Planning a day in Venice Italy? This is the ultimate guide to exploring the captivating floating city in one day.
Venice is one of the most singular and beautiful cities in the world. It’s a natural movie set, an artist’s vision of what a city on the water should look like.
No other place is quite like Venice, with its narrow passageways, crumbling facades, and glistening canals.
Venice isn’t just picturesque canals either. As befitting an elegantly decaying place that looks like a dream, it’s a dream place for art and architecture lovers. Everything you see is a mix of Gothic, Byzantine, Classical, and Renaissance influences.
Ideally, you should visit Venice for several days. Last time I visited, I was there for a week (with a couple day trips) and never got bored.
Still, I know that’s not always possible, and you might only have a short amount of time to see Venice. If that’s the case, rest assured that you can see the major highlights of Venice with this one day itinerary.
Venice is a very compact city. It’s really a big town, not a real city. You can walk across it in about an hour. Nearly all the major attractions are within a 20 minute walk of the Rialto Bridge or St. Mark’s Square.
Most tourists congregate in the popular San Marco area, where you’ll find St. Mark’s Basilica and the Doge’s Palace.
I recommend visiting these popular Venice attraction in the mid-afternoon, instead of first thing in the morning or midday. You’ll find fewer tourists then.
Plus, even with just 1 day in Venice, you’ll want to explore Venice’s other neighborhoods, not just the superstar attractions. One of the best “sites” in Venice is Venice itself.
This one day in Venice itinerary assumes that you are already in Venice and ready to explore first thing in the morning. There are plenty of bucket list items on this itinerary. You can skip things if time is short or the pace is too frantic.
Overview Of Venice In 1 Day
Here’s a quick breakdown of what you’ll see with this 1 day in Venice itinerary:
- Leisurely stroll from Piazza San Marco to the Rialto
- Enjoy the buzz at the Rialto Bridge & Rialto Market
- Head to the San Polo neighborhood, visit either the Frari Church or the Scuola Grande di San Rocco
- Head to the Dorsoduro neighborhood, visit a museum of your choice
- Visit St. Mark’s Basilica
- Visit the Doge’s Palace
- Go on a gondola ride
- Drinks at the Hotel Danieli or Palazzo Gritti
One Day In Venice Itinerary: What To See In Venice In A Day
Here is my detailed hour-by-hour breakdown to help you have the most efficient day in Venice.
9:00 AM: Stroll from St. Mark’s Square To The Rialto Bridge
After grabbing breakfast or coffee, begin your day in Venice with one of Italy’s best strolls — from St. Mark’s Square to the Rialto Bridge. Piazza San Marco is Venice’s main public square.
It’s lined with some of Venice’s most important landmarks. (You’ll come back for those mid-afternoon.) If you need some caffeine, you could stop in the famous Caffe Florian.
If you walk between San Marco Campanile and the Doge’s Palace toward the water, you’ll find yourself on the Riva degli Schiavoni. Stop there to admire Venice’s pretty waterfront promenade.
Then zigzag your way through Venice’s backstreets toward the Rialto area. The inland route is more fun and less crowded than walking along the Grand Canal.
You’ll wind through narrow lanes with cute shops and boutiques. The walk takes 30-45 minutes.
Deep in the backstreets of San Marco you’ll find the magnificent Palazzo Contarini del Bovolo. It’s a 15th century palace boasting a stunning scala or spiral staircase. It’s made of brick and marble and runs up the side of the palace.
From the top most terrace you’re treated to a fine view over Venice’s rooftops. You can see the domes of St. Mark’s and La Salute. Click here to book a ticket for the palazzo online.
Another great place for views is the Fondaco dei Tedeschi. It’s a luxury retail space near the Rialto Bridge with a rooftop terrace. It offers up the very best views of Venice.
The terrace is free. But you do need to reserve a 15 minute time slot for entry.
10:15 AM: Rialto Bridge & Rialto Market
After catching the views at the Fondaco, stroll over the Rialto Bridge. It’s one of the world’s most famous bridges.
