Venice: it’s one of the most sigh-worthy tourist destinations in the world, and on the bucket list of millions of people around the world. With its breathtaking architecture, notable shopping, and thousands of years of history and culture, Italy’s glamorous “sinking city” is a must-see destination for all ages and budgets.
The glitterati with plenty of cash to spare can pay out for five-star luxury hotels, fancy restaurants and their own private launches to get about in. Those on a budget, however, have more limited means but can still explore the best that this beautiful part of the world has to offer. No matter what time of year you want to visit Venice, there are a variety of ways to pinch pennies. Book flights to Italy with a site like Flights.com, and utilize some of the tips below to explore the iconic city without going over budget.
1. Opt for Budget Transport Options
While the iconic gondola rides are a lovely Venetian attraction, they’re also costly, at around $90 or more. To save some cash, instead opt for riding on a vaporetto (waterbus) that provides the fabulous views for a fraction of the price. You can experience the famous waterways of this part of the world as the locals do, and purchase single-journey tickets or the even better-value travel cards that run for 12 hours up to a full week (at around $55 for 7 days of transport).
When it comes to making your way to the heart of Venice from the airport, you can also pinch pennies. Instead of going down the normal tourist path of booking a costly coach service or taxi to the center of the city, choose one of the cheap local bus services instead. They provide departure times to coincide with most incoming flights and will save you a significant amount of money.
Furthermore, while spending time in Venice, don’t forget to take advantage of the cheapest transport option ever, your feet! The city is a wonderful place to explore by foot and since it isn’t spread over a large geographical area, you can easily walk your way around all its famous (and undiscovered) sights. Wander around the city at leisure and you’re sure to find all sorts of interesting shops, bars, restaurants and more to enjoy.
2. Visit Free Attractions
You can also take advantage of the many free attractions to explore in Venice. There are numerous beautiful old churches to admire around the city, from small, tucked away places of worship to towering, iconic venues, some even hosting their own special exhibitions. One of the top attractions to visit in Venice is Saint Mark’s Basilica.
This famous church is free to enter and is breathtaking to see for its architecture, interior design and history. The Basilica shows off stunning golden mosaics, incredible stonework, lovely statues and a variety of other works of art. (Just be sure to keep your knees and shoulders covered when entering, as modesty is important in Italian churches).
You can also wander around the popular San Marco Square (Piazza San Marco), and explore its nearby backstreets, without spending a dime. The maze-like alleys around the crowded Piazza are home to many artisan craft shops that are lots of fun to check out.
You’ll also find the Palazzo Contarini del Bovolo, a small palace that is best known for its extraordinary outer “snail-shell” staircase — certainly worthy of a photograph. Another free sight not to miss is the Bridge of Sighs, so named because prisoners would stand there and sigh as they took their last glimpse of Venice before being incarcerated.
3. Buy Fresh, Affordable Food from Local Markets
Rather than spending lots of cash on expensive tourist-driven restaurants, take advance of Venetian fresh-food markets. The Rialto Markets (Mercato del Rialto), located close to the Rialto Bridge, is the place to be on Friday and Saturday mornings, and is particularly popular with locals. You can wander among the many stalls at Venice’s main market, an institution that dates back more than a thousand years.
Stock up on tasty goodies such as cheese, bread, prosciutto, fruit and more, and don’t miss the Pescaria (fish market), for Venetian soft-shell crab, baby octopus, and inky-black squid. If you need some refreshments after all the walking and shopping, you can also head to one of the traders’ bars for an affordable mid-morning snack and glass of prosecco.
4. Purchase Passes
Another top way to save money while on a Venetian trip is to purchase discount passes. Art lovers should consider buying a Chorus Pass. It includes entry to sites that house some of the city’s finest masterpieces, spread around 16 churches.
If you want to include even more destinations, check out the Museum Pass. This card includes entry to all of Venice’s city-owned museums including Doge’s Palace, the Clock Tower, Glass Museum, Lace Museum, Natural History Museum, Ca’ Rezzonico and Ca’ Pesaro.