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Free and Cheap Things to Do in Venice, Italy

I was in love with Venice before we even met. I was obsessed, watching Venice virtually through webcams and reading every story and blog about her. And then my opportunity to meet Venice in real life became a reality. We were able to have a brief affair, with only 24 hours together.

The city of Venice, Italy

Venice has a reputation for being expensive. However, once you get to know her, you’ll never want to leave her embrace. Our time together was limited, but somehow we managed a bit of quality bonding. If you should ever get the chance to visit Venice, there are a few things you must do while you’re there, especially if it’s your first time.

A view of Venice from a gondolaI was there for only one day before our cruise on the Carnival Magic, and brought my parents along. I had this well-meaning list of free and cheap things to do, but once we arrived in St. Marc’s Square, all the planning went out the window. Heck, we only had one day to squeeze in all we could and who knew if any of us would get the chance for a return visit?

We were frugal in the beginning, opting for the free things. As the day progressed, we spent a few Euros here and there. Then my mother and I left my dad sitting in the square while we went exploring for a bit. By the time we returned to my dad’s sitting area, his mood regarding a gondola ride had gone from the I’m not spending that much money on a ride in a canoe to Your mom wants to ride in a gondola and I’m probably never coming back, so I’ll spend whatever it takes to make her happy.

Our day was coming to an end and it was also a major holiday in Italy. My dad paid well over 100 Euros for a quick, 20 minute gondola ride that ended at Harry’s Bar. I’m glad my dad splurged for the gondola ride, because I wouldn’t pay that much, but it was pretty darn cool experience.

Free and Cheap Things to Do in Venice

Piazza San Marco – This is the center of activity in Venice, and is usually full of tourists. Napoleon called this “the drawing room of Europe.” I loved watching the pigeons. And there are tons of pigeons in St. Mark’s Square. If you are more of a people watcher, then grab a drink somewhere and have a seat.

Piazza San Marco - St. Mark's Square in Venice

Basilica di San Marco – St. Mark’s Basilica is free to tour, however there are long lines to get in. Once inside, there are smaller museums tucked in corners that do require a small fee. I went through them all, and if you are short on time and Euros, but still want to see a museum, then you’ll want to visit the Museo San Marco, which you’ll enter through the steep stairway to the right of the Basilica doors. At the time of my visit, the charge was around 4 Euros. This upper level area offers one of the best views of St. Mark’s Square. Be sure to dress properly (modest, knees covered). Backpacks and large bags are not allowed inside.

Light a candle at St. Mark's Basilica in Venice, Italy

Riding the Venice Vaporetto Route No. 1 – This water bus option is an affordable way to experience the Grand Canal. Fare is around 6.50 Euros one way and has various stops along the Grand Canal. You can purchase tickets at the main ticket counters or machines at major stops. I enjoyed watching the locals get on and off the water bus, from a family heading to a wedding, to little old ladies staring back at me.

Walk Around – Many websites suggest getting lost in Venice, which is a fun and interesting way to see the city. However, if you are on a time limit, don’t get TOO lost! Mom and I walked a few of the streets while enjoying a gelato. I loved looking in the windows of the shops. Venice was everything I imagined it to be.

Celebrate with Prosecco – Prosecco is Italy’s sparkling wine, and while I just HAD to have a Bellini at Harry’s Bar, at 15 Euros it definitely wasn’t cheap. Especially since I bought a round for my parents after that expensive gondola ride. An affordable and more authentic way to celebrate being in Venice is with a Spritz (pronounced spriss), which is a Prosecco based drink that won’t deplete all your spending money.

A Bellini at Harry's Bar in Venice, Italy

Have you been to Venice? Do you live there? What are some of your favorite and affordable things to do in this romantic destination?

For more Venice, Italy resources check out:

WhyGo Italy

Europe for Visitors



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  1. Venice was definitely one of the most expensive cities I’ve visited in Italy. I was there last year and opted to stay about a 10 minute train ride away in the town of Mestre. A much more affordable alternative if you find yourself staying overnight . It was a referral from my Italian friends and worth the short commute in.

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