How To Get The Most Out Of A Visit To Venice

Our Day Trip To Venice

The advantage of having a birthday in August means that I often get to spend my birthday on holiday. This year we were in Italy and I was determined to spend the day in Venice, as it was somewhere that I have always wanted to visit. We travelled like locals and used the vaparetto to get to Venice from Lido De Jesolo, which took about half an hour from Punta Sabbiano.

Looking down at the crowds in Piazza San Marco with the lagoon in the background

We decided not to follow the crowds as we disembarked from the vaparetto, instead we chose to wander off down some side streets. Venice was very busy but the side streets were virtually empty. The first bonus to going against the crowd was that we were able to see the Bridge of Sighs from behind, there was literally only us and another couple looking at it from this view, whereas there was a huge crowd looking at it from the front. We did see it from the front too, but much later in the day, on our way back to the vaparetto.

Looking Down One Of The Canals In Venice Towards The Back Of The Bridge Of Sighs With Gondolas Going Past

We found it really easy to find our way around the back streets and it was nice to be able to see Venice more like the locals would. There were little piazzas and small shops selling items such as souvenirs, clothing, luxury chocolates and marzipan figures.   

I knew that I really wanted to see Piazza San Marco and the night before our visit we booked tickets to jump the queue for St. Mark’s Basilica. The tickets were free and saved us joining the huge queue that was snaking around the outside of the Basilica. Once inside, Abby and I had to buy cover-ups for our shoulders, they only cost €1 and lots of people were wearing them. The Basilica was beautiful, especially the stunning Byzantine mosaiics, however having visited St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City I didn’t think St. Mark’s was as stunning. We paid the small fee to go up onto the balconies and we felt it was really worthwhile as there’s a lot to see up there, plus you can go outside and get a great view over the Piazza.

A view of the exterior of St Mark's Basilica with Byzantine mosaics in the arches and the sun shining over the top of the statues. 

It was incredibly hot when we were in Venice and we made a family decision not to spend too long queuing for anything, so we opted against climbing the Campanile Bell Tower and going inside the Doge’s Palace. Mark and I knew that the kids wouldn’t really enjoy either experience very much and we hope to go back on a visit without the kids and we will visit them then.

The Campanile Tower in Piazza San Marco Venice

We had a wander around the piazza and saw the beautiful tea rooms. Venice is a shopper’s paradise and all the big names are there. Abby loved seeing the stores of Chanel, Dior and Louis Vuitton to name just a few. We had promised Abby that she could go to Sephora as we don’t have them in the UK and we found it just around the corner from the Rialto Bridge. Once she’d spent all of her holiday money on make-up (and I got a few birthday treats too) we were ready to carry on with our tour of Venice.

Looking down from a bridge at the queue of gondolas with Gondolier's in their traditional black and white striped tops

There was no way we were going to Venice and not having a gondola ride and we spotted a Gondolier waiting just across the canal from Sephora. It was €80 euros for 6 people but because there was nobody else around, we got it for just us four – bonus! The Gondolier took us out on to the Grand Canal and showed us the Rialto. He also pointed out where the fish market was, the giant hands that were an art installation to highlight global warming and the building where the James Bond Film, Casino Royale, was filmed. He then turned down into a side canal and showed us how the Venetian’s lived. It was so peaceful and quiet on the canals and we saw locals enjoying lunch at little cafes or going about their daily lives. We also saw Cassanova’s house. The gondola ride took about 25 minutes and we all really enjoyed it.

A family selfie onboard a gondola with the gondolier in the background too

Once we were back on dry land we walked over to the Rialto Bridge and took some photos before walking across it and going towards the market. We strolled around and just soaked up the atmosphere. We loved how you never knew what you were going to find around the next corner – was it a dead end, or a piazza or a bridge over a canal – it was a surprise each time.

A view of the Rialto Bridge from a gondola on the Grand Canal

By late afternoon the temperature had got into the high 30s so we decided it was time to head back towards the vaparettos. We popped into the tiny and very crowded Hard Rock Cafe shop for Harry so he could pick up a souvenir and then went in search of some gelato to cool us down a bit. We wandered back through Piazza San Marco and around the outside of the Doge’s Palace, before squeezing onto the bridge to get a photo of the Bridge of Sighs from the front, and then caught the vaporetto back to Lido De Jesolo.

It was the perfect way to spend my birthday and I know that Mark and I will return one day.

What To Do If You Only Have One Day In Venice

  • Walk round Piazza San Marco
  • See inside St. Mark’s Basilica
  • See The Bridge Of Sighs
  • See The Rialto Bridge
  • Take a gondola ride
  • Wander around the back streets
  • Buy a gelato
  • Go window shopping (or real shopping if you can!)
  • See The Doge’s Palace
  • See Cassanova’s house
  • Have lunch/dinner at a waterside restaurant or cafe

A Few Handy Tips To Help You Enjoy Venice

  • St Mark’s Basilica, and most of the churches, expect both men and women to cover up. If the weather is too hot to dress appropriately take a scarf with you to put over your shoulders when going inside these buildings.
  • Don’t be afraid to wander around the back streets, you’ll get a much better view of what Venetian life is like.
  • Not sure where you are? Look up, there are usually signs up high on the walls to show you where various landmarks are.
  • Food and drink on the Piazza San Marco is very expensive. Go a few streets back for the same items at a much more sensible price.
  • Venice is not very pushchair (stroller) friendly. The paths along the canals can be quite narrow and there are a lot of steps and bridges.
  • Book a beat the queue ticket for St Mark’s Basilica before you go. It will save you a lot of time.
  • The queues for the gondolas near The Doge’s Palace can be very long. If you go a few streets back you will find more gondolas with very small queues – the experience is the same whichever one you use.

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