The first thing, Venice really is a wonderful and unique city. The later or earlier in the year that you can visit the better, there are less visitors and it looks even more amazing. Contrary to rumours, certainly at that time of year it does not smell, nor is it expensive if you stay away from the tourist traps around St Marks Square.
On arrival at Venice Marco Polo airport you can take the airport water bus to the city, there are a number of different routes. Alternatively the ACTV No 5 or the faster ATVO buses both go to Piazzale Roma but you need to get tickets from the machines in the arrivals. You can now buy an ACTV ticket which will also include a vaporetto journey.
Once you are in the city a single vaporetto ticket costs 7.50 Euros currently, so buying a ticket for 24, 48 or 72 hours or the 7 days is well worth the money.
Get a guide book, Rough Guide, Time Out or Lonely Planet and check out the layout, transport etc. A good map bought or downloaded on your phone is essential, as it is hard to find places and the maos in the guide books are usually not detailed enough. One clue is that all the areas (sestieres) have a numbering system and you will see addresses showing for example Cannaregio 2839. The numbers are unique to the area, so if you are looking for a particular number and you get close to the number you can usually then find the one you want.
There is nothing I would specifically recommend to see after of course St Mark’s Square because the joy is walking around the other parts of the city where you do not see as many visitors. You can get lost, find lovely canals and sit out at cafes in the many squares and then get lost again. There are usually signs pointing to the main places St Mark’s, Rialto, Academia and Ferrovia (train station) so you will find your way home eventually.
It really doesn’t matter which area you stay in but it can be better to get somewhere that is handy for arrival & departure and will also give your more local choices for eating at night. Do bear in mind that if you are carrying cases you may have to cross several bridges to get to your hotel. Check out the usual booking sites such as www.booking.com or www.hotels.com after you have decided which on your area. We prefer easy access to the train & bus station and also being close to the best areas for the restaurants and bars of Cannaregio, San Croce and Dorsoduro.
Hotels Abbazzia, Calle Priuli dei Cavaletti www.abbaziahotel.com is five minutes from the station and the building is an old abbey. The hotel is excellent value, with a lovely garden and simple room, rates now seem to include breakfast which is good. The reception staff are great, very friendly and helpful. It is really good for exploring the city and for the restaurants and bars of Cannaregio and Santa Croce.
We have also stayed at Charm Suites www.thecharmsuites.com which has apartments with views onto the Grand Canal and is in Cannaregio close to transport and some great bars and restaurants. The apartments are very reasonably priced and are old style Venetian. The views, which in hotels would cost huge amounts of extra money, are just fantastic.
Alle Testiere, Calle de Mondo Novi, Castello 5801, is always on the list as one of the best places to eat in Venice, particularly for fish and seafood. There are two sittings 7 & 9.30 we prefer for the later one as it is more relaxed. The restaurant only sits 24 and booking well in advance is essential.
Nevodi, Via Garibaldi, Castello 1788, I had read great reviews and booked for a weekday lunch, so glad we had booked in advance as it was packed with a great atmosphere. The food was excellent, loved every dish we tried, the service was friendly and it was great value for money. A trusted Venice friend had also been and rated the food. This is a must for any future visit.
Osteria Alla Staffa, Calle Ospedale, Castello 6397a, is a traditional looking restaurant with only 6 tables, however the cooking is a twist on the standard menu. There are more fish than meat choices and the menu is in Italian but the staff are happy to translate if required.
Alla Rampa, Via Garibaldi, Castello 1135, is a popular local place for lunch so be prepared to get a drink and wait at the bar for a table. It is worth it as the staff are friendly and the food always good and very reasonably priced.
Osteria Anice Stellato, Fondamenta de la Sensa, Cannaregio 3272 has been a fixture on the eating scene for locals for many years and now gets a mix of visitors and regulars, helpful staff and excellent cooking but reservations are required.
La Bottega Ai Promessi Sposi, Calle dell’Oca, Cannaregio 4367 is an old favourite and is both a bacaro and osteria, booking for full meals is highly recommended. We had an excellent dinner on our last visit and all the dishes were very good. The scallop starter was particularly memorable and the house wine is very reasonably priced and good quality. A real gem and still as good as ever.
Osteria Trefanti, Rio Marin, Santa Croce 888, recommended by a local friend we booked for lunch and enjoyed an excellent meal, the menu specialises in fish and seafood dishes all prepared with an unusual twist. Excellent hospitality from Sam the owner and definitely recommended. Booking is recommended particularly for dinner.
