The Queen of the Adriatic, famed for its canals and bridges, there is just something special about Venice and so it’ll come as no surprise that it’s on so many people’s must-visit European destinations bucket list. And the great news is that there aren’t many cities in Europe that are as good for a long weekend in than Venice, with it being great for history lovers, as a romantic getaway or for a trip with friends to tick it off that list. Luckily it’s a city close to our hearts, and having ventured to ‘the floating city’ on a number of occasions, we’ve put together the ideal 2 days in Venice itinerary that is perfect for your first trip to the La Serenissima!
Why go to Venice?
- You’ll have probably have seen that Venice sometimes gets into the press for over-tourism and the damage that it’s doing to the ancient buildings, but if you look at heading during the week (rather than at weekends) and steer clear of the super busy summer months, then you’ll probably find Venice surprisingly quieter than you expect!
- As with many major European destinations, it is super easy to get to Venice, with a number of low-cost and national carriers flying into Venice Marco Polo Airport. So it’s not going to cost you an arm and a leg – or be difficult – to get to.
- The buildings are stunning, Venetian architecture has to be some of the most stunning in the world and has influenced much of the Mediterranean, including the likes of Split and Dubrovnik in Croatia.
- Alongside Paris, it’s one of the most romantic places to visit in the world, and a must for any couples wanting to get away and spend special time together.
- It is littered with beautiful Italian landmarks, I mean who doesn’t want to venture into St Mark’s Square or head on a private gondola ride along the Grand Canal, passing under the Rialto Bridge?
- And then of course there is the food, you really are spoilt for choice when visiting Venice as it has some of the best restaurants in Italy, not to mention our favourite ice-cream shop in Europe (if not the world)!
Got your travel insurance booked? We promise to never push a brand or product we don’t personally use, and the travel cover from Safety Wing is a policy we don’t just use, but we highly recommend. They offer some of the most flexible policies, amazing customer service and are affordable too.
Is 2 days in Venice enough?
If this is your first time visit to the city, then you can just about cover most of the major attractions in just 48 hours in Venice.
However, there are loads of activities, attractions, landmarks and amazing day trips in the surrounding areas to consider, so if you’re able to expand your Venice holiday to a 3 or even 4 day itinerary, then that’s great too.
And just in case you are keen to extend your 2 days in Venice itinerary, we have a bunch of additional day trips, to the likes of Verona and Burano/Murano to consider.
The ideal 2 days in Venice itinerary
We’ve got all the detail below but, in a nutshell, we’d recommend taking in the key sights in two days, with the below itinerary.
Day 1 – Piazza San Marco including the Basilica, Doges Palace, Procuratie Vecchie and more; followed by Bridge of Sighs, Gondola Ride and a walking tour, with a spot of al fresco dining for dinner
Day 2 – Ponte Rialto, Peggy Guggenheim Museum, San Giorgio Maggiore including the Fondazione Giorgio Cini
Getting to Venice
Unless you are already in Italy (or maybe Slovenia or northern Croatia) where you may be able to take the train or drive over to Venice, then really the fastest option will be to fly to Venice. And as mentioned earlier, the great news is that there are a whole heap of low-cost and national carriers to consider.
Travel around Venice
Just in case you didn’t know, Venice doesn’t allow any cars within the city – the streets are so narrow that they wouldn’t fit along many anyway, so you have two options for getting around:
Definitely the best way to get around Venice is by walking, this is a city that you’ll want to get lost in… although all the little pathways and bridges across the canals can get quite confusing, with the invention of the smart phone and GPS tracking, what once used to be a pretty difficult task even for the most ardent boy scout, getting around Venice is now super simple.
And you won’t regret taking the time to walk around this magnificent place, you’ll find nooks and crannies that you’d never see in any guide book – so create your own walking tour, join one of the excellent city guided tours or just amble and get lost to your hearts content.
Although the service is efficient and punctual, boats on main lines fill up and are prone to overcrowding during Carnevale and in peak season. One-way tickets cost 7.50 EUR/ 6.50 GBP.
Interisland ferry services to Murano, Torcello, the Lido and other lagoon islands are usually provided on larger motonave.
To plan itineraries, check schedules, find a vaporetto stop and buy tickets, download the useful vaporetto app daAaB. If you purchase tickets through the app, you can then scan your phone at the barriers in place of a ticket.
Vaporetto tickets at booths at most landing stations. Free timetables and route maps are also available. Tickets and multiday passes can also be prepurchased online.
