Guidebook Choose your neighborhood with care

Live like a local

Choose your neighborhood with care

Venice is divided into six sestieri, four of which border on the Grand Canal as it winds through the city in a giant S curve. On our first trip to Venice, says Browsing Italy, we stayed in a sestriere that “was far too crowded for my comfort.” Next time the location was Cannaregio -- “sittingly serenely in a piazza where there was not a person in sight, we couldn’t have asked for a more perfect location. I was stunned by how quiet it was here and it felt surreal considering that this is Venice.”    

Don’t ignore the practical considerations about where to stay. “You can easily get lost in the maze-like picturesque streets of Venice,” says Traveltipy. “Even with a good map, it won’t be easy carrying your wheeled luggage up and down the bridges, which are mostly made of steps rather than even slopes.” The fast and frequent Vaporetto boats travel the Grand Canal along the perimeter of the city and to the outlying islands, explains Barbara Radcliffe Rogers in Planetware, “so almost any place you stay is within easy reach of all the tourist attractions. Because you can't take a taxi to your hotel -- and even water taxis can't reach those not on canals -- the distance from a Vaporetto stop and the number of bridges (which have stairs) to cross should be a consideration in choosing a hotel.”    

A neighbourhood guide to the best districts: here is how Anne Hanley in The Telegraph rates the sestieri:  

San Marco: “You can’t get much more central than this … boasts a slew of five-star hotels, a smattering of humbler hostelries, some seriously chic boutiques and galleries, and the kind of buzz that other areas can’t match. Venice’s most iconic monuments are here – but so too are the hordes who have come to admire them.”  

Castello "stretches from the thronging Riva degli Schiavoni lagoon-side promenade to the echoing alleys around Palladio’s San Francesco della Vigna … there are some gorgeous churches here, and great restaurants too. In fact, this sestiere has a bit of just about everything.”  

The northern Cannaregio district, “with quiet canals running parallel along its length, might seem like a backwater. Wrong. Of an evening, these same canals become a nightlife hub, with noisy crowds spilling out of hip bars and cosy restaurants.”  

San Polo and Santa Croce “vibrant produce and fish markets by the Rialto bridge, and its humming bar and restaurant scene … the emphasis here is on small hotels for travellers who wish to immerse themselves in the ‘real’ Venice. It’s a long-ish stroll to best-known sights – but what a stroll: through echoing alleys and sunny squares, past glorious churches.”  

Dorsoduro “exudes an artsy sophistication that attracts a knowing in-crowd. From the Grand Masters of the Accademia gallery to the ultra-contemporary at the Punta della Dogana … there’s art for all tastes here. Move westwards and things get livelier … cool bars, excellent eateries and a choice of nightlife scenes … complete the picture.”

Giudecca island: “Secretly hip and quietly trendy, the once-industrial Giudecca island conceals a thriving artist community and lots of student life, plus some earthy neighbourhood cafés … out in the lagoon, more big-name hotels occupy lush islands – the perfect bolt-holes for tranquility-seeking visitors who relish popping across to experience the Venice hustle only when they choose.”

Live like a local
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