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Venice For Members

Five essential tips to escape the tourist crowds in Venice

Giampietro Vianello
Giampietro Vianello - [email protected]
Five essential tips to escape the tourist crowds in Venice
Venice can get very crowded, but there are ways to avoid congestion even in peak season. Photo by Miguel MEDINA / AFP

Venice is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Italy, meaning that getting away from the crowds can be tricky. The Local’s reporter and Venice native Giampietro Vianello gives his tips on how to escape other tourists.

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With its artistic cachet and spellbinding atmosphere, Venice is one of the most popular art cities in Italy.

But, with an influx of over 20 million visitors every year, the city’s beauty has long been just as well-known worldwide as its overcrowding problems as its streets, main attractions and public transport are regularly overwhelmed by tourists.

Does this mean that long queues, packed tours and crammed water buses are something that you should automatically account for when planning your visit to the floating city?

Well, not really, as there are some essential steps that you can take to escape the crowds and still make the most of your trip.

Pick your accommodation carefully

Venice is divided into six different sestieri (or districts). The San Marco and San Polo areas are home to some of the city’s most famous attractions and see large numbers of visitors during the day.

On the other hand, Cannaregio, Castello and the Giudecca island (part of the Dorsoduro district) are all largely residential areas and see far fewer tourists.

READ ALSO: Nine ways to get into trouble while visiting Venice

This makes them the best parts of town to stay in if you want to avoid a bagno di folla (literally, ‘crowd bath’) as soon as you step out of your hotel or B&B.

If you really value silence and tranquillity, you may also consider staying in one of the smaller islands around Venice, but remember: you’ll have to use public transport to reach the main island and your journey may not always be short. 

Ditch public transport if and when you can

Water buses, or vaporetti, on the most popular routes (to and from the Santa Lucia train station and along the Grand Canal) tend to get very crowded during the warm months, especially at peak times. 

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If you balk at the prospect of standing next to dozens of fellow passengers in a tightly packed boat, then you may want to consider moving around on foot.

Venice is fairly small compared to other major cities across the country, meaning that, regardless of your destination, you’ll hardly ever have to walk for more than 30-35 minutes to reach it. 

Granted, walking may not always be an option (for instance, you may be carrying heavy luggage) and, even if it is, you may still have to weave your way through groups of tourists standing smack in the middle of a calle (street).

But slaloming around fellow pedestrians is still generally preferable to a crammed boat ride – and it’ll be free of charge naturally.

Get off the beaten track

As in the case of all other major art cities in the country, Venice’s most popular attractions, including the Doge’s Palace, Saint Mark’s Basilica and the Rialto bridge, can get very crowded during peak tourist season.

Luckily though, the city has no shortage of hidden gems which generally attract smaller numbers of visitors but are just as enjoyable as some of the more popular sights.

Bridge of Sighs

Venice's main attractions see very large numbers of tourists during the warm months, but there's no shortage of alternative cultural sites worth visiting in town. Photo by Andrea PATTARO / AFP

From lesser-known churches (like the Chiesa di San Pantaleone and Chiesa di San Zaccaria) to the Jewish ghetto and the traditional gondola boatyards (squeri), there’s plenty that’s worth discovering.

READ ALSO: Five ‘secret’ places in Venice you need to visit

And remember: the small islands surrounding Venice – not just Murano and Burano but also Torcello, Sant’ Erasmo and San Francesco nel Deserto – all have their very own hidden treasures.

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Off-peak times and after-hours tours

If you really cannot resist the allure of the more popular attractions, the best way to escape the crowds is to start your day early. 

Most museums and other cultural sites in town open at 9am and turning up around that time will likely save you a good deal of queueing. 

In some cases, you may also avoid queueing by booking your visit online and grabbing skip-the-queue tickets, though that is not possible for all attractions in town. 

It’s also worth noting that some museums hold special after-hours openings during the warm months (see these state-run museums). When visiting at these times, you’ll likely share the museum with just a handful of people.

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Avoid restaurants in central areas

Restaurants in central areas (and especially the fancy canal-side venues) tend to get insanely busy during the warm months, meaning you may have to wait over an hour to get a table or may be turned away with a scusate, siamo al completo stasera (‘sorry, we’re fully booked tonight’).

Lunch in Venice

Restaurants in Venice, especially canal-side venues, tend to get extremely busy in high season. Photo by Marco Bertorello / AFP

There are two things you can do to avoid this: you can either try to book a table well in advance or you can move away from the more touristy areas (San Marco and San Polo districts) and look for a venue in one of the other areas, which is generally what locals do by default.

Speaking of locals, while it may not always work out, trying to extract tips on local eateries from residents is always worth a shot, especially if you're looking for an authentic bacaro (typical Venetian tavern).

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Comments (1)

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Elaine Calder 2023/09/02 16:26
Monica Cesarato's book "Andar Per Bacar" is a terrific guide to cichetti and some of the best places (bacari) where you can eat very well for less in Venice. The English edition was just published and both it and the original Italian version can be found in bookstores and gift shops across Venice. But be careful: the title is the same in both languages so check that you're buying the edition you need! It's a slender paperback and costs about €11. I highly recommend it.

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