The Neighborhoods of Venice

Venice is a small, walkable city, with easy access to transport by water, and not much distance to cover on foot. And yet, despite its compact size, the six neighborhoods (sestiere) each have their own charm, character, and attractions. When deciding where to stay during a visit to Venice, it’s good to know what the neighborhoods have to offer and what might suit you best.

San Marco

San Marco is one of the smallest sestiere, but it’s in the heart of the city, where all the biggest tourist sights and attractions are located. San Marco square and basilica, the Doge’s Palace, and the Bridge of Sighs are all in the San Marco sestiere, and the Rialto Bridge is on the border.

It’s the perfect neighborhood to stay in if you want to wake up with the majesty of Venice right outside your window, and you don’t mind big crowds. It’s also the most expensive neighborhood for food and lodging.

San Polo

Just across the Rialto Bridge from San Marco is San Polo. San Polo is the smallest sestiere, and one of the oldest. While there are fewer lodgings in this area, visitors love it for its proximity to the Rialto and San Marco; the Church of Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari, home to spectacular works by Titian and his resting place, and the famous fish market. Due to the quality of fish and produce at the market, this neighborhood is a favorite for home cooks and home to many of the best restaurants in the city.

San Polo is perfect for visitors who have time to book in advance and want a good deal on lodging, who want to experience the older, medieval parts of Venice, and don’t mind walking a bit.

Santa Croce

If you arrive in Venice by bus or car, you’ll be arriving in Santa Croce. Road transport with easy access to the train station makes this a popular sestiere for commuters. It’s one of the least touristy parts of the city, and home to the terraced gardens of Giardino Papadopoli on the Grand Canal, Venice’s Museum of Natural History, and Church of San Giacomo dell’Orio.

This neighborhood is a great choice for inexpensive lodgings, and for those who plan day or weekend trips to the mainland.


Just beyond San Marco from the train station is the Castello sestiere. The Castello is the largest sestiere, and a great place to experience local, authentic Venetian life. The famous Biennale is located in Castello, and it is home to many important churches, including the Basilica of Santi Giovanni e Paolo, resting place of 25 doges. It’s also the departure point for nearby islands like Murano and Burano.

Castello is an ideal neighborhood for people looking for a quieter, more local experience of Venice, or for those who specifically want to visit the Biennale.


Visitors arriving by train will disembark in the beautiful and historic Cannaregio sestiere. It’s the most densely populated sestiere in Venice, and home to one of Europe’s oldest Jewish Ghettos. It is a picturesque neighborhood with many small squares and canals, and hosts the Ca d’Oro palace and the Renaissance Church of Madonna dell’Orto.

If you arrive in Venice after a long train journey, Cannaregio is a convenient sestiere, since you won’t have to transport your luggage very far, and can explore the rest of the city on foot.


Just across the Grand Canal from San Marco lies Dorsoduro. Dorsoduro is home to Venice’s University and many of its top museums, including the Academia Museum and the Guggenheim Art Collection, and just . During the day, Dorsoduro is scenic and quiet, but at night the students add vibrancy and life to the narrow streets.

This is the best sestiere if you want to experience the night life of Venice, and be close to the major sights and attractions without too many crowds.

A note on the nearby Islands: There are also islands farther away in the lagoon that are still part of Venice. Among them, Giudecca, S. Michele, Murano, Mazzorbo, Burano, Torcello, Sant’ Erasmo. S. Francesco del Deserto and Lido. Also Mestre on the mainland is within Venice city limits.

Venice is a rich and varied experience, and each neighborhood has a unique character and insight on the life of the city. No matter where you stay, make sure that your roaming takes you to each of them so you can see all the facets of this jewel.


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