Last updated on August 13th, 2018 at 11:05 pm
So you are travelling to the most unique city in the world and you are wondering what are the best places to stay in Venice. Let me say first that it is very important to choose the area that fits you the best (we are all different). This may be for your budget, for your interests or for the museums you plan to visit.
I used to visit Venice every single year for almost 20 years. Why? Because my grandparents were from there. Now even if I live in Melbourne, I love to go back and explore Venice, although in a different way, as an adult.
Now here is the good news. I assure you that you will be able to find your accommodation, independently of your budget. And if Venice is too expensive then go mainland and get a tram to Santa Cannaregio or a ferry in the early morning to San Marco, so beautiful.
I always suggest to spend less on food and drinks but spare some money for your hotel in Venice. Staying in the city is so different from anything else you have experienced in the world.
I am sure you already know there are no cars. Transportation is all on water. So romantic. Especially if you have a walk in the early morning and late night when the city is not that full (or almost empty in the winter months)
If you are after some local Venetian news in Englis you can check the Independent Venice Section. It is a good place to investigate if there is any major happening. From time to time it includes local photos too.
By the way, if you are after a guide for travel photography to use once in Venice, have a look and download this one (over 70 pages) that I have just finished to updated. Yes, it’s FREE to download, you do not need to leave an email 😉
You may also look at the Italian local newspaper which is updated daily with all that is happening in the city. It’s called La Nuova and you can read it with the Google English translator, easy.
After so many trips to this beautiful city , surely more than 50, my best area to stay in Venice is Dorsoduro. This may be different for you, as you may have different goals, places to visit and lifestyle.
Let me go through the main Venice neighborhoods, or “Sestiere” as they call them in Venice but first, did you know that Venice is a city founded in 697AD on an archipelago of 127 islands interconnected by LOTS of bridges?
Indeed very romantic but it may be a real pain if you have a pram (in case, take the lightest you have). Get ready for lots of stairs
Here below a rough but effective map of the venice districts. Following is a description for each area.
You can also decide to stay near Venice, mostly for two reasons:
Your choice can also be driven by the weather, in case you are booking a room in the next 15 days or so. 3B Meteo is the most reliable source for the weather in Venice.
As you see, the Venice neighborhoods are quite different from each other.
I was checking, a long time ago, what is the best area to stay in Venice on TripAdvisor. I am sure you are familiar with the website.
I could read questions as “is Dorsoduro a good place to stay in Venice” or the same for Giudecca.
The reality is that all of the above neighborhoods are great and with the own identity.
I hope this guide will help you to choose the one for you. And now comes the best
It’s the centre of the city, it’s where you will find the most iconic attractions as the Campanile (bells tower), the Basilica and the incredible piazza (square). The view from the “Riva degli Schiavoni” (the waterfront) is absolutely to die for.
The San Marco Basilica has always been the most admired place in Venice. Over time it has been enriched of every kind of treasure that was often brought to Venice from merchants from the far east. Its architecture is a mix of Byzantine, Roman and Venetian style with the mosaics to keep you open mouth for a long while.
Interesting enough it was built on the remains of two old churches. It is said to be the place where an angel pointed to San Marco the way to Rome, the place of his burial.
The San Marco Campanile is located in front of the Basilica. It is almost 100 metres tall and on top, you will see the golden statue of the Archangel Gabriel with the wings wide open that can turn the statue based on the wind direction.
When the angel is facing the basilica for the Venetians is a sign that there will be high water. The bell tower was finished to be reconstructed in 1912, over 100 years ago.
The area of San Marco is unquestionably the most touristic of Venice and possibly of all world. Last year they register over 25 million visitors, a point where the council is questioning the introduction of access gates.
If you ask me where to stay in Venice, most definitely San Marco comes to my mind however only in low season, from mid-October to April (excluding festivities and carnival). That’s the time when it becomes livable.
In summer, it can be too busy for my like. Moreover, you will be very unlikely to meet any local and the restaurants can be really expensive.
