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…but thank goodness we didn’t!
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 4 days in Venice is probably plenty for your first trip (and believe me, you’ll want to revisit). Short on time and 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.
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.
By train from Milan to Venice: There are direct trains from Milano Centrale to Venezia Santa Lucia. The journey takes approximately 2 hours.
By cruise: Many cruise ships stop in Venice for passengers to disembark for day trips.
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 the first time around and October the second time, and while neither trips were during the peak season, I was fairly overwhelmed by the crowds. I can only imagine how busy the city gets from June to September, although the crowds are mostly concentrated around the main Venice attractions.
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!
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. Buy one from the counter or from the self-service machines if the lines are long; alternatively, click here to buy your ACTV vaporetto 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 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 on our first trip to Venice. It is a lovely little hotel located steps away from the Giglio vaporetto stop. The rooms, while small and dated, 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!
Alternatively, I also highly recommend Ca ‘degli Oresi if you are traveling with friends or family to Venice. These family-run apartments are a stone’s throw from the Sam Samuele vaporetto stop (2 stops before the Giglio stop) and equally close to the Accademia bridge. The apartment itself is extremely spacious and comfortable, and was only recently completely renovated in 2018 – we loved having access to the full kitchen, beautiful private terrace and 2 separate bathrooms. 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!
Planning your perfect trip to Italy? Click here for even more Italy hotel booking tips and recommendations!
6 must-see places you should visit if you only have 2 days in Venice
Short on time? Here are a handful of landmarks you won’t want to miss in Venice. If you have a few more days to spare, then you can also check out this guide to spending 4 days in Venice and get off the typical tourist trail.
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 is reminiscent of Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds: not for any traveler with ornithophobia (a fear of birds)!
The gilded church, St. Mark’s Basilica, 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 – our favourite band plays at Caffe Quadri (be warned though, the drinks are expensive!).
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 have previously stayed at Hotel Bel Sito and Ca ‘degli Oresi, both of which are a quick 10-15 minute stroll away from Piazza San Marco.
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 25 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!
4. Chiesa Di San Giorgio Maggiore
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
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 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.
Where to eat in Venice
Antica Locanda Montin: A wonderful restaurant with a stunning outdoor dining area that resembles a secret garden.
Nevodi: A small restaurant in Castello with the most incredible food. Try the ravioli and fish of the day. Reservations essential.
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!
Venice tourism tax
If you are staying more than 1 night in Venice then you don’t need to worry about this new tourism tax as you will already be paying a “Venice city tax” in cash directly to your hotel or accommodation – the rate is between 3.5-5 Euros per night, per person. This has been the case for years, and during my last visit to Venice in October 2019 we did not have to pay any additional tax besides this existing city tax.
However, there has been a lot of news about Venice implementing a new tourism tax policy as a result of overtourism in the city. Apparently, only about one-fifth of all visitors to Venice spend at least one night in the historic centre.
As a result, 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. The latest news is that the Venice daytripper tax will be implemented beginning July 1st 2020. There’s also chatter that a “booking system” will be launched by 2022 so that visitors have to reserve access to Venice, though there are no updates on that front as of yet.
So, how does this affect you if you are only visiting Venice for a day trip? For the time being, you don’t have to stress out too much. The proposed tax will range between 3-10 Euros a day depending on when you visit, and any new tax is likely to be built directly into the cost of your train, ferry or bus ticket.
It’s possible to see a lot in Venice in 2 to 4 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. If you have a couple more days to spare and want to explore Venice away from the crowds, here is my guide to spending 4 days in Venice.
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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