You know what you want to pay for a night's accommodation, but where should you stay? Our Venice guide will help you sort it all out.
Situated north and west of the train station, Cannaregio provides some of the city's cheapest sleeps and eats. While many of these hotels and restaurants are also pretty forgettable, there are some real gems among the lot. The most navigable sestiere in the city, Cannaregio is by far the most convenient area to bed down in all of Venice. It is adjacent to the train station on one end and borders San Marco at the Rialto Bridge on the other. Here you’ll find the Jewish Ghetto and some of Venice’s finest palaces, among them the breathtaking Ca d’ Oro, whose original façade once gleamed in—you guessed it—solid gold.
The largest of the six "sestieri", Castello is divided into Castello and Castello Alto. Castello Alto borders San Marco and is home to innumerable cheap sleeps, as well as the Arsenale Naval Museum. The largely residential area doesn't boast much in the way of dining or nightlife, but its vicinity to San Marco and its overall convenient location makes Castello Alto a savvy alternative for budget-minded Cheapos.
Located across the Accademia Bridge from San Marco, Dorsoduro is the largest neighborhood in Venice, not to mention the centuries-old home to starving artists and romantic hipsters. Ha! The Dorsoduro rents are so pricey that artists are starving elsewhere these days. Despite the absence of real live artists, Dorsoduro still boasts the Accademia art museum, the Peggy Guggenheim museum, numerous galleries and waterfront cafés. The University Ca’ Foscari is smack dab in the middle of Dorsoduro, and the city’s late night scene is clustered around Campo Santa Margherita.
Located to the east of the Grand Canal, the San Marco neighborhood is the city's commercial, tourist and religious core. The magnificent Piazza San Marco and Saint Mark's Basilica attract wandering tourists (and hungry pigeons) like a magnet. The Rialto Bridge on the north side of San Marco is a beautiful, bustling mess, where boats unload, tourists amass and pricey boutiques hawk their wares. Between the landmarks, countless churches, restaurants, shops and sights make San Marco the busiest neighborhood in Venice. Things calm down a bit around the southern part of San Marco near the Accademia Bridge, in the area surrounding Campo San Stefano. Dominated by the San Stefano church, the streets on the southern end are filled with performers, little shops, restaurants and far fewer tourists.
North of the Rialto Bridge, Venetian life is a bit more relaxed in San Polo. Streets are not as packed, restaurants have more local flavor, and prices tend to be more affordable in general. By day you’ll find open-air markets and fish markets ("herbaria"), decked out in frescoed porticos. By night the area is home to hipsters for late-night "cicchetti" and great wines by the glass. You can easily walk to and from the area around the Rialto Bridge to San Marco in t10 minutes.
Located just across the bridge from Santa Lucia station, Santa Croce offers some great hotel deals and is fairly easy to navigate. The east side is mostly medieval—architecturally speaking, that is—while the west side of the neighborhood is quite modern. Buses and last-minute car parking lots are located in Santa Croce, at Piazzale Roma.