Venice is the capital of the Veneto region of Italy. Veneto spans from Venice towards Verona and up to the Dolomites. The region itself has a very fascinating history beginning in the 5th century AD with the Roman Empire and spanning centuries under various rulers.
Today Venice is famous for being a city of canals, masks, and bridges. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage site with over 118 islands!
Venice was also the birthplace of Marco Polo, Casanova, Vivaldi, Bellini, and Capraccio. Being the center of the artisan world, Venice cultivated and exchanged ideas and products from all over the world.
Traveling beyond Venice and looking for more inspiration? Try these articles
- How to Spend One Day in Bologna
- Why You Should Never Drive in Italy Without an International Driver’s License
- Exploring Verona, Italy
2 Day Venice Itinerary
I use the word itinerary loosely as even I don’t make an itinerary when I travel! I prefer to make a list of everything with notes about working hours, costs, and time needed and just go about my day choosing what feels good at the moment.
This itinerary is planned in a way to help you get acquainted with the city. The first day is the highlights of Venice, the “must see” on everyone’s list, perfect for first time visitors of Venice.
The second day are basically bonus items. Spend the first day orienting yourself with Venice and getting a feel for the way it ebbs and flows and the second day diving deeper into the culture, history, and arts.
Day 1 | Highlights of Venice
Campanile di San Marco | St Mark’s Campanile
The Campanile, or bell tower, is found in St. Mark’s Square. It is a 99 meters high tower that was once a lighthouse. It was here that Galileo used it to study the skies and it is where he premiered his telescope.
A unique feature to the tower is that there is an elevator. Most towers in Europe only provides stairs to the top leaving the bird’s eye view to those who are physically able to climb hundreds of stairs.
Pro tip: arrive very early to avoid long lines or buy skip the line tickets. By mid-day this line can be very long and mid-summer it is completely without shade.
Basilica di San Marco | St Mark’s Basilica
The church is free to enter but there are little stops along the walking path through the basilica where you can choose to pay a few euros to see additional items. I paid the additional 2€ to see the Pala d’Oro. A magnificant work of Byzantine art; complete with 1300 pearls, 300 sapphires, 300 emeralds, and 400 garnets – all original gems.
Be mindful that it is a place of worship. Photos under any circumstances are not allowed. There is only one path through the church and it can take around 15 minutes to go through.
The line to visit the Basilica can stretch hundreds of meters down the square and can be a miserable experience during a hot day. This is why these two items are added first on the itinerary.
Torre dell’Orologio | St. Marks Clock Tower
Also found in St. Mark’s Square – yes there is a lot to do and see here – is St. Marks Clock Tower. The tower is just near St Mark’s Basilica and dates back to the 15th century. The clock tower not only shares the current time but also the dominant Zodiac sign and current phase of the moon.
While you can enjoy the clock for free from San Marco’s Square you can also arrange a guided tour. Tours in English take place several times a day throughout the week and last around one hour. *As of 2020 tours are temporarily suspended. Check the official site for opening hours and prices.
Tip: If you go through the arch below the clock tower and continue until you reach the Grand Canal, just two streets over to the right you will find Rialto Bridge (~6 minute walk) (info below)
Palazzo Ducale | Doge’s Palace
Palazzo Ducale, or Doge’s Palace in English, was the residence for the Doge (the senior-most official of Venice) during the Republic of Venice (over 1000 years!).
I realize that my fascination with castles and palaces makes me love almost every single one I visit but Doge’s Palace was the seat of an incredible force of innovation and this is reflected in your visit.
The palace is full of meticulously decorated rooms of stunning paintings and gold painted accents. A personal favorite is a painting called Il Paradiso and is found in the main hall. It is one of the largest canvas paintings in the world. Dominating an entire wall, it includes around 500 figures! Painted by Tintoretto in the 1500’s.
I have visited Doge’s Palace twice and both times there were no lines, but that doesn’t mean it can’t happen. You can arrange tickets online so that you don’t get caught waiting in line. There are also opportunities to arrange guided visits after-hours if done in advance. More info here.
Tip: Don’t just rush inside the palace, there are some incredible features on the outside of the building such as the Foscari Arch or Scala dei Giganti.
