A tried and tested Venice itinerary with stops recommended by locals. Follow this guide to make the most of one, two or three days in Venice, Italy – Updated 2020
Venice is world-famous and while busy, one of the most beautiful cities I have ever visited.
There is no better way to discover Venice than allowing yourself to get lost in its charming labyrinth of streets and waterways.
However, a Venice itinerary can come in handy if you have limited time in the city or you want to make sure you don’t miss specific landmarks.
We have been to Venice many times, for work, holiday, with the kids and without, and during our last trip we explored the city with some wonderful local guides.
This is the Venice itinerary we followed the last time we visited Venice and I created it so we could experience all the best things to see in Venice, even if just with few days to explore.
You can follow out footsteps, or use this post as inspiration and create your own experience.
All the places mentioned in this post are within easy reach from each other so this Venice itinerary is suitable no matter what area you are staying in.
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Practical tips for 1 to 3 days in Venice
We spent 3 days in Venice and stayed in the Cannaregio area. We used:
Accommodation: Hotel Due Leoni (mid-range)
Transport: mostly, we walked but found the transport travel card useful for the occasional ferry hop
Time of year: this trip happened in winter but you can follow the same itinerary in all seasons. You can find what to expect weatherwise in Venice each season here.
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What to pack for Venice Italy?
Venice is cold in the winter and hot in the summer so you will need to pack accordingly.
In summer, pack light dresses and summer tops but do bring a shawl to wrap around your shoulders or bare legs if planning on visiting churches.
Also, from May to October, make sure you pack a sun hat, sun cream and mosquito repellent as mosquitoes here are fierce!
If traveling to Venice with kids, make sure you keep offering them water as the humidity will make them sweat and overheat easily.
In winter, pack layers, warm jumpers, a winter jacket, scarf, hat and gloves.
In all seasons, make sure you pack very good walking shoes: in Venice, ou will find yourself walking a lot and good, broken-in walking shoes are a must.
Avoid heels and go for runners or good rubber sole sandals in summer or low heel boots in the winter.
You can find my top picks of tried and tested shoes for Italy travel here
How many days in Venice?
There is really no right answer to how much time to spend in Venice.
Personally, I feel that you need at least three days in the city for initial sightseeing and a week if you wish to visit some of Venice’s main museums and outer islands.
Your perfect Venice Itinerary: what to do with one day in Venice
If you only have one day in Venice you probably want to see the main landmarks, have a taste of what going on a gondola is like and have some great photo ops.
If this is the case, this is the itinerary for you!
We arranged our stay in Venice following these directions and while you would need extra days to really see all we considered ‘essential’, we ended up with a great idea of the city.
Morning: Discover Cannaregio
Start from Venezia Santa Lucia train station and follow Strada Nuova towards the city center.
The Strada Nova itself is lined with shops, restaurants and cafes and in its first stretch, it is very busy.
Don’t let the crowds discourage you!
Very soon you will find yourself crossing a canal and, on the left, the area of Cannaregio opens up.
This ‘sestiere’ (Venice neighborhood) has a gorgeous local feel to it and despite its proximity to the station is almost untouched by tourists.
All it takes it to wander a couple of minutes into any of the streets to the left of Strada Nova and you find yourself in a magical world of tranquil lanes and secluded squares.
It is the ghetto, a beautiful area full of history dating back to the XVI century.
Make sure you stop in one of its coffee places and to take your time to take some photos of the canals without the crowds.
This is also a lovely area for a meal: you will find several restaurants and you can choose between a full meal, cicchetti (the Venice equivalent of tapas) or even a stop in a local bakery (forno).
We chose this last option and had a wonderful freshly made focaccia with prosciutto – cheap and delightful!
Board a gondola
Rejoin Strada Nova and walk down until you see signs for the Ca D’oro (one of the most famous ‘palazzi’ in Venice, a gorgeous elaborate building over the Grand Canal) and the ‘traghetto’.
Traghetto in Italian means ‘ferry’ but the Venetian interpretation of a ferry crossing is way more charming than what the word suggests.
‘Traghetto’ in Venice is a shuttle service between one side of the grand canal to the other and the mean of transport of choice is a gondola!
