Venice is so jam-packed with art and architecture that at some point you just want to sit back and watch the world go by. So, choose a comfortable spot at a charming cafés and enjoy watching all the activity as you take a break from the sightseeing.
Morning, afternoon or evening, this is a great spot to hang out and watch the world go by. Al Chioschetto is located on the Zattere overlooking the Giudecca Canal, and the view is phenomenal even when the tourist-watching is at a low. Mornings are peaceful and shady as the city quietly wakes up around you. Alternatively, take a seat for an afternoon of sunshine and cheerful travellers. This is also a perfect spot to see the glorious sunset as you sip a glass of wine and unwind from the day.
The kiosk there serves inexpensive drinks and light food all day, attracting university students and local residents. From May to September there is live music two nights a week and a party boat that leaves from a nearby dock. Don’t mistake this for a party spot, though; it’s just one of the best people-watching spots in Venice.
Alla PalancaCreativecommons.org/Jean-Pierre Dalbera
Giudecca is a vaporetto ride across the canal from Venice, and it has its own, less-touristy charm.
Alla Palanca is a basic neighbourhood bar on the island that happens to serve one of the best lunches around. Pick one of the canal-side tables for the best view and order a traditional meal, such as squid-ink risotto or the fish of the day. The clientele tends to be locals, making for a neighbourhood picnic atmosphere that is very different from the restaurants in the centre of Venice.
In the evening this is just a bar with only minimal snacks to go with your wine. The mood inside is still very neighbourly, but the outside people-watching is nearly non-existent. The tourists are across the canals and the local working folk have mostly gone home to dinner.
In one of the most tourist-trafficked areas of Venice, Angiò is a prime place to spend an afternoon watching the crowd. Grab a table right on the water’s edge to take advantage of the stunning view of the San Giorgio Maggiore in addition to the passers-by. Angiò is better known as a wine bar, but they do have a wonderful selection of crepes and sandwiches for a midday snack.
Summer evenings often have live music either at Angiò, or one of the nearby nightclubs. This contributes to the tourist traffic and your people-watching evening may stretch into the early hours without you even realizing it.
Antica Birraria della Corte
First a bull pen, then a brewery and finally a pizzeria -- that's the history of this large restaurant on the Campo San Polo.
Indoor seating is easy to find but if you can manage to grab a table outside you are ideally positioned for an afternoon of entertainment. Campo San Polo is the second largest public square in Venice and was once used for bullfighting. Now the square is often the site of carnivals, festivals and open-air concerts. It’s also an ideal place for kids to stretch their legs while the parents relax in the shade with a tall beer and a slice of pizza.
The Zambon Brothers take pride in the fact that their restaurant uses only authentic ingredients without preservatives, dyes or chemical enhancers. The pizzas, pastas and salads are made on site from fresh ingredients and the menu changes with seasonal availability. Ask your server about the beef on the menu and you will hear about the exact farm that supplies the restaurant.
creativecommons.org/Paul Asman and Jill Lenoble
This tiny wine bar on Via Garibaldi is a wonderful place to camp out and watch the real Venice in action. Castello is a bit removed from the more touristed areas of Venice and this is where you can see shoppers picking up the day’s meal at the market or children heading to the gardens to play.
You can stop in just for a drink, but they also offer a small selection of sandwiches and pastas that vary as the cook’s mood changes. Plenty of locals gather on summer Friday evenings to enjoy the live outdoor music or just watch Venice get settled in for the night. Don’t try to close the place down as the bar will stay open as long as they have customers.
Take a window seat at this cavernous restaurant in Cannaregio and order a giant salad for lunch. Against the stunning backdrop of the Dolomites you can sit back and watch the comings and goings of one of the hectic vaporetto stops in Venice. The water taxis are fun to watch and the variety of people that use them can be even more entertaining.
This is a comfortable place to spend a few hours relaxing and listening to the water traffic and chatter of the streets. An evening meal of steak and antipasti might be more filling but the boat traffic won’t be as busy or entertaining.
This café is great, not only because it is right in front of the Dominican church of Santi Giovanni e Paolo, but also because a single family has been running the business since the 1870s. Pull up a chair right outside history and watch the travellers and worshipers visit the church. The pastries are delicious, but a better idea is to take a slice of Venetian cake home and try some of the homemade ice cream while you sip your coffee and enjoy the afternoon.
This is expensive, but with outside seating on Piazza San Marco and a view of the basilica, people scramble to get a spot here. This may be the place to take full advantage of the European policy that encourages customers to stay as long as they want, so grab your 14 Euro cappuccino and settle in for a long afternoon of tourist-watching.
St Mark’s Square is the prime spot to people-watch and the never-ending stream of tourists, clergy and school children visiting the basilica provides hours of entertainment. Enjoy the spectacle as unsuspecting tourists try to throw “just a little” popcorn to the savvy pigeons and find their bag of treats snatched from their hands.
Gran Caffé Quadricreativecommons.org/Brian and Jaclyn Drum
Equally as expensive, but also in a prime spot, this little coffee spot is another of the classic cafés that are a part of Venetian history. Since 1638, a café has operated in this spot overlooking Piazza San Marco and the basilica. The food is not spectacular, but the view of the bustling piazza can’t be beat. Prices rise even higher when there is a band so time your visit carefully.