Rick Steves Venice


By Rick Steves

By Gene Openshaw

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Now more than ever, you can count on Rick Steves to tell you what you really need to know when traveling through Venice. Glide along the canals and meander down the cobblestone alleys as you soak up the art, history, and culture of Venice with Rick by your side. Inside Rick Steves Venice you'll find:
  • Fully updated, comprehensive coverage for spending a week or more exploring Venice
  • Rick's strategic advice on how to get the most out of your time and money, with rankings of his must-see favorites
  • Top sights and hidden gems, from St. Mark's Basilica and the Rialto Bridge to the charming city of Padua
  • How to connect with local culture: Say "buongiorno" to the fish mongers at the morning market, snack on chicchetti at a local wine bar, and people-watch on a sunny piazza
  • Beat the crowds, skip the lines, and avoid tourist traps with Rick's candid, humorous insight
  • The best places to eat, sleep, and relax with a scoop of gelato
  • Self-guided walking tours of lively neighborhoods and museums, plus a Grand Canal Cruise tour
  • Detailed neighborhood maps and a fold-out city map for exploring on the go
  • Over 400 bible-thin pages include everything worth seeing without weighing you down
  • Complete, up-to-date information on the San Marco District, Santa Croce, Cannaregio, and more, with side trips to Padua, Vicenza, Verona, and Ravenna
  • Covid-related travel info and resources for a smooth trip
Make the most of every day and every dollar with Rick Steves Venice.

Spending less than a week in the city? Check out Rick Steves Pocket Venice!


Welcome to Rick Steves’ Europe

Travel is intensified living—maximum thrills per minute and one of the last great sources of legal adventure. Travel is freedom. It’s recess, and we need it.

I discovered a passion for European travel as a teen and have been sharing it ever since—through my tours, public television and radio shows, and travel guidebooks. Over the years, I’ve taught millions of travelers how to best enjoy Europe’s blockbuster sights—and experience “Back Door” discoveries that most tourists miss.

Written with my talented co-author, Gene Openshaw, this book offers you a balanced mix of Venice’s artistic splendors and backstreet charm, from its impressive museums to its tranquil and colorful canals. It’s selective: Rather than listing dozens of glassblowing demonstrations, we recommend only the best. And it’s in-depth: Our self-guided museum tours and city walks provide insight into the city’s vibrant history and today’s living, breathing culture.

We advocate traveling simply and smartly. Take advantage of our money- and time-saving tips on sightseeing, transportation, and more. Try local, characteristic alternatives to expensive hotels and restaurants. In many ways, spending more money only builds a thicker wall between you and what you traveled so far to see.

We visit Venice to experience it—to become temporary locals. Thoughtful travel engages us with the world, as we learn to appreciate other cultures and new ways to measure quality of life.

Judging by the positive feedback we receive from our readers, this book will help you enjoy a fun, affordable, and rewarding vacation—whether it’s your first trip or your tenth.

Buon viaggio! Happy travels!


Map: Venice Overview

Planning Your Trip




Travel Smart

Engineers love Venice—a completely man-made environment rising from the sea, with no visible means of support. Romantics revel in its atmosphere of elegant decay, seeing the peeling plaster and seaweed-covered stairs as a metaphor for beauty in decline. And first-time visitors are often stirred deeply, awaking from their ordinary lives to a fantasy world unlike anything they’ve ever experienced before.

Those are strong reactions, considering that Venice today, frankly, can also be an overcrowded, prepackaged, tacky tourist trap. But Venice is unique. Built on a hundred islands with wealth from trade with the East, its exotic-looking palaces are laced together by sun-speckled canals. It can seem to the visitor like one giant amusement park for grown-ups, centuries in the making. And yet, the longer you’re here—and the more you explore its back streets—the clearer it becomes that this is also a real, living town, with its own personality and challenges.

By day, Venice is a city of museums and churches, packed with great art. Everything’s within a half-hour walk. Cruise the canals on a vaporetto water bus. Climb towers for stunning seascape views. Shop for Venetian crafts (such as glass and lace), high fashions, or tacky souvenirs. Linger over lunch, trying to crack a crustacean with weird legs and antennae. Sip a spritz at a café on St. Mark’s Square while the orchestra plays “New York, New York.”

