If you thought that Rome was overrun by tourists, wait until you visit Venice. After visiting Florence, the sheer number of people was completely and utterly overwhelming, so much so that we had (briefly) contemplated heading back to Florence and cutting our stay in Venice short.
Nevertheless, the beauty of Venice is the stuff of legends and is a destination that everyone should visit at least once in their lives. Compared with Florence, everything is pricier – accommodation, transportation, food, entrance to monuments; this, coupled with the fact that Venice is not actually a massive city, means that 2 to 3 days in Venice is probably plenty. Want to explore Venice in 2 days? Read on for 6 places you must check out during your visit!
Planning a trip to Italy for the first time? Click here for 14 things you should know before you go to Italy or head on over here for even more Italy travel tips and guides
How to get to Venice
By plane: Most flights to Venice land at Venice’s Marco Polo Airport (airport code: VCE)
By train from Rome to Venice: The direct train from Roma Termini to Venezia Santa Lucia takes just under 4 hours, and there are plenty of trains each day between the two cities. You can check train timetables here.
By train from Florence to Venice: The direct train from Firenze S. M. Novella to Venezia Santa Lucia takes just over 2 hours, and there are trains every hour or so. You can check train timetables here.
By cruise: Many cruise ships stop in Venice and day trippers swarm the city. Venice has proposed a tourism tax for day trippers to be implemented from May 1st 2019 onwards, but plans have been criticized by Italy’s tourism minister.
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
We traveled to Venice in April, and while it wasn’t the peak season, I was already overwhelmed by the crowds. I can only imagine how busy the city gets from June to September. The weather in April was unusually cold with thunderstorms, but as long we were properly dressed it was manageable.
In general, the best time to visit Venice and other crowd-heavy areas in Italy like Cinque Terre or the Amalfi Coast are outside of the peak summer travel season: April and May, or September to November. The weather is still warm and the crowds tend to thin out ever so slightly.
However, you should bear in mind that Venice typically experiences “high water” from October to about January, and in 2018 it experienced the worst flooding in a decade.
If you don’t mind the cold, then winter is a great time to visit Venice – as long as you wear warm clothes as Venice’s winters tend to be cooler than elsewhere in Italy. February is when the fascinating Carnevale festival takes place and colourful gilded masks take over the streets – time your trip during the two weeks before Easter if you want to witness the festival! Check out the various Carnevale events here.
How to get around Venice
Once you’ve arrived in Venice, getting around is fairly easy and you can cover a lot of ground in Venice in 2 days. Venice’s canals are connected by vaporettos, or small water buses that run on fixed schedules.
Venice Vaporetto tickets: You can buy tickets for 1, 2, 3 and 7 days (20, 30, 40 and 60 Euros respectively) and these are far, far more economical than buying a single pass – definitely buy a multi-day ticket if you have more than 48 hours in Venice. Before you hop on a vaporetto, make sure you validate your ticket as there are public transport officers who hand out fines for anyone without a valid ticket; if you don’t have a ticket and need one (not every stop has a ticket office), approach the staff on board and pay for a ticket in cash (they only sell daily passes).
It can be confusing when you’re trying to figure out the Venice water bus routes, if you’re not sure which vaporetto to take, hop on Google Maps as it is linked to the ferry operator’s data – be warned, however, that I found that the routes Google Maps told me to take were not always the most direct.
For example, from the Giglio stop, the app told me to get off a few stops early and then walk to the Rialto Bridge – but the vaporetto actually stops directly at the bridge. If you’re not sure, ask the staff on board. I’ve never met such incredibly patient people: every day, they get asked 10,000 times what the next stop is, if so-and-so is the right stop to get to Saint Mark’s Square and not to mention have to shimmy their way past dozens to people to open and close the gates on either side of the boat.
You’re most likely to frequent the Line 1 vaporetto as it zooms up and down the Grand Canal – for this reason, it is also the most scenic route so try to stand at the edge of the middle section for stunning views of historic buildings and palaces that face the water. The Line 1 will also take you to most of the places in the list below.
Where to stay in Venice
There are plenty of hotels in Venice, but hotels tend to be pricey so be prepared to splurge. We stayed at the Hotel Bel Sito, a lovely little hotel located steps away from the Giglio vaporetto stop. The rooms, while on the smaller side, were clean and comfortable, the breakfast spread was good and most importantly, it is amazingly convenient to get anywhere – it is a 8-10 minute walk away from San Marco’s Square, 5 minutes from the Ponte dell’Accademia, and the line 1 vaporetto serves the Giglio stop so you can get almost anywhere up and down the Grand Canal.
If you are flying in/out of the Marco Polo International Airport, the Alilaguna water bus also stops here and tickets can be purchased on board. Click here to book your stay at Hotel Bel Sito!
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!
6 must-see places you should visit if you only have 2 days in Venice
1. Piazza San Marco / St Mark’s Basilica
Your first destination is a twofer. Head to this popular square and feast your eyes on the city’s most famous (and opulent) church. The square gets extremely busy and reminiscent of Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds: not for any traveler with ornithophobia (a fear of birds)!
The gilded church gained the status as a symbol of Venetian wealth and power and is also known as Chiesa d’Oro, the Church of Gold. Come back at night to listen to four-piece orchestras take turns playing enchanting live music!
