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3 Days in Venice: How to Spend a Blissful Weekend in Venice

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Panoramic view of the Grand Canal in Venice with boats and gondolas. PC: Natalia Volkova/Dreamstime.com

Tucked away in Italy’s northeastern corner at the upper reaches of the Adriatic Sea, it is hard to imagine any city in the world as unique as Venice. To witness its most improbable cityscape of canals, bridges, stone palaces, gondolas, and that seem to float on water is one of life’s great pleasures. 3 days in Venice gives you ample time to explore not only the best of what the city has to offer but also see the Venetian lagoon. Here’s our lowdown on how to experience some of the best things to do in Venice over the weekend.

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Getting to Venice

People boarding a bus to Venice at Marco Polo Airport. PC: Sorbis/Shutterstock.com

If traveling to Venice by air, the nearest airport is Venice’s Marco Polo airport, located 10 km (6.5 miles) north of the city. Venice is supplemented by the smaller Antonio Canova airport at Treviso, 40 km (29 miles) northwest of Venice.

The most atmospheric and traditional way to Venice from Marco Polo airport is by sea. Alilaguna operates several routes to Venice. The journey to Venice takes about an hour and will get you closer to your accommodation. 

If your budget allows it, private water taxis operating from Marco Polo airport to Venice take about half the time and will take you directly to your hotel. This is handy if you have more luggage but will cost well over 100 EUR. A cheaper yet convenient alternative is to take a shared water taxi that will also drop you off directly at your hotel.

Marco Polo airport also has a direct bus service to Venice’s Piazzale Roma (the closest point to Venice’s attractions accessible by car or bus) that takes about twenty minutes. This is a quicker and cheaper alternative to the lagoon crossing.

Treviso airport also has a direct bus to Piazzale Roma which takes approximately one hour. In order to avoid queuing at the airports,  I strongly suggest booking a ticket in advance.

It is also possible to reach Venice by train from a nearby city such as Bologna, Milan, Verona, or Florence. Check Trenitalia to book tickets in advance to get the best fares.

If you’re coming to Venice by car, you should know that parking in the city is prohibitively expensive. The closest car parks to the city center are at Piazzale Roma or on the Tronchetto, linked to Venice by boat and bus. Garage San Marco or the public ASM Garage at Piazzale Roma are probably your best bets.

How to Get Around During Your 3 Days in Venice

Cars and bicycles are not permitted in the historic core of Venice, and the absence of traffic makes exploring Venice on foot a great pleasure. It only takes approximately 45-60 minutes to cross the city from north to south on foot (provided you do not lose your way of course).

Many of the attractions we’ve included in our three-day itinerary of Venice are within comfortable walking distance of each other. I would strongly recommend wearing comfortable footwear as a full day’s sightseeing can be enervating.

However, if you don’t feel like seeing everything on foot, you can make use of the vaporetti, public waterbuses that form the backbone of Venice’s public transportation system. The Vaporetto lines #1 and #2 will be most useful when sightseeing in Venice.

A single Vaporetto ticket costs 7.50 EUR and is valid for 75 minutes from the time of validation. If you plan on using the vaporetti more, then you can even get the 24-hour ticket (20 EUR) or 72-hour ticket (40 EUR). The day tickets are also valid on the buses in Marghera and Mestre on the mainland.

Tickets for the Vaporetti are available at most boarding points, Hellovenezia/ACTV offices, newsstands, and some bars, shops, and tobacconists displaying the ACTV sign. You can also pre-book your ticket online, which I found to be most convenient.

Your 3 Days in Venice Itinerary

Given that Venice is endowed with plenty of fantastic places to see, time flies away quickly with all the walking, stopping for photos, and gazing at all the beauty around you. You must plan your visit well otherwise looking back in hindsight, you may beat yourself over how much you have missed. 

For this ‘3 days in Venice’ itinerary, I have included some of the major attractions in the city. For your convenience, this post includes a free map that highlights the main points of interest in Venice for one day. You can find the addresses of the attractions by clicking on the icons in the map. 

Of course, everyone travels at a different pace so feel free to choose the destinations according to your own pace. If you find the pace too fast, you could also easily stretch it over four days.

You really should spend your time on whatever catches your own interest. The earlier you start your day the more time you’ll have to see the attractions. 

Keep in mind that you may have to modify these itineraries in case one of the days you’re in Venice happens to fall on a Sunday (when many things are closed, and those that remain open tend to operate on shorter hours) or on a Monday (when most museums are closed). 

Below I have compiled a list of the best things to see in Venice over the course of three days:

Day 1 in Venice: San Marco & Castello

Day one of this ‘3 days in Venice’ itinerary focuses on the districts (sestieri) of San Marco and Castello. San Marco is the commercial, religious, and political hub of Venice and has been for more than a millennium. Home to several of the city’s main landmarks, San Marco is the most visited (and, as a result, the most expensive) of Venice’s districts. 

Lying east of San Marco, Castello is the city’s largest district and is largely characterized by its narrow alleys, elegantly faded palaces, and fine churches.

1. San Moisè Church

The beautiful facade of the San Moisè Church (Chiesa di San Moisè) in Venice, Italy.

Start your 72 hours in Venice at the San Moisè Church (Chiesa di San Moisè). In a city that is blessed with many beautiful Baroque churches, San Moisè is arguably the one that stands out the most.  

Depending on who you talk to, the San Moisè Church is the most embellished or most hideous church in the city. Indeed, its 17th-century Baroque facade is festooned with ostentatious carvings, statues, and busts.

So overloaded was its facade at the time of construction that several statues had to be removed in the 19th century to prevent the facade from collapsing under their combined weight. Detractors find the wedding-cake exterior of San Moisè indigestible and have lambasted it as “the culmination of all architectural madness.” 

On the contrary, Jacky and I were both very enamored with San Moisè’s unrestrained facade and definitely recommend paying a quick visit to see the church. Don’t miss the two camels carved above the portal.

2. Palazzo Contarini del Bovolo

The superb Palazzo Contarini del Bovolo is certainly one of the overlooked sights in Venice. Built in the early 15th century by the Contarini family, who were eager to flaunt their wealth and power, it is famed for its graceful early Renaissance spiral staircase set into a circular Byzantine-style tower.

In the Venetian dialect, bovolo means “snail shell”, corresponding to the spiral shape of the stairway. With its ascending rows of round-headed arches, the palace is the only one of its kind to be found in Venice today.

Given its beauty and romantic allure, it comes as no surprise that Palazzo Contarini del Bovolo is often employed as a film set. Having recently been restored, you can now ascend the 112 winding steps via five floors of loggias to the top for panoramic views over Venice.

Man standing at the top of the Palazzo Contarini del Bovolo in Venice, Italy.

The Palazzo Contarini del Bovolo is open daily from 10:00-18:00. The entrance costs 7 EUR. It is truly a photographer’s delight so don’t miss out on seeing it!

3. St. Mark’s Square

A deserted St. Mark's Square (Piazza San Marco) at sunrise in Venice, Italy.

Undoubtedly one of the most magnificent urban spaces in the world, St. Mark’s Square (Piazza San Marco) is also Venice’s main square. Long the political and religious fulcrum of Venetian power, it’s hard to envision St. Mark’s Square was once little more than a monastery garden crossed by a stream.

Over the course of its storied history, the stately buildings along St. Mark’s Square’s borders have been the backdrop for magnificent processions celebrating victorious commanders, visiting dignitaries, festivals, pageants, and political activities.

Facing St. Mark’s Basilica, on your left is the long, arcaded building known as the Procuratie Vecchie, renovated to its present form in 1514, and on your right is the Procuratie Nuove, built half a century later in a more imposing, classical style. Both these buildings housed offices and residences of the powerful procurators (magistrates).

