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The 14 best bars in Venice

Sip your way through canal-side wine spots, cocktail dens and beer havens for a taste of the best bars in Venice
Skyline Rooftop Bar is one of the best bars in Venice, Italy.
Photograph: Courtesy Skyline Rooftop Bar
By Jess Simpson |
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Venice’s bar scene is different than anywhere else in Italy, or the world, for that matter. Venetian traditions guide drinking rituals including the highly-social (and inexpensive) giro d’ombra, an afternoon spent hopping from one bar (bacaro) to another for small glasses of wine (ombre), accompanied by small bites (cicheti).

A classic Venetian spritz after work is as elemental to life on the island as water taxis are to transport, and enoteca wine bars are as plentiful as footbridges. A new breed of inventive cocktail lounges and live music hotspots keep the scene fresh, along with some hidden gems tucked into the city's top restaurants and hotels.

The best bars are found far from the bustle of the main attractions, so put on your walking shoes, wander about, get lost, and most importantly, slow your pace. Here’s your guide for getting beyond tourist meccas and experiencing the true essence of Venice, one tasty sip at a time.

Best bars in Venice

1
All'Arco
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Michelle M.
Bars and pubs, Tapas bars

All’Arco

This daytime-only bar tucked in San Polo, not far from Rialto Market, is among Venice’s most classic bacari. Locals crowd the standing-room-only space while selecting cicheti from the display counter, along with glasses of vino bianco, rosso or spumante. The gracious family behind the counter are pros at welcoming everyone who enters, even when jammed. Make eye contact, point to order, then move out of the way. Not a place for large groups or impatient attitudes.

2
Il Mercante
Photograph: Courtesy Il Mercante
Bars and pubs, Cocktail bars

Il Mercante

Elegant and playful Il Mercante aims to take cocktail lovers on a journey. “The Merchant,” located near Campo de Frari in San Polo, tells stories of world exploration through expertly-crafted cocktails featuring exotic spices and flavors like The Captain’s Death, a dangerous concoction of pepper-infused gin. A clever menu key helps dial in desired level of sweetness and intensity. One sip and you’ll understand why the bar was named among the best in Italy by prestigious Gambero Rosso.

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3
Estro
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Euna J.
Bars and pubs, Wine bars

Estro

This artful wine bar in Dorsoduro lives up to the name, meaning “inspiration” in Italian. Works of local artistry, from hand-crafted glassware and lighting fixtures to an upcycled wooden bar, share spotlight with an eye-popping selection of wine bottles lining Estro's walls. This is the place to experience a breath of fresh, modern Venice while sampling small regional producers and organic wines. Daily menu specials and small bites are above par too.

4
Birreria Zanon
Photograph: Courtesy Birreria Zanon
Bars and pubs, Wine bars

Birreria Zanon

A cool, neighbourhood vibe permeates this tiny canal-side bar in Cannaregio, offering a glimpse into local life far from the tourist trail. Hip, young Venetians spill outside onto the fondamenta from early afternoon until wee hours, sipping Spritz or sampling craft brews while devouring particularly tasty cicheti and hearty sandwiches. Order at the bar and snag a wooden bench inside or, with luck on your side, a coveted outside table.

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5
Skyline Rooftop Bar
Photograph: Courtesy Booking.com
Bars and pubs, Hotel bars

Skyline Rooftop Bar

In a city where breathtaking views are never in short supply, the 8th floor terrace of Hilton Molino Stucky stands above. Hop a water shuttle from Zattere promenade to the luxury hotel, housed in a former flourmill on the island of Giudecca, for an unrivaled sunset perch and inventive cocktails like Grain 24, a gin-pleaser infused with pomegranate seeds. Drinks are pricey, as should be expected for the panoramic wow-factor. Frequent DJ sets and a no-reservations policy only add to the goodness.

6
La Cantina
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/An H.
Bars and pubs, Wine bars

La Cantina

A changing selection of wines by the glass are scribbled on chalkboard, oysters on half shell top the counter and other specialties are often written on wine cartons, setting a casually delicious tone for this Cannaregio wine bar. Grab a seat out front, around a wine barrel-turned-table, with a cool glass of Prosecco or Soave to while away a hot Venice afternoon. At La Cantina, the raw fish platter is a Venetian specialty not to be missed.

