From the moment you step out of a car, train or boat at the entrance to Venice, walking and water transportation become the only options for getting around this fascinating city. Plan where to book a hotel to best explore the art, architecture, food and shopping without getting lost in this amazing region. Within Venice's six neighborhoods or sestieri are smaller localities with attractive choices for food, culture and accommodations. The sestieri are actually part of the larger municipality of Venezia-Murano-Burano, with places to stay and great things to do on some of the more than 100 islands in the Venetian Lagoon.
Where to stay
Best Areas to Stay for Culture
With museums, art galleries, churches and fascinating architecture throughout Venice, every neighborhood offers interesting cultural experiences. Stay in San Marco to be near the amazing Piazza San Marco, where the basilica, bell tower, Doge's Palace and other iconic structures are worthy of days of exploration. Consider booking a hotel near one of the ports of the Grand Canal. This will make it easy to use the water buses or vaporetti to get to architectural highlights from the Rialto Bridge to the Church of Saint George without having to navigate the many small canals and bridges on foot. Accommodations on the eastern end of Dorsoduro are close to the Accademia art gallery and the Peggy Guggenheim Museum with its famous collection of early 20th-century European and American art.
Great Neighborhoods for Food
While all of Italy is known for delicious food, Venice has a particular flair for serving great meals in intimate al fresco cafés perfect for people-watching. A hotel in Santa Croce is not only convenient to the city's ports of entry, but also close to tiny pizzerias off narrow side canals as well as one of the city's most acclaimed restaurants. Stay on the island of La Giudecca to sip a cappuccino and eat a cornetto while watching the incredibly busy boat traffic on the Venice Lagoon backed by the beautiful skyline of the city. Hotels in San Marco or the eastern part of San Polo are close to the many restaurants surrounding Piazza San Marco. Listen to classical music while eating fresh seafood on one side of the plaza or move to the other side of the plaza where another equally entertaining group is playing.
Where to Stay for Shopping
Many products and food items are brought to Venice shops and restaurants via small boats on the Grand Canal, with the immediate impact of adding to the price of goods. Mestre, on the Italian mainland, is a great place to stay for less expensive shopping, while still allowing easy daytrips to Venetian highlights. Stay in a San Polo hotel to wander through the daily fish and produce markets, mingling with locals and purchasing fresh fruit to bring back to your accommodations. Castello is a good place to book a hotel to make a trip to the island of Murano to observe glassblowing and purchase exquisite handmade pieces. Reserve a room in San Marco to explore stores in the maze of streets of this neighborhood, with chic fashion boutiques alongside tiny souvenir shops.
Best Neighborhoods for Family Activities
Even though Venice is surrounded by water, the municipality's primary beach is on a separate barrier island, the Lido di Venezia or Venice Lido, where hotels cater to sun-loving family groups. The Cannaregio neighborhood is a bit quieter than other parts of the city, with family accommodations offering a calm end to a day of sightseeing, shopping and eating. While staying in the San Marco area, follow a kid-friendly cultural itinerary, looking for lions, horses and dragons around Piazza San Marco. Alternatively, book a hotel in Dorsoduro and make inexpensive daily gondola rides on the traghetti across the Grand Canal to the piazza for gelato. For a totally free and fun family activity, give kids a map of Venice and have them try to navigate through tiny streets and over bridges from sights in one neighborhood to another.