Venice is an incredible city, and although its popularity has made it expensive, there are still ways to visit Venice on a budget. Whether you’re backpacking Venice or just looking for a holiday in Venice without breaking the bank, I’ve got you covered with these tips!
The Best Time to Visit Venice on a Budget
Venice is best enjoyed in the shoulder seasons of spring and autumn without the summer crowds and oppressive heat when you have a good chance of decent weather in a quieter city. Venice is also beautiful in winter, but it can get cold as the damp air gets right inside your bones! Bear in mind that if it does rain heavily when you are in Venice, there is a chance of high water, and places like St Mark’s Square will flood. Your accommodation should be able to help you out with waterproof boots, and there are raised pathways put down to allow you to walk around.
Of course, when the weather is better, Venice is much busier – especially in the summer holidays or during other seasonal festivals like Carnival in February. Try to time your visit so you don’t spend the weekend in Venice, as mid-week tends to be quieter so you can find cheaper flights and accommodation.
How Many Days to Spend in Venice?
In an expensive city like Venice, I understand the temptation to get in and out as quickly as possible. However, if you try to visit Venice in a day you really won’t get the most out of the city and will probably end up just following the crowds. Spending at least 2-3 days in Venice will give you time to explore, do more of the free things to do in the city, and give you a much better appreciation for Venice than rushing around. With these tips for visiting Venice cheaply, you shouldn’t have any trouble squeezing an extra day or two out of your budget
READ MORE: Why You Need More than One Day in Venice
How Much to Budget for Venice
This is the million-dollar question, but you don’t worry the answer isn’t a million dollars! For accommodation in a hostel dorm, expect to pay anywhere from €15 to €30 for a bed in a dorm room, maybe more in peak times. You can feed yourself for €20 a day on a tight budget, €30 giving a bit of leeway for drinks and gelato. For activities, there are more than enough free things to do in Venice to keep you occupied, but I would allocate some money for transport – €15 a day if you plan to take at least two trips on a vaporetto. Overall I’d say you can visit Venice for around €50 a day, less if you are on a very tight budget or more if you’re a bit more relaxed or want to include some museums and other paid activities.
Bring Your Student Card
If you’re a student under 26, you can get discounts at most of the museums in Venice, so bring your Student ID card and watch out for the special discounts.
How to Get to Venice
Getting the Bus or Train to Venice
If you are already in Italy (or the rest of Europe) Venice is very well connected by train and bus services. Flixbus is cheap, fairly decent and will get you to Mestre or Venice bus station. Trenitalia has details of train journeys and prices within Italy to Venezia Mestre station on the mainland or Venezia St Lucia on the island. Remember to type in the name of the stations in Italian – it will only work with Venezia, not Venice. They also have an app where you can purchase e-tickets which don’t need to be validated. Paper tickets have to be validated at the machines before you board the train.
Flights to Venice
Venice has two airports; Marco Polo Airport is closer and is the main international airport. Treviso is used mainly by budget airlines and is in the nearby city of Treviso. Use Skyscanner to find the best flight deals for your airport and date (they also have an app you can use to find flights too). Both airports are well connected to Venice with regular bus services, and you can also get the train from Treviso to Venice after taking a local bus from the airport to the train station.
Driving to Venice
There are no cars allowed on the island of Venice, so if you are road-tripping around Europe you will have to find a place to park your car while you are in Venice. There is some parking available in Mestre although you have to pay for it, so if you are hiring a car in Italy it would make more sense to do so at the end of your time in Venice.
Cycling to Venice
Bikes are also not allowed on the island of Venice. If you are staying on the mainland in Mestre, then you’ll be fine.
Where to Stay in Venice on a Budget
Prices on Venice island come at a premium, so when you are deciding where to stay in Venice consider staying on the mainland at Mestre or one of the other islands which are usually cheaper. Mestre is a great option if you stay around the train station, so you are less than 15 minutes away from the centre of Venice.
Hostels in Venice
In years gone by, there weren’t many hostels in Venice at all. Now it isn’t difficult to find a cheap place to stay in Venice, and as the #wombatsTraveller ambassador for wombat’s Hostels, I was thrilled when I found out they were opening a brand-new hostel in Venice Mestre. The hostel opened its doors on 10th July and has some really good offers on if you are coming to Venice this summer, so check out the rates directly on their website. You can get a sneak peek of the new hostel here, including a video, or visit their website directly.
Cheap Hotels in Venice
Generally, you will pay a lot more money for hotels in Venice if you want to be in the centre of the action on Venice Island. Cheap hotels in Venice don’t seem to be of the best quality, but you might be able to find a bargain. Use sites like hotelscombined to find a good deal, and read the reviews carefully before you book.
