The Best of Venice on Foot and by Boat

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118 islands. More than 175 canals. Over 400 bridges. And enough strong opinions about it to overwhelm a person.

This is Venice.

Known as the “Floating City” (and also sometimes referred to as “A Disney World for Adults”), Venice tends to be a dream destination for a lot of people. Say “Venice,” and you immediately conjure up romantic images of gondolas and cathedrals and sunsets over canals.

But I've heard bad things about Venice, too. By now, you'll have probably heard that the “Floating City” is actually sinking. Someone has probably told you how stinky its canals can get in the summer. And you might be aware that the UNESCO World Heritage site is frequently overrun with cruise ship passengers — so much so that there are usually more tourists on the island than people who actually live there.

I'm not gonna lie — I didn't really expect to like Venice.

Imagine my surprise, then, when I arrived in Venice one hot August morning to find a vibrant maze of a city that I immediately loved.

Yes, Venice is crowded. Yes, the city shows its age. And yes, getting lost here is inevitable.

But you know what? Those facts only gave the city more character for me. The crumbling plaster; the winding alleyways leading to nowhere; the gondola traffic jams — all of these things ARE Venice. The city gets its identity from the good AND bad aspects combined.

Venice definitely is not for everybody. But, if you can wander away from the main canals and touristy spots, you'll discover a fascinating city unlike any other in the world.

I loved losing myself in Venice in more ways than one.

Venice on foot

The best way to explore Venice is definitely on foot. The island (or collection of tiny islands, depending on how you look at Venice) is not very big, and you can't get a vehicle down the narrow streets anyway. Yes, you'll probably get lost at every turn, but, honestly, that's all part of the experience.

Here's a look at what you'll see in Venice on foot:

The Grand Canal from the famous Rialto Bridge
Santa Maria della Salute church, built in hopes that it would end the Plague
Restaurant-lined canals

The Bridge of Sighs that connects the Doge's Palace with the old prison
Smaller canals like this one that you will probably never be able to find a second time
St. Mark's Square
The impressive St. Mark's Basilica
Random cute details like these love locks
LOTS of churches
And of course plenty of Venetian masks for sale

Venice by boat

The second-best way to see Venice is from the water. And, while gondola rides are usually the ultimate bucket list item in Venice, there are other options, too (especially considering the flat-rate price of 80 Euro for a daytime gondola ride, whether you have 2 or 6 people in the boat).

While I was in Venice, I got to enjoy a with Walks of Italy. This consisted of a local guide, a water taxi, and only two other people on the 2-hour tour with me. Seeing Venice from the water gave me a whole different perspective on the city.

Here's what you can expect to see in Venice from a boat:

Floating past gondolas on the Grand Canal
Buildings propped up in the water built in the “Venetian Gothic” style
A purpose-built cemetery (also an island, of course)
More gondolas than you can shake a stick at
Pretty buildings from a different angle
The Doge's Palace from afar
The Rialto Bridge as you pass under it
The island of San Giorgio Maggiore, with its pretty church and monastery
And lots of water

As far as Italian cities go, Venice is definitely one of the most well-known — and one of the most desirable to visit. There's a reason for this, though. Venice really IS a special place.

And, whether you explore it on foot or by boat, the bottom line is that you SHOULD explore it.

Just do it before it sinks.

Want to see Venice like I did? Check out these tours:

Is Venice on YOUR must-visit list? If you've been, what do you think of it?


Falling in love with Venice, Italy


*Note: I visited Venice as part of my Busabout trip around Europe. They provided me with transport on all 3 of their Europe loops, but all opinions of the destinations I visit are entirely my own! I also received a complimentary boat tour in Venice thanks to Walks of Italy.

"It's a dangerous business, going out your door. You step onto the road, and, if you don't keep your feet, there's no telling where you might get swept off to." - JRR Tolkien

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