Where to Stay in Venice first time: 9 Best areas & neighborhoods

Wondering where to stay in Venice for the first time? In this post, I will help you to find the best areas to stay in Venice for first-time visitors and the best places to stay in each neighborhood.

Venice, the Floating City, is famous for its enchanting canals, gondolas, and picturesque bridges. It’s a place where you can wander through narrow, winding streets and discover stunning architecture, including the iconic St. Mark’s Basilica and the grand Doge’s Palace. 

The city’s vibrant carnival, with its elaborate masks and costumes, attracts visitors from around the world. And let’s not forget about the delectable Italian cuisine, where you can indulge in delicious pasta, pizza, and gelato while enjoying the charming Venetian atmosphere.

With 118 interconnected islands separated by canals and linked by over 400 bridges. The main transportation method in the City of Canals is by boat, with gondolas, water buses (vaporettos), and water taxis being the primary modes of getting around.

Venice offers a plethora of enchanting areas for first-time visitors. From the vibrant San Marco to the charming Dorsoduro, each district has its unique charm and attractions. Whether you seek romance, history, or a vibrant atmosphere, there is an area that suits your needs.

Where to Stay in Venice first time?

The best areas to stay in Venice for the first time are San Marco, San Polo, Cannaregio, Dorsoduro, Santa Croce, and Castello. These are central districts on Venice, offering proximity to major attractions, convenient transportation links, and the vibrant atmosphere of Venice.

You can also consider staying in the island of Giudecca and Lido, as well as Mestre on the mainland. Each of these areas has its own advantages, so consider your preferences when choosing the best place to stay in Venice.

I recommend spending at least 2 to 3 days exploring the island, which is a good amount of time to visit iconic attractions such as  St. Mark’s Square, St. Mark’s Basilica, the Doge’s Palace, the Rialto Bridge, as well as take a gondola ride through the canals and try local food.

San Marco is the best overall area for first-time visitors, and for those seeking 1 night, 2 nights stay in Venice due to its proximity to iconic attractions and easy access to public transportation. Staying here allows you to be located in the middle of the action!

Overview of the best neighborhoods to stay in Venice for tourists

Here is an overview of recommended areas:

San Marcois the heart of Venice and home to iconic landmarks like St. Mark’s Square and the Doge’s Palace. It’s an excellent area for first-timers who want to be in the center of the action, surrounded by historical sites, upscale shops, and lively cafes.
San Polois known for its famous Rialto Bridge and Rialto Market. This area is perfect for first-timers and families who appreciate a more authentic and less touristy atmosphere, while still being close to major attractions. It’s also a great choice for foodies, with plenty of traditional trattorias and local eateries.
Dorsodurois a vibrant district known for its art galleries, universities, and lively nightlife with trendy bars. It’s an excellent option for first-timers who are interested in exploring Venice’s cultural scene, as it is home to attractions like the Accademia Gallery and the Peggy Guggenheim Collection.
Cannaregiois a lively residential area that offers a more local experience. It has a mix of historic sites, such as the Jewish Ghetto, local shops and restaurants. First-timers who travel on a budget, or those who prefer a quieter and more authentic atmosphere will enjoy staying in Cannaregio.
Castellois the largest sestiere in Venice and is a great option for first-timers who travel on a budget, and those who want to explore off-the-beaten-path districts. Castello is also home to the beautiful gardens of the Biennale.
Santa Crocenear the Piazzale Roma, the main entry point to Venice, as well as the Santa Lucia train station. It’s a convenient area for first-timers who prefer easy access to transportation options, such as buses and taxis. It has a quieter vibe and more budget-friendly options compared to the more popular San Marco.
Giudeccais an island located across the canal from the main city of Venice. It provides a quieter and more residential experience, with beautiful waterfront views. It’s a great option for those seeking a tranquil escape from the busier areas.
Lidois a barrier island that separates the Venetian Lagoon from the Adriatic Sea. It’s famous for its sandy beaches, historic villas, and the Venice Film Festival. Lido offers a laid-back atmosphere, and a variety of hotels and resorts.
Mestreis not technically in Venice but is located on the mainland. It’s a practical option for first-timers who are on a budget as accommodation tends to be more affordable. Mestre has excellent transport connections to Venice.
Map of best areas to Stay in Venice
Map of best areas to Stay in Venice

9 Best areas to Stay in Venice for first-time visitors

1. San Marco

The San Marco district is one of the six sestieri (districts) of Venice. It is located in the historic center of the city and is considered the heart of Venice. San Marco is known for its iconic landmarks, stunning architecture, and lively atmosphere.

