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Looking for the perfect Venice itinerary? I got you. It’s not the easiest city to plan for as there’s so much to do and see, many of the attractions with huge lines and upgrades for speedy entry. It can seem overwhelming but I’ll guide you through what to do, see and eat.
I had no idea what to expect from Venice. People had told me the city is so beautiful they cried when they first saw it. Others told me it’s crowded, dirty and overrun with tourism.
It turned out everything was true. Yes, Venice can be insanely crowded depending when you visit. Since I was arriving from super clean Slovenia, I can’t deny the pigeons eating trash shocked me at first! But Venice is also a wonder of our world, packed with history, spectacular architecture and delectable cuisine.
VENICE ITINERARY ESSENTIALS
Accommodation: Booking.com / Hostelworld
Getting there: flight / bus / train
Getting around: foot / water bus
Activities: GetYourGuide / Viator
Food experiences: EatWith
Read next: the ultimate Northern Italy itinerary
How many days in Venice?
There’s so much to see and do in Venice that you could spend up to a week. However, I think you’d be exhausted and broke: there’s lots of walking required in Venice and it’s pretty expensive.
In my opinion, 2 days is enough for Venice if you wish to see the highlights. A third day could be useful if you want to see Burano and Murano islands.
- Saint Mark’s Basilica
- St Mark’s Square
- Doge’s Palace
- Grand Canal
- Riva degli Schiavoni
- Bridge of Sighs
- Giardini Reali
- Rialto Bridge
- Rialto Market
- Cannaregio (Jewish Quarter)
- Gondola ride or budget option
- Ponte del Academia
- Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute
Alternative day 2 – Murano & Burano islands. Keep reading for more details.
When to visit Venice
Not July or August! Venice will be incredibly busy during this season.
I would suggest visiting during shoulder season: March to May or late September to October. I visited Venice in early May and it was perfect mid-week. On Friday, it seemed much busier so I was happy to be leaving on Saturday morning before it became even more crowded.
How to get to Venice
By air: the main Venice airport is Venice Marco Polo. I use Skyscanner to find the best value flights, searching by ‘whole month’ to see the cheapest dates to travel.
From the airport, you can take an airport bus, taxi or water taxi transfer to the island.
By bus: I arrived from Ljubljana, Slovenia on the Flixbus which took just over 3 hours. I recommend this bus network with tickets from €19 and free Wi-Fi. You can also arrive in Venice from other Italian cities like Verona, Milan, Rome and Florence. Book your ticket on the Flixbus website.
By train: the main station is Santa Lucia Railway Station with regular arrivals and departures from nearby cities. I use Trainline to find and book train tickets.
From central Venice to the island
If you’re travelling on a budget like me, you’ll probably base on the mainland and travel to the island each day. You can do this by bus or train for as little as €1.50. Public transport leaves you at Tronchetto requiring a 40-minute walk (or a boat ride) to St Mark’s Square.
How to get around Venice
On foot: because the island is pedestrianised, you’ll do a lot of walking during your Venice itinerary. Bring your comfiest shoes!
Tip – don’t rely on Google Maps. The streets are so small that it’s impossible to see which one you’re on. But you can’t get majorly lost: the island simply isn’t big enough. There are constant signs pointing to St Mark’s Square, so use them to guide you. Don’t be scared of getting lost in Venice; it’s half the fun!
By boat: a fun way to get around is with vaporetti AKA water buses that connect various parts of Venice as islands like Lido, Burano and Murano.
Transport passes including buses, trains and boats are available from €20 per day. You probably won’t need one if you’re just seeing the centre but they’re useful when visiting the other islands mentioned above.
Where to stay in Venice
- Hostel – you can’t do better than AO Hostel Venizia Mestre2 moments from the bus stop transporting you to the island. It’s a clean, modern base with dorms from €29 and private rooms from €50.
- Budget hotel – Hotel Al Malcanton has a grand, retro style within walking distance from all the important Venice attractions. Check availability from €122 a night.
- Splash out – Hotel Carlton On The Grand Canal is a beautiful 4* hotel with a rooftop cocktail bar. Check availability from €175 a night.
- Browse all accommodation on Booking.com and Hostelworld.
Day 1 Venice itinerary
With no more ado, let’s cover what to do during 2 days in Venice. This itinerary is loose enough that you can spend time getting lost in the maze of streets, stumbling across trinket shops, gelato cafes and whatever else captures your attention.
