Venice (Venezia) is incredibly beautiful. Perhaps, this is the first thing that comes to mind. Even to get a glimpse at it would take you more than just a couple of days. The second thought that follows is that Venice is also an incredibly expensive city. Of course, you can always save on something if you decide to but the average price for accommodation in Venice hotels is significantly higher than in other Italian cities whereas the service and comfort are often not up to the same standard. Rooms in many hotels are rather small and sometimes just plain shabby. Sure, it makes sense – almost all local hotels and apartments are located in buildings that are dozens or even hundreds years old. Of course, there is no need to overdramatize the situation because if you look at it from a different angle you will find significant advantages. For example, in Venice you can be easily choose any hotel in any district because wherever you stay you will be immersed in the medieval antiqueness and always find some interesting attractions. There are, of course, exceptions but they are quite rare. However, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. We will take one step at a time.
First of all, let me make a few comments regarding the content of this article because the text is quite lengthy and some points clearly require explanation. For someone the logic of the narration may seem strange. In fact, it's simple. Districts in Venice will be reviewed clockwise (though not circle-wise but rather spiral-wise), starting with Mestre and ending with San Polo. Also, it may seem strange that the attention has been drawn to all the historic districts of Venice except for sestiere Santa Croce. It’s really no wonder because when I discuss the surroundings of Piazzale Roma I mean mostly Santa Croce and only partly Dorsoduro and Cannaregio for which there are separate abstracts.
What Area is the Best to Stay in Venice?
Now we will talk about the following districts in Venice:
- Piazzale Roma
- Santa Lucia Station
- San Marco
- Lido di Venezia
- San Polo
When speaking of districts in Venice we should understand that today the city can be actually divided into two parts. These are Mestre (once an independent city) and the rest of Venice located on islands.
The cheapest hotels are located in Mestre because it is not quite Venice yet. Staying here you will not be surrounded by canals, gondolas and other delights of the Venice you’ve read so much about, but you will be very close to those. You can reach the islands from here by taking, for example, a bus or a train (just 15-20 minutes away). It's not that convenient but surely much cheaper than living on the islands. On average, hotels in Mestre cost a third or even a half less. You can do all the comparison on your own: here is the link to the list of hotels in Mestre, and here is the link to the list of hotels on the Venetian islands. You can choose any date – the result will be the same.
So, staying in Mestre is a good way to save some money. In addition, this choice looks quite reasonable, if Venice is not your only travel destination because from Mestre you can easily explore the surroundings. When staying on the mainland, you can use a couple of days to explore the beauty of Venice, and on other days you can make trips to Padova, Vicenza, Verona, etc.
Another factor speaking in favor of staying in Mestre is that here you won’t have any parking problems. If you are traveling in Italy by car, it is very important. On the islands of Venice you will also find parking options (at the entrance to the city, near the sea terminal and bus station) but the cost is significantly higher than in Mestre, not to mention that hotels like Hotel Autoespresso or Casa Villa Gardenia on the mainland have their private (and often free of charge) parking lots. Strictly speaking, the above-mentioned hotels are in the district of Marghera but the point remains the same: Marghera like Mestre is located on the mainland and is not far away from Venice.
Mestre is considered to be small. However, this is not so – local hotels are scattered over a fairly extensive territory. Therefore, when choosing a place to stay, you should have a clear idea why you want to stay in Mestre. In my opinion, considering the above-mentioned reasons, it would make sense to pick a hotel in the area of Venezia-Mestre railway station or in the area of Piazza Ferretto.
To stay near the railway station in Mestre (Venezia-Mestre) is convenient if you plan to go somewhere else besides Venice. In this case, you can take a look at such hotels as Best Western Hotel Bologna, Hotel Paris, Hotel Tritone, Hotel Aaron and others.
Piazza Ferretto area is worth it if you are interested in a trip only to Venice, and you want to save some money on your accommodation, while living in a more or less decent area. Piazza Ferretto is actually the center of Mestre, and it makes a much more pleasant impression than the railway station. You can take a closer look at the Hotel Al Vivit, which is located directly on the square, as well as the Venice Art Design Bed & Breakfast and Legrenzi Rooms.
