Venice on a budget: 6 travel hacks to save on your trip
With narrow streets, iconic canals, and one of the most fascinating histories of any major European city, it’s no wonder how many travelers want to visit Venice. The shopping, restaurant, and nightlife scenes are all world-class. In terms of history, it’s one of the most well-preserved places on the planet. While this city has an opulent culture and a reputation for luxury travel, your Venice trip doesn’t have to cost you an arm and a leg.
Planning ahead can help you save money in a variety of ways. Figuring out the cheapest way to navigate the narrow streets and canals, arranging luggage storage in Venice, and finding the best cheap eats are the best ways to stick to a strict budget. Most importantly, some of the best activities and landmarks in the Venice city center are completely free or very affordable.
Here are some travel tips for visiting Venice on a Budget:
Cheap places to stay in Venice
It’s never easy trying to find the right lodging option in a very expensive city like Venice. But saving money on a hostel or cheaper hotel is the best way to keep to a tight budget when you visit Venice. Hotel prices in the Venetian Lagoon can get, let’s say, luxurious, so you’ll really need to look into youth hotels for lower prices.
Check out our Venice neighborhood guide to find which area of the city appeals to you, and then look for hostels nearby. Here are a few of the best options:
Anda Venice Hostel
Located just a few minutes from St. Mark Square and other popular attractions, this massive hostel is one of the best places to stay for younger travelers and backpackers. It’s very convenient, with Mestre Train Station nearby, and the prices are incredibly reasonable. For a bed in a shared dorm room, Anda only costs $30 per night, with twin beds in private rooms only being $50 per person.
This is also a female-friendly hostel that has policies in place to create an environment where every guest is comfortable. The shared kitchen is also great for travelers looking to prepare a few meals, which can be key for saving money. There’s also an onsite bar for socializing over a few inexpensive drinks.
This is probably the nicest hostel in the Venetian Lagoon. Branded as a “five-star hostel” (it’s difficult to sense whether there’s an irony to this label), Combo is one of the nicest inexpensive lodging options to consider for your Venice trip. Located in a repurposed convent dating back to the 12th century, Combo has a luxurious aesthetic you won’t find anywhere else. The prices are on the higher end, with private rooms with twin beds starting at $200, but features like air-conditioning and a kitchenette help justify the cost.
Generator Hostel Venice
This hostel chain has locations in just about every major European city, and Generator’s consistent quality makes it one of the most reliable options on the market. The location in Venice has some nice decor and subtle touches that can trick guests into thinking they’re staying at a hotel. Cozy couches overlooking a fireplace, chandeliers, and paintings all give common areas a luxurious feel. The prices are incredibly reasonable. $40 for a shared dorm or $120 for two guests in a private room isn’t bad.
Cheap things to do in Venice
Luckily, if you’re looking to visit Italy and save money at the same time, there are always amazing activities that are completely free. Like other Italian cities, Venice is chock full of historic landmarks that can be enjoyed by just walking around and looking at them. Whether it’s the famous Doge’s Palace, island hopping, or a charming town square, these activities don’t require a ticket or entrance fee.
The Bridge of Sighs and Doge’s Palace
Read any article or travel book about visiting Venice, and you will find writers heaping massive amounts of praise on Doge’s Palace and the Bridge of Sighs. Both of these historical landmarks are premium tourist destinations and for good reason. Doge’s Palace is a former city official’s urban manse that has been well-preserved and is a must-see attraction for history buffs, art enthusiasts, and curious travelers. The Bridge of Sighs, on the beautiful Riva degli Schiavoni, connects Doge’s Palace to historic prisons (not currently in use) and is one of Venice’s premier architectural attractions. Another bridge to tour is the Rialto, which was built in the 16th century and crosses the Grand Canal.
Venice’s parks, gardens, and piazzas
One of the best ways to save money on a trip is to plan an afternoon (or even a full day) where you only do free activities. Luckily for budget travelers, Venice has plenty of beautiful spaces that are completely free to explore.
Giardini Reali, which was commissioned by Napoleon Bonaparte, is a gorgeous public garden with historic features and lush landscapes. The Giardini della Biennale is another garden with dozens of pavilions and regular art exhibitions. The Parco della Rimembranza overlooks the Venetian Lagoon and is a beautiful place to walk around. It’s also a comfortable space to have a picnic.
Walking is Venice’s best activity
One of the defining features of major European cities is their walkability. Venice, with its bridges and canalways, is one of the absolute best walking cities in the world. Everywhere you turn, there’s something amazing to uncover. There are secret gardens throughout, piazzas, and canalside cafés all worth stopping by. Every square (especially Saint Mark’s) is a landmark worth enjoying. The Giudecca Canal also offers breathtaking views for pedestrians. And all of these are walkable from each other, which makes Venice so special.
Check out a Regatta
Being a chain of islands in a lagoon, Venice is certainly what you’d call a “maritime city.” Whether it’s the gondolas traversing the canals or the numerous luxury yachts and sailboats in the distance, boating is a massive part of Venitian culture. One of the local traditions is to watch the numerous regattas that take place throughout the year. All of these events are free to view from the waterfront, and the scene is one of the most fun you’ll find in Venice.
