The Best of Venice on Foot and by Boat

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118 islands. More than 175 canals. Over 400 bridges. And enough strong opinions about it to overwhelm a person.

This is Venice.

Venice Grand Canal

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.

Gondolas in Venice

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.

Venice

Venice Grand Canal

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 Gondolier

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 Grand Canal
The Grand Canal from the famous Rialto Bridge
Santa Maria della Salute
Santa Maria della Salute church, built in hopes that it would end the Plague
Venice canal
Restaurant-lined canals

Venice

Bridge of Sighs in Venice
The Bridge of Sighs that connects the Doge's Palace with the old prison
Venice
Smaller canals like this one that you will probably never be able to find a second time
St. Mark's Square in Venice
St. Mark's Square
St. Mark's in Venice
The impressive St. Mark's Basilica
Venice
Random cute details like these love locks
Venice church
LOTS of churches
Venetian masks
And of course plenty of Venetian masks for sale

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:

Venice Grand Canal
Floating past gondolas on the Grand Canal
Venice
Buildings propped up in the water built in the “Venetian Gothic” style
Venice cemetery
A purpose-built cemetery (also an island, of course)
Venice Grand Canal
More gondolas than you can shake a stick at
Venice
Pretty buildings from a different angle
Venice
The Doge's Palace from afar
Rialto Bridge in Venice
The Rialto Bridge as you pass under it
San Giorgio Maggiore
The island of San Giorgio Maggiore, with its pretty church and monastery
Venice
And lots of water

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.

Venice

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?

 

Falling in love with Venice, Italy

 

*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.

"It's a dangerous business, going out your door. You step onto the road, and, if you don't keep your feet, there's no telling where you might get swept off to." - JRR Tolkien

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43 Comments on “The Best of Venice on Foot and by Boat

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  1. […] saw these islands on a couple different tours in Venice. One (San Giorgio Maggiore) was on a tour with Walks of Italy. The others (Murano, Burano, and Torcello) were seen on a day trip with Viator from […]

    […] Venice is everything you’ve heard about it — and yet completely different at the same time. Yes, it’s crowded and confusing and maybe a little bit smelly. But nothing compares to crossing a bridge over the Grand Canal for the first time. […]

    Beautiful pictures – some look a lot like ones we’ve taken, and Venice is an EASY place to take great pictures. We love, love, love Venice! But to really appreciate it you have to get off the beaten path, you have to stay away from Piazzo San Marco, you have to get lost in the little streets and alleys and over the bridges, and you have to eat at places that don’t have menus and they don’t speak English. That’s how we feel in love with Venice!

      I agree! And, actually, it’s quite easy to get lost in Venice and get “off the beaten path.”

    I’ll be there latter in may ! can’t wait anymore…
    J’y serai en mai ! Je n’en peu plus d’attendre…
    Yo voy a Venice, mas tarde en mayo…

    […] does not have the canals of Venice or the ruins of Rome. In fact, even though Florence was founded by the Romans in 59BC, very few […]

    I love Venice! I’ve been twice and can’t wait to go back! Even with all the tourists and pigeons, I was swept away by its history and romantic atmosphere.

      Same here! It’s just so… unique! I will definitely be returning someday.

    “And enough strong opinions about it to overwhelm a person.” So true! I’m glad you loved it and am so eager to visit. You captured Venice beautifully. Thanks for sharing!

      Venice seems to be one of those places to you either love or hate; I’m happy that I loved it! Hopefully you won’t be disappointed, either.

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