Venice, city of gondolas and canals, can get expensive. Thankfully, however, it need not break your budget. Here are five free things to do in Venice:
Hang out in Piazza San Marco.
While we don’t recommend Cheapos splurge for the touristy restaurants and cafés lining San Marco’s square, we do think that parking yourself just outside the Basilica to people-watch is one of the best free things to do in Venice. Head inside to the Basilica (open from March to October, Monday through Friday from 9:45 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. and on Sundays from 2-4:45 p.m.; from April to September, Monday through Friday from 9:45 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sundays from 2-5 p.m.), and take in 10th-Century relics for just €1.50. Snap a few photos. Just don’t feed the pigeons. These days, that pasttime is off-limits.
Cross the Ponte di Rialto.
The Rialto Bridge could be the most famous bridge in Italy (we hear you grumbling, Florence!). It also affords one of the best canal views in the city, and is a perfect starting point for travelers ready to lose themselves in Venice. Spend some time wandering through the well-known Rialto Market—which is closeby—and where fishmongers, and fruit and vegetable dealers convene daily (from early morning until nearly 11 p.m.). Browse the wares for free or haggle with a seller.
Take in a free concert.
Unfortunately, in Venice, free concerts and expositions are not widely promoted. Check for flyers in cafes and bars or look for posters hanging outside churches and museums. During culture week in May, many museums also host free events and exhibits. For free concert listings in Italian, visit the “Music in Venice” site.
Or, check out the official site for Venice’s Suona festival (scheduled for July 6th this year), a day-long city-wide event, coinciding with the European Fete de la Musique, in which all of Venice’s squares host free concerts. Also, try the tourist center next to St. Mark’s Square, where they often have “what’s on” flyers and pamphlets.
Go to church.
Venice is packed with churches and many of them are free and open to the public daily. After you’ve seen the majestic San Marco’s Basilica, check out two of our other favorites: Santa Maria della Salute, a gorgeous, picturesque church dedicated to the Madonna, which frequently hosts free concerts, especially during the months of January and February. Next, visit the 13th-Century Gothic church of S.S. Giovanni e Paolo. Here, make sure you check out Paolo Veronese’s ceiling frescoes.
Hey, in Venice it’s cheap—and easy!—to get lost. Wander the cobblestone streets, absent of motorized vehicles, and traverse bridges, meander the canals, and get a real sense for the city’s 15th-Century layout. Losing yourself in the architecture of the city is one of the best ways to see the real Venice and to experience it as it was meant for travelers. In any case, try as you might, you won’t be able to avoid getting lost during your trip to Venice. You might as well make it “part of the plan.”