Are you spending hours online trying to decide if staying in Mestre or central Venice? Here are the answers to some of the most common questions.
For first-timers, this is probably the most stressful part of planning a trip to Venice, so I thought I’d put together a little guide to shed some light on the Mestre vs Venice dilemma.
Here are the answers to some questions you might have. At the bottom of the article, you’ll also find my pick of Mestre hotels in case you decide to stay on the mainland on your next trip to Venice.
What exactly is Mestre?
Mestre is located about 10 km from Venice, and it is where most Venetians moved after overtourism hit their island.
It is the typical Italian town with its historic centre and main piazza where everyone hangs out. This means it’s a great place to observe local life at its most real.
Also, when it comes to cheap places to stay in Venice, Mestre offers some truly tempting rates (and plenty of parking).
So, to recap – technically Mestre belongs to Venice (it’s one of the six boroughs that make up the island city) but physically they are completely different places: one on the water, Venice, and one on the mainland, Mestre.
Keep in mind that the train station for Mestre is called “Venezia Mestre”, while the main station for central Venice is “Venezia Santa Lucia”.
It may not be the prettiest girl at the ball, but you might be surprised to learn there are some interesting things to do in Mestre.
Mestre historic centre is a 20-minute walk from the train station and develops around Piazza Ferretto, the main square. This is a pedestrian area surrounded by elegant buildings like the 12th-century Clock Tower (the only one left of the 11 that stood along the castle fortifications), the Cathedral of San Lorenzo, and the former Excelsior Cinema with its charming Art Nouveau design.
There are some other lovely buildings in Via Palazzo, like the Town Hall and the Palazzo dei Provveditori, both from the 16th century. You should also check out the 13th-century Church of San Girolamo around the corner.
If you love museums, check out the M9 Museum dedicated to 20th-century history (the biggest multimedia museum in Europe), while those looking for some retail therapy can pop into the shopping centre in Piazza Barche or explore Galleria Matteotti, a beautiful Art Nouveau arcade filled with shops.
The Forte Marghera is also worth a visit in Mestre. It’s a massive star-shaped military structure dating from the early 19th century, located between Via della Libertà and the San Giuliano Park (one of the biggest urban parks in Europe).
Travelling from Mestre to Venice
Mestre and central Venice are connected by road and rail, so travelling between them is pretty easy.
You’ll find regular trains leaving Mestre station every 10-15 minutes, from 5:16AM to 11:48PM, and it’s only a ten-minute ride to reach Venice. Tickets are really cheap (€1.40) and you can buy them on the Trenitalia website – if you want to know more about train travel in Italy, check out this article.
Another option for getting from Mestre to Venice is the bus, which is a great alternative if you plan on staying in Venice until late since two lines (N1 and N2) run all night.
There are frequent buses, too. Line 2, for example, leaves from Mestre station (indicated as “Mestre FS” on the timetable), while Lines 4 passes from the town centre (check the timetables on the ACTV website). You’ll also find two trams available – T1 (from the town centre) and T2 (from the station).
If you are based in Mestre and have a car, I wouldn’t recommend driving to Venice, since there are very few parking spots on the island, and they are quite pricey.
A good option to reach Venice on four wheels is the taxi. The trip from Mestre city centre to Piazzale Roma in Venice has a fixed price of €23. You can buy taxi tickets directly online on the Radio Taxi Venezia website.
It’s easy to park in Mestre and there are lots of parking spaces for you to leave your car and enjoy the great transportation system between the two towns.
When staying in a hotel near the train station, there are covered parking lots at Parcheggio Gregory (15€/day during the week and 16€/day over the weekend) or the multi-level Parcheggio Saba (2.50€/hour). In the historic center, you can park at Piazzale Candiani Car Park (12€/day).
My thoughts on staying in Mestre vs central Venice
I’ve stayed both in Mestre and Venice and my personal recommendation is to stay on the island, especially if you are a first-time visitor because it is part of the magic.
There’s nothing wrong with Mestre – don’t misunderstand – but I would never miss the magic of early-morning or late-night wanders when the most authentic charm of Venice manifests itself – trite but true! Yes, you can certainly visit Venice early in the morning or late at night while being based there, but it’s quite a different experience.
Also, let’s not underestimate the convenience of having a hotel room close by any time you need to freshen up or relax, without having to go through train stations.
I hear you saying – Val, hotels in Mestre are much cheaper than those in Venice. That’s true most of the time, but if you do some digging, you can find some reasonably priced places in Venice.
On my last trip, for example, I stayed at Domus Ciliota, a lovely hotel with reasonable prices near Campo Santo Stefano (I wrote about it here).
That said, at the end of the day it all comes down to personal taste, doesn’t it? Mestre may not be for everyone, but for a lot of people, it does the trick. Some may prefer to have large rooms in modern hotels on the mainland and don’t mind commuting every day. Others look forward to staying in their bijoux room on the island
Top Mestre hotels
If you’re planning on staying in Mestre to visit Venice, I recommend looking for accommodations near the train station. That way, you can get to Venice in no time.
Personally, I stayed at Leonardo Royal Hotel Venice, only a five-minute walk from the station. I had a stylish room with a really comfy bed, which costed less than 50€ despite the high season. The hotel offers a restaurant and a cocktail bar, but you’ll also find a number of cafés and restaurants and a large supermarket just a quick stroll away.
Right in front of the Leonardo Royal Hotel, the A&O Hostel is a great option for those travelling on a budget. It offers both dorms and private rooms (prices start at 12€/night), a 24-hour bar, and has a bus stop at its doorstep. What’s more, they have a super handy parking area.
Another place to consider for your stay in Mestre is the Best Western Hotel Bologna right in front of the station. It’s been in operation for over a century and offers spacious rooms, private parking, and a restaurant often listed in the Michelin guide.
Lastly, StayCity is a cool aparthotel with a selection of stylish studios and one-bedroom apartments. Since each unit comes with a fully equipped kitchenette, it’s a good option if you like to rustle up meals yourselves. Also, on site are a gym, a café, and a laundry.
Mestre offers a good choice of restaurants where you can get a taste of the local cuisine.
Located in the town centre, Trattoria da Terzo is an old-school eatery that’s been run by the same family since the 1970s. The menu largely comprises regional favorites like Venetian-style liver, sarde in saor, and Vicenza-style codfish.
You should also check out Trattoria Vecia Posta, a no-frills place close to the station. Dishes draw on Venetian tradition, with fish featuring highly.
For a quick bite, make a beeline for Bar Perla in Via Mestrina. It’s an institution for tramezzini – those triangular sandwiches of soft white bread filled with all sorts of good stuff.
Pssst… Pin this article for future reference and get in touch if you have any questions about staying in Mestre!
Ciao for now,