I visited Venice for the first time in 2016, and to be entirely honest, after experiencing the extreme crowds I wasn’t sure if I’d ever make it back. Don’t get me wrong, Venice is stunning and there’s absolutely no question that it is one of the most beautiful places in Italy. But it also means that Venice receives an overwhelming number of international tourists: an estimated 30-plus million each year. The crowds can be unbearable, and though I loved our 2 days in Venice I wasn’t rushing to get back.
When we planned our annual trip to Italy this year, Venice wasn’t on the original list – but my mum and boyfriend talked me into going back, and boy am I glad I did. This past trip allowed me to not only check out some of the top sights in Venice with a fresh pair of eyes, but also to explore deeper beyond the popular landmarks and venture away from the crowds. If you’re planning a trip to Venice, I highly recommend staying a little longer and also visiting places in Venice that are lesser-known hidden gems. Read on for how to organize your 4 day trip to Venice! But first, a few basics that you should know.
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How to get to Venice
By plane: Venice has its own international airport – Venice’s Marco Polo Airport (airport code: VCE).
By train from Rome to Venice: Trains travel frequently between Roma Termini and Venezia Santa Lucia – the journey takes approximately 4 hours.
By train from Florence to Venice: There are many direct trains that travel from Firenze S. M. Novella to Venezia Santa Lucia – the journey takes just over 2 hours.
By train from Milan to Venice: There are several direct trains from Milano Centrale to Venezia Santa Lucia each day – the journey takes approximately 2 hours.
I do not recommend driving to Venice – cars are not allowed in the main city and you’ll have to park outside the lagoon.
Read more about Italy’s train system and other essential things to know before visiting Italy here.
The best time of year to visit Venice
The peak travel season in Venice runs from June to September during the summer months. During this time, you can expect heavy crowds at the main attractions in Venice and higher accommodation prices around the city.
I recommend visiting Venice during the shoulder or off-peak season. If you travel to Venice during the shoulder season from April to May or September to November then you can enjoy warm(ish) weather and thinner crowds. If you travel to Venice during the off-peak season from November through to March then the weather can be cooler, but Venice is still beautiful during the winter months. February is also when the fascinating Carnevale festival takes place and colourful traditional Venetian masks take over the streets.
How to get around Venice
Getting around Venice via public transport is fairly easy and you can cover a lot of ground in Venice in 4 days. Venice’s canals are well-connected by vaporettos, or small water buses that run on fixed schedules. You can also get around on foot if you’re not in a hurry – this is a great way to see some of the quieter nooks and crannies in Venice.
How to buy Venice vaporetto tickets: You can buy tickets for 1, 2, 3 and 7 days (20, 30, 40 and 60 Euros respectively) – definitely buy a multi-day ticket if you are spending 4 days in Venice. You might be able to get away with using a 3-day pass (valid for 72 hours from the first use) if you are, for example, arriving late on day 1 and leaving early on day 4 or vice versa; otherwise, just buy a 3-day pass and separate 1-day pass.
You can buy Venice vaporetto tickets from manned counters or self-service machines at major stops (check locations marked in blue here), or click here to buy your ticket online ahead of time and pick up your physical ticket from one of the self-service machines. Using Klook for the first time? Sign up for a Klook account using this referral link and get US$3.5 off your first travel booking!
Before you hop on a vaporetto, make sure you validate your ticket by swiping it over the validation machine at the gate as heavy fines are handed out for anyone without a valid ticket. If you’ve somehow forgotten your ticket or hopped on a vaporetto without one then approach the staff on board immediately and pay for a ticket in cash; however, they only sell daily passes on board.
Where to stay in Venice
If you are spending 3 or 4 days in Venice then I highly recommend booking one of the Ca’ degli Oresi apartments. These family-run apartments are a stone’s throw from the Sam Samuele vaporetto stop and a short walk away from both the Accademia Bridge and San Marco’s Square. The apartment we stayed in made us feel at home in Venice – it is extremely spacious and comfortable, and was only recently completely renovated in 2018.
We loved having access to the full kitchen so that we could stock up on groceries and have a hearty breakfast on the beautiful private terrace! The apartment also had 2 separate bathrooms which makes it perfect for people who are traveling as a group or with family. Like many older buildings in Venice, there is no elevator so it is not ideal for anyone with mobility issues. Does this sound like the right place for you? Click here to book your stay at Ca’ degli Oresi!
Tip: If you want to stay close to the main attractions, the best areas to stay in Venice are San Marco or close to the Ponte dell’Accademia in Dorsoduro. Click here to view other accommodation options in Venice’s city center!