The district is named after the Piazza San Marco (St. Mark’s Square), which is surrounded by magnificent buildings and attractions, including St. Mark’s Basilica, Doge’s Palace, Museo Correr, and Procuratie Vecchie. 

St. Mark’s Basilica, a magnificent Byzantine-style church, is a major attraction in San Marco. Its elaborate design, intricate mosaics, and stunning interior make it a must-visit landmark. Next to the basilica is the towering Campanile di San Marco, offering panoramic views of the city.

The Doge’s Palace, located adjacent to St. Mark’s Basilica, was the residence of the Doge of Venice and the seat of Venetian government. Today, it is a museum that showcases the opulent interiors, grand halls, and famous artworks. You can also cross the iconic Bridge of Sighs, connecting the palace to the historic prison.

San Marco district is also renowned for its high-end shopping experience. The streets around Piazza San Marco are lined with luxurious boutiques, designer stores, and famous brands. It’s a popular destination for fashion enthusiasts and those looking for exclusive Venetian craftsmanship, such as Murano glass and Venetian masks.

The district offers a range of dining options, from traditional Venetian cuisine to international flavors. Restaurants and cafes with outdoor seating provide a perfect spot to enjoy the ambiance and watch the bustling activity in the square.

Visit Caffè Florian, one of the oldest coffee houses in the world, located in St. Mark’s Square. Savor a cup of coffee or indulge in a delicious pastry while enjoying the live music and the ambiance of this historic establishment.

Exploring the narrow streets and canals of San Marco is an adventure in itself. The district is interconnected by numerous bridges, allowing visitors to wander through the picturesque alleys, discover hidden gems, and soak in the enchanting beauty of Venice.

San Marco can be quite crowded, especially during the peak tourist season. The prices for accommodations in the area tend to be higher compared to other parts of Venice. 

Overall, San Marco is a great choice for first-time visitors to Venice, as it offers a central location and easy access to major attractions. But, if you prefer a quieter, more local experience, and more budget options, you may want to consider staying in Dorsoduro or Cannaregio.

Best places to stay in Venice in San Marco for first-timers:

  • Luxury: Baglioni Hotel Luna, 5-star hotel, located in central Venice island, within easy walk from San Marco-Vallaresso Vaporetto water bus stop and Saint Mark’s Square. It has its own private dock for motorboats or gondola.  
  • Mid-range: Hotel Casanova, 4-star hotel in an 18th-century building in center Venice island, offering easy walk from Piazza San Marco, Harry’s Bar, and Calle Frezzeria with many cafés, restaurants and pizzerias.
  • Budget: Hotel Firenze, 3 star hotel, conveniently located right next to Saint Mark’s Square, easy reach from the S. Marco Vaporetto Water Bus Stop.

2. San Polo

San Polo is the smallest neighborhood of Venice, situated in the center of Venice, between the districts of San Marco, Santa Croce, Cannaregio, and Dorsoduro. It is known for its charming atmosphere and popular attractions, such as the Rialto Bridge and Rialto Market.

Staying in San Polo allows you to experience the authentic Venetian lifestyle as you wander through its narrow streets, cross its picturesque bridges, and discover hidden squares. 

The area is filled with lovely shops, restaurants, and cafes where you can savor delicious Italian cuisine and soak up the local ambiance.

The iconic Rialto Bridge is one of the most famous landmarks in San Polo. It spans the Grand Canal and connects the districts of San Polo and San Marco. It’s a popular spot for tourists to take photos and offers beautiful views of the canal.

Adjacent to the Rialto Bridge, you’ll find the bustling Rialto Market. This vibrant market is renowned for its fresh produce, seafood, and local specialties. It’s a great place to explore and experience the lively atmosphere of Venetian commerce.