The square is also buttressed with colonnades on three sides and is fringed with exquisite monuments such as the Piazzetta dei Leoncini and the granite Columns of San Marco and San Teodoro. It is this realm of grand monuments that led Napoleon to famously dub St. Mark’s Square “the most elegant drawing room in Europe.”

The square is understandably overcrowded as Venetians and tourists have been enchanted by St. Mark’s allure for centuries. You will almost always be met with throngs of tourists, pigeons, and vendors selling souvenirs. However, despite all the crowds, ambling around St. Mark’s Square is one of the essential things to do in Venice and will leave you with an enduring travel memory.

Pro Tip

Free to access 24/7, the best time to appreciate the beauty of St. Mark’s Square is early morning, when only the city sweepers are here.

4. St. Mark’s Clocktower

Located on the north side of the Piazza, the lovely St. Mark’s Clocktower (Torre dell’Orologio) is a marvel to behold. Built in the 15th century, the Renaissance clock tower is known for its highly ornamented facade.

Designed with seafarers in mind, the gold-leafed and blue enamel timepiece tracks the phases of the moon and the Zodiac. Every hour, two bronze Moors (jokingly referred to as “the hardest working men in Venice”) swing their huge clappers to ring the bell on the tower’s roof terrace. 

You’ll notice that they’re not wearing pants and according to Venetian legend, stroking the figures’ exposed private parts confers sexual potency for a year!

If you happen to be visiting Venice on Epiphany or during Ascension week, you’ll witness the clock’s star marquee attraction – figures of the Magi appear out of the clock on the hour to pay their respects to the Virgin and Child, accompanied by a procession of angels.

5. St. Mark’s Bell Tower

The famous red-brick St. Mark's Bell Tower (Campanile) in Venice, Italy

Towering at 98.6 m (323 ft) over the city, St. Mark’s Bell Tower (Campanile) is probably the most recognizable landmark in Venice and also the tallest structure in the city. Over the years it has served as a lighthouse, gun turret, and belfry. 

Originally built in the 10th century, the bell tower was then rebuilt in the 12th, 14th, and 16th centuries. It collapsed unexpectedly in 1902 and today’s tower was masterfully rebuilt in 1912 to its 16th-century Renaissance design. The red-brick tower is relatively unadorned save for its loggetta which features classical sculptures and allegorical reliefs.

Take the elevator to the top to access one of the most spectacular viewpoints in Venice.

Fun Fact

The famous Italian astronomer Galileo Galilei used the Campanile as an observatory to study the skies and it was here in 1609 that he demonstrated his telescope to the Lords.

Panoramic view of Venice from the St. Mark's Bell Tower (Campanile)

You can enjoy sublime views of the city, the Venetian lagoon, and visibility permitting, the distant snow-capped Dolomite Mountains. Oddly, none of the numerous small canals that snake through Venice can be spotted.

St. Mark’s Campanile is open daily from 09:45-21:15 (last admission: 20:45). Tickets cost 10 EUR (free for children up to 6 years of age). Going to the top of the Campanile is totally worth the price of admission as you won’t get a better aerial view of Venice.

6. St. Mark’s Basilica

Exterior of the stunning St. Mark's Basilica (Basilica San Marco) in Venice at sunrise.

Of all the great things to see in Venice, St. Mark’s Basilica (Basilica San Marco) was the place I yearned to see the most and it didn’t disappoint. Exotic and mysterious, it is unlike any other Roman Catholic church and the mosaic-encrusted cathedral is the most opulent of Europe’s cathedrals.

The breathtaking Byzantine basilica we see today is the third church to stand on this site and follows a Greek cross layout surmounted by five domes. It was constructed in such a lavish fashion for two reasons: as an embodiment of the Venetian Republic’s power and as a fitting resting place for St Mark, the city’s patron saint. 

The exterior of St. Mark’s Basilica is gorgeous and you can’t help but be starstruck at the succession of domes, double rows of arches, intricate doorway carvings, spires, marble statues, and glittering mosaics. Interestingly, of all the mosaics adorning the entrances and upper portals, the only original is The Translation of the Body of the Saint above the door on the far left.

Watch out for the mosaics in the lunettes depicting St. Mark’s stolen body arriving at the basilica from the city of Alexandria in Egypt. In 828, two wily Venetian merchants pilfered the body of St. Mark from a monastery, ostensibly transporting it under layers of pork fat to bypass the scrutiny of Muslim guards. Before going in, take a close look at the four horses above the central portal.

The gorgeous gilded interior of St. Mark's Basilica in Venice, Italy

St. Mark’s cavernous interior is exquisitely plastered with gilded mosaics covering some 4,000 sq m (43,000 sq ft) of floor, domes, arches, and walls. I loved how the basilica floor appears like an undulating oriental carpet, embellished with naturalistic and religious motifs.

The stunning Ascension Dome inside St. Mark's Basilica in Venice, Italy.

Two resplendent domes vie for your attention:  the Pentecost Dome (decorated in the 12th century), which shows the descent of the Holy Ghost over the heads of the 12 Apostles, and the Ascension Dome (decorated in the 12th century), featuring Christ in Glory surrounded by Apostles, angels, and the Virgin Mary.

Pro Tip

Bring a pair of binoculars if you want to properly view the most remarkable ceiling mosaics in the apse and the dome.

Four bronze horses inside the St. Mark's Basilica in Venice, Italy. PC: travelview/Shutterstock.com

Don’t forget to take the steep narrow steps up to the St. Mark’s Museum, the gallery above the entrance portal. Inside the fascinating museum is the famed quartet of horses crafted from bronze and covered in gold. 

A visit to the outdoor Loggia dei Cavalli is a surprising highlight, providing a panoramic view of St. Mark’s Square, just as doges and dignitaries saw it during celebrations.

The church’s greatest treasure is the magnificent medieval screen known as the Pala d’Oro (Golden Altarpiece), a Gothic masterpiece created in the 10th century by medieval goldsmiths. Situated behind the main altar, it is made up of 250 panels with religious scenes, each set in a gold frame and studded with around 2,000 assorted pearls, rubies, sapphires, emeralds, amethysts, and enamels.

You should also pay a visit to the Treasury, with a collection of the crusaders’ plunder from Constantinople and other icons and relics amassed by the church over the years. Exhibits include chalices, goblets, reliquaries, candelabra, and other ecclesiastical appurtenances.

Pro Tip

Dress modestly because the guards at St. Mark’s Basilica’s entrance prohibit entry to anyone in scantily-clad attire—shorts, sleeveless shirts (and shirts too short to hide your belly button), and skirts above the knee.

St. Mark’s Basilica is open from 09:45-17:00 (Monday-Saturday) and 14:00-17:00 (Sunday, until 16:00 November-Easter). Admission to the basilica is free, but to enjoy the St. Mark’s Museum (La Galleria), you’ll pay 7 EUR; entrance to the Pala d’Oro costs 5 EUR; admittance to the Treasury costs 3 EUR. 

St. Mark’s Basilica is definitely worth the hype. To avoid the crowds, go early in the morning. I would also recommend signing up for a guided tour that offers skip-the-line access to the church (especially if you’re visiting the next attraction on our list).

7. Doge’s Palace & the Bridge of Sighs

The magnificent Doge's Palace at sunrise in Venice.

