The Ultimate Venice One day Itinerary | Best Things to Do in Venice, Italy
Let’s be fair. One day or 12 hours isn’t ideal in any major world city nor is it ideal is one of Europe’s most famous and romantic destinations. Sometimes, however, all we have is one day or less to get to know a place, which to be honest is better than not going at all. We stopped in Venice for only one day due to a very hectic European trip schedule and we also managed to get some very cheap, last minute flights to go just for the day. If you only have one day, 12 hours or even less in Venice this travel guide is for you. Discover the must-do things to do, see and eat in this pocket-sized Venice one day itinerary.
Venice is one of those cities that’s so compact, walkable and small that much of it can be seen in 12 hours or one day. This wouldn’t be the case for other European cities but Venice is an exception. If you’re not bothered by shopping or spending hours in the museums and only want to see the sights with the exception of popular islands Burano and Murano then a short trip might just work for you. Explore the dazzling floating city with it’s dreamy canals, fairytale gondola rides, impressive churches and beautiful architecture. Make sure to also turn off google maps, follow the alleyways until you get to a dead-end and simply get lost- it’s all part of the fun.
↠ One of the things I always do on such short trips is to make a list of the top 3-5 places I want to visit and at least 3 must-eat restaurants. Having this in mind will make it easier to plan a walking route, and often, prioritising particular places means that you’ll definitely end up seeing them.
↠ Venice is extremely crowded and unfortunately, you’ll probably be at Piazza San Marco at the time everyone else is. To avoid this try to visit Venice outside of the most crowded months (June, July and August).
↠ Book all your entrance tickets online before you travel. Not having to queue will save you so much time because let’s be honest if you are in Venice for 12 hours you don’t want to spend 2 of those in a queue. San Marco’s Basilica, the Doge’s Palace and most of the other palaces and museums can all be booked online.
↠ Wearing comfortable footwear is an absolute must during this Venice one day itinerary. With transportation in Venice being expensive and limiting the best way to get around is by walking. The last thing you want is shoes that don’t get on with your feet.
Plane – The city of Venice is served by two airports; Marco Polo and Treviso. If you only have a day in Venice do NOT fly into Treviso which is located far from Venice itself and you’ll spend over an hour on a bus getting to the city. Fly into Marco Polo from which it’s a 20-minute bus or boat ride into Venice.
Train – All trains arrive at the Stazione de Venecia Santa Lucia, on the island of Venice itself. From there you can hop on a Vaporetto (water bus) or start exploring on foot.
Bus – All buses arrive at the Venice Terminal on the island, from which it’s very easy to cross the La Liberta bridge and from there continue your trip on foot or by Vaporetto.
Once you’ve arrived on the island of Venice you can hop onto a Vaporetto (water bus) or start walking towards the direction of San Marco. In this Venice one day itinerary I’d recommend getting on a Vaporetto all the way to San Marco and then walking back towards your starting point throughout the day, seeing all the sights along the way.
Need some more ideas for what to see and do? Check out the Ultimate Venice Bucket List
WHERE TO STAY
If you do change your itinerary and decide to stay in Venice for a night or longer, there are many different amazing places to stay. Here are my favourite hotel options for all budgets:
Budget – Ca’ dell’Arte – This opulent, quintessentially Venetian guesthouse is the place to stay if you’re looking for the old world Venetian glamour. With traditional furnishings and rooms full of antiques, a stay here will transport you back to the time of the Doges. It’s centrally located and walkable to almost everywhere.
Rio Hotel – A simple, modern option and just one minute from St Marks Square, it’s impossible not to be closer to the heartbeat of the city. Rooms are modern with wooden beams, clean, airy and with all the mod-cons.
Mid-Range – Luxury Venetian Rooms – Housed in a beautiful old building, this residence only has 8 wonderful rooms decorated in a traditional Venetian style. Relax in a velvet armchair while admiring the fantastic canal views that can be seen from the windows. This place provides all the luxury you’ll need for your stay at a great price.
Luxury – The Gritti Palace – To experience Venice in style, there’s no other option that the Gritti Palace. A space of opulence and pure luxury, right on the Grand Canal. Each room is uniquely decorated and furnished with a large bed and free-standing baths. On the roof, you’ll find one of the best terraces in town to catch the sunset over the city. If you’re planning the ultimate romantic getaway don’t stay anywhere else.
There are also many amazing Airbnb options in Venice with competitive prices for short stays. Use the form below to find your perfect stay.
VENICE ONE DAY ITINERARY: WHAT TO DO AND SEE
The below itinerary takes in as much as possible in the short time frame that we had. It covers the exact sights we did in the exact same order.
PIAZZA SAN MARCO
It wouldn’t quite be a Venice one day itinerary without featuring this famous square. San Marco’s square is one of the busiest, most iconic squares in the world. So many of Venice’s highlights are located around this square so you won’t have to go far to see them all. Start by simply marvelling at the scale of this grand square which is surrounded by Venetian mask shops, gelato shops and antique cafes under arched walkways. Take in the architecture, the stonework and the history. In the 15th Century, Venice rose to be one of the areas most important and wealthy city-states and what we see today reflects that. Located in the square is Caffe Florian, one of the oldest cafes in Venice. While it isn’t cheap it is one of the most iconic and atmospheric places to enjoy a coffee and snack. Marvel at the preserved interior and decor before continuing.
