WHERE TO STAY IN VENICE
Given the number of accommodation options in Venice, it can be overwhelming when looking for somewhere to stay. It’s a small island and so walkable (you can reach one side to the other in 30mins) that no matter where you stay, the main sites will be within reach, however, each ‘sestiere’ (ie. neighbourhood) has very distinct characteristics that will shape your experience.
We’ve given you a quick rundown of each sestiere and what you can expect if you choose to stay there in the hopes of helping you narrow down the vast selection!
As an added tip, if possible, we suggest checking out Airbnb or Homeaway if you’re there for more than 2 nights to try and get a self catering apartment so you can experience the joy of buying some produce from the Rialto Markets and cooking for yourself. This has the added bonus of also being cheaper, as there aren’t a huge number of good, inexpensive, places to eat in Venice.
This is, of course, the most popular sestiere in the city, as it contains Venice’s most popular sights (Doges Palace, the basilica, Rialto Bridge etc.). Buzzing with activity, here you’ll be able to see all the spectacular ‘visions’ of Venice you imagined in your dreams, but it comes at the price of being the busiest and most expensive part of the city. It’s perfectly placed to wander into the piazza in the evening or early morning and explore a glorious maze of lively streets. If you stay here try make time to venture into other sestieres where you will escape the crowds and get richer, more ‘authentic’ experience.
Best place to stay in San Marco: It’s hard to go wrong in this sestiere, but we love Calle dei Fabbri for its cute shops and bustle.
Probably our favourite sestiere, especially where it borders Cannaregio. In Castello you’ll find some of the most picturesque parts of the city with a fraction of the crowds. Still very close to the main sights, but far enough away to not be shuffling along with a thousand day trippers as soon as you walk out the door. We wouldn’t suggest staying any further away from the main centre than the Arsenale, as you will end up doing a LOT of walking to see the main sites.
Best place to stay in Castello: anywhere around Campo Santa Maria Formosa or Basilica dei Santi Giovanni e Paolo is a dream.
Once you cross the Rialto Bridge from sestiere San Marco, you will find yourself in San Polo, one of the oldest neighbourhoods in Venice. There is still plenty to do in this sestiere such as the Frari Church, the Rialto market, and the Scuola Grande di San Rocco. Once you venture away from the bustle of the Rialto you’ll find a busy web of crumbling alleyways that are great fun (and beautiful) to explore. In San Polo it can get a bit darker and quieter late at night than the sestiere on the other side of the Grand Canal, so bear that in mind if you like to step right out into the hustle and bustle.
Best place to stay in San Polo: If you don’t mind a bit of a walk to the main sites, the area around the Frari Church is great, otherwise anywhere around Calle dei Boteri is stunning and bustling.
Right next to San Polo, half of Santa Croce in home to the car parking area (and public busses) and the train station, while the other half shares more of the crumbling charm of San Polo. The area around Palazzo Mocenigo is lovely and quiet to walk around in, and we wouldn’t suggest staying much further from San Polo than that if you want to be close to the sights and experience Venice at its best. The area where public busses and taxis pull up hardly feels like Venice at all - you’ll want to escape into the more mysterious labyrinth of water by staying closer towards San Polo.
Best place to stay in Santa Croce: On the border between Santa Croce and San Polo there is a beautiful area around the church of San Cassiano. Anywhere between here and the Natural History museum is quite lovely.
Other than the Gallerie dell’Accademia and the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, there isn’t a lot for the typical traveller to see in Dorsoduro. It’s the city’s university district, and as you walk through some of the vast campos and through some of the quiet streets it’s easy to forget you’re in Venice.
Best place to stay in Dorsoduro: Stay near the Accademia Bridge so that it’s a short walk to the action of San Marco.
You’ll probably arrive in this sestiere, as it’s home to the train station. Cannaregio is where most of the remaining ‘locals’ of Venice live. The canals are much wider and you can walk along promenades or wider streets fairly easily without becoming lost (which can’t be said for the rest of Venice). It’s just as beautiful as the rest of Venice, but you wont find as many of your tight alleyways and meandering little canals here. If you venture away from the station you’ll find the Jewish Ghetto, which is still home to a thriving Jewish community, and if you venture further away still, you’ll be able to better immerse yourself in the watery wonderland. Cannaregio is our second favourite sestiere, as the vibe is relaxed, but still has a lot of buzz day and night.
Best place to stay in Cannaregio: Around Chiesa Santa Maria dei Miracoli if you want to be in the thick of the action (and not have as much walking to do!) or between Campiello L’anconeta and Fondamenta Misericordia if you don’t mind being a bit away from the hustle and bustle of the main centre.