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Built entirely on water, Venice is like no other place on Earth. I’ve been to several places with the title of “little venice”, but nowhere compares to the real Venice.
What makes Venice so unique is that the waterways are the roads. When I saw a Venetian fire engine floating down a narrow backstreet canal, that’s when I stopped and thought “this place is pretty damn cool!”
A visit to this magical city is a bucket list experience and no matter how many times I visit, I’m always in awe of its beauty. Part of the fun of visiting Venice is just getting lost in the labyrinth of footbridges and alleyways, discovering pretty canals and plazas.
A word of warning though, it can get incredibly crowded, especially when the cruise ships dock. The major sights in Venice are located around Piazza San Marco, but it can be absolute bedlam around that area. I much prefer walking around the pretty backstreet canals away from the sights, so if you want to see Venice, I suggest taking a wander to see what you find.
This 2 day Venice itinerary includes the best things to do, plus practical info at the end including how to get to Venice, where to stay and some answers to your frequently asked questions.
Day 1: Sightseeing in Venice
Your first day will be spent walking around Venice, seeing all the main attractions. Make sure you wear comfy shoes!
Once you’ve had breakfast at your hotel, make your way to Piazza San Marco aka St Mark’s Square. This is the main square and it is home to the city’s most famous buildings. If you’re a coffee lover, keep your eye out for a coffee bar on your way to the square. You can stand at the counter and order an espresso for €1, just like the locals do.
Start your day with a visit to The Doge’s Palace, which is a magnificent gothic palace in Piazza San Marco. You have to dodge the crowds of tourists and the pigeons in the square to get to it! The Palace was the home of the elected Doge of Venice and the seat of the government for centuries.
You can take the regular tour or the Secret Itineraries tour to explore its opulent interior, taking you through the elaborately decorated rooms and across the Bridge of Sighs to the Palace of the Prisoners.
St. Mark’s Basilica
St. Mark’s Basilica, also in Piazza San Marco, is the most famous church in Venice. It was the chapel of the Doge, but in 1807 it became the cathedral of the Roman Catholic Archidiosese of Venice. The extravagant Byzantine church supposedly houses the remains of St. Mark, the patron saint of Venice.
St. Marks Campanile
St. Marks Campanile is the tall red brick Bell Tower of St. Mark’s Basilica that dominates Piazza San Marco. The original Campanile famously collapsed in 1902, and it was decided that it would be rebuilt exactly how it looked before. The new replica Campanile was inaugurated in 1912.
Venice is famous for its gondolas and a gondola ride is one of those once-in-a-lifetime things that you should do whilst in Venice. The ‘official’ price for a daytime is €80 for 40 minutes and you can fit up to 6 people in one. It then costs €40 for each additional 20 minutes. At night time the price is €100 for 40 minutes and €50 for each additional 20 minutes. You’ll be quoted different prices from the gondoliers so be prepared to negotiate on the price.
You can get them to take you down the Grand Canal as well as the quiet backstreet canals. It’s a very relaxing experience and a great way to see Venice from a different perspective. If you want your gondolier to sing or play the accordion, this usually costs a bit more. Similarly, if the gondola you’re choosing is elaborately decorated, you’re going to pay a premium. The nicer the gondola the more expensive it is.
While a gondola ride is quite pricey, it’s a must-do experience so plan to budget for this.
The Rialto Bridge is the oldest bridge that crosses the Grand Canal. There are a lot of restaurants on the Canal here where you can have lunch with a view of the Bridge. Remember though, the closer you are to a major sight, the more expensive your food will be.
There are signposts to the Rialto Bridge from Piazza San Marco and there are lots of shops selling jewelry and souvenirs on the bridge itself.
This bridge is a wooden bridge that spans the Grand Canal in Venice, linking Dorsoduro with San Marco. It is a great place to take photos of the gondolas and boats going down the Grand Canal. There’s a bar at the foot of the bridge called Bar Foscarini, should you wish to stop for a drink. Of course, you’ll pay a premium because it’s right next to the bridge but it’s a nice view.
Visit a Rooftop for Sunset
If you want to enjoy views of the city while the sun goes down, head to Hotel Bauer for sunset. The hotel’s Settimo Cielo Rooftop Restaurant is the highest and most beautiful rooftop in Venice – definitely worth a visit. The bar is open to both hotel guests and visitors and you can either stop by for a cocktail or reserve a table to enjoy a gastronomic experience from chef Cristiano Tomei.
Dinner at Any of These Restaurants
For dinner there are lots of great restaurants to choose from but here’s a selection you could check out:
- Trattoria al Gatto Nero
- L’Osteria di Santa Marina
- Trattoria Antiche Carampane
- Al Covo
- Ristorante Wistèria
- Ai Mercanti
Day 2: Murano and Burano
For the second day of your Venice itinerary, hop on a vaparetto and head to some of the other islands. The most popular day trip from Venice is a visit to the colorful islands of Murano and Burano, where glass and lace are made.