Big tip here: if you seat in San Marco square for coffees, which is beautiful, expect an expensive bill. An espresso can cost as much as 10 Euros.
Try to visit this area at sunrise time, especially if you are into photography. You will see a different San Marco, nothing compared to what you will find at 2pm.
In San Marco you will find some of the most luxurious hotels in Venice, a few with an incredible and magical view.
As I previously said, I love Dorsoduro and in my opinion, it is the best place to stay in Venice (be sure, I am not paid by the neighborhood tourist association to say that ahahaha).
The reason I love this area is mostly due to the local feeling I get in restaurants and cafes. Of course, there are tourists also here but there is a good mix with people actually living here.
This means you get the best value for money wherever you go. Besides that, it’s more of a real experience. I remember one night having a drink more than usual and ending my night in a nightclub, in the underground behind a hidden door along a canal. A place surely not on TripAdvisor.
Here you find more of a young crowd with probably the best nightlife around Venice, although not really noisy.
You can also come easily to Dorsoduro for dinner and to spend the night from any other area. Absolutely a must. You will see the difference.
Campo Margherita tends to be the centre, a big square where it is not unusual to see kids playing football. On a sunny morning, all the cafes in the morning will be full of customers drinking cappuccino and eating a “cornetto” (croissant). Real Italian feeling
Being in Dorsoduro will allow you also to visit two of the most famous attractions of the city:
I am writing more about restaurants in Venice (a dedicated post). Here below my top 3 choices:
The Venetian Ghetto was the area of Venice where the Venetian Jews were obliged to reside for three centuries during the period of the Republic (starting in 1500).
Each building still is an architectural complex of great interest, creating together the core of Cannaregio.
This is the area where most of the locals still live, for generations and generations. When you walk in the streets you feel here more as in a village than in a city. Italian is spoken with a strong Venetian accent meanwhile the elderlies talk in the local dialect.
What I like the most about Cannaregio is having a walk through the tiny alleys, getting lost, literally. So many tiny squares and hidden corners. A real maze
Accommodation on this side of the city is great value however it’s a long walk to all the main attractions, including San Marco square.
You may find cheaper hotels here, however, keep in mind also the cost of local transportation and the time spent on moving around.
I personally suggest Cannaregio on a 2nd or 3rd visit, so you can explore the local neighborhood and take a ferry to Burano and Murano (the ferry station is walking distance).
If flying to Venice, there is a direct ferry from the airport to Madonna dell’Orto (15 euro), right in Cannaregio, quick and easy.
Tip: allow some spare time on your way back to the airport. Ferries tend to be quite full and you may have to wait more than you would expect.
A couple of restaurants to highlight:
San Paolo is famous for 2 things:
If interested in photography I suggest shooting the Rialto Bridge at sunrise from the Riva del Vin. It’s seasonal obviously, however, usually the sun will rise in front of you, just behind the bridge. It can be quite magical
Accommodation can be quite expensive in San Paolo, especially if close to the Rialto Bridge or with the view to Grand Canal. Obviously, it’s because of the unique location.
San Paolo is walking distance to both the San Marco square and to the Santa Lucia Railway Station, quite convenient if you are travelling here by train.
I would personally avoid the restaurants on the Grand Canal unless you are after just the unique view, undoubtedly the best.
I would have a 5-10 minutes walk and go to Dorsoduro (see my favourite restaurants in above sections)
Don’t get me wrong, San Paolo is a great neighborhood to stay in Venice. Just avoid the very expensive Canal area
Castello is the place to be if you in Venice just for the Biennale which takes place at the Arsenal, the docks area of the city, once world famous for the naval industry.
Based on where you decide to base yourself, it can be a long walk to the San Marco Square.
I think this is another area that should be experienced on a second or third visit to the city.
Because Castello is a bit different from what you expect. The streets are quite wide, there are lots of squares around and there is a lack of that maze that makes this city famous for.