The Rialto Bridge connects the sestieri (neighborhoods) of San Marco and San Polo. There’s been a bridge there for most of Venice’s history.
The present Rialto Bridge was built between 1588-91 by an obscure architect named Antonio de Ponte. He beat out Michelangelo, who also submitted a design for the competition. In the 15th century, shops were added to the bridge, inspired by the Ponte Vecchio in Florence.
The Rialto Fish Market is worth a visit too, You can’t miss it; you’ll smell the fish. Although it’s modern, the building has nice Gothic arches and carved capitols.
11:00 AM: San Polo
Next, cross the Rialto Bridge and make your way to Venice’s San Polo neighborhood. It’s known for its bustling atmosphere, historic landmarks, charming canals, and vibrant local life.
This district is a quaint maze of narrow lanes. Apart from the Rialto Bridge area, it’s less touristy than the San Marco.
You’ll find historic churches, pretty canals, and artisan shops. This is a good place to pick up souvenirs, and much cheaper than the Rialto.
There are plenty of eateries in San Polo too, if you want to come back later for dinner.
Santa Maria Glorioso dei Frari
Be sure to tour Basilica Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari, known simply as the Frari.
It’s an immense Gothic basilica. The Frari is second largest church in Venice after St. Mark’s Basilica, with the status of a minor basilica.
Inside, you’ll find important masterpieces by Titian and Bellini.
There are also some ornate tombs of famous Venetians, including the mausoleums of Titian and sculptor Antonio Canova.
The three paintings you should be sure to admire are Titian’s Assumption of the Virgin, Titian’s Pesaro Madonna, and Bellini’s Madonna and Child with St. Nicholas of Bari, Peter, Mark, and Benedict.
The latter is also known as the Frari Triptych or Pesaro Triptych. It’s one of the seminal works of Early Renaissance painting.
Scuola Grande di Rocco
If you would rather visit a museum than a church, you have a fantastic option in San Polo — the absolutely breathtaking Scuola Grande di San Rocco.
The museum was the seat of the Scuola of the Brotherhood of San Rocco. They were a social club of wealthy Venetians dedicated to charitable works.
The museum is decorated wall to wall with paintings by Venetian Renaissance painter Tintoretto. His style combines Michelangelo’s draftsmanship and Titian’s use of color.
Tintoretto’s fresco cycle in the Chapter Room is considered the “Sistine Chapel of Venice.” Tintoretto spent the last two decades of his life slaving away on this fresco cycle.
Another must see painting is the Crucifixion in the Albergo upstairs. The painting captures the dramatic intensity of the crucifixion scene with dynamic composition, vibrant colors, and emotive figures.
12:00 PM: Dorsoduro
Next, wander into and around the beautiful Dorsoduro district. It’s located across the Grand Canal from San Marco and borders Santa Croce and San Polo to the north.
The Dorsoduro is probably Venice’s most picturesque neighborhood, so you should definitely put it on your one day in Venice itinerary. Plus, Dorsoduro is home to some of Venice’s best attractions.
Aside from being flat out lovely, Dorsoduro is packed with Venice’s best museums. If you’re an art lover, pick from one of these three museums: (1) Galleria dell’Accademia; (2) the Peggy Guggenheim Museum; or (3) Ca’ Rezzonico.
You’ll only have time for one. I tell you about each of them below.
The Accademia is housed in the former Santa Maria della Carita church and convent complex. The museum was built, in part, by famed Italian Renaissance architect, Andrea Palladio.
The Accademia houses the world’s most important collection of Venetian painting, comparable to the Uffizi Gallery’s collection of Florentine works. The paintings are displayed in chronological order.
You start your visit in the 14th century and end with Titian in the 16th century. The gallery has seminal pieces by Veronese, Titian, Tintoretto, Tiepolo, Bellini, Canaletto, Mantegna,and Giorgione.
The museum also owns one of the world’s most important drawings, the Vitruvian Man by Leonardo da Vinci. But it’s so fragile that it’s rarely on display.
Here’s my complete guide to visiting the Galleria Accademia.
You can book tickets for the Accademia online here. You can also book a guided tour of the Accademia and the Dorsoduro neighborhood.
