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.
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.
They made sure to show us the real soul of the city, so these itineraries have been built following their advice and put to the test just last month, when we spend three days in Venice and managed to fully and properly fall in love with it.
1 to 3 days in Venice
STAY: Hotel Due Leoni (family friendly, mid-range)
What is the best time to visit Venice?
Venice is located in the North East of Italy, in the Adriatic sea. The city is connected to the mainland by a bridge (arriving in the city by train makes quite an impression!) and literally sits on water.
Venice’s foundations reach deep down under the sea and the houses spring up like waterborne flowers.
The water nature of this city has strong impacts on the daily life of inhabitants and has consequences on the Venice weather system.
- Go to Venice in winter if: you want to avoid the crowds and don’t mind layering up
- Visit Venice in February if: you want to experience the carnival
- Go to Venice in spring if: you want to see the city at its very best
- Visit Venice in summer if: you are in the nearby region and feel like a day of city exploration (aka: try not to go to Venice in summer!)
Venice by season: Venice in winter
Winter in Venice is cold and the humidity, especially in the evening, can make it bitter.
Our last time in Venice was in December and we were grateful for our woolly hats, scarves and gloves – they may not have looked stylish, but they were a lifesaver!
If you can only visit in winter, however, don’t despair as there are good points about it too.
First, you can be in luck and get some beautiful bright days.
Secondly the streets are much quieter and you can easily find yourself away from the crowds, something that gets increasingly difficult as the high season approaches.
Also, Venice has rich and beautiful coffee culture and winter is the perfect season to enjoy the warm interiors of his cafes and ‘bacari’ (tapas bars).
The food to order in this season is hot chocolate (a local specialty) and if you like wine there is no better time than this to enjoy some of the gorgeous reds that come from the local Veneto wineries.
In winter Venice is subject to the peculiar event that is ‘high water’. Depending on the sea movements and the wind, on some days Venice gets flooded and the roads get covered in water.
When the high water hits you cannot ignore it: it raises up a good few centimetres (every few year, over 1 meter), floods streets and ground floors and affects all daily activities, especially if you are not used to it.
We didn’t experience acqua alta while there but chatted with the locals about it and discovered how they cope.
When the high tide hits, the city lays out a series of boardwalks for people to walk on (water is so high you cannot just walk through it in normal shoes) and shoe covers and wellington boot sellers pop up at every corner so you can buy the necessary gear.
Locals see high water as a pain and indeed you need to adjust your plans should you be there when it happens, but they also said that tourists love the magical light and atmosphere that the high water brings.
If you are prepared, this even can turn into a highlight of a winter trip to Venice!
Venice in February
February is the month of the carnival and Venice gets flooded (no pun intended) with tourists from all over the world. Prices soar and crowds feel the streets – only visit during the carnival to experience the carnival itself or you will get frustrated.
Venice by season: Venice weather in spring
March to June: spring is a great time to visit Venice.
The weather starts warming up, especially during the hours of sunshine and, outside of the Easter weekend, the crowds are usually manageable. Expect evenings to still get chilly at the start of the season and layer up.
Venice by season: Venice weather in summer
Summer is a tricky time in Venice.
The humid heat can easily get overwhelming especially since Venice has few green spaces and this makes the perfect breeding environment for one of the most annoying pests: mosquitoes. They are fierce in Venice and while they do not carry diseases as such, it is awful to have them munching on you day and night.
If you visit Venice in summer, make sure you choose a hotel with air conditioning as this is the best weapon to keep them at bay at least while you sleep.
Venice in the fall
Weather is unpredictable in Venice in the fall. The temperature starts to drop at this time of the year and while you may get some days with stellar sunshine and temperatures close to 20C, rain is also possible.
However, this is not a bad time to visit Venice.
In autumn, the crowds are less intense in Venice and there are some nice local festivities that are worth experiencing such as San Martino (November) which has a wonderful local feel
What to pack for Venice Italy?
Venice is cold in the winter and hot in the summer so you will need to pack accordingly. Regardless of weather what you will need in Venice good walking shoes are a must as you will be on your feet most of the time.