One of Italy’s greatest civic structures, the Doge’s Palace is one of the major points of interest in Venice. A symbol of prosperity and power, not only was it the official residence of the 120 doges who ruled Venice from 697 to 1797, but also home of all of the city’s governing councils, its law courts, a sizeable number of its civil servants, and even its prisons

Architecturally, the pink-and-white marble palace is a unique combination of Byzantine, Gothic, Moorish, and Renaissance styles. Before you walk inside, take a moment to the shimmering pink diamond-patterned facade, the colonnade, and the florid Gothic detail. 

Beautiful woman standing at the entrance of the over-ornamented Giants’ Staircase in Doge's Palace

Upon entering the Doge’s Palace, you’ll be confronted with a splendid inner courtyard with a double row of Renaissance arches. Marvel at the enormous, over-ornamented Giants’ Staircase (Scala dei Giganti), scene of the doges’ glittering inaugurations and used by visiting dignitaries.

Mere mortals, however, use the Golden Staircase (Scala d’Oro), so-called for its Classical stucco decorations in 24-carat gold-leaf-framing frescoes. This main internal stairway is only slightly less palatial. 

The main tour of the Doge’s Palace interior begins in the staterooms on the second floor, which are lavishly embellished with gilded stucco work and are testament to the glory of the Venetian Republic. The walls and ceilings of the principal rooms were richly decorated by the Venetian masters and are home to some of the finest paintings in the ducal collection.

As regards the quality of decorations, two of the finest interior rooms in the Doge’s Palace on the second floor are the Senate Chamber (Sala del Senato) and the Council Antechamber (Anticollegio).

Decked out gilded leather and marvelous paintings such as Veronese’s Rape of Europe, the Council Antechamber is where foreign ambassadors waited to be received by the doge and his counselors.

An assortment of gruesome weapons on display in the armory of the Doge's Palace in Venice

Also on the second floor is the splendid private armory, in which some extremely gruesome weapons are displayed. Amid the horrifying but exquisitely manufactured metalwork you’ll come across immense two-handed swords, shields, crossbows, axes,  crafted firearms, and suits of armor.

The tour then leads down to the first-floor staterooms. Don’t miss the intriguing Shield Room (Sala del Scudo), littered with painted wall maps from the 15th to the 18th centuries and two huge 18th-century globes.

The star attraction of the Doge’s Palace is the stupendous Great Council Hall,  a chamber of monumental proportions large enough to hold 2,500 people. This is where Venetian citizens assembled to elect doges and debate state policies in the early days of the Republic.

I’d recommend paying close attention to the ceiling where an incredible ensemble of paintings by Veronese is displayed inside sumptuous carved and gilded wooden frames. The enormous hall is livened by Tintoretto’s huge Paradiso at the far end of the hall above the doge’s seat. Measuring 7×22 m (23×72 ft), it is one of the world’s largest oil paintings, containing some 350 human figures. 

A black curtain covering the portrait of doge Marin Falier inside the Doge's Palace in Venice

You’ll also see portraits of the first 76 doges lining the cornice beneath the ceiling – but one has a black curtain in place of his face. Why? The doge Marin Falier, was convicted of treason and beheaded in 1355.

From here the tour takes you to the prison cells, which are reached by the legendary (albeit slightly underwhelming) Bridge of Sighs (Ponte dei Sospiri). The story goes that the bridge takes its name after the sighs of prisoners as they took a last look at freedom before torture or execution.

Fun Fact

Giacomo Casanova, the notorious Italian libertine, was one of the most illustrious ‘guests’ of the prisons of the Doge’s Palace. He was imprisoned in the Doge’s Palace in 1755 on charges of being a Freemason and spreading antireligious propaganda. Even more famous than his conviction is his escape as he was one of the rare few to escape the Doge’s Palace maximum-security jail. On the night of October 31, 1756 Casanova and another prisoner executed an ingenious escape through the roof.

If you’re really interested in unearthing the secrets and history of the Doge’s Palace, you should consider taking the Secret Itineraries Tour (takes place at 09:55, 10:45 & 11:35; costs 29 EUR and must be pre-booked). This excellent tour is the only way to access the otherwise restricted quarters and hidden passageways such as the doges’ private chambers and the torture chambers.

The Doge’s Palace is open daily from 08:30-19:00 (April-October), and 08:30-17:30 (November-March). I highly recommend purchasing a ticket for the Skip-the-Line Tour to avoid losing valuable time queueing in long lines at the palace. However, due to the security checks at the entrance, there can still be a queue nevertheless.

Just like St. Mark’s Basilica, the Doge’s Palace is well-worth coughing up the money and a visit here won’t leave you disappointed. Consider investing in the audio guide to get a better understanding of the history of Doge’s Palace.

8. Stroll along the Riva degli Schiavoni

People walking along the Riva degli Schiavoni promenade in Venice, Italy.

A waterside walk along the curving Riva degli Schiavoni, one of the world’s great promenades, is an integral part of a visit to Venice. This long, unbroken stretch of pavement is well suited for a casual stroll.

Thronging with an unceasing flow of promenading tourists, passengers and packed with souvenir stalls (at its western end), this quayside affords magnificent views across the lagoon. It has long been prime territory for the tourist industry and is lined with distinguished hotels.

The leisurely stroll along Riva degli Schiavoni takes you through eastern Castello, a workaday quarter far removed from the frenzied crowds of San Marco. Here, the crowds thin out, revealing the district’s tranquil character.

9. Via Garibaldi

People walking along Via Garibaldi, the widest street in Venice, Italy.

Although it is named after Guiseppe Garibaldi, the hero of Italian unification, this broad avenue was actually created by Napoleon in 1808 by filling in the canal here. Not as highly trafficked as some of Venice’s other big streets, Via Garibaldi is lined with basic grocery shops, bakeries, food stalls, and friendly wine bars and restaurants.

As you make your way along Venice’s widest street, just keep looking left and right and take the time to notice the narrow alleyways that lead to mysterious courtyards and the beautiful gothic
buildings. The further north you head up, you’ll encounter scenes more typical of the working city.

10. Arsenale

If you’re looking for some offbeat things to do in Venice, a visit to the Arsenale is a good idea. This shipbuilding zone was once a powerhouse that supplied the maritime Venetian Republic with wartime and merchant vessels.

The Arsenale was founded in the early-12th century, and at the height of its activity, in the early 16th century, it was the largest industrial complex in Europe built prior to the Industrial Revolution. With a workforce of 16,000, its workers were capable of building ships with astounding speed and efficiency.

Today, the site is largely abandoned and is now mainly used by the navy. While there is no public access to the Arsenale (except during the Biennale), you can still experience the Arsenale’s former splendor by admiring its huge gateway and the vast site itself. 

The impressive gateway (Porta Magna) of the Arsenale is a beauty. Built in 1460, it is modeled after a Roman arch and is regarded to be the earliest example of Renaissance architecture in Venice. It is flanked by a motley collection of white stone lions, which were plundered from various sites in Greece.

11. Acqua Alta Bookstore

Tall stack of hardback books at the Acqua Alta Bookstore. PC: Ihor Serdyukov/Shutterstock.com

Even if you’re not a bibliophile, you should make the short detour to the delightful Acqua Alta Bookstore (Libreria Acqua Alta). Undoubtedly one of the most Instagrammable locations in Venice, this unique bookstore is famous for its funky decor and for the unconventional methods of storing its books.

In Italian, the term Acqua alta means “high water” and in Venice, this term refers to the flooding that has long been disruptive to the city between October and March. Having opened in 2004, the bookstore was initially regularly flooded by Venice’s rising waters each winter.

To combat this encumbrance and to protect the literature, the owner of the bookstore started storing some of the books into waterproof bins, bathtubs, canoes, and most notably, a full-size gondola. Thanks to his creativity and taste, the bookstore is full of weird and quaint delights. 

