‘Venice’ and ‘budget’ seem like two words that shouldn’t be in the same sentence. But when Damon and I visited Venice on a 5 night trip, we were determined to make the most of it on a limited budget.
People might tell you that you have to spend big in Venice to make the most of your trip. We’re here to tell you that simply isn’t true. Based on our experience and, with some additional help from my cousin Gillian, here’s our full guide to Venice on a budget.
T Fondaco Rooftop Terrace - Free
If you’re looking for 360° views over Venice, I’d highly recommend the T Fondaco Dei Tedeschi rooftop terrace. Situated right next to the Rialto Bridge, T Fondaco is a luxury department store set over 4 floors.
It might not sound like the type of location you’d get to experience sweeping views over Venice, for free. But it is!
You’ll get views over the Rialto Bridge nearby, the Venetian rooftops and beyond.
The terrace can fit up to 80 guests and time slots are limited to 15 minutes each. We’d highly recommend booking a slot in advance which you can do for free online, at the link provided.
Acqua Alta Book Shop - Free
Libreria Acqua Alta is the intelligent Venetian response to a city with a constant, and ever-increasing flood risk. In order to protect the store’s stock, it’s been placed in a variety of waterproof containers. Bathtubs, bins and, in one room, a full-sized Venetian gondola.
The store retains a collection of flood-ruined books and out the rear door, they’ve even built a makeshift ‘fire exit’ out of them on to a canal.
Podcast Audio Guide - Free
Wandering around Venice is an activity in and of itself. But with any city steeped in history, it can be as daunting as it is mesmerising. If you want to learn a bit about Venice, as you experience it, I’d definitely recommend a podcast audio tour.
There are a variety of free podcast audio guides available, in multiple languages. Rick Steves, the American travel writer, has a few episodes on Venice in his ‘Rick Steves Italy Audio Tours’ series. In one, you listen to the episode as you travel by boat down the Grand Canal.
Gondola Traghetto - €2
Whilst a tour on a traditional Venetian gondola can set you back €80 or more (for a 25-30 min tour), you can experience the lesser known Traghetti for a fraction of the price (€2 one way).
Since there are only 4 bridges on the Grand Canal, locals frequently use the Traghetti ferry services. The Italian word ‘Traghetto’ literally translates to ‘Ferry’ in English.
These gondolas have a simple design and accommodate multiple passengers, with 2 oarsmen. In the past, there were dozens of traghetto crossing routes but now there are only officially 7 (which can be unreliable). The most reliable service is between Campo Santa Sofia and the Pescaria.
Reduced Rate Ticket Combos - Varies
If you’re wanting to tour Venice’s major landmarks around St Mark’s Square (Piazza San Marco), you might as well do it as efficiently as you can.
In Venice, buying a ticket for one tour/location can sometimes grant you a reduced rate ticket at another. Plus there are other incentives, like student and senior rates.
We used this to our advantage and booked tours of the Doge’s Palace and the Clock Tower. Plus we got complimentary access to three museums around St Mark’s Square. The Museo Correr, the Museo Archeologico and the Monumental Rooms of the Biblioteca Marciana.
Here’s how we did it:
Booked *Secret Itineraries Tour (Doge’s Palace) - €14 (Reduced Student Ticket Rate).
Showed Doge’s Tour ticket when buying Clock Tower tour at the Museo Correr.
Booked Clock Tower Tour - €7 (Reduced Rate thanks to Doge’s ticket).
Free Access to 3 Museums (Correr, Archeologico, Marciana) thanks to the Clock Tower ticket.
*We would highly recommend the Secret Itineraries Tour (over a standard ticket). We were shown fascinating parts of the palace that general ticket-holders don’t get to see. This was also the only tour that granted you access to the Doge’s Palace Facade (the famous balcony at the front with the two red pillars).
Artisanal Takeaway Pasta/Pizza
During our 5 night stay in Venice, we only ate dinner with waiter service twice. That’s because in this city you will pay a premium for it. But don’t worry, if you’re on a budget, you can still enjoy fresh, homemade Italian cuisine at a decent price.
When you hear ‘takeaway’, you don’t often think high quality, fresh food. But in Venice, it’s quite the opposite. You can pick up delicious, freshly made pasta/pizza at a number of locations. The best part? You won’t pay the ‘sit-down premium’.
The two we would recommend are Pako’s Pizza & Pasta (top image) and Venice Pasta Academy (bottom image). Pako’s is open 24 hours and is situated about 1 minute’s walk away from St Mark’s Square. Venice Pasta Academy is open 9am to 9pm daily and is located on the south side of Venice.
Service Charges and Tips
If you decide to dine out in a restaurant during your Venice trip, you might be wondering what the standard tip rate is. It can get confusing and can cost you if you’re not careful. Basically, here’s what you can expect:
A bread charge (‘pane e coperto’) of around €2 might be added
If service is included (‘servizio incluso’) you don’t need to tip
If service isn’t included (‘servizio non incluso’) tip 5-10% or round up to the next €5/€10.
Gelato and Music in St Marks Square
Caffè Florian, in Piazza San Marco, is the oldest coffee house in continuous operation in Italy (c. 1720). It’s common, especially during the evening, to see the Caffè Florian Orchestra playing under the arches just outside.
You can pay the premium and sit outside Caffè Florian to enjoy the music. Or, you can head to ‘Gelato Fantasy’ (160m or a 2 min walk away), grab some genuine (and cost effective) Italian ice cream, before heading back to enjoy the orchestra from a standing position nearby.
We thoroughly enjoyed our stay in Venice and the best part was that we did so without breaking the bank. By following some or all of the tips above, you can have a great experience and make the most of your trip.
We’re always aiming to make our guides as helpful as possible. Do you have any money-saving tips for Venice that we could add to the list? Let us know in the comments below.