VCEGuide

Where To Eat & Stay In Venice

The best restaurants and hotels in Venice, according to us.

Where To Eat & Stay In Venice guide image

photo credit: Caffe Florian

Nothing about Venice makes sense. It’s a city built on water with no cars (or bikes) where even the garbage trucks are boats. Thirty million people a year visit Venice, and yet only 50 thousand people actually live here, and while the city has welcomed tourists for centuries, it currently really needs visitors who tread thoughtfully. On that note, here are a few of our essential tips: don’t use the canals or bridges for a picnic, avoid the terraférma, and stay longer than the tourists who are day tripping or coming in off a cruise.

The food in Venice is all about the lagoon and the Adriatic Sea. Go to the Rialto market to see piles of wiggling canoce, mantis shrimp, slippery cuttlefish, and silver sardines. Next, find a bàcaro and make a meal of cicchetti, small savory bites that are always accompanied by a glass of wine or a spritz. You’ll usually find things like baccalà mantecato made of a creamy whipped mixture of stockfish and olive oil, or vinegar-stewed sardines and onions called sarde in saor. Order your spritz with Select instead of Aperol and expect a speared olive instead of an orange slice. 

Venice is generally a place that forces you to slow down. Don’t schedule too much, and embrace the fact that you will get lost and that Google Maps might not work. This guide will help you find your way to the best places to eat seafood, a lush garden island, and cicchetti bars where you’ll stand next to both gondoliers and tourists.


FANCY SEAFOOD SPOTS


photo credit: Al Covo

Al Covo review image

Al Covo

Al Covo is located about 10 minutes away from Piazza San Marco, or four bridges if we’re using Venice’s preferred distance metric. With a bunch of paintings by local artists on the walls, heavy silverware and hand-blown Murano glasses on the table, the atmosphere really hits a sweet spot between fine dining and a relaxed family restaurant. The menu features a lot of seafood from the lagoon and the owners are leading an initiative to supply a bunch of restaurants with vegetables grown on the nearby island of Sant’Erasmo. Look for soft-shelled crabs and artichoke hearts in early winter, tiny lagoon snails during the summer, and a wine list that highlights natural and biodynamic bottles from small Italian producers. If you really can’t decide what to get, just order the tasting menu which gives you whatever is freshest. No meal here is complete without a slice of chocolate cake with fudge icing, studded with salted pistachios.


There is very little to eat in Venice that is not Venetian. A worthwhile exception is this small spot in Cannaregio that uses all the great local seafood and makes creative Japanese food that isn’t gimmicky, like the sarde e saor that comes with the addition of daikon radish and soy sauce. Order the Variazione di Cicchetti dello chef and enjoy more than a dozen tiny dishes like fermented and pickled vegetables topped with katsuobushi and transparent slices of raw fish and seafood. There are handmade gyoza stuffed with ground pork and bowls of ramen with jammy eggs if you want something besides seafood, and they also have a great natural wine list and a bunch of Japanese craft beers.


VENETIAN CLASSICS


If you’re looking to fulfill the cliche of eating at a restaurant that feels like your zia’s cozy living room, look no further than this spot right off the busy Strada Nova. Along with the lace-covered light fixtures and copper pots hanging from the ceiling, there are fantastic heavier dishes like fried meatballs made with shredded slow-cooked beef and the wonderfully firm polenta cicchetti topped with baccalà mantecato. Sure, you can pop in for a quartino of Italian wine and some snacks, but you should stay for a full meal and get some spaghetti alle vongole or spaghetti alla busara with tomatoes, chili, and prawns.


There’s a lot to love about Il Paradiso Perduto: the big space, the occasional live music, and the generous portions. Order a plate of cicchetti inside and then find a spot to sit or stand next to the canal, or you can book a table and stay for a sit-down meal. Look for the pasta machine in the window cranking out fresh bigoli, which they use in a dish that comes with so much seafood (prawns, scallops, mussels), you can hardly see the pasta. The large fried seafood plate hits all of the right crispy and salty notes, and is perfect if you need a bigger dish to share.


CICCHETTI


When you finish your tour of Basilica San Marco, you’re only one bridge away from this cicchetti spot, perfect for a quick snack when you are feeling hungry between meals. Start with the signature small anchovy-topped pizza, anchovy-topped hard-boiled eggs, and a refreshing spritz made with Select. When the weather is nice, there are outside tables in the Campo SS. Filippo e Giacomo, but the inside space that’s lined with empty wine bottles makes for a great place to warm up in the winter with a glass of Valpolicella.