At night, when the hordes of day-trippers have gone, another Venice appears. Dance across a floodlit square. Glide in a gondola through quiet canals while music echoes across the water. Pretend it’s Carnevale time, don a mask—or just a fresh shirt—and become someone else for a night.

Planning Your Trip

This section will help you get started planning your trip—with advice on trip costs, when to go, and what you should know before you take off.


Six components make up your trip costs: airfare to Europe, transportation in Europe, room and board, sightseeing/entertainment, shopping/miscellany, and gelato.

Airfare to Europe: A basic round-trip flight from the US to Venice (or even cheaper, Milan) can cost, on average, about $900-1,500 total, depending on where you fly from and when (cheaper in winter). If Venice is part of a longer trip, consider saving time and money by flying into one city and out of another; for instance, into Venice and out of Dubrovnik. Overall, Kayak.com is the best place to start searching for flights on a combination of mainstream and budget carriers.

Transportation in Europe: Venice’s sights are within walking distance of each other, but vaporetto boat rides are fun and save time. Most visitors buy a vaporetto pass (figure about $24/day). For a one-way trip between Venice’s airport and the city, allow about $10 by bus, $18 by Alilaguna water bus, or $130 by water taxi (can be shared by up to 4 people).

Round-trip, second-class train transportation to day-trip destinations is affordable as long as you avoid express trains (about $5 each way to Padua and $10 to Verona by local train). For more on public transportation and driving, see “Transportation” in the Practicalities chapter.

Room and Board: You can manage comfortably in Venice on $135 a day per person for room and board. This allows $15 for lunch, $25 for dinner, and $90 for lodging (based on two people splitting the cost of a $180 double room that includes breakfast). That leaves you $5 for gelato. Students and tightwads can enjoy Venice for as little as $70 a day ($40 for a bed, $30 for meals and snacks).

Sightseeing and Entertainment: Figure about $15-20 per major sight (Accademia, Doge’s Palace, Guggenheim), $8-12 for minor ones (climbing church towers), and $30-35 for splurge experiences (such as walking tours and concerts). A gondola ride costs roughly $100; split the cost by going with a pal—or six. An overall average of $40 a day works for most people. Don’t skimp here. After all, this category is the driving force behind your trip—you came to sightsee, enjoy, and experience Venice.

Shopping and Miscellany: Figure $3 per coffee, soft drink, or gelato. Shopping can vary in cost from nearly nothing to a small fortune. Good budget travelers find that this category has little to do with assembling a trip full of lifelong and wonderful memories.


Venice’s best travel months (also its busiest and most expensive) are April, May, June, September, and October.

Summer in Venice is more temperate (high 70s and 80s) than in Italy’s scorching inland cities. Most Venetian hotels come with air-conditioning—important in the summer—but it’s usually available only from May (at the earliest) through September. Spring and fall can be cool, and many hotels—thanks to a national interest in not wasting energy—are not allowed to turn on their heat until winter.

Between November and March you can usually expect mild winter weather (with lows in the 30s and 40s), occasional flooding, shorter lines, lower prices, and fewer tourists (except during the Carnevale festival—see the sidebar). March offers a good balance of low-season prices and reasonable weather. (For specifics, see the climate chart in the appendix.)

Venice has two main weather patterns: Wind from the southeast (the Balkans) brings cold and dry weather, while the sirocco wind from the south (north Africa) brings warm and wet weather, pushing more water into the lagoon and causing flooding (acqua alta). This shouldn’t greatly affect your sightseeing plans. Tabacchi (tobacco shops) and some souvenir shops sell boots to keep your feet dry. Elevated wooden walkways are sometimes set up in the busier, more flooded squares to keep you above the water. And it’s worth a trip to St. Mark’s Square to see waiters in fancy tuxes and rubber boots.

Off-Season Travel Tips: Off-season has none of the sweat and stress of the tourist season, but sights may have shorter hours, lunchtime breaks, and fewer activities. Here are several things to keep in mind if you visit Venice off-season, roughly November through March.

• Most sights close early, often at 17:00.

• The orchestras in St. Mark’s Square may stop playing at 18:00 (and may not play at all in bad weather or during their annual vacations, usually in March).

• Vaporetto #2 (the Grand Canal fast boat) terminates at the Rialto stop before 9:00 and after 20:00, which means no stops at San Marco and Accademia early in the morning and late in the evening (you can take the slow boat, vaporetto #1, instead).