Ponte dei Sospiri | Bridge of Sighs
The Bridge of Sighs is an enclosed bridge that connected interrogation rooms with a prison as part of Doge’s Palace. Its namesake comes from the anecdote that prisoners passing over the bridge before their imprisonment gave out a sigh at the beauty of Venice. A desperate sigh that it might be the last time many of them would see outside.
If you visit Doge’s Palace you can walk through the bridge to experience the same view they did while viewing the old prison. It is fairly easy to see the Bridge of Sighs, just a short 5 minute walk from Doge’s Palace. You won’t be able to miss the crowd of everyone attempting to get their picture.
Ponte di Rialto | Rialto Bridge
Rialto Bridge is the most famous bridge of Venice, and goes over the Grand Canal (Canale Grande) at its most narrow point. It was here that the first bridge ever built over the Grand Canal once stood. Now it is packed full of vendors and tourists – truly packed. It can be difficult to navigate and a sweet spot for pickpockets.
Gondola + Cicchetti
In the evenings don’t forget to take advantage of Venitian tapas, called cicchetti. You can wander into any of the numerous wine bars in the city to enjoy these small plates of food with a few glasses of wine. Read this guide to find the best places to eat cicchetti.
To top off your Venetian day you can take a gondola ride, a bucket list-worthy experience sought by many. Gondolas are works of art, handcrafted with various types of wood and navigated by gondoliers which have gone through training. The price for a ride is standardized across Venice and should not be negotiated. For more information about riding a gondola this is a great guide.
Day 2 | The extras
The second day of this itinerary is about taking a deep look into life in Venice. Using public transport to get the perfect Venice photos, exploring the islands of Burano and Murano, and going on a food tour!
Early morning photos
Everything on the first day of the itinerary is within a couple minutes of walking distance. The second day is perfect for purchasing a transportation pass. It costs 20 Euros for a one day pass that allows you to travel in and around Venice using Actv public transport.
With this pass I suggest jumping on a boat that appears empty and grab a spot up front. From here you can take incredible photos and video.
Early morning photos are key to capturing the best spots in Venice. Wake up with the sunrise to see the city still asleep and get those incredible shots as the sun rises over the island.
Burano + Murano
Because you have a transport pass this is the perfect day to visit Burano and/or Murano! It takes about 45 minutes on boat to reach Burano, an island in the Venetian Lagoon. It is famous for its lace work and for brightly colored homes that line the streets.
Murano is an island near Burano. Here they are famous for their glass making. All over Venice you will see stunning works of art and jewelry made from glass.
If you prefer your tours arranged I suggest considering this tour which includes private transport and a guide. The tour contains tours of each island that last around 2 hours and 30 minutes long each.
Normally I suggest doing a food tour as the first thing you do when visiting a new place. This will give you a fun and informative introduction to a new place and culture. It will also introduce you to a local person who is passionate about their town and can offer personalized recommendations.
The aforementioned food tour is a small group tour guided by a local to try Venetian wines, gelato, fresh seafood, and other Venetian delicasies with 8 different stops!
Because Venice is so popular and can get so crowded I suggest trying to see the main sights, if they are of interest, as early as possible or when the best moment arises. I am not a fan of waiting in a line for hours – same reason I rarely visit amusement parks.
Travel Tips for Venice, Italy
While Venice can be a great place to visit it can also be overwhelming between the crowds, the humidity, and instead of being surrounded by cars there are boats. Here are a few easy tips to keep in mind to make the most of your time there.
- Gondolas have a set price so don’t try to negotiate.
- Be mindful about dragging luggage across the city. Some hotels provide luggage delivery services.
- Due to cobblestone and occasional high tide heels are not always the best footwear option.
- Acqua alta (high water) is a high tide that floods Venice. It happens between September and April but more prevelant October to December.
- Restaurants often charge coperto which is a cover charge for dining (use of cutlery and tableclothes).
- Venice Carnival takes place from Jaunary 30th-February 16th.
And most importantly don’t forget to read through these sets of rules for tourists visiting Venice. They include things like no camping or feeding pigeons in St. Mark’s Square, dress code, and more. Visitors have been given fines for breaking these rules.
Map of Venice Itinerary
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