Venice is without doubt one of our favourite cities in Europe, and when we came to choose somewhere to hold a small wedding ceremony for our wedding, Venice was our pick.
If you’re visiting Venice for one day, as is often the way, you might be wondering what you should do. Well, in this post, I’m going to tell you everything you should do with one day in Venice.
Venice is a city that just captures my imagination in a way that few other cities are capable of. It’s a maze of tiny streets, a collection of islands linked by bridges and waterways, and the whole thing is possibly going to sink one day. There is art, music, architecture and food.
Most importantly of all, perhaps, the whole place is pedestrianized, what with there being no roads capable of fitting a car on. Seriously awesome for someone who loves to get to know a place by foot, like me.
So. When you’re in Venice for a day – what should you do? Here’s the answer!
1 Day in Venice
Visit St. Mark’s Square
St. Mark’s square, or Piazza San Marco, is an absolute must for any visit to Venice, and the starting point of our one day Venice itinerary.
One of my most enduring travel memories is having the whole square to myself during an immense thunderstorm, when everyone (including the pigeons!) scurried for cover, and I didn’t. I ended up somewhat wet, but happy. It’s also where we held our impromptu wedding ceremony with friends and family. Suffice to say, a special place for both of us.
The Square is home to a number of sights that are worth taking some time to look at. First, I’d highly recommend getting your legs into shape with a quick scoot up the Campanile di San Marco – the large bell tower at the corner of the square.
This will afford you with quite splendid views across Venice, and the surrounding lagoon and islands. The orientation probably won’t save you from getting hopelessly lost down the many back streets, but it’s great for taking some panoramic photos all the same.
Back down at ground level, you’ll want to take in the Basilica di San Marco. This is one of the most famous churches in Venice, and it’s also handily free, which is a rarity in this town. If you’d prefer not to queue however, you can book a skip the line ticket for €3 from the official website here. This is probably worth it in the busier months of June – September.
Around the Piazza there are also a great number of museums and other churches, as well as the Doge’s Palace. Entry to these is not normally free, although you can save money by buying a ticket that gets you access to multiple venues, like this.
If you do want to visit these, we can recommend doing so on a guided tour – see our guide to visiting St. Mark’s Basilica and the Doge’s Palace for more on these.
Otherwise, the square is also home to a number of cafes, many of which have live orchestral music.
You’ll pay handsomely for the privilege, but sitting in this square listening to classic music and enjoying a cup of fine Italian coffee is an experience that everyone should have at least once in their life. Apologise to your wallet later!
One of my favourite views in Venice is the one down the Grand Canal from the Ponte dell’Accademia. This is no more than 15 minutes walk from St. Mark’s Square.
Here you’ll see the boats and gondolas making their way up and down the canal, with the Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute framing the view at the end. It’s a wonderful spot for getting a classic photograph of Venice.
Arguably the most famous of all the bridges in Venice, the Rialto bridge is also the oldest bridge spanning the Grand Canal in Venice.
It was originally built as a pontoon bridge back in the 12th century, although the present version dates back to the late 16th century.
The Rialto bridge gets its name from the Rialto market which sits on the eastern bank of the river. The bridge was created to link this market with the western bank. The bridge has a covered central section which is home to shops and markets, with pedestrian access on either side.
It’s obviously a popular place to visit, but still a must when in Venice for a day!
Now then. Venice is a city of waterways, and no visit to Venice is really complete without a trip on some form of water borne transportation.
If you’re travelling with your significant other, and your idea of heaven is a gentle meander down the back waterways of Venice, just the two of you, luxuriating on some pillows while a muscle bound man serenades you.. well.. you’ll sure be able to find an experience approximating that.
Although, as with the coffee in St. Mark’s Square, it’s an experience you best keep secret from your savings account. Our recommendation for taking a gondola ride is to do it as part of a guided tour which includes a gondola ride, like this.
Alternatively, you can book a shared gondola ride here, or a private gondola ride here. Be aware that prices are set by the city for Gondola rides, and they depend on factors like duration and time of day.
Expect to pay €80 for a 25-30 minute private tour in the day, and more at night or for a longer tour. Usually in person prices for the private tours are better value than booking in advance, although at busier times of year booking in advance can save you queuing.
If you’re not overly romantic, and you just want to experience Venice from the water, then you have no shortage of options. If your heart is set on a gondola, then you can take a gondola taxi from one side of the river to the other. It’ll be over quickly, but as least you can tick the gondola box.
Alternatively, there are water taxis, water buses, and water sight seeing tours. Take everything you would normally find on a road, imagine it on the water, and you will find it in Venice. Whichever one you do, you’ll be sure to enjoy it!