Here are the big sights I recommend you work into your sightseeing plans…
Saint Mark’s Basilica
There are few monuments in Venice more famous than Saint Mark’s Basilica found beside St Mark’s Square. Built in the 8th century as the final resting place of St. Mark the Apostle, it was rebuilt in Byzantine style in 1063 to represent the power of the Venetian Republic.
Entry is free and it’s advisable to arrive early because the line gets insanely long by 10am. Free entry just includes the interior so, for the full shebang (rooftop access, museum, skip-the-line entry and a guide), book a ticket in advance.
Opening times: 9.30am-5pm, Mon-Sat; 2-5pm Sun. Closure is at 4.30pm from Nov-June.
Wander St Mark’s Square
This spectacular square is a must for your Venice itinerary. After visiting many plazas around the world modelled on St Mark’s, I was excited to see the real deal.
I was also overwhelmed at the prices! We planned to drink a coffee at Cafe Florian which claims to be the world’s oldest coffee house (although I have it on good authority that’s actually in my hometown of Oxford) but after seeing the espresso was €7, decided against it!
Visit the Doge’s Palace
Although entry isn’t cheap, the Doge’s Palace (Palazzo Ducale) is one of the key attractions in St Mark’s Square. Sadly, no dogs can be seen: the Doge of Venice was the chief magistrate and leader of Venice for 1,000 years until 1797. Once they were elected, they held the role for life.
A visit to the Doge’s Palace involves walking through a maze of rooms, each more impressive than the last, lavished with gold and artwork.
With your ticket, you can cross the Bridge of Sighs named after the wistful sound prisoners would make when seeing Venice for the last time as they were led to their confinement. I was excited to walk across the bridge since the similar one at home in Oxford is only for students and staff.
Your Doge’s Palace ticket also includes the Correr Museum, National Archeological Museum and Biblioteca Marciana.
Arrive early and queue or get a skip-the-line ticket or take a guided tour.
Opening times: 9am-6pm (last entry at 5pm).
A quirky thing to do is take a Secret Itineraries Tour to visit otherwise off-limits rooms and learn about the workings of the ancient Venetian Republic.
Get a bird’s eye view from the Campanile
To see Venice from above, your best bet is the Campanile. I love to get a bird’s eye view when arriving in a new city because it improves my geography for exploring later.
Tickets cost €10 per person and can be purchased onsite or online. Although we didn’t wait too long on a weekday in May, you may wish to get your ticket in advance during the summer.
Note – skip-the-line tickets aren’t available at the time of writing (July 2022) but check the website to see if this has changed.
Stop for lunch
Break up your Venice itinerary with some tasty Italian food. It isn’t a cheap city to eat and drink but you can find affordable food with a bit of research. Although I’d advise against eating in St Mark’s Square and its immediate offshoots, you don’t have to vacate the island entirely to get a bargain.
Here are a few fantastic places I recommend for lunch in Venice:
- Farini – this cafe serves fresh, delicious pizza by the slice from €3. They also serve coffee, soft drinks, bruschetta, cakes, beer and Spritz cocktails. Just brilliant!
- L’ Bacaro de’ Bischeri – Italian sandwiches are fantastic and who’s surprised? This deli in Rialto has 4.9 stars on Google and a choice of 10 daily sandwiches packed with ingredients like sundried tomato, prosciutto, olive pate, pistachio cream and spicy salsa. Sandwiches cost €7 and wine only costs €1 per glass!
- We Love Italy (fresh pasta to go) – grab fresh, tasty pasta on the go from €6 at this takeaway cafe. Choose your pasta type (fusilli, macaroni, spaghetti, tagliatelle or gnocchi) then your sauce. There are 10 to choose from like carbonara, bolognese and famous duck ragu.
- Bacarando Corte dell’Orso – almost next door to the pasta cafe is this authentic restaurant with a huge range of cicchetti. I had mozzarella and tomato skewers, cod cream bruschetta, and a pea and prawn savoury cake washed down with wine for €11.
- Frito Inn – this renowned food stand serves freshly fried seafood for €10 served in paper cones. A bargain for quality seafood!
I imagine you’ll be feeling tired after a busy morning exploring Venice especially once you’re in a food coma! For the afternoon, take some time to wander and see what you stumble across. If you need a little more guidance, here are a few attractions to add to your Venice travel itinerary…
Riva degli Schiavoni
This waterfront promenade close to St Mark’s Square is one of the most famous places in the city, as well as one of the most crowded. Still, it’s an atmospheric place to wander with beautiful views.
