A beautiful walking tour of Venice, Italy

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Before visiting Venice for the first time, I have read a lot and seen lots of pictures. I understood that Venice is fundamentally different than everything else simply because instead of roads they have water canals. Yeah,  I got it…or so I thought. However, when I arrived in the central station in Venice, things were different…very different! Why am I saying that?

This beautiful walking tour of Venice is part of my 1 week tour of Northern Italy series.

  1. Walking tour of Milan
  2. Charming walking tour of Verona
  3. Venice Main Island walking tour
  4. Walking tour of Murano Island
  5. A colorful walking tour of Burano Island
  6. In the Dolomites at Barcis
  7. Treviso is a surprising destination
  8. In-depth walking tour of Padua
  9. Short tour of quaint Soave
  10. In-depth walking tour of Sirmione
  11. In-depth walking tour of Genoa

What to expect on your walking tour of Venice

After lots of research prior to coming to Venice, I had a short list of things to see. Over the years I have developed, a very efficient system for planning my trips. This way I make sure our expectations match what our tourist destination can offer. We only had one full day to spend in Venice, so we could only see the really big tourist attractions. As a result, we had to have a precise list and efficient logistics so that we won’t waste our limited time. Come along with me on beautiful walking tour of Venice.

Make time to simply walk the narrow streets and thus experience the feeling of Venice, Italy. Many of the tour operators have tourists jump straight in the boats and only get off for the major attractions. I think this will make you miss how life feels in Venice, which is different from anywhere else in Europe.
Walk on the famous Rialto bridge on your way to St. Mark’s square. If you don’t have a map, just follow the crowds. This bridge, while very crowded, gives you beautiful views of Grand Canal and connects two of the larger islands.
Saint Mark’s Square is the hub of Venice, so you should make it your goal to get there and spend a significant amount of time.
Take a boat and travel as much long as you can on Grand Canal. It is a beautiful experience to just sit in the boat and take in the sights, smells and sounds of Venice.

With the list of tourist attractions and a map in our hands we started our walking tour of main island in Venice, Italy.

The most important fact about Venice

Even before you start your walking tour of Venice, you have to know that there are no roads in Venice! More specifically, there are no roads for cars. One large multi story parking structure next to the train station marks the furthest point cars can reach Venice. This is also the point where numerous buses unload scores of tourists…lots and lots of tourists, especially in the summer months.

In Venice, there are no roads for cars…just water and boats. Roads are replaced by water canals and cars are replaced by boats. Buses are replaced by larger boats, called vaporetto, and they can take you anywhere on the islands.

From this point on you can either take a boat or use your own feet to navigate the many narrow streets. A great walking tour of Venice starts with getting a detailed street map with the main walking paths. There are many maps available for sale available but just a few with walking paths highlighted, so pay attention when you get a map.

Venice, Italy – View of Grand Canal from the Santa Lucia train station. This is the last place where cars are allowed.
Venice, Italy - View of Grand Canal from the Santa Lucia train station. This is the last place where cars are allowed.
See my travel photos from Venice

I have read a lot about Venice prior to visiting, but nothing I read really prepared me for the fact that there are no roads. Only very narrow streets, passageways and small bridges allow you to move on foot. Therefore, some extra preparation is needed to make sure you can make it on foot to Saint Mark’s Square. Many of the narrow passageways end up at the water or are dead ends. There are signs that attempt to guide you through the maze of small streets, but the signs are old and you can loose them very quickly.

1. Rialto Bridge

The beautiful Rialto Bridge should be your first destination as you start your walking tour of Venice. There are small signs pointing the right way, but you might have to ask, as the way is very crooked. Rialto Bridge is one of the few covered bridges that crosses Grand Canal, which is the main water canal in Venice. Rialto Bridge is on your way to Saint Mark’s Square which should be your next destination. If visiting during the busy summer months, you must mentally brace yourself to be able to navigate the very twisted, narrow and crowded streets of Venice. This is part of the charm of Venice, so take your time to admire the sights and sounds on the way to your main destinations. Take a stroll away from the main path and peek on the narrow streets and bridges that connect various parts of Venice. You will find old churches and lots and lots of old buildings everywhere.