• Expect occasional flooding, particularly at St. Mark’s Square.

• Room prices can be about 25-50 percent lower.


You’ll have a smoother trip if you tackle a few things ahead of time. For more information on these topics, see the Practicalities chapter (and www.ricksteves.com, which has helpful travel tips and talks).

Make sure your travel documents are valid. If your passport is due to expire within six months of your ticketed date of return, you need to renew it. Allow up to six weeks to renew or get a passport (www.travel.state.gov). Beginning in 2021, you may also need to register with the European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS).

Arrange your transportation. Book your international flights. You won’t want a car in Venice, but if Venice is part of a longer trip, figure out your main form of transportation: bus or train (and either a rail pass or individual train tickets), rental car, or a cheap flight. (You can wing it in Europe, but it may cost more.) Drivers: Consider bringing an International Driving Permit (sold at AAA offices in the US, www.aaa.com) along with your license.

Book rooms well in advance, especially if your trip falls during peak season or any major holidays or festivals.

Make reservations or buy tickets in advance for major sights. In Padua, reservations are mandatory to visit the Scrovegni Chapel, famous for its frescoes by Giotto, so book well in advance (easily done online; see here). Also consider reserving an entry slot for St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice (see here).

Consider travel insurance. Compare the cost of the insurance to the cost of your potential loss. Check whether your existing insurance (health, homeowners, or renters) covers you and your possessions overseas.

Call your bank. Alert your bank that you’ll be using your debit and credit cards in Europe. Ask about transaction fees, and get the PIN number for your credit card. You don’t need to bring euros for your trip; you can withdraw euros from cash machines in Europe.

Use your smartphone smartly. Sign up for an international service plan to reduce your costs, or rely on Wi-Fi in Europe instead. Download any apps you’ll want on the road, such as maps, translators, transit schedules, and Rick Steves Audio Europe (see sidebar).

Pack light. You’ll walk with your luggage more than you think. I travel for weeks with a single carry-on bag and a daypack. Use the packing checklist in the appendix as a guide.

Travel Smart

If you have a positive attitude, equip yourself with good information (this book), and expect to travel smart, you will.

Read—and reread—this book. To have an “A” trip, be an “A” student. Note opening hours of sights, closed days, crowd-beating tips, and whether reservations are required or advisable. Check the latest at www.ricksteves.com/update.

Be your own tour guide. As you travel, get up-to-date info on sights, reserve tickets and tours, reconfirm hotels and travel arrangements, and check transit connections. Visit local tourist information offices (TIs). Upon arrival in a new town, lay the groundwork for a smooth departure; confirm the train, bus, boat, or road you’ll take when you leave.

Outsmart thieves. Pickpockets abound in crowded places where tourists congregate. Treat commotions as smokescreens for theft. Keep your cash, credit cards, and passport secure in a money belt tucked under your clothes; carry only a day’s spending money in your front pocket. Don’t set valuable items down on counters or café tabletops, where they can be quickly stolen or easily forgotten.

Minimize potential loss. Keep expensive gear to a minimum. Bring photocopies or take photos of important documents (passport and cards) to aid in replacement if they’re lost or stolen. Back up photos and files frequently.

Beat the summer heat. If you wilt easily, choose a hotel with air-conditioning, start your day early, take a midday siesta at your hotel, and resume your sightseeing later. Churches offer a cool haven (though dress modestly—no bare shoulders or shorts). Take frequent gelato breaks. Join the passeggiata, when locals stroll in the cool of the evening.

Guard your time and energy. Taking a water taxi can be a good value if it saves you an exhausting walk across town. To avoid long lines, follow my crowd-beating tips, such as making advance reservations, or sightseeing early or late. If you save St. Mark’s Basilica for Sunday morning (when it’s closed), you’ve missed the gondola. You can sweat in line at the Doge’s Palace, or you can buy your pass at the nearby Correr Museum and zip right through the palace turnstile. Day-tripping to Verona on a Monday, when sights tend to only be open in the afternoon, is not a great idea.

Be flexible. Even if you have a well-planned itinerary, expect changes, strikes, closures, sore feet, bad weather, and so on. Your Plan B could turn out to be even better.

Attempt the language. Many Italians—especially in the tourist trade and in cities—speak English, but if you learn some Italian, even just a few phrases, you’ll get more smiles and make more friends. Practice the survival phrases near the end of this book, and even better, bring a phrase book.

