8 smart and easy ways to avoid Venice Crowds

There is nowhere else quite like Venice and I’m going to share with you my strategy to avoid the crowds in Venice and thoroughly enjoy your trip to La Serennissima. Get smart and strategic about visiting one of the world’s great tourist destinations with these 8 important tips, and return refreshed and reinvigorated rather than squashed and frazzled!

Quick Guide: 8 Smart and Easy Ways to Avoid Venice Crowds

  1. Time of Year to Visit
  2. Where to Stay
  3. Discover Venice on Foot in the Early Morning
  4. Become a “Ziporetto”
  5. Pre-book all Entrance Tickets, Experiences, and Transportation
  6. Stay overnight and see the main sites after-hours
  7. Visit a Museum or Two
  8. Create a Leisurely Itinerary

1. Time of Year to Visit Venice

The simplest way to decrease the number of tourists you will encounter in Venice is to avoid the peak summer season.

This doesn’t mean freezing your way through cold and rainy days – it just means choosing a shoulder period to avoid crowds that exceed 110,000 per day in Saint Mark’s Square in summer.

Venice receives about 20 million tourists a year, and they all, without exception, head to Piazza San Marco, and the narrow streets radiating out from it.

San Pietro neighborhood in early October, Venice, Italy
San Pietro neighborhood in early October, Venice, Italy

For me, there is only one time to visit Venice – September and October.

The weather is warm (sometimes hot), there’s almost no rain, Venice is still in full swing, and whilst there are lots of tourists, much of the islands are not crowded.

In October 2023 I was in Venice and the average daily maximum temperature was 28°C/82.4°F.

It’s hard to know with climate change if it will be a searing hot or very wet shoulder period, but I know that visiting Venice in July and August is madness!

2. Where to Stay

Perhaps even more important than the time of year that you visit is where you stay.

Now this might be controversial but if you want to stroll in the evenings from bar to trattoria and from park and waterfront to campo, don’t stay in the center of Venice!

Sant'Elena: my favorite neighborhood of Venice, Italy
Sant’Elena: my favorite neighborhood of Venice, Italy

Venice is a tiny island. It’s almost impossible to find somewhere that takes more than 30 minutes to walk from to arrive in St. Mark’s Square.

Stay very close to a Vaporetto stop.

My very favorite place to stay in Venice? Sant’Elena. Stroll through the parks, along the waterfront, and watch the sunset over central Venice across the water.

Other great places – the waterfront and campos of Cannareggio – St. Alvis, Madonna Della Orta, Ft. Nove B and Dorsoduro.

Canareggio in the morning, Venice, Italy
Canareggio in the morning, Venice, Italy

You get the idea – get away from the tourist hotels and gondolas and into neighborhoods. And this doesn’t mean San Polo!

Get out a map and look and where people live in the Veneto – consider the Lido, Dosodoro, and anywhere else convenient to a Vaporetta stop that has its own campo and local shops and eateries.

3. Discover Venice on foot in the Early Morning

Piazza San Marco is almost deserted before 8.30 a.m. and it’s easy to wander through Venice’s narrow alleyways before most tourists set off for the day.

Venice alleyway, Central Venice, Italy
Venice alleyway, Central Venice, Italy

This is also the time before day trippers and cruise ship passengers have reached the central areas.

You’ll find the small bridges and neighborhood campos almost deserted. Photography is so much easier early in the morning!

Rialto Bridge, early morning, Venice, Italy
Rialto Bridge, early morning, Venice, Italy

Crossing bridges like the Ponte Della Paglia and the Rialto Bridge are miserable when they’re crowded, so plan a route that doesn’t involve them unless it’s early in the morning.

4. Become a Ziporetto

Venice’s dog-legged alleyways and little bridges, as well as its beautiful Grand Canal, are fun to wander around but that doesn’t mean you need to spend your whole time walking between one place and the next.

Venice ACTV Map of Vaporetta routes and stops
Venice ACTV Map of Vaporetta routes and stops

Use the Vaporetta system a lot, so that you minimize your cross-Venice walking from about 11 a.m. onwards.

The Zaporetta man lines circumnavigate the island, so you can use them as a hop-on hop-off water bus. I do this between 11 am and 5 pm. This strategy allows you to see the whole island easily.

For example, northern Canareggio (St. Alvise water ACTV stop) or Lido, or San Lucia Train Station (Ferrovia stops) are all visitable in a couple of hours using the Vaporetta system.