Just past Palazzo delle Prigioni you’ll have the chance to…
See the Bridge of Sighs from the outside
If you’re following my Venice itinerary exactly, you’ll have already walked through the bridge while visiting the Doge’s Palace. The best place to see it from the outside is Ponte della Paglia (in English, Straw Bridge).
Need to escape the crowds? Keep walking from Riva degli Schiavoni across Ponte della Paglia and take a right turn into the Royal Gardens. Although you’d be right to think there are tourists everywhere in Venice, I was pleasantly surprised to find Giardini Reali relatively quiet.
We relaxed on a bench and rested our feet during our busy Venice itinerary. The benches are shaded beneath a canopy of plants making it a peaceful spot to escape the heat and crowds. Entry is free and you can even bring your own picnic if you’re travelling on a budget.
I included this section due to who I am as a person 😉
It’s not just the moreish cicchetti and overflowing sandwiches that make Venice a renowned foodie destination; it’s also all the amazing gelato, cannoli and tiramisu. Deli counters overflow with sweet snacks that I highly recommend you work your way through.
A few desserts to try include:
- Tiramisu at I Tre Mercanti – at this famous deli you can see fresh tiramisu being made in the window according to the traditional recipes first invented in the nearby city of Treviso. As well as the original version, you can try flavours not limited to pistachio, Nutella and salted caramel.
- Gelato at Gelatoteca Suso – this place is the bomb, as the line out of the door would suggest! It’s slightly expensive at €4.50 for two scoops but worth it. There are even vegan options.
- Cannoli – I don’t have a specific recommendation but you can hardly miss them: these cones filled with sweet cream are everywhere! My favourite flavour was pistachio. Ricotta cannoli is the most expensive variety but I found them too rich and heavy.
Day 2 in Venice itinerary
Now you’ve seen the big names on the Venice tourism scene, you can spend a second day exploring at your leisure, ticking off hidden gems as well as other well-known attractions that you need to see before leaving Venice.
Here are a few places I’d recommend for 2 days in Venice…
The oldest bridge across the Grand Canal is Rialto Bridge (Ponte di Rialto). Built in the 1500s to replace previous wooden bridges, it was the only way to cross on foot until Accademia Bridge was built in the 1800s. Before its existence, people would have crossed by gondola. But I’m guessing the rides weren’t so expensive back then 😉
I wonder how many people have crossed Rialto Bridge in its lifetime? I bet tens of millions, if not more!
There are thin walkways on either side (as you can imagine, these get very crowded) and a wider central walkway where vendors sell souvenirs and trinkets like glass from famous Murano Island.
After crossing Rialto Bridge when arriving from St Mark’s Square, you’ll come to Rialto Market. It’s not the best market I’ve visited because it’s quite touristic, however there’s a fresh fruit market overflowing with cherries and peaches. Buy a snack or simply browse. There’s also a fresh fish market nearby.
Generally, this area is a vibey part of Venice with lots of cafes and bars. My favourite find was L’ Bacaro de’ Bischeri sandwich shop which I’ve already mentioned once but deserves a second, third and fourth mention!
Cannaregio (Jewish Quarter)
It’s not exactly a hidden gem but this part of Venice is no St Mark’s Square! It’s a captivating part of the city where you can learn about the Jewish population of Venice throughout history.
Cannaregio was a ghetto during the 16th to 19th century when the Jewish population was forced to live there. At night and during Christian holidays, Jews were actually locked into the neighbourhood. It’s horrific to think about.
To accommodate so many people, the buildings were made thin and tall, remaining this way today. The Jewish Museum of Venice is the best place to unravel the history, learn about businesses operated from the ghetto, take a guided synagogue tour and eat a kosher meal at the cafe onsite.
There are 5 notable synagogues in the area including the Schola Tedesca (Great German Scola), the oldest in the area built in Baroque style, as well as the Canton Synagogue.
Nearby foodie recommendations – Al Timon for Venetian cooking and Vinale for the best cocktails in town.
Visit a FREE rooftop terrace
Venice is not the cheapest of cities and since there’s often a ‘coperto’ charge of several Euros when sitting down for a meal or coffee, I was pleasantly surprised to learn there’s a beautiful rooftop terrace you can visit for free.
Fondaco dei Tedeschi is a striking historic building situated on the Grand Canal. Its rooftop offers spectacular views of passing vaporetti and gondolas. Only 40 people can fit on the rooftop at one time so register in advance for a 15-minute slot. Your Instagram feed will thank you!
Opening times: 10.45am-7.15pm. Depending on the season, late afternoon is the best time to snap photos at golden hour.