However, there are other times that you may be wanting to head across town and not have time to walk – or even travelling with your luggage – in which case, you’ll want to get a water taxi.
Day 1 in Venice
There’s no better place to start your exploration of Venezia than from one of the most photographed squares in the world – Piazza San Marco, popularly known as St.Mark’s Square. It is believed that Napoleon called it ‘the drawing room of Europe’, and you understand that statement only when you stand in the middle of the square, look around and realize the scale of this place.
It’s ensconced by some of the city’s most beautiful architecture – the imposing and breathtaking Basilica di San Marco right in front, the Doge’s Palace nearby, the Procuratie Vecchie and Nuove on either side, the Campanile and the Torre dell’ Orologio.
One of the best things we like about the square is that it looks great in almost all kinds of weather, be it bright, sunny days with perfect blue skies or gloomy days with dark clouds hovering over it. The entire look and feel of the place changes depending on the weather and makes for fabulous photographs. One of our favourite times to visit is in the evening when the sounds of live music start to fill the square with life. Another reason we love visiting this area as the sun sets is because the St. Mark’s Basilica glows golden as the sun’s rays hit the domes.
You might notice that we said ‘almost.’ That is because St. Mark’s square is the lowest point in Venice, and when there is an Acqua Alta or flood, it is the first place to get flooded. Nice to see in pics but not so fun when you have to wade through knee-deep water!
It’s tough to find the St. Mark’s Square sans people. You will have to come early if you are looking to experience this grand square in solitude. But part of the charm lies the hustle and bustle of this place and, not to forget, the droves of pigeons that visit the piazza to get fed by visitors!
There are plenty of cafes and restaurants that line the square. Be warned that they are a bit pricey, but then can you put a price on sipping on a steaming hot cup of cappuccino with such wow-inducing views!
An interesting trivia about Piazza San Marco is that it is the ONLY piazza in Venice. The other squares are called ‘campo.’
Whether you are religious or not, have an appreciation for architecture or not, are an art lover or not, it is tough not to be awed by the beauty and grandeur of Basilica di San Marco! This is why you will find long lines of visitors snaking their way around the structure, trying to take in all the details and intricacies.
But what you see today is the result of hundreds of years of blood, sweat, and toil. The first few structures were built in the 9th century and were meant to be the chapel of the then-Doge.
If you think the exterior of St. Mark’s Basilica is stunning, wait until you step inside. The basilica is like no other in Italy, a rare mix of Byzantine, Gothic and Arabic architecture and design elements. The insides of the domes are studded with mosaics, mostly golden-coloured ones that lend it an otherworldly feel.
As you wander past the soaring columns, it’s natural for you always to look up. After all, there is a lot to see and take in. But take a moment to look down at the intricate marble inlays that carry profound symbolism.
One of the main highlights of the church is the Pala d’Oro, a magnificent panel made of gold and embedded with thousands of precious gems, including pearls, sapphires, rubies, and garnets. Equally impressive are the art pieces, some from the Early Middle ages, some from the Byzantine era, and some Islamic artefacts, displayed at the treasury that is located near the main altar.
The tomb of St.Mark, after whom the church is named, lies in a crypt in a building. Art lovers will love a tour of the museum that houses the Triumphal Quadriga or four bronze horses. You will also find rich tapestries, sculptures, and manuscripts, dating back to the 13th to 16th centuries.
Visitor Information – Basilica di San Marco is open from Monday to Saturday from 9.30 am to 5 pm. You can attend mass on Sunday, but sightseeing is not allowed.
Visiting the St. Mark’s Basilica is free though we recommend the guided tour just so that you can appreciate the art, architecture, and stories associated with the church. You need to purchase separate tickets for the museum (around 4.50 GBP / 6 USD), treasury (around 2.50 GBP / 3.50 USD), and Pala d’Oro (around 2 GBP / 2.50 USD). Skip the line tickets are also available.
Right in front of the basilica is the Campanile di San Marco or the Bell Tower that stands head and shoulders over this relatively flat city. Take the elevator ride up for a top-down view of St. Mark’s Square, the charming brown-coloured tiled roofs of the town, the blues of the Adriatic Sea, and even the islands of Murano and Burano.
Visitor information: The bell tower is open from 8.30 am to 9 pm during the peak tourist months from April 15 to October 31. The hours shorten during the off-season. Ticket prices to get to the top are around $9.50 per person. Guided tours and skip-the-line tickets are also available.