The bookstore sort of gives off the vibe like being in a fuggy old basement. It is packed floor-to-ceiling with books (old/new and in various languages), magazines, prints, comics, maps, postcards, along with other paraphernalia. You’ll also encounter plenty of adorable little felines, usually having a lazy afternoon siesta on top of a pile of books.

The chaotic organization is part of what makes the ambiance so memorable. Be sure to make your way to the back where you can climb the staircase made from outdated/unused tomes and snag a great view over one of Venice’s canals.

The Acqua Alta Bookstore is open daily from 09:00-19:45. To avoid the crowds, go very early or late in the day. Finally, despite the massive amount of visitors, the bookstore is struggling to keep open. When there, do your part and buy something (even a small souvenir) to help keep this magical cultural institution in Venice afloat.

Day 2 in Venice: San Polo & Dorsoduro

Day two of this ‘weekend in Venice’ itinerary primarily focuses on the districts (sestieri) of San Polo and Dorsoduro. Finally, there’s the quintessential activity of taking a boat trip along the Grand Canal.

Curved into the left bank of the Grand Canal, San Polo is the smallest of Venice’s districts. It is a mixed-bag district of residential corners and popular tourist sights that is home to a warren of inviting alleys, homely squares. 

A district of contrasts, Dorsoduro is a vibrant mélange of acclaimed art collections, palatial monuments, picturesque canals, unfussy fishermen’s homes, wealthy residences, and lively cafés and bars.

1. Rialto Market

Start your day early by heading to the famous Rialto Market, one of the best food markets in Europe. The market has been in operation for centuries and although it’s a little tamer than it used to be in its heyday, the bustle of its stalls is a joy to behold.

A visit to the Rialto Market is a “must-do” when sightseeing in Venice as it is one of the few places where you get an intimate experience of everyday life in the city as the locals come to purchase fresh produce and other ingredients. The market is divided into the Pescheria (fresh fish and seafood), and the Erberia (fresh fruit and vegetables).

An assortment of delicious seafood at the famous Rialto Market in Venice, Italy.

The Pescheria, in particular, is a treat for the senses, with artistic piles of writhing eels, soft-shelled crabs, baby octopuses, sardines, huge swordfish, and other species of seafood. Not to be outshone, the Erberia boasts cherries, baby artichokes, red radicchio, and asparagus.

At both places, it’s exciting to hear chanted boasts from the vendors about local produce at bargain prices. 

A variety of vegetables and fruits at the Rialto Market in Venice, Italy

The Erberia (vegetable market) is open from 07:30-13:00 (Monday-Saturday) and the Pescheria (fish market) is open from 07:30-13:00 (Tuesday-Saturday). To experience the Rialto Market at its liveliest you should arrive early in the morning.

2. Rialto Bridge

Beautiful woman sitting on a ledge with the famous Rialto Bridge in the background.

Of all the bridges in Venice, the Rialto Bridge (Ponte di Rialto) is indisputably the most famous one. Traditionally seen as the geographical center of the city, the gracefully curved arch of marble spans the Grand Canal carrying two arcades of shops lined with overpriced boutiques.

Originally built as a pontoon bridge at the canal’s narrowest point, the current-day bridge dates from the late-16th century and was a massive engineering feat in its day. Until the mid-19th century, this remained the sole means of crossing the Grand Canal on foot.

If you’re able to navigate your way through hordes of tourists teeming over the bridge, you’ll enjoy one of Venice’s most famous views: the majestic sweep of palaces along the Grand Canal, which is vibrant with boat traffic.

3. Frari Church

Known to Venetians simply as I Frari, the immense, 14th-century Gothic Frari Church (Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari) dwarfs the eastern part of San Polo. It is the largest church in Venice after St. Mark’s Basilica and has long been considered something of a memorial to the ancient glories of the city. 

At first glance, you’re unlikely to fall in love with its russet-color brick exterior. Indeed, the Frari’s exterior is pretty austere because the Franciscans who built it wanted the building to mirror their beliefs on living a life of poverty. 

However, as is so often the case in Venice, the outside of the church is a misleadingly dull prelude to an extraordinary interior. As soon as you step inside the church’s cavernous interior, you’ll almost immediately be greeted by the exquisitely carved Rood Screen that separates the worship area and the nave.

The superbly-carved woodwork of the Monks' Choir in Venice's Frari Church.

As you proceed further, take a moment to admire the inlaid woodwork of the Monks’ Choir. Crafted in the 15th century, the 124 three-tiered stalls are superbly carved with bas-reliefs of saints and Venetian city scenes.

The cavernous interior of the beautiful Frari Church in Venice, Italy

The chief attraction in the Frari Church is Titian’s great Assumption of the Virgin. This petite altarpiece that appears to glow from within depicts the triumphant ascent of Mary while the 12 Apostles are left gesticulating in amazement amid a swirl of cherubs.

The Assumption isn’t the sole artistic achievement of the Frari and there are a couple of other works that demand viewing. These include Titian’s other masterpiece, the Madonna di Ca’ Pésaro (on the left wall, between the third and fourth columns), Giovanni Bellini’s Triptych of the Madonna and Saints, and Vivarini’s St. Mark Enthroned.

The colossal Canova’s Mausoleum in the Frari Church in Venice, Italy. Pc: Bill Perry/Shutterstock.com

Don’t forget to check out Donatello’s much-lauded and incredibly lifelike wooden statue of St. John the Baptist, and the colossal Canova’s Mausoleum. Two rather bombastic works are the Monument to Titian and the Mausoleum of Doge Giovanni Pesaro, which is hoisted by four brawny black marble figures.

The Frari Church is open from 09:00-18:00 (Monday-Saturday) and 13:00-18:00 (Sunday), last admission at 17:30. The entrance to the church costs 3 EUR (free for children up to 11 years of age). Do not skip the Frari Church as it is well worth seeing.

4. Scuola Grande di San Rocco (Confraternity of St. Roch)

The Scuola Grande di San Rocco is undoubtedly the finest of all the Venetian institutions known as the “scuola.” A scuola was a confraternity that had religious affiliations.

Housed in a remarkable Renaissance building that is a work of art in itself, it functions as a shrine to the Venetian artist Tintoretto, who spent 23 years working on the Scuola on and off. His much-celebrated cycle of more than fifty major paintings secured the Scuola enduring fame and represents for Venice what the Sistine Chapel is for Rome.

Start your visit in the smaller room on the topmost floor – the sumptuous Sala dell’Albergo. This is dominated by what is regarded as Tintoretto’s greatest painting – the moving and dramatic Crucifixion. On the ceiling is The Glory of St. Roch.

Take the grand Scarpagnino staircase down to the dimly lit Sala Capitolare, whose gilded ceiling features elaborate carvings of allegorical figures. It is simply breathtaking and there aren’t enough superlatives to do this room justice. 

The sublime ceiling paintings reflect a theme based on the interaction between the Old and New Testaments while the vast wall paintings depict various scenes from the New Testament. Some of the most striking artworks are The Miracle of the Bronze Serpent, Elijah Fed by the Angel, and The Temptation of Christ

Pro Tip

Use the mirrors provided to view the ceiling to avoid getting a crick in your neck.

I love how Tintoretto’s paintings reveal his revolutionary ability to convey theatrical effect through contrasts of light and shade, ingenious employment of color, and bold foreshortening.

Finally, make your way down to the Sala Terrena, which consists of eight paintings illustrating the life of Mary. Two of the standout here are the tempestuous Annunciation and the serene The Flight into Egypt.

The Scuola Grande di San Rocco is a greatly underrated treasure that justifiably deserves to be on any list of must-see sights in Venice. 

