VENICE – WHERE TO STAY
Are you trying to figure out the best area to stay in Venice for that upcoming trip? Which is the coolest neighborhood? What’s the best location to stay in Venice for families? What’s the best area for budget Travellers? Where should first time visitors stay in Venice? You’re in the right place!
Venice is a floating city of 117 islands connected by bridges and washing lines. Many moons ago, when Attila the Hun was wafting his manly ponytail about in a way that instilled fear, land-dwelling families fled to these marshlands in search of safety. Swiftly an empire was born as Venetians sat making hay while the sun shone and the rest of Italy was oppressed by Huns, Goths and Popes.
But this eclectic assemblage of Princes and Paupers, Lecturers and Electricians soon produced a city of extreme diversity. Neighborhoods in Venice were emerging, each with its own distinct personality and purpose. Even today those bygone years still shape the six Venice neighborhoods, or sestiere.
So, if you’re planning a trip to the floating city, the question is…
WHICH IS THE BEST AREA TO STAY IN VENICE?
Well, fret not, we’ve got you covered with a rundown of all of the neighborhoods in Venice and where to stay. In Venice you are spoiled for choice and there are hotels and apartments to suit every budget. The best area to stay in Venice is absolutely determined by personal preferences and requirements, so let’s examine them all!
The Best Places To Stay In Venice, Italy
There are 6 neighborhoods in Venice, each with its individual set of USP’s. We will endeavor to share a little bit about each area with one or two hotel recommendations that have either been tried and tested by ourselves or people we know. Any bookings you make through our site will make us a small commission at no extra cost to you – we greatly appreciate all of these sales as they help fund the upkeep of this blog. So, thank you 🙂
THE BEST AREA TO STAY IN VENICE FOR FIRST TIME VISITORS…
The Venice Neighborhood of San Polo
Not only is this one of the best area’s to stay in Venice in terms of locality, but San Polo is also the heart of Venice and by the power of osmosis, you will feel like starting your own empire by the time you leave! This is where the real people do business, at the markets and beyond, and where Venice made its mark.
It’s the smallest, and oldest neighborhood of Venice (along with San Marco of course) and is a feast for the eyes wherever you turn. The food stalls at the Rialto markets, the souvenir shops (which are definitely less tat and more artisan than around St Marc’s), really pretty canals and quaint little squares.
The area near the Rialto Bridge is heaving with tourists but you only have to walk a few lanes in to escape the throngs and take a quieter breath. It may be the smallest district of Venice but has plenty of interest for such a compact area. And, still holds a few traditional festivals (and a few new ones too) in its large square Campo San Polo. This old campo was once the place for bullfighting and masquerade balls, now it’s the spot for open cinema and theatre in the summer months.
WHERE TO STAY IN VENICE FOR FIRST TIMERS…
As we said earlier, the district of San Polo is very central to the sights you are going to want to see in Venice and also near transport links for separate day trips to the islands of Murano and Burano. And you’ll be pleased to know we have an absolute gem of a hotel suggestion for you too. This hotel is absolutely one of our favourite places to stay in Venice (without the kids obviously) and we cannot recommend it enough!
Hotel La Finestra Sulle Beccarie has to be one of our best finds in such a packed city. Sometimes the traditionalness of Venice hotels gets on my nerves – this is Italy after all, the land of uncompromising style. And that’s why we love this hotel! I’d happily hire the owner, Maurizio, to come and redecorate for me back home, but in the meantime, this is where we’ll be staying in Venice.
If you’re a regular reader you’ll know we have a thing for rooftop terraces and that’s why we initially booked Hotel La Finestra Sulle Beccarie. What we weren’t banking on was all of the sweet little extras, like welcome drinks, complimentary desserts, and amazing coffee. And it is actually as stylish as it looks on all of the pictures. Perfect hotel in the perfect location and sipping a drink quietly on the roof whilst Venice below resembled an ant farm was the icing on the cake.
