First, you need a good pair of very comfortable shoes, something light and cool. Venice is a car-free city. Wherever you are in the city, the streets of Venice are all you have if you want to discover the heart and soul of the place.
Walking along the narrow alleys (called ‘calle’) at daytime, you will discover the small squares where the Venetians go to with their children and their pets. You will also come across those small shops and cafes not even mentioned in guides and brochures. Getting around Venice at night, the city’s charms sharpen.
Stroll the city at night, it can be a wonderful experience. Begin at the alley at St. Mark’s Square next to the Basilica. There will be people, some restaurants, some bridges, some gelato stands, phone booths, and the dazzling back view of the Bridge of Sighs. (Dress warm in winter, the nights are bitterly cold walking around.)
The famous bridge is lighted at night, and if it is your lucky night, a musician might be playing. It is one Venetian moment you will treasure forever. Another lucky night would be watching the moon rise, its image shimmering in the water all around, an event by itself.
Venice after dark is not a party town, but that doesn’t mean you won’t enjoy it. Stroll around, look into the little shops, and maybe enjoy some drinks at shops still open. The area surrounding Ponti de Rialto has the largest concentration of popular bars.
Many of these bars tend to peak at around 8pm and these pubs and restaurants close at 10:30pm. This is because many of the restaurant workers live in Mestre and other mainland towns and they need to catch the last train or bus back home.
Some, like the Tortuga Pub (off Fondamente Nuovo) is open till 1:00am and plays rock music. They also serve food even at these early hours. During Christmas season, many stalls are still open selling hot mulled wine. The one near Scalzi Church is good.
On regular days, some classical music concerts are advertised around, but you can treat yourself to a dinner or drinks at Florian’s or Quadri’s while listening to the orchestras playing live music. Although quite expensive, the experience is something for the books.
Vaporettos (water buses) run through the night in Venice. You can travel to one of the islands for a meal and drinks, and return, all via these unpretentious buses that travel by water.
If the Grand Canal is enchanting by day, riding the vaporetto by night and seeing the view of the Grand Canal and its surroundings is totally worth the expense. The view of the city lighted at night is an enthralling experience.
Of course, exploring the canals riding a gondola is the more expensive way. If you are the romantic kind, you would not mind the astronomical fare, especially if the gondolier is not shy about singing his way through the whole trip. (Of course, it is only right that you fork over a big tip.) Other practical tourists go by groups of six to share the charges.
Whether strolling on foot on the streets of the city, drinking at some pubs, or gliding along the canals by gondola, Venice by night can fill up a traveler’s senses with memories that can outlast a lifetime.