The district’s namesake church, the Church of San Polo, is a beautiful place of worship. It features an impressive facade and houses several notable artworks, including paintings by Tintoretto and Jacopo Palma il Giovane.

There is also Campo San Polo, the largest public square in Venice and serves as a gathering place for locals and visitors alike. It’s an excellent spot to relax, enjoy a gelato, or watch street performers.

San Polo is also well-connected to other parts of the city, making it convenient for exploring Venice’s famous landmarks. You can easily reach St. Mark’s Square, the Doge’s Palace, and other notable sites either on foot or by using the vaporetto (water bus) services.

San Polo offers a more local and less touristy vibe compared to San Marco. You can experience the authentic Venetian lifestyle, with its charming canals, narrow streets, and traditional shops. While San Polo is less crowded, it can still get busy, especially during peak tourist seasons

Overall, choosing San Polo as your base in Venice offers a combination of convenience, authenticity, local atmosphere, and proximity to major attractions, making it an excellent choice for first-time visitors.

Best places to stay in Venice in San Polo for first-timers:

  • Luxury: H10 Palazzo Canova, 4-star hotel, located close to Rialto Bridge, Ca’ d’Oro, and San Michele Cemetery. It has a terrace and 24-hour front desk. 
  • Mid-range: Locanda Sant’Agostin, great guest house, located within walking distance from the Rialto Bridge, Santa Lucia Station and Piazzale Roma’s bus station.
  • Budget: rialto1082, excellent guest house, located within easy walk from Rialto Bridge and Frari Basilica.

3. Cannaregio

Cannaregio is the island’s largest sestiere in terms of land, located in the northern part of the city. It stretches from the train station, Santa Lucia, in the west to the lagoon in the east. It is bordered by the Grand Canal on the south, separating it from San Marco.

Cannaregio offers a more authentic and local experience compared to the heavily touristy areas near Piazza San Marco.  

Staying in Cannaregio allows you to be away from the busiest tourist areas, yet still within walking distance or a short boat ride to major attractions. The area is well-connected by vaporetto, making it convenient to explore other parts of Venice.

Cannaregio provides easy access to the nearby islands of Murano, Burano, and Torcello. Catch a vaporetto and explore the colorful houses of Burano, the glassmaking traditions of Murano, or the historic sites of Torcello.

Jewish Ghetto is a notable landmark in the area. Established in the 16th century, it became a segregated area where the Jewish population was required to live. Today, it is a vibrant neighborhood with a synagogue, museums, and kosher restaurants.

Cannaregio is home to many traditional Venetian osterias, trattorias, and bacari to sample authentic Venetian cuisine and explore local Venetian life. Some popular spots include Fondamenta Misericordia and Strada Nova.

The Strada Nova is a bustling pedestrian street that cuts through Cannaregio, connecting the train station to the Rialto Bridge. Fondamenta della Misericordia is a charming waterfront promenade along the Cannaregio Canal and is a great place to take a stroll. 

Cannaregio is home to several beautiful churches and palaces worth visiting. The Church of Santa Maria dei Miracoli, the Church of Madonna dell’Orto are among the highlights. Palazzo Labia, an impressive Baroque palace, is another architectural gem in the district.

The area is also home to the Calle Varisco, which is the narrowest street in Venice; and the Ca’ d’Oro, a stunning Venetian Gothic palace houses the Galleria Giorgio Franchetti, featuring an art collection with works from various periods. 

Compared to some of the more central areas, Cannaregio generally offers more affordable accommodation options, making it a suitable choice for travelers on a budget. 

Overall, Cannaregio offers an authentic Venetian experience with its local charm, convenient location, as well as budget-friendly accommodations and dining options, making it a great base for first-timers who travel on a budget or those seeking authentic experience.

Best places to stay in Venice in Cannaregio for first-timers:

  • Luxury: Radisson Collection Hotel, Palazzo Nani Venice, 5 star hotel, located close to popular Rialto Bridge, Basilica San Marco, and Santa Lucia Train Station.
  • Mid-range: Ca’ Vendramin Zago, 4 star hotel located in a historic 17th-century building in a quiet location, a short walk from the train station and Piazzale Roma car park.
  • Budget: Aquavenice Locazione Turistica, a guest house offers easy access to Santa Lucia Train Station, Venice Casino, and the ferry stop for the airport.

