Final Verdict: Is Venice Overrated?


I was once asked to name the most overrated destination I’ve ever visited. That’s a hard question for me, because I believe even the most “blah” destination has cool attributes, just like the most crowded, overpriced “must-see” cities have redeeming qualities. When we visited Venice nine years ago, I thought it was a fantastic city. In fact, I felt then that it was the most beautiful city I had ever visited. But looking back, might Venice be the most overrated city on all the “must-see” lists? Yeah, I could see where some people could find Venice overrated.

Venice overrated

When we decided to visit Italy, we mapped out the typical tourist week. We spent a couple of days in Rome, a few days in Florence and Tuscany, and finished things off with two nights in Venice. Every city was magical, historic, romantic and unforgettable. And it was all a whirlwind.

We started off the trip with exactly 48 hours in Rome, and somehow managed to visit the Borghese Gallery, the Vatican Museums and all of the ancient sites around the Roman Forum. We followed that up with three nights in Florence that saw us see all the great art museums, eat amazing food and spend a day touring Tuscany.

Venice overrated

All of that art and history called for a couple of nights of just hanging out in Venice. We didn’t visit any museums, I think we only walked into one church and, most importantly, had no schedule to follow. Venice was relaxing and enchanting. And as our last trip before having our son, it was the perfect romantic getaway.

Venice overrated

Yes, we paid for the overpriced gondola ride. I do have a couple of words of advice on that. Get a ride on a gondola that is docked on a quiet side canal. And go earlier in the day. The closer to sunset, meaning the closer to romantic time, means the higher the prices. Nine years ago we paid 70 euros for a 30-minute ride at about 4 p.m. on a side canal. Yeah, some might consider that an overpriced tourist trap activity. But nine years later I look back fondly on the experience and don’t really care about the money it cost.

Venice overrated

But visiting Venice in May with the throngs of American, British and German tourists made for a crowded experience. I’m not sure if Venice is ever really not crowded, but at the end of May 2005, the streets of Venice were packed.

Venice overrated

The restaurants are also overpriced and the quality of the food average at best. We did find a restaurant near a seafood market that was fabulous. We visited it twice. We passed up a restaurant out in a courtyard in a quiet residential area. I regret that decision to this day.

We also found this cool little café that was our second lunch one day (yes, we ate four meals per day in Italy).

Venice overrated

Venice is a beautiful city. I think there often is a reason certain destinations are overrun with visitors, and it’s because the secret of how awesome that place is gets out. The secret on Venice got out many years ago.

Venice overrated

So do I find Venice overrated as a destination? Nah, probably not. But that’s because I didn’t put it on some pedestal where it didn’t belong. I think Venice is an enchanting city, one that I’m happy to say I’ve experienced. I’m not sure I’ll return. But if I’m ever provided with the opportunity to, I won’t turn it down.

I mean, the late afternoon light reflecting off the beautiful old buildings was amazing.

Venice overrated

38 thoughts on “Final Verdict: Is Venice Overrated?

  1. Venice is one of those places that I am glad we went, we had a wonderful time, and we thought it was beautiful, but we don’t necessarily need to go again. For me the key was staying more than a day. If you have time to explore and if you can have the city to yourself at night when all the day trippers leave, Venice will provide a much better experience. It is hard to find good food though, which is a shame since Italy has some of the best food otherwise.
    Katherine Belarmino recently posted…Croatia’s Cosmopolitan Capital ZagrebMy Profile

  2. For me, it’s not so much that Venice is overrated, but that thousands of people get belched into it from the huge cruise ships, walk around taking photos for a few hours, are heeded back onto the megaships, and then proudly proclaim how they’ve “been to” Venice. NO, you’ve been on a cruise. It’s only by visiting any city, town, destination the way you and your wife did, Lance, that anyone can truly say they’ve been to that place.
    Jennifer recently posted…The Worst Press Trip I’ve Ever Been OnMy Profile

  3. Yes Jen, I agree. I’ve never been on a cruise and I’m not sure I ever will. But the idea of checking out a city for a few hours only just doesn’t interest me. I will say staying in a beautiful hotel for two nights there was wonderful. It was a very relaxing end to a busy week in Italy.