Enoteca Ai Artisti, Fondamenta Toletta, Dorsoduro 1169, a find on our most recent visit and we enjoyed an excellent lunch here. The prices make this probably a place for dinner rather than lunch, the service, quality of food and atmosphere make this a place for future visits but be sure to book.
Muro San Stae, Campiello Dello Spezier, San Croce 2048 was a real find on a recent visit. Venice is not known for pizzas but the ones we tried must be some of the best we have ever eaten, there are many other menu choices and the house wine is very reasonably priced.
Muro Frari, Rio Tera Dei Frari, San Polo 2604, we tried on our last visit having being impressed with their restaurant in San Stae. We booked in advance, vital at weekends, as they turned away so many people. Again we sampled the pizzas and they were seriously top notch, very friendly service and good house wine makes this a must for future visits.
La Bottega Ai Promessi Sposi, Calle dell’Oca, Cannaregio 4367 is a great old school bacaro. Pop in and have a wine and a snack at the bar, try the hot meatball skewers, or book a table for lunch or dinner. Open on a Sunday and the staff are very great. See also above under restaurants.
Al Cicheto, Calle della Misercordia 367, Cannaregio, is now more a restaurant than a bacaro and offers set menus both for lunch and dinner.There are only four tables in the restaurant area plus some high tables in the bar therefore booking is a must. The cooking is very good and it is very good value for the quality, there is a good wine selection by the glass and bottle.A local friend visited it for the first time recently and was very impressed with the cooking as were we when we returned for lunch on our most recent visit.
Timon, Fondamenta Ormesini, Cannaregio 2754, is one of the original bars in the area which is very popular with both locals and visitors. They have expanded and taken over the premises next door and now have two places, Timon Bragozzo, specialising in meat dishes, and Timon all Antica Mola, which specialises in fish and seafood. The cichetti were excellent and the menu in the fish part looked very good, a must for dinner on our next visit.
Oficina Ormesini, Fondamenta Ormesini, Cannaregio 2689, is recently opened and is yet another option in this area. We visited twice on our most recent visit and thought the quality of the wines, cichetti and service was excellent. Definitely a must on any future visits.
Mezzo Pieno, Fondamenta Ormesini, Cannaregio 2831 one of first new places to open on this stretch, a modern bacaro with a good wine selection and some snacks. The owner is very friendly and will advise on wines. Shut on a Monday.
Vino Vero, Fondamenta Misercordia, Cannaregio 2497, now a fixture in the great bar scene in this area. This is a modern style bar with an excellent wine selection specialising in natural wines and offers some good cichetti.
A La Vecia Papussa, Fondamenta Misercordia 2612, the decor is impressive as was the display of cichetti, unfortunately we did not have time to sample the wines on this visit, one for the future.
Cantina Aziende Agricole, Roberto Beri, Rio Terra Farsetti, Cannaregio 1847 is a smart old school bar with a very wide selection of wines and snacks and very popular with locals. This has become a favourite because of the always excellent choices in wines, the top-notch cichetti and the friendly and helpful service. The polpette de carne are the best we have tried in Venice and they also have a small selection of pasta dishes.
Time Social Bar, Rio Tera Farsetti 1414, a great fairly recent addition to the Venice bar scene and another lovely bar in the great area of Cannaregio. Even better it is a late night haunt, perfect for a post dinner wine or cocktail prepared by Alessandro the excellent host and owner. Lovely to return and enjoy the excellent hospitality from Alessandro and the guys.
Paradiso Perduto, Fondamenta della Misercordia, Cannaregio 2540 is a very popular late night bar and restaurant, the food is fine but the atmosphere makes the place. They have occasional live music.
El Sbarlefo, Salizzada del Pistor, Cannaregio 4556, this is an excellent modern bacaro with a good range of snacks, great wines and good music, it has only been open for a few years but has quickly gained a loyal following.
Un Mondo Di Vino, Salizada San Caciano, Canneregio 5984A is a good bacaro with a large range of wines and of course snacks and also platters of meat and cheese. Great to go back on our most recent visit and to find it as good as ever.
Bar Puppa (da Masud), Calle del Spezier, Cannaregio 4800 has a unique twist as some of the snacks have an oriental twist. Friendly owner and staff and worth a visit.