On the market side of the Rialto Bridge, you’ll see a bunch of tables with views of a Gondola station on the Grand Canal. Choose a seat that belongs to the wine bar Naranzaria, whose name comes from when the building was a citrus warehouse (naranze in Venetian dialect translates to citrus). Most cicchetti in the city focus on seafood, and while this place has some terrific fishy options, they really specialize in meat. Order a mix of pistachio-flecked mortadella, translucent slices of prosciutto crudo, and silky strips of guanciale on top of crusty bread, and if you see a pile of meatballs on the counter, get a few of those too. The inside space is pretty narrow, but we love standing at the long bar, drinking a spritz on a winter afternoon, and admiring all the glowing Campari bottle light fixtures.


Don’t look for a spritz on the menu at Vino Vero, a Venetian Portuguese spot in Cannaregio. What you will find is an excellent selection of more than 600 natural, biodynamic, and small producer wines, with choices ranging from a glass of skin contact bubbles to an obscure bottle of Sardinian white. When you get hungry, snack on cicchetti like sarde e saor with edible flowers, cured tuna with citrus zest, and gorgonzola with walnuts. Stand at the narrow bar or snag a table along the Fondamenta Misericordia and watch the neighborhood boat traffic.


There’s nothing over €2 at Bacareto da Lele. Spritzes and draft beers are cheaper than most cappuccinos, and a glass of red or white wine filled to the brim costs even less. There are great tiny sandwiches filled with prosciutto or salami, but you’ll have to get there before 2pm or they’ll probably be sold out. Go inside to order and then find a spot at one of the repurposed wine barrel tables outside and make friends with your neighbor. This place is close to the train station, making it a perfect first and last stop on your trip.


SOMETHING CASUAL


Look for the neon sign that says Rosticceria to find this cafe, deli, and lunch counter near the Rialto Bridge. Point to what looks good among the trays of dishes like grilled seafood and octopus salad, along with salads, tramezzini, and our favorite: the mozzarella in carrozza. They make this breaded and deep-fried grilled cheese sandwich with a few anchovies slid into the middle, and it’s perfect if you’re looking for a quick lunch or an early dinner. There are a few tables downstairs with a bigger dining room upstairs, but know they close at 9:30pm and the selection is slim towards the end of the day.


Pizza al taglio outside of Rome is not really a thing, except at Farini. The pizza here has a thick, fluffy crust and comes topped with things like brie and speck or the ingredients to make a classic margherita. Come here for a snack in between museum visits or if you just need a break from all the whipped cod cicchetti. There are four locations in the general vicinity of the Rialto Bridge, but the Aliani shop is the largest with plenty of high-top table seating.


Relax at this independent bookstore cafe in Cannaregio under one of their shaded tables with a slice of homemade crostata and a pot of tea. Switch things up from the usual spritz and order a glass or a bottle of their organic prosecco lunatico that is produced in the nearby hills of Refrontolo. Snack on crostini topped with goat cheese and preserved artichokes, some tiny wine-pickled onions, or one of their many vegetarian and vegan options like hummus and olive pâté with radicchio.


GELATO


photo credit: Valeria Necchio

Gelatoteca Suso review image

Gelatoteca Suso

$$$$+39 041 241 2275
Hours:TUE
10AM-11PM

There’s almost always a line at Gelatoteca Suso, but it usually moves pretty quickly. While the gelato flavors change seasonally, some of our favorites have been walnut with caramelized fig, a double caramel and toffee mix, and a dairy-free raspberry and chocolate sorbet. It’s a good place to come if you’re gluten-free or vegan, as they have gluten-free cones and certain flavors made with rice milk. Take your gelato to the nearby Rialto Bridge and watch the sunset.


This cafe on the long stretch in Dorsoduro called Fondamenta delle Zattere is a place to sit down at a table, enjoy the view of the Giudecca Canal, and take your time. The gelato comes in glass flutes, and you should go for the Venetian specialty Gianduiotto: a rectangle of chocolate hazelnut gelato plunged into a cup filled with whipped cream. Add on a spritz if you’re feeling extra luxurious.


