Mestre as a Bargain Alternative to Venice

by Gray Cargill on July 29, 2015

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I have been dreaming of visiting Venice, Italy for years and years. In my fantasies, I always pictured myself staying in a cute little hotel in Venice, where I would wake in the morning and look out the window and see gondolas passing in the canal below. I would rise early (hey, I said it was a fantasy, didn’t I?) and wander the streets and bridges over the canals before all the other tourists were up and about. It would be glorious.

Fast forward to last fall, when I started planning a week-long cruise out of Venice and needed to book my hotel for before and after the cruise. I nearly had a heart attack. Spoiler alert: Venice is not a cheap city. Hotel prices were insane!

After crunching the numbers, I only had the budget to stay for another 2 nights in Venice–and I gave myself a budget of $200USD/night. One had to be the night before the cruise (in case of flight delays) and one night had to be after the cruise (because of timing of flights heading back to my region of the U.S.).

As I started to shop around online, I quickly became frustrated. All the best-rated hotels in Venice were out of my price range–even some of the three-stars. Worse, it seemed almost no hotel in Venice would allow me to book a one-night stay on a weekend. I contacted some convents to see if they had space, but they were booked up, too.

Finally, someone on CruiseCritic suggested I look in Mestre (pronounced may-stray), on the mainland. There, I found that hotels were priced appropriately for their star ratings. I found a great hotel that would allow me to book my one-night stays, and I booked it.

I know, I know. It seems sad to go all the way to Venice and then not be able to stay in Venice, doesn’t it? But you know what? As it turns out, I was very happy with my choice for several reasons:

More Bang for My Buck

For what my 4-star Mestre hotel cost ($358USD for 2 nights, including free wi-fi, on-site restaurant, and air conditioning), I would have gotten a 2-star in Venice with no air conditioning or wifi, located half a mile from the nearest vaparetto stop. Seriously, the quality of hotels vs. the prices they were charging on the island of Venice was just depressing. I definitely feel I got more value for my money in Mestre.

Stanta Lucia station

Santa Lucia train station in Venice is right on the Grand Canal. There’s a vaporetto stop right there.

Convenience

While it might seem more convenient to some to stay right in Venice, where you can walk everywhere and not worry about transportation in and out of the city, I found it more convenient to stay on the mainland. I was traveling with a large checked bag, which would have been difficult to schlep through Venice, with its cobblestone streets and multiple bridges. I needed to get from the airport to a hotel, and then the hotel to the cruise port (and vice versa) easily with that bag. It turns out it was just more convenient for me and my big suitcase to stay on the mainland.

I booked the Hotel Plaza in Mestre, which I’ll review in a future post. Hotel Plaza is located directly across from the Venezia-Mestre train station. This is also where the ATVO bus drops off in Mestre, so getting from the airport to the hotel couldn’t have been easier. From the airport to the train station, my big-ass suitcase rode in the belly of the bus and when I hopped off and grabbed it in Mestre, I just rolled with it across the (not cobblestone) street. Getting to the cruise port was equally easy. I walked from the hotel across the street to the taxi stand in front of the train station and got a taxi to take me directly to the port.

So for someone taking a cruise out of Venice, Mestre is very, very convenient.

St. Mark's Square

You can still enjoy all the sights of Venice when you’re staying outside of Venice–like the Piazza San Marco.

Getting To and From Venice

My original idea was to buy the 24-hour tourist card for Venice that would cover the cost of the bus to and from Mestre plus any vaporettos I took while in Venice. The man at the front desk at my hotel talked me out of it. He said the train was cheaper and walking around Venice is better, because you get to see more. He was right on both counts.

The train between Mestre and Venice cost about 2 Euros each way. It was a quick ride (10 minutes) and only made one stop in between on the way back from Venice (in Port Marghera). I bought my train tickets (both ways) at a Hudson News stand at the Mestre train station. The man and woman working the counter there spoke better English than I did Italian, thankfully, so it was an easy process.

Catching the train into Venice was always easy. The man at the news stand told me it would leave from station one. Coming back to Mestre from Venice was a bit more confusing. None of the electronic signs listed Mestre as a destination, so I always had to ask someone who looked like they worked there. The second time I asked someone, he told me that the regional trains all go to Mestre. (That might have helped if I had any idea which trains were regional. For anyone doing this in the future, I’d recommend doing some research about that ahead of time.) In any case, it all worked out, thanks to the kindness of strangers.

The train station in Venice (Venezia Santa Lucia) is located right on the Grand Canal, and if you don’t feel like walking, there is a vappretto stop there that will take you to Piazza San Marco (St. Mark’s Square) and multiple other stops around the city. (I recommend walking if you can, though. You see interesting parts of the city that are less crowded than around the tourist sites.) The last train from Venice to Mestre leaves at around 11pm, which gives you plenty of time to have dinner in Venice and take in the sunset before returning to your hotel in Mestre.

Venice

Venice is compact enough that you can wander all over and still catch your train or bus out of the city at night.

