Venice Gay Travel
wolfyy’s Venice gay guide to hotels & where to stay, things to do, restaurants, gay bars & local gay life.
The Gay Travel Experience: Venice, Italy
Gay travelers love Venice and continually come from around the world to visit this famous Italian city. Venice is a gay-friendly city, and the local culture is quite open. I saw plenty of gay couples holding hands while strolling along the romantic canals.
Even though the LGBT community is accepted in Venice, you might be surprised to learn that the local gay scene is very small. In fact, it’s almost non-existent. Most gay locals tend to live outside the city which is also where most of the region’s gay nightlife exists.
You won’t find any typical, flashy gay bars in central Venice, but you will find other gay travelers. So if you’re looking to find other LGBT friends to explore with, it’ll definitely be possible.
Gay Venice: Hotels & Where to Stay
Many parts of Venice are obscenely overrun by tourists, so you’ll want to book a hotel in the right area to get the best, most authentic Venice experience.
Fellow travelers will be around no matter where you stay in Venice, but booking a hotel in a less-congested area with more of a local feel will make your vacation much more relaxing.
Cannaregio is a beautiful, calm, and authentic neighborhood to the north of Venice’s Grand Canal. There are plenty of elegant Cannaregio hotels and even a few brand-new aparthotels.
I stayed at Luxury Apartments Palazzo Nani, an aparthotel in Cannaregio, for part of my trip. I absolutely loved it. It felt so new that I started wondering if my partner Michael and I were the first guests to stay in our room!
We had a one-bedroom garden-level apartment with a king-size bed, a bathroom with double vanity, a small kitchen, and a cozy living room area. Plus, our doorstep was only a minute away from the Guglie ferry stop, making it easy to get anywhere in Venice.
The Radisson Hotel Palazzo Nani is right next door, and actually operates the Palazzo Nani Apartments mentioned above. Gay travelers who prefer a full-service hotel have to take a look at this glitzy five-star waterfront property.
Don’t miss the vacation apartments in Cannnaregio, either. Many of these are incredibly inexpensive, spacious, and have serene canal views.
Santa Croce Hotels
Santa Croce is one of the most authentic Venice neighborhoods to stay in. The vibe is incredibly relaxed. You see a mix of locals and tourists enjoying local life and there are much fewer tourists. And even though it has a local vibe, Santa Croce hotels still offer a classic slice of Venice.
I stayed at Santa Croce Boutique Hotel, a wonderful Venice gay-friendly hotel, for another part of my trip. The staff was so helpful and accommodating, the room was beautiful, and I was obsessed with the bathroom’s huge rain shower!
Their outdoor garden is a perfect place to relax if you arrive early, which I certainly took advantage of. I also have to mention how wonderfully powerful the hotel’s air conditioning is. It was such a relief after coming back from exploring in the summer heat.
Staying toward the eastern end of Santa Croce near Venice’s San Polo neighborhood is equally as beautiful. It’s even calmer in some areas here, yet the location is still very central. There are plenty of beautiful narrow streets and of local cafés around.
More Venice Hotels
Secluded on its own private island, Venice’s JW Marriott Resort is one of the most glamorous hotels around. Staying here would be an absolute dream!
This five-star gay-friendly hotel has 3 outdoor pools including a rooftop pool deck, 4 restaurants, 3 bars, cycling paths, expansive beautiful gardens and so much more.
And whenever you want to hop over to bustling central Venice, the JW Marriott’s private shuttle boat will get you there in 15 minutes for free.
To the north of central Venice, the island of Murano has its own unique selection of places to stay. Murano has a calmer vibe, but there’s still an authentic local community feeling that comes to life during the day. There’s also plenty to do locally—Murano is historically known for glassmaking.
The Hyatt Centric is one of the most popular hotels in Murano. The property was actually an old glassmaking furnace before being converted into a high-tech hotel.
With exceptionally spacious and modern rooms in addition to a bar, gym, and spectacular views, there’s no doubt you’ll feel the luxury here.
Areas of Venice You Shouldn’t Stay In
For the best experience, I’d recommend avoiding hotels in the areas of Venice that are flooded with tourists. The San Marco neighborhood is one of these places. It’s easy enough to visit San Marco on foot, so it’s a much better option to choose a hotel away from the crowds.
I’d also try to stay away from hotels directly in the Piazzale Roma area of Venice. This neighborhood is quite industrial, as it’s Venice’s busy transit hub. Everyone coming and going from the bus, train, and ferry terminals passes through this area.
Venice Gay Travel Experiences
Explore Venice Canals by Boat
Cruising along Venice’s Grand Canal was the highlight of my trip. Mattia, a Venice gay local and friend of mine, offered to show me the city by boat. It was truly an unforgettable experience.