Connect with the culture. Interacting with locals carbonates your experience. Enjoy the friendliness of the Italian people. Ask questions; most locals are happy to point you in their idea of the right direction. Set up your own quest for the best little square, vaporetto ride, or gelato. When an opportunity pops up, make it a habit to say “yes.”

Italy...here you come!



Map: Venice’s Districts







Tours in Venice

The island city of Venice is shaped like a fish. Its major thoroughfares are canals. The Grand Canal winds through the middle of the fish, starting at the mouth where all the people and food enter, passing under the Rialto Bridge, and ending at St. Mark’s Square (Piazza San Marco). Park your 21st-century perspective at the mouth and let Venice swallow you whole.


Venice is a car-less kaleidoscope of people, bridges, and odorless canals. It’s made up of more than a hundred small islands—but for simplicity, I refer to the whole shebang as “the island.”

Venice has six districts known as sestieri: San Marco (from St. Mark’s Square to the Accademia Bridge), Castello (the area east of St. Mark’s Square—the “tail” of the fish), Dorsoduro (the “belly,” on the far side of the Accademia Bridge), Cannaregio (between the train station and the Rialto Bridge), San Polo (west of the Rialto Bridge), and Santa Croce (the “eye” of the fish, across the canal from the train station).

The easiest way to navigate is by landmarks. Many street corners have a sign pointing you to (per) the nearest major landmark, such as San Marco, Accademia, Rialto, and Ferrovia (train station). Obedient visitors stick to the main thoroughfares as directed by these signs...and miss the charm of back-street Venice.

Beyond the city’s core lie several other islands, including San Giorgio (with great views of Venice), Giudecca (more views), San Michele (old cemetery), Murano (famous for glass), Burano (lacemaking), Torcello (old church), and the skinny Lido (with Venice’s beach).


Venice is small. You can walk across it, from head to tail, in about an hour. Nearly all of your sightseeing is within a 20-minute walk of the Rialto Bridge or St. Mark’s Square. Remember that Venice itself is its greatest sight. Make time to wander, explore, shop, and simply be. When you cross a bridge, look both ways—you may be hit with a lovely view. Venice has what’s considered one of the highest concentrations of art anywhere in the world. Art lovers need to be particularly well organized to get the most out of their visit.

Key considerations: Ninety percent of tourists congregate in a very narrow zone in the center. But even the most touristy stretches of the city are almost ghostly peaceful early and late. Maximize your evening magic, and avoid the midday crowds around St. Mark’s Basilica and the Doge’s Palace. If you arrive in Venice late in the day, try taking my Grand Canal Cruise and St. Mark’s Square Tour. These sights are more romantic and much less crowded after dark—and they provide a wonderful welcome to the city.

Depending on when you visit, you may have to juggle the itineraries provided, as sights’ visiting hours will vary by season and day of the week.

Venice in One Brutal Day (Plus the Night Before)

On the night before, walk or boat to the train station and then, aboard an empty vaporetto #1, take my self-guided Grand Canal Cruise to St. Mark’s Square (which is much more enjoyable as an audio tour from my app—see here).

Day 1
9:00 Take my self-guided St. Mark’s to Rialto Loop Walk as far as the Rialto Bridge.
10:00 Enjoy the action at the Rialto Bridge and Rialto Market.
11:00 Follow my Rialto to Frari Church Walk.
12:00 Tour the Frari Church.
13:00 Wander into the Dorsoduro district toward the Accademia museum, exploring and enjoying lunch along the way. Stroll across the Accademia Bridge (tour the Accademia only if you’re an art lover—and really energetic) and back to St. Mark’s Square.
15:30 Tour St. Mark’s Basilica.
17:00 Visit the Doge’s Palace.
18:30 Take my St. Mark’s Square Tour.
19:30 Dinner and a gondola ride (or vice versa, as a gondola ride at sunset is best).
22:00 Enjoy a drink with the orchestras on St. Mark’s Square.
Venice in Two or More Days (Plus the Night Before)