It is open daily from 09:00-17:30 (last admission at 17:00). At 10 EUR the entry price represents great value for money. Although you get a leaflet containing some information about the Scuola, it’s better to get the audio guide for more detailed descriptions.

5. Peggy Guggenheim Collection

In recent years, I’ve gained an affinity for modern art and was very keen on visiting the Peggy Guggenheim Collection (Collezione Peggy Guggenheim). I’m very glad I did since it is one of the best contemporary art museums I’ve come across and a veritable haven for modern art aficionados.

The excellent selection of 20th-century painting and sculpture reflects the eclectic taste and extraordinary style of the late American heiress Peggy Guggenheim. It is housed in the unfinished but charming 18th-century Palazzo Venier dei Leoni, which was her home from 1949 until her death in 1979.

More than 200 paintings and sculptures from almost every modern art movement of the 20th century are on display here, with particular strengths in Cubism, Futurism, Surrealism, and Abstract Expressionism. 

Renowned artists represented are Miró, Kandinsky, Duchamp, Picasso, Severini, Warhol, Klee, Mondrian, Chagall, Giacometti, and Rothko.

The standout pieces in the permanent collection for us were Salvador Dalí’s eerily hypnotic Birth of Liquid Desires, Giorgio de Chirico’s hallucinatory The Red Tower, René Magritte’s magical Empire of Light, Jackson Pollock’s labyrinthine Alchemy, and Max Ernst’s evocative Attirement of the Bride (Guggenheim was married to Ernst in the 1940s).

The most intriguing and provocative of the artworks is easily Marino Marini’s Angel of the Citadel. Set on the patio leading to the terrace, it shows a bronze male nude on horseback flaunting his erection at the passing canal traffic.

The Peggy Guggenheim Collection definitely warrants a visit. Best of all, its modern canvases offer a welcome antidote to the Renaissance paintings found in Venice’s churches and the religious fervor that permeates most Venetian art.

The Peggy Guggenheim Collection is open from 10:00-18:00 (Wednesday-Monday). The entrance to the museum costs 15 EUR (free for children up to 10 years of age). To avoid queueing, book a skip-the-line ticket in advance.

6. Punta Della Dogana & Santa Maria della Salute

View of Punta della Dogana and Santa Maria della Salute church in Venice.

The eastern tip (punta) of the promontory on Dorsoduro where the Grand Canal and the Giudecca Canal merge stands the triangular 17th-century structure of Punta Della Dogana. Originally constructed in the 15th century and designed like a ship’s prow, this former customs post once controlled all boats entering the Grand Canal. 

On the corner tower of the house, two bronze Atlases support a gleaming golden globe with a weathervane figure of Fortune on the top. The warehouse is now home to an avant-garde contemporary art collection from some of the world’s most creative minds.

Be sure to walk down to the punta to admire the striking contemporary sculptures adorning the quayside and for remarkable, sweeping views across the San Marco basin, and the nearby isles of San Giorgio Maggiore and Giudecca.

Adjacent to the Punta della Dogana lies the Santa Maria della Salute, one of the most imposing architectural landmarks of Venice. This Baroque church was erected in honor of the Virgin Mary of Good Health as thanksgiving for the deliverance of Venice from the plague of 1630.

Though the interior of the church is spacious and airy, it’s nothing compared to the magnificent white Istrian stone exterior. With its playful scrolls supporting a hulking dome, the church has an indelible grace.

7. Teatro La Fenice

Exterior of Teatro La Fenice in Venice, Italy. PC: andersphoto/Shutterstock.com

Venice’s Teatro La Fenice is one of the world’s most celebrated theaters Italy’s third-most famous opera house, after Naples’ San Carlo and Milan’s La Scala. 

Many renowned operatic premières have taken place in La Fenice including Verdi’s Rigoletto (1851) and La Traviata (1853), Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress (1951), and Britten’s The Turn of the Screw (1954).

Originally built in 1792, the aptly named opera house (fenice means “phoenix”) is inextricably associated with fire. It has burned down three times, most recently in 1996, and risen from the ashes, rebuilt almost exactly as before.

La Fenice’s Neoclassical exterior hides an immaculately opulent interior. With decadent, intricately designed gold interiors outfitted with plush, red velvet upholstery, the five-tiered horseshoe auditorium with 174 boxes still has an old-world look about it.

I love how the gorgeous Royal Box is accessible to the public. Don’t forget to look up at the marvelous trompe l’oeil ceiling mural as it is a sight to behold. In addition, the foyers, anterooms, bars, and attached salons ooze grace and grandeur in a big way. 

Teatro La Fenice is open every day from 09:30-18:00. However, opening hours can differ when there are performances, so check before you visit.

To admire the stunning interior of Teatro La Fenice, you can either see a performance here or go for the self-guided tour (13 EUR, includes an audio guide) as we did. I strongly recommend purchasing a ticket for the Skip-the-Line Tour to avoid losing valuable time.

If you prefer participating in a guided tour (one hour) of Teatro La Fenice in English or Italian, you can purchase your tickets here.

8. Accademia Bridge

View of gondolas and water boats in the Grand Canal from the Accademia Bridge in Venice.

Next, access the Accademia Bridge (Ponte dell’Accademia) to cross back into Dorsoduro. The bridge is one of only four bridges that span the Grand Canal and was built in 1932 as a temporary structure to replace a 19th-century iron bridge. 

Although not as popular or impressive as the Rialto Bridge, the Accademia Bridge offers what in my opinion is the most magnificent view on the Grand Canal. It’s also one of the best spots to view the sunrise and sunset in Venice. 

Fun Fact

Speaking of bridges, Ponte dei Pugni (Bridge of Fists), which spans the idyllic Rio San Barnaba in Dorsoduro, is named for a dispute between two Venetian families who fought on this bridge. Brutal fistfights (pugni) between the rival factions took place here until the practice was outlawed in 1705. You can still see the footprints set in white stone which marked the starting positions of the combat.

9. Boat Trip along the Grand Canal

Panoramic view of Venice's Grand Canal at sunset

No visit to Venice would be complete without taking a boat trip along the Grand Canal, Venice’s fabulous “main highway.” Known to the locals as the “Canalazzo”, it is nearly 4km (2.5 miles) long and divides the city in half, with three districts to the west and three to the east. 

The banks of the Grand Canal are lined with a cavalcade of exquisite palaces and grand houses, most built between the 14th and 18th centuries. The trip along the winding waterway not only reveals the city’s past grandeur but also provides a thrilling look at life in present-day Venice.

With some of the best viewpoints in Venice, the sights along the Grand Canal are such a veritable feast for the eyes that many visitors ride the boats back and forth, soaking up the atmosphere. Look out for architectural wonders such as Ca’ d’Oro, Ca’ Rezzonico, Palazzo Balbi, and the Santa Maria della Salute.

I wouldn’t normally recommend taking a gondola ride on the Grand Canal as it’s far too busy and noisy. A much better alternative is to take a 1-hour motorboat tour on the Grand Canal, where you will see the bustling Venetian waterfront and iconic historical landmarks.

However, for the best value-for-money experience of cruising along the Grand Canal, hop aboard the Vaporetto #1 for a 40-minute ride. Vaporetto #2 travels the same route, but it skips some stops and takes 25 minutes, making it hard to sightsee. You can also pre-book your ticket online, which I found to be very handy.

Pro Tip

To beat the crowds, start from Piazzale Roma heading towards San Marco Ferry Terminal late afternoon or evening. For the trip of a lifetime, try and grab the front-row seats on Vaporetto #1. To ensure that you don’t miss out on the best sights and views, ride in both directions and see one side at a time.