Obviously, not everyone will have access to a friend’s boat. But if you are comfortable operating one, it is possible to rent a traditional Venetian motorboat. It may be expensive, but I have to say that seeing Venice with the freedom of navigating your own can make your trip a thousand times more memorable.
Alternatively, you can easily book a Venetian boat sunset cruise to jet across the lagoon and see some of the best spots all around Venice with a small group. If you want your own boat, one of the best options would be to book a private evening boat tour through the picturesque canals.
Traditional gondola boat tours are another more affordable option. While these boats will move much slower, you’ll still get a classic Venice experience. If you don’t book tickets in advance, it’s possible to hail a gondolier at any of the designated Gondola service stops along the canals. Don’t forget to bring cash for this.
Doge’s Palace (Palazzo Ducale)
Doge’s Palace is undoubtedly the most classic, must-see landmark attraction in Venice. The rooms are massive, and the ceilings are more ornate than any palace I’ve ever seen.
You’ll even get to tour the adjacent prisons and take a walk over the Bridge of Sighs (Ponti dei Sospiri), which many people also love seeing from the outside.
Doge’s Palace is the perfect activity for a hot summer day too. You can get out of the sun and enjoy the cool air breezes through all the palace’s open windows. The windows on the upper level have some scenic views too.
Grab a skip-the-line Doge’s Palace ticket whenever you know which day you’ll visit. This way you don’t have to wait outside in the long ticket line.
While you’re around Doge’s Palace, get a look at the Bridge of Sighs from the outside. I thought it was pretty cool to see the opposing views from both inside the bridge as well as from the pedestrian bridge at the end of the canal.
The Venice Peggy Guggenheim Collection
The Peggy Guggenheim Collection museum and its exhibits were gorgeous. Perusing the collections can take anywhere from 30 minutes to a couple of hours depending on how long you longer. There’s also a cafe and small work area, which is perfect if you need to get a little work done.
You can buy your Guggenheim tickets online in advance or wait in line at the ticket office once you get there.
If you didn’t know, Peggy Guggenheim is a famous name here in Venice. She lived here for many years and was actually one of the last people to have her own private gondoliere to take her around Venice whenever she liked.
Visit the Mercato di Rialto & San Polo
The Mercato di Rialto is an awesome place to visit if you’re in Venice on a weekend. Seafood, fruits, vegetables, and gifts are all sold at this canal-side market. The surrounding Rialto and San Polo neighborhoods are lovely areas that have some cute restaurants and gelaterias.
Relax at the Beach in Lido
Lido is Venice’s local strip of Mediterranean beachfront and it’s a beautiful area to explore or have a day by the water.
You can easily get to Lido by ferry, and the seaside is only a 15-minute walk from the ferry terminal. Along the main promenade called Granviale Santa Maria Elisabetta, there are all sorts of boutique shops, restaurants, and more places to get some gelato!
Stop at the small beachwear/SunDek shop along this main promenade if you need any swimwear or towels. They have some great products. I couldn’t help but buy something here.
Pura Vida Beach Bar is an easy place to stop and relax for a drink by the sea here in Lido. There are several other beach clubs and places for drinks near this area as well.
Visiting Burano, Murano, & Torcello
Burano is a small island located in the northern part of the Venetian Lagoon and is an awesome place to take a short day trip. The island is known for its deeply colorful buildings.
Reaching Burano via public ferry is possible, but the ride can take more than an hour depending on where you leave from. I’d suggest booking a tour that will take you to see both Burano as well as the other popular nearby islands like Murano, which is known for Venetian glassmaking, as well as the more remote Torcello.
A Murano, Burano & Torcello half-day tour is the best way to see all the best island communities outside central Venice. The tour also includes a glass-blowing demonstration on Murano. Another option is a Murano and Burano morning cruise.
If you’re only interested in seeing Burano, you can head there via the city ferry and take a quick tour of the secret corners of Burano.
And if you do end up stopping in Torcello, you have to visit the Ponte del Diavolo, or The Devil’s Bridge. It’s a super-thin pedestrian bridge with an interesting history, as well as a fun place to take some photos!
The original Cipriani Restaurant is also here in Torcello, an iconic name you might recognize from popular locations in big cities like New York and Hong Kong.
Trying some Cicchetti is a must in Venice. These are typical Venetian finger food snacks, similar to some of the tapas you’d find in Spain. If you’re feeling snacky in the afternoon, a plate of Cicchetti along with a glass of wine or an Aperol Spritz is the way to go.
Restaurants in Venice
Dinner at Marcianino with my partner Michael was probably the most memorable meal I had in Venice. The staff was so kind and entertainingly witty. I had a great time here.