  • "The country's foremost expert in European travel for Americans."—Forbes
  • "Steves is an absolute master at unlocking the hidden gems of the world's greatest cities, towns, and monuments."—USA Today
  • “Every country-specific travel guidebook from the Rick Steves publishing empire can be counted upon for clear organization, specificity and timeliness."—Society of American Travel Writers
  • "Pick the best accommodations and restaurants from Rick Steves…and a traveler searching for good values will seldom go wrong or be blindsided."—NBC News
  • "His guidebooks are approachable, silly, and even subtly provocative in their insistence that Americans show respect for the people and places they are visiting and not the other way around."—The New Yorker
  • "Travel, to Steves, is not some frivolous luxury—it is an engine for improving humankind, for connecting people and removing their prejudices, for knocking distant cultures together to make unlikely sparks of joy and insight. Given that millions of people have encountered the work of Steves over the last 40 years, on TV or online or in his guidebooks, and that they have carried those lessons to untold other millions of people, it is fair to say that his life’s work has had a real effect on the collective life of our planet."—The New York Times Magazine
  • "[Rick Steves] laces his guides with short and vivid histories and a scholar's appreciation for Renaissance art yet knows the best place to start an early tapas crawl in Madrid if you have kids. His clear, hand-drawn maps are Pentagon-worthy; his hints about how to go directly to the best stuff at the Uffizi, avoid the crowds at Versailles and save money everywhere are guilt-free."—TIME Magazine
  • "Steves is a walking, talking European encyclopedia who yearns to inspire Americans to venture 'beyond Orlando.'"—Forbes
  • “…he’s become the unofficial guide for entire generations of North American travelers, beloved for his earnest attitude and dad jeans."—Outside Magazine
  • "His books offer the equivalent of a bus tour without the bus, with boiled-down itineraries and step-by-step instructions on where to go and how to get there, but adding a dash of humor and an element of choice that his travelers find empowering."—The New York Times
  • "His penchant for creating meaningful experiences for travelers to Europe is as passionate as his inclination for making ethical choices his guiding light."—Forbes
  • "[Rick Steves'] neighborhood walks are always fun and informative. His museum guides, complete with commentary about historic sculpture and storied artworks are wonderful and add another dimension to sometimes stodgy, hard-to-comprehend museums."—NBC News

On Sale
Dec 6, 2022
Page Count
496 pages
Rick Steves

Rick Steves

About the Author

Since 1973, Rick Steves has spent about four months a year exploring Europe. His mission: to empower Americans to have European trips that are fun, affordable, and culturally broadening. Rick produces a best-selling guidebook series, a public television series, and a public radio show, and organizes small-group tours that take over 30,000 travelers to Europe annually.  He does all of this with the help of more than 100 well-traveled staff members at Rick Steves’ Europe in Edmonds, WA (near Seattle). When not on the road, Rick is active in his church and with advocacy groups focused on economic and social justice, drug policy reform, and ending hunger. To recharge, Rick plays piano, relaxes at his family cabin in the Cascade Mountains, and spends time with his son Andy and daughter Jackie. Find out more about Rick at http://www.ricksteves.com and on Facebook.

Learn more about this author

Gene Openshaw

About the Author

Since 1973, Rick Steves has spent about four months a year exploring Europe. His mission: to empower Americans to have European trips that are fun, affordable, and culturally broadening. Rick produces a best-selling guidebook series, a public television series, and a public radio show, and organizes small-group tours that take over 30,000 travelers to Europe annually. He does all of this with the help of more than 100 well-traveled staff members at Rick Steves' Europe in Edmonds, WA (near Seattle). When not on the road, Rick is active in his church and with advocacy groups focused on economic and social justice, drug policy reform, and ending hunger. To recharge, Rick plays piano, relaxes at his family cabin in the Cascade Mountains, and spends time with his son Andy, daughter Jackie, and his new grandson…baby Atlas. Find out more about Rick at http://www.ricksteves.com and on Facebook.

Connect with Rick:
twitter: @RickSteves
instagram: ricksteveseurope

Gene Openshaw has co-authored a dozen Rick Steves books, specializing in writing walks and tours of Europe's cities, museums, and cultural sites. He also contributes to Rick's public television series, produces tours for Rick Steves Audio Europe, and is a regular guest on Rick's public radio show. Outside of the travel world, Gene has co-authored The Seattle Joke Book. As a composer, Gene has written a full-length opera called Matter, a violin sonata, and dozens of songs. He lives near Seattle with his daughter, enjoys giving presentations on art and history, and roots for the Mariners in good times and bad.

Learn more about this author