While the full gondola experience sets you back about 80 euro for 40 minutes, the traghetto experience is much shorter and cheaper: the gondola will carry you across the water in less than 5 minutes for 2 euro per person (kids under 6 go free).
We can argue about the value for money of the deal, but it sure is a fun experience.
Without breaking the bank, you get to sit in a real gondola and get a taste of what a full-ride may be like.
We found this was a good option for us since our kids would have likely found it hard to stay still for the full experience.
Interested in the full gondola experience? Book your tour in advance with Get Your Guide : they have a large number of tour options and the convenience to book straight from your phone with reliable providers. Even better: they have excellent cancellation options should you book early and then change your plans!
See Rialto Market and Bridge
The gondola leaves you at the Rialto market, where a busy fish market takes place in the morning and from there you need to keep to your left to reach the famous Rialto Bridge.
Rialto is the most iconic bridge in the whole of Venice and one of the city’s most recognizable landmarks and, because of this, a bit of a nightmare to visit.
While we were there, repair works were in progress so we had no chance of getting any decent shot of it, but the real problem was the crowd.
The bridge is simply jam-packed and the fact that at its base you have a massive Hard Rock Cafe doesn’t do much in making you connect with the real heart of the city.
Rialto is, to me, Venice at its best and its worse and all I can say about it is that I am glad I managed to see more than just the touristy spot as they really do not do to the city any justice.
Despite this, Rialto is a must-see in Venice and I do recommend you add it to your Venice itinerary for a full city experience.
Marvel at Fondaco de’ Tedeschi
Once you cross the Rialto bridge, head left and be prepared for a bit of a treat, the ‘Fondaco de’ Tedeschi.
Here you have what looks like a big, elegant shopping center and indeed, this is a paradise for shopping lover, however, there is more to it than meets the eye.
Before becoming a chic retail space, the building was the old German free port and its incredible architecture mixes perfectly its old building charm with the modern needs of the shops it now hosts.
The building develops over several floors, each of them opening up to a main central courtyard and lit up by elegant and colorful lights.
If the view over the inside wasn’t enough, the building also has a panoramic terrace that you can reach with a lift.
Entry to the terrace is free but ticketed: go early to get your spot as you may be asked to come back in a few hours.
Stop at Vizio Virtu’
From Fondaco de’ Turchi it is a short stroll to Piazza San Macro, but if you like chocolate, stop at the chocolate maker Vizio Virtu, near Rialto on the way.
This is a gorgeous chocolate shop where you can taste chocolate in all forms, including one made following the traditional recipe.
This is a wonderful coffee/chocolate stop, perfect to regain your strength after the long walk!
Finish at St Mark’s square
One of the most famous squares in the whole world, St Mark is nothing less than spectacular.
We visited Venice in December and got to St Mark’s square at that special time of the day when the sky is a perfect tint of blue and the lights of the old lamps start to come on.
No matter where you turn beauty is all around you.
Curiosity: did you know that St Mark’s is the only piazza in Venice? In Venice, what other cities call piazza are called campi (Campo San Polo for instance) and what other cities call ‘via’ (street) Venetians call ‘calle’. St Mark’s square is the only exception to the rule and its name in Italian is ‘Piazza San Marco’
St Marks is the area with some of Venice’ most famous attractions, namely Basilical di San Marco, the Doges’ Palace and the Bridge of sights.
If you are interested in a visit, I recommend you book skip the line tickets as the crowd can be intense.
Venice in 2 days: 2 days Venice itinerary
If you have 2 days in Venice you have a few options.
Venice day 1: as above
On your first day, I would follow the itinerary defined above and that will touch on main landmarks such as Rialto and San Marco.
Venice day 2 morning: Santa Maria Formosa area
If you only have two days in Venice, the second day will come with a decision to be made: you can either spend it visiting the city’s stunning museums or exploring more of the city.
If you decide to go exploring, I recommend you choose the area around Campo Santa Maria Formosa, in Venice city center.
Here you have a beautiful public library with an architecturally significant interior by Carlo Scarpa and the High Water Bookshop, a place worth snooping around if you like books, quirky spaces and bohemian atmosphere.
Eat lunch in the area and then head to Burano.
