Updated: December 2017

Best Venice Hotels:

When choosing a hotel to stay at in Venice, you want something that is convenient, quiet, affordable, and comfortable. Let's start by saying that no hotel room in Venice is really "affordable" but there are bargains to be had. On a recent trip to Venice, I was told to give Hotel Colombina a try and I must say I was pleasantly surprised with their accommodations. The rooms were very large (by Venice standards) and our room (#304) overlooked the canal below so we could watch gondoliers serenade their travelers right out our window. Hotel Colombina is just minutes from St. Mark's Square, yet it is very quiet when the sun goes down. Their website address is located at Hotelcolombina.com and offers you rates, a location map, and an image gallery of the rooms and hotel itself. The staff was more than friendly in helping us with our travel plans and reservations at nightly restaurants. Their off-season rates were right around 200 Euros ($260 US) for a queen size bed and view from the room. The daily buffet breakfast supplied us with plenty of energy to start our day - includes salami, yogurt, bread rolls, fruit, juices, coffee and more. We wish we could have stayed longer, but our travel plan called for just 2 nights.

If you aren't going to stay near Piazza San Marco, then consider getting a room overlooking the Grand Canal and go with a luxury hotel like the Foscari Palace. You can locate them on the web HERE and rooms with canal views start at 310 Euros. They provide a daily breakfast with tea, coffee, chocolate, croissants, juices, salami, cheese, bacon, pancakes, and much more. Go online and book your reservation now if you want. Another top rated hotel in Venice is the Gritti Palace with unmatched views of the Grand Canal. The rooms are luxurious and the cuisine at the restaurant Club del Doge is exceptional. The location is ideal and the Vaporetto No 1 will take you right to St. Maria del Giglio (stop # 13) for a quick entrance to the hotel. Go online to Hotelgrittivenice.com to take a virtual tour of the hotel or make reservations.

Top Venice Restaurants:

Finding a restaurant in Venice is not very hard if you stay in the main areas of the city. There are cafes, wine bars, cicchetti's and trattorias at nearly every corner, but often going away from the main throng of people will get you better food at cheaper prices. It's no secret that dining in Venice can be expensive, but getting off the beaten track will save you a few pennies and offer cuisine not found in all the touristy areas. We found 2 excellent restaurants (one through a guidebook and one by recommendation from our hotel) near the Campo Santa Maria Formosa. Alle Testiere is a fabulous restaurant that gets great reviews by all that eat there and their fish dishes are the best. As with all restaurants in Venice that aren't right in San Marco Square, get directions from your hotel since it can be hard to find. Ristorante Al Giardinetto is slighly more old fashioned and you can view their website at Algiardinetto.it. The wines were first rate and the pasta was tasty (a touch salty). One important note to keep in mind when dining in Venice is that some restaurants don't take VISA/MC (credit cards) so be sure to check with the restaurants when making reservations whether they accept credit cards. Also, make sure you have your hotel make a reservation since many of these smaller places fill up in a hurry.

Palazzo Ducale - Grand Canal - Harry's Bar:

One of the most famous sites in all of Venice is the Palazzo Ducale, or Doge's Palace. Located right next to the Basilica of St. Mark's, the Palazzo Ducale is a stunning palace that used to be the residence of the Venetian ruler. The Gothic design is brilliantly done and the interior of the buildings is well worth the visit. In the Sala del Maggior Consiglio (one of the rooms), you can see the painting called Paradise by Tintoretto that claims to be one of the largest paintings in the world. The rooms are filled with artwork that will inspire and part of the tour leads you over the famous Bridge of Sighs where prisoners were led across before going to trial. The Grand Canal winds you through the main parts of Venice with regular stops to get off at if you are riding the vaporetto. If you only have time for 1 thing in Venice, take the shuttle boat down the Grand Canal for excellent photo ops along the way and admire the architectural beauty that this city provides. The Grand Canal will take you under 3 bridges, the most famous being the Rialto Bridge where romantics have stopped for years to take photos. If you get thirsty in all your travels around Venice, then consider stopping into Harry's Bar (near Piazza San Marco) for their Bellini (white-peach juice and prosecco) drink that will cost you about $20.

Gondola Rides:

One image that comes to mind when thinking of Venice are the gondoliers taking tourist around the city on a romantic gondola ride. Gondola's are very expensive to ride in and cost about 100 Euros for a 1 hour journey. You can get a cheaper gondola ride by joining up with other tourists and fitting 6 to a gondola to share the expense. Our hotel offered this service but we turned it down since riding with others just isn't the same as being with your sweetheart all by yourself. The few days we happened to be in Venice, there was a huge cruise ship in town that unloaded 1000's everyday into the streets and onto the waterways. We saw several caravans of gondola's with cruise ship passengers floating down the canals all throughout the day and evening. It was almost like a cattle call with dozens of gondoliers following each other down the narrow canals. At that point the romance was taken out of the picture for me as I realized it was truly a tourist trap of an experience. If you must take a gondola ride make sure you it's not with 100 other people and see if you can negotiate on a path that will lead you to areas that other gondolas don't go to. Gondoliers will often sing on the journey if you request it.