On an average day in Venice, there are 60,000 people, and half of those are tourists. So yes, there can be crowds. And yes, you should go visit the main sights, because they are famous for a reason. So go visit them along with everybody else. But follow my advice on how to avoid crowds in Venice so that you spend less time in lines than necessary, even in high season.
Tip #1: Allocate a couple hours to get lost. Follow your nose down the narrow streets and over small bridges. This is where you will find true Venetian atmosphere and mingle with the locals. Venice isn’t an attraction. It’s a city. It’s a small city, but there are plenty of areas with small streets, locals out doing errands, and children playing. If you allocate the time and attention, you’ll find them.
Tip #2: Views over Venice without crowds. Instead of waiting in a long line and then climbing the hot, narrow stairs of the Campanile with the crowds: book a guided visit for the Clock Tower (Torre Dell’Orologio), or go up the tower at San Giorgio, the big church on its own island directly across from St. Mark’s.
Tip #3: Take that gondola ride, but at dusk. You’ll see Venice at a magical time of day, after many of the tourists have left, when the speed limits are lower so the water traffic has calmed down, and the city’s lights start to twinkle.
Tip #4: Seek out small bars that serve Venice’s small plates. The bars are called Bacaro‘, the plates are called cicchetti. There’s nowhere else in Italy you can eat cicchetti apart from Venice (and, if you keep your eye out, a few nearby cities such as Padova and Treviso).
Tip #5: The glass-blowing island of Murano is incredibly touristy. Visit anyway, but mitigate the crowds by spending a few hours exploring other islands in the lagoon, like Burano, Torcello, or Mazzorbo.
Tip #6: Book your hotel in Venice itself, not in Mestre or somewhere else outside of the city. Venice is magical in the evening: more peaceful, more romantic, calmer and less crowded. Don’t miss the city’s evening atmosphere, it’s worth the extra price.
Tip #7: Visit the Rialto Market first thing in the morning, when the fruits and vegetables and fish are displayed at their finest and the locals are buzzing with energy.
Tip #8: Go inside churches you stumble upon, especially those with a bland facade. There’s a pretty good chance you’ll see some incredible works of art inside, and it likely won’t be crowded inside. For examplethe facade of San Sebastiano doesn’t look like much, but this is a jewel of a church with frescoes by Veronese. Keep change in your pockets so you can pay to light up the works of art.
Tip #9: Pay attention to all the boats in Venice. You’ll get a sense of daily life by looking out for market boats, garbage boats, boats transporting gas to heat buildings, and more. Don’t just stick with the standard vaporetto or gondola – there are manymore types of boats to ride in Venice.
Tip #10: Visit St. Mark’s Basilica first thing in the morning. Be there right when it opens (which at the time of this writing is at 9.45 am) you’ll find shorter lines and fewer crowds. In addition, the mosaics are lit by natural light.
All photos by Madeline or from istockphoto.com
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