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How to Explore Venice in One Day: Tips and Itinerary
Tackling Venice in one day can be a whirlwind! If you can swing two days in Venice, I highly recommend taking the extra day. However, I know from experience that sometimes one day is just all you have. If this is you, don’t be discouraged. You can see a lot of Venice in one day so, take a deep breath and get ready to experience Italian culture, caffeine, and ALL the carbs!
Is One Day in Venice Enough?
No, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go.
In 2017, I took my first trip to Italy and made the mistake of booking only 2 nights in Venice. I say it was a mistake. There really wasn’t another option at the time other than to skip it altogether and skipping Venice wasn’t an option. I’ll be completely honest. Having only one full day is a whirlwind even if you just want to see the highlights, but that definitely does not mean you shouldn’t go at all. While it’s impossible to see all of Venice in one day, you can still have a rewarding experience with memories that will last a lifetime.
Planning a trip to Italy on limited time is no small task. The things you can see and do are endless. So many times I said to myself, “How can you go to Italy and not do THAT?” THAT is how a 9-day itinerary turned into 2 full weeks in Italy and we still barely scratched the surface. Maybe you’re in the same boat. You’re desperate to squeeze in Venice because how do you go to Italy and skip Venice? If it’s your first trip and, especially if it might be your only trip to Italy, you don’t. Even just one day in Venice is worth the effort.
Preparing for a Day in Venice
The first thing to keep in mind while planning a trip to Italy (or anywhere for that matter) is that things don’t always go as planned. For example, we arrived in Venice to find the vaporetto on strike. Considering that is basically the only mode of transportation in Venice, that can wrinkle up the plan. Sure, the city is 100% walkable but walking can take a lot more time depending on where you want to go and your mobility. The city is built on a canal grid which means you’ll be crossing many bridges and climbing your fair share of stairs.
Without a doubt, the only way we were able to accomplish all that we did was through meticulous planning. A plan and a map can make all the difference in the world! As you plan activities, be sure to give yourself plenty of time in between to get from one place to the next. Especially if you have pre-booked tickets. It also helps to know in advance how to get from place to place. Weigh your options. It may be faster to walk than to use the vaporetto. On the flip side, a vaporetto may get you where you need to go in 10 minutes as opposed to walking for 30. Regardless, your feet will definitely clock some miles. It goes without saying, be sure to take your walking shoes!
The Best Thing About Venice is Getting Lost. Or, is it?
If you’ve got a few days to spend in Venice, I totally agree with this. However, if you’re on a bit of a time crunch, losing your way is stressful and disheartening. If you’re on foot, the city is essentially a series of alleys and bridges. Given the lack of street signs, it is incredibly easy to get lost. I use an app called Ulmon CityMaps2Go to navigate my way while traveling. I’ve tried all the offline map apps and this one is by far the best in my opinion. You can download either the paid or the free version.
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The difference between each is that the free version is a single city download and the paid is world-wide map availability in one app. Last I checked, the paid app runs 17.99 but you can often find it on special. I purchased the app for 11.99 and feel like it’s a great deal. Having an app like this will definitely help you make the most of your time and that is essential if you only have one day in Venice.
Venice One Day Itinerary
Lace up those walking shoes and get ready for a full day in one of the most amazing and unique cities in the world – Venice! From architectural beauty to its rich history, Venezia has a way of sweeping you off your feet.
Whatever you do, don’t rush your schedule so much that you can’t enjoy it. Remember that this itinerary is only a guide. Do the things that really tug at your heart. Maybe you’re not interested in the inside of another church. That’s ok! Roam the streets or fill your time with one of the alternative activities listed below. One day in Venice is a privilege sought by many. It is a gift. Savor every moment of your short stay in this marvelous Italian city.
This Itinerary is set up in a way that will maximize your sightseeing time by minimizing wait times and arranging sites based on their distance from one another. The day is broken into two parts, morning and afternoon, and focuses on cultural highlights. To suit different interests, I have also provided two alternatives for the afternoon. Regardless of how many days in Venice you have, you can tailor this to your own trip.
