In 2016 I had the privilege to visit the Venice Architecture Biennale, curated by public interest architect, Alejandro Aravena. The next Biennale, themed ‘Freespace’ is set to open this weekend, running from May 26 through Nov 25. Here are 10 tips which I learned from planning my own trip.
- Plan for at least two days. The Biennale is located in two areas, the Giardini and the Arsenale. Dedicate at least one day to each area. You could also take an extra day for the individual country pavilions (located around the Giardini main hall) or to visit some of the Collateral Events, which are affiliated exhibits around Venice.
- Closed on Mondays. The Biennale is closed most Mondays, so plan accordingly! I spent it sightseeing – tons to see in Venice – but you may or may not want to do that. See hours in the 2018 brochure.
- Consider the off season. I went in November just before it closed which was far less expensive than the busy summer months. Venice is moody, misty, and quiet then.
- Dress for the weather. Besides maybe two of the cafes, none of the Biennale exhibit spaces are conditioned, so if it’s chilly dress warm. (I wish I had brought my warm winter coat!)
- No need for rain boots. Venice floods with high tides, called an Acqua Alta, but it does not last long and the city is quick to add raised walkways so you can get to where you need to without trudging through water.
- Pack thoughtfully. Venice is very walkable and there are no cars, only boats, so it is challenging to get your stuff to the hotel. There are lots of steps and bridges that are not rolling bag friendly.
- Buy the books online. Luckily the Biennale books are available online! You don’t have to haul heavy books around all day or find room in your suitcase for them. Plus the exhibits have some paper and poster take aways that you may want some room for.
- Stay in the Castello neighborhood. We stayed at the Hotel Metropole which was very walkable to both the Arsenal and Giardini plus the major tourist sights. It also was close to boats to and from the airport and train stations. Many hotels also include breakfast.
- Save time at the Biennale Cafes. There were cafes at both the Arsenale and Giardini. I had a delicious chicken curry with couscous at the Giardini cafe – not a true taste of Venice but I found it better to not have to leave the Biennale exhibits and trek out to lunch. Assume there will be crowds as there are with most things in Venice and opt for dinners out at some of the fabulous restaurants around town.
- Don’t miss this by Carlo Scarpa! To the left as you walk out of the entrance of the Giardini.
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