However, if your goal is to dive into the atmosphere of Venice, the above-mentioned option is hardly suitable for you. In order to experience Venice, to feel it, you should stay on the islands and, if possible, for at least a week. Coming here every day from Mestre is not the best option. Of course, hotels in Venice are more expensive than those in Mestre, but if you are interested in Venice, and Venice only, the question of where to stay – on the mainland or on the islands of the Venetian lagoon – makes really no sense, does it? Of course, the islands win!
Actually, Venice is quite compact, and most of its attractions can be reached not only by water, but also on foot. Walking from one end of the city to another can take you around two hours (unless, of course, you don’t get lost in the most confusing streets.) So you can stay in any district. At the same time, Venice is quite difficult to navigate, especially if you come to this city for the first time.
So, what districts of the Venice islands are more preferable and why?
Most travelers start getting to know Venice at Piazzale Roma or at the railway station Santa Lucia. Here, perhaps, I will start my review of Venetian districts and quarters.
Piazzale Roma is remarkable because this is one of the few places in Venice where you can see the ground transport vehicles. There is a bus terminal where buses arrive, particularly from Venice airport "Marco Polo". In addition, there is a railway station and cruise liners passenger terminal nearby. Thus, the area of Piazzale Roma is recommended for staying if on arrival in Venice you do not want to walk in circles with your luggage trying to find your hotel, or if you leave the city early in the morning and do not want to spend a lot of time to travel to the bus terminal, the airport, the sea terminal or the railway station.
However, the area itself and some adjoining territories make, in my opinion, some depressing impression – they are too crowded, very noisy and sometimes dingy, but then, there are not really many hotels here. Therefore, when choosing a hotel in this district, I would recommend looking a bit further into the depths of sestiere (districts) Santa Croce and Dorsoduro, or even check the area of the Santa Lucia station. Within a five-minute walk from Piazzale Roma you can find many accommodation options. For example, Hotel Papadopoli Venezia and Hotel Moresco, or cheaper hotels: Albergo ai Tolentini, Palazzo Odoni, Ca' Dei Polo, Ca' della Corte, etc.
Santa Lucia Railway Station
Railway station Venezia Santa Lucia is literally a two-minute walk away from the above-mentioned Piazzale Roma – on the opposite side of the Grand Canal. This is the territory of the district Cannaregio.
If you arrive to and/or leave Venice by train, it makes sense to look at hotels near the railway station. There is a lot of interesting options here: Hotel Abbazia, Ca' Pozzo Inn, a small apartment unit Porta Orientalis Venice, etc. In contrast to Piazzale Roma there are no buses or other vehicles here. When you come out of the station building, you are in Venice as we know it. By the way, if you visit Venice for the first time and wonder if you should take a train or a bus to reach there, I would recommend going by train. The first impression of the city will be much stronger and absolutely different compared to the experience you will have upon arrival at the bus terminal.
Actually, Cannaregio is not only the railway station area and its surrounding quarters. This is quite an extending area where you can find a large number of hotels (as well as apartments and other accommodation options). By Venetian standards there are very few attractions here. To sum it up, Cannaregio is rather a residential and not a tourist area. That’s why it is a very quiet place to stay in, and, which is sure also important, hotels here are cheaper than let’s say near Piazza San Marco or Ponte di Rialto. This goes not only for hotels rates but for the prices in local cozy restaurants (here you can even find completely non-tourist places which are incredibly rare for Venice). At the same time, this atmosphere, spirit, charm are still the same genuine Venetian, and maybe even more Venetian than in the area of San Marco and Rialto.
