I first visited Venice in 2017 and ever since I have been so exited to go back. Even though it is incredibly touristy and crowded, it also is a more special place than several world wonders. When my sister revisited Venice this summer, I was so jealous that I spontaneously wanted to book a flight (oh pre-COVID times when this was actually possible). My sister told me amazing stories of how quiet Venice was, which I saw confirmed on Instagram where I’d spotted pictures of empty streets and canals. Hielke prefers less overrun locations, so I promised him that it would be really quiet in Venice when we would visit during our September road trip. But I think you can already guess that is not exactly how it went…

Where we stayed

We decided not to stay in the city center of Venice, just in case there would be a COVID outbreak or a lockdown. At the time we visited the province Veneto had the highest number of COVID cases, so it seemed best to avoid staying there. Last time we visited Venice, we also had to pay a fee of € 21 per day for parking our car, so we also thought it would be smart to avoid these costs.

We therefore opted to stay in an apartment in nearby city Padua, which was not the smartest choice. Especially when you consider we still paid € 100 per night including parking. The apartment was nice enough and Padua seemed lovely at first, but as it was a student city there was no atmosphere when we visited at all. There were hardly any students during the pandemic and it was hard to find a restaurant that was open for dinner. From Padua it was about a half hour train ride into Venice, but from our apartment into the city center of Venice took us well over one hour. The train was incredibly overcrowded, so that should have prepared us for what we were about to encounter in Venice…

Venice during the pandemic

Italy was one of the only countries in Europa that was still allowing tourists to travel freely into the country and had little to no restrictions. In September France, Croatia and Spain already had negative travel advices, so everybody that was looking for a bit of late summer sun seemed to be in Italy. In August travelers were able to spread out over Europe, while the options were incredibly limited in September. The fact that we visited Venice during the weekend probably added to its extreme crowdedness. We spotted several bachelor parties, of the kind that you normally see in Amsterdam or Dusseldorf (which both had heavy travel and party restrictions at that time). We mainly heard people speaking Italian, so it seemed like whole Italy took the train for a weekend trip to Venice. Concluding, it was much more crowded than when we visited in 2017, not what we expected at all. I actually got a bit sad when we passed the amazing hotel that we stayed in in 2017 and wished we would have stayed there instead. Staying in the heart of Venice allows you to take a walk in the morning before the tourist crowds arrive and enjoy the city late at night when it is super quiet. Hotel rates were significantly down during the pandemic, so staying in an expensive apartment in Padua was pretty dump, considering we could have stayed in the heart of Venice for the same price. There were several things we didn’t do because it was so crowded:

Campanile di San Marco: This is the bell tower opposite the Doge’s palace. There was a queue of I don’t know how many people in the scorching sun, so we didn’t go in.

Libreria Acqua Alta: Again, an enormous queue for the famous quirky book store. It would have been impossible to take a picture, so we didn’t go in.

Scala Contarini Del Bovolo: This is a hidden gem in Venice with a beautiful spiral staircase. Apparently this place has the best views of Venice. Unfortunately we should have reserved a ticket weeks before.

Rooftop bar: We wanted to watch the sunset from a rooftop bar over the Canal Grande. Unfortunately, everybody wanted to do that so we should have taken a seat at 4PM, which we didn’t do…

Before I stop complaining and skip to the good parts, I have to make another comment regarding Italy during the pandemic. Italians don’t keep their distance at all. A modest amount of people was wearing masks, but that was pretty much all you could notice of the pandemic. Hielke and I often put on our masks, because it was just too busy and nobody was paying attention. I honestly don’t believe the low number of COVID cases in Italy during the summer period. We have seen many indications that they just didn’t test a lot.

The good things..

Venice is one big open air museum, so actually it doesn’t matter where you are in Venice. It just is all so beautiful! When walking around, you will be in constant awe to admire the amazing architecture and colorful canals. Everything in Venice is super walkable and when you walk away from St Mark’s square, you will have pieces of Venice to yourself. The areas close to the train station and the Vaporetto station to Burano are particularly lovely to walk around, without the crowds. But in the case you want to see an empty St Mark’s square, I would absolutely recommend to stay in the city center and get up early.

Taking a gondola ride

The ultimate cliche: but we did a gondola ride in Venice! It is super expensive (€ 80 per half hour, it is possible to negotiate), but the most relaxed way to experience Venice. We loved listening to the sounds that came from the streets, while enjoying the incredible quietness on the water! I would advice to do some research on where you would like your route to start, the gondoliers do a standard route in 30 minutes in which you can only see a little piece of Venice. It would be handy if you know what you want to see beforehand and adjust your starting point to that. We wanted to see the canal grande and Rialto bridge, so we searched for a gondolier that would take us there.

Taking the Vaporetto to Burano

Another must do in Venice is taking the Vaporetto to the little island of Burano. You know that I have a passion for colorful houses and Burano is one of the most colorful places in the world. The Vaporetto will take you to Burano in about 45 minutes from F.te Nove at the north side of Venice. We bought single tickets for € 7,50 each to go to Burano and back. The Vaporetto also stops at Murano island, which is famous for its glass blowing. I thought Murano was much less spectacular than Murano and the glass is incredibly expensive so we opted out of that. We went to Burano after lunch and the Vaporetto was completely full, absolutely insane. Luckily everybody was wearing masks, but it didn’t seem COVID proof. On our way back we actually had to wait for an extra hour, because the first Vaporetto was full. I can remember that in 2017 only twenty people joined us on the Vaporetto to Burano, oh how times have changed! Burano definitely is not a hidden gem anymore, but if you venture a bit of the main road you still will find beautiful spots to enjoy to yourself. If you love photography, Burano is absolutely the place to be! I am so lucky to have Hielke as a husband, because he was super annoyed by the crowds, but still took the time to take so many pictures of me in my favorite habitat 🙂


I can imagine that this blog will put some people off of going to Venice, but that is not what I wanted to achieve! Yes, Venice is too popular, but it is also one of the most beautiful places in the world! Cannot blame other people for wanting to visit too. I have two recommendations for visiting Venice, as you should visit Venice at least once in your life:

Visit during the off season: I would recommend to visit Venice early in spring, as it will be less crowded. (Also, do not visit it when it is one of the only tourist hot spots that can be visited during a pandemic ;)). I wouldn’t recommend visiting Venice too late in Autumn, as it often gets really rainy.

Stay in the city center: It is best to splurge and stay in the city center. Preferably in a luxury hotel with canal views. This gives you the opportunity to walk around Venice in the morning, without having to get up too early. I can also promise you that Venice is absolutely magical at night.

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