Venice is a unique city that will never stop surprising you with its beauty. Known as the city of love, Venice knows how to seduce millions of tourists every year. During the famous Carnevale, it covers itself in the most beautiful adornments, streets and channels stepping back to make room for celebrations.
Venice is the third most visited city in Italy. More than 10 mln visitors from all over the world arrive at the City of the Doges every year to admire its splendours and secrets. This number is even more impressive when we take into account that there are no more than 260.000 inhabitants of Venice. The Venice Lagoon, has been part of the UNESCO World Heritage list since 2012.
In the summer and during the festival the first thing that surprises the visitors is not unfortunately the beauty of the city’s architecture, but the long queues. Waiting here, waiting there, again and again - this could easily spoil your vacation.
But luckily we are here to help. Well, when I say “we” - I mean our Italian colleague, who has shared with us some of the best kept secrets of how to avoid the never-ending waiting lines of each Venetian tourist site.
Which season to choose and which to avoid?
High season in Venice is from the beginning of April to the end of October, with April usually bringing the largest number of tourists. May is the second most crowded month, whilst August, September and October see equally high flows of visitors. Therefore, if you plan to arrive in Venice during high season and want to avoid major crowds, we advise you to come in June or July.
Photo credits to niky81 via Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)
Fall is a good time to visit Venice, especially November, when the crowds thin out. October through January is the typical high water season, and floods are not rare. Don’t be scared, Piazza San Marco looks magnificent when flooded with all its lights reflected in the water.
Winter is when you’ll see the smallest queues and the best hotel rates (except for the Christmas holidays, Saint Valentine’s weekend and Carnevale if it falls in winter). December and January are the months with the lowest visitor numbers in the museums - no need to book tickets or get skip-the-line passes, you won’t be bothered by queues or crowds.
Carnevale period is one of the peak periods in Venice, with thousands of tourists coming for this occasion. The dates shift from year to year, but the rule is that the carnival ends forty days before Easter. Easter itself is also a festive time that brings lots of guests to the city.
Every other year, on odd-numbered years, Venice becomes home to the Biennale for Art. This event takes place from June to November. You should be prepared to find Venice even more booked up than usual.
The day of Venice’s patron saint, Saint Mark, is another date when crowds may seem overwhelming. It’s on the 25th of April and lots of festivities take place in the city, including a gondoliers’ regatta.
Plan your trip carefully, taking into consideration to what extent you’d like to participate in festivities and how important avoiding the crowds is to you. Venezia at its busiest may seem a real nightmare, with its small streets bursting at the seams and hundreds of people occupying a tiny bridge to take the same panoramic photo. Remember that mid-week there are always less visitors since weekend-trippers make up a significant part of Venice’s tourists. Visit the main sites during the week and take refuge in Lido, Murano, Burano or other adjacent islands on the weekend to escape from the crowds in the city center.
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This is one of the main tourist sites in Venice.
And when one says “main tourist site”, you should be prepared for very long queues.
If possible, avoid visiting the Palace on weekends, unless you enjoy spending half a day breathing down someone else’s neck. The best way to avoid crowds is to come early in the morning, arrive before all the tour groups and individual tourists not eager to get up early during their holidays. Otherwise, we suggest you buy a Museum Pass online which will give you access to the Doge’s Palace and 10 other museums in Venice (full price € 24,5) or the ticket for the museums of St Mark’s Square (€ 20,5). These two tickets will allow you to skip the queue for the ticket office, which is always the longest queue.
This site sees less visitors than the Doge’s Palace, but you should still be prepared to spend an hour and a half or so queueing during high season.
To avoid this, there is no better solution than to book your ticket online and thus skip the queue for the ticket booth. You’ll need to choose a specific date and time slot for you visit while booking online. You can also book your tickets by telephone: +39 041 5200345.
Tip: Evening hours are not so busy; Tuesday to Sunday the Galleries are open until 7:15 PM (until 2 PM on Mondays). The best solution to avoid crowds would be to arrive Tuesday through Thursday at about 5 PM. This may turn out to be a risky strategy in summer, as, if stuck in a queue, you may not have enough time to discover the galleries before it closes. It works very well however during the rest of the year.
Photo credits to Paul Barker Hemings via Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)
The Basilica reigns majestically over the Piazza San Marco. Though the waiting times to enter it are quite moderate compared to the city’s average - about 45 minutes - we are certain you could find something better to do with your time in Venice than standing in a queue!
The best solution (applicable, as you could have noticed, to most Venetian sites) is to book your ticket online. This will not ruin you financially, as the entrance to the Basilica is free, and a service fee for booking is € 2 per person. Upon arrival, you’ll be able to skip the whole queue and will take a separate entrance (on the left of the main entrance). Online booking is available only during high season (from the 1st of April to the 2nd of November) and can be done up to 10 minutes before the chosen entrance time.
If you don’t want to spend money on the booking - come to the Basilica at the opening time or just after. That’s when the waiting line is the smallest. You can also try to come in the evening, an hour before closing time, when there are no more group visits. Try to avoid midday (especially in high season): though the gilded mosaics look most impressive at this time, this is the most crowded period of the day.
Tip on how you can try to skip the queue: Before getting in line - go to the Ateneo San Basso (right around the corner) to check-in your bag. You will be sent there anyway if you have anything bigger than a purse with you. When your bag is checked-in - you’ll be given a plastic tab that can be used to bypass the queue at the front. Tell us if this tip worked for you!
As you probably know, Venice is not a typical city: it has about 160 channels running through it. The best way to get around the city, if you get tired of walking or want to explore the neighboring islands of Murano and Burano, is by ‘vaporetto’ (boat-bus) (€ 5 one simple trip, € 20 for a day, € 30 two days, and € 60 for a week).
More traditional and romantic would be a gondola ride with a gondolier singing ‘O Sole Mio’ to make an unforgettable moment of your visit to La Serenissima.
This is a Venice Pass giving you access to many tourist sites with a price depending on the options chosen. You can personalize your card by adding public transport, airport shuttle and even free access to public toilets.
Venezia Unica card can be booked online or around Venice. The price seems rather high, so we advise you to plan your day before buying the pass to make sure it’s worth it.
We’ll be waiting for your postcards and buon viaggio! (have a great trip!)