The Doge’s Palace or Palazzo Ducale, the former home of the Doge of Venice, is now a fabulous museum and is located right next to St. Mark’s Basilica. The palace is a visual treat, with its ornately decorated rooms, golden staircase, and grand fireplaces.
Visitor information: The palace is open from 8.30 am to 9 pm from Sunday to Thursday and till 11 pm on Friday and Saturday from April 1 to October 31. A St. Mark’s Museum Pass costs around 22 GBP / 30 USD and gives you access to the Doge’s Palace and three other museums. You can buy individual tickets at the palace ticketing counter too. There are guided tours too, and the Secret Itineraries Tour is particularly popular.
The Doge’s Palace connects to the prisons through the Bridge of Sighs.
The Bridge of Sighs is called so because it was believed that the view from the bridge was the last glimpse of Venice the prisoners would see (and sigh!) before they were led to the dark confines of their prisons.
We were reminded of this poignant line by Lord Byron – “I stood in Venice, on the Bridge of Sighs; a palace and a prison on each hand.”
Despite the melancholy associated with the bridge, it is one of the most popular and romantic spots in all of Venice. Due to popular culture, the belief is that if you kiss under the Bridge of Sighs just the sun is setting and the bells of St. Mark’s Campanile ring, your relationship will be an everlasting one.
So, don’t be too surprised to see couples kissing as their gondola glides on the water under the bridge.
Whether you want to hop on a Gondola ride or simply view the Bridge of Sighs, we suggest you make your way to Riva Degli Schiavoni, a large waterfront area near St. Mark’s Square that is full of life and people. It’s the perfect place to pick up a souvenir or two.
One of the best things we did when we visited Venice was to sign up for a walking tour of the city. We developed a deeper appreciation and understanding of the city because of this. The tours are conducted in English, are usually around 3 hours long, and there are multiple starting points all around the city.
Day 2 in Venice
Start Day 2 with a walk to one of the prettiest bridges in all of Venice – the Ponte Rialto or the Rialto Bridge, which is one (and the oldest) of only four bridges that go over the Grand Canal. The area surrounding the bridge is the commercial and financial nerve centre of the city and, as you can imagine, is lively and buzzing with activity.
Northwest of the Rialto Bridge is the Rialto Market, a vegetable and fish market that is bursting with colours. Though there are plenty of tourists, it is still a very authentic local experience and a lot of fun to see locals, chefs, and restaurant folks come early in the morning to pick the choicest catch and freshest produce.
With all that walking, you might want to rest your legs. And what better way to take a break than go on an utterly romantic gondola ride that weaves through narrow waterways even as your gondolier belts out a barcarolle or traditional Italian folk song (if you are lucky, that is. Not all gondoliers sing). Believe us; it doesn’t get any more dreamy than this!
A gondola ride provides all the inspiration you need to continue exploring Venice. Head to Ponte dell’Accademia, another of the four bridges that span the Grand Canal. The beauty of this bridge lies in its wooden construction and the gorgeous views it affords of Santa Maria Della Salute and the Grand Canal.
Art aficionados will not want to miss a visit to the Peggy Guggenheim Museum, arguably, one of the best museums in all of Europe with an enviable 20th-century art collection. And you don’t need to be an art lover to appreciate the work on display. It’s pretty mind-blowing.
Visitor information: The museum is open every day from 10 am to 6 pm. The museum is closed on Tuesdays. Ticket prices are 13 GBP / 17.50 USD per person.
Later in the evening, catch the Vaporetto line 2 and make your way to San Giorgio Maggiore, a beautiful island that is just one stop away from San Marco. The church is gorgeous, but the views over Venice from the church’s Campanile are outstanding! We also recommend a tour of the Fondazione Giorgio Cini, an internationally acclaimed cultural institution dedicated to furthering the visual and performing arts.
Another great option on your return, is to head out for drinks and dinner in Campo Santa Margherita. This bustling square is a well-known place for people to congregate – popular with local students and tourists alike.
Interactive 2 days in Venice itinerary Map
Bonus activities to add to your Venice itinerary
Murano & Burano
A 45-minute boat ride from Venice takes you to the charming islands of Murano and Burano.
Murano is known the world over for its glass making. But what you see isn’t just glass; it is pure art. A visit to the Glass Museum is a must, as is browsing through some of the stores, the perfect place to pick up a souvenir (that you will want to show off!)
Burano is all about colour, with its cute, yellow, pink, and green-hued houses, cobblestone alleys, and delightful canals. It’s also known for its exquisite (and expensive) lace! Stroll along, and you will find a million opportunities for the most memorable pictures!