10. Santa Margherita Square

People sitting in the Santa Margherita Square in Venice, Italy.

Situated in the lively hub of western Dorsoduro, the sprawling Santa Margherita Square (Campo Santa Margherita) is an attraction you shouldn’t miss. Unlike St. Mark’s Square which is inundated with tourists, Santa Margherita Square caters mostly to the Venetians and is the center of Dorsoduro’s social scene.

Santa Margherita’s cluster of bars, and cafés, ensures that there’s an amiable bustle of activity day in, day out. During the day, it is a popular market with plenty of produce and flower stalls. However, at night it transforms into the trendiest party area in the city.

As you stroll around the square, take a look at the beautiful surrounding architecture, with the houses dating back to the 14th and 15th centuries.

In the evening, waste no time in occupying a table for a Spritz apéritif, prosecco, beer, or coffee. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a more engaging spot for people-watching in Venice.

Trivia Tidbit

In recent times, the population of Venice (historical center) has fallen below the 55,000 mark, having shrunk by over two-thirds since the 1950s. Venice’s permanent population is experiencing a slow but inexorable decline as many young Venetians prefer to move to the mainland with the convenience of a car, not to mention lower house prices, cheaper shopping, and fewer tourists.

Day 3 in Venice: Island Hopping, Cannaregio & Gondola Ride

The final day of this ‘3 days in Venice’ itinerary is pretty relaxed and involves a trip in the Venetian lagoon to the three other principal islands of Murano, Burano, and Torcello. 

A day trip to the islands makes a welcome break from the densely packed streets of the city. It will also reveal the origins of the glass-and lace-work touted in so many of the city’s shops, and give you a glimpse of the origins of Venice itself

Afterward, take a leisurely stroll through the idyllic Cannaregio district before taking a quintessential gondola ride.

You can visit the islands on your own conveniently and easily using the vaporetti (water buses). For your convenience, I recommend buying a day ticket that is valid for all water buses in Venice, Murano, Burano, and Torcello.

The islands are quite small and easy to navigate, but check the schedule for the next island-to-island departure (usually hourly) and your return so that you don’t spend most of your day waiting for connections.

If, however, you wish to avoid the hassle of arranging the trip yourself, you should definitely sign up for this excellent boat trip that conveniently takes you around Murano, Burano, and Torcello.

1. Murano

Lying about 1.5 kilometers (0.9 miles) north of Venice, Murano is the lagoon’s most visited island. Sometimes described as a mini-Venice, it comprises a cluster of small islands, divided by canals and lined with patrician mansions.

Murano has long been synonymous with glassmaking and in the 15th and 16th centuries it was even the principal glass-producing center in Europe. Some of the factories are now derelict, but glass is still produced here in vast quantities.

A glass-blowing demonstration in one of the showrooms in Murano.

A highlight of a trip to Murano is a demonstration of the glass-blowing technique. Marvel, while a glass artisan, takes a blob of molten paste on the end of an iron rod and, with incredible skill, transforms it into a vase, bird, animal, or similar work of art. It’s a fun activity, especially if you’re traveling with kids in tow.

Many of the glassworks and showrooms offering the best of Murano glass can be found along the Fondamenta dei Vetrai and Fondamenta Manin, running along both sides of a canal through the heart of Murano’s glass-making district. You can book tickets to the glass factory here.

Besides watching a glass-blowing demonstration, two of the worthwhile things to do in Murano are to visit the island’s Glass Museum (Museo del Vetro) and the Basilica dei Santi Maria e Donato.

The Museo del Vetro chronicles the history of the delicate art of glassblowing and is home to a splendid collection of antique pieces. 

The magnificent interior of the Basilica dei Santi Maria e Donato in Murano, Italy.

Founded in the 7th century, the Basilica dei Santi Maria e Donato sports a magnificent colonnaded apse and fantastic medieval mosaics on its 12th-century inlaid floor.

2. Burano & Mazzorbo

Colorful houses along a canal in Burano, Italy.

Lively Burano is definitely the most picturesque and arguably the most interesting of the lagoon islands. Generations of fishermen and lace-makers have carved out a tranquil life for themselves on this small island.

Above all else, Burano is most famous for its parade of fishermen’s cottages painted in a riot of colors—azure, yellow, lilac, tangerine, ocher, and dark red. This, coupled with the bobbing boats in the canals make Burano a photographer’s delight and it’s no surprise that the village is a haven for artists and Instagram lovers.

Beautiful blonde woman standing outside the dazzling Casa Bepi in Burano, Italy.

Local lore says that the bright colors once enabled each fisherman to spot his house from the sea in the thick mist of the lagoon, but nowadays the colors are used simply for a pleasant effect. Look out for Casa Bepi, a small house that undoubtedly sports the boldest exterior on the island. Its dazzling façade featuring zany patterns of diamonds, triangles, and bars is a sight to behold.

Lace on display in Burano, Italy.

Lace is Burano’s other claim to fame and in the 16th century, the local lace was the most sought after in Europe. Production of handmade lace is now almost extinct, and most of the stuff sold in the shops here is of the imported, machine-made variety.

Burano definitely merits a visit and there’s nothing more pleasurable than ambling the back streets of the island, marveling at the kaleidoscopic facades, and taking tons of photos. Your senses will be inebriated by shades of blue, pink, red, orange, purple.

Colorful houses along a quiet street in Burano, Italy.

There are plenty of opportunities to take great snaps all over the island so make sure to venture further than the streets close to the Vaporetto stop.

If you’re keen on seeing authentic Burano lace and the women who make it, make a beeline for the Museo del Merletto (Museum of Lace Making). It houses a collection of handkerchiefs, collars, napkins, altar cloths, and other items made in intricate lace patterns.

The slanted bell tower (Campanile Storto di Burano) in Burano, Italy.

Opposite the museum stands the Church of San Martino, with its infamous tipsy bell tower. (Campanile Storto di Burano). Yes, it is not an illusion … the 53-meter tall bell tower of Burano is one of the most heavily leaning towers in Italy, and shows an incline of around 1.8 meters from its base to its steeple.

Pro Tip

When visiting Burano, don’t forget to sample the yummy bussolai – traditional Burano butter cookies that are baked in the shapes of a backward ‘S’ or a circle. Buy them at Panificio Pasticceria Costantini or Panificio Pasticceria Garbo.

Although Burano is great to see and wander around, like Venice it has unfortunately become a victim of its own charm. It’s not uncommon to see the quaint little island being inundated by swathes of tourists.

For a more tranquil experience, head to the small island of Mazzorbo by crossing over the small footbridge connecting it to Burano. Densely populated a couple of centuries ago, it eventually turned into a place of exile for disgraced noblemen, thus prompting an exodus of the island’s undisgraced citizens who decamped for homes elsewhere in the lagoon.

Nowadays Mazzorbo doesn’t amount to much more than a handful of scattered villas, artichoke fields, verdant space, and the simple but elegant 14th-century Church of Santa Caterina.

Despite being chronically threatened by salt and high waters, Mazzorbo is rather astonishingly, home to a vineyard. Belonging to the Venissa wine estate, the Dorona di Venezia white wine is famous for its red wine-like characteristics. The wine estate even features a Michelin-star restaurant.

3. Torcello

View of the small island of Torcello near Venice, Italy.

Understated Torcello is the least visited of the three islands which is a shame because it was the site of the first settlement in the Venetian lagoon. When troops of Attila the Hun invaded the mainland in the 5th and 6th centuries, inhabitants from the nearby Roman towns fled to Torcello for protection.

Looking at this marshy and shrub-covered bucolic island, it seems hard to believe that in its heyday Torcello was the center of a thriving civilization that grew to 20,000 and lasted 1,000 years. Today, less than 50 people call Torcello home.

