What can I say about Venice that hasn’t already been said? It’s gorgeous, romantic, and absolutely breathtaking. Even when it’s brimming with tourists in August, it’s still lives up to its reputation. I’ve been trying to find the time to escape to Venice for the better part of five years and have been able to put the pieces together until just recently.
I touched back down in London just last night and the first thing on my agenda this morning was to write about my trip while it’s still fresh in my mind.
The Island of Guidecca and Generator Hostel – Venice
In a departure from my normal travel routine where I usually stay in the best value 4* hotel I can find (European 4* hotels are like American 3* hotels), my home away from home in Venice was Generator Hostel, who graciously offered me a complimentary night’s stay in one of their private double rooms.
I stayed in my fair share of hostels in my younger days, but none of them were as nice as Generator. My double room wouldn’t look too out of place in a 3* or even 4* hotel. The double bed was new and comfortable with outlets on either side. There was a side chair as well as a writing desk and chair in front of the bed. The bathroom was large and came with two sinks, a separate toilet area, and shower.
The only thing the room, which can be booked from an incredible €22/person/night, was missing were a few of the frills. There were no night stands (not a big deal) and there was no television (pretty standard for a hostel). What the room did offer was free and fast wireless internet, and complimentary breakfast – a big bonus and a money saver.
Generator Hostel is located south of the main part of Venice on the island of Guidecca, but don’t let that deter you. Guidecca proved to be a wonderful respite from the swarms of tourists in Central Venice. Best of all, it was only one water bus stop away from St. Mark’s Square. In fact, I think that the view from my room was one of the best in all of Venice.
St. Mark’s Square
If you only have one day in Venice, as many cruise visitors do, the one place to go in the city is St. Mark’s Square. It’s here where you’ll find the city’s three major landmarks: St. Mark’s Bell Tower, Doge’s Palace, and St. Mark’s Basilica. You can easily do all three in the span of a day or even half a day, and that’s precisely what I did.
On Sunday morning I left the hostel around 9:30am, hopped on a vaporetto (water bus), and was in St. Mark’s Square in about 8 minutes. From there I hit up all the major sites and was back in my room in time for a mid-afternoon siesta.
Rialto Bridge and The Grand Canal
Beyond St. Mark’s Square, the geographic centre of Venice runs alongside the city’s Grand Canal. This is where all the action is – speed boats, gondolas, even DHL-branded transport boats – they all make their way up and down this busy liquid thoroughfare throughout the day. The best views of the canal can be seen either from a vaporetto or from atop the iconic Rialto Bridge.
A lot of tourists frequent this area for the shopping, but I couldn’t stop taking pictures. I recommend venturing off the main roads and slipping into a few side alleyways. On Monday morning, a few hours before my flight, I spent some time wandering the tiny streets surrounding the Rialto Bridge and ran into lots of little hidden gems.
General Tips on Saving Time and/or Money on Your Trip to Venice
- If you live in Central London, save time by flying British Airways from London City Airport (in East London) to Marco Polo Airport, the closest airport to Venice.
- Save money by flying Ryanair to Treviso Airport (a little further away) or taking EasyJet to Marco Polo Airport.
- The cheapest way to get from either Treviso or Marco Polo airport is by bus (as little as €4 each way), but the most fun is by boat (from Marco Polo Airport only). I went with private shared speed boat transfer upon arrival (free using my credit card points) and felt like James Bond as we zipped our way towards Venice.
Save Time (and Money)
- Purchase an ACTV travel pass ahead of your trip and activate it when you arrive. Valid on all ACTV water buses (the only way to get around Venice), you can get 24, 48, or 72 hours passes for €20, €30, and €40 respectively. Add bus transport to or from Marco Polo for an additional €4 each way. (I purchased my 72 hours pass from Veneto Inside).
- The average wait time to enter St. Mark’s Basilica is 45 minutes (yikes!). With an average high of nearly 30 degrees in August and a precious 2.5 days in Venice, I didn’t feel like spending that much time baking in the sun. Instead, I bought skip-the-line passes for just €2 (again, from Veneto Inside) and didn’t have to wait more than 30 seconds to get inside. Well worth €2 in my opinion.
- In that same vein, I went ahead and purchased a St. Mark’s Museum Pass in advance (you guessed it, also from Veneto Inside). Not only did I get to skip long lines to enter Doge’s Palace, but the pass also got me into several other major museums in St. Mark’s Square (Correr Museum, Archeological Museum, Monumental Rooms of the National Library).
You can check out more photos from my visit to Venice on my Instagram feed