Depending on the time of year, you can get lucky and visit during the Regata Storica, which happens on the first Sunday of September. It’s held on the Grand Canal and includes a parade of antique boats and then actual boat races for different types of vessels. There is also the Regata delle Antiche Repubbliche Marinare, which is held every four years in Venice. The Vogalonga, with its thousand-boat race, happens in May. Regata delle Befa happens every January and coincides with the Day of the Epiphany (an important Catholic tradition).
Venice’s historic churches
Famous tourist attractions like basilicas, churches, and monuments can get expensive to tour, but the fact of the matter is that they are extremely important to the full experience, especially in a city like Venice. The Basilica San Marco (Saint Mark’s Basilica) is one of the most beautiful churches in Italy, and it’s entirely free. There will certainly be a line to gain entry, but it’s worth the short wait (especially if you’ll save money on admission). Other superb churches to visit are the Basilica Santa Maria della Salute and the Chiesa di San Zaccaria, which only cost a few euros for admission.
Cheap places to eat in Venice
Italian cuisine can range from satisfying street food favorites to some of the most luxurious dishes on the planet, so you’ll find something to match your budget in Venice. You can save money by preparing your own meals or by bargain-hunting cafés for roughly the same price. You should be able to get a dish and a glass of wine or beer for €10-€15, anything more than that, and you know you’re not getting the best price.
Here are a few insider tips for cheap eats in Venice:
Local markets and grocery stores
Italian cities are famous for amazing public markets, and Venice is no different. Rialto Market has been the best place in Venice for produce, meats, cheeses, and other ingredients for a few centuries. You’ll find plenty of great (and affordable) ingredients to make your own meals or, better yet, a picnic of local cuisine you can share with friends. Rialto also turns into a Christmas market during the holidays.
Avoid restaurants near touristy destinations
Venice isn’t the only major travel destination where restaurants near landmarks and tourist attractions can be vastly overpriced. If you’re looking for affordable restaurants with fewer tourists to compete with, it’s best to stick to cafés and bars slightly off the beaten path. Rule of thumb: if there's a "must-see" attraction within view of the restaurant, it will likely be a complete rip-off.
One of the best ways to cut costs while sampling delicious local cuisine is by relying on a familiar favorite. Pizza stands and restaurants serve a slice for less than €2, so keep an eye out for a place like Antico Forno near the Rialto Bridge. It’s the best and cheapest lunch option in Venice.
Cheap Bars in Venice
If you want to save money AND enjoy a few drinks, you need to know where to go. Venice has tons of swanky cocktail bars and upscale restaurants, but there are also a few local haunts where students and regulars hang out and drink on the cheap. Here are a few favorites:
This bar is all about the view, with an outdoor patio overlooking the lagoon. The prices are fair, as well. A spritz, which is a Venice specialty, especially during the summer, will refresh and delight your taste buds and will only cost around €5. This spot gets crowded around sunset, so get there in the afternoon if you want a table.
Cantine del Vino Gia Schiavi
Wine bars in America are rightfully associated with an expensive tab, but these piazza-side cafés are so ingrained in Italian daily life that they are much more accessible. Venice is no different, and this no-frills wine bar, with a fantastic selection and helpful staff, is one of the most affordable spots in the city. Make sure to pair some cicchetti with your wine. All of it will cost less than €8.
One of the more affordable cocktail bars in Venice, this popular spot features an eclectic menu of classic drinks and a few house specialties. It’s popular with the students and locals, so you know Chet Bar’s prices are no-nonsense.
Bonus budget tips for Venice
Travel off-season (shoulder season)
Venice, like any other major European city, is a popular travel destination in the late spring and summer. Everything gets more expensive when school gets out, especially flights. The “shoulder seasons” (formerly known as “low season”) from fall to spring are the best times to visit Venice if you’re saving money. No, you don’t have to book insane flight deals from budget airlines where you have a layover in Eastern Europe. You have to be patient and flexible to find the best deal. While there isn’t a huge price difference for lodging across different seasons, it’s always much easier to find rooms during shoulder seasons.
Getting around on a budget
Using public transportation is one of the best travel tips for anyone looking to save money during their Venice trip. While the Venetian Lagoon and its surroundings aren’t the biggest city on the planet, you still have to figure out how to get around. Luckily, Venice is an incredibly walkable city. You can get to most places you’ll need to go on foot. Venice Train Station is where tourists land when they’re traveling from the mainland. After that, you really won’t need to worry about having to rely on expensive taxis to get between landmarks. You may be tempted to splurge on a $100 gondola ride, at least for the novelty, but that’s more of a tourist activity than a transportation method.
Whether it’s finding free things to do, preparing your own food, or using public transportation, there are plenty of ways to save money when you visit Venice. You just have to know a few travel tips here and there. While the Venitian Lagoon has a reputation for luxury, this is an amazing city to visit no matter your budget. All you have to do is plan ahead and have an open mind.