A combination of silted canals, malaria, and Venice’s subsequent growth decimated the population and eventually turned Torcello into a ghost town, but not without leaving behind a few impressive monuments that convey a telling story about its past.

The principal reason to visit Torcello is to see Venice’s first cathedral and the most serene building in the lagoon – the Torcello Basilica (Basilica di Santa Maria Assunta). Founded in 639 and rebuilt between the 9th and 11th centuries, it is famous for its jewel-like Byzantine mosaics—rivaling those of St. Mark’s Basilica.

The two most spectacular mosaics are Madonna and Child, set against a glowing gold background in the dome of the central apse, and the highly decorative Last Judgment on the west wall, which depicts scenes of devils, angels, wild beasts, and fires.

The richness and detail of the golden mosaics of the Torcello Basilica will render every spectator speechless. Also worth checking out are the exquisite marble panels of the Iconostasis and the vivid swirls of colors of the basilica’s floor.

The Torcello Basilica is open daily from 10:30-17:30. The entrance costs 6 EUR. 

Aside from the basilica, other points of interest in Torcello are the 11th-century church dedicated to St. Fosca and a small museum that contains local archaeological finds and salvaged Byzantine mosaics. However, they aren’t really too interesting.

Man wearing sunglasses sitting on the infamous 'Throne of Attila' on Torcello, Italy.

Worth a quick look is the nearby Throne of Attila. By popular belief, this primitive stone chair was the throne of Attila the Hun, though it was most likely a seat for the island’s magistrates. According to local folklore, if singles sit on the Throne of Attila they will be married within the year.

4. Cannaregio & the Jewish Ghetto

Laundry hanging on a washing line outside a building in Cannaregio, Venice.

If you’re looking to find locations slightly off the beaten track in Venice, you should definitely take a short stroll through Cannaregio. Residential, quiet, and unspoiled for the most part, it is one of the most intriguing but least explored areas of the city.

Coming upon colorful scenes of everyday Venetian life was one of the great pleasures we witnessed while wandering through Cannaregio. Daily life goes undisturbed by tourism, music drifts from open windows above storefronts, elderly Venetians pass the time of day mingling with their neighbors, and laundry is hung out to dry across alleyways.

The biggest reason to visit Cannaregio is to check out the Campo del Ghetto Nuovo (New Ghetto Square), which, despite the name, stands at the heart of one of the world’s oldest ghettos. In the early 16th century, Jews in Venice were forced to move to this tiny section of Cannaregio, surrounded on all sides by canals.

Fun Fact

The word “ghetto” originated in Venice and derives from the Venetian verb gettare, meaning “to pour” or “to cast”, and probably can be traced to the earlier presence of a copper foundry in what was to become the all-Jewish district.

The Jews were heavily taxed, barred from many professions, and forced to observe a strict curfew. By law, they were mandated to wear a yellow patch or scarf identifying them as Jewish and the ghetto was guarded by Christians during the night. 

It was only in 1797, with the arrival of Napoleon, that the ghetto as an institution was disbanded and Jews were free to move elsewhere. Today, only a handful of Jewish families reside here, but it still retains its ethnic character. 

The famous Gam Gam Kosher restaurant in the Jewish Ghetto of Venice, Italy.

You will come across Jewish bakeries, two synagogues, a Jewish library, a Jewish Museum, and even a kosher restaurant (Gam-Gam). 

Be sure to stroll along Fondamenta degli Ormesini, home to some of Venice’s best local bars, and restaurants. If you’re here in the evening, you’ll see many locals chilling in the quayside’s sun-soaked bars and canalside restaurants.

5.Santa Maria dei Miracoli

The superb white marble facade of the Santa Maria dei Miracoli church in Venice, Italy.

Sheathed in gleaming white marble, the exquisite Santa Maria dei Miracoli is undoubtedly a top candidate for the most beautiful church in Venice. Although it is small and tucked away in a maze of alleys and waterways in eastern Cannaregio, it is well worth the effort required to find it.

The jewel-box-like façade of this early Renaissance gem is a dazzling tapestry of decorated marble slabs with stunning bas-reliefs and sculptures. Unsurprisingly, the perfectly proportioned Miracoli is the favorite church of many Venetians and the one where they prefer to tie the knot.

The exquisite marble-lined interior of the Santa Maria dei Miracoli church in Venice, Italy.

The Miracoli’s marble-lined interior contains some of the most intricate decorative sculptures to be seen in Venice. The pastel palette of pale pink, silver-gray, and white marble makes an elegant venue
for all those Venetian weddings.

Notice how the pilasters adorned with interlaced flowers, mythical creatures, and cavorting mermaids. Don’t forget to admire the sequence of fifty saints and prophets that is set into the coffered ceiling of the Miracoli’s barrel-vaulted nave.

The Santa Maria dei Miracoli is open from 10:30-13:30 & 14:30-17:00 (Monday-Saturday). The entrance costs 3 EUR.

6. Gondola Ride

A couple taking a romantic gondola ride along a quiet canal in Venice.

How can you spend 3 days in Venice and not go on a gondola ride? While it isn’t cheap and can feel a bit touristy, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience and a must-do in Venice.

A gondola ride will set you back around 80-120 EUR for the ride. If you are traveling with family or friends, the cost per person will be cheaper – five is the maximum number of passengers. 

Agree on the cost and duration of the ride beforehand, and make it clear you want to see the more serene areas of the city. Good places to find gondolas in more peaceful surroundings include the Jewish Ghetto in Cannaregio, San Polo, and the Campo San Barnaba area in Dorsoduro. Feel free to bring beer or prosecco—your gondolier may even supply glasses.

Keep in mind that if you want the gondolier to sing or to play an instrument during the ride, you will be charged extra. While it costs a little more, at sunset or after dark, a gondola ride is even more romantic and beautiful.

There are a number of gondola ranks throughout the city with plenty of gondoliers in striped shirts and beribboned boater hats waiting for business on bridges and squares. However, to avoid wasting precious time looking for a gondola, book a gondola ride in advance

However, if you feel that the gondola ride doesn’t fit in your budget or is simply not worth it, don’t fret. For a much cheaper experience, take a ride on one of the traghetti—large, unadorned gondola ferries that shuttle people from one side of the Grand Canal to the other.

There are traghetto (singular of traghetti) stations at eight different points along the Grand Canal where it isn’t easy to cross by bridge. A traghetto ride costs 2 EUR and is a great option if you want to ride a gondola without paying full price. 

What to Eat in Venice

An assortment of mouthwatering cicchetti on display in a food counter in Venice.

Venetian cuisine is heavily influenced by the bounty of the lagoon with fish and seafood featuring heavily. The city’s staples have long been polenta and rice, although pasta is also popular. Don’t forget to check out 22 best traditional foods to eat in Venice.

Besides seafood, rustic finger food, which can be found in hole-in-the-wall bars (bacari), is extremely popular in Venice. Mouthwatering counter snacks (Cicchetti) such as crostini (slices of crusty bread topped with local ingredients such as meats, cheeses, and vegetables), polpette (spiced meatballs), and crispy battered artichokes are a must when visiting Venice. Find out where to find the best cicchetti in Venice.

For vegetarians and vegans, dishes incorporating polenta, pasta, and risotto make the most of such local specialties as asparagus, artichokes, radicchio, and bruscandoli (wild hops).

Be sure to save room for dessert because Venetian biscuits, cakes, and pastries can be excellent. There aren’t too many nicer things you can do to your taste buds than hit them with a cone of homemade Venetian gelato (ice cream). Check out the 11 best gelato shops in Venice.