Airbnb in Venice
Airbnb has come under fire in Venice and other popular destinations like Barcelona because apartment owners are buying or renting properties specifically to rent out on Airbnb, meaning that local people can no longer afford to live there. If you do want to stay in an Airbnb, consider booking a private room in someone’s home, so you are supporting a local person who still lives in Venice. You can check all the options for Airbnb in Venice here.
Camping in Venice
If you are backpacking Venice and have a tent with you, or fancy a family camping holiday, there are some campsites on the mainland or on Lido island. Camping is not allowed anywhere on the island of Venice itself. Camping Venezia Village is in between Marco Polo Airport & Venice and has spaces to pitch tents or campervans as well as bungalows. This is a great option if you are travelling with pets too.
Things to do in Venice on a Budget
One of the best things to do in Venice is simply walking around and admire the beautiful city, architecture and canals, which of course you can do for free! Get lost in the narrow streets and you can’t help but fall in love with La Serenissima as Venice is also known. There are also plenty of free things to do in Venice so you can make the most of the city without spending a penny.
READ MORE: 20+ Free Things to do in Venice
Venice Free Walking Tour
These tours are a great way to get the inside knowledge from a local guide without having to stump up the cash for a private tour. However, you will probably be in a group of +20 people, so intimate it ain’t. Don’t forget to tip your guide, €5-€10 is the going rate.
The Grand Canal
A great way to see the Grand Canal is to take Vaporetto Water Bus 2 from Piazzale Roma (Venice bus station) all the way to St Mark’s Square. Try to get a seat at the front (or back if the boat doesn’t have front seats) for the best views of the beautiful buildings all along the Grand Canal. A single ticket costs €7.50, or its included in the 24/48/72 hour transport ticket.
St Mark’s Square
The most famous (and most touristy) square in Venice. Don’t feed the pigeons, you might get fined for that, and sitting on the steps isn’t allowed either. Walk around, check the queues for the entrance to the Basilica and/or clock tower. If you want a coffee here, order at the bar of one of the famous cafes, DON’T sit down as it’ll cost you at least €12 for an espresso, the bow-tied waiters and classical music are very fancy so you pay for the privilege!
St Mark’s Basilica
This beautiful cathedral is the most important church in Venice, and one of the best-known examples of Italo-Byzantine architecture. Inside, incredible mosaics cover the dome ceilings. It is free to go inside so queues are often long but move quickly. I got there just before opening time and joined the queue, waiting about 30 minutes to go inside.
The Bridge of Sighs
This bridge connected the Doge’s Palace and prison, where prisoners would breath their last breath of fresh air on the way to the cells. It’s a nice spot for a photo of a gondolier, but expect to wait your turn as it is a popular bridge!
Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute
From the Bridge of Sighs, walk along the waterfront to see this gorgeous church across the canal. It’s a great spot for gondola-watching and a lovely place for the sunset if you are here in the late afternoon/evening. Explore the narrow streets around here to find the best views of the church, all the way along the canal front to the Ponte dell’Accademia. Going inside the Basilica is also free, but dress conservatively to cover your shoulders and knees.
For some of the best views in Venice, don’t miss a stroll across this bridge, which leads to the beautiful Galleria dell’Accademia art gallery.
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Another famous bridge, the Rialto Bridge used to be filled with market stalls and shops, which were first installed to raise money for the completed bridge. Now the bridge is lined with expensive shops and souvenirs. You can get a good photo of the bridge from Vaporetto line 1 which goes along the Grand Canal, or from the canalside next to the bridge.
Rialto Fish Market
The market is only open in the mornings from 7.30am to 12pm and closed on Sundays and Mondays. If you are in Venice early enough, it is definitely worth a visit although it is under threat, as most tourists don’t buy anything from the market. Consider buying something from here for lunch or eating nearby.
T Fondaco dei Tedeschi
This luxury shopping centre next to the Rialto Bridge has a roof terrace where you can book a free slot to go up to the terrace and admire the views. Book in advance online here.
Scala Contarini del Bovolo
The tallest spiral staircase in Venice combines several architectural styles – Renaissance, Gothic and Venetian-Byzantine, and has beautiful views from the top of Venice, including St Mark’s clock tower. Admire the staircase from the outside for free or pay 7€ entry fee to go up to the top. Open daily 10am-6pm, check the website for occasional closing dates.
Squero di San Trovaso
One of the few traditional boathouses still in operation today, where you can see the gondolas being made and repaired. Watch from across the canal while you grab a bite to eat from the Osteria al Squero.
