Venice is unique and beautiful. The city of canals attracts millions of visitors every year. Some say that's too many and St Mark's Square can become very crowded during the summer.

Those who visit, however, often have another complaint: The price. This reputation is not entirely deserved – Venice is not the most expensive city in Europe. That honor goes, depending on who you talk to, to Oslo or Zurich. However, it's certainly up there, with prices comparable to London and Paris for food and moderate accomodation. Staying on one of the side islands, or even the mainland, can save a lot of money, but at the cost of experiencing Venice early in the morning and late at night. Higher end hotels in Venice are extremely expensive – a four or five star stay can easily run you several hundred dollars a night. Some of the best hotels with canal view rooms are priced at around 1,000 euros.

Why is it so expensive? The most important factor is that people are willing to pay it. Venice is seen as a luxury destination, and is extremely popular with honeymooners – who often are thinking about other things than the price of the bed. Because of the climate and the fact that it is a sizable city, Venice has no true off season (although fall and winter can be both slightly cheaper and slightly less crowded). The perception is that you are getting more for your money just by virtue of being in Venice.

Public transportation is also expensive. Pretty much all transportation is by water – with the primary transit system being a network of bus-boats. Gondola rides are notoriously expensive, although a savvy traveler can avoid being ripped off by being aware of the prices they are supposed to charge and walking away from the most expensive. Again, these people charge what they do because they can get away with it. The extreme popularity of the gondola tours and the “romance” associated with Venice as a city and the canals in particular causes people not to think about what they are spending.

Food is also expensive (and often not very good). Venice is definitely one of those cities where you should take a menu translator and seek out establishments that don't provide a menu in English. Many restaurants offer a fixed “tourist menu”, which tends to be lower quality and higher in price. Always look for restaurants patronized by locals, and avoid places where waitstaff pose with your group. Overcharging tourists is very common.

Venice is, in fact, something of a tourist trap – the entire city. (Prague has similar issues but remains a much cheaper place to visit, mostly due to its eastern European history). Another issue pushing up prices is the large number of day trip tourists who don't stay overnight and buy relatively little food. This is an unfortunate vicious cycle – the city is perceived as expensive, so tourists avoid spending money there, then establishments have to raise their prices.

Most of the problem, however, is simple supply and demand. Venice is, and always will be, a popular city. There is no other place like it, and one will always pay more for unique experiences.

[divider] This piece was contributed by Jake Gladstone, a freelancer with an interest in travel, European society and culture, European government, foreign cuisine, European high-end real estate, and so forth; those fascinated with the city of Venice may want to take a look at Venice apartments to rent.

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