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Random fact about me: according to family lore, I was conceived in Venice. And according to my father, this is the reason why I love pasta so much and hey, I don’t mind going with that story as my pasta consumption is sometimes a bit out of control. So I don’t mind having a solid excuse at hand and with that said, it was high time for a weekend in Venice to return to my culinary roots.
When people talk about Venice these days it makes me sad. Their tone resembles a person speaking of the greatest love affair they ever had which by now has long fizzled out and turned more than sour.
Venice today that is synonymous with crowds, annoying cruiseliners, locals who can’t afford their own city anymore, and tourists who complain about other tourists as well as the impossibly high prices without realizing that they are, of course, part of the problem. The biggest compliment people will pay Venice today is praising its derelict charm. And even then, derelict comes always first in the equation and charm second.
All of this didn’t deter me, to be honest. After all, I am also still one of those people who love Bali and I felt I should at least see Venice once in my life and preferably before it sank completely, literally and metaphorically.
A trip to Trentino for a travel blogger conference was just the right occasion to add a weekend in Venice and I knew there was only one person I wanted to take: my father. The idea of going to oh so romantic Venice with a lover seemed a bit much for my neo-romantic heart as I was pretty sure I would rather spend money on truffle pasta than a gondola ride. And since we had already been on fun trips to Verona and Marrakech together, I felt he was just the right partner in crime to explore Venice at a relaxed pace.
Father-daughter weekend in Venice
We set off on a sunny Friday morning from Frankfurt to fly to Marco Polo Tessera, the airport of Venice. From there we took the bus and then the vaporetto to our hotel close to St. Mark’s Basilica, right in the center of Venice.
As far as sightseeing is concerned in Venice you either have to be up very early and be faced with closed doors or just suck it up and brave the crowds. Piazza San Marco, the basilica and the Doge’s Palace are sights to behold. While I vowed to return early in the morning before the cruise ship tourists arrive (before 9 am) to take pictures of the piazza, I actually forgot on the last day. Bad travel blogger. Still, the piazza is vibey and beautiful even when crowded. A visit to the basilica is free though there are usually quite long lines which we didn’t see / skipped – ups. Inside can pay extra to see the treasury and the gold altarpiece, the latter is well worth 2 euro.
If you are a music fan, check out the Teatro la Fenice which has a great schedule of operas and concerts. While my dad is a huge fan of the opera I am not so I wasn’t too sad that we missed opera season and instead enjoyed prosecco and the atmosphere on the adjacent square. Have I managed that there is always prosecco time in Venice?!
2019 is Biennale in Venice, Italy which is on from May to November. This big international art festival has lots to offer and best of all a lot of it is free. You will see art installations scattered around the city and there are quite a few art shows on in various palazzi and countries from all over the world represent their local art scene with a so-called pavilion. You can either just get lost in the city and enjoy quite a few pieces from the canals or check the official schedule here.
We visited the Peggy Guggenheim Museum early Saturday morning, a must-see for any contemporary art lover in Venice at any time of the year. Especially on a weekend, make sure to get here as soon as they open at 10 am – we were first in line and still, it got crowded quite quickly.
Since my dad can’t walk all that much anymore and Venice is full of bridges and steps, we used our 3-day ticket for the vaporetti to avoid long distances. My favorite mode of transport and a great way to do sightseeing in Venice. Alternatively, you can just stroll along – Venice is a great city to get lost without staying lost for too long. Make sure that when you move your luggage over a bridge to carry it – apparently Venice’s bridges are in dismay thanks to tourists just pulling or rather trying to roll their suitcases over the steps.
If you are in it for romance, a gondola ride is still a must do in Venice but a pricey one and not so romantic if you have to share your gondola. Would I do it? Probably not to be honest, unless you do it very early in the morning or late at night when you can have a canal to yourself. We saw some serious gondola traffic jam at times which doesn’t scream romance to me.
But in case you get inspired, you will find some of the original stores for the outfits and shoes of the gondoliers by the Rialto Bridge (my dad got himself some velvet burgundy slippers for the money of a gondola ride).
While we were quite content to simply stroll, people watch, and have long boozy lunches there are plenty of sights and great day trips from Venice you can take. Whether you want to see the colorful picturesque fishing village of Burano, see where the famous glasses of Murano are made, or get a tan at the oldest sea bath in the world where you can follow in the footsteps of Oscar Wilde – Venice has much to offer for a weekend and beyond.
Find some cool Venice tours & activities here:
And yes, before you ask, Venice was as expensive and crowded as they say. But to be honest, it was also just as charming, picturesque and romantic. Whether you want to go and see it for yourself, is up to you. Personally, I think Venice deserves to give you a first impression in person. Be aware that you are one of the many tourists you might be complaining about, laugh at the irony, have some patience or drink more prosecco, and marvel at this little overwater wonder and I promise you, it will be a good one.
Tips for Venice, Italy holidays
Cheap holidays to Venice are almost an oxymoron – even if go on a budget, everything in Venice is on the high end of prices and a Venice budget is not the same as another European city budget. In order to get around, you will need to use either a water taxi or a vaporetto which is the public transport on water. Water taxis while rather cool are quite pricey and I recommend you get a Venice pass for 1, 2 or 3 days to use the vaporetti as much as you want to. You can even buy them online beforehand and add the bus ticket to get from the airport to the train station in town from where you will hop on a boat.