Ride a gondola or take a budget option
If riding a gondola is at the top of your Venice bucket list, go for it! Rides aren’t cheap at around €80 before sunset and €100 after.
Not within your budget? No worries, it wasn’t in mine either. The photo above of me sitting in a gondola was taken at Libreria Acqua Alta bookstore, somewhere that may have been a hidden gem once but is now a popular spot with travellers wanting their Instagram shots. The fire exit leads to the canal where a static gondola bobs up and down. Wait your turn for a photo inside it.
The bookshop is a photo-worthy place in its own right with huge stacks of books, many overflowing from bathtubs. Better yet, some cute cats live in the bookstore.
Ride a vaporetto instead
If a gondola is above your budget, ride a waterbus instead. Vaperetti are a form of transport in Venice, connecting locations around the island as well as the airport and main train station. The prices aren’t cheap but they’re certainly more affordable than €80 gondolas!
Buy your tickets at official counters and remember to validate them before boarding the boat. Tickets are valid for 75 minutes after purchase unless you have a daily pass valid for 24 hours.
Ponte del Academia
Another location for your Venice itinerary is Ponte del Academia, one of the four main bridges spanning the Grand Canal and the only remaining wooden one. It may not be as famous as Rialto Bridge but it’s worth visiting with several notable points of interest nearby. These include:
Gallerie dell’Accademia: dedicated to Venetian art from the 13th-18th centuries, Venice’s most famous art gallery is housed in the spectacular Scuola della Carità building. Entry is just €13 (and only €2 if you’re under 26): a small price to pay considering the wealth of art and artifacts inside.
Peggy Guggenheim Museum: if modern art is more your scene than fine art, you’ll love this museum just a five-minute walk from Ponte del Academia (located on Palazzo Venier dei Leoni). Styles on display include Cubism, Surrealism and Impressionism and artists featured include Salvador Dali, Pablo Picasso and Jackson Pollack. Get your Guggenheim ticket in advance.
Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute
After crossing Ponte del Academia, you’re just a 10-minute walk from a famous Venice monument with a distinctive dome, Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute dedicated to Our Lady of Health (Salute in Italian) and constructed to celebrate the end of the black plague in 1631. Visiting in 2022 after a difficult couple of travel-free years felt heavily poignant.
On the southern part of the island (a 20-minute walk or a boat ride from St Mark’s Square), the streets feel less crowded and there are several art galleries to peruse en route.
Entry price: €4 or €2 for students.
Address: Dorsoduro, 1, 30123 Venezia VE.
Getting there: from San Marco, jump on the waterbus line 1 destined for Salute.
Alternative day 2 – Murano & Burano Islands
Another idea for your Venice itinerary is to spend day 1 exploring the highlights as detailed above and day 2 exploring colourful Murano and Burano islands. Although it’ll be busy, this is a great overview for your first trip to Venice.
If you’re speedy, you can even see Lido island during the afternoon/early evening.
How to take a day trip to Murano & Burano
You can either do it independently using the water bus service (I recommend you buy a 1 day pass for €20) or take an organised day tour from a reputable vendor like GetYourGuide.
Although it doesn’t really matter in which order you visit the islands, this is my suggested itinerary…
Morning – Murano
You can’t mention Murano without glass; the two are fused together with history and tradition. Although Murano is a gorgeous island in its own right (although perhaps not quite as colourful as Burano), the main reason for visiting is to admire, purchase and learn about famous Murano glass.
Things to do:
- Browse the many shops and purchase glass jewellery, perfume bottles, crockery, ornaments… the list goes on! The prices weren’t as high as I’d expected.
- Visit Murano Glass Museum – we debated whether to pay the slightly high €12 entry but I’m glad we did. There’s a wide array of funky glass masterpieces with information covering a millennium of history.
- Watch a glass-blowing workshop – I found this slightly underwhelming. Although it was fascinating to see the liquid glass molded into different shapes for the first few minutes, there wasn’t a commentary or any information so we didn’t stay long. We made the mistake of paying to view one, then realising afterward there are free ones. Keep your eyes peeled for these!
Afternoon – Burano
Beautiful Burano island was a highlight of my Venice itinerary. If you love beautiful places and photo opportunities, I think you’ll feel the same.
Things to do in Burano:
- Snap photos with the rainbow houses
- Take a Burano walking tour with a born-and-raised local guide
- Learn about Burano’s main export at Burano Lace Museum and buy some as a souvenir
- Admire Burano’s answer to the Leaning Tower of Pisa at the Church of Saint Martin Bishop
- Find Bepi’s House, the most colourful building on the island covered with geometric shapes. The owner, Giuseppe Toselli, has now passed away but his former home is a reminder of the man who created cartoons for the local children
- Eat bussolà, the island’s signature treat which could be described as a doughnut-shaped cookie. You’ll also find ‘s’ shaped ones called essi.
