The alternative Venice travel guide

I went to Venice with mixed expectations. There were some who raved about it. And there were many more who dissed it. But I was curious to explore the mysterious and romantic city of canals.

Let’s get one thing straight. There’s more to Venice than St Mark’s square. Venice is made up of 6 districts, with San Marco being the most crowded and touristy.  While there’s nothing wrong with doing the top attractions in Venice, if you have the time, it would be nice to get a more authentic flavor of the city. So if you’re wondering what to do and see in Venice after ticking off the usual suspects like Doge’s Palace and St Mark’s Basilica, the below 2 day Venice itinerary will help you to explore it the way locals do and truly soak in its beauty and culture.

Day 1 | Morning | Take a walking tour of Venice

Venice is best explored on foot, and what better way to get under the skin of a place than a guided walking tour. We opted for Venice Free Walking Tours, and could not have been happier. These tours are operated by locals who don’t charge a fee, but you can tip them you as you deem fit, at the end of the tour. We wandered through the narrow alleys and bridges in the Dorsoduro district while our guide Lu engaged us with stories of Venice and its history. She also gave us food recommendations from a local’s perspective. The tour culminated at one of the oldest boatyards in Venice where old gondolas are restored. This is a good way to start your trip and get an insight into the city’s culture and lifestyle.

Tip: Treat yourself to a delicious gelato (after all you’ve earned it after all the walking) at Di Nico overlooking the canal.

Things to see in veniceThings to see in veniceGondola Rides in VeniceBest gelato in Venice, Italy

Day 1 | Afternoon | A boat ride through the Grand Canal

The next best way to appreciate the dreamy canal city is from the canals itself. Hop onto a vaporetto (water bus) and gaze at the beautiful houses, churches and bridges. Waterways has always been the primary mode of transport with houses having no land entrance. The doors and steps leading up to the house may be algae covered and worn down; but they transport you to a bygone era of the merchants of Venice gliding through the waters of Venice.

Tip: Line 2 travels the Grand Canal, making fewer stops than Line 1, so is usually less crowded. Invest in a 24 hours (16€ per person) or 48 hours pass for unlimited rides on the vaporetto.

Grand Canal, Venice, ItalyGrand Canal, Venezia Italy

Day 1 | Evening | Revel in panoramic views of Venice from San Giorgio Maggiore

Ditch the bell tower of San Marco and hop onto a vaporetto for a short ride to the island of San Giorgio Maggiore which also has a bell tower. This bell tower almost always has very little queues, and offers breathtaking views of Venice including San Marco basilica and Doge’s palace, especially at dusk.

Tip: In case there’s a queue for the bell tower, explore the church, glass museum and the gardens on the island and then come back to the bell tower.

San Giorgio Maggiore Venice Italy

Day 1 | Evening | Enjoy a glass (or four) of Spritz and some Cicchetti

The quintessentially Venetian Spritz is a pre-dinner ritual for locals. A Spritz typically comprises white wine or sparkling wine, Aperol or Bitter Campari and a squirt of sparkling water topped with an olive. This is often paired with cicchetti (small snacks similar to the Spanish tapas) and could range from meat to sea food to vegetables topped on bread along with cheese. So go bacaro or bar hopping to savour these sumptuous bite-sized treats and the classic Spritz. Take your drink and food out to the nearest canal which is what we did. And it was the perfect way to end Day 1 of sightseeing in Venice .

Tip: Our top pick for Spritz and Cichetti is Osteria Al Squero, Dorsoduro.

Spritz & Cicchetti at Osteria Al Squero DorsoduroSpritz & Cicchetti in Mestre, Venice

Day 2 | Morning | Explore the Instagram worthy island of Burano, Italy

The 24/48 hours transport pass will allow you to travel to the nearby islands as well. So as you can see, the pass is totally worth it. Burano is a lazy fishing village and a 45 minutes vaporetto ride from Venice. This island with vibrant and colourful houses will brighten up your day and Instagram feed. Legend has it that the colours helped the fishermen spot their houses from a far distance when they were at sea. And even now if you want to paint your house, you need to check with the government on the permissible colour. Just walk around this charming village and while you’re at it, enjoy a traditional ‘S’ shaped butter cookie from a local pasticceria (bakery). This village is also known for its lace, and you’ll see a string of stores selling lace products from table to bath linen to cute little dresses for baby girls.

Burano Island, Venice, ItalyThings to do in Burano island, VeniceBurano island, Italy

Day 2 | Afternoon | Discover a secret vineyard in Venice at Mazzorbo island

This vineyard is perhaps Venice’s best kept secret. Away from the hustle and bustle of St Mark’s square, the unassuming winery at Mazzorbo feels very surreal and peaceful offering a completely different side to Venice. It is walking distance from Burano connected by a small footbridge, and is home to the rare Dorona grape. The vineyard is a part of a small boutique wine resort, Venissa which has a handful of rooms, a Michelin-starred restaurant and a contemporary osteria. We ate lunch at the osteria with a lovely view of the lagoon, and it was one of the most memorable moments of the trip.

Tip: While heading back to Venice, stop by at the island of Murano and get a sneak-peek into the glass making process at the Colleoni Glass Factory. The fee to visit the workshop can be redeemed with a purchase at their store showcasing exquisite works of glass.

Venissa resort Mazzorbo, Venice, ItalyBoutique wine resort in Venice, Italy- VenissaMazzorbo island, Venezia, Italy at Venissa resort

Day 2 | Evening | Wander about the Cannaregio district of Venice

The Cannaregio district in the northern part of Venice has a very authentic and peaceful vibe to it. You’ll see locals chit-chatting at bars over a spritz or shopping for flowers from the neighbourhood florist. It’s dotted with fish stalls, butcher shops, as well as lots of bakeries and cafes. It gives you a flavour of the true Venetian life. Ditch the map, as you’re bound to get lost in the labyrinth of small lanes. But that’s the entire fun of it, isn’t it?

Venice free walking tourOffbeat Gondola Rides in Venice, ItalyThe Jewish ghetto of Cannaregio, Venice, Italy

Where to stay in Venice?

We stayed at a lovely Air BnB in Mestre, a 15 minute bus ride away from the central Venice island. It’s economical and a refreshing break from the crowds of Venice with lots of restaurants and bars close by.

I hope you find this offbeat Venice city guide useful. Let me know in the comments below.

What according to you are the must-see places and must-do experiences in Venice?

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