Dorsoduro lies across the Grand Canal from San Marco. This charming and laid-back neighbourhood has some of the prettiest canals in Venice. It’s also an art lover’s paradise. Two of the city’s best museums, the Accademia and Guggenheim, are located here, along with some lovely churches, including the Santa Maria Della Salute. The nightlife in Dorsoduro is the best in Venice, thanks to the lively Santa Margherita Square, which has loads of late night bars and cafes. If you prefer a nice stroll instead, then Zattere, the promenade along the Guidecca Canal with its gelato shops, is perfect. Due to presence of Ca’ Foscari University, Dorsoduro has a large student population.
San Polo is the smallest and the most central district of Venice. Parts of this area can be very touristy, especially along the foot of the Rialto Bridge. But there are also relaxed squares and a web of crowd free side streets and small alleys leading to some charming churches. The sprawling square, Campo San Polo, is a popular hangout spot of the locals. San Polo also has some of the best local restaurants in Venice where you can enjoy a quiet glass of wine and some excellent homemade food. An open-air fish and vegetable market is held every morning at the foot of the Rialto Bridge, a nice place to visit before Venice comes to life.
Santa Croce sits on the opposite side of the Grand Canal from the train station. Being the least touristy neighbourhood in Venice, it comes with its own set of perks. It’s quiet, more local and less pricey. Santa Croce’s charm is undeniable, with quiet street corners, quaint canals and Campo San Giacomo dell’Orio, one of the prettiest squares in the city. This is a great neighborhood to experience every day Venetian life while being an easy stroll away from Venice’s major sights. Santa Croce has plenty of good pizzerias which are frequented by locals. The car parking lots and the bus terminal, Piazzale Roma, are also situated here.
Set next to San Marco, Costello is Venice’s largest and most unassuming district. It’s ideal for wandering around and stumbling upon empty squares, open parks and small bridges. Costello is a nice mix of the touristy and the local. To its north and south, you’ll find tourist draws like Riva degli Schiavoni (Venice’s main waterfront), the Santi Giovanni e Paolo and San Zaccaria churches and the Campo Santa Maria Formosa. East of Castello is residential and tourist free. Here, working class homes line peaceful canals with the laundry hanging overhead, while local cafes and bars dot the broad Via Garibaldi. The Arsenale shipyard is situated in Castello.
Cannaregio is not Venice’s most spectacular district, but it’s convenient, inexpensive and charming in parts. It’s the city’s transportation hub, stretching from the train station to Rialto Bridge. And it’s home to Fondamenta Nuove which has ferries to the islands. North Cannaregio is residential and quiet, with some nice squares and picturesque canals. The south, on the other hand, is livelier and crowded. Thanks to tourist hotspots like Lista di Spagna and Strada Nova with their eateries and shopping. But if you like cute canal side restaurants, head to Fondamenta della Misericordia. Cannaregio prides itself on having one of the most beautiful palaces in Venice, Ca d’Oro.
San Marco is the heart of Venice. It’s also the most crowded and expensive part of Venice. Its narrow lanes are lined with luxury hotels, designer stores, souvenir shops and touristy restaurants. The crown jewel of San Marco is the grand San Marco Square which buzzes with people, live music and of course, pigeons. San Marco is home to other famous sites like the Basilica San Marco, Doge’s Palace, Teatro La Fenice and Correr Museum. Add the fantastic views of the lagoon to this and you have a neighbourhood that’s hard not to fall in love with. San Marco also has some quieter areas, especially around Campo San Luca and Campo San Stefano.