In other words, if you want to live in a peaceful and a relatively quiet place, Cannaregio is a very good option. However, in this case, you should exclude a number of streets leading from Santa Lucia train station to the Ponte di Rialto, and further to the Piazza San Marco. These are, in particular, Rio Terà Farsetti, Rio Terà della Maddolena and Strada Nova (Strada Nuova). They are literally inundated with people from early morning until late in the night. And if your room faces one of these streets, you can forget all about peace and quiet. Though, there are some decent hotels here, and if you don’t mind the noise made by the crowd (or if the reviews on booking websites say that you don’t really hear street noise in the room), you can take a look, for example, at Hotel Arcadia and La Palazzina Veneziana.
However, it will take you just couple of steps to the side to lose the crowd. For example, the above-mentioned hotel Ca' Pozzo Inn creates the atmosphere of privacy for its guests, even though it is located really close to the crowded Rio Terà Farsetti. I was able to see it in person during one of my trips to Venice.
Finally, the further into Cannaregio, the quieter and calmer the atmosphere becomes. However, it should be understood that you will need more time to get to all the major attractions. An exception is probably Fondamente Nove, which is a good starting point to explore the islands of Murano, Burano and Torcello and to go to the airport (by water, of course), and even Rialto is relatively close (about 15-20 minutes on foot). If you find a hotel somewhere halfway between Fondamente Nove and Rialto, the location will be quite good in terms of logistics. Alternatively check out Hotel Palazzo Abadessa, Alla Vite Dorata, UNA Hotel Venezia or a budget-friendly bed&breakfast 3749 Pontechiodo.
If we think about walking around Venice, then probably the most convenient district for accommodation is San Marco. Broadly speaking, if you need a hotel in the heart of Venice this is it (the complete list of relevant hotels can be found here). This district is home to Piazza San Marco, the same-name cathedral, the Doge's Palace and many other tourist attractions. These attractions will be our landmarks when discussing accommodation options in this district. At the same time let me neglect the borders of the district‑from time to time I will mention hotels which are formally located in the neighboring sestiere.
Ponte di Rialto Area
I'll start with the immediate surroundings of the Rialto Bridge (Ponte di Rialto). It gives an easy access to almost all major points of attraction. For example, Piazza San Marco is just 10-15 minutes’ walk away and to reach the train station Santa Lucia and the bus terminal at Piazzale Roma you will need about 20-30 minutes (by the way, using vaporetto will not save you much time – it will bring you there in 15 minutes). However, this is one of the most crowded and noisy places in Venice, and the closer to San Marco the more crowded and noisy it is. However, you can use the trick of turning aside when you grow tired of the crowd. This works! So, the convenience of location is still the most important matter.
It is no wonder that in the Rialto district you can find some pretty expensive and very decent hotels. If your budget is not an issue, it makes sense to take a closer look, in particular, to the Hotel A La Commedia and Hotel Ai Reali. You can also stay in one of the few hotels directly overlooking the Rialto Bridge. For example, you can choose small and cozy hotels Palazzo Bembo and Al Ponte Antico. Although the most obvious option is, of course, the hotel Rialto, which is not as cozy, but makes it up with the view – even if you book a room without a view you can still admire the famous bridge from the hotel restaurant during breakfast.
At the same time, there are budget-friendly options in the Rialto area, too. These include Hotel Bartolomeo, Ca’ Rialto, Hotel Centauro Venice and Hotel Alla Fava. If you want to optimize the budget you should also pay attention to the opposite side of the Grand Canal. Here, just within a two or three minutes' walk from the Rialto, there are quite a few small, also family, hotels and apartments. Here are some examples: Pensione Guerrato, Residenza Laguna, Ca' della Scimmia.
Piazza San Marco Neighborhood
The closer you get to Piazza San Marco the more often you get to see expensive luxury hotels. So, halfway from Rialto there are Starhotels Splendid Venice and Palace Bonvecchiati. We should also mention two five-star hotels located within a few steps from the main square in Venice (on the opposite sides of it): Luna Hotel Baglioni and Hotel Danieli. There are other nearby hotels with the price tags that are capable to knock out even well-established gentlemen and ladies. However, none of these hotels can boast a full view of San Marco. There is even an opinion (which I read on a number of tourist forums) that there are no hotels in Venice which overlook Piazza San Marco. This is actually not true. Canaletto Suites (San Marco Luxury chain) can boast great views of Piazza San Marco. But the prices here are not for the faint-hearted. Significantly cheaper are Hotel Concordia and Relais Piazza San Marco, however, the views they provide are not as impressive.
