Venice Shopping Guide
For centuries, Venice was the epicenter of a mighty trading empire specializing in cultivating the world’s finest goods. It’s no surprise that the legacy lives on and flourishes today in a contemporary shopping culture obsessed with craftsmanship and detail. From boutiques presenting Italy’s most luxurious brands to family-owned shops passing artistry through generations, Venice offers one of the world’s most rewarding shopping experiences. Whether seeking contemporary fashions, original works of art, or unique trip mementos, treasure awaits in every neighborhood (sestiere).
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San Marco / Rialto
Home to Venice’s largest concentration of famed attractions and international retailers, the area around St. Mark’s Square is shopping paradise. Sure, it’s overcrowded and loaded with a shocking assortment of cheap souvenir shops, but locals and visitors in-the-know beeline past tourist traps to find true Venetian goods. Artisan retailers like Gioielleria Eredi Jovon keep old-world tradition and creativity alive while the new luxury department story T Fondaco Dei Tedeschi exhibits modern glamour on the doorstep of the Grand Canal.
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Many visitors never step foot in this traditional sestiere located near Santa Lucia train station, and that’s a mistake. With San Marco behind you, each step along Fondamente Nove brings a more tranquil vibe. Antique shops and thrift stores housed in closet-sized spaces hide along narrow alleys, and canal-side cafes offer prime people-watching and spritz-drinking vantage points. Pro tip: This neighborhood is the spot to score a coveted antique Venetian door knocker.
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Venice’s most acclaimed museums, including the Accademia and Peggy Guggenheim Collection, and world-class universities set an artsy and vibrant tone for this sestiere located across the Grand Canal from San Marco. Spend all day gallery-hopping for original works of art, then seek refreshment in Campo San Margherita, one of the city’s most expansive squares, which hosts artisanal pop-up markets.
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Venice’s smallest sestiere delivers a sensory feast. Home to the world-famous Rialto Market, the streets along the Grand Canal are loaded with fish stalls and vegetable stands during the day and canal-side diners come nightfall. Eat your way through this foodie haven, and be sure to pack treats to take home.
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Santa Croce juxtaposes Venice’s bustling entryway at Piazzale Roma with some of the city’s quietest and most picturesque alleys and squares. Take time to visit Artigianato d'Arte di Vianello Mauro to witness one of the city’s most innovative young artists at work—you’ll feel Venice’s past and future coexisting in perfect harmony.
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Venice’s largest sestiere is home to the Arsenale, a former naval base transformed into an art-world hotspot showcasing the Venice Biennale. Locals love Castello and it shows. Restaurants and bars along Garibaldi are packed before and after football matches; people flock here to see sunset from Riva delgi Schiavoni; and outings to Giardini, Venice’s garden, are an essential part of local life. It’s no wonder that some of the city’s most innovative merchants like Atelier Flavia and Ca’ del Sol are nestled within this area.
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For centuries, Venetian artisans have created the world’s most exquisite glass works from furnaces on the tiny island of Murano. Considered a luxury good, each piece is original and handcrafted, often using gold and silver leaf and precious metals to create vivid colors. Many workshops on the island offer free demonstrations before eagerly guiding you into the showroom. Before you buy Murano glass in Venice, ask for a certificate of authenticity and check for the artist’s signature.
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Venetian masks are a symbol of the city and gateway to understanding the island’s history and culture. During the empire’s heyday, Venetians donned masks for Carnival to let loose and cavort covertly with other social classes. Contemporary artists keep the traditional alive, handcrafting unique works of art following 800-year-old mask-making traditions. For an unforgettable souvenir, join a workshop to learn the history of mask styles and to create your own work of Venetian art.
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Wines of the Tri-Veneto
Wandering from one wine bar (bacaro) to the next to savor Italy’s finest wines is a favorite activity of locals and visitors alike. While you’re sure to stumble across the famous wines of Tuscany and Umbria, opt for sampling from Tri-Veneto. This super-region in Italy’s northeast corner includes Veneto, Friulli-Venezia and Trentino-Alto Adige/Sudtirol and produces Venice’s favorite go-to wines including the ever-irresistible Prosecco.
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Venice Shopping Tips
- Have euros handy. Some merchants offer discounts for cash purchases.
- When making a large purchase (as of 2017, only amounts over €154.94 apply, for non-EU citizens only) ask the merchant to subtract the value-added tax, known as IVA, and guide you through the necessary paperwork.
- Italians value communication. Learning a few words and phrases in Italian goes a long way to relationship-building and will exponentially increase your trip’s enjoyment. Always enter a shop with “buongornio” and exit with “grazie.”
- The proliferation of cheap goods made outside of Italy is rightfully a point of contention for Venetians. Support the community’s sustainability by seeking locally produced, hand-made products. Don’t be afraid to ask about origins.
- Pack patience for your shopping excursion. The approximately 55,000 locals living in Venice’s historic core welcome over 30 million visitors each year. At times, the sheer numbers alone can induce anxiety, but it’s nothing a smile and kind attitude can’t handle.
- Bring a reusable tote bag to make walking through narrow streets with your new treasure more manageable while also limiting the use of plastic bags.
- From cured meats to Murano glass, businesses in Venice are masters of packing goods for delivery anywhere in the world. For larger purchases, be sure to negotiate shipping into the price.