Venice has always sat at the top of my bucket list! Italy is my favourite place in the world (not only because they do the best latte macchiato), each time I visit, I fall deeper in love with the people, culture and beauty of this magical country.
I am incredibly lucky that my job as a wedding and event planner, allows me to travel to some of the most beautiful locations. Venice is known to be one of the most romantic cities in the world, and of course, a dream wedding destination.
Hotel searching in Venice can be incredibly overwhelming, with so many beautiful accommodation options available you are spoilt for choice. Choose from traditional Venetian, contemporary and boutique hotels to grand Palazzo’s and five-star properties. Of course, you also have the option of Airbnb apartments and studio flats.
Arriving into Venice is somewhat special, my flight was late in the evening (due to a delay with an airline I won’t mention but it rhymes with Easy Jet), the journey is much more exciting than any other transfer I have experienced before. You can get a transfer a variety of ways including train, or shuttle bus, however, a water bus or water taxi is much more fun. Classical music serenades you as you make your way to the airport boathouse (super fancy), as I was staying on Lido Island we had a private water taxi waiting (extra super fancy).
- Water taxi’s direct to Venice island can be very pricey and cost around €100 upwards (surcharge at night), the cost-effective option is to catch the Alilaguna Water Bus, which can cost around €15 per person for a return trip. Click here to find out more on information on transfers from Marco Polo Airport.
We had quite an enthusiastic captain, who sped us through the lagoon over to Lido Island, the overall journey was just under 30 minutes. Lido is a secluded island around 15 minutes from Venice itself, famously known as the location for the Venice Film Festival. Lido also has a stunning beach, allowing you to create the perfect holiday combo with the bustling city and calming sea views.
I was booked to stay at the Hotel Excelsior, a luxurious five-star resort with the most impressive architecture and steeped in fabulous history. The hotel first opened in 1908, and is full of character, charm and glamour. The exterior of the hotel resembles a Venetian palace, it is rather breathtaking and made for a very impressive welcome.
My room was located on the 7thfloor with a quaint terrace offering stunning views of the Adriatic Sea. The hotel is due to undergo a major refurbishment, the rooms are quite dated and will definitely benefit with an upgrade. As you would expect, the service is impeccable, I had forgotten my plug adapter and after calling the reception desk had a selection of adapters delivered by one of the friendly staff.
All of the rooms have basic amenities including mini bar (be vert careful of the expensive tiny snacks), hairdryer and Roberto Cavalli toiletries. I was a little disappointed with the room considering it is five-star, however, it was in no way a ‘bad’ room so I was very happy with my stay and the bed was also super comfy.
Tip: Don’t be afraid by the ancient hairdryer on the bathroom wall, they have a much more modern one in the wardrobe. Something us girls noticed a little while after we arrived with great relief.
Breakfast was included, the continental and hot buffet was very lovely, with an abundance of fresh pastries, fruit and delicious coffee. With its own sprawling private beach, you can also relax in one of the beautiful Cabana’s, allowing you to soak up the sun, sip on a cocktail and take in the peaceful surroundings. Bar Blue is the perfect spot to enjoy a nightcap, I of course ordered a Limoncello (it would of been rude not to), which was the perfect end to a lovely summer evening.
The hotel offers a complimentary boat shuttle for guests that runs every 30 minutes right to Piazza San Marco, the shuttle takes around 15 minutes and runs from 9am through to midnight each day.
Tip – Note that luggage is not allowed on the boat shuttle and you must show your hotel card. Seats are first come first serve, so be mindful of peak season. I travelled at the end of June and there was always plenty of space.
Although the resort does need some TLC, there is something special about this hotel. I was personally blown away by the building itself and of course the amazing location. The staff and service were friendly and couldn’t do more for you.
Hotel Excelsior is perfect for families or couples looking to take in the sites of Venice at a more leisurely pace, away from the bustle of the city. For those looking for a quick weekend trip, I would suggest staying in Venice itself, that way you are closer to the attractions and don’t have to worry about boat shuttles.
Tip: I travelled in June and due to the location of the hotel, I would suggest keeping your windows closed, mosquitos and midges are a nightmare, I was bitten EVERYWHERE!
Large crowds and tourist hot spots are not really my bag. St. Mark’s although spectacular it is of course full of selfie- sticks and large overwhelmed groups following their tour guide (watch out for the large umbrellas and flags, they will definitely take your eye out). I found the Rialto Bridge to be somewhat of a let-down, this was mainly due to the mass crowds due to peak season. I can imagine it is much better in April/May time, I preferred the picturesque bridges hidden in the back streets of Venice. Getting lost in Venice is fantastic, you will always find your way back to a central point, the hidden shops, boutiques and cafes were much more relaxed.