This does not mean it is an area of Venice to avoid. Not at all. It’s just that you may get disappointed as a first-time visitor, however, you may be pleasantly surprised on a third time, when you try to avoid the touristy areas.
If staying or visiting this area of Venice, I suggest a lunch or dinner at the Scalinetto, great guys that offer such a friendly service. Fish is king here.
Indeed, it’s not the most spectacular area of Venice, however, it’s so convenient.
In which respect?
First, it’s so close to the Central Railway Station. So you can check-in and leave your bags at your hotel and get out to explore the city.
Second, the price of the accommodation is usually lower than anywhere else in Venice. The main reason is the fair distance to San Marco Square (get ready for a long walk)
Third, so close to Dorsoduro, great area for dinner, lunch and the nightlife.
The drawback is that you will be far from most of the things to see and do in Venice. As a first time visitor, I would probably avoid it, unless you are after a budget accommodation.
If you plan to stay just 2 nights in Venice, I would personally not consider this area. It becomes an option if you have a very early train and you are looking for an accommodation close to the train station.
It can also be quite convenient if you plan to drive to Venice and park your car at the end of the Liberty Bridge. There are a few garages here. Remember to book your spot in advance, especially in high season.
Considering the price of parking the car, besides the hassle, I would not suggest driving up to the city.
In my opinion, there is only one area to stay in Venice for one night and that is San Marco.
Venice is indeed beautiful however it would deserve more than 24 hours to be appreciated. If you can, think about adding a second night.
If you can’t, then plan to stay as close as possible to San Marco Square and have a walk there at night, maybe after a later dinner
The alternative is Dorsoduro. The advantage is that you can experience more local life however the drawback is that you will miss the most iconic sites at night
With two nights you will be able to explore the most famous attractions and you will still have some spare time to indulge in the local life.
In this respect, I would suggest either San Marco or Dorsoduro. It’s really a balance of both experiences.
If you have a heavy luggage, consider staying in San Paolo, a nice area close to the Railway Station. However, if flying to Venice then Cannaregio works best (direct ferry).
Going around with a big luggage in the city is a real pain. Consider taking a ferry to move around or a water taxi. It will save your the day, literally.
If it is not your first time in Venice, I would consider staying in Castello or Cannaregio, just for a different experience
The best neighborhood to stay in Venice for first time visitor is probably San Marco, especially if you think it may be also the last time. You want to have the full experience.
If it’s the trip of a lifetime, consider booking one of the hotels facing on the Grand Canal.
There are a few where you can access straight from the water, really a unique experience.
If you live in Europe and Venice after all is not that far away and surely you will visit it again, why not staying in Dorsoduro.
You will get a bit of everything, main attractions close by, local experience, great value accommodations, best restaurants and good nightlife.
If you are on a budget you may look to the next chapter.
With 25 million tourist yearly, Venice has become probably the most touristy city in the world, considering a population of just 250,000 people. This is why it’s really hard to find a place to stay in Venice on a budget.
Basically, there are no real cheap hotels. You would have to give up on something, which is usually location and quality
If location is not a huge trouble then you find some great option in Mestre. Just be sure to find a hotel that is close to the train station. From there, with 1.30 euro, you will be in 15 minutes in Venice.
I start first with one at the higher end of the low budget, however, I feel the Palazzetto Pisani Grand Canal is one of the best value accommodation you can find in the city. You will feel like in the 17th century. Some rooms have also the Grand Canal view, although they cost a bit more. It’s a real unique and dreamy destination
If you are more looking into a low budget, then the Anda Venice Hostel is a great modern hostel option. The design is so sparkly, based on an industrial interior inspiration including containers painted in multiple colours. If you are happy with a dormitory then your stay will be very cheap.
The other accommodation in Venice on a low budget is the Sweet Venice Hotel. It’s a house where you are going to share the toilette with another separate room. The room is basic but the location is actually great, literally 5 minutes walking from the Rialto Bridge and 15 from the San Marco Square.