Marcianino is a canal-side Italian restaurant in a bustling area of Venice’s Cannaregio district, where lots of people convene for aperitivos and dinner. All of their desserts are artisanal or homemade, so save some room!
Il Refolo is another canal-side restaurant located in a peaceful tucked-away plaza. It’s a relatively casual restaurant that serves some delicious pasta and seafood. I loved the Tiramisu as well. It’s one of the things they’re known for.
Muro Frari is the place to go for seafood lovers. If mussels, prawns, squid ink pasta, or linguine in baby octopus sauce is your jam, you’ll love this restaurant. They’re located on a quiet street with a wonderful ambiance in the center of the San Polo neighborhood.
Try some Sgroppino while you’re here! Sgroppino is a dessert drink that originated in Venice made of lemon sorbet and vodka.
The sweets I consumed at Gelateria Nico were unbelievably good. I probably won’t ever forget trying their delicious Copa Baileys.
Gelateria Nico is a tranquil waterfront ice cream shop with plenty of shaded outdoor seating. You can grab something to go or sit down, take a break from exploring, and place your order with a waiter.
Venice Gay Bars, Parties & Saunas
Central Venice does have a couple of gay friendly bars, but all the true gay nightlife options are actually outside of this area in the mainland neighborhood of Mestre. Truthfully, most tourists are not going to want to go through the hassle of ferrying out of central Venice to visit them.
If you do want to explore some Venice gay nightlife, staying a night or two in Mestre isn’t a bad idea. Further inland, the city of Padua has even more gay bars and parties.
Trash & Chic
Trash & Chic is a popular gay party in both Venice and Padua. Most of their events are in Padua, but when they are held in Venice, they happen at the Molocinque disco club.
These big parties have a queer-friendly yet completely mixed crowd with all types of people from beefy, muscled men to twinks to lesbians. Expect drag queens, go-go dancers, a live DJ, and an epic time!
Since Molocinque is only open from September to July, these are pretty much the only times of year you’ll be able to attend a Trash & Chic gay party in Venice.
Metrò Venezia Sauna
Metrò Venezia is the go-to Venice gay sauna. It’s also located in the mainland neighborhood of Mestre by the gay bars.
The sauna is huge, with Turkish baths, a dry sauna, lots of shower space, solarium, hot tub, labyrinth cruising area, video room, and more. Massage services are also available.
Metrò Venezia is open every day from 2 PM to 2 AM. Before you go, make sure to sign up for a membership card on their website.
Venice Gay Travel Tips
What to Wear in Venice
Everyone in Venice dresses nicely, no matter how hot it may be during the summer. It’s one of those picturesque destinations where people love to flaunt their style.
While a tank top is perfectly okay now and then, especially during the hottest part of the day, make sure to pack some short sleeve dress shirts. Shorts are perfectly fine pretty much anytime except when sitting indoors at the highest-end restaurants.
You can’t go wrong with breathable linen or blended spandex/polyester fabrics. I get most of mine from Bonobos (you’ll get 25% off if you use my link).
Getting to Venice from the Airport
There are two ways to get to Venice from Marco Polo airport. The first option is by bus, which takes about 20 minutes to reach Piazzale Roma. Alternatively, you can hop on the Alilaguna ferry bus at the airport, which will take you to the cruise terminal adjacent to Piazzale Roma.
From here, you have to walk or catch a local ferry toward your accommodations. Tickets are available online but are also easy to buy once you’ve arrived at the Venice airport.
Buying Venice Ferry Tickets
In a city without cars, traveling by ferry in Venice will be a daily activity. There are a ton of different routes and they all come frequently.
To save money, it’s best to buy a ferry pass for however many days you’ll anticipate needing to take ferries. Instead of buying single-ride tickets, you can buy a 24-hour day pass or even a 72-hour ferry pass, which is cheaper than buying single-day tickets for several days in a row.
You can buy all ferry tickets on board as you step onto the boat. Remember that you have to ask for a ticket as you board the boat. Otherwise, it may be considered fare jumping, for which you can technically be fined.
Venice is Prone to Winter Floods
Venice is known to flood occasionally during storms in the winter season when water from the Adriatic Sea wells up along the coast during storms, pushing into the canals.
The city handles this well, but if you’re visiting during the flood-prone months, come prepared with some waterproof slip-over shoe coverings. These could come in handy in case you end up needing to cross flooded walkways carrying your luggage with shoes on.
Recently though, newly installed flood barriers across the channels outside of Venice have proven helpful in preventing these flooding occurrences in Venice.
Next, explore more Italian destinations for gay travelers with wolfyy’s guides to Rome, Naples, the Amalfi Coast, or the gorgeous island of Sardinia.
See wolfyy’s complete collection of gay travel guides for more gay destination ideas around the world.