Getting around with vaporetti is not only the most convenient and sometimes only way to explore Venice and its surrounding islands, but also quite fun as you get a free sightseeing tour. While there is a special Hop-On Hop-Off boat too, you really don’t need to pay extra for it but rather use a vaporetto and get yourself a good travel guide if you want to know more about the buildings you are seeing on the way.
Book your Venice transport so you don’t have to worry about how to get around:
Where to stay in Venice
I would have loved to stay at the Danieli, which is not only one of the best places to stay in Venice but incidentally also the hotel where my parents honeymooned. Unfortunately, this being high season and Biennale 2019 in Venice the prices were through the roof. Instead, we stayed at Locanda Barbarigo. This B&B was a few minutes from the Giglio vaporetto stop and within walking distance from Piazza San Marco. To be honest, it wasn’t the greatest hotel especially not for the price but the location made more than up for it.
Alternatively, check out the Generator Hostel on Giudecca island. They also have single rooms and it is really easy to get to all the main sights from there. While more expensive than your average hostel room, this is a super budget-friendly accommodation for Venice terms.
Where to eat in Venice
To be honest, when I travel food is probably one of the things I spend most of my money on and my weekend in Venice with my dad was no exception. That said, the best advice for finding yummy food in Venice is to ditch the main areas and explore little side canals.
Some of the best restaurants in Venice that we ate at:
Local – I had high hopes for Local after reading about their famed spaghetti and oyster dish and it did not disappoint. It is definitely a cool fine dining restaurant in Venice with a price tag to match but so very worth it. You can reach it easily by foot from the Doge’s Palace or take a water taxi and enter through their wine cellar/room. The menu is separated in vegetarian, fish, and meat dishes which you can mix and match to your liking. I had an amazing egg and truffle dish to start followed by said spaghetti with smoked butter and oysters and it was my favorite meal in Venice – the spaghetti is being added to my list of best pasta dishes in the world.
CoVino – Definitely make a reservation here because this place is tiny but mighty with a very authentic feel to it. The team behind CoVino is young, fun and knowledgable and that reflects in the food and the drinks (always go for the wine pairing here!). We ate amazing beef tartare with stracciatella cream and hazelnuts as well as delicious pasta al ragu and rooster with artichokes. A must are the balsamic strawberries for dessert which hide under a thick pannacotta skin and go nicely with their dessert wine.
Prices at CoVino are also quite reasonable and for lunch, you can get a main and a dessert (or coffee and a grappa, an option that I love) for EUR 28 only (sorry if this ‘only’ shocks you – that’s Venice!).
Antiche Carampagne – Another of our favorite restaurants in Venice that offers mainly seafood with a modern touch was Antiche Carampagne. Instead of bread, you get a little paper cone with crispy zucchini strips to start, to me, a welcome alternative because bread is the one thing Italians don’t get right (at least not in the bread basket before a meal). We shared a blue lobster salad with pea puree and greens to start with which was probably the only healthy dish I ate in Venice. And I could have eaten a lot more! I had rigatoni with swordfish for mains and my dad ate deep-fried calamari and prawns – some of the crispiest I have ever had. Our meal was only made better when we started chatting to the people next to us who as it turned out had been Masterchef contestants in the UK. Let’s just say I am a fan and was more than a little starstruck.
Ristorante da Raffaele – We found this place in passing and liked the look of it. Since we hadn’t made a reservation for Saturday night yet (don’t come in high season without reservations anywhere in Venice) we quickly got one on our way in the morning and came back in the evening. To be honest, compared to the other three this wasn’t my favorite place to eat in Venice but the location is amazing. Ask for a table right by the little canal and you can watch the gondolas go by and if you get lucky even have some musical entertainment when the gondoliers sing. The service is also super attentive and they make a really decent truffle pasta (though it can’t compare to this one).
Great places for drinks in Venice
To be honest, we spend a lot of time drinking wine and prosecco at all time of the day during our weekend in Venice. I like to call it father-daughter bonding. There is also no bad place to have a prosecco in Venice though again, prices will vary hugely depending on where you sit down. View on the canal? View on Piazza San Marco? Prices will soar (though you will feel like James Bond).
My favorite location was a bar at the Teatro la Fenice, probably called ‘bar di teatro’ or something, honestly it doesn’t matter because what is special about this square and all its bars is the atmosphere. Especially if you come after a concert or opera, chances are that the musicians are also here, enjoying a spritz. This is a great place for people watching and good energy.
Which brings me to the drink of Venice: Aperol Spritz. Personally, I think it is absolutely vile but I know so many people who love it. If it is your first time give it a go but I recommend a swift switch to prosecco afterward, a proper Campari soda or a Bellini.
If you want to have a view on the Grand Canal that doesn’t break the bank, head to the vaporetto stop San Zaccaria where you will find a few bars and restaurants. Go to the E/F terminal and across you will see a place with a green awning and a menu in 5 different languages. Don’t be deterred by this! While I wouldn’t eat here I loved the small carafe of prosecco for EUR 7 and again it is a great spot for people watching.
Call me spoiled but our preferred cocktail spot where we went on our first and our last evening was the Riva Lodge of the Gritti Palace. This place is elegant, decadent, and incredibly beautiful. Alcoholic drinks start at EUR 20 per glass but I dare say for a special occasion it is worth it if only for the magical atmosphere. Have a Rossini (prosecco with fresh strawberry juice), eat the generous amounts of bar snacks for dinner, and enjoy the view.
Have you been to Venice or would you like to visit? Why or why not?