Image Credit: Tom Harrison
January is probably the best time of year to be booking your summer break: this is when the best deals seem to get snagged up, and it’s a perfect way to brighten a dull and dismal month. While Venice isn’t renowned as a student vacation hotspot, this shouldn’t be a deterrent, as it is truly an amazing place. Last summer I took a long weekend visit with friends and managed to stick to a very tight budget - it’s not all €60 gondola rides after all! There are plenty of cheap things to see and do in Italy’s floating city.
Chill in a Cute AirBnb
While this isn’t an activity, it is my number one top tip for saving money when travelling! The great thing about Airbnb is that you pay per night, rather than per person per night like you do in most hotels and hostels. The one we found was in the centre of Venice, within walking distance to St Mark’s Cathedral and a vaporetto (water taxi) stop. We also had what was described as a “small and romantic garden” where we had breakfast and drinks in the evening. With five people staying three nights, it worked out as £128.40 each - a bargain compared to a lot of hotels, and we found it a more personal experience than a hostel.
St Mark’s Cathedral
Great news for students is that entrance to the basilica is free. It’s worth noting that the official website states that visitors must wear “clothing appropriate to a place of worship”; you may want to play it safe and cover your shoulders and knees. However, being as gorgeous as it is, the lines get ridiculously long. We opted to buy a skip-the-line ticket, which meant that for just €3 each, we were able to reserve a time slot and enter a much shorter queue. Once you’re inside the basilica, you can also visit the museum upstairs for €5. Even if you’re not interested in the contents of the museum, this gives you access to a beautiful view over St Mark’s Square. This is a cheaper option than the Bell Tower, which costs €8 for practically the same view.
Simply Get Lost
The streets of Venice are an attraction in themselves - you could spend hours exploring the winding streets and narrow bridges (after all, there are over 400 of them). There really is no better place to get completely and utterly lost. By wandering off the beaten track, you might find a cute restaurant that you wouldn’t have found otherwise; why not couple a stroll to the uber-touristy Rialto Bridge with a quest for gelato in no particular direction?
A trip to the Lido, Venice’s most popular beach, is a perfect way to take a break from the bustle of mainland Venice. It is accessible by vaporetto lines 1, 5.1 and 5.2, and line 6 seasonally. A single ticket (valid for an hour) will set you back €7. You can use the vaporetto to visit St Mark’s Square and the other islands as well as the Lido, so if you think you’ll use it a lot then the multi-day passes may work out as being better value.
There are many islands you can visit from Venice, but we chose Murano as it’s one of the closest, and therefore the easiest to get to. Famous for its glass blowing, you can buy souvenir trinkets in just about every shop. Murano is much more laid back than Venice, so it makes for a nice change of pace. The island also has lots of opportunities for canal-side dining, though this can be pricey. I recommend visiting Murano as early in the day as possible, to avoid the crowds and heat, then heading back to Venice to grab a cheap pizza for lunch or dining at your Airbnb if you want to save money.
Have a Cheeky Aperol Spritz
A spritz (Aperol, prosecco and a dash of soda) is a very fashionable drink in Venice and is a good choice if you’re not into wine. We adopted a policy of not entering a bar if the price of a spritz was over €2.50, as this ruled out the fancier and more overpriced joints; our favourite canal-side bar was offering house wine for just €1.50 a glass. We watched the sun go down while drinking al fresco and could see huge cruise ships sailing into harbour - a perfectly relaxed end to a busy day.
Liberia Acqua Alta
This is an absolute must-visit for bookworms. The name roughly translates as ‘Library of High Waters’ - aptly so, as the owner stores the books inside of gondolas and bathtubs to save them from being ruined during Venice’s frequent floods. They’ve also done some seriously pro recycling and built a cool staircase out of flood-damaged books, located at the back of the shop. Part of the shop is almost on the same level as the canal, meaning you can give a cheeky wave to passing gondoliers.