An Easy Guide to Venice Italy for First Time Visitors

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We created an easy guide to Venice Italy for first time visitors so that you know the main highlights and attractions that you should not miss on your trip.

Venice is quaint, historic, and artistic with beautiful pre-Renaissance architecture.

No matter how many photographs, films, or paintings you see, Venice glistens like a rich gem and surprises you on every piazza.

In this guide, we’ll cover how to get to Venice, the best time to visit, the best attractions, where to stay, plus tips and things to know before you go.

Where is Venice

Venice is located in the northern part of Italy on the eastern coast. The city is an island and only accessible by boat or on foot.

What makes it most extraordinary is the web of streets, winding canals, historic architecture, and picture-worthy palaces and churches.

How to Get to Venice

The Marco Polo international airport (VCE) is less than a twenty-minute drive. If you fly into VCE airport there are three transportation options to the island:

  • Taxi (or public car share)
  • Bus
  • Water Taxi

If you are traveling into the city by train, you most likely will arrive at Santa Lucia train station. From the station, you’ll need to walk across the Ponte della Constituzione (an arched pedestrian bridge) or Ponte degli Scalzi (a stone bridge across the Grand Canal).

From the station, you can also take a water taxi to a stop that is closest to your hotel.

When is the Best Time to Visit Venice

The best months to visit are between April and early June.

If possible, try to visit Venice in spring. Summer is uncomfortably warm for comfort. You will have to get around on foot and walking in the heat, especially for families with little ones, will be unbearable.

If you enjoy much cooler weather, the best time to visit is between December and February. Celebrations at the end of the year for the holidays are magical and Carnevale is an annual tradition for locals in which tourists can participate.

Where to Stay in Venice

San Marco is the best play to stay in Venice because you are within walking distance of major attractions of the center such as Saint Marks Square, The Bridge of Sighs, the Doges Palace, and the St. Marks Basilica.

The neighborhoods of San Marco and San Polo are in the center. This is where most of the tourist attractions are located.

There are several neighborhoods. On the northern end is Cannaregio and to the south is Dorsoduro. Across the water (further south) are the Guidecca, Lido & southern islands.

To the west and spreading towards the center of the city lies Santa Croce, while Castello lies to the east.

Best Things to Do in Venice

map of venice

The Cannaregio Neighborhood

In this peaceful area, you’ll find synagogues and what is known today as the Ghetto which was a designated Jewish quarter. It’s much less touristy than other neighborhoods.

We stayed at the Hotel al Duca di Venezia during our last visit and thought it was an ideal location. When booking, keep in mind that stars matter. Read this guide to understand hotel star ratings.

Other must-sees:

  • The Ghetto
  • Church of Madonna dell’Orto
  • Church of Santa Maria dei Miracoli

The San Polo and Santa Croce Neighborhoods

The Rialto Bridge is perhaps the most photographed site, second only of course to St. Mark’s. 

As the oldest bridge crossing the Grand Canal of Venice, the Rialto Bridge has become one of the main attractions that you must visit when walking through the city. The Rialto Bridge is located right next to major highlights, but across from the Grand Canal.

Strolling across the city’s first built bridge puts you right in the middle of the crowds — both tourist-friendly and of a local kind, but the bustling atmosphere at the famed Rialto Market is something you do not want to miss. 

The city’s first-built bridge leads to the popular Rialto Market, where vendors sell fresh-picked vegetables, fresh-caught seafood, spices, and more.

Other must-sees:

  • Scuola Grande di San Rocco
  • Gondola on the Grand Canal

The San Marco and Dorsoduro Neighborhoods

St. Marks Place, called the Square of San Marco, is the primary public square in Venice and is the civic center of Venice. Located in the Grand Canal, across from the island of St. George, St. Mark’s Square is of immense importance to Venice and is truly an impressive site to see. 

Take a step inside the Basilica to visit St. Mark’s Museum, a small museum that tells you all about the basilica and the history of Venice, as well as for the unparalleled views over St. Mark’s Square from a terrace overlooking the Horse statue.