Are you a cultural tourist? Read more about cultural tourism.
Morning in Venice
9:00 am Campanile San Marco
We arrived at Piazza San Marco about 8:40. Since St. Mark’s Campanile doesn’t open until 9 am, we spent a few moments taking photos of the Basilica and the Campanile since there wasn’t a line yet. After 9 am, when most monuments open, the square becomes packed with people. Arriving at the Campanile San Marco between 8:30 and 9:00 am means you shouldn’t have to wait too long in line. By the time we exited around 9:30, the line to enter was terribly long. This partly attributed to only one elevator transporting people up and down the tower. Take your camera! The views are incredible and the rising sun casts a perfect light on your surroundings. If you are arriving in Venice the day before, this is also an activity you can knock out in the evening. Hours change throughout the year so be sure to check the Campanile San Marco website, but generally, it stays open until sunset.
You can expect to spend 20 – 30 minutes at the Campanile once it’s your turn to go to the top. How long you wait in line depends on how early you get there. My recommendation is to arrive prior to opening time and be one of the first to visit so that you aren’t waiting hour(s). Alternatively, you can purchase a timed entry here.
Pro Tip: Being an early riser has its perks when visiting busy tourist cities. Begin your day even earlier to practice your photography and capture rare images of the Piazza, Campanile, and Basilica free of the crowds
9:45 am St Marks Basilica
St. Mark’s Basilica is located directly across the street from the Campanile. Check your bags at Ateneo San Basso just around the corner from the Cathedral on Calle San Basso. If you are facing the Cathedral from St. Marks’s Square, look to the left of the Cathedral and you will find a small alley. This alley is Calle San Basso. Enter the alley and Ateneo San Basso is to your right. There is a 60 minute limit for bags but a few extra euros should buy you some time. The Cathedral is very strict on their bag policy and dress code.
We reserved a skip the line pass for 9:45/10:00 just to be safe. Despite having a skip the line pass, we still had to wait in our line for around 30-45 minutes. The general admission line was already backed up hours by 9:30 am. Once inside, if you want the full experience, I recommend paying the separate admission for entry to Palo d’Oro and Marciana Museum. We finished up our visit by 10:40 and picked up our bags before heading over to Doge’s Palace.
You can expect to spend 30 minutes to an hour inside the basilica. I whole-heartedly recommend, advise even, that you book a skip the line pass in advance. For only 3 Euros, you will save a ton of time. Otherwise, you will spend hours waiting in line for what is a relatively short visit in comparison. Also, there is a restroom upstairs if you need it.
11:25 am Doge’s Palace
Palazzo Ducale (Doge’s Palace) is just to the right of Basilica San Marco and a 5-minute walk from Ateneo San Basso. I HIGHLY recommend booking the Secret Itineraries Tour which begins at 11:35. This tour will take you to parts of the palace not accessible to the general public. Take advantage of a restroom break here. Since you are a patron, it is free to use. Otherwise, restrooms in Italy will cost at least 1 euro per use.
Fun fact: The Doge’s Palace is where the famous lover, Casanova, was jailed. The Secret Itineraries Tour will guide you to his cell and tell you the story of how his antics, wit, and charm imprisoned him and later gained him an escape.
You can expect to spend 1.5 to 2 hours touring the Doge’s Palace depending on your interest. The guided tour is 75 minutes and you are free to explore independently afterward. If you decide to take the Secret Itineraries Tour, that must be booked in advance and it sells out fast.
Learn more or book the Secret Itineraries Tour.
1:30 pm Lunch
My only advice here is not to eat at the restaurants on St. Mark’s Square. These spots exist solely for tourists. The only thing you will find is an over-priced meal that is mediocre at best. If you find it easiest to stop and eat at a cafe on the Square, set your expectations low to avoid disappointment.
Afternoon in Venice: Option 1
2:30 pm Murano Island
Murano Island is a gem. This neighboring island is known for glass blowing and glass art. Visit a glass blowing factory, wander through shops, explore the museum or simply enjoy the charm of Murano. One important factor to keep in mind is that most shops in Murano shut down by about 5:30 pm. The museum is open until 6 but the ticket office closes at 5 pm.