4. Dorsoduro

Dorsoduro is a popular and highly recommended area to stay in Venice, especially for first-timers. It is one of the six historic districts of Venice and is located on a large, slightly elevated island separated from the main tourist areas by the Grand Canal. 

Dorsoduro is home to some of Venice’s most renowned art galleries, including the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, which showcases modern art; the Accademia Galleries, housing an impressive collection of Venetian art; and the Ca’ Rezzonico museum, which exhibits Venetian art from the 18th century.

While Dorsoduro is not completely devoid of tourists, it tends to be less crowded compared to San Marco. This allows you to explore the neighborhood at a more leisurely pace and experience a more authentic atmosphere.

Dorsoduro is also home to the Ca’ Foscari University, one of the oldest universities in Italy, and the Ponte dell’Accademia, a famous bridge connecting Dorsoduro to the San Marco district. 

Dorsoduro is known for its vibrant nightlife scene. The area has numerous bars, restaurants, and wine shops where you can enjoy a drink or sample delicious Venetian cuisine.

Campo Santa Margherita is a popular gathering place for locals and visitors alike. It features cafes, bars, restaurants, and a daily market where you can find fresh produce, seafood, and other local products.

You can take a leisurely walk or relax at one of the waterfront cafes along the Zattere, a long waterfront promenade along the Giudecca Canal, offering stunning views of the city.

While Dorsoduro may be slightly removed from the bustling heart of Venice, it is still conveniently located and within easy access from popular attractions such as the St. Mark’s Square and the Rialto Bridge, by foot or by a short vaporetto ride.

Overall, Dorsoduro is a fantastic area to stay in Venice, particularly for first-time visitors who want to experience the city’s art and culture, enjoying a vibrant nightlife scene, as well as those seeking budget-friendly accommodations and dining options.

Best places to stay in Venice in Dorsoduro for first-timers:

  • Luxury: Excess Venice Boutique Hotel & Private Spa – Adults Only, 5-star hotel, located close to San Basilio water bus station, Ca’Foscari University, as well as many  Venetian restaurants and cafés.
  • Mid-range: Hotel Palazzo Stern, 4-star hotel has  wonderful rooftop terrace, centrally located within short walk from  Ca’ Rezzonico vaporetto water bus stop, 
  • Budget: Hotel Ca’ Nobile Corner, 3-star hotel located in a 14th-century palace offering views over the square of Campo Santa Margherita.

5. Santa Croce

The Santa Croce is one of the six sestieri of Venice, located on the western side of the main island of Venice. It is bordered by the Grand Canal to the east and the districts of Cannaregio and San Polo to the north and south respectively.

Unlike some other parts of Venice, it has a more residential and local feel, with fewer tourists compared to the popular areas like San Marco. The neighborhood is characterized by its historic buildings, many of which date back centuries, showcasing various architectural styles.

Popular landmarks in Santa Croce are the Church of San Giacomo dell’Orio, Church of San Simeon Piccolo, Campo San Giacomo dell’Orio, and Palazzo Mocenigo.

Santa Croce is home to the Santa Lucia train station, which serves as the main gateway to Venice for those arriving by train. 

Additionally, it is also host to the Piazzale Roma, the main transportation hub in Venice, where buses, taxis, and car parks are located, making it a convenient starting point for exploring the city and a great base to stay in Venice with a car.

The neighborhood offers a mix of residential areas, local shops, and traditional eateries. It’s a great place to wander around and discover hidden gems, away from the bustling crowds. 

The Fondaco dei Turchi, a former warehouse that now houses the Museum of Natural History, is another notable attraction in the area.

Overall, Santa Croce provides a quieter and more authentic Venetian experience, as well as affordable accommodation options, while still offering easy access to the city’s main attractions and transportation options.

Best places to stay in Venice in Santa Croce for first-timers:

  • Luxury: Palazzo Venart Luxury Hotel, 5-star hotel with an on-site 2-Michelin-starred restaurant. Located close to Venice Santa Lucia Train Station and San Stae water bus stop.
  • Mid-range: Hotel Santa Chiara, 4 star hotel with the Grand Canal’s views, conveniently located close to the train station, Piazzale Roma with the ferry terminal and airport coach stop. It is located in the only area of the historic center that can be reached by car, offering private paid parking.  
  • Budget: Hotel Olimpia Venice, BW Signature Collection, 3-star hotel, located close to the Grand Canal, the Basilica dei Frari, and the municipal car park in Piazzale Roma.