Top tip for families with kids: a company called Macaco Tours organizes kids’ treasure hunts in this area. We took one with them and it was fabulous – this is how we discovered this gorgeous area!
Venice day 2: afternoon in Burano
I recommend you spend the morning here and then catch a ferry to Burano.
Burano is a small island in front of Venice and an absolutely gorgeous place.
Small and colorful, it can be visited in a matter of hours and is a photographers’ dream, thanks to its colorful houses (it is one of our favorite places in Italy for colorful landscapes) and atmospheric canals.
You can read our full guide with how and why to visit Burano here.
You can visit Burano on your own or find great tours of the Venetian islands here
Venice in 3 days: 3 days in Venice itinerary
With 3 days in Venice, you have some time to take it easy and unwind.
Not that 3 days are enough to see everything, but following the Venice itinerary in this post I do think 3 days will give you a good idea of what Venice has to offer and what are the main reasons to come back.
With 3 days in Venice, I would follow the itinerary outlined above and will then spend the third day wandering around San Polo, joining a tour and shopping.
Day 1: as above
Follow the itinerary above to stroll along Cannaregio, Rialto and San Marco.
Day 2: as above
Spend the morning exploring a museum and then head out to Burano. Time your visit to catch the sunset on the lagoon while on the way back.
Day 3 in Venice: morning in San Polo
During our third day in Venice, we decided to dig a little deeper into what the city has to offer and enlisted the help of a local company called Wanderjack to explore what we hadn’t seen yet.
They brought us to explore the area of San Polo and this was a wonderful addition to what we had seen before.
The area is beautiful, quiet and with many treasures (includingi Frari church, with a Canova monument and art by Titian).
Its location between Cannaregio and Rialto also makes it easy to reach and explore in a morning.
Venice day 3 afternoon
In the afternoon, we took our time to explore the city center at our own pace.
We went back to the Rialto area and then ventured to the area of La Salute: this is a place with wonderful views and the perfect place to end three days in Venice.
Other things you can do in Venice in 3 days
Our activities were geared towards striking a balance between sightseeing and keeping the kids happy.
If you have older kids or are traveling on your own, there are additional things you may want to consider.
A Venice food tour: Venice has some of the most interesting and varied cuisines in the whole of Italy.
The food of choice here is ‘cicchetti’, small bites usually accompanied by a glass of wine of a spritz: they come in the form of tartines, fried fish, cheese bites, vegetable fritters and much more.
Consider taking a cicchetti tour with a local in Venice city center or get a little off the beaten path and discover a really special part of Venice and its food and wine tradition with a food tour in Sant’Erasmo.
Visit a museum: Venice has wonderful museums, so many that you can spend your three days just discovering them all.
For the most popular, such as Peggy Guggenheim, I recommend booking tickets in advance.
Smaller galleries can usually be visited just showing up at the door.
Where to stay in Venice?
Accommodation in Venice is abundant but often very expensive and of variable standards. Personally, I am fond of the following hotels.
Hotel Ca Due Leoni (mid range). The hotel is in Cannaregio, in a lovely private ‘campiello’ (square). The hotel is nicely decorated, clean, with friendly service and offers free wifi. Perfect choice for all types of travelers looking for a great location and a warm welcome without breaking the bank.
Hotel St Helena: a hotel that caters specifically for families with little extra touches such as hot chocolate for the kids and play area. A 4 star category hotel, a solid option for families with very young children or who enjoy the extra comforts.
Ca’ Maria Adele (Luxury): a treat, one of those hotels not everyone can afford but that are guaranteed to offer you an amazing stay. Think honeymoon in Venice, bubbles, jacuzzi and water taxi to go around. This is an adult-only hotel.
Additional Venice Itinerary resources and tips
- Omio – Handy website for Train and Bus connections across Europe
- Booking.com – My go-to resource for accommodation (hotels, apartments and specialty lodging) with good deals and excellent cancellation policies
- LuggageHero – Large selection of luggage storage options for bags-free day trips
- GetYourGuide: booking platform for attraction tickets and day tours
- Lonely Planet: my one and only go-to travel guide provider
- AutoEurope: handy comparison website for the best car rental deals
I hope you enjoyed our Venice itinerary and it helped you plan your perfect stay! Safe travels!