Venice - 10 ways to save on a trip to this must-visit city
Whether you're in search of a romantic getaway, looking to fall in love with some of the world's most beautiful surroundings, keen to brush up on your history or just want to spend a weekend enjoying the Italian life, Venice is a bucket-list destination that's a mere two-hour flight from London.
The mesmerising landscapes - think gondolas drifting along rippling canal waters, sun-dappled piazzas with majestic architecture and labyrinthine, medieval alleyways - all provide a worthy escape from quotidian life.
Unfortunately, even all of the delightful architecture, artworks and culture can't quell the disappointment you'll feel when you see you're being charged €15 for a coffee on St. Marks Square.
Not to worry: there are plenty of ways to enjoy Venice without feeling like you're getting fleeced. You just have to start thinking - and living - like a local.
Here are 10 ways to save on a trip to Venice...
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1. Have drinks - and snacks - at a bàcaro
Don't spend your holiday eating overpriced, underwhelming pizza from cafes around San Marco - make like a local and head to one of the city's bàcari, where you can nibble on tapas-style cicchetti, small plates of food that start at the appetising price of €1 (expect to find a choice of fried dishes, meats, seafood, cheeses and more).
Don't forget to sample Venice's must-try drink, the spritz, which features Prosecco, your choice of Aperol, Campari or Select and a splash of soda, while you're there.
2. You don't need to splurge on a gondola
Venice from a gondola? Pure romance. A traditional gondola ride that sets you back €80 for forty minutes (and shoots up to €100 in the evenings)? Not so much.
Don't fret - just get a map and find out where to find the traghetti (look out for streets named Calle del Traghetto) and get ferried across the Grand Canal for a mere €4. Expect a shorter ride (and a less touristy experience). At that price, you can always go again...
3. Rent an apartment instead of staying in a hotel
Thanks to AirBnB and companies like Truly Venice Apartments and Venice Rentals, you can pick and choose from a selection of fabulous flats to suit your budget and group size. Even better? You can end up in a fabulous central location - without the hotel markup. You can also cook delicious meals at home which will save you money on pricey restaurants.
4. Be an early bird
Enjoying Venice isn't just about saving your precious pounds - it's also about capturing some of the city's enchantment for yourself, away from the hordes of tourists. One of the best ways to take in the city? Be an early riser, beat the crowds and enjoy the sunrise over the Grand Canal - it's divine enough to make you forget it's 5:49 AM.
5. Hit the Rialto market
Trust us, delicious food in Venice isn't only found at Cipriani's. Live like a local by heading to the Rialto Market, where Venetians flock to get their produce, meat, fish and seafood. If you're staying in an apartment, whip up delicious meals with your daily catch (baby octopus, soft shell crabs, squid and more). Or stock up on prosciutto, mozzarella and tomatoes for a delicious al fresco lunch. Buonissimo!
6. Do your research before arriving
While Venice has many pleasures, wandering and sitting down in a restaurant around San Marco or Rialto isn't one of them: all too often, you can end up with a disappointing, super expensive meal you'll regret. Planning ahead and looking up restaurants you'd like to try ahead of time can save you money.
Some local recommendations from Venetians worth popping into include Vecia Gina in Sant' Elena (a cafe with local seafood, cheap drinks and a lovely outdoor patio) and Trattoria Alla Madonna, another fish and seafood restaurant that's cheap and cheerful, at the end of a back alley and won't require reservations.
7. Walk. Everywhere.
One thing you'll notice about Venice is that there aren't any cars, buses or taxis threatening to mow you down at every turn. In fact, there are only two ways to get around the city: by boat (vaporetto water buses) or on foot.
If you can, walk as much as possible - not only will it save you money (€7 for a single fare; a 24-hour travel card will set you back €20), but walking is also a great way to make your own discoveries in this mesmerising place. So you get an idea, a walk from the train station to the Piazza San Marco will take you roughly an hour, but who's in a rush? You're in Venice; enjoy it...
8. Check out the churches
Some of Venice's most enticing attractions, including St. Mark's Basilica, are free to enter (just don't climb up the campanile bell tower - it will set you back around €8). So are the Santa Maria della Salute, San Vidal and I Carmini, which offer an array of dazzling architectural styles, tombs, monuments and paintings by some of the world's greatest artists.
9. Get away from the crowds
There's plenty of history and culture away from the main touristy drags in the city and you never know what you'll find down a sprawling alley or around the corner from a quiet square. Art lovers shouldn't miss the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in the Dorsoduro or Tintoretto's church (featuring his iconic paintings) in Cannaregio.
10. Book ahead and look out for concessions
If you buy a Venice Connected pass at least a week before your arrival in the city, you can save money on visits to top attractions, museums, transport and public services like toilets (yep, they cost money, too). And don't forget about concessions to be had: children, students and pensioners can expect to pay a reduced rate, while under-5s go free.