  4. Katherine, it really is a shame that it’s harder to find great food that’s not overpriced. We had some good meals and some not so good meals. It was made harder by the fact that we had just ate wonderful meals in Tuscany.

  5. I think everyone has very high expectations of Venice and when you get there in high season and it is filled with cruise ship tourists and the food sucks and it is stinky and everything is super expensive it is easy to be disillusioned. It happened to me. Venice is definitely beautiful and I think if you did if off season and knew your way around to avoid touristy restaurants you would have a very different experience. That said, for now I feel like I’ve checked it off my bucket list and I’m not rushing to go back. We are taking my daughter to Italy for the first time next month and spending 5 days in Rome, 3 in Positano and 5 in Capri. She was hoping for Venice but I told her that one might have to be on her own one day. Next time we go back I’d want to do Florence again, along with Umbria, Bologna…so many amazing places in Italy that Venice never makes it back onto the list.
    Tamara @ We3Travel recently posted…Mixing up Fun at the Turkey Hill ExperienceMy Profile

  6. Tamara, I agree about so many great places in Italy that Venice just doesn’t make the cut for return trips. If I had a daughter I’d tell her to wait for a trip to Venice with a significant other. It is a romantic city as long as you close off the crowd clutter.

  7. If crowds define overrated, then New York, Paris and London fit the bill too. When I go to major cities like these, I try to avoid the touristy areas (for the most part) and “live like a local.” Rent an apartment instead of a hotel room. Ask locals where to eat. All of that — much more enjoyable!

    When my son was in Venice this past January, he and his friends did exactly that! It was their favorite day of the entire trip.
    Karen Dawkins recently posted…5 easy tips to save for vacation #PBCraveSweepsMy Profile

  8. I have been to Venice many times over the years and completely agree with you. It’s just one of those places that deserves it’s reputation. Therefore loads of people want to get their Venetian experience going. It is hard to knock the place and won’t even try. The crowds though. You have to go in knowing that the crowds will be there; throughout the year. Put it to one side and don’t let something out of your control ruin a great vacation spot. You didn’t and had a great time. I would love to go back to Venice and do the romantic getaway.
    Tim recently posted…Crawfish in the Sierra NevadaMy Profile

  9. Karen, I completely agree with you about getting an apartment in a non-touristy area. We do that in New York. We love staying in Brooklyn. Sometimes it’s just so hard to avoid, especially for a short trip. When in Venice we did walk around in more quiet areas and loved it. That’s where we found quality restaurants.

  10. Tim, I’m happy we went. We did enjoy it. We decided going in that we were just going to walk around, enjoy the beauty of the city and let our feet take us where they did.

  11. We are returning to venice for the fourth time this year since 2008. Every trip over we’ve gone. If you walk 5 min in almost any direction away for the crowds, it’s a totally different place. And you need to stay on the island and get up early early…like, go out at 7-8am and see st marks square almost empty. And wander in the evening after the day trippers are gone. We haven’t sprung for a gondola ride tho…I just can’t pay that money for a ride.

  12. Agness, I wish I could remember. It was in 2005. I found a great hotel that cost about 150 euros a night. It was our most expensive of the three cities (Rome, Florence and Venice). Our food, gosh, I don’t remember. I don’t travel with a real budget as far as food and beverage. We don’t go crazy expensive every meal, but if I see something I like when traveling I buy it. I’m cheap at home so I can spend more on the road.

  13. Michael, you’re right on the money. I find that experiences that I’ve put high in the clouds before I’ve even been there, I always leave wishing for more.