There are plenty of accommodation options around this main square in Venice, and it is well-connected from the train station and airport via vaporettos. We stayed at Hotel Bel Sito, which was a quick 8-10 minute stroll away from Piazza San Marco.
The walk is extremely picturesque and the breakfast selection is fantastic. Try asking for a room with a small balcony! Click here to book your stay at Hotel Bel Sito!
2. Campanile di San Marco
This bell tower is about 99 metres tall, about 15 metres taller than Giotto’s Campanile in Florence’s Duomo Complex. The good news, however, is that this one has an elevator up to the top! The bell tower opens at 9:45 am each morning but closes at different times throughout the year. Click here for operating hours.
In the past, only VIP guests were offered a visit to the bell tower; even then, Venice’s Lords were wary about granting permission to foreigners to enter as they thought it may give them an opportunity to survey the city’s layout and ports for military purposes. Now, you can purchase tickets at 8 Euros a piece to get in! While the line to get in can be lengthy, the place is a constant revolving door so waiting times are manageable, and the view from the top is well worth it.
3. Palazzo Ducale (Doge’s Palace) / Bridge of Sighs
Another twofer! The Doge was the oldest and highest political position in the Venetian Republic. The Doge’s Palace is a wonderful place to spend a few hours one afternoon, especially if it’s grey and rainy like the day we visited.
Wind and weave your way through the main courtyard, the armoury, the chambers and prisons. Yes, you read that right. The prisons! This is where you can catch a glimpse of the Bridge of Sighs, or Ponte dei Sospiri (it even sounds melancholy in Italian), is named as such supposedly because of the sighs of prisoners who took a last look at freedom as they caught one last look over the Venetian lagoon before being taken to their cells.
The Palace is open from 8:30 am to 7 pm (last admission at 6 pm), and tickets can be purchased at 19 Euros. The ticket also grants entry to Museo Correr, Museo Archeologico Nazionale and the Sale monumentali della Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana, so don’t lose it like my mum did.
Looking for some Venice day trip ideas? Burano and Verona are 2 fantastic places to visit near Venice that are easily reachable by public transportation. Click here for my destination guide to Burano and click here for my Verona city guide!
An extremely underrated place in Venice, in my opinion. If you have an aversion to lines and queues and want to get off-the-beaten-path in Venice, then this is the place for you: the view from Campanile di San Marco is spectacular, no doubt about it, but the Church of San Giorgio Maggiore offers a view across the canal and back onto the heart of Venice. The entire place was rebuilt after an earthquake in 1223 destroyed all the buildings on the island. Add this to your Venice 2 day itinerary, pronto.
From the San Zaccaria vaporetto stop next to the Doge’s Palace, hop on the Line 2 for 1 stop and that’s it – you’re there! Entry into the church is free, but the elevator up to the top of the Bell Tower is 6 Euros.
5. Ponte Di Rialto
Unfortunately the exterior of the bridge was under renovation when we visited, but its old world glamour still shone through. There are only four bridges that span the Grand Canal, and the Rialto Bridge is the oldest of the four; it is also probably the most photographed and visited. Buy yourself some gelato (coffee and mint choc chip make a great combo) and take a leisurely stroll across the canal over the Rialto Bridge.
This is also a great place to hop onto a gondola from one of the smaller gondola ports, as the gondoliers take you under the bridge and through the narrow canals.
Is a gondola ride in Venice worth it? Let me start by saying that it is not cheap, but rates are standardized across the board. Gondola rides start at 80 Euros for approximately 40 minutes, and up to 6 people can fit in 1 gondola. If the price is a turn-off, skip it.
Many people think it’s overrated so it’s all a matter of personal opinion – my mum and I had a great time and we found it to be a unique experience. We also had a very polite and kind gondolier so sometime’s it’s down to the luck of the draw!
6. Ponte Dell’Accademia
Yes, the Rialto Bridge is spectacular, and yes, it is the oldest, but in my opinion it can’t hold a candle to the Accademia Bridge. This steel bridge, while not as grandiose (I didn’t even take any photos of it – oops!), offered up some of the most sensational and iconic views of the Grand Canal. It was the perfect spot to linger each afternoon to watch a veil of blue slowly drape its way over Venice.
HOTEL RECOMMENDATIONS: Only have 48 hours in Venice? Then you’ll want to stay somewhere centrally located. We stayed at the Hotel Bel Sito, a lovely little hotel located steps away from the Giglio vaporetto stop. 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.
Where to eat in Venice
Ristorante Pizzeria Santo Stefano: a lively restaurant with yummy pizza and a to-die-for carbonara.
A Beccafico: A slightly more ~fancy~ restaurant specializing in seafood. The linguine vongole is lip-smackingly good and the tiramisu is heavenly.
Need more recommendations for where to eat in Venice? Click here for a guide to finding great food in Venice.
Heading to other destinations in Italy and need some travel tips and recommendations? Head on over here for more Italy travel guides & tips!
It’s possible to see a lot of in Venice in 2 to 3 days. Once you’ve seen all the main sights, explore the hidden Venice by turning off Google Maps and getting lost around the city on foot. What are some of the other must-see places in Venice? Comment and tell me all about it below or pin this for later!
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