Bridge of Sighs and Doge’s Palace
Just beyond St. Mark’s Square is the Doge’s Palace, which was home to the Doge of Venice. The Doge was the ruler of the Venetian Republic, and the most powerful person in the city.
Just next to the Doge’s Palace is the Ponte dei Sospiri, or Bridge of Sighs. This links the interrogation rooms of the Doge’s Palace with the next door prison across the Rio di Palazzo.
The bridge, which dates from 1600, was used to take prisoners from the Doge’s Palace to the prison. The name originates from the notion that as prisoners crossed the bridge, they would sigh as they had their last glimpses of Venice before being incarcerated and executed.
Whilst this sounds wonderfully romantic, it’s likely not really true, as by the time the bridge was built the prisoners were generally just petty criminals who weren’t executed. Plus, the view from inside the bridge isn’t exactly amazing. Still, it’s a nice story, and the bridge itself is very pretty.
Back Streets of Venice
Venice has a lot going for it, with churches, museums and incredible bits of architecture literally jumping out at you on every corner.
The other thing that Venice has is a lot of people. The funny thing though, is that most visitors seem to stick to the main street that takes you on a big loop past all the main highlights.
If you duck off the main streets, as I usually do, you will find yourself in a maze of back alleys. I’d advise abandoning the map and just giving up on trying to maintain any sense of direction – just wander freely and lost. Venice is, after all, an island, and you won’t be lost forever.
You will, however, be rewarded with a side of Venice that is often overlooked and far less busy than the main thoroughfares. And then you will realise why Venice is my favourite city in Europe.
Murano & Burano
The most well known part of Venice is the central area made up 118 islands. But there are more parts of Venice that are worth a visit.
For example, the four islands of Burano are well worth a visit, with their colourful houses and slightly more laid back feel.
There are many more islands, including Murano and Torcello. My point is – don’t forget that Venice extends beyond the central area that you will first come upon, and has plenty of opportunities for exploring! Don’t be afraid to jump on a boat and get out there.
When to go to Venice and other Practicalities
Venice gets very warm (and very crowded!) in the summer months of June through to August, although you can escape the crowds by hitting the back streets. Also in February / March, Venice has a huge carnival, which is another very busy time to visit.
My preferred time to visit Venice would be the quieter shoulder months, when it is a little cooler and likely to be less busy. So that would be March – May, and September – November. Although this is a tourist town, so don’t expect to be on your own whichever time of year you choose to visit.
If you want to visit the churches, remember that it’s common practice for there to be a dress code, which usually means no short skirts or bare shoulders. You don’t want to be turned away after queuing for a long time, so make sure you are dressed appropriately!
Where to Park in Venice
Venice is a car-free city, so if you visit by car you will need to park in one of the parking locations outside the city. There are a number of these available, at varying price points and distances from the city.
When we have travelled by car, we’ve often used the Parclick service to find and book car parking spaces in advance. This service lists parking locations in a number of countries in Europe, and we appreciate that it lets us find a space in advance and pay, so we know we are both guaranteed a spot, and we don’t have to worry about how much it will cost.
You can see the various car parking options near Venice on Parclick here.
Where to Stay in Venice
Finding the best deal on your accommodation is an important part of trip planning – helping you to get the most from your budget, as well as find the property that is right for you.
Here are some property suggestions if you decide to stay overnight in Venice.
- Venezia Naturalmente – this centrally located well rated hostel / guesthouse offers dormitory accommodation just five minutes walk from St. Mark’s Square. There’s also a communal kitchen and Wifi.
- Combo Venezia – found in a renovated 12th century monastery, this is a great value hostel featuring both shared and private rooms. There’s a kitchen, on-site bar and restaurant, and it’s 10 minutes walk from the Rialto bridge.
- Casa Cosmo – a great value well rated budget option, five minutes walk from St. Mark’s Square and the Rialto Bridge. Rooms are air conditioned and are en-suite
- B&B Bloom Settimo Cielo – A highly rated and good value B&B breakfast, 10 minutes from St. Mark’s Square and the Rialto Bridge. Individually designed rooms have en-suite facilities, and there’s a rooftop terrace
- Leon Bianco on the Grand Canal – this historic property with Grand Canal views is where we stayed for our wedding ceremony in Venice. The views are fantastic, and it’s amazing value for the location
- Ruzzini Palace Hotel – a centrally located and very well reviewed 4* hotel, just ten minutes walk from the Rialto bridge and other attractions.
- Hotel Saturnia & International – a lovely 4* hotel just moments from Saint Mark’s Square, this turn of the century hotel offers en-suite rooms, a terrace with views, and an on-site restaurant.