Late afternoon/early evening – Lido
We didn’t plan to visit Lido but since we had a daily transport pass, we spontaneously jumped on a waterbus after Burano. Since the sun sets late in summer, we spent a couple of hours wandering the town and visiting the beach. You could even stay for dinner.
Lido is an 11km island just across from Venice. It’s known for its Art Deco architecture (which promoted my friend April and I, who met living in Mexico City, to simultaneously say ‘this reminds me of Condesa’!). hosting Venice Film Festival and of course, the beautiful beaches. Take some time to promenade down Viale Santa Maria Elisabetta, lined with hostels and restaurants.
Getting there: numerous water buses departing St Mark’s Square will drop you at Lido S.M.E., a short walk from the beach. If you didn’t know there were beaches near Venice, you do now!
Finished this Venice itinerary? You’re merely a bus ride away from countless wonderful destinations. If you’re on an extended trip to Europe and don’t have a flight home to catch, here’s where I’d recommend you to go next…
Verona is one of the loveliest cities in Northern Italy, just an hour by train from Venice. It’s best known as the setting for Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet but there’s more to the city than Juliet’s crowded balcony.
With 500-year-old frescos (the street art of the 1500s), a well-preserved Roman amphitheatre and the rich Verona food scene, there’s plenty to keep you busy for 1-2 days.
Use Trainline or Flixbus to arrive in Verona.
Northern Italy’s fast-paced fashion capital is a captivating mix of old and new. Whether you want to marvel at historical cathedrals, drink at a sky bar or shop for designer labels, it’s possible in Milan. The city doesn’t stop and neither will you: I was exhausted after a busy 2 days in Milan especially as the weather was scorching.
The availability of flights from the three airports makes it easy to begin or end an Italy tour. You could fly into Venice and out of Milan (or vice versa), calling at Verona en route.
Backpackers can stay at YellowSquare hostel and discover the foodie gems in the Porta Romana ‘hood including Milano Roastery and Il Trapizzino known for their €5 pizza cones.
From Venice, you’re 3 hours by bus from Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia. I spent a wonderful 10 days in Slovenia visiting lake towns like Bled and Bohinj, the charming town of Piran on the Istrian peninsular, Europe’s largest caves in Postojna and, of course, eating and drinking my heart out in Ljubljana.
Read next: the ultimate Slovenia itinerary
Despite spending 3 months in Croatia (while working remotely), there are still more places I want to see. With world-famous holiday destinations like Dubrovnik and Split, the capital of Zagreb and idyllic towns with buckets of history on the Istrian peninsular, there are plenty of ways to fill a Croatia itinerary.
Catch a bus or train from Venice to Trieste and you’re right on the border of Croatia.
Thanks for reading my Venice itinerary for 2 days!
Read my other Italy posts:
- The perfect Northern Italy itinerary
- A complete guide to Verona food
- How to spend 2 days in Milan, Italy
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TRUSTED RESOURCES FOR VISITING ITALY
Getting around by air – I use Skyscanner and search by month to see the cheapest dates.
Driving in Europe – use Rentalcars.com to compare car rentals in Italy (and all around the world).
For trains, both RailEurope and Trainline offer excellent service in Italy. The search feature allows you to compare prices, and they show live departure times on the website.
For buses, I use FlixBus. Find journeys from €1!
Use Omio to compare trains and buses in one search. It’s so handy!
For hotels and self-catering apartments, I use Booking.com. You can filter by review score and price to find the best-rated budget places. For hostels, I use Hostelworld.com.
To save money on accommodation, I use Trusted Housesitters, a website that connects homeowners going away and travellers who can sit their homes & pets.
Browse tours and activities on GetYourGuide.
Need travel insurance? I use True Traveller (for UK & Europe residents) since it’s some of the most affordable insurance out there but still covers everything you’d need including various activities, valuables and pre-existing conditions. Unlike some companies, they insure you if you’re already travelling / don’t yet have your flight home booked. Get a quote.
For other nationalities, I recommend Hey Mundo and for long-term digital nomad travellers, I suggest Safety Wing.
For Italian food experiences from cooking classes to market visits hosted by locals, use EatWith.
Check out my resources page for more travel discounts and budget tips from my 10+ years on the road!