[Updated September 2021]
Venice can be a bit of a mystery. I’ve been there countless times, and I still get lost. It can feel like one giant tourist trap in some places, with no authenticity in sight.
The first time I went to Venice, my friends and I were a bit bewildered by the lack of places to go out at night. We ended up at the same divey pub every night, wondering where all the bars were.
The answer, which I have since discovered, is this: everywhere! You just have to know what they’re called (bacari) and where to look for them.
Read on for all you need to know, and for my bacaro tour of Venice, free map included.
Table of Contents
A few things to know about Venetian bar culture
Like I said, the first time I went to Venice, I wondered where the hell everyone went for a night out. The truth is that Venice has its own unique little bar culture. And by “little bar,” I mean physically little.
These bars are as much a part of the local culture as the rest of the city. Known in Venetian dialect as bacari, they’re sprinkled all over the place, and serve up cocktails, spritz, prosecco, and local wines known as ombra, which only cost about 1 euro. You can get ombra bianca (white) and ombra rossa (red). They’re like house wines, sold by the glass, so if you’re on a budget, ombra is a great option.
Note that some bacari don’t accept large groups or bachelor/bachelorette parties. Venice has a somewhat tense relationship with tourists as it is, so make sure to be respectful of this rule and others.
Don’t forgetti the cicheti
Another specialty of the bacari are cicheti, which are usually small slices of bread with something on top. There are all sorts of different options – baccalà mantecato (dried salted cod fish with cream or milk), tuna, anchovies, cheeses, vegetables, cold cuts – you name it. Most places also offer meat and veggie balls (eggplant, zucchini, etc.), crocchette (I can’t think of any other way to describe these other than fried logs of mashed potato flecked with prosciutto, but I bet you’re getting a visual despite that unappetizing description), fried baccalà, etc. Cicheti usually only cost a euro or two, and are the perfect accompaniment to your ombra or spritz.
Fun fact: cicchetti, with two cs and two ts, in standard Italian, refers to shots of alcohol. In Venetian dialect, cicheti (one c and one t) are the little snacks I described above. You’ll see it written both ways in Veneto, but if you use the term “cicchetto” outside of Venice, people might thing you’re talking about a shot. Maybe you want to talk about shots, in which case, you’re welcome. Please send your thank you note with a five-dollar bill enclosed to my PO Box. (PS: you can also say “uno shot” or “uno shottino.”)
It’s always spritz o’clock in Veneto
Let’s talk spritz for a moment. It was invented here in Veneto, but it’s recently garnered fame the world over due to a massive marketing campaign on the part of Campari.
Spritz in Venice usually cost 3 and 4 euro. If you’re paying more than that, you’re probably near Saint Mark’s or the Rialto bridge.
The basic recipe for a spritz is a bitter, prosecco, and a splash of club soda or acqua frizzante. There are lots of varieties of spritz, with the most popular being made with Campari or Aperol.
In Veneto, it’s also common to order a spritz misto, which is Aperol and Campari, plus prosecco and fizzy water. Spirtz Ugo is popular during the summer months, and it’s made with elderflower liqueur, prosecco, mint, and lime. Craving something more simple? Spritz bianco is just prosecco and water. If you’re feeling adventurous, you could also try a spritz Cynar, which is a bitter made from artichokes! Bars in Venice and the surrounding towns also do wild and whacky spritzes, adding juices and different kinds of alcohol.
If you’re outside of Veneto, you might not be able to get the funkier ones, and they might not have the same names for them. I was in Milan once and overheard a guy at the table next to me order a spritz “mezzo Campari mezzo Aperol.” If you ordered that in Veneto, they’d probably wonder why you didn’t just say “spritz misto.”
I think Aperol and Campari both taste like cough syrup, so I don’t partake on a regular basis, but I’d say you should definitely try one if you haven’t before and are in the region.
So, if you’re up for a local experience, try my bacaro tour of Venice! Don’t be intimidated, even if you don’t speak Italian. Just point at the cicheti you want and remember to say grazie!
Below you’ll find a list of bacari that local friends have brought me to. They’re all in Cannaregio, which is a residential area of Venice. That means that it’s not packed with tourists, like the city center is.
Luggage and Life’s bacaro tour of venice
Fondamenta dei Ormesini 2754
We’re starting our bacaro tour of Venice on Fondamenta dei Ormesini, a street that’s lined with bacari. You could really do an entire bacaro tour on this strip alone!
Our first stop is Al Timon, which serves up delicious cicheti (not to be confused with tapas, as the sign reads). Grab your snack and drink and sit outside along the canal as you fuel up for stop number two.
Fondamenta dei Ormesini 2684
This place has a classic bacaro feel. Small inside, low ceilings, and food prepped right behind the bar.
Fondamenta della Misericordia 2540
Paradiso Perduto (Paradise Lost) is one of Venice’s most famous foodie joints and is known for its food and live music. It’s always packed to the rafters.
Often referred to as a “tavern,” many point out that the interior of Paradiso Perduto is like being in a ship. There are jazz concerts and other live music events weekly.
You can order mixed plates at Paradiso Perduto, for example fritti (fried things), verdure (vegetables) or carne (meat) and all sorts of fish.
The portions are hefty, so keep that in mind when ordering!
Ramo Ca’ D’oro 2912
If you say “alla Vedova” to anyone who knows Venetian bacari, they’ll probably reply with “They have great meatballs!” and they are right.
This one is set back from the main drag a bit in a little alleyway between a McDonald’s and a store called Pylones. It’s worth the detour!
Ai Promessi Sposi
Calle dell’Oca 4367
Tucked around another corner of Cannaregio, Osteria ai Promessi Sposi has a cozy interior and an exterior courtyard.
The name – which means “the betrothed” – might look familiar to anyone who knows Italian literature, but according to their Facebook page, the Osteria is named for its two original owners: a young engaged couple who had to postpone their wedding several times for various reasons.
Calle Larga Giacinto Gallina 5402
This place is new on my radar, but I’ve warmed to it quickly. Their beautifully displayed cicheti quickly made me a fan, and I like the bright decor, too.
Calle de la Malvasia 6014
I never would have found this place unless a friend had brought me there. The first time I saw it, I fell in love. It’s the perfect bacaro – hidden away from the crowds with an outdoor area that’s covered to protect you from Venice’s frequent rains.
Ostaria al Ponte
Calle Larga Giacinto Gallina
When I go to Venice with friends, we spend most of our time here. It’s my favorite, so it’s the perfect place to wrap up our bacaro tour of Venice.
They do nice little taglieri, or meat and cheese boards, the cicheti are great, and the staff are very friendly. What I enjoy most is sitting on the bridge and enjoying a glass of wine with friends as the light on the piazza changes color while the sun sets.
Miss the map above? Here it is again!
Did you enjoy my bacaro tour of Venice? Let me know in the comments, or share your favorite spot, so I can check it out next time I’m there!
Want more Venice? Check out my post on five unique sights to see!
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