Where to stay: Where you stay in Venice will largely depend on what’s important to you while you’re in Venice. If you’re willing to save on cost by not staying in the center of Venice (which will require a boat shuttle ride to the city each day), then you might be better off in a hostel. There are a lot of hostels listed on Hostelworld that are inexpensive, but are just outside of the city. There is even a camping option listed, which will definitely help you save in costs, but will certainly require some willingness to forego certain luxuries. If you’d rather stay in the city proper (without having to pay for shuttles to and from the city), then Airbnb will likely be your best option. There are a ton of Airbnb rentals listed for under $100 a night (which will be much less per person if you share a rental with some friends!), and many are within the actual city of Venice, some even along the Grand Canal. Be aware that if you choose to stay outside of the city, you’ll be relying on the boat shuttle service to get in and out which may limit how late you can stay.
Where to eat: There is no shortage of fabulous places to eat in Venice, but there are an equal amount of extremely overpriced and touristy places to eat. One of the best things about Venice is the winding streets that give you endless opportunities for exploration. Wander down some side streets and find a restaurant that’s a bit out of the way to grab a bite instead of sticking right by the Grand Canal or St. Mark’s Square. As in many other countries in Europe, Italy has great fixed price menus which will give you the opportunity to try a lot of menu items for a lower price than if you were to order them individually. If you’re looking to have a nice dinner out, this might be the way to go!
What to do: As mentioned previously, my absolute favorite (and free) thing to do in Venice is getting lost in the streets. You can wander for hours and never see the same street or bridge twice, it’s truly incredible. There is also the Doge’s Palace in St. Mark’s Square, which was once the palace of the Doge of Venice (the ruler of the Republic of Venice), and it’s definitely worth a visit. Right next to the palace you’ll find St. Mark’s Basilica which is ornately decorated and worth seeing, even if cathedrals aren’t usually your thing. The mosaic work inside the Basilica is truly unrivaled. Nearby Venice is the island of Murano, which is famously known for its glass-blowing art. Beware of offers which promise free rides to Murano, however, because often your return trip home is dependent on your purchase of something on the island. Going to see a glass blowing demonstration is definitely worth it though, but it might be best to pay for public transportation instead. The Gondola rides in Venice are probably the most iconic thing to do in the city, and they’re certainly an amazing way to see some of the lesser traveled canals. There are gondolas to be rented all along the Grand Canal, and you can easily walk up to one of them to get a tour. Be sure to ask questions before you get in though, and have a complete understanding of what you’re getting for your money- these are a bit of tourist trap after all! The city of Venice sets the official price of a gondola ride at 80 Euros, but depending on demand the gondoliers may move the price up or down. Be sure you know how long the ride will be for, what you’re expected to pay, and what services you’ll be receiving (singing, a tour, etc.). If you find this price to be too hefty, don’t take a ride! If you don’t mind sharing your gondola, you can book a tour in advance for much less money. This tour site offers non-private gondola tours from $36 depending on the time of year. It may be worth doing some further online searching to see if you can get a better deal! And finally, be sure to visit some of the mask craftsmen and women who create truly incredible Carnival masks. These shops can be found throughout Venice, and it’s fun to walk around inside one just to see the artistry that Venice is so well known for! Many of these artists will be happy to speak with you about their craft, so ask questions!
Overall Opinion: I thought Venice was a truly incredible city, despite the fact that it can be extremely touristy. If you make the attempt to stay away from the touristy areas (or spend time in the city at night after they all leave), you’ll get to experience a really magical place. Walking down the streets of Venice reminds you how incredible and how alive the history of the city is- you can almost feel the intrigue and drama that’s filled the city’s history for centuries. Visiting Venice when Carnival is not happening is the best way to save on costs because around the time of Carnival the city becomes very expensive. This is the kind of city where you can spend a weekend and never see the same things twice, and not feel bored even when you’re just walking along a canal. I would highly recommend spending a relaxing weekend in Venice!