If you want to take the stress out of planning and getting around, you could easily book a tour to the other islands. Try one of the following tours:
- Venice: Murano, Burano and Torcello Islands Full-Day Trip
- Venice: Murano and Burano Half-Day Lagoon Trip
You may have heard of ‘Murano glass’ before – well it’s made on the island of Murano near Venice. In 1291 the Doge of Venice actually ordered all glass makers to move their furnaces to Murano as a fire precaution. Today the island is known for producing some of best glass in the world.
My cousin is actually a glass artist and moved to Murano to pursue his craft. If you pay a visit to the island you can watch a demonstration of how the glass is made and buy some glass to take home as a souvenir.
Murano is actually made up of 7 different islands that are linked together by bridges. The atmosphere here is more relaxed than Venice and the buildings are very colorful.
To learn more about the art of glass making you can visit Museo del Vetro, which is a museum dedicated to the history of glass. The collection includes Roman works dating from the 1st to the 3rd century A.D, along with Murano glass pieces dating from the 15th to the 20th century.
Another popular attraction on Murano is Basilica di Santa Maria e San Donato, which is a beautiful church with a colorful 12th century Byzantine mozaic floor.
With buildings painted in all different colors of the rainbow, Burano is one of the most colorful locations in the world. Have your camera ready! The most colorful house on the island is called ‘la Casa di Bepi Suà’ (Bepi’s House), which is painted in an array of colors with a geometric pattern.
The island is famous for producing lace so you could visit one of the shops and buy some lace to take home. It is also known for its leaning bell tower, Il Campanile Storto di Burano, which is 53 meters tall and leans just like the Leaning Tower of Piza. The best place to view the tower is from Terranova’s marble bridge or Via Giudecca.
If you want to try a local dish, try risotto de gò, which is rice cooked in a broth made from the goby fish that live in the Venice lagoon. If you don’t have time to sit down for lunch, you could pick up try Bussolà and the Esse, which are donut shaped cookies that are found in the pastry stores in Burano.
Peggy Guggenheim Collection or Gallerie dell’Accademia
Once you’re back in Venice, you could visit an art gallery or simply wander the back streets of Venice. It’s fun to just wander with your camera taking photos of all the emerald green canals.
If you’re into modern art, you could visit the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, which is an art museum on the Grand Canal. The museum is open daily from 10am to 6pm, although it’s closed on Tuesdays. The museum contains a vast collection of European and American art from the the twentieth century.
Alternatively you could visit the Gallerie dell’Accademia, which is located under the Academy Bridge. The museum Venetian paintings and pre-19th century art, including works by artists such Bellini, Veronese, Titian, Tintoretto, Tiepolo, Bellini, Canaletto, and Giorgione.
Aperitivo and Chichetti
Aperitivo is the Italian cultural tradition of enjoying a pre-dinner drink that comes with light snacks such as cheeses, crackers and olives.
Enjoyed between the hours of work and dinner, aperitivo is basically Happy Hour, only a little more chic. Traditionally it features a slightly bitter drink such as the Aperol Spritz, although these days it includes wine, beer and cocktails. Aperitivo is an authentic experience and you can actually feel quite full without spending much at all. Once 5 o’clock hits, it’s time to order a drink and unwind.
Venice has lots of chichetti bars, which serve small, inexpensive snacks alongside wine, Aperol or prosecco. Expect to pay around a couple of euros per snack. Popular chichetti bars to try include:
- Osteria all’Arco
- Al Merca
- Al Bottegon
- Osteria Al Squero
- Alla Vedova
- Bacaro Risorto
- Cantina do Mori
Getting to Venice
Lots of airlines fly to Venice Italy from all over Europe. The main airport is Marco Polo Venice Airport although there is also Venice Treviso airport which is located about an hour away from the city. When booking your flight, make sure you check which airport you’re flying into because a lot of the low cost airlines fly into Treviso.
If you’re coming from the UK, you can book with airlines such as Ryanair, easyJet, Wizz Air and British Airways. If you’re flying from the US to Venice, you can book non-stop flights with airlines such as Delta, American Airlines and Alitalia. Check Google Flights and Kayak to find the best deals.
If you’re traveling from another part of Italy or from neighboring countries, you can catch a train to Venezia Santa Lucia railway station. Train is definitely your easiest option if you’re coming from Rome or Florence, since it will take you into the heart of the city. You can book train tickets and check schedules using Rail Europe or Omio.
If you’re planning to travel all over Europe, consider getting a Eurail Pass. You can purchase One Country passes or a Global Pass that will allow you to visit countries all over Europe.