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7
Osteria Ai Pugni
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Domingo E.
Bars and pubs, Wine bars

Osteria Ai Pugni

Locals love the festive atmosphere and friendly young staff of Dorsoduro wine bar Osteria Ai Pugni. With a location near the university, the crowd is a mix of all ages and prices are low by Venice standards. Creative spirit shines through in playful décor of wine bottle chandeliers and local artwork along with once a month DJ sets. The bar often hosts wine tastings with producers, always a don’t miss event.

8
Photograph: Unsplash
Bars and pubs, Wine bars

Cantina Arnaldi

With exposed brick walls, wood-beamed ceilings and wine selections beautifully etched with chalk, this Santa Croce wine bar oozes old world charm. The friendly owners Andrea and Katia are always behind the bar and happy to guide you through wines of the Tri-Veneto. Order a cheese and charcuterie board (the family-made salami is outrageous). Bonus, this sweet spot stays open late.

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9
Osteria da Filo
Photograph: Courtesy Osteria da Filo
Bars and pubs, Café bars

Osteria da Filo

This Santa Croce watering hole, known as “La Poppa,” packs in locals and visitors until everyone spills out of doors. Wednesday night’s feature live music varying from rock to folk and jazz. There’s nothing fancy or slick about this spot, by design. Expect a hipster coffee-house vibe, cheap and tasty cocktails – try the house specialty Zaza, a potent punch of rum and fresh ginger – and a friendly, young crowd.

10
Venice Jazz Club
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Dung N.
Bars and pubs, Cocktail bars

Venice Jazz Club

Venice’s only bar dedicated to showcasing local jazz musicians is a low-lit, romantic spot attracting jazz aficionados and music-lovers from around the world. Sets at Venice Jazz Club start around 9 p.m., five nights a week and feature the VJC-house quartet, usually joined by special guests. Tickets are generally $20, including one glass of wine, beer or cocktail.

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11
Vino-Vero
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Jason W.
Bars and pubs, Wine bars

Vino-Vero

This canal-side Cannaregio spot named “true wine” takes it’s expertly-curated, ever-changing selection of wine offerings seriously, yet without any sip of pretense. An oft-Instagram-ed sign highlights the passion, “No Spritz because we love wine,” and playfully sets the tone. Grab a window seat at Vino-Vero for a view of the main attraction, wine bottles stacked all the way to the ceiling, along with a peek into life along the canal.

12
Al Prosecco
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Brad M.
Bars and pubs, Wine bars

Al Prosecco

This neighbourhood gem boasts tables in the shade of umbrellas and trees in one of Santa Croce’s prettiest little squares (campo), near the Church of San Giacomo dall’Orio. Sample a range of the region’s famed Prosecco, from bubbly spumante and still tranquillo to unfiltered options, known as prosecco col fondo, while watching as locals walk their dogs, play with their kids and go about daily life. Bonus, you can buy bottles at Al Prosecco to take away, too.

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13
Bar Longhi
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Tom A.
Bars and pubs, Cocktail bars

Bar Longhi

In a city rich in superlatives, enjoying drinks in a palace only seems natural. Bar Longhi, housed in The Gritti Palace Hotel, offers regal cocktails (with a royal price tag) and a romantic terrace along the Grand Canal. Inside, the bar is the epitome of Venetian grandeur, with Murano glass chandeliers and paintings by famed 18th century Venetian artist Pietro Longhi, the bar’s namesake. Even a classic Spritz will set you back 20 euros, so splurge with the famed Bellini or extra dry martini for a taste of something special.

14
Il Santo Bevitore
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Dipesh G.
Bars and pubs, Pubs

Il Santo Bevitore

For beer lovers, “The Holy Drinker” is a holy grail. With 20 beers on tap, including a good selection of regional craft brews, sports on TV and free Wi-Fi, this Cannaregio-favourite offers a uniquely Venetian twist on the classic pub experience. Travel around Italy with Lambrate from Milan or Elav from Bergamo or stay local with Lucky Brews. Whiskey lovers rave about the spirit options as well.

Getting hungry?

L'Anice Stellato is one of the best resturants in Venice, Italy.
Photograph: Courtesy L'Anice Stellato
Restaurants

The 14 best restaurants in Venice

Every meal in Venice, from cichetti-style cheap eats to world-class fine dining, can be an extraordinary experience. From family-gems to Michelin stars, these restaurants represent the rich spectrum of Venetian dining.

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