ICONS WORTH THE SPLURGE


Harry’s Bar might be the most famous bar in Venice. Hidden in plain sight behind a nondescript door near Piazza San Marco, getting a drink here is a truly Venetian experience (even if the service is consistently aloof). Sit at one of the lacquered wooden tables or at the marble-topped bar and order a bellini if you’re visiting in the summer—they invented the drink back in 1948. Otherwise, go for a gin martini that comes served in a small tumbler to assure it’s properly chilled, some beef carpaccio or a grilled ham and cheese sandwich as a snack. You going to have to accept that this cocktail is not going to end up in your Instagram story, though, since they don’t allow photos.


How many times in your life will you be in Venice? Probably not that many, unless you decide to move here and become a gondolier. That’s all to say you should make time to visit Caffè Florian, which opened in 1720 making it the oldest cafe in Italy. It’s always crowded and expensive, but it’s worth it to sit outside during the summer with a view of the Basilica San Marco, sip on a spritz, and listen to a live orchestra playing “O Mio Babbino Caro” and “As Time Goes By.” On a cold winter morning, find a spot on a velvet banquet in one of the glided mirrored rooms and linger over a cappuccino or hot chocolate.


Gran Caffè Quadri is a historic spot in Piazza San Marco underneath the Procuratie Nuove that we like to visit on a cold winter afternoon when there are no orchestras playing outside and no summer surcharges. Find a spot in one of the pastel frescoed rooms and order a signature spritz made with Barbaresco Chinato and tonic water that gets served in a hand-blown Murano glass. There is also a great fine dining restaurant upstairs that serves a tasting menu and has an equally good view of Piazza San Marco.


WHERE TO EAT ON THE ISLANDS


Burano is definitely the most popular Venetian island, with its rainbow of houses and photogenic fishing boats. To avoid the crowds, do your island hopping at the end of the day and take a late afternoon vaporetto ride and a sunset stroll. You can probably even fit in a spritz somewhere before your dinner reservation at Trattoria da Romano. While you can find a ton of excellent seafood here, ranging from clams, mussels, and shrimp, the signature dish here is the risotto which is served tableside and made with a tiny fish found in the lagoon called go. Don’t linger too long in the enormous dining room looking at the impressive art collection that features books filled with sketches by Joan Miró, Matisse, and Giorgio de Chirico: the last vaporetto back to Venice is just before midnight.


There would be no Venice if not for the island of Torcello. In the 5th century, long before Venice became a powerful empire, Torcello was settled by Romans who were fleeing a barbarian invasion. Today, the island has less than 20 permanent residents, but in 1935, the owner of Harry’s Bar took over a tavern on the island. He transformed it into Locanda Cipriani, a place everybody from Ernest Hemingway to Princess Diana has visited. You’ll get to eat the freshest fish and cold plates of vitello tonnato in a lush garden where there are plenty of vines and a covered pergola. During the winter there’s a warm dining room with a fireplace, but know that Locanda Cipriani is usually closed from mid-January until mid-February.


THE HOTELS


Hotel Flora is right by Piazza San Marco and roughly equal distance between both the Accademia and Rialto bridges. The 40 guest rooms have an old-fashioned charm with floral wallpaper, wood floors, and beamed ceilings, and you can have a warm croissant for breakfast in their on-site garden. The Venetian family who owns Hotel Flora also has the Novecento Boutique Hotel nearby and the apartment property Casa Flora if you need a bit more space.


Hotel Albergo Marin is a family-owned hotel located on the Grand Canal across from the train station. The 19 simple rooms have air-conditioning and recently renovated bathrooms, and the Italian pastries and coffee for breakfast are excellent. The family also manages the Good Wine Apartments in Cannaregio if you want to pretend you’re one of the 50 thousand people who live in Venice.


The owners of The Venice Venice also started the Golden Goose sneaker company, so it feels like no coincidence that this is one of the rare modern luxury hotels in Venice. It’s located in Cannaregio right on the Grand Canal, and they have about 20 guest rooms with plans to expand into a new property with 15 more rooms soon. The renovation revealed a Byzantine facade, while the walls of the lobby are covered with a tapestry by the Palermo artist Francesco Simeti. On-site dining is available at Venice M’Art, a cafe, restaurant, bar, and concept shop.

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