Where to Eat in Venice

It takes a little planning to eat well in Venice otherwise you’re bound to be disappointed. Dining in the areas around St. Mark’s Square, the main train station, and along principal thoroughfares should be avoided as overpriced tourist traps, grand cafés, and expensive established restaurants predominate.

But moving away from the San Marco area, dining experiences tend to be more authentic and you will generally see both the crowds (and the prices) trickle down. Try the districts of Cannaregio, San Polo & Santa Croce, or even Dorsoduro for decent, well-priced meals.

As a rule of thumb, avoid places where lasagne, spaghetti Bolognese and pizza are all present on the menu as these aren’t Venetian specialties and the place is essentially a tourist trap.

Look for places where there’s no menu at all or one which has hastily been scribbled on a chalkboard in Italian only. Finally, avoid places with cajoling waiters standing outside, and beware of restaurants that don’t display their prices.

Pro Tip

Whatever the price range, Venice’s best restaurants are always busy, so it is advisable to reserve a table. If restaurants don’t accept bookings, try to arrive early to avoid waiting in line.

If you prefer not to eat and drink alone, you should go on a Venice Street Food Tour. Led by knowledgeable, enthusiastic local foodies, the tour introduces you to Venice’s vast cicchetti repertoire and takes you along the city’s confusing backstreets.

Where to Stay in Venice

Venice is an expensive place to stay and can hardly be said to have a  “low season.” You can’t go terribly amiss in terms of “good” areas in which to stay in Venice. 

The area in and around the district of San Marco is the most touristy and almost always more expensive. If you want to stay in less-trafficked surroundings, check out convenient but more tranquil locations in the districts of Dorsoduro, Santa Croce, and Cannaregio.

Once you get your bearings, you’ll find you’re never far from anything. You may, however, want to consider how close your hotel is to a Vaporetto stop.

For those on a budget in Venice, substantial savings can be had by staying in a hotel in Mestre or Marghera, or near the main airport, but you must count on at least 45-60 minutes each way until you get into the city center.

Hostel: Anda Venice Hostel, a hugely popular hostel in Mestre, located just two minutes on foot from the train station and within walking distance from the city center

Budget: San Lio Tourist House, unpretentious choice within 5 minutes of St. Mark’ Square and the Rialto Bridge

Mid-range: Four Points by Sheraton Venice Mestre, a reasonably-priced 4-star hotel in Mestre. A great option if you’re visiting Venice by car as the hotel offers free parking

Splurge: Palazzo Venart Luxury Hotel, sumptuous top-choice pick in the district of Santa Croce overlooking the Grand Canal

Venice Travel Tips

Here are some essential things to know before you visit Venice.

1. Try to visit during the shoulder season: Visit Venice in April-May or October-November if you can as these months are generally a little less busy, but still have relatively decent weather. Prices are also cheaper, and everything is a little less overwhelming.

If possible, avoid visiting Venice in the summer from late June to early September when the crowds are at their fullest, hotel rooms are virtually at peak season, and the climate can be oppressively hot and clammy.

2. Visit Venice with the right mindset: Travel with an open mind and be prepared for what to expect when visiting Venice otherwise it may lead to disenchantment. 

First of all, Venice suffers from massive overcrowding and these crowds could make murderers out of monks. I defy anyone to make their way around the city without thinking less-than-loving thoughts about their fellow man.

There’s practically no off-season in Venice and no matter when you visit, there’s always going to be a lot of people. Yes, some months are better than others but I think it’s important to be aware of this before you visit, or you could be chagrined with the sheer volume of tourists. 

Just ambling around the city can be painful, as you often find yourself queuing simply to walk over a bridge. This is exacerbated by the hordes of tourists trying to snap the perfect Instagram picture.

3. Visiting Venice isn’t cheap: Venice is also not a particularly cheap destination to visit, especially when compared to other European cities. Because of the cash the tourists bring to the city and how heavily Venice depends on tourism, prices in Venice are exorbitantly high.

The city can be extremely expensive if you do everything, and will still run your wallet dry even if you don’t do everything. So, don’t be too surprised at the high costs.  

4. Travel light: One of the biggest errors travelers make when they come to Venice is bringing along an excess amount of luggage that they then have to drag (rather inconveniently) around town. 

Even if you’re planning to take a water taxi instead of walking around town with your luggage, you may be charged outrageous fees for each additional piece you have.

5. Stick to tap water: Ask for tap water (“acqua semplice” or “acqua da rubinetto”) or you will automatically get expensive bottled water included on your bill. Moreover, carry a water bottle so you can refill at any of the free drinking fountains throughout Venice.

6. Make use of the skip-the-line tickets: Given that Venice is almost on everyone’s bucket list, the city is perennially crowded. During the high tourist season, visitors have been known to wait hours for entrance tickets, with queues stretching several hundred meters long. 

To avoid wasting potentially hours of sightseeing, purchasing tickets in advance is highly recommended. Although you will pay extra for a skip-the-line ticket, it will save you precious time and help make the most of your visit.

7. Expect to encounter scaffolding: Restoration work is always taking place somewhere in Venice, and there is rarely any indication before you go in as to how much of the building is under wraps. It’s impossible to predict which buildings will be undergoing restoration in the near future so prepare to be disappointed – you are almost certain to come across scaffolding and barriers at some point.

8. Public toilets and accessibility: Venice is rather limited in terms of the number of public toilets (toilette, gabinetti), and they come with a charge of 1.50 EUR. You can find them at the airport, train station, in car parks and some main squares.

Although of a reasonable standard, public toilets may sometimes be short of paper, so it is a good idea to carry tissues with you. It’s cheaper to have a stand-up espresso (the cheapest option) at a bar or café and use their facilities. In addition, toilets are free in some museums and galleries.

9. Keep a close eye on your belongings:  Be aware of petty crime like pickpocketing, especially at railway stations, markets, and crowded sites. On public transport, particularly the tourist routes, hold your handbag or rucksack in front of you and be extra vigilant over your belongings when people are jostling to get on board. 

10. Venice & Flooding: Called the “acqua alta” (high water), the winter flooding of Venice is caused by the coincidence of low atmospheric pressure, south-easterly Sirocco winds, and natural high tides.

It has always been a feature of Venetian life and in autumn and winter, duckboards are a familiar sight in St. Mark’s Square and other low-lying areas of central Venice. Although acqua alta can occur anytime between late September and April, the typical high water season lasts from November-January.

If you’re planning on visiting Venice during acqua alta, remember to bring waterproof boots and suitable items of clothing. Also, keep in mind that some popular attractions may not always be accessible.

11. Pack a pair of comfortable shoes: As you will primarily be getting around Venice on foot, it pays to have appropriate footwear. Stick with a comfortable pair of flat shoes rather than heels to avoid unnecessary purple toes and white blisters.

12. Lay off counterfeit goods: It’s illegal for street vendors in Venice to sell knockoff handbags, and it’s also illegal for you to buy them; both you and the vendor can get big fines.

13. Do not swim in the canals: As tempting as it may seem during the warmer months, absolutely don’t swim in the canals. If caught, you risk getting thrown out of the city and you may need to pay a potentially hefty fine of 350 EUR.


Now, what do you think? What would you recommend seeing during a long weekend in Venice? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!

About Mihir

Hi there, I'm Mihir! I was born in India, raised there and in Australia before spending nearly a decade in Finland. I suffer from chronic fernweh and am always looking forward to a new adventure. Besides traveling, my other loves are my beloved cats, architecture, art, craft beer, classic movies, history, cricket, and Australian Rules Football. Oh, there's also my partner in crime Jacky who's not too bad either 😉

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