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How long to spend in Venice
Wondering how many days you need in Venice? Venice is not actually a massive city and has a fairly efficient public transport network, which means that you can do and see a lot in just 2 to 3 days in Venice. However, if you can stay longer then I strongly recommend spending 4 nights in Venice so that you can immerse yourself in the city, and also have time to hop on a ferry to explore Murano and Burano.
That being said, I understand that not everyone can apply for weeks and weeks of time off from work, or you might also be planning to visit other places in Italy with your limited time in the country. If you are short on time, then I recommend checking out this express 2 day Venice travel guide instead!
How to be a responsible tourist in Venice
Venice has long been plagued with overtourism, and officials have struggled to find a way to balance the income that tourism brings to the city with the livelihood and welfare of its residents. The city has even launched a “Detourism” campaign to promote slow and sustainable tourism in Venice. Here are some ways to generate a low impact on the surrounding environment and community, and appreciate and experience Venice to the fullest:
- Stay longer: Did you know that only about one-fifth of all visitors to Venice spend at least one night in the historic centre? One of the main stressors that contributes to overtourism in Venice is an influx of daytrippers from cruise ships. Not only do cruise ship passengers flood the city, cruise ships have also caused significant environmental damage to the city’s waterways and lagoons. As a result, the city is planning on implementing a “daytripper tax” that will go towards costs such as waste and security management. If you are visiting Venice, consider staying longer – you will be charged a city tax that goes towards city management, and you’ll be able to see more of Venice beyond the famous landmarks.
- Visit during the off-peak season: A more even spread of visitors throughout the year reduces pressure on natural environments and on communities.
- Take public transportation: By taking public transportation you can minimize your environmental impact and reduce motor traffic in the lagoon.
- Stay in a licensed hotel or guesthouse: Many residents are being pushed out of the city so that housing can be used for short-stay accommodation. Instead, stay in a licensed hotel or a small family-run guesthouse that is not managed by property agents and real estate companies. Also make sure that you pay the mandatory city tax – between 3.5-5 Euros per night, per person.
- Be mindful of water usage: It is perfectly safe to drink tap water in Venice, so bring your own refillable water bottle. You should also minimize your water usage – take shorter showers and don’t leave the taps running.
- Be respectful: Do as the Venetians do – don’t obstruct bridges and paths, walk on the right side of the street and alleyways, do not litter and definitely do not swim in the canals. You should also avoid taking photos of people without their express permission.
What to see in Venice in 4 days
This 4 day Venice itinerary covers not only the most iconic places to see in Venice but also the lesser-known attractions that probably aren’t in your guidebook. Short on time? If you don’t have enough time then you can also consider reading this guide for how to spend 48 hours in Venice.
Day 1: See the sights around Piazza San Marco
On your first day in Venice, visit the most famous public square in the city and feast your eyes on the city’s most famous (and opulent) church: St. Mark’s Basilica or Basilica di San Marco.
Next, head next door to take the elevator up the St. Mark’s Campanile and view Venice from this incredible bell tower. In the past, only VIP guests were allowed to visit the bell tower as Venice’s Lords were wary about granting permission to foreigners to enter in case they used it as an opportunity to survey the city’s layout and ports for military purposes.
After you’ve admired the city and its lagoons from above, head back downstairs to the neigbouring Palazzo Ducale or Doge’s Palace.
Explore the palace’s courtyard, armoury, chambers and prisons before stepping outside to view the Bridge of Sighs or Ponte dei Sospiri – a famous bridge that derives its name from the sighs that prisoners would let out before they were taken to their cells.
Finally, head to the San Zaccaria vaporetto stop next to the Doge’s Palace and hop on the Line 2 vaporetto to visit Chiesa Di San Giorgio Maggiore. The Church of San Giorgio Maggiore is in a quiet islet across the canal and offers a view back towards the heart of Venice from its own bell tower.
In the evening, have dinner at A Beccafico, a Venetian restaurant specializing in seafood and steps away from the square. After dinner, head back to the Piazza San Marco or St. Mark’s Square to listen to heart-tugging live music from the orchestras that play at the restaurants. We love having a drink and listening to the music at Caffe Quadri!
Day 2: Discover Dorsoduro and the bridges of Venice
From your hotel, take the line 1 or 2 vaporetto or walk towards Ponte di Rialto or the Rialto Bridge, your first stop of the day. The Rialto Bridge is the oldest of the four bridges that span the Grand Canal. If you are keen to go on a gondola ride then this is a good place to hop on one – prices are standardized, though not cheap for a relatively short ride. Is a gondola ride worth it? It depends: many people think it’s overrated so it’s all a matter of personal opinion! We paid 80 Euros for a private ride and we had a great time, though one ride is probably enough.
Next, head south towards San Pantalon, a Catholic church with an unassuming facade, but just wait until you step inside. The roof features a unique and impressive painted ceiling made up of 40 different canvases that cover more than 400 square metres. The painting presents the Martyrdom and the Glory of Saint Pantaleone and dates back to the 17th century.