Glass Blowing in Murano
Take a Vaporetto water bus across to Murano to see the master craftsmen at work. Murano Art Glass Ltd and various other glass workshops offer glass-blowing demonstrations for a couple of euros, where you can watch the artisans create beautiful glass pieces in a matter of minutes.
Colourful Houses in Burano
Often combined with Murano as a day trip from Venice, Burano is the most colourful place in Venice. The fishermen’s houses are all brightly painted in different colours, which makes a nice change from the classical architecture in Venice. Burano is also famous for its lace makers, who you can see working on their intricate designs in several of the lace shops, or in the mornings at the Lace Museum.
What to Eat in Venice on a Budget
Food in Venice can be expensive, but you can get a decent meal without paying ridiculous amounts of money. Stay away from St Mark’s Square where you’ll pay a premium for sitting down at any of the cafés there and remember that anywhere with lots of tourists is likely to be more expensive. Avoid places with photos on the menu and venture into the quieter neighbourhoods to find good value restaurants.
If you want to cook your own food, head down to Rialto Market in the mornings (closed Sunday and Monday) to buy fresh produce to take back to your accommodation. You can also get some fresh fruit and veg here for snacks if you want to eat on the go. Around the market, there are plenty of bacari bars and restaurants where you can also pick up a decent meal without paying over the odds.
READ MORE: What to Eat in Venice
When choosing a restaurant in Venice, check the menu before you go inside. Waiters are not allowed to tout for business, so take your time. Remember that most restaurants will also charge a coperto cover charge of €2-€3 or more for a fancy place, so take that into account when you’re looking at prices.
A great option for cheap food in Venice is cicchetti – small tapas style snacks which are around €1-€2 each. Bacari wine bars will have a glass counter at the bar where you can see the cicchetti on offer and choose what to have. Order that with an ombra cheap glass of wine or a beer and you’ve got a tasty meal without breaking the bank. Tramezzini sandwiches are also cheap and filling too, they are another Venetian speciality which you can enjoy in Venice without ruining your budget!
Cheap Transport in Venice
Getting around Venice cheaply is actually easy as the city is quite compact, and you can walk everywhere – although if you are planning to cover a lot of ground you might be very tired at the end of the day! Avoid expensive water taxis at all costs and think about where you want to travel in Venice before deciding on what transport to take.
Traghettos are short distance waterbuses which ferry people from one side of the Grand Canal to the other. A traghetto ride costs €2 per person and can save you walking to the next bridge if you want to cross. They are also a budget alternative to taking a gondola ride as the boats are very similar!
READ MORE: Venice Public Transport Guide
Vaporetto waterbuses are the main form of transport in Venice for getting around and in between the islands. A one-way single ticket costs €7.50 which you can either buy from the ticket machines at the vaporetto stop, or from the driver if there isn’t a machine. If you plan to take at least two rides on the vaporetti, it may work out cheaper to get a day or multi-day pass instead of single tickets.
24/48/72 Hour Transport Tickets
If you are planning to visit some of the other islands in Venice such as Burano and Murano or Lido then I highly recommend buying a day or multi-day transport pass which includes as many trips on the vaporetto water buses and local buses and trams that you need. If you stay on the mainland in Venice Mestre, like at the wombat’s Hostel, then the bus ticket into Venice is also included. A 24-hour ticket costs €20, and a 48-hour ticket is €30, so the longer you stay, the cheaper it is.
The Venice Card
Personally, I don’t think the Venezia Unica card or Venice Turbopass are worth spending money on if you are backpacking in Venice or visiting Venice on a budget. They do include several entry fees for museums, but there are more than enough cheap or free things to do in Venice without splashing out on a Venice city pass.
Cheap Gondola Rides in Venice
Do you know how much a gondola ride costs? A LOT!! Gondolas are very expensive, especially for solo travellers, as a 30-minute ride in a gondola will set you back a whopping €80 for 30 minutes. In the evening, that price goes up even more, as the cooler temperatures and quieter canals make for a more romantic setting which you will pay a premium for.
I go into all the options for finding a cheap gondola ride in another article, but if you really want to take a gondola ride you need to think carefully whether the experience will be worth it. To reduce the cost consider partnering up with another couple or other people to fill up the gondola. Gondolas seat up to 6 people, so there is room to share!
Alternatively, hop on a traghetto across the grand canal to get a taster of the gondola experience for a fraction of the price! €2 for about 2 minutes across isn’t much but it might just do.
I hope this has given a good overview of how to survive Venice on a budget! In Venice, backpackers needn’t worry – just walk around and enjoy! Have you been backpacking in Venice? Any more budget tips to share? I’d love to hear your thoughts, please leave your comments below.
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