  14. I think Venice is a city that you need to experience more than once to appreciate its beauty. We often travel to this city and love to wander away from the crowds and enjoy the peace and quiet in the side streets away from St Marc’s Square. Often people make the mistake of heading into the crowds, if however, from St Marc’s square you walk towards the waterfront and then head left you find some wonderful restaurants and cafes and parks where the residents of Venice sit as the sun sets. Far more enjoyable than fighting the crowds! :)
    Tam Gamble recently posted…Z is for… Zadar, CroatiaMy Profile

  15. Tam, wonderful advice. I’m not sure that we turned left from the waterfront. I do know we found some fabulous back streets and neighborhoods to explore. Maybe on a return visit we’d try harder to find an apartment in a more residential area. Since our visit to Venice in 2005, we’ve become big proponents of apartment stays so that we can be in more off-the-beaten path areas

  16. I have never been to Venice, but 70 Euros is a crazy amount to be on the water for 30 minutes. When I was in Singapore, I paid over 50 dollars for two singapore slammers at the famous Raffles Hotel. They were delicious, and we downed them pretty quickly. They were definitely not worth the price though, but I can always say I had a ss at the Raffles in Singapore. That is a bucket list item for some, so I agree you don’t think of the price for something like that after it is done.
    Traveling Ted recently posted…Big Bend Juniper Canyon hike day 2My Profile

  17. Britany, the thing about the crowds is that Venice is a smaller city, especially when comparing to New York City. Manhattan’s streets and sidewalks are wide. Venice’s are tiny and when you have all the cruise ship traffic mixing in with overnighters and residents, those small sidewalks get really crowded. The amount of people isn’t what bothers me, though. It’s all those people jacking up prices at restaurants. Yes, you have to go off the beaten path to find the gems, just like in any city. But with so many people, it’s a little harder to get off the beaten path.

  18. visited venice in february a few years ago, and i loved it. i thought it was so picture-perfect and beautiful. i can definitely see how it may be a different experience in the summer when it’s hot and overcrowded, but i had a great experience. would love to go back, no matter how pricey it is! xo, the wino
    the lazy travelers recently posted…city dwellers: new york’s gramercyMy Profile

  19. I would like to go back, definitely. The thing for me is there are so many wonderful places I’d like to visit, that Venice isn’t near the top of the list of places I’d like to return to. Before I had visited I thought New Orleans was the most beautiful city I had ever seen. Now I think Venice is. It’s just the crush of people during high season makes it less appealing.

  20. I watched Bourdain go to outskirts of cities, where residents fished or farmed, cooked, slept, and did it all over again the following day, day after day. It was that food, that *food* that made me want to go. It’s amazing, really, how many times I’ve seen simple food being prepared out of basic nearby ingredients and how that was enough to make me want to go and satisfy my curiosity. And so it was in the outlying ‘swamps’ of Venice. :) Also, I’ve heard from friends who went in winter they had a great time in Venice, especially my friends who visited the week between Christmas and New Year’s!
    Henry | @fotoeins recently posted…Germany’s urban G-E-M-S: HamburgMy Profile

  21. Henry, unfortunately many people who visit a city only have a couple of days and hit the highlights. It’s a real shame that those outlying places you mention don’t get visited, although the lack of visitors helps keep their charm I’m sure. It is important to note that I myself conclude that Venice is not overrated. I can find charm in a desert.

  22. Leah, I think October would be a much better time to visit than the summer. Our experience was in May, so the tourists had definitely started arriving but it wasn’t the summer crush yet. And like I said, ultimately I don’t think it’s overrated.

  23. Venice is what I consider to be my true home- even if the time I spent living there has long been surpassed with my time in the States–so I know I have a bias. There are so many hidden treasures around the city- and on the islands like Lido and Pellestrina (next time you go- there is a foodie -seafood experience in Pellestrina that is one of a kind!)—but over the years, the city has definitely changed. Most of my Venetian friends have now moved out of the city to the mainland because of the cost of living in the city- and the numbers of tourists can feel stifling for sure. (my favorite time to go is April or October where crowds tend to be a bit quieter).
    Elena recently posted…Find Wellness on the Trail: Hike Bull Run MountainMy Profile

  24. I appreciate your insider’s knowledge. I feel every destination has great qualities, especially if you get into the local scene. Obviously you’ve experienced that. If I return to Venice, I’ll keep these spots in mind. And I like what you say about April and October. I think that goes for so many destinations.

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