Where to Stay in Venice
Boutique Hotels in Venice
Hotel Nani Mocenigo Palace – Situated in the heart of Venice inside a former Venetian palace, Hotel Nani is a stylish hotel option with a pretty courtyard, beautiful Murano chandeliers, rich wall fabrics and authentic period furniture. After a day of sightseeing in the city, relax and unwind with an aperitif at the hotel’s on -site bar, Vitraria caffè, which is located inside the garden.
Palazzina Grassi – This glamorous 5-star hotel overlooks the Grand Canal and was designed by the one and only Philippe Starck. Palazzina Grassi is known for being one of the most glamorous places to party in Venice, attracting some of the best DJs in the world. It also has its own fine dining restaurant with a show kitchen so diners can watch the dishes being prepared.
B&B Bloom Settimo Cielo – Located just a stone’s throw from all the major attractions, this bed and breakfast has an elegant reading room and a beautiful terrace with views of the city. Rooms are furnished in a Venetian style with contemporary elements and feature either purple or red tones.
Hotel NH Venezia Rio Novo – This sleek, modern hotel can be found in the center of the Dorsoduro district next to Campo Santa Margherita. It boasts an excellent location, just a short walk from Santa Lucia train station, the vaporetto stops and the Peggy Guggenheim Collection. The 144 rooms feature floor-to-ceiling windows that let in plenty of natural light and offer views over the nearby canal or the Venice skyline.
Hotel Giorgione – Housed in a 14th century building in the heart of the city, Hotel Giorgione boasts the only courtyard with a pool in the historic center. This tranquil setting is the perfect place to enjoy breakfast or a pre-dinner cocktail as the sun goes down. The communal areas and rooms feature decadent furnishing and interiors, with lots of velvet and brocade.
Hostels in Venice
Hotels can be fairly expensive in Venice during the summer months so hostels are the most affordable option if you’re on a budget. You won’t really find hostels in the center of Venice – they’re usually located on the mainland.
Generator Venice – Housed in a former warehouse on the island of Giudecca, Generator hostel is just a short boat ride from Piazza san Marco. With mosaic floors, a glass chandelier and an imposing stone fireplace, this hostel feels more like a boutique hotel than a hostel. When you’re done with sightseeing, enjoy Happy Hour on the Giudecca Terrace while soaking up views of Venice from across the water.
Anda Venice – This design hostel has won numerous Hoscar awards and has its own bar/club called Alai, so expect plenty of social events and fun parties. With a prime location just 200 metres from Mestre train station, Anda Venice is the perfect place to stay if you’re arriving in Venice by airport shuttle or Flixbus.
ao Hostel Venezia Mestre – A modern and contemporary hostel also located just a short walk from Mestre train station. The lobby is enormous and the hostel has lots of cool features, including a 24 hour bar and a bright breakfast atrium.
Best Time to Visit Venice
Summertime (June-September) is peak season in Venice and the city can get very crowded, especially with so many cruise ships docked nearby. Hotel prices can also be very expensive in summer, so the best time to visit would be autumn (September to November) or spring (March-May), when there are fewer visitors.
Venice sometimes experiences flooding and ‘acqua alta’ (high water) and the likeliest time for this to occur is usually winter time in November and December. If you do visit during this time, bring a waterproof jacket and some boots that will keep your feet dry.
You could also plan your visit to coincide with Carnevale (February) or the Venice Film Festival (September), when Hollywood’s famous actors and actresses descend on the town.
Your FAQs About Venice, Answered
2 days is a nice amount of time to see Venice. The city is fairly small and walkable so you can easily accomplish a lot in a day. With 3 days in Venice you could see things at a more leisurely place and visit some of the neighboring islands.
I’d recommend you stay 2-3 days in Venice. 3 is the optimal amount of time because it will allow you to see all the main sights without rushing and visit islands such as Burano and Murano.
Yes, on my first trip to Venice I actually just spent one day walking around the city. The city is compact and easily explored on foot.
Yes the gondola ride is totally worth it! While it’s a touristy activity and it isn’t cheap, a gondola ride is one of those things you should experience once in your life. It’s very relaxing and it gives a totally different perspective to see Venice from the water. I’d recommend going to the store beforehand and bringing your own wine and plastic cups so you can enjoy a drink as you glide along the canals.
The best months to visit Venice are September-October (autumn) or April-May (spring). The weather is still nice but it’s not quite as busy.
I didn’t find Venice to be dirty or smelly. The buildings are old but that’s part of the charm.
The buildings in Venice are built on top of tree trunks that act as a foundation to stop them from sinking into the muddy marshland below. So it’s not sinking, per se. However, due to rising sea levels and the melting of the polar ice sheets, the buildings are at risk of being submerged in the future. Venice also often experiences acqua alta (high water) when high tide and storms cause the city to flood.
A Final Word…
Venice is a truly unique place, built entirely on water. No matter how many photos you see of Venice, you can never really quite imagine what it feels like until you’re standing on a bridge looking out at those dreamy canals. It’s one of those places that’s even better in person!