After you’ve admired the stunning ceiling mural, head to the Accademia Bridge or Ponte dell’Accademia for a breathtaking view over the Grand Canal. This steel bridge offers up some of the most sensational views of the Grand Canal throughout the day, and you’ll want to stop by a few times during your 4 days in Venice to view the canal during the day, at sunset and in the evening.
From there, stroll over to the Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute on the eastern tip of Dorsoduro. The double dome of the Basilica della Salute is an iconic structure in Venice, and features a stunning interior with a central dome and patterned mosaic floor. Entrance is free, but you will need to dress appropriately (covered shoulders and knees) in order to enter the basilica.
Either head back to the Accademia Bridge for the sunset or have dinner at a “secret garden” in Venice: Antica Locanda Montin. The food is some of the best in Venice, and the service is stellar as well. Don’t skip the mouthwatering homemade dessert!
HOTEL RECOMMENDATIONS: Stay somewhere centrally-located if you are spending 4 days in Venice. We have previously stayed at the Hotel Bel Sito, a lovely little hotel located steps away from the Giglio vaporetto stop, as well as Ca’ degli Oresi which is better suited if you’re traveling as a group or with family. If you want to stay close to the main attractions, look for accommodation in San Marco or close to the Ponte dell’Accademia in Dorsoduro.
Day 3: Day trip to Burano and Murano
Venice is actually made up of more than 100 islands. 2 such islands can easily be reached by vaporettos: Burano and Murano. Burano is well-known for its multi-coloured houses and picturesque canals, and is easily reachable via the line 14 vaporetto from the Zaccaria stop near the Doge’s Palace. The ferry ride takes approximately 1 hour but make sure you are punctual as ferries are not that frequent.
Spend the early afternoon wandering around the rainbow streets, have lunch at Trattoria Al Gatto Nero (bookings essential) and eat some fresh gelato. When you are walking around Burano, please be mindful that residents are just trying to go about their everyday lives – please don’t take photos into people’s homes and don’t block their front doors.
Burano is known for its intricate lace craftsmanship, so you can also consider picking up a souvenir or two. After a few hours on Burano, hop on the line 12 vaporetto to Murano. The ferry ride will take just under 30 minutes.
Murano is another quiet Venetian island that is a popular day trip from Venice. It is well known for glass-making and there are a number of glass factories on the island. Go for a stroll around the island and take in the beautiful architecture and canals. There are several vaporettos from Murano that will take you back to the main island.
Once you’ve arrived back on the main island, I recommend heading back to the Accademia Bridge to catch the sunset if you haven’t done so already. There is a small restaurant (Bar Foscarini) next to the bridge if you want a drink and food to go with the view, and while we’ve had fairly positive experiences here the reviews are mixed from other guests.
Ready to plan your day trip to Burano? Check out some more travel photos from Burano here!
Day 4: Wander around the underrated Castello region
The sprawling neighbourhood of Castello borders San Marco and is on the eastern end of the main island of Venice. If you are tired of the crowds and want to get off-the-beaten-track in Venice then you’ll love Castello – it’s full of quiet restaurants and cafes and provides a precious glimpse into everyday life in Venice.
Make sure you stop by the Chiesa di San Zaccaria, a Gothic-Renaissance church filled with artwork, before making your way on foot to the Venetian Arsenal or Arsenale di Venezia. The Venetian Arsenal is a state shipyard and armory built in the 12th century, and was the the largest naval factory in the world; it is also where Venice developed methods of mass-producing warships. There is a naval museum where you can learn more about the maritime and naval history of Venice.
Keep strolling east until you reach the Basilica of San Pietro di Castello, a Roman Catholic church and one of the oldest churches in Venice. There is a small fee to enter the church for tourists, and you will need to cover your shoulders and knees.
One of my favourite parts about visiting Castello was that we were able to wind and weave our way through narrow alleyways and quiet streets lined with rows and rows of laundry. There were times when there were no other tourists in sight, and it was a much-needed reprieve from the heavy crowds surrounding Piazza San Marco. Castello is also home to some of Venice’s best parks and gardens – get lost in the foliage and greenery!
Castello is also home to one of the absolute best restaurants in Venice: Nevodi. The restaurant is almost always fully booked and one of the only restaurants that stays open for lunch past 2 PM, so make sure you call ahead to reserve a table!
Have more than 4 days in Venice? Lucky you! You might want to consider doing a day trip to visit Verona or spending another day or two exploring all of Venice’s hidden gems – you never know what treasure you’ll stumble upon! I hope this 4 day Venice itinerary has given a better sense of how to plan your trip. If you found this helpful, please share it with friends or family who are traveling to Venice, or feel free to pin it for later!
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