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8 of the best things to do in Venice on a budget

Find out how to visit Venice without breaking the bank - from exploring the famous canals to hitting the beach in Lido.
Two nuns walk in St Mark's Square - 8 best things to do in Venice on a budget

Venice, famous for its canals, gondoliers and gelato, is one of the world’s most romantic destinations. It’s also pretty expensive, but you don’t have to pay a hefty price tag for the privilege of a Venetian visit. It’s actually fairly easy to find some unforgettable things to do in Venice on a budget, if you know where to look. Here are some tips for enjoying Venice without abusing your bank balance.

Top 8 things to do in Venice on a budget

1. Throw away the map

Easily the best piece of advice for getting to know Venice is simply to get lost. With its unique network of streets and canals, Venice is best appreciated by wandering and simply seeing what you stumble upon. The further away you get from the tourist-ridden St Mark’s Square, the closer you get to the ‘real Venice’. The island is small enough that you don’t need to worry about getting truly lost. You’ll eventually find your way back to the Grand Canal, which you can follow until you find somewhere familiar.

Cafe in Venice, Italy

2. Bridge of Sighs

Bridge of Sighs, Venice, Italy

Walk round the Grand Canal side of the Doge’s Palace on St Mark’s Square and you’ll see one of Venice’s many famous landmarks: the Bridge of Sighs. The ‘sighs’ in the bridge’s name, far from being those of melancholy lovers, actually refers to those of condemned prisoners catching their last glimpse of the beauty of Venice on their way from the interrogation rooms in the Doge’s Palace to prison. You can’t walk across the bridge without visiting the Palace, but forget paying in to any of its attractions. It’s a sight best enjoyed from the outside.

3. Take a boat trip (but not a gondola)

Sunset in the Grand Canal - 8 best things to do in Venice, Italy

Many people go to Venice with romantic plans for a gondola ride on the canal. But, unfortunately, mass tourism has rather taken the shine off this experience and gondolas are incredibly over-priced. However, with the water such an integral part of this city, it would be a shame not to get out onto it at some point during your stay. Instead of paying exorbitant prices for a gondola, hop on a vaporetto – the (much cheaper) waterbus – for an experience of being on the canal without shelling out a load of cash.

4. The Rialto Bridge

The Rialto Bridge at dusk - best free attractions in Venice

Another famous bridge – sometimes confused with the Bridge of Sighs – is the Ponte di Rialto, and a walk across it in the sunset is one of the best things to do in Venice on a budget. Built in 1591, today it is lined with tacky souvenir shops. But the views of the Grand Canal make it worth a potter across, whether you buy anything or not.

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5. Museo della Musica

Church in Murano in the Venetian Lagoon

This free music museum introduces you to the musical heritage of Venice, in particular its instrument makers. Part of the museum is devoted to the life and work of the prolific Baroque composer, Antonio Vivaldi, Venice’s most famous musician and composer of The Four Seasons. Rare old instruments, a Baroque soundtrack and the museum’s setting in San Maurizio Church all bring to life Venice’s musical past.

6. Hot chocolate at Cioccogelateria Venchi

Despite what you may have heard about Venice flooding during winter, it’s actually a great time of year to visit. It’s not quite so busy (except for the Carnival in February) and the eerie stillness of a cold misty morning makes the city seem even more surreal. Going during the colder months also gives you an excuse to warm up with a cup of hot chocolate at Cioccogelateria Venchi, a cavern of chocolatey treats that’s been keeping tourists toasty with their signature drink since 1878.

7. Visit another island

Working the Murano glass

It’s easy to forget that Venice has several neighbouring islands, many of which are similar to the main island. But with far fewer tourists. Murano Island is a must if you’re interested in glassware, as it’s here that the celebrated Murano Glass is made. Several of the glass factories offer free or very cheap glass-blowing demonstrations. For beach-based relaxation, the Lido is the place to go. Lido also hosts the glamorous Venice Film Festival every autumn – a stroll around, with or without wandering movie stars, is one of the best things to do in Venice on a budget.

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8. Visit a carnival costume shop

Visit a carnival costume shop - 8 best things to do in Venice on a budget

Venice is famous for its Carnival, and everywhere you go – no matter what time of year – you’ll find shops selling iconic masquerade accessories in an array of designs and colours. One of the most intriguing mask designs is the sinister beaked mask of the plague doctor. This originates from the medieval belief that bad smells spread disease, so doctors wore long beaks stuffed with pleasant-smelling substances to protect themselves. Today there’s thankfully no such risk.

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Tourist in Venice, Italy

*Revised October 2019. Prices correct at the time of publication and are subject to change and/or availability.

8 best things to do in Venice on a budget

1. Throw away the map
2. Bridge of Sighs
3. Take a boat trip (but not a gondola)
4. The Rialto Bridge
5. Museo della Musica
6. Hot chocolate at Cioccogelateria Venchi
7. Visit another island
8. Visit a carnival costume shop
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