Other must-sees:

  • The Bridge of Sighs
  • Museo Correr
  • Palazzo Ducale
  • Campanile
  • Doges Palace

TIP: Hop on an elevator to the top of the Campanile (St. Mark’s Bell) to get views over Venice and the Venetian lagoon from a height of 324 feet (99 meters). 

Many people stop for a photo at the tall bell tower, which stands majestically next to St. Mark’s Cathedral, a patriarchal basilica, and never bother taking the elevator up to the top to get unparalleled views of Venice from the air.

One of the most famous buildings in Venice, apart from the Campanile, is Doges Palace which is also located on St. Mark’s Square but looks down on the Grand Canal.

The Castello Neighborhood

This is the largest district in Venice and is historically known as the site of naval shipyards. Public access is now only available in major events, like Carnevale.

Things to Know Before You Go

couple in gondola

Final Thoughts on Visiting Venice Italy

Venice is so scenic, that one of the best things to do is just explore the center of the city by walking.

The tourism in Venice continues to thrive as more cruise ships enter the ports. Everyone is anxious to explore the canals, sit down and relax at one of the tiny plazas that pepper the city of Venice, enjoy coffee or wine-hop, and eat gelato.

When you travel to Venice, it’s easy to simply soak up this city on your first visit without feeling you need to tick off a ton of sites on your list.

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  1. beautiful post Tanya, I went to Venice several time and I went to Murano once, Love the walk with my wife and son. I definitely would visit again, but this time i hope to see less tourist, it is just too many of them.

    1. Tanya Taylor says:

      Yes, Venice has become quite popular because they now allow cruise ships to the port — that was not the case many years ago. Perhaps visiting during non-peak season will make it more enjoyable.

  2. Hang Around The World says:

    I’ve been in Venice severl times and here in Italy we have so many wonderful places to visit. One of the best countries in the world.
    There are so many things to do here, amazing. – Paolo

    1. Tanya Taylor says:

      Hi Paolo, I absolutely adore Italy… Rome is my favorite city and I hope to visit many more.

  3. I’ve never been to Venice before, but I’ve always admired this place for all its canals, gondolas and romantic couples spending hteir time in one of the most romantic cities in the world. 🙂

    1. Tanya Taylor says:

      It truly is romantic and you will also find things to do for the entire family.

  4. I have never been to Venice before but members of my family have and have told me I have to go! I would love to see it!

    1. Tanya Taylor says:

      Venice is one of the best places to enjoy Europe. I hope you get to visit soon!

  5. Marie Phillips says:

    I have always wanted to go to Venice because of the incredible architecture. Absolutely amazing!

    1. Tanya Taylor says:

      It is stunning and I hope you get to visit!

  6. I loved Venice when I was there. But I was so young that I don’t think I fully appreciated it.

    1. Tanya Taylor says:

      We felt the same when traveling as a family. I think it’s best to go when kids can really appreciate and remember it.

  7. supermompicks says:

    Oh so gorgeous! Venice I will be seeing you very soon! Great pictures!

    1. Tanya Taylor says:

      Thank so much for your feedback!

  8. Such elegance to the architecture. You can see how you could easily lose yourself in time here, forgetting which century you are in.

    1. Tanya Taylor says:

      My sentiments exactly!

  9. Venice sounds like a wonder for all the senses. All of your photos look beautiful and make it seem even more enticing!

    1. Tanya Taylor says:

      Thank you – it is truly magical.

  10. Oh my this looks like such an amazing place to visit with the whole family. Hope we do so one of these days.

    1. Tanya Taylor says:

      I just know you will love it; I will be posting more about Italy – it’s a beautiful country.

  11. ewuzie kingsley says:

    Venice is indeed a perfect destination.. I hope to visit and explore Venice someday. Love the city amazing Architecture.

    1. Tanya Taylor says:

      I couldn’t agree more and I hope you do experience this wonderful city!