Entry to the city’s main church (see Basilica di San Marco), plastered with glittering Byzantine mosaics, is free of charge. Modelled on Saint Sophia in Constantinople, the basilica is a glorious reflection of the city’s Byzantine connection. The cavernous building has walls lined with artistically cut rock-slabs and superb geometric patterns on the floor.
Every morning and afternoon, free guided walking tours in English are organized from Campo Santi Apostoli in Cannaregio. Knowledgeable volunteers accompany visitors on short walks through places off the beaten track. It is essential to book ahead to ensure a place.
Concerts, exhibitions, lectures, demonstrations of craft techniques, and videos are on all over the city on a set night in June (see the website), all organized by the City Council and Ca’ Foscari University. Reservations are necessary for some events.
On the first Sunday of each month, entry to all Italian state-run museums and galleries is free for all visitors. In Venice, this includes the Gallerie dell’Accademia, Galleria Franchetti alla Ca’ d’Oro, Museo Archeologico, Museo d’Arte Orientale and Palazzo Grimani.
Settle down on any canal edge, and enjoy the unique sight of people going about their day-to-day business by boat – rubbish barges, transport floats, florist boats, taxi launches, to mention a few. And the water is often shared by ducks and cormorants fishing. Choice spots are Punta della Dogana, the Zattere and the main Cannaregio canal.
Calle del Fontego dei Tedeschi, Rialto Bridge, S Marco • 041 314 20 00 • Open daily (times vary) • www.dfs.com
Located at the foot of the Rialto Bridge, this modern department store is housed in the former main post office building, which has been transformed into luxury shops. The top of the building affords spectacular views – book a free visit online.
Chiesa di S Maurizio, Campo S Maurizio, S Marco • 041 241 18 40
This fascinating museum in converted church premises offers free entrance, allowing visitors to admire its historical collection of remarkable musical instruments dating back to the time of Vivaldi.
An island circled by tall brick walls and dotted with cypress trees houses the city’s monumental cemetery (see San Michele). Even if you have little interest in paying homage at the tombs of notable residents Igor Stravinsky, Diaghilev or Joseph Brodsky, it’s a pleasant spot simply for strolling around.
Over in the Castello district, these gardens were laid out in the late 1800s by the French occupiers, as quickly becomes clear from the style. Shade and benches can be enjoyed to rest your weary feet, while the children let off steam in the playground (see Via Garibaldi and Giardini).
In churches and neighbourhood halls, orchestras and choirs from Italy and overseas often hold concerts, which are free to spectators. To find out about these events in advance, check the street posters affixed to the city walls.
1. To avoid the waiter service charge at cafés, do as the locals do and take your drink at the bar instead of sitting down at a table.
2. For cheap accommodation search for last-minute deals online.
3. A house exchange is a low-cost way to experience Venice – and to live as the locals live.
4. Admire masterpieces – paintings and sculptures – in the city’s many churches, where admission charges are modest.
5. Buy a slice of pizza at one of the many pizza al taglio establishments. It’s the perfect food option when you’re on the go.
6. Buy picnic supplies at a supermarket, and fill up your water bottle at a tap or fountain. For picnic areas see #EnjoyRespectVenezia at www.comune.venezia.it
7. Purchase a Venezia Unica pass in advance online (www.veneziaunica.it). You can use this for ferries and sightseeing, saving both queuing time and money.
8. During the Biennale art event (every two years; www.labiennale.org), visit the many free shows that are dotted around the city.
9. Cheap fashion clothes and shoes are on sale at the weekly markets on the Lido on Tuesday.
10. The Rolling Venice card (www.veneziaunica.it) offers discounted rates at shops and restaurants for young visitors (those aged 6–29).