24 Hours in Venice: a Local’s Guide to Things to Do, See and Eat

Venice, Venezia, Venecia, Venise… In every language, this name means one thing: beauty. This is why 20 million tourists a year come to this place, especially during the Biennale period, which has just started. You have until 24th November to visit this year’s exhibitions – but if you don’t make it in time, there’s always the Venice Biennale 2020 – and take the opportunity to explore Venice city itself too. If you want to know what to do in Venice to feel like a local, here is an alternative one-day itinerary for you.

It’s all about the food

To start the day off right, have breakfast as Venetians do: with coffee and a sweet pastry. Some good breakfast spots are Rizzardini, the oldest patisserie in Venice, or the other two local institutions, Tonolo and Rosa Salva. If you’re wondering where to stay in Venice, the best areas are probably the lively and central San Polo and Dorsoduro districts. Some of the most elegant Venice hotels can be found in the San Marco district, but prices are considerably higher in that area.

After breakfast, you can head to Rialto Market, where locals have been buying fresh fish and vegetables since around 1097. You can easily spend one hour there, browsing through the stalls and enjoying the bustling atmosphere, an experience not to be missed in Venice.

For lunch, beware of eateries that look too touristy. Some of the best restaurants in Venice are called “osterie” and are rustic places that mainly serve local specialities, which include a lot of fish and pasta dishes. The must-try is bigoli in salsa, a type of long and thick pasta served with anchovy sauce. Not too far from Rialto, we can recommend Nono Risorto, La Zucca and Antico Giardinetto.

Where to chill after lunch

Next, hop on a water bus and go all the way to the Castello district, where the Venice Biennale 2019 is taking place. But that’s not why you’re going there, as today you’re a local, which means you want to avoid the crowds and find a nice place to chill. This place will be the island of Sant’Elena, linked to the city with three bridges and featuring a heavenly park.

Another option for a relaxing afternoon is the Lido, namely Venice beach, loved by both tourists and locals (if you look for it online, specify “Venice beach Italy” or you might end up disappointed comparing it to its namesake in California). You can get there by water bus too – no, Venetians do not go around in gondolas in case you’re wondering, as it’s quite expensive and not really practical – and enjoy some beautiful views of the lagoon in the meantime.

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Aperitivo, sunset and dinner

From 5pm, it’s aperitivo time in Venice. Similar to happy hour, the aperitivo is a moment for people to enjoy some drinks and snacks in company. It usually takes place in a bacaro, the typical Venetian bar, and includes cicchetti – bread slices with various toppings – and either wine or a Spritz, the local beverage prepared with Prosecco, soda and Aperol, Campari or Select. At Al Squero, located in the Dorsoduro district, you can try these Venetian specialities with a view over the canal and a squero, which is where gondolas are made. Note that a bacaro is usually small, with little to no seating. If you wish to rest your legs, you can go to Campo Santa Margherita square, where many bars have both outside and inside tables.

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Before or after dinner, depending on the hours of sunshine and the hours you end up spending at the bar, you’ll want to watch the sunset at Zattere, a long promenade in the south of Dorsoduro. For stunning views of the city’s skyline, you can even go as far as Punta della Dogana, the triangle-shaped area where the Giudecca Canal and the Grand Canal meet.

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At this point, you might be craving some pizza, after all you’re in Italy. In Venice, pizza is not hard to find, but good pizza is another thing. Avoid the places that also serve kebab and look for a proper restaurant if quality is what you’re after. A local favourite is Pizzeria Ae Oche, with two locations not far from the train station. In the historical centre, you can stop by Rossopomodoro, which serves true Neapolitan pizza.

Evening plans

The best thing to do when it gets dark is going to St Mark’s Square. Even though it is a very touristic sight, once you get there you’ll understand why you should visit it at night. The later the time, the emptier and quieter the square becomes, acquiring an awe-inspiring atmosphere that will leave you speechless.

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For a cultural evening, you can head to the Goldoni theatre, named after the great Venetian dramatist Carlo Goldoni. The location might not be as big as the more prestigious La Fenice opera house, but it has nonetheless splendid interiors and a rich cultural program. If you’re more in the mood for some partying, go back to the Rialto Market area, which can be as full of life at night as it is during the day, or to Campo Santa Margherita, where all students flock for cheap drinks and fun.

Note that this itinerary is thought for a day with decent weather in Venice. If it rains, you can always visit one of the city’s many museums, which is actually something that locals do too. Note that, even if you visit during summer, there is always a risk of Venice flooding, but locals don’t let this interfere with their plans and neither should you. Just get a pair of disposable rain boots at a kiosk, which are not very fashionable but will allow you to walk around freely.

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To conclude, there are plenty of things to do in Venice, and while the main touristic sights are certainly worth a visit, living as the locals do for a day can prove a special and unforgettable experience.

Already know Venice through and through? Find out which destination is calling your name in summer 2019 with a travel quiz we designed to help you decide on just that.

Featured image credit: Ross Helen/Shutterstock.com