The Vaporetto Line 12 leaves from San Zaccaria to these islands.
In the mood for some beachside relaxation? We’ve got you covered. Yes, you heard us right! Lido is an 11 km barrier island that is blessed with a sandy coastline. It sits 4 km from Venice, protecting the islands from the Adriatic Sea. We highly recommend renting a bike and pedaling your way to the beautiful Oasis of Alberoni, a rich ecosystem with pine trees, dunes, and a wide variety of avifauna.
Venice is most colorful during the Carnevale that takes place during the two weeks leading to Shrove Tuesday. Yes, it’s CROWDED, but it’s also grand and supremely fun.
Lido comes alive during the Venice Film Festival that takes place from the end of August until the beginning of September. It’s the perfect time to do some celebrity spotting.
The Venice Art Biennale takes place once every two years (on odd-numbered years) and showcases the best of architecture, visual arts, music, theatre, and more.
Where to stay in Venice
First up, there’s the discussion on whether to stay in Venice itself, or one of the smaller islands like Lido, Murano and Burano. For us, we clearly like staying in the city – to soak up the atmosphere of Venice but also since, to be honest, if you’re wanting to just lie on the beach, there are cheaper places to do it than Venice!
Luxury: Want a truly special place to lay your head in Venice? The Palazzo Venart Hotel is situated right on the Grand Canal, with suites offering breathtaking views. Appointed in traditional Italian style, it will feel like you just stepped into the pages of Italian Vogue, with a suitably stylish breakfast to match!
Mid-range: Now Venice isn’t cheap by anyone’s standards so mid-range accommodation might cost a few pennies more than we’d usually recommend. But in the case of Ca Pisani Deco Design Hotel, we think it’s worth it. This is our ‘go to’ place to stay in Venice – super comfortable, well-appointed rooms, delicious breakfast and a great location, what’s not to love?
Budget: It’s glowing reviews make it the obvious choice for budget-conscious travellers; Anda Venice is top of the pops for those with an eye on their wallets. Well-sized beds in dormitories or private rooms, alongside free wifi, fantastic social spaces and wonderful staff means this is a cracking cheap option.
Best places to eat in Venice
Quite honestly, while some might say that Venice doesn’t offer the same level of cuisine as say, Rome or Naples, we were quite enamoured with our choices. Yes, you’ll find many a touristy spot – but, after all, Venice is a tourist mecca and many of the establishments are purely geared towards visitors.
For us, we found so many hidden trattorias and lovely little ice-cream shops that it’s hard to compile a short list! But, here they are: J
Best for al fresco dinner: La Lanterna da Gas
Easily our best meal in Venice, we loved this family-run restaurant for it’s laidback charm. We sat outdoors in the very quiet square, surrounded by locals and eating from a beautifully curated menu of Venezian dishes. We haven’t been seated indoors though and it does seem a little more snug, so try to reserve a table outdoors for dinner. Dish of the day? Spaghetti vongole for sure.
Best for easy meal: Ristorante Agli Alboretti
Just need a delicious Italian meal, in a relaxed setting without all the fuss? One of our faves in Venice is definitely Ristorante Agli Alboretti. You’ll get great service, a fabulous (albeit sometimes slightly limited) menu in a buzzing courtyard environment.
Best for takeaway: Baci and Pasta
Sometimes you just want a quick and easy meal, or a takeaway to be eaten on the move. This tiny establishment is a great option – actually some call it the best pasta in Venice (quite an accolade)! Hearty takeaway portions of fresh pasta – definitely try the gnocchi!
Best for ice-cream: Suso
While this creamery is now particularly famous, when we first visited Suso it wasn’t as much frequented as it is now. It’s still worth queueing up though: not just for the very instagrammable cup but
Best for cocktails: El Mercante cocktail bar
Sometimes you just want to escape the very ‘Venetian’ surrounds and not just sit downing limoncello all day. If you’re craving a more modern, cocktail experience, head to El Mercante. This is a contemporary cocktail bar with a dizzying array of delicious drinks to try. It also had a great atmosphere when we visited, and very friendly staff.
Honourable mention goes to Un Mondo Divino Wine House. We haven’t been ourselves but fellow travel friends of ours swear by this wine bar, and it’s welcoming atmosphere.
Getting from Venice airport into Venice
Just getting from the airport into Venice ‘central’ itself will make you gasp with delight. Because, unlike your traditional airport taxi, you can travel by boat!
