musica.

The Museo della Musica on San Mautoizio square is free and full of priceless rare early violins, viols, flutes, clarinets, and cellos. It has an incredible collection of Amatis and Guaneris.

Venice on a Budget
Shop with the locals and save money.

Tip 14: Pick up your essentials for the day from a supermarket

Make sandwiches for the day, grab some fresh fruit and bottles of water and save a heap of money over the course of your stay. We recommend visiting the Despar or COOP supermarkets, just by the Rialto Bridge on Calle de Carbon.


WHAT?

With a little savvy planning you can enjoy Venice on a budget. The best times we had was when we fled the zone between San Marco and Rialto for quiet back streets or to the old Jewish Ghetto area.

WHERE?

To avoid having your savings eroded in minutes, explore, stay and play where the multitudes don’t.

HOW?

Take all our Venice on a budget tips to heart. Yes, you will have to outlay cash for entry into some key attractions, but with so many free attractions, you can enjoy a broad spectrum of the city without spending a heap of cash.

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Love that gondola idea! Remember feeling pretty stupid paying the €80 and learning sounds much more fun!