Staying in Mestre

I didn’t have a lot of time to explore Mestre, so my impressions of it are limited to a handful of blocks around the train station. There weren’t a lot of restaurants to choose from in the neighborhood immediately around my hotel. My hotel had a great restaurant on site, so it wasn’t a problem for me. If you like having lots of dining options around your hotel or a lively street scene, you might want to look further afield.

If $358 for 2 nights still seems steep for your budget, don’t worry, there are cheaper hotels in Mestre. When booking a hotel in Mestre, do your research to get accurate information about how easy it will be to get to your hotel from the airport and then get from your hotel to Venice or anywhere else you plan to visit. On the way back from the cruise ship, I shared a cab with a couple staying at a Mestre hotel that was pretty much out in the middle of nowhere. They were going to be reliant on cabs to go anywhere–and that can easily negate any cost savings of staying in Mestre. Staying near the train station is a good bet, but there are also some convenient hotels along the bus line (bus no. 2) that goes into Venice.

Venetian Masks

Venetian Masks

Final Thoughts

There are people in the world who I am sure would be disappointed if they had to stay on the mainland instead of in Venice during a trip to Venice. If that sounds like you, then you absolutely should stay in Venice. Even if that means putting the trip off so you can save the extra money it will cost you to stay there. There’s nothing worse than coming home from the trip of a lifetime disappointed.

But if you’re on a tight budget and where you lay your head at night matters little as long as you can enjoy everything that Venice has to offer during the day and in the evening, then Mestre is a great choice. I don’t feel I missed out on anything that I wanted to do by staying in Mestre.

If you have any other questions about my experience staying in Mestre, please let me know in the comments below. I’m happy to answer whatever I can.

Additional notes for the cost-curious:

  • Cost of ATVO bus between Marco Polo Airport and Mestre: 6 Euros each way. It’s about a 20 minute ride. (Be sure you get on the correct ATVO bus: One goes to Venice nonstop and one goes to Mestre nonstop.)
  • Cost of taxi between Marco Polo and Mestre: 45 Euros each way.
  • Cost of train between Mestre and Venice: About 2 Euros each way.
  • Cost of taxi between train station and cruise port: 30-35 Euros each way.
Larry June 30, 2016 at 10:02 pm

Great alternative to the pricier spots … thanks for the tips!

Gray Cargill July 1, 2016 at 2:46 pm

Just paying it forward, Larry.

Rae Morgan September 12, 2015 at 4:25 am

Great post! I am definitely one of the ones you mentioned, who would be very disappointed to have to stay on the mainland. I’m so appreciative of this post because it will allow me to avoid that!

Gray Cargill September 13, 2015 at 7:19 pm

Well, glad to be of help, Rae.

Ian August 18, 2015 at 11:02 pm

Sounds like a place I’d be willing to stay … cheaper, and it likely has far more locals than Venice!

Gray Cargill August 19, 2015 at 9:11 pm

You would definitely be surrounded by lots of locals there, Ian.

Tracy Antonioli August 17, 2015 at 10:23 am

Thank you for this! My sister in law is planning an Italy trip, and this is super-helpful information! And yes, Venice is crazy expensive (which I know, because last fall when my husband was traveling in Italy without me, I received a text which read ‘please find me a hotel in Venice for the night after next’. Which I thought was kind of a rude request, at home as I was. But I looked and, well….he didn’t end up going to Venice!)

Gray Cargill August 17, 2015 at 6:44 pm

You’re very welcome. It’s the least I can do since you helped me find great restaurants in DC. 🙂

K August 3, 2015 at 11:05 am

Venice will always by my favourites!
The second time I visited I stayed in the Lido, which I found much cheaper – and a really nice juxtaposition to the busy beauty of St. Mark’s! 🙂

Gray Cargill August 4, 2015 at 7:33 pm

The Lido sounds great, K! Definitely more relaxing than the touristy areas of Venice.

lee July 30, 2015 at 7:28 pm

a return trip to see more is a great idea
met with a company at the travel show that said they would add a hop on hop off boat in venice, i know it sounds too touristy but not a bad idea when the vaporettos are full

last trip i visited the lepar island and if i can find transportation i am off to the one with a monastery this fall………………………..

glad you had such a good time.

Lauren Meshkin @BonVoyageLauren July 29, 2015 at 10:05 pm

I haven’t made it to Venice yet but I’ll keep Mestre in mind when looking for accommodation! Thanks so much for sharing. I’m looking forward to the hotel review. Also, beautiful photos!

Happy travels 🙂

Gray Cargill July 30, 2015 at 6:50 pm

My pleasure, Lauren. Hotel review coming soon!

lee July 29, 2015 at 10:42 am

glad you enjoyed your adventure, i just read they are starting a direct tram from Mestra to Venice (bus area) that will make the trip even easier…

I am working with a local woman who promotes the Venice tourists never see and hope to have a list of what to see for your second trip Home to Italy!

Looking forward to your posts on the stops from your cruise

Gray Cargill July 30, 2015 at 6:53 pm

I hadn’t heard about the tram, Lee, but agreed, that will definitely make the trip even easier. I definitely regret not seeing more of Venice while I was there. I would have liked to have made it out to some of the other islands, too. I think a second trip to Venice is definitely in order. 🙂

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