Bar Stellar Polare, Rio Terra Santi Apostoli, Cannaregio 4653, was a real find, a lovely modern bar with some excellent wines and friendly staff. One more place that is must for a return visit which we did and received a warm welcome.
Da Alberto, Calle Larga Giacinto, Canneregio 5401 a lovely local bacaro with a wide range of cicchetti and excellent good value pasta dishes at lunch time, the staff seem very friendly and helpful with customers not used to Venetian dishes.
Cantina Vecia Carbonera Rio Terra Madalena, Cannaregio 2329, this is another old haunt, with a decent selection of wines and cicchetti, A good stopping place if you are heading towards the station but staff not the most welcoming.
Enoteca do Colonne, Rio Tera de Cristo, Cannaregio 1814, a locals bar with a good selection of cicchetti and good wines. There seem to be mixed reviews but we thought the selection and prices were good.
Trattoria Ca D’Oro, also called Alla Vedova, Cannaregio 3912, just off the Strada Nuova. This is an old school bacaro, great for both a snack and wine at the bar or a meal but booking is recommended. This continues to be a favourite place to stop off for wine and cichetti.
MQ10, Fondamenta Cannaregio, Cannaregio 1020. a new modern bar on the Cannaregio canal between the two vaporetto stops of Guglie and Tre Archi owned by the same people as Al Parlamento opposite.
Al Parlamento, Cannaregio 511,opposite MQ10 is a good bar for a late night drink and therefore very popular, great canal side setting for sipping your beer or wine.
Osteria Al Portego, Calle della Malvasia , Castello 6015, this is a really popular bar with great cicchetti. There are only 6 tables so if you want a full meal you must book. The seafood pasta was fantastic and the fritura mista (mixed fish and seafood) looked excellent, this is a regular haunt.
Bacaro Risorto, Campo S. Provolo, Castello 4700, a very popular local bar with an excellent selection of cicchetti and wines and beers, not the cheapest for some items but well worth a visit.
El Refolo, Via Garibaldi, Castello 1580, this is off the normal tourist trail but the reputation seems to be getting known and attracting not just the locals. The bar is small, but sit outside with your wine and snacks and watch the real local Venice life. Excellent wines and very pleasant owner.
San Polo – Rialto
Bancogiro, Campo San Giacomo di Rialto, San Polo 122 was the first of the new wave of bars in this area. It has a great setting near the Rialto and the new tables outside have one of the best views of any bar in the city. Great to return recently and enjoy the wine and cichetti and of course the setting.
Cantina do Mori, Calle de Mori , San Polo 429 near the Rialto Market, can be difficult to find but one of the original bars round the Rialto Market and supposed to be the oldest in Venice. It is a bit overpriced but should be visited.
Osteria Dai Zemei, San Polo 0145, on the main route from the Rialto, Ruga Vecia San Giovanni, a brilliant small bar with the best selection of crostini that I have seen, squeeze in and sample the wine and snacks.
All’Arco, Calle dell Orchialer, San Polo 436 reckoned to be the best cicchetti in the Rialto and therefore always packed, the choices are different so try a few different things with a glass of wine.
Al Merca, Campo Cesare Battisti, San Polo 213, the tiniest of the Rialto bacaro’s but one of the best, choose a wine and one of the small rolls and stand in the campo and watch the activity of the nearby market.
Antica Osteria Ruga Rialto, Calle del Sturion, San Polo 692, an old haunt from many years ago we returned after a number of years and enjoyed the wine and cichetti and the friendly service.
Cantina Arnaldi, Salizada San Pantalon, Santa Croce 35, opened by Andrea and Katya was the find of a visit some years ago and has now become a firm fixture on any visit. A lovely, welcoming design matched by the warm welcome and friendly service always awaits and everything is top quality. It was great to return again and see how popular with both locals and visitors the bar has become and to enjoy as ever the lovely wines, food and company.
Hostaria Veccio Bavarol, Fondamenta dei Tolentini, Santa Croce 225, this is a recent addition to this canal side street and it was a lovely find. The owner Andrea is very hospitable and has an excellent range of drinks and also snacks.
Bacareto Da Lele, Campo dei Tolentini, Santa Croce 183 just across from the Station as you head towards Campo Santa Margherita, this tiny place is great for a cheap wine and a sandwich or roll. Incredibly popular this is a must for a visit but note it shuts at 8pm.
