- Explore everything Venice has to offer on a 1, 2 or 3-day city break
- Expert guide to Venice – what to do, delicious local cuisine to try and must-see places to visit
- Travel tips and ideas for discovering Venice – from romantic canals to exemplary architecture
Built on a lagoon in the Adriatic Sea, Venice is a city like no other. This extraordinary Italian city, made up of 118 individual islands joined together by 400 bridges, is one of the world’s most visited travel destinations. Venice is much-loved by visitors who arrive on Italian tours, all eager to see its intricate canals and outstanding art and architecture for themselves. Although an incredibly romantic city, it’s also a great place for solo holidays – there are so many things to do in Venice.
A sightseeing tour taking in iconic landmarks, such as the Basilica di San Marco and the Bridge of Sighs, is a dream come true for many visitors. With plenty of Venice holidays at your fingertips, your wish could become a reality. Here are our top tips for visiting Venice.
Things to do in Venice: 1 day in Venice
There are lots of things to do in Venice, but if you’ve only one day in the Italian city, make sure you see the top sights. A Venice itinerary has to include a visit to the Piazza San Marco, possibly the world’s most splendid square. Dominating the piazza is the Basilica di San Marco, a remarkable Byzantine-style cathedral with a Greek cross layout and over 8,000 square metres of glittering mosaics that cover the walls, vaults and domes. Precious marble adorns the facade and interior too. Don’t miss the impressive marble carpet on the floor.
Opposite, St Mark’s Campanile is worth a visit. The imposing bell tower is almost 99 metres high, and the crowning spire historically operated as a lighthouse. Luckily, there’s a lift to the top! Out of five original bells, only the largest remains. Marangona, as it’s known, rings twice a day, at noon and midnight.
The best Venice tours will include entry to nearby Doge’s Palace – time your visit for either 8.30am or an hour before closing to avoid the crowds. Formerly the residence of Venice’s most powerful ruler, the enchanting palace was also the seat of government councils and courts. The palace’s rooms are ornately decorated, many with wood carvings. However, over the centuries, not every visitor frequenting the Doge’s Palace admired the artwork. Many were interrogated there, then ushered over the connecting 16th-century Bridge of Sighs – best appreciated from a gondola on the canal below – to a prison on the other side.
Holidays to Italy that include a day in Venice should feature a traditional gondola ride. It’s touristy and overpriced (especially if you want a sunset ride), but it’s fun and an experience you’ll always remember. Don’t spend long in the busy Grand Canal, instead, ask your gondolier to take you through the quieter back waterways. There’s so much more to discover away from tourist hotspots.
Things to do in Venice: 2 days in Venice
If you’re fortunate to be spending another 24 hours in the city, there’s plenty of things to do in Venice in 2 days. Start your morning with a stroll to appreciate the many beautiful merchant houses and some of the city’s 400 bridges. First-time visitors should wander over one of Venice’s oldest bridges – the Rialto Bridge. This arched stone bridge spans the Grand Canal and houses a bustling market selling fruit, vegetables, meat and fish.
The tranquil old Jewish ghetto is only a 20-minute walk away – or, if you prefer, you can travel there by vaporetto, a city waterbus. In the company of a Venice guide, learn more about the area’s fascinating history, why Jews were restricted to specific jobs, and how the ghetto was locked and patrolled at night. Today many of the crumbling buildings have been restored and are alive with shops and cafes. If choosing to visit a synagogue, remember to dress respectfully.
Don’t forget to sample some local Venetian cuisine. While you’ll no doubt have a gelato or two, be sure to try some of the city’s other specialities. Sarde in Saor is an antipasto consisting of sardines, onions, raisins and pine nuts and incredibly tasty. The classic Venetian dish, Baccalà mantecato, is dried cod often eaten on small slices of bread and enjoyed with a glass of prosecco – and well worth a try.
Later in the day, head to the magnificent Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute, built in the 17th century. At the time, the plague had killed over 80,000 Venetians, and the Senate promised the Virgin Mary a church in exchange for her intervention – no expense spared. Located at the entrance to the Grand Canal, a Madonna statue stands on top of the central dome. There’s also a much-worshipped image of the Madonna and Child at the centre of a grand altar. Visit for free during church opening hours.
Things to do in Venice: 3 days in Venice
Exploring one of the outer islands is another great thing to do in Venice, especially if you are in the city for an additional day. Travel to Murano, Burano or Torcello using a local vaporetto. While these canal bus boats are often busy, they’re an easy and good-value way to get about. Note that tickets are one price, regardless of the length of your journey.
The pretty island of Murano is famous for its exquisite coloured glass. Local artisans make jewellery, beads, vases, bowls and other glass items, which make great souvenirs to take home. If possible, watch one of the skilled glassblowers at work – their demonstrations are mesmerising. Nearby Burano is known for its exquisite handmade lace and its colourful waterside residences. You’ll discover a more relaxed pace of life here, so make your way to a pizzeria or trattoria and take it easy for a while.
If you want to soak up the sun on your city break or enjoy a welcoming breeze, Venice Lido is the place to go. Just a 10-minute boat ride away from the city centre, Lido di Venezia is a seven-mile sliver of sandbank between the lagoon and the Adriatic Sea. There’s a nature reserve, the Oasis of Alberoni, at the south end, home to protected birds and massive dunes – you can hire a bike to get there. The Lido is also the location of Venice’s annual Film Festival, held every year at the end of August.
Art aficionados keen to see some works by well-known Venetian school painters, such as Tintoretto and Carpaccio, should head to the Scuola Grande di San Rocco and Scuola di San Giorgio degli Schiavoni. The city’s Gallerie dell’Accademia is a must-visit too, as is the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, with a remarkable display of modern art.
Venice tours – plan your own Venice adventure
Inspired to visit Venice and travel its romantic canals? Plan your Venice 2020 adventure with a tour such as Lake Garda, Venice and Verona.
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