The Pro’s of San Polo
- central location
- very old and pretty
- great food markets
- good choice of souvenir shopping
- great restaurant choices
- the smallest Venice district so not as much choice
THE BEST PLACE TO STAY IN VENICE WITH KIDS…
The Venice Neighborhood of Castello
Venice with kids is totally doable! Don’t let the crowds deter you – there are plenty of quiet spots to let them unwind and give them space. That’s why we think the best place to stay in Venice with families is Castello. You have a lovely park called Giardini della Biennale on your doorstep, somewhere where you can forget about them falling in a canal for one minute – there’s not a gondola in sight! And, it’s also a much quieter neighborhood overall too.
It’s the largest of the 6 sestieri, or neighborhoods, in Venice, and it’s on the east of the city. It stretches from the Rialto bridge to the edge that overlooks the Lido – the island adjacent to Venice with a long stretch of sandy beaches.
For us this is one of the best areas in Venice to stay. You just have to ignore the southern shoreline with its masses of cruise-ship tourists that are vomited ashore in the morning with pit-stop itineraries and climb back aboard at dusk with bellies full of overpriced pasta and a creepy carnival mask for the grandkids.
The area of Castello closest to St Marks Square is home to some smaller artisan shops, little ornate bridges and quaint squares. Whereas the east of the Castello district is definitely more residential. Tourists are everywhere in Venice but they are definitely more outnumbered by locals in this Venice region, and Italians just love kids so you won’t feel uncomfortable in local restaurants.
In Castello old men shout at the football on the TV in little corner bars, and washing blows in the breeze above the canals. The further from St Marks you walk the more humble the buildings become but the atmosphere is gentle yet spirited – this is where a lot of Venetian history was made (maybe you’ve read The Secret Messenger?) and the locals still wear their honour on their faces.
OUR FAVOURITE FAMILY APARTMENT IN VENICE…
Five minutes from the Biennale Gardens this 2 bedroomed apartment has everything you need to make a comfortable stay with kids in Venice. Some apartments in Venice can be dark with tiny windows but this one is light and airy. Our favourite bit; it has great views of the canals from the windows. There’s a mini-supermarket and amazing bakery just around the block and there’s even a washing machine.
Families need somewhere to come and chill out after a day in Venice surrounded by tourists and Biennale Apartment is just that. The apartment is tranquil and the neighborhood is quiet, there are several nearby campo’s (or squares) where the little ones can chase pigeons and pet local dogs.
For the best deals at Apartment Biennale, click here.
If you are visiting Venice with kids, specifically teens, and you’re looking for things to do, check out another one of our posts…
The Pro’s of Castello
- Some of the best local restaurants
- Nearby Park Biennale
- Experience authentic Venice and live amongst the locals
- Museums for old-art lovers (works by Bellini, Tintoretto, Tiepolo, etc)
- Slightly cheaper accommodation
- Picturesque canals and bridges
- Lots of prominent historical references
- A drop-off spot for huge cruise liners and their bum-bag-wearing members.
WHERE TO STAY IN VENICE IF YOU’RE COOL…
The Venice Neighborhood of Cannaregio
Once the main route into the city from the mainland due to a large arterial canal flowing straight to the Grand Canal itself, this area of Venice was developed primarily for the working classes and industry. Including a Jewish Ghetto which was originally gated and guarded to keep the Jews locked away from sunset to dawn. Nice.
Today the area of Venice known as Cannaregio is lined with palaces along its section of the Grand Canal. But, inside the maze is residential and relatively tranquil, save for the bustling canal side of Rio Della Misericordia in the north of Cannaregio. This is a great Venice neighborhood on a weekend to soak up the Italian Cool. Watch 30-something Fonz-like Venetians and young local families make a lot of noise as they articulate their week to their friends over Bellini’s and shared plates of antipasto and chicchetti in some of the city’s best canal-side bars.