6. Castello

Castello is the largest sestiere (neighborhood) in Venice and offers a more local and residential atmosphere compared to other parts of the city. It is located east of the famous St. Mark’s Square and offers a mix of narrow streets, small squares, and picturesque canals.

One of the advantages of staying in Castello is its relative tranquility compared to the more touristy areas. The neighborhood also features several landmarks, including the Church of San Zaccaria, Museo Storico Navale, Arsenale di Venezia, and the Biennale Gardens.

You can take a stroll along Via Garibaldi, which has lively nightlife with lots of artisan shops and boutiques. Additionally, the Riva degli Schiavoni is a wonderful waterfront promenade, where you can enjoy beautiful views of the lagoon and the island of San Giorgio Maggiore. 

It is also within easy access to major attractions such as St. Mark’s Square and the Doge’s Palace, as well as the nearby islands of Burano or Murano.

Overall, Castello offers a great mix of authentic Venetian experiences, convenient access to attractions, budget-friendly hotels, and a quieter atmosphere, making it a desirable area to stay in Venice for first-timers.

Best places to stay in Venice in Castello for first-timers:

  • Luxury: Palazzo Maria Formosa, 5-star hotel that provides À la carte and Italian breakfast daily.
  • Mid-range: Charming Venice Apartments, located in the historic center of Venice island, the apartment provides free wifi and a fully equipped kitchen.
  • Budget: Hotel Da Bruno, 3-star hotel, conveniently located between Rialto Bridge and St. Mark’s Square. 

7. Giudecca

Giudecca is an island, situated to the south of the main historic center of Venice and is separated from it by the Giudecca Canal. The island has a rich history and offers a unique experience for visitors.

Giudecca is known for its tranquil and residential atmosphere compared to the bustling streets of Venice. It has a more local and relaxed vibe, making it a popular choice for those looking for a quieter escape from the crowds.

One of the popular landmarks on the island is the 16th century Chiesa del Santissimo Redentore that is known for its annual festival called the Festa del Redentore in July, featuring fireworks and a temporary bridge connecting Giudecca to the rest of Venice.

Another attraction on Giudecca is the Church of Santa Eufemia. It is an ancient church that dates back to the 9th century and offers stunning views of the lagoon from its bell tower.

The eastern part of Giudecca is home to various art galleries and studios. The island has become a hub for contemporary art and hosts the annual Venice Glass Week, which celebrates the city’s renowned glassmaking tradition.

To reach Giudecca, you can take a vaporetto from various locations in Venice, including San Marco and Zattere. The island is easily accessible and makes for a great day trip or a place to stay if you prefer a quieter setting.

Overall, Giudecca offers a charming and authentic Venetian experience away from the crowds, with its beautiful churches, art scene, and scenic waterfront areas. It’s a great place to explore and discover a different side of Venice.

Best places to stay in Venice in Giudecca for first-timers:

  • Luxury: Hotel Cipriani, A Belmond Hotel, Venice, 5-star hotel with the views of Venice Lagoon and the Doge’s Palace.
  • Mid-range: Al Redentore Di Venezia, located in a historic 19th-century building, provides self-catering apartments. Close to Vaporetto water bus stop.
  • Budget: Hotel Giudecca Venezia, 3-star hotel located on Giudecca island, with a private dock for water taxi, plus easy walk from Vaporetto lines 2, 41 and 42 stop.

8. Lido

Lido di Venezia, commonly known as the Lido, is a barrier island in the Venetian Lagoon. It is situated just off the coast of the historic city of Venice and is a popular destination for tourists and locals alike.

The Lido is known for its beautiful sandy beaches, making it a popular spot for sunbathing, swimming, and other beach activities. The island stretches for about 11 kilometers and is connected to the main city of Venice by a regular ferry service.

Aside from its beaches, the Lido is also famous for hosting the Venice Film Festival, one of the oldest and most prestigious film festivals in the world. Every year, filmmakers, actors, and film enthusiasts from around the globe gather on the Lido to celebrate and showcase the best of international cinema.