Afternoon in Venice: Option 2
2:30 pm Peggy Guggenheim Museum
Hop over the Grand Canal and visit the Peggy Guggenheim Collection displayed throughout an 18th-century palace she once called home. This museum features the private collection of Peggy Guggenheim including works by Picasso. It’s a relatively small gallery, but worth a stop if you appreciate modern art.
4:00 pm Gallerie dell’Accademia
Depending on how long you spend appreciating the Guggenheim Collection, you might have time to walk over to the Academia to view an impressive collection of pre-19th-century art. The artwork on display at the Accademia include pieces from the Byzantine, Gothic and Renaissance era and feature artists such as Bellini, Carpaccio, and Leonardo da Vinci.
Evening in Venice
6:00 pm Enjoy a Gondola Ride and Visit Rialto Bridge
Riding in a gondola might be the biggest tourist trap known to mankind but, if you can splurge (it’s not cheap), you should absolutely go for it. If you want to save money, ride before 7:00 pm when prices go up. After your gondola ride, take to the streets and explore the Rialto Market. If you’re in need of a snack grab some wine and Cicchetti. Cicchetti is basically Italy’s version of tapas. It’s not a meal, although you could certainly turn it into one! A popular way to explore Venice is through a Cicchetti Crawl. In other words, go from one bar to the next sampling various Cicchetti.
8:30 pm Dinner
In Venice, I would encourage a reservation if you want a good meal in a non-touristy restaurant. I prefer to eat at local joints so that I can get a real feel and flavor of the area, but there are all kinds of restaurants in the tourist areas. That said, local joints are often much cheaper and much tastier!
If you head over to Murano, I highly recommend Osteria al Duomo. It’s a local favorite with excellent food. We learned that many locals actually cross over to Murano for dinner since there aren’t many restaurants in Venice that haven’t altered their standard for tourists. At Osteria al Duomo, be prepared to pop out your translator to read the menu if you aren’t familiar with Italian.
Alternate Activites for Your Day in Venice
- Free Venice Walking Tour – Various meeting points. Walks are free, but tips are appreciated and reservations are required. Learn more about free walking tours in Venice.
- Grand Canal Tour – Check with your hotel. Some hotels in Venice offer complimentary or special rate passes. Otherwise, you can book a 60 minute Grand Canal Tour here.
- Visit the Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute – Take a peek inside this classic Grand Canal icon. Entrance is free.
- Go Shopping – There is no shortage of local boutiques and luxury shops along the streets of Venice. Start at Piazza San Marco or Rialto Market.
Other Helpful Tips for Your Trip to Venice
- Eat a good breakfast! You have a big day ahead of you. Kick it off with a full belly.
- Be kind to your feet. You will easily walk several miles a day in Italy so be sure to wear comfortable walking shoes. I recommend Ecco Soft 7 available in both men and women’s sizes.
- Take along a refillable water bottle. Tap water is safe and available for free throughout Italy. Fill up at the public water fountains. Amazon has a variety of collapsible water bottles that will work well and save space in your bag.
- Pack snacks. You may walk 7 or 8 miles a day in Venice. Have a snack ready in your bag for a quick bite between meals.
- Stop at a local cafe for a quick shot of energy, aka espresso, to pull you through the afternoon slump.
- Purchase a single use or 24-hour pass for the vaporetto before boarding. Never board the vaporetto without a ticket. Passengers are randomly checked and if you don’t have a valid ticket, the fine is steep. These passes can be purchased at the Hello Venezia kiosk located outside the Santa Lucia train station or at the machines located at each vaporetto ferry stop. If you are in Venice for more than one day, you can purchase an extended pass.
- Take along Rick Steves’ Italy travel guide. It helps a ton!
- Learn a few basic phrases in Italian. Many speak English but locals will appreciate your effort.
- You’re in Italy, treat yourself! Don’t forget to try a gelato scoop or two.
- Lastly, check out this guide to Venice on a budget for more money-saving ideas.