Venice, Italy – Rialto Bridge seen from a boat on Grand Canal.
Venice, Italy - Rialto Bridge seen from a boat on Grand Canal.
See my travel photos from Venice

Venice is charming when you explore outside of the main tourist paths. We found lots of narrow bridges and streets that were simply enchanting. It was definitely more challenging for us since we had two small children in two strollers. However, the fact that we started with low expectations in terms of what we wanted to see, really helped us not to rush.

The best advice I have for you is not to rush in Venice. Be realistic about what you can actually visit in one day. Take into account the crowds and the heat.

2. St. Mark’s Square

The second objective on your walking tour of Venice should be St. Mark’s square. All roads, even though they’re twisted, lead to St. Mark’s square. It is an amazing place to visit. Most tourist attractions in Venice are located in or around St. Mark’s square.

Venice, Italy – Doge’s Palace in Piazzetta San Marco.
Venice, Italy - Doge's Palace in Piazzetta San Marco.
See my photos from Venice

Saint Mark’s square is the main tourist attraction in Venice and it is popular for good reason. It is a beautiful place: beautiful old buildings with very detailed ornaments, many museums that are unique to Venice, beautiful scenery with the Grand Canal and the other islands that are easily visible from Saint Marks’s Square. This is one beautiful place you can’t miss.

Venice, Italy – Gondolas in San Marco plaza and Church of San Giorgio Maggiore in the background. This church is on the small island called San Giorgio Maggiore.
Venice, Italy - Gondolas in San Marco plaza and Church of San Giorgio Maggiore in the background. This church is on the small island called San Giorgio Maggiore.
See my photos from Venice

Being popular, Saint Mark’s square is very, very crowded in the summer. The only escape from the crowds is to buy a pass for visiting multiple museums in Venice. For us, because we had only one day in Venice, we opted out from visiting any museums and decided to have enough time to enjoy the sights and experience Venice by foot and boat.

3. Grand Canal

The narrow streets and beautiful buildings make a large part of your visit to Venice. But, taking a small public boat and travelling on Grand Canal will complete your experience of Venice. There are many kinds of boats in Venice: expensive private gondolas, small water taxis and the larger vaporetto boats that act as water buses.

Being budget conscious we bought our boat tickets on the larger and cheaper vaporetto (think of them of public transportation on water). However, it takes a little bit of planning so you can arrive at the terminal a little before the next boat departs so you can secure a place by the windows. We found it very helpful to buy a boat ticket that will cover a large distance on water so you get a chance to really experience Venice from the water. Thus, we boarded in St. Mark’s Square and we traveled all the way to the train station.

Venice, Italy – Beautiful buildings and Grand Canal with Santa Maria della Salute church in the background.
Venice, Italy - Beautiful buildings and Grand Canal with Santa Maria della Salute church in the background.
See my photos from Venice

Planning a trip on Grand Canal at the end of the day when we were tired proved to be very successful for ourselves and our kids. I highly recommend planning to return to the train station by boat toward the end of your day in Venice.

There is little escape from heat and crowds

We visited Venice at the beginning of August and it was hot…very hot. There are very few practical ways that can help you cope with the heat, but there is little escape from it no matter what you do.In order to enjoy your walking tour of Venice, you also need to be prepared. Summer is nice in Europe but Venice is very hot, especially in July and August. Being prepared for the heat is the best thing to do in order to enjoy your visit. What does it mean?

Having water and a hat are your best preparation for your summer visit to Venice.

Venice, Italy – Very busy passageway leading to Piazzetta San Marco.
Venice, Italy - Very busy passageway leading to Piazzetta San Marco.
See my photos from Venice

We had our small children with us and we were glad that we had brought our small strollers with us. They proved to be very very useful even though, pushing strollers up and down stairs is no fun.

My best resources for planning your trip to Venice, Italy

Find best prices for hotels in Venice, Italy.
Book a great walking tour or a boat tour of the tourist attractions in Venice.
See my travel photos from Venice, Italy.
Vaporetto schedule in Venice, Italy

Is it worth visiting Venice, Italy or is it just overrated?

My answer is very simple: Yes! It is absolutely worth visiting Venice, Italy! While Venice is very crowded in the summer, as an independent traveler you can enjoy Venice much better than with a tour because you can pace yourself much easier and take time to do the activities you enjoy. While our visit to Venice was more challenging, having two small children, we certainly enjoyed our walking tour of Venice very much, because Venice delivers a unique experience altogether.

Have you visited Venice? What was your experience like? Feel free to add a comment below and describe your own experience visiting Venice.

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