In summer, make sure you also pack a sun hat, sun cream and mosquito repellent as mosquitoes here are fierce!
If travelling 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 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.
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 in Venice in one day
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.
Start from Venezia Santa Lucia train station and follow Strada Nuova towards the city centre.
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 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.
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 that 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 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, marvel at the balance of the gondoliere and see from the water one of the Venice’s most famous buildings: la ca d’oro.
Interested in the full gondola experience? Book your tour in advance with Get Your Guide (Affiliate link) for a large number of tour options and the convenience to book straight from your phone with reliable providers!
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 recognisable 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 shop 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.
Marvel at Fondaco de’ Turchi
Once you cross the Rialto bridge, head left and be prepared for a bit of a treat.
The expensive shopping centre opening in front of you holds a surprise: 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 colourful 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 ca taste chocolate in all forms, including one made following the traditional recipe
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’
Venice in 2 days: 2 days Venice itinerary
If you have 2 days in Venice you have a few options.
Venice day 1: city centre
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: museums and outer islands
On your second day, I recommend you take the time to enjoy one of Venice’s many museums and then take a trip to Burano.
Venice has some gorgeous museums such as the Accademia gallery, the Guggenheim collection and Scuola di San Rocco and you will also find many temporary exhibitions.
If art is your thing, I would schedule a least half a day for museums and spend the rest of the day exploring the outer islands and especially Burano. Burano is easy to reach from venice and a photographers dream: 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
If you prefer to spend your day outside, I recommend devoting the morning to the area around Campo Santa Maria Formosa.
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.
The ‘Campo’ is on the way to the ferry stop to Burano.
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: Venice city centre
Follow the itinerary above to stroll along Cannarergio, Rialto and San Marco.
Day 2: museum and Burano
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: tour and shopping
Use the extra time you have in Venice to dig deeper into the secrets of Venice joining a local tour. Some ideas in the next paragraph.
If you prefer to be independent, you can spend this day exploring the area of San Polo, with great churches and architecture, and then going shopping in Venice city centre.
Recommended activities for 3 days in Venice
If you prefer to give structure to your day, there are some activities that I highly recommend
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 chicchetti tour with a local in Venice city centre or get a little off the beaten path and discover a really special special part of Venice and its food and wine tradition with a food tour in Sant’Erasmo
A treasure hunt for kids
If you have kids, a fantastic way to discover Venice is with the lovely people of Macaco tour: they organise scavenger hunts for kids that are a great way to discover Venice engaging also little people. We had a gorgeous experience with them and I can’t recommend them highly enough
A guided tour
Last but not least, if you have three days in Venice and want to see it through the eyes of a local, get in touch with Wanderjack (here is our review).
They are an Italian tour operator specialising in the Venetian region and they create multi day tours in the area catering for all ages and interests.
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.
You can find our full list of hand picked family friendly hotels in Venice here
Practical tips for visiting Venice in 3 days or less
How to get to Venice
The best way to get to Venice is by train.
Venice is connected to Rome, Florence and Bologna by high-speed train and Venezia Santa Lucia station is right in the centre of Venice, a 30-minute walk from San Marco. You can find tips on travelling Italy by train here
How to get around Venice
The best way to visit Venice is on foot. While water taxis and water buses are available, the charm of Venice is in its small streets: I recommend you only take the ‘vaporino’ (water bus) to explore the lagoon islands or at the end of your walking tour (see itinerary)
Have at least one of your meals in a bacaro (they are the most atmospheric, it is not just down to price) and select restaurants off the beaten track to maximise your chances of getting a properly priced, good quality meal.
Venice with kids
Venice is very safe for kids and in most areas they can be left to run around without fear of cars (Venice is entirely car-free) or of them falling into the canals.
Venice is overall accessible with buggies but many of the bridges have some steps. Many have been adapted to be accessible but they are a bit of a workout for parents and often there is no way around them. You can find our selections of the best strollers for travel here.
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