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Give Venice a few days and look beyond the tourist traps, and you will discover a magical place with a lot to offer. Photo: Emma Brink
Give Venice a few days and look beyond the tourist traps, and you will discover a magical place with a lot to offer. Photo: Emma Brink

Places

Find Venice off the beaten track

It is true that the most touristy areas of Venice can feel a bit like “Veniceland”, a theme park for American and Japanese tourists. But if you leave St. Mark’s Square and the Rialto Bridge to the masses and instead head deeper into the labyrinth of canals, you will find these hidden gems:

Crowded, full of tourists, bad food, and smelly. Hardly even worth a day trip. This is the kind of snap judgment made by many on the mythical city of Venice. But give it a few days and look beyond the tourist traps, and you will discover a magical place with a lot to offer.

Burano

Colorful Burano. Photo: Emma Brink

There are many islands you can visit around Venice. Burano is one of those farthest from the city center, which is perhaps why so few tourists make the effort to take the 40-minute boat ride there. But this little picturesque island, with its colorful houses, is well worth it. There are 3,700 people living on the island which, apart from its colorful architecture, is best known for its lace-making.

Burano. Photo: Emma Brink

Stroll around the small alleyways and along the canals, take a look at the handicrafts, watch the locals, and enjoy the famous fish risotto at Trattoria Al Gatto Nero for lunch.

Cannaregio

Calm and beautiful Cannaregio. Photo: Emma Brink

Cannaregio is the second-largest district in Venice and the most populous. And it is brimming with local character. Few tourists find their way here, so you will have the streets and alleyways almost to yourself. Clothes are hanging out to dry, the paint is peeling off the houses, and there is not a souvenir shop in sight. You will also find plenty of restaurants and bars where the locals eat in the evenings.

Campo dei Mori. Photo: Emma Brink

Fondamenta della Misericordia is home to several small restaurants with canalside terraces, which are popular with the city’s young people during happy hour.  At Campo dei Mori you will find a small wooden kiosk selling drinks for you to enjoy in the square in the evening sunshine. 

Bridge close to the Ghetto. Photo: Emma Brink

Cannaregio is also home to the Jewish Ghetto. This is where all Jews in Venice were forced to live from the 16th to the 19th century. Today it still has importance for the city’s Jewish population and is one of the city’s most charming places. It consists of the small square of Campo del Ghetto Nuovo (the only one in the city without a church) and a few narrow streets with restaurants and stores selling Jewish groceries or paraphernalia.

Campo de Ghetto. Photo: Emma Brink

Campo Santa Margherita

Campo Santa Margherita is the place to go with friends when you want to live it up in Venice. Photo: Emma Brink

The district of Dorsoduro is home to the large and lively square of Campo Santa Margherita, and this is the place to go with friends when you want to live it up in Venice. This big open square is lined with restaurants and bars with outdoor tables, and you need only sit yourself down and order an Aperol Spritz to enjoy the street life around the square.

Rio dei Giardinetti (The Royal Garden)

The leafy green Royal Garden. Photo: Emma Brink

Behind St. Mark’s Square, right by the water, at the center of the tourist throng is the Rio dei Giardinetti. A leafy green park with lots of benches where you can rest your feet. The park is not very large, but the abundance of plants makes it easy to find a little corner all to yourself.

Rest your feet at a bench in the Royal Garden. Photo: Emma Brink

And even though it is located at the tourist heart of Venice, few people seem to find their way there, making the park a little oasis of calm.

The fish market at Rialto

Plenty of fish at the Rialto fish market. Photo: Emma Brink

More than any other ingredient, seafood is absolutely essential to Venetian cuisine. And it is here at the Rialto fish market that the freshest fish are bought and sold each morning. Unfortunately, the market is in decline, largely because private boats are not allowed to use the Grand Canal in the mornings, making it difficult for the locals themselves to use the market.

You will also find lots of greens at the Rialto fish market. Photo: Emma Brink

As a visitor, it is an experience to be there early in the morning when the fresh fish are unloaded for sale, with more species and varieties than you even knew existed. Fresh fruit and vegetables are also sold from impressively decorated stalls.

Take the Vaporetto

In a city where no cars or bikes are allowed, the main modes of transport are boats and your own two feet. The most famous of course are the gondolas, but this is an expensive and slow way to see the city. Travelling by water bus (vaporetto) is a much cheaper and more efficient way of getting around. Buy a day ticket and take as many trips as you can. Take the opportunity to see all the different parts of Venice that are otherwise hard to find on foot and enjoy a different perspective with the view from the boat.

A gondolier will take your from one side of the canal to the other in just a couple of minutes.  Photo: Emma Brink

And if you want to get a taste of what it’s like to be punted along the Grand Canal by a gondolier without emptying your wallet, you can go on a traghetto. This is a commuter gondola that takes you from one side of the Grand Canal to the other in places where there are very few bridges. It is a great time-saver and the traghetto can be found in more out-of-the-way places, with a fare of only €2.

San Giorgio Maggiore

It takes just eight minutes to get from St. Mark’s Square to this tiny island, which doesn’t have much to see other than a church with a tower. But instead of waiting in a long line and paying a lot of money for a view of Venice from St Mark’s Square, a good tip is instead to go up the tower of the church of San Giorgio. The line is shorter, it’s cheaper, and it offers a better view of the whole city. 

Text: Emma Brink

Find Venice off the beaten track on this interactive map:

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