The district of Cannaregio is also home to a popular, wide shopping street – Strada Nova, a collection of High Street stores, souvenir stalls, and tourist-grade restaurants.
WHERE IS THE BEST PLACE TO STAY IN VENICE’S NEIGHBORHOOD OF CANNAREGIO…
Right on the Canale di Cannaregio is the brand new hotel Carnival Palace. Not many hotels do cool in Venice – you’ll find there are a lot more traditional places to stay – but Carnival Palace brings all of the in-crowd vibes! This particular canal is buzzing with chicchetti bars, but they’re far enough away from the hotel to avoid the noise and close enough to stumble home at night.
Some of our personal highlights of this Venice hotel are the rooms with balconies, breakfast on the terrace, Alessandro’s cocktails in the hotel bar, and the room space (we’ve stayed in some pretty cramped hotels in Venice!) For the best deals, click here.
The Pro’s of Cannaregio…
- Good location – quick access to train station but also fairly close to main central tourist sites like the Rialto and Grand Canal.
- Excellent nightlife and cafe culture along Rio Della Misericordia
- Pretty Churches
- A more younger neighbourhood feel.
- Easy access to Burano and Murano (#12 leaves from Fondamente Nuova)
- Rustic but not as pretty as other areas of Venice
THE BEST PLACE TO STAY IN VENICE ON A BUDGET…
The Venice District of Santa Croce
You may dream of arriving in Venice on a gondola, with your hair gently flapping in the wind and a doorman helping you alight with a gloved hand, calling you ma’am and taking your luggage. But sometimes the budget just won’t stretch and you have to settle for more humble-holidaying. I’ve always said – I’d rather go and go budget than not go at all. Right?
And I’ve got to say right from the get-go that the area of Santa Croce might not be exactly what you pictured for your trip to Venice. Santa Croce is Venice’s main transport hub, where crowds are regularly delivered by planes, trains and automobiles about to devour Venice in a day. That said, there are still a couple of tourist attractions, like the Natural History Museum and the Church of San Giacomo and it is absolutely more than possible to find yourself some good grub. In fact, don’t be put off by the distance to the centre of Venice – there are plenty of lovely restaurants and bars locally for the evenings. And let us not omit Gelateria Alaska – Venice’s best gelateria no less (Calle Larga dei Bari).
But ultimately Santa Croce is the best location to stay in Venice if you’re after budget hotels.
BEST BUDGET HOTEL IN VENICE’S SANTA CROCE DISTRICT…
Casa Burchielle is a more traditionally Venetian style of hotel with gilt and ornate carvings but it definitely still comes in under budget. The staff are lovely and friendly, you can have your breakfast in their garden if you prefer and there are some great local restaurants. You’re a hop, skip and a jump from the nearest Vaporetto water bus so getting into central Venice is no problem at all, although we prefer the walk.
For the cost, you will not find anything better than Casa Burchielle. See here for the best hotel rates…
The Pro’s of Santa Croce
- Some unexpected restaurant and bar ‘gems’
- Cheaper accommodation and close to transport links for quick get-aways
- Not the prettiest area in Venice
WHAT’S THE BEST AREA FOR VENICE HONEYMOON HOTELS?
The Venice District of San Marco
The San Marco area is the reason you came to Venice – The Doges Palace, Rialto Bridge, St Marc’s Basilica and the Bridge of Sighs all reside in this compact little district. And, ordinarily, I wouldn’t usually recommend San Marco hotels when staying in Venice unless you have money to burn and don’t mind eating substandard pizza amongst thousands of other tourists with selfie sticks. Or perhaps you’re James Bond and need access to an extremely busy square with a nearby ornate bank for Caymen Island transfers and a good old-fashioned shoot-out that destroys baroque marble columns and decades of grand architecture. Either way, you’re still going to be ripped off for hotels, bars and restaurants. But I get it – there are some occasions, including honeymoons, where you just have to stay in the thick of it.
