Where to stay in Venice? Which areas are best?
Discover the characteristics of each district of Venice to help you decide which one of Venice’s six sestieri is best for you.
San Marco is the most famous of Venice’s neighbourhoods and thus the most touristy and expensive. It lies in the centre of Venice, and at its heart is the famous and beautiful St Mark’s square. While this is a spectacle not to be missed, think twice before spending all your time in this area. You will be surrounded by tourists at almost any time of year and will miss the more tranquil beauty of the other five sestieri.
Consider staying here if:
- you want to see just the most famous sites: St Mark’s Square, St Mark’s Basilica, The Doge’s Palace and the Rialto Bridge.
- you don’t mind moving around slowly in a crowd.
- you are visiting especially for the Carnevale in February and want to be in the thick of the action.
- The outrageously expensive Café Florian and Harry’s Bar sound like your style.
- you want easy access to the Tourist Information Office in St Mark’s Square and/or the opera at Teatro La Fenici.
- you are prepared to spend a lot on food and drink of average quality.
- designer shopping (Prada handbags and so on) is a must.
See available rooms and apartments in San Marco.
The vaparetto (water-bus) stops for San Marco are: S. Marco Zaccaria, S. Marco Giardinetti, S. Marco Vallaresso, Giglio, S. Samuele, S. Angelo and Rialto. The quietest parts of San Marco are around S. Samuele and S. Angelo. The former in particular has some lovely little back streets and local shops.
This is the area where most Venetian residents actually live. It’s in the northernmost part of Venice.
Stay here if:
- you want to get away from other tourists and get a feel for Venice as it once was. It’s very beautiful and usually quiet even in Carneval time (February).
- you are looking for cheaper than average accommodation.
- you are in Venice with small children. There are two parks: Parco Sarvignon with swings, slides, climbing sets and plenty of other children. And Giardino Papodopoli with a botanical gardens and a children’s corner.
- you are interested in Venice’s old Jewish Ghetto, the small area in which Jews were confined.
- you need to be near the railway station.
- you want to go to the Venice casino (San Marcuola vaparetto stop)
See available rooms and apartments in Cannaregio.
The south side of Cannaregio lines the Grand Canal. The vaparetto stops for this part are: Ca’ D’oro, San Marcuola, Riva di Biasio and Ferrovia (the station). The north side of Cannaregio is on the lagoon. The Vaparetto stops for this part are: Fondamente Nove, Orto, S. Alvise, Tre Archi and Giuglie.
From The Fondamente Nove, you can easily get a vaparetto (number 12) to the islands of Murano and Burano. You can also see the nearby Isola di San Michele, which is the cemetery island of Venice. If you visit this island, see Mauro Codussi’s Chiesa di San Michele in Isola of 1469, which was the first Renaissance church in Venice.
Castello is the largest of Venice’s sestieri. It’s in the east of Venice. Like Cannaregio, it is one of the most authentic areas in Venice, but is not so quiet. The western part of the area borders on St Mark’s Square and is full of tourists.
Stay here if:
- you want to be near the bustle of St Mark’s but able to escape from it easily.
- you want easy access (by vaporetto) to the Lido island.
- you would like to see local wine shops, greengrocers, supermarkets, market stalls.
- you are in Venice with small children. The Giardini Pubblici is the largest park in Venice. It’s the perfect place to escape, as the locals do, and wind down. It has beautiful views across the lagoon.
- you are visiting for the Biennale, which takes place here.
- you are interested in naval history. See the Arsenale and the Naval History Museum.
See available rooms and apartments in Castello.
One side of Castello lines the lagoon on the side of the Grand Canal. The vaparetto stops for this part are: S.Elena, Giardini, Arsenale. The other side of Castello lines the lagoon on the side of Murano, Burano and the Isola di San Michele. The vaparetto stops for this part are: Certosa, S.Pietro di Castello, Racini, Celestia, Ospedale, and Fondamente Nove.
Dorsoduro is an attractive district, home to students at the university and a favourite with artists and writers. One half lies opposite the sestiere of San Marco, linked to it by the Accademia Bridge across the Grand Canal. The other half, to the south, is the island of Giudecca, separated by 250 metres of water. Although easily accessible and with many attractions, Giudecca is relatively peaceful.
Stay here if:
- you want to be away from the crowds but with access to the centre.
- hotels with pools (The Hilton and Belmond Hotel Cipriani) sound good, but you don’t want to be on the Lido.
- you would like some nightlife or are here with teenagers. The area around Campo Santa Margherita is lively, with bars open until around 2 am (as opposed to 11 at the latest elsewhere).
- Art is your thing. Venice’s famous gallery, The Accademia, is here as well as the Peggy Guggenheim Collection and a number of art shops.
- you want to learn Italian on a course at the Centro Linguistico, Ca’Foscari University of Venice.
See available rooms and apartments in Dorsoduro.
The vaparetto stops on Dorsoduro’s side of the Grand Canal are: Salute, Accademia, and Ca’ Rezzonico. The part opposite the island of Giudecca has stops at Spirito di Santo, Zattere. Guidecca has five stops: Sacca Fisola, Molino Stucky (for the Hilton), Palance, Redentore, and Zitelle.
San Polo is the smallest sestiere in Venice and one of the oldest, containing the oldest church in Venice, San Giacomo di Rialto, and the second largest square – the lovely Piazza San Polo. San Polo district lines the Grand Canal opposite San Marco’s Rialto area. You can reach it simply by walking across the Rialto Bridge.
Stay here if:
- you want to be cenrally located but not far from the train and bus stations or cruise port.
- You want a lively busy atmosphere but less of a tourist trap than San Marco.
- You are self-catering and want to be near the wonderful Rialto fish and vegetable markets, open from 8 am to midday, Tuesday to Saturday.
- You like to wander through narrow atmospheric streets, looking in antique shops and craft shops.
See available rooms and apartments in San Polo.
One side of San Polo lines the Grand Canal, opposite San Marco near the Rialto. The vaparetto stops for this area are: S. Toma, S. Silvestro, Rialto Mercato. Going away from the Grand Canal, San Polo blends into Santa Croce.
Although Santa Croce (pronunced: Santa Cro-ché) is the oldest sestiere in Venice, most of it is the least typical. The road bridge (Ponte della Liberta) links it to the mainland, so in the western part of Santa Croce, cars arrive, the bus station occupies Piazzale Roma and the large cruise port is south of that. In the east, however, parts of Santa Croce are quiet and relatively untouristy. One of the loveliest, quietest little squares in Venice, Campo San Giacomo dell’Orio, is here.
Stay here if:
- you need to be near the bus station or cruise port
- you want to be near the train station (but on the south side of the Grand Canal).
- you want to be near Ca’ Pesaro, a Baroque palace that houses The International Gallery of Modern Art.
See available rooms and apartments in Santa Croce.
It’s sometimes hard to know whether you are in Santa Croce, San Polo or Dorsoduro as away from the Grand Canal, they blend into each other. On the canal side, the vaparetto stops for Santa Croce are Piazzale Roma and S. Marta.