There is something very special about coming out of the terminal and seeing the taxi boats waiting, which is why we personally like to shell out cash for a private boat. But, regardless of your budget, there’s an option for you to travel from the airport into Venice itself:
Private water taxi: Of course the most convenient option, you can get to your hotel or accommodation door in about 25 minutes. Just head to the arrivals hall to book one but keep in mind it could cost over 100 EUR / 85 GBP / 117 USD (easily) for the pleasure.
Private taxi: Yes conventional taxis are available too. There is a taxi stand just outside the airport and, like the water taxi, it will probably take about 25-30 minutes to most locations unless you’re far out of town. Prices range from approx. 40 EUR / 35 GBP / 47 USD upwards.
Public boat: If you still want the appeal of an airport transfer via the water, take the Alilaguna public boat. Its about 20 EUR / 18 GBP / 24 USD for a round trip (cheaper one way) but you’ll need far more time (probably 90 minutes) since it makes quite a few stops on its way from the airport to St Marks Square.
Express bus (private): There is a private express bus service, ATVO, which is a bit of a plush air-conditioned transfer bus. It’s quite speedy – 20 minutes without stops to the Piazzale Roma, which is a bus terminal, and it runs three times every hour. You’ll obviously still need to organise transport from the bus terminal but that’s usually cheap to due via a vaporetto, or another taxi or even walking! It costs 8 EUR / 6.80 GBP / 9.50 GBP per person (including luggage) and there are ticket machines in the baggage claim area (and a counter too).
When is the best time to travel to Venice?
Of course Venice is best enjoyed without the hordes of tourists, which can be tricky to time. Be sure that it will be busy in June to August, to coincide with the summer months and also school holidays for most European countries.
That usually means the ‘shoulder seasons’ of April, May, September and October are best since you’ll still get warm weather but hopefully a quieter city.
Great day trips from Venice
Travel time: Approximately 2 hours
We thoroughly enjoyed our day trip to Verona, the City of Love, while in Venice. Yes, of course, we went there to see Juliet’s Balcony (from Shakespeare’s famed work Romeo and Juliet) which was heaving with other visitors doing the same but, beyond that, Verona is a charming town and a great place just to traipse around, stopping into little stores, stopping for lunch and eating Italian sorbet. Make sure to at least visit the Arena di Verona while there,
It’s a relatively easy trip from Venice – about 2 hours on one of the regional trains from Venezia Santa Lucia station or, if you prefer a speedy, more straightforward transfer, get a minibus transfer through a reputable operator like Bookaway.
Travel time: Approximately 45 minutes
Want to visit the home of Aperol? Yup, it was invented in Padua, just a short 45 minute drive away! This gorgeous historic city is in very easy reach of Venice and, beyond sucking down Spritz, you can also visit the many churches and piazzas. Book a transfer here.
Travel time: Approximately 1 hour and 45 minutes
We feel like you have to visit Bologna, even if its just to say you went to the city that invented spaghetti bolognaise right? Actually, bolognaise originally involved tagliatelle not spaghetti, but we still think you should go J.
Other than pasta history, Bologna has some incredible historic architecture, including the Piazza Maggiore with it’s spectacular Renaissance buildings like the Basilica di San Petronio, the Fountain of Neptune and City Hall.
Again, you can catch a simple high speed regional train to get there or catch a bus from Venice Mestre Central Train Station to Bologna Terminal. Book the bus here.
Travel Time: Approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes
Just a short distance away from Venice is a lesser-known city well worth a visit, Vicenza. Another city easy to visit via rail or road, Vicenza is known as the ‘city of gold’, for it’s previous trade in precious metals. The city is also a UNESCO World Heritage site, mainly due to the work of Andrea Palladio, a local architect. Palladio’s style is now known the world over in the architectural style of ‘Palladian’, and there are 24 of his villas sprinkled around the city to behold.
There are some speedy trains taking an hour from Venice to the railway station in Vicenza or, of course, you can book a more spacious minibus to get there. Check out the options here.
What did you think of our 2 day Venice itinerary? Did we miss any key travel tips off the list?
About the Author: Gayathri Ranganathan
Gayathri is an accomplished travel writer, who loves to travel with her family – her teenage girls and her husband. She feels that ‘traveling is the best way to open up one’s mind and heart to different cultures, foods, and lifestyles.’ When she’s not traveling, she’s dreaming about traveling or busy researching some new destination. “Over the years, I’ve discovered that in life and travel, it’s always about the journey, never about the destination.”
Want to save this for later? Why not pin it…