Next door to Da Lele is a new bar, slightly larger than it’s neighbour but only just. We did not manage to get a name but popped in on a couple of occasions as it opens later than it’s neighbour.
El Sbarlefo, Calle San Pantalon, Dorsoduro 3757 is one of a wonderful selection of wine bars in this area. They have another bar in Cannaergio but this is more comfortable for a wine and cicchetti stop with better and more seating.
Estro, Calle Crosera, Dorsoduro 3778, this very smart wine bar is another fairly recent addition to this area. They have a very large selection of wines, in all price ranges and also a wide selection of food.
Adriatico Mar, Calle Crosera, Dorsoduro 3771, is another new wine bar close to Estro. We managed to squeeze in on a very busy Saturday night and were very warmly welcomed by the owner, some unusual wine choices which he is happy to advise on. The small terrace on the canal is a great place to stand with a glass of wine.
Osteria Ai Pugni, Fondamenta Gheradini, Dorsoduro 2836, just beside the famous vegetable barge at San Barnaba, this was a find on our most recent visit and had a lovely selection of wines and cichetti. They also have a lunch menu which seemed very popular. We thought it may be linked to osteria Ai Artisiti and will definitely return on our next visit.
Osteria Al Squero, Via Trovaso, Dorsoduro 944, near Zattere vaporetto stop and opposite the gondola boatyard this is a lovely place to stop for a wine and cicchetti. Very friendly owners this is a great addition to this area and you can sit outside on the wall by the canal so long as you use a plastic glass.
Cantina del Vino Gino Schiavi, Fondamenta Nani, Dorsoduro 992 is just along the canal from Al Squero. This wine shop and bar is very popular with visitors and over the years I have felt the prices have seemed inflated. On this visit however drinking ombras and eating the cicchetti the prices seemed in line with other places. Great selection of wines to buy to take home.
Pasticceria Dal Mas, Lista Di Spanga, Cannaregio 149-150, a wonderful cake shop and bar, always buzzing with locals hopping in for a quick coffee, spritz or prosecco. The staff are incredibly friendly, go for breakfast, a snack or a drink.
Majer seems to be a recently opened small chain of cafes with amazing cakes, pastries and snacks and a great selection of wines and spritz. Lovely service in the two branches we tried including complimentary sandwiches and pizza in one branch. The two we tried were in the Ghetto, Cannaregio 1227 and Campo Santa Margherita, Dorsoduro 3108.
Torrefazione Cannaregio, Rio Tera San leonardo, Cannaregio 1337 is the only coffee merchant and grinder left and is worth a visit either for a coffe to drink there or to buy coffee to take home.
Rosa Salva, Campo San Giovanni e Palo, an excellent traditional Venice cake shop with great Spritz, they have a couple of other places near St Marks.
In St Mark’s Square the well known cafés are very expensive but you can stand in the American Bar and have a drink and gaze out onto the square.
The local drink to try is a “Spritz” made either with bitter Campari, sweeter Aperol, or Select somewhere in the middle and my choice where possible. White wine or prosecco then soda is added and finished with an olive and a slice of either orange or lemon. Although now common in the UK there is nothing like sipping one or two early evening in a lovely square in Venice where it belongs.
Another local tip is to drink an “Ombra” a small glass of local wine just specify red or white and this probably averages one euro a glass, some of the more upmarket bars will not do this but most bars do because that is what the locals drink. Where an ombra is not available then this is the opportunity to try some local wines such as the white Soave and the red Cabernet Franc. Bars are very proud of their local range of wines.
Local draught wines can be bought in some local places where a litre of red or white costs around 2 euros. There is one on Fodamenta Cannaregio and also on Rio Tera San Leonardo nearby.
The Academia Gallery, St Marks, your guide book will be full of things to see, for me it is the sheer joy of wandering around the city, getting lost, finding new squares you have never found before and generally soaking up the wonderful city. You are of course supposed to take a gondola trip but again have never done this, it is much more fun being part of real Venice on a water bus or a traghetto.
There are lots of very tacky souvenirs around as well as lots of glass items, some from nearby Murano others not. One shop that specialises in modern style Murano glass jewellery is L’Arte Di Casanova which has two shops one on the right after you cross the Rialto Bridge on the market side. The other is in Campo San Geremia on the main route from the station to the Rialto on the right before you cross the Cannaregio canal, highly recommended.