Within a five-minute walking distance from San Marco there are still lots of hotels. In particular, Le Isole is perhaps the best among all hotels in which I stayed not just in Venice but in Italy in general. The room was quiet even despite the fact that it faced a fairly busy street leading from Piazza San Marco to the San Zaccaria church. Hotel Campiello hidden in the back streets nearby is also worth attention. Actually, both hotels don’t belong to the San Marco district and are a part of another district – Castello. I will cover it later.
Riva degli Schiavoni
Something should definitely be said about the quay Riva degli Schiavoni. Hotels located here boast the proximity to Piazza San Marco and stunning views of the lagoon and the island of San Giorgio Maggiore with the church of the same name. Hotels here are mostly expensive, such as the above-mentioned Hotel Danieli or Hotel Metropole. But there are budget-friendly options, for example, Savoia & Jolanda, Hotel Paganelli and Locanda Vivaldi.
West from Piazza San Marco
To the west of Piazza San Marco, that is, between Rialto, San Marco and the Grand Canal, you can find many more hotels (mostly expensive ones). All that has been said above about the convenience of accommodation in the district of San Marco deems relevant here too. Rialto and San Marco are within walking distance. There are many shops around: both luxury and quite affordable. Moreover, thanks to the Academia Bridge you will be able to reach one of the most beautiful churches in Venice – Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute just in 10-15 minutes.
If money is not an issue for you, then in this area you should look at Bauer IL Palazzo and The Gritti Palace. If your finances are not unlimited, though, then you might be interested in Hotel Violino d'Oro, Hotel Torino, Hotel Dell'Opera or Hotel Flora. For those who want to cut costs as much as possible, I can recommend the self-catering apartment compound Cà Sant'Angelo.
Castello, in my opinion, has much in common with Cannaregio (see above). Clusters of tourists here are much smaller than in the proximity of Rialto and San Marco, and in some quarters the possibility for you to meet fellow travelers is close to zero. There is even a soccer stadium here, which, of course, has been built not to increase numbers of tourists, but for enjoyment of locals. But here you will find both hotels and apartments for tourists. Prices, as usual, get lower when you walk further away from Piazza San Marco, and if you want to save on hotels, the district Castello is a good option (except for some blocks adjacent to the district of San Marco). However, walking around Venice on foot, when starting from the depths of Castello, is, perhaps, quite tedious. Of course, you can always use the water transport, but in this case you risk bringing to naught any savings you might have had otherwise, since transport in Venice costs a pretty penny.
But nevertheless, I like this district. Here you can feel that there is life in Venice, and it’s not just about endless hordes of visiting onlookers. In other words, if you visit Venice not for the first time, do not consider yourself an ordinary onlooker and want to feel some sense of belonging to the non-tourist Venice, Castello is certainly noteworthy. In this case it is advisable to stay further away from San Marco, somewhere near Via Garibaldi, for example, in the Hotel Bucintoro, B&B La Rosa dei Venti or Hotel Ca’ Formenta (all three hotels, among other things offer rooms with lovely views over the Venetian Lagoon). If a question of saving is particularly important, you can take a closer look at the B&B A casa mia, that offers standard rooms, but also pretty good self-catering apartments (still in Castello, just not in the main building of the hotel but a little bit at a distance).
A lot of what was said about Castello applies to the island of Giudecca, with one important disclaimer: San Marco, Rialto, Piazzale Roma, etc. can only be reachable by water from Giudecca, which is not always convenient. This factor should be kept in mind when you consider hotels located here, and those, by the way can provide some very interesting options.
