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You're right. Venice is not cheap. A trip in a gondola will probably cost more than your flights.

But this ancient city, clustered on an island that sinks in the northeast corner of Italy, is one of the true wonders of the world. Every few steps, you will retreat, amazed, in some new place of beauty. Your Instagram feed will run.

And, if you're careful, you can do it without breaking the bank.

Floating city: a map showing the tourist access points in Venice

Floating city: a map showing the tourist access points in Venice

Where to stay

Hotel San Samuele

The location of this affordable and intimate hotel in the San Marco district could not be better. A few steps from the Accademia bridge, the San Samuele Hotel is simple, for example, it has no restaurant, but its rooms are clean and elegantly furnished, and Judith, the owner, is dangerously charming. Highly recommended Doubles from £ 78 (hotelsansamuele.com).

Palazzo Contarini della Porta di Ferro

This great palace in the quiet neighborhood of Castello belonged to one of the most influential families in the city. It's cheaper than most comparable places, and if you call the manager, Antonio, you might be able to make a deal with him. Then you can pretend that you are a seventeenth-century duke as you walk through the fragrant walled garden and the echoes of the corridors. Doubles from £ 95 (palazzocontarini.com).

Residenza degli Angeli

Enjoy a faded splendor at this cozy B & B in the heart of the San Polo district, near the Rialto Bridge. The rooms are simple but well decorated. The breakfast is basic (a croissant and coffee) but it does the job. The price is remarkable considering the location. Doubles from £ 44 (039 041 275 9546).

Locanda gaffaro

Whether you arrive by train or bus, Locanda Gaffaro is conveniently located on the edge of the Dorsoduro district. The rooms are a bit small, but tastefully decorated. The same could be said for breakfast. Good value, however, everything said. Doubles from £ 75 (gaffaro.com).

Where to eat

Nevodi

The padrone, Silvio, is expansive, but his restaurant is not expensive: gnocchi with red mullet and artichokes cost £ 13, coffee costs £ 1.75. Nevodi is a social center in the Castello district, so popular among locals that you probably need a reservation at night. Address: Via Giuseppe Garibaldi (039 041 241 1136).

Osteria Ai Do Archi

Located next to Basilica dei Santi Giovanni and Paolo, this simple osteria will charge you £ 9 for a plate of spaghetti carbonara and £ 4.50 for a glass of Merlot. The atmosphere is warm and unpretentious. It hits the spot. Address: Barbaria de le Tole (039 041 241 1306).

Corner Pub

Even simpler, this is where the fresh trainees of the Guggenheim Museum go at lunchtime. The service is surly, but everything is terribly authentic. A low-cost Italian coffee with panini, pasta and beer on tap, all for a song. Address: Calle della Chiesa (039 349 457 6739).

Sereno: a gondola station outside the Basilica of Santa Maria della Salute

Sereno: a gondola station outside the Basilica of Santa Maria della Salute

San Stae Wall

A bit more expensive than the others, this gem of a restaurant in the back streets of San Polo is worth looking for its fantastic pizzas, far superior to those served in the restaurants around San Marco, half of which (whispered) They are frozen. The owner Giacomo is passionate about wine, so be sure to check his list. Address: Santa Croce (039 041 524 1628).

What to see and do

Enter the crypt

The church of San Zaccaria houses (probably) the remains of the father of John the Baptist, and (definitely) a fantastic altarpiece by Bellini. For £ 1.30 you can explore the side chapels, admire a dramatic painting of Van Dyck's crucifixion and descend into the crypt (usually flooded). Be careful on the slippery marble steps. Field S. Zaccaria.

See the great weapons

You are not allowed to enter the imposing Arsenale, which is still used by the Italian Navy, but for £ 9 at the nearby Naval History Museum you can learn how Venezia dominated the waves. The place has curvilinear swords, splendid blunderbusses and cannons so big you would have thought they would sink a ship simply by boarding. Riva S. Biasio (039 041 244 1399).

Go up to the water

A half-hour gondola ride costs £ 70, but the price is the same regardless of the number of passengers. Save money by associating with others in the queue. Additional tip: go to Campo Santa Maria Formosa and ask to see the "hidden channels". That way, you'll avoid the Venetian equivalent of heavy traffic.

There is nothing better to do in Venice than just strolling through the streets. In the photo there are tourist shops that sell souvenirs in Ponte di Rialto.

There is nothing better to do in Venice than just strolling through the streets. In the photo there are tourist shops that sell souvenirs in Ponte di Rialto.

Get arty

For £ 13, there is much to admire at the Guggenheim. Modernist masterpieces include the resplendent Max Ernst's The Robing Of The Bride and the superb Alchemy of Jackson Pollock. Almost as intriguing are the internal enthusiasts, who serve as assistants, and their extravagant playmates. Dorsoduro (guggenheim-venice.it).

Go looking at shop windows

A stone's throw from the Rialto Bridge, you will find a paradise for shoppers in the T Fondaco dei Tedeschi department store. Once you have sailed, take the elevator to the top floor where free cultural events are held, and from the roof you can enjoy one of the best views of Venice. Rialto Bridge (039 041 314 2000).

Tour of hidden places

There is nothing better to do in Venice than simply walking the streets. Wander in random churches Lose yourself. The locals call this a giro delle sconde (a tour of the hidden places), or, if you take a light alcoholic drink, a bar drag.

How to get there

Easyjet has return flights from London Gatwick from £ 40 (easyjet.com).