5. Pre-book entrance tickets, experiences, and transportation

Here’s a quick list of the major entrance tickets that can be pre-booked and allow you to enter the separate “pre-booked tickets” lines when visiting Venice.

6. Stay overnight and See the Main Sites Before or After Hours

In September 2023, Venice’s City Council voted to apply a day-tripper levy on the approximately 15 million day-trippers to Venice. It’s only €5 and seems unlikely to deter many people.

Also in September 2023, UNESCO stated that:

The World Heritage Committee … has made the decision not to inscribe Venice and its Lagoon on the World Heritage List in Danger

UNESCO September, 2023

One of the dangers UNESCO experts argue threatens Venice is over tourism and they argue that the measures Venice has put in place aren’t enough to stem the flow of tourists into Venice’s narrow canals in all but the winter months.

Crowds inside Saint Mark's Basilica, Venice
Crowds inside Saint Mark’s Basilica, Venice

If you stay in Venice you can take advantage of the early morning and evening hours to see the main sites and avoid crowds in the city center.

You may have read that turning up by 9 a.m. to Saint Mark’s Basilica will mean only a short wait before the Basilica opens at 9.30 a.m. This is rubbish. The queue at 9 a.m. can stretch 100 meters.

It’s just not possible to rock up to the world’s biggest tourist sites and expect to get in after 10 minutes of waiting.

Queue waiting for entry to San Marco Basilica at 10 am on a Morning in late September, winding around the Basilica, along the Doge's Palace, and along the waterfront
Queue waiting for entry to San Marco Basilica at 10 in late September, winding around the Basilica, and along the Doge’s Palace and waterfront

If you buy your ticket months in advance, you will pay a very reasonable price but it will be very crowded in the basilica, even at 9 in the morning.

A pricier but much more enjoyable option is to join a private or small-group guided tour of an attraction before or after it is open to the general public.

I figure it’s occasionally worth splashing out for the world’s best experiences, and Saint Mark’s Basilica and the Doge’s Palace are included in that small list of truly special first-time experiences.

I think Venice is pretty special at night (but I’ve read every Donna Leon novel!) and I think seeing the city and the basilica at night is unforgettable.

7. Visit a Museum or Two

Venice is part of a very small number of European cities that “first-timers” go to and tick off their bucket lists.

But of course, there is much more to see about this astonishing cultural city and I am always surprised by the lack of people at many of the museums around Venice.

Picasso painting and a Calder Sculpture in the foyer of the Penny Guggenheim Museum, Venice
Picasso painting and a Calder Sculpture in the foyer of the Penny Guggenheim Museum, Venice

The Archaeological Museum in St. Mark’s Square is almost deserted most days, and even the busiest museum, the Penny Guggenheim Collection, has plenty of space to get up close and personal with a Picasso, Magritte, Leger, or Klimt or two.

The Penny Guggenheim is very close to Ponte dell’Accademia so it’s easy to add it to an itinerary in the south of the island.

Other than the monuments in and around Piazza San Marco, you’ll find that there are relatively few people exploring works of art in Basilicas, the Chorus Churches, or the city’s diverse galleries and museums.

I love the Venice City Pass and it’s a bunch of Churches (not Chorus Churches), museums, and my transportation pas as well. For museums and churches in Venice, these are the best three passes and tickets:

8. Create a Leisurely Itinerary

If you visit the main sites out of hours, have pre-booked La Fenice, a gondola ride, or other experiences, and have spent time getting lost in Venice’s alleyways during the morning hours, then chill out and enjoy leisurely afternoons.

Locals enjoying the afternoon Fall sunshine, Venice, Italy
Locals enjoying the afternoon Fall sunshine in Venice, Italy

Aperitivo time is when Venetians come alive from their afternoon lull, and it’s a wonderful time to emerge onto the street again feeling refreshed, and ready for your evening.

Going Further Afield

The average tourist spends 2-3 nights in Venice and the schedule for these days is hectic and usually includes a tour to the closest islands.

There isn’t time to see Murano and Burano islands if you’re in Venice for 2-3 days unless you do a half-day tour.

These are the fastest tours that still give you time to wander around these colorful villages:

Final Thoughts

I was walking down a narrow alley in Venice near La Fenice when I heard two women behind me talking to one another.

One of them said, “There’s really nowhere quite like Venice.” To which the other woman agreed.

The whole of Italy is beautiful, but Venice is impossibly beautiful and sitting and taking it in, imprinting it all on your eyeballs, is a task that can take a lifetime.

Don’t rush it – despite all the warnings, Venice isn’t going anywhere soon and it’s a city that deserves several visits.

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