- Baglioni Hotel Luna – just 100 yards from St. Mark’s Square, this is a fantastic 5* property with wonderful reviews. Rooms feature antique furniture, Murano glass chandeliers and marble bathrooms. A wonderful high end option for Venice.
- The Gritti Palace – if you’re after a luxury 5* hotel in Venice, this hotel should definitely be on your shortlist. Just 550 yards from St. Marks’ Square, this is one of the most famous hotels in Venice.
Of course, Venice has many more accommodation options than the four above, across a variety of price points and styles. Our favourite way to find the best deals on accommodation is booking.com. They’re easy to use, usually have the best prices, and have everything from hotels to apartments.
See all the listings on booking.com for Venice here.
Plum Guide carefully curate their listings so their options tend to be of a very high quality whilst still being available at a range of price points. See their listings for Venice here.
We’ve also used AirBnB all around the world, and they consistently have the most options to choose from. See their listings for Venice here.
If you can’t find what you want from the above choices, or you want some new options to try out, we wrote a whole post on the best alternatives to AirBnB which you should check out!
Tours of Venice
If you are visiting Venice for only a short time, a great way to get a detailed overview of the city is to take a walking tour. We’ve taken a number of walking tours in the city, and have always learnt a lot.
There are a few different walking tour options, depending on your interests. You can take a shorter introductory tour, or a longer tour that will cover much of the cities highlights. There are also specialist tours which get you into places you might not normally be able to access. Here are some of our recommended tours in Venice.
- A 1 day tour of Venice including St. Mark’s Basilica, Doge’s Palace, & Gondola Ride – this full day tour of the city with our favourite walking tour company Take Walks ticks all the boxes. You’ll see the main highlights of the city, go inside the Basilica and Doge’s Palace, and even take a gondola ride. We’ve taken this tour and can highly recommend it.
- If you don’t have time for the above tour, this is a shorter version which still includes a Gondola Ride and St. Mark’s Basilica
- Want to see Venice from the water? How about this Venice Boat Tour With Grand Canal And Tower Climb
- St. Mark’s Basilica is a really popular place to visit. But what if I told you could you experience it without the crowds? Well, you can, by taking this excellent tour. We’ve done this one too, and loved having such a popular location almost to ourselves. There’s also a version which includes the Doge’s Palace.
- Want to learn more about the food of Venice? Check out this Venice Food Tour. This includes food, drinks, and even a gondola ride.
- Finally, if you want to spend some time outside of the central city of Venice, check out this Full Day Venice Island Boat Trip. This visits Murano and Burano, and even includes wine tasting.
Hopefully this gives you some ideas of the tours available to you when visiting Venice.
Venice City Passes
As with many cities around the world, Venice has a number of passes that get you discounted or free admission to some of the many attractions on offer. These can definitely save you money if you plan on visiting a number of attraction. Just be sure that you will take full advantage of them before investing to be sure. Here are some of the passes you might consider for Venice.
For a day in Venice, we recommend the Venice City Pass. This includes entry to the majority of museums and churches you will want to visit in Venice, including the Doge’s Palace. There’s also the option to include transport.
Hopefully this guide gives you lots of ideas for what to do in Venice for a day. Before you head off, we wanted to share some other content and resources we think you’ll find helpful for planning your time in Venice and Italy in general.
- For Vence, we have a guide to visiting the Doge’s Palace & St. Mark’s Basilica, as well as our thoughts on a tour of Casanova’s Venice
- For Rome,we have a guide to a day in Rome, 2 days in Rome and 3 days in Rome
- We also have a guide to the best gelato in Rome, the best cafes in Rome, visiting the Borghese Gallery in Rome, visiting the Colosseum in Rome and our thoughts on taking a walking tour in Rome
- If you’re heading to Milan, check out our guide to things to do in Milan
- We also have a detailed 10 day Italy itinerary to help you plan a trip in this wonderful country
- If you plan on visiting Italy as part of a wider tour of Europe, see our guide to a 2 week European itinerary for tips on a suggested route and itinerary
- Investing in a guidebook can help save you time and money on your trip and help you be prepared. For Venice, check out the DK Eyewitness Venice guide. For Europe in general, we recommend the Rick Steves Best of Europe guide, Lonely Planet’s Western Europe guidebook and/or the Insight Guide to Western Europe
And that’s it for our guide to visiting Venice for a day! So – have I sold you on Venice? Let us know your thoughts and of course, if you have any comments or questions, pop them on the site using the form below, and we’ll get back to you as soon as we can!