Venice has six neighbourhoods or sestieri. San Marco, Castello and Cannaregio are to the north and east of the Grand Canal and San Polo, Santa Croce and Dorsoduro lie to the west and south of it. Walking is the only method of land transport and you’ll probably do lots of it even though you can hop on vaporetti to take you most of the way to your chosen destination. Streets are narrow, some surfaces badly worn and some with cobbles.
There are lots of steps up and down the many bridges so it’s not always a relaxing stroll but it’s always rewarding. Signs on walls at strategic corners will point you in the direction of the important landmarks but I think a map is always useful. I hate to have to flag this up but I must – watch your feet! Venetians are very fond of their dogs but, generally, don’t clean up after them.
Catching a vaporetto is quite easy although in the San Marco area they are nearly always crowded. A trip on line 1 will take you from either of the stops near the Piazza San Marco (San Zaccaria or Vallaresso) up the Grand Canal. It’s the best way to see the wonderful facades of the palazzi that line the canal. A trip all the way to the railway station (Ferrovia) will take around 40 minutes and you can then take another number 1 all the way back looking at the buildings on the other side of the canal (be warned, one €7 ticket does not entitle you to a return journey). ACTV passes are available as mentioned before and will take you on all vaporetti around the city. You can buy them at the airport or at ticket booths or machines by vaporetto stops. Get off at the Rialto Mercato stop if you want to explore the markets and shops on the San Polo side of the bridge. The fish and vegetable markets are lively in the mornings and there are many souvenir stalls and gift shops. This area is usually very crowded. The main Rialto vaporetto stops are on the San Marco side of the Grand Canal and you can hop off there and walk the rest of the way to the Piazza through narrow calli lined with shops.
You can, of course, take a gondola trip. This won’t be cheap as the minimum charge is around €80 for forty minutes and this does increase regularly. Make sure you go to an official gondola stand. Do remember that the Grand Canal is always busy and the wash from larger boats can make it an uncomfortable ride. My advice would be to take a trip though some of the small, quieter canals for a more intimate view of the city. There are gondola ferry services at certain points across the Grand Canal. These are called traghetti and cost €2 for a one way crossing if you are a visitor. Locals will stand up in the middle; nervous visitors usually sit if they can.