Venice…a city of dreams…
of our most treasured honeymoon memories,
and of our daily travel fantasies still…
Venice was by far our favorite stop on our Italian honeymoon tour. The unique charms of the city built on water (actually, built on millions of wooden piles) where everything, even trash collection is by boat, completely won us over! Despite the November storm that set in the second day and despite the daytime cruise ship crowds, we completely fell in love with Venice and had a very romantic time there. We’re so glad to be able to visit this amazing city. My only regret was not being able to go on another gondola ride!
Read on for our trip highlights and travel tips for a romantic and less stressful trip!
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Splurge on a Nice Hotel with Breakfast
For a romantic and memorable trip, I recommend splurging for a nice hotel. I don’t usually say this, but if you’re planning a special occasion trip, then I say go for the nicest one that you can afford! Preferably one that’s next to the Grand Canal so that you can watch the gondolas pass by while the two of you enjoy your breakfast!
We stayed at the former Westin Hotel, now completely renovated and re-branded as the St Regis (and it looks so amazing!!). It’s in the best location, just a few minutes walk to St Mark’s Square and a vaporetto stop. There’s an AMAZING view of the Grand Canal from their restaurant terrace with the iconic Basilica di Santa Maria Della Salute in the background that’s one of my favorite views in the city. What a special experience to have breakfast or lunch there while watching the gondolas pass by! Even if you don’t stay there, I highly recommend that you visit their restaurant terrace for the view!
Tip – Make sure to let the hotels know that you’re celebrating a special occasion, such as your honeymoon! Every hotel that we stayed at during our honeymoon trip welcomed us with a special treat, such as cake and champagne!
When we decided to extend our stay for a few more days (how I wish we could’ve spent our entire honeymoon here!), we moved to the Hotel NH Collection Venezia Palazzo Barocci, also a beautiful and modern hotel next to the Grand Canal, but located closer to the Rialto Bridge. We upgraded to a Junior Suite, which was huge with a fantastic view, after we decided that the standard room wasn’t “honeymoon worthy”. We loved both hotels so much!
As always, I was glad to have brought my multi-outlet travel adapter because, from experience, even high end hotels never seem to have enough electrical outlets to recharge our camera batteries and phones, etc. It came in so useful during our honeymoon tour of Italy!
First Impressions at St Mark’s Square
Our first stop was St Mark’s Square and we were immediately in awe of the uniqueness and grandeur of the city. Venetian architecture is so unique, from the unusually shaped St Mark’s Basilica (Basilica di San Marco) to the grandeur of the Doge’s Palace (Palazzo Ducale) to the many elegant and colorful buildings throughout the city. There is just so much to take in!
Interested in travel and portrait photography? Take a look inside my camera bag!
Visiting the inside of these buildings was a must even on a very rainy day, and even if the Basilica was flooded! When you visit the Basilica, make sure to visit the rooftop to see the impressive statues and for an amazing view over the square. Also, make sure to stay for the light show that lights up the inside of the church and brings the mosaics to sparkling life!
Only in Venice – a Gondola Ride Along the Canal
Yes it’s touristy, but when you’re in Venice, you need to go on a gondola ride, especially if it’s your honeymoon or special occasion! You can choose to share the gondola with more people to lower the cost, but I will go against most recommendations and say that you should go for a private ride with just the two of you for a more romantic experience. We did and we have no regrets – it’s our honeymoon after all!
We also chose the longer ride option that went into the smaller canals and it was an incredibly charming and peaceful experience. Our gondolier acted as a tour guide by pointing out famous buildings (where George and Amal got married for example!) and he even took some pictures of us at the end.
For an only-in-Venice souvenir, I recommend wearing a nice outfit to take pictures in the gondola while you’re on your Grand Canal tour. What can be more special? I went on my gondola ride rather unexpectedly so I didn’t have time to prepare a fancier outfit, but I fantasize about wearing a beautiful dress the next time I get to ride a gondola in Venice! Your gondolier should be happy to take some pictures of the two of you before or after the ride also.
Surprisingly Delicious Food
During my trip research, I had read that food in Venice is not very good, and so I had somewhat low expectations. But we found the food to be surprisingly delicious and in fact, don’t recall a single bad meal, even when we had takeaway pasta!
If you find a restaurant that you’d like to try, I highly recommend making a reservation to ensure a seating. We had an amazing seafood dinner at Osteria alle Testiere (TripAdvisor reviews here) on our first night that was among the most delicious that we’ve ever had. Their daily menu is seasonal and depends on the offerings of the Rialto fish market. If you’d like to dine there, I definitely recommend making a reservation since it’s a fairy small restaurant which can only seat about 20 people. Your hotel concierge should be happy to help.
Tip – Don’t hesitate to ask your hotel concierge to help with making restaurant reservations or for restaurant and activity recommendations! All of our hotel concierges in Italy were extremely helpful, friendly and professional. It would’ve been difficult for us to make reservations since we don’t speak Italian and live in a very different time zone. Some restaurants offer online reservations but some don’t.
We also had the best takeaway/carry-out pasta for dinner at a tiny one-man shop just a few blocks north of St Mark’s Square called Tuttinpiedi (TripAdvisor reviews here) that was incredibly delicious and affordable as well. We loved all the pasta dishes we tried there, including the seafood, pesto, bolognese and squid ink dishes and ate there several times in fact!