BASILICA AND DOGE’S PALACE
Unmissable from the St. Mark’s square panorama is St. Mark’s Basilica- the icon of Venice. I personally think it’s more impressive from outside but I highly recommend going inside as the gold mosaic work inside in simply unbelievable. Having bought your ticket online you can skip the queues and bounce straight in. Admire the 8,000 square metres of mosaic work inside which took about 800 years to complete and their effect today is still jaw-droppingly beautiful. Built in the Byzantine style, it’s so different and recognisable compared to other churches in Italy. With Venice being a major trading port throughout history, you can observe a lot of Eastern influence all over the city.
Continue over to the Doge’s Palace next door and again skip the queues with your pre-booked ticket. This dramatic and exquisite building was where the Doge or ruler of Venice lived throughout history. Admire the historical decor, structures and learn about Venice’s unique history.
BRIDGE OF SIGHTS
Further on you’ll find the famous Bridge of Sights. This bridge separated the palace and the prison. It was said that the view from this bridge was the last prisoners saw of Venice before they were locked-up. While this isn’t the best place to relax because of the crowds, you can still sit by the side of the canal and watch the gondolas go by for a while before moving on.
BASILICA DI SANTA MARIA DELLA SALUTE
Almost exactly across the Grand Canal from St. Mark’s square is the striking Basilica of Santa Maria Della Salute. We took the Vaporetto over and admired the exquisite Baroque façade and huge doors. It’ll make you wonder how many people it takes to open those entirely. While you can go inside normally, it was closed when we visited. From here continue walking west toward the Galleria dell’Accademia through this quarter of Dorsoduro. Dorsoduro means ‘hardback’ in Italian and this area was for a long time seen at the backbone of Venice. You’ll notice the much quieter streets and canals over here and you’ll be able to feel the city’s real character.
If you have time to visit a museum during your trip I’d highly recommend this one for a full retrospective of pre-19th Century Italian painting. You’ll find works by DaVinci, Titian, Bellini and Canaletto who painted so many scenes from Venice in the 18th Century you’ll get a good idea of what the city looked like then and how it’s changed.
From the gallery just cross over one of the most famous bridges in Venice to get to back into the San Marco quarter. The Academia bridge itself is adorned with heaps of padlocks but that’s not the focus here. Admire the Grand Canal from here, as this is arguably the best view in the city of this most scenic bend in the canal.
TAKE A GONDOLA RIDE
No Venice one day itinerary would be complete without a gondola ride! Gondolas can be snapped up all along the Grand Canal and a ride on one is an unforgettable bucket list experience. I mean where else in the world are you going to ride a gondola down the most famous canal in the world? They aren’t cheap however and the standard ride costs €80 but I have heard that in some areas the price can be haggled down. To try to get a cheaper ride get as far from St. Mark’s square as you can.
PONTE DI RIALTO
Head to Venice’s most famous bridge but take your time. Get lost in the San Marco quarter, and admire the luxury brand shopfronts, cobbled, dead-end alleys, tiny squares and celestial churches. Turn off your map and simple walk, get lost and explore. Once you arrive at the Rialto bridge, explore the surroundings of the bridge as well as the cute little souvenir shops on the actual bridge. Sit by the Grand Canal and get that Insta-worthy shot. It is also worth checking out the Rialto Market nearby for all the mouth-watering Italian produce on offer.
TAKE A WALK THROUGH SAN POLO AND CANNAREGIO
From the Rialto Bridge, head back to the bus/train station or airport, taking your time. It took us hours as we explored the quarters of San Polo and Cannaregio on the way. Here you’ll be able to lose the crowds and find the residents of Venice, the cute little vegetable and fruit markets and small, green squares where the locals meet. Venice here, especially Cannaregio gets somewhat green, with an addition of small gardens and vines hanging down into the streets.
WHERE AND WHAT TO EAT
One day in Venice is simply not enough time to sample the deliciousness that this city has to offer so you’ll have to really pick and choose. For us, the priorities were Cicchetti (Venetian-style tapas), Aperol spritz, gelato and of course pizza.
Cicchetti – These Venetian style tapas involve a thick slice of crusty baguette with a variety of different toppings. The best places to eat Cicchetti are at osterias and tapas bars scattered throughout the city. We headed to Bar All’Arco for a selection of delicious tapas (they had great veggie ones too) all washed down with an Aperol Spritz.
Pizza– An Italian staple that simply has to be done when anywhere in Italy, even though technically pizza doesn’t come from Venice. We headed to Pizza 2000 which has some of the most delicious pizza I have tasted in many years. A medium margarita will set you back only €4 – if this isn’t the definition of value for money, I don’t know what is. Top tip: don’t eat in, get your pizza to go, find a quiet canal to sit by and eat your pizza there- things just don’t get more Italian.
Gelato – the perfect dessert or snack or breakfast or lunch or dinner. Gelato in Italy is a must and there are so many places that offer a superb cone. Gelato di Natura had some excellent vegan flavours and they weren’t too sweet. There’s no better way to cool down after a long day of exploring.
I’d love to hear from you! Leave your questions, comments or itinerary queries below!
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