My Top 4 Venice Tips for Longing First Time Visitors

Venice was one of those places to me. It seemed like such a far off place from where I came from. It was different and charming; unlike anything I've ever experienced.

It was a magical place where you wanted to fall in love, be seen with a gelato in your hand, and watch the locals dance at an evening soiree in a square tucked away in between dim alleys.

If you clicked on this article from my Instagram post, you'll know that I recently visited Venice for the first time.

It took a long time but when I finally did, there was a deep sense of satisfaction and gratitude - as if it were all predestined and that when (or if) I arrived here, I can tell myself I was on the right track.

So Venice was that place for me.

You may have one that's unique to you. You know, the one that has been sitting as your desktop wallpaper for ages. (Ha!)

But if yours were Venice too, you probably want to get an idea of what your first visit will be like from someone who's made it.

here are my top 4 venice tips for first time visitors 

"Oh, just going to work in my wee boat here."

"Oh, just going to work in my wee boat here."

1. You can't see Venice in one day, despite what anyone else says

Don't let its cosy size fool you. Exploring Venice is an adventure in itself. 

There are only two ways to get around the Venetian islands - by boat or by foot. Between the two options, I'm willing to bet that 90% of your time will be spent exploring by foot, whether you like or not.

On the first day we learned the hard way that our charming little Venice wasn't so little after all. Navigating the intricate streets and alleyways means it'll take you twice as long to get anywhere.

But the upside? This place is a massive playground for explorers.

There's always something to discover around every bend. It could be a hidden garden restaurant, a cosy gelato stop, or just a quiet place to sit with your feet dangling off the precipice of the canal watching the boats whirr by.

This kind of adventure needs time to be appreciated so don't stay one day. Take at least three full days. Explore at a slow pace and just breathe it all in.

We found a little place for all-natural gelato - they're gluten-free, lactose-free and vegan too!

We found a little place for all-natural gelato - they're gluten-free, lactose-free and vegan too!

2. The tourist passes are worth it if you're visiting for the first time

We stayed for four nights (with three full days in Venice) but only purchased a day ticket on our last day, thinking nah we probably prefer to explore on foot for the most parts.

Oh boy. Our lives would've been easier if we just took the three-day pass.

The tourist day passes include unlimited tram (or as the locals call it - 'people mover'), bus and vaporetto (water bus) rides in and around Venice. It also includes free access to major museums and galleries, but this wasn't our cup of tea and it's the only reason we skipped the passes at first.

The one-day pass cost 20 euros each and a two-day pass costs 30 euros each.

With only the one-day pass, we covered more ground than we did on days we didn't have them.

Even though we didn't bother visiting the museums or attractions that were included (not our thing), it did take us all the way to Burano, the Insta-famous island with adorable multi-coloured buildings that's about an hour's boat ride away.

That itself was worth all the money we paid.

Not only that, the passes will also take you to other popular islands like Murano and Torcello, which will fill up an entire day's worth of sightseeing.

Take an hour's water bus ride to get to Burano where you'll stroll along canals lined with brightly-coloured buildings. Great for Instagram!

Take an hour's water bus ride to get to Burano where you'll stroll along canals lined with brightly-coloured buildings. Great for Instagram!

3. You'll get distracted or lost eventually, so take it as part of the experience

Venice's little cobbled streets and alleyways go on forever for the untrained navigator. 

I have a pretty outstanding sense of direction (David calls me a "human GPS") but Venice is the first place ever to have challenged my homing instincts.

That's saying a lot because I'm pretty proud of my scarily accurate GPS senses: I don't get lost almost ever.

Venice is an intricate maze of paths and alleyways, canals and bridges, and every way you turn looks eerily similar to where you just came from. So don't get too upset and frustrated (or in my case, hangry) when you do get lost - add it to the experience.

That's not to say you shouldn't arrive prepared though.

David uses an app called CityMaps2Go whenever we travel and it has been our trusty travel companion for years for two reasons:

  1. We love that you can download the local map when you arrive in a new city and use it when you're offline.
  2. Find an interesting new place you'd like to return to? Place pins and markers on the map for easy reference. It'll even restore the information when you've deleted and re-downloaded a map.

We swear by it. You can download them here:

(Note: Not sponsored)

Water taxis line the Grand Canal as a quick way to get to where you want to go, but don't confuse them with passenger water buses (vaporettos) that are much bigger and more affordable!

Water taxis line the Grand Canal as a quick way to get to where you want to go, but don't confuse them with passenger water buses (vaporettos) that are much bigger and more affordable!

4. Venice has its own set of problems - but it can overcome

Don't get me wrong - Venice is stunning.

As with many popularly romanticised cities of the world, Venice also has its own set of problems. With the inflating number of tourists that visit every year, Venice is close to propagating its own Paris syndrome.

But this doesn't mean you shouldn't visit. Instead, we can choose to be mindful visitors. Travel is privilege and this should come with a set of small responsibilities.

  1. Choose to visit during off-season, if you can help it.

    This means avoiding the months of July and August and visit in late Spring or early Autumn seasons for best weather. Not only will your trip be significantly cheaper but you'll experience the city in a different light.
     
  2. Be respectful to the locals and the city.

    At the height of summer, the number of tourists easily outnumber the locals, making it difficult for them to go about their regular daily routines.

    I personally witnessed this in Venice, where going to work, walking the dog or making a simple commute to the store can be tremendously affected by the sheer volume of tourist activity. Try to give way when you can - you have all day, they don't.
     
  3. Choose to stay outside of the main tourist areas in high season.

    We stayed in a really nice hotel in Mestre just outside of Venice and took a very pleasant 20-minute train or tram ride to get into the city daily. The combined costs of the hotel + transportation we took comes to much less than if we had chosen to stay in the city centre, where the hotels and food are three times more expensive.

Realistically, this advice applies when visiting any popular tourist cities of the world.

Despite how bored we look here, we really loved taking the tram into the city every day!

Despite how bored we look here, we really loved taking the tram into the city every day!

I hope this has been helpful in some way and you have a dream destination of your own, I hope to hear about it when you get there too.

Love,

Cammy x