The Lido offers a range of accommodations, from luxurious hotels to more budget-friendly options. The main street on the island, Gran Viale Santa Maria Elisabetta, is lined with shops, restaurants, and cafes, providing plenty of options for dining and shopping.

One of the unique features of the Lido is its absence of cars. Instead, bicycles and pedestrians are the primary modes of transportation on the island, making it a peaceful and pleasant place to explore. You can rent bicycles or simply take leisurely walks to discover the island’s charm and natural beauty.

While visiting the Lido, you can also take the opportunity to explore the main city of Venice. From the Lido, you can easily reach Venice’s famous landmarks, such as St. Mark’s Square, the Rialto Bridge, and the Doge’s Palace, by taking a vaporetto (water bus) or a water taxi.

Overall, the Lido offers a unique combination of sandy beaches, cultural events, and proximity to the enchanting city of Venice, making it a popular destination for first-time travelers seeking both relaxation and exploration.

Best places to stay in Venice in Lido for first-timers:

  • Luxury: Hotel Excelsior Venice, 5-star hotel located right on the beach on Venice Lido.
  • Mid-range: Hotel Petit Palais, 4-star hotel, located right by the Cinema Palace, location of the Venice Film Festival. It is easy to reach from Saint Mark’s Square by boat.
  • Budget: Hotel Rivamare, 3-star hotel, located close to Palazzo del Cinema and the Beach. It is to reach from Saint Mark’s Square.

9. Mestre

Mestre is not actually part of Venice itself; it is a mainland town located just across the lagoon from Venice. It has good transport links to Venice’s main island, with regular train and bus services connecting the two areas. 

Most tourists prefer to stay in Venice’s historic center, which consists of six sestieri to experience Venice’s unique atmosphere, but the accommodation in Venice island is more expensive than in Mestre.

Mestre is a practical option for some travelers, especially if you’re on a budget or prefer a quieter atmosphere. If you’re traveling by car, Mestre offers more options for parking compared to the limited and expensive parking facilities in Venice’s historic center. 

Many hotels in Mestre provide parking spaces or have arrangements with nearby garages, making it easier to navigate with a vehicle.

While transportation options to Venice are readily available from Mestre, you’ll need to consider the additional cost of commuting back and forth between Mestre and Venice. This cost should be factored into your overall budget.

If you choose to stay in Mestre, make sure to check the transportation options and consider the additional travel time to and from Venice when planning your activities.

Best places to stay in Venice in Mestre for first-timers:

  • Mid-range: Hotel President, 4-star hotel, located within a 10-minute bus ride from Venice. It is also within a few minutes walk from bus stops for Venice and Marco Polo airport, and Mestre’s shopping area.
  • Budget: Hotel Venezia, free parking for cars, surrounded by restaurants, cafes, and shops, within 15 minutes walk from Mestre Train Station.
  • Budget: Hotel Adria, conveniently located a 15-minute walk from Mestre Train Station, with frequent connections to Venice.

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In conclusion, San Marco, San Polo, Cannaregio, Dorsoduro, Santa Croce, and Castello are the best places to stay in Venice for first-timers and tourists. San Marco offers a central location with iconic landmarks, while San Polo and Dorsoduro provide an authentic Venetian experience. 

Cannaregio and Castello offer a mix of local life and historical sites. Santa Croce is ideal for its proximity to the train station, while Giudecca offers a quieter atmosphere. Lido is perfect for beach lovers, and Mestre is a convenient option for budget-conscious travelers. 

Choose the area that suits your interests and priorities to make the most of your stay in Venice. I personally spent 5 days in Venice and stayed in San Marco, which allows me to explore most of the major attractions of Venice on foot.

About Author: Ocean Cameron

I'm Ocean, founder and main editor of travelhotelexpert.com. I’m a passionate traveler who specializes in uncovering the best hotels and locations in every city, especially for first-timers, all without the need for a car.

Disclosure: This page contains affiliate links. This means that, at absolutely no additional cost to you, I'll earn a small commission if you click through and purchase something I've recommended. I only recommend products that I use myself or firmly believe in. Thank you!

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