Everything you came to see is right on your doorstep and there’s no denying it, San Marco is extremely beautiful.
THE BEST ROMANTIC PLACES TO STAY IN VENICE…
We’re not going to pretend we have opinions and recommendations on some of the most exclusive hotels in Venice – it’s probably quite obvious we cannot afford £1000 a night for a hotel room. And, if that’s your budget, GREAT! You will be more than accommodated for at the famous Hotel Danieli (off the film The Tourist) or the glamorous St. Regis Hotel. And we have checked out the loo’s and rooftop bars at these establishments and can confirm they are gorgeous!
However, somewhere we can recommend that is slightly more understated but no less boujee in our opinion is the boutique hotel Locanda Fiorita.
The Locanda Fiorita hotel is the most sumptuous of hotels, as if Versace, Valentino, Dolce and Gabbana all had a hotel baby. If you’re after Italian luxury then this is the place to stay and very affordable too.
It’s a small family-run hotel with really friendly staff, which can be quite rare in this area of town! What we really loved was the beautiful terrace and balconies – somewhere serene and peaceful to retire to after a crowded day in Venice. The rooms are on the small side, but we’d say ‘perfectly formed’. You will definitely be looked after on your honeymoon at this beautiful hotel.
The Pro’s of the San Marco District
- very central location
- just beautiful
- there are a few quiet spots if you stray from San Marc’s Square
- extortionate hotels with smaller rooms
- expensive substandard restaurants
- soooo many people
- not much authentic Italian culture
OTHER VENICE NEIGHBORHOODS WORTH CONSIDERING
The Venice Neighbourhood of Dorsoduro
The only other sestiere of Venice we haven’t mentioned is Dorsoduro. It’s not that there is anything wrong with Dorsoduro per se, it’s just always felt a little disconnected from the rest of Venice to us. You can only cross the Grand Canal to the rest of Venice at one location, The Accademia Bridge, which somehow seems to isolate Dorsoduro in our minds. That said, Dorsoduro is probably one of the most authentic neighbourhoods in Venice, where actually you can escape the hustle and bustle a bit, especially if you’re channeling your inner art student!
Home to the Peggy Guggenheim and the Academia – if you’re coming to Venice to see the greats and the modern masters then this is your spot.
Although Dorsoduro is a neighborhood for many older-generation Venetians, with their top hats, smart shoes, and little dogs, it is more known for its studenty vibe and lively nightlife. Campo Margherita is where it’s all at when the kids take a break from their dissertations. Laid-back bacari (bars) that serve great value Cicchetti (small snacks) bring a relaxed mood that is a welcome break and also less strain on the purse strings than more central areas of Venice.
Some other great features of this Venice neighbourhood are the beautiful palaces that line the Grand Canal. Ca’ Rezzonico is a much more manageable-sized museum than some of the more famous palazzos near St Marks square. And, the working gondola boatyard, on Rio de San Trovaso, where you can sip a prosecco from one of the adjacent bars and watch the skilled craftsmen sweat for their ciabatta and parma ham.
Because Dorsoduro isn’t a popular choice of where to stay in Venice for a lot of people, that does mean you can often find some good deals on accommodation. For example, check out the Hotel Nani Mocenigo Palace. I mean, if you’re going to stay in a palace and pretend you’re all Johnny and Angelina in The Tourist, then this has to be a great option, right? Just take a look and see where I’m coming from… It is expensive but it won’t break the bank completely, and from the photo’s maybe the cost is well and truly justified!
The Pro’s of Dorsoduro
- more lively, local night-life
- cheaper food and drink
- authentic neighbourhood culture
- great art and palaces
- quite a way from the Rialto Bridge and St Marks square
- run down in parts
So in conclusion, where is the best neighborhood to stay in Venice? Well that’s entirely up to you, your set of circumstances and your budget. We hope that by breaking down the city into districts though that you can better make a decision on where to stay in Venice.