I firmly stand by my opinion that coffee, pizza and pasta, in-fact, everything tastes better in Italy! With an overwhelmingly number of eateries and restaurants to pick from, the saying ‘spoilt for choice’ has never been more accurate. I received countless recommendations on where to find the perfect pasta, but due to my 48 hour express trip, my stop was Aldo Pasta. Call me old fashioned or boring, staring at all the yummy pizza toppings and pasta sauces, I opted for a slice of Margherita pizza. I don’t regret my choice for a single second, it was blooming marvellous.
When it comes to overpriced tourist clichés, a Gondola ride of course falls into that category. However, it is a cliché that I would 100 percent recommend, and I am so happy I got to experience it. The hotel had arranged a lovely little Gondola trip, followed by a Bacaro Walking Tour “Walking through the unknown Venice”, with Spritz and Cicchetti (fancy Italian word for delicious bread snacks with yummy toppings).
Wherever you walk in Venice, there are pretty Italian men wearing striped t-shirrts, yelling ‘Gondola, Gondola’ every which way. In my opinion, listen to the pretty Italian men and get in one of their lovely Gondola’s, sit back (for 40 minutes, because that is all you get for €80.00 in a private Gondola) and take-in the canal ways.
Tip: Don’t waste your time hunting around for competitive Gondola rides, the prices are set and standard throughout the city. If you really want to do it, part with the money and enjoy.
The Bacaro Walking Tour was fantastic, with so many tour options in Venice, this one allows you to explore the back alleys, hidden pathways and history of Venice away from the crowds. The private tours are very expensive, however Expedia are offering a great Bacaro Tour for £46.00 per person. You not only get to experience Venice like a true Venentiran, the Chicchetti, Italian style tapas is completely worth it. Anything followed by food is a winner for me! You can book the Expedia Bacaro Walking Tour here.
Located down the Venetian backstreets, The Aman – Palazzo Papadopoli has something that many other hotels in Venice do not have, tranquillity. As soon as you walk through the front gates, it is as if you have stepped into a peaceful haven. This 5* hotel was the wedding venue of choice for George and Amal Clooney, and it isn’t difficult to see why!
Located in the San Polo district, this impressive hotel boasts historic frescos, Murano chandaliers, Rococo decor and the most impressive Ballroom that is perfect for hosting private events and weddings. The Aman’s opulent surroundings create a first-class experience, mixing contemporary furnishings with Venetian opulence.
We were treated to a lovely brunch in the private garden, a peaceful setting overlooking the Grand Canal. We ordered the Lobster Benedict, Wild Turbot, followed by French toast which we washed down with yummy Bellini’s. Now this is a rather pricey brunch, with the French toast alone setting you back €28.00, however this was by far, the best French toast I have ever had in my entire life (no exageration). Light, fluffy, sweet, I litearlly died and went to eggy bread heaven. If you want to splash the cash, this is the place to do it!
I was so excited that I managed to visit the world-famous The Belmond Hotel Cipriani during my trip, located on Giudecca Island, a short five-minute boat trip from Piazza San Marco. Featuring in classic films such as Roman Holiday, this fabulous hotel oozes vintage Hollywood glamour and unparalleled luxury. Having recently celebrated their 60th year, the hotel has hosted many of the Hollywood and fashion elite, including Elizabeth Taylor, Faye Dunaway, Paul Newman Joan Collin and Gianni Versace.
Arriving to Belmond Hotel Cipriani just feels special, like Hotel Excelsior, you are surrounded by the majestic blue lagoon, secluding you from the busy city streets and wide-eyed tourists of central Venice. The decor is a perfect cocktail of modern mixed with classic Venetian furnishings, creating an elegant and romantic setting. Indulge in Michelin-star cuisine at Oro, take a dip in the Olympic-sized swimming pool or unwind in the Casanova Wellness Spa.
Fun Fact: Giuseppe Cipriani, founder of the hotel invented the rather fantastic Peach Bellini in 1948 whilst working as barman at Harry’s Bar. Cipriani then went on to open the now inconic Harry’s Bar in Venice.
My 48 hours in the floating city was incredible, Venice has fast become one of my favourite cities, I think it may have even knocked Florence off of the top spot! I am sure that if you plan carefully, scope out the hotels and do your research, you can definitely explore Venice on a budget. For me, it seemed to be one of priciest destinations I have visited. However, considering this beautiful city will one day be at the bottom of the Adriatic Sea, it is worth every overpriced penny.