118 islands. More than 175 canals. Over 400 bridges. And enough strong opinions about it to overwhelm a person.
This is Venice.
Known as the “Floating City” (and also sometimes referred to as “A Disney World for Adults”), Venice tends to be a dream destination for a lot of people. Say “Venice,” and you immediately conjure up romantic images of gondolas and cathedrals and sunsets over canals.
But I've heard bad things about Venice, too. By now, you'll have probably heard that the “Floating City” is actually sinking. Someone has probably told you how stinky its canals can get in the summer. And you might be aware that the UNESCO World Heritage site is frequently overrun with cruise ship passengers — so much so that there are usually more tourists on the island than people who actually live there.
I'm not gonna lie — I didn't really expect to like Venice.
Imagine my surprise, then, when I arrived in Venice one hot August morning to find a vibrant maze of a city that I immediately loved.
Yes, Venice is crowded. Yes, the city shows its age. And yes, getting lost here is inevitable.
But you know what? Those facts only gave the city more character for me. The crumbling plaster; the winding alleyways leading to nowhere; the gondola traffic jams — all of these things ARE Venice. The city gets its identity from the good AND bad aspects combined.
Venice definitely is not for everybody. But, if you can wander away from the main canals and touristy spots, you'll discover a fascinating city unlike any other in the world.
I loved losing myself in Venice in more ways than one.
Venice on foot
The best way to explore Venice is definitely on foot. The island (or collection of tiny islands, depending on how you look at Venice) is not very big, and you can't get a vehicle down the narrow streets anyway. Yes, you'll probably get lost at every turn, but, honestly, that's all part of the experience.
Here's a look at what you'll see in Venice on foot:
Venice by boat
The second-best way to see Venice is from the water. And, while gondola rides are usually the ultimate bucket list item in Venice, there are other options, too (especially considering the flat-rate price of 80 Euro for a daytime gondola ride, whether you have 2 or 6 people in the boat).
While I was in Venice, I got to enjoy a VIP boat ride with Walks of Italy. This consisted of a local guide, a water taxi, and only two other people on the 2-hour tour with me. Seeing Venice from the water gave me a whole different perspective on the city.
Here's what you can expect to see in Venice from a boat:
As far as Italian cities go, Venice is definitely one of the most well-known — and one of the most desirable to visit. There's a reason for this, though. Venice really IS a special place.
And, whether you explore it on foot or by boat, the bottom line is that you SHOULD explore it.
Just do it before it sinks.
Want to see Venice like I did? Check out these tours:
Is Venice on YOUR must-visit list? If you've been, what do you think of it?
*Note: I visited Venice as part of my Busabout trip around Europe. They provided me with transport on all 3 of their Europe loops, but all opinions of the destinations I visit are entirely my own! I also received a complimentary boat tour in Venice thanks to Walks of Italy.