One night, we walked into a restaurant near the popular Bacino Orseolo Gondola Station, expecting a very touristy place, but again we had a delicious meal with great service and didn’t feel overcharged. But, as you may have read in the news, there have been reports of tourists being taken advantage of and overcharged in some restaurants, so please be aware of what you are ordering and the exact cost of the items.
Another delightful experience was the “cicchetti”, which are small snacks/dishes that are typically served in traditional cicchetti bars and are somewhat unique to Venice, although we saw some in Florence as well.
There are a number of bars and restaurants that serve cicchetti and there are even cicchetti tours that take you to several bars to sample different kinds. We enjoyed ordering quite a few dishes to try, occasionally with a glass of wine, and every single one was delicious! This was actually one of Ken’s favorite things about Venice. We visited several of the little restaurants/bars in the area just north of the Rialto Bridge (which we literally ran across to escape the super touristy shops on the bridge), including the delightful and delicious Osteria Bancogiro.
Venice Before the Crowds
Venice is a very popular city and is frequently in the news for their attempts at crowd control. And I won’t lie – it was very crowded even in rainy November. But the majority of the crowds are from the huge cruise ships and those tourists mostly leave in the late afternoon and it’s usually much calmer by dinner time.
To experience Venice without the crowds, and for a romantic experience, I highly recommend getting up early to see Venice before the crowds at least once during your stay. We got up before sunrise several times and were able to enjoy the city and take some pictures with far fewer crowds. Being able to see the beautiful sunrise over the Grand Canal with just the two of us made it completely worthwhile!
Getting Around Venice
The best way to get around Venice is definitely by walking and exploring the city’s many streets, to be able to enjoy the unique scenery, buildings, and gondola scene! We did get lost a number of times in the beginning but every street is unique and charming, so Venice is definitely the most fun city to get lost in!
The public waterbus lines (vaporetto) are also very convenient and we used them a lot. A 75-minute ticket costs €7.50 and entitles you to unlimited travel during that period, which starts at the time of validation. You can also purchase 1-day (€20), 2-day (€30) or 3-day (€40) passes for unlimited rides during your selected time period. We typically start the day by walking to all the places we want to see, then we would take the vaporetto home after dinner or in the afternoon if we needed a rest.
We also took a water taxi to the train station on our last day there because there was a vaporetto strike! We shared a water taxi with one other couple and it was honestly such an enjoyable and peaceful experience!
Venice Travel Tips
My best advice is to soak in all the unique charms of Venice to the fullest! Splurge on only-in-Venice experiences such as gondola rides and breakfast or lunch watching the gondolas glide by on the Grand Canal. If there are long lines for a gondola ride, try waiting until lunchtime. This is an insider tip from our gondolier and he was right! It was relatively peaceful during lunchtime with no lines! There are also many small and charming Venetian gift shops with unique Carnival masks and glass among the small streets that are worth browsing. We brought home some beautiful made-in-Venice glass gondolas in a very modern and sleek design that we love!
My other best advice is to get up early for a crowd-free and romantic experience – it’s totally worth it even though it might be a little hard.
Water Taxi vs Vaporetto
I mentioned above that we used the vaporetto (public waterbus) quite a bit, but there are times when you might want to take a water taxi instead. If you have luggage and are coming from the train station, I recommend taking a water taxi instead of the vaporetto. It’s very crowded on the vaporetto and may be hard to hang onto your luggage if you don’t have a seat! A water taxi is more expensive, but it’s a much more pleasant first experience of the city. Sharing a ride with another couple will lower the cost. We took a water taxi from our hotel to the train station and enjoyed it so much more since we didn’t have to worry about hanging on to our luggage while bumping into people on a crowded water bus!
Speaking of luggage, it’s very difficult to haul it around Venice, with all the cobblestone streets and foot bridges (with steps) all over the city. We experienced this first hand when we extended our stay and decided to change hotels. It was only a 10-minute walk to the second hotel, but it was a very rocky walk with lots of luggage lifting over the steps (on my husband’s part at least!). Try to pack light with a sturdy suitcase. I’ve been using Eagle Creek suitcases like this carry-on for years and love their high quality and great customer service. They even sent me a free replacement suitcase when one of mine got damaged after several years of use!
Comfortable Shoes are a Must!
Comfortable walking shoes are essential for Venice, because of those cobblestone streets mentioned above! I love my Adidas sneakers for all day comfort.
Visiting in the Fall or Winter
If you visit in the Fall or Winter, be prepared for rain and cold weather! A warm waterproof jacket and shoes are important. I was very grateful for my waterproof and comfortable Timberland boots. You can also buy plastic waterproof boots from vendors if it rains (but the price is double when it’s actually raining though!)
Be Prepared to Get Lost!
One thing we learned the first day we were there is that smartphone GPS doesn’t work among the small streets of Venice! It’s best to get a paper map from your hotel and have them draw out the best route to get to somewhere specific, such as a restaurant. If you rely on your phone, you’ll be spinning around and around just as we, and countless other tourists around us, did! Downloading maps for off-line use is always a good idea, although the GPS will still have trouble locating you to provide correct directions. Although, I have to say that getting lost in Venice can be quite fun if you are not in a hurry since all the streets are so cute!
I hope you enjoyed this post! If you found it helpful, please pin, share or leave a comment below! Thank you and I hope you have an amazing trip there if you have one planned! ❤️