I will draw your attention to four hotels. Three of them are five-star hotels. The most expensive one (and not only on the Giudecca or in Venice) is Hotel Cipriani, which offers luxurious rooms with views of the lagoon, the Doge’s Palace and Piazetta, a spacious swimming pool, a garden and a bill for several thousand euros. Bauer Palladio Hotel & Spa is not much cheaper, and can boast a spa complex (rooms with views of the lagoon come by default). Finally, the huge Hilton Molino Stucky Venice, the most budget-friendly (if this term can even be applied here) of these, with a swimming pool (on the roof), a spa and several restaurants, offering spectacular panoramic views of Venice. The fourth hotel, Sarah Sun Island, is essentially different and much cheaper. First, it is not a hotel at all, but two yachts tied up to the bank where cabins serve as guest rooms. And the yachts aren’t just located somewhere, they are in fact situated in a modern residential area, so uncharacteristic for Venice.
In a nutshell, Giudecca is the island of contrasts :)
Lido di Venezia
Lido di Venezia is another island, so obviously not meant for frequent walks in Venice. But here you will find a largely stretched public beach, which can add excitement to your summer Venice vacation (the sea here is shallow and there is a gentle entry into the water). In addition, Lido has some points of interest, and during the annual Venice Film Festival you will have a great opportunity to play paparazzi and hunt yourself a movie star or two. In Lido you can choose one of small family hotels like B&B Casa Robinig or B&B Villa Ines. If you are used to large hotels and private beaches, there will hardly be anything better than Hotel Excelsior Venice.
A couple of words for car travelers: Lido has roads! It can be reached from the mainland, and there are plenty of parking spaces (in particular, you can use hotel parking lots). Thus, if you travel by car, the island of Lido di Venezia can be considered as an alternative to Mestre, which was discussed at the beginning of this article.
But let’s get back to the center of Venice, namely to the sestiere Dorsoduro. Actually, the above-mentioned island of Giudecca is a part of this district, but the most interesting part of it, in my opinion, is the area which is located on the opposite bank of the canal which bears the same name as the island.
I think that here you should either choose the proximity of the Academia bridge and Santa Maria della Salute church, or the proximity of the Piazzale Roma.
Hotels located closer to Piazzale Roma, as well as the advantages of staying in that area have been discussed above. I will not go over that again right now.
But I will pay extra attention to hotels near Santa Maria della Salute and the Academy. Actually, this is one of my favorite places in Venice. The quays adjacent to the della Salute church offer spectacular views; strolling here is a pleasure (especially in the evenings enjoying the rays of the setting sun). Of course, there is another five-star hotel here – Centurion Palace. It is located slightly away from the quay (Fondamenta della Dogana alla Salute). Some rooms have a great view over the Grand Canal. The prices match the status, of course. However, nearby you can find less luxury hotels. For this purpose, turn your gaze to another quay – the Zattere (Fondamenta delle Zattere), and, in particular, to the hotels La Calcina and Pensione Seguso, which have rooms overlooking Giudecca. In just five to seven minutes you can reach Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute, and the Academia Bridge is even closer that that. At the same time, from the bridge you will need another 10-15 minutes to reach San Marco or Rialto. Alternatively, you can get further into Dorsoduro (but not too much) and stay, for example, in a small hotel Charming House DD724, situated next to the Peggy Guggenheim Museum.
Finally, I will say a few words about the district, which has not been mentioned until now. This is sestiere San Polo, surrounded by all other districts. However, reviewing the district of Ponte di Rialto, I mentioned a few small hotels, which geographically belong to San Polo. Actually, choosing a hotel in the district, it makes sense to consider the proximity to Rialto. Thus, you can choose a hotel which is located at the same distance from San Marco and from Piazzale Roma – and that is quite convenient. Such options may include, for example, small hotels Il Nido di Giulietta e Romeo and Locanda Poste Vecie, both about 15 minutes’ walk away from both of these landmarks.
In general, if you limit the scope by the district of San Polo, you can book the hotel anywhere – either a little closer to the stations (sea and bus terminals, train station), or a little closer to all the main attractions of Venice.