Peggy Guggenheim Museum
Virtually every art work on display is a seminal work of 20th century, compiled by American expat Peggy Guggenheim. Her collection includes works from the major movements of Cubism, Surrealism, Futurism, and Abstract Expressionism.
There’s an entire room dedicated to her beloved Jackson Pollock, an artist Guggenheim “discovered.” You can see works by Picasso, de Chirico, Vassily Kandinsky, Joan Miro, Paul Klee, Max Ernst, Magritte, Willem de Kooning, Salvador Dali, and Alexander Calder.
If you opt for the Guggenheim Museum, stroll 5 minutes east to visit the Basilica of Santa Maria della Salute. La Salute is a Venetian jewel of Baroque architecture.
La Salute’s most eye catching features are its exuberant statuary and crown-like dome. There’s a beautiful Marriage at Cana by Tintoretto and three works by Titian on the ceiling.
Your third choice for museums is the specialty museum, Palazzo Rezzonico. The palace was built by Baldassarre Longhena, Venice’s greatest Baroque architect.
Inside the palace, you’ll find beautiful furnishings, Murano glass chandeliers, a Throne Room, and a Grand Ballroom.
The Palazzo Rezonnico museum is a shrine to 18th century Venetian artists. This period in history is known as the “Age of Decadence.” You’ll find paintings and frescoed ceilings by Tiepolo, Longhi, Canaletto, Guardi, Molinari, and Lazzarini.
Click here to book tickets online.
When you’re done museum-ing, stroll across the Accademia Bridge, and back to St. Mark’s Square. The bridge is a great spot to take photos of the Grand Canal.
2:30 PM: St. Mark’s Basilica
It’s time, finally, to see the #1 attraction in Venice. St. Mark’s Basilica is an astonishing tour de force of Italo-Byzantine architecture. Consecrated in 1093, it’s one of the world’s most famous churches.
St. Mark’s is free to visit, if you’re willing to endure long lines. But you can skip these lines if you book a skip the line fast track ticket.
I highly advise it. You don’t want to spend your 1 day in Venice waiting in lines. You may also want to opt for a guided tour that includes skip the line access.
You may also want to op for an after dark tour of the Basilica where you have access to some secret spots you can’t see on a day tour.
St. Mark’s was built primarily to house the relics of the evangelist St. Mark. It also served as the private chapel of the doge, the constitutional monarch of the Venetian Republic.
The church has a unique and eclectic mix of styles and materials. Just as Venice is like no other city in Europe, St. Mark’s is like no other church in Europe. Its art and architecture come from the Byzantine world.
Inside, the basilica is a golden extravaganza of mosaics. 90,000 square feet of mosaics are symbolically concentrated high above in the celestial world. The oldest mosaics in St. Mark’s date back to 1070, telling Old Testament stories.
There are a few stops along the visitor walking path that you have to pay a few euros to visit. It’s definitely worth it to cough up the cash for the Pala d’Oro.
It’s an elaborate Gothic altar made of gold and precious jewels. The panel is universally considered the most refined expression of Byzantine art.
Also head upstairs to the Loggia dei Cavalli, or Balcony of the Horses, for around 5 euros. This is where you’ll find the Triumphal Quadriga — the four beautiful bronze horses of St. Mark. From the observation balcony, you’ll have stunning views over Venice.
4:00 PM: Doge’s Palace
The next stop on your 1 day in Venice itinerary is the Doge’s Palace or Palazzo Ducale, one of Venice’s most iconic landmarks. The pink and white marble Gothic-Renaissance building was the official residence of the doges, who ruled Venice for more than 1,000 years.
You’ll need to pre-book a skip the line reserved entry ticket. If you didn’t reserve in advance, try buying tickets at the Correr Museum on Piazza San Marco. The ticket line at the Doge’s Palace will be too long.
You enter the palace via a grand courtyard. Head inside and ascend the Golden Staircase, Scala d’Oro.
It’s one of the world’s most richly decorated staircases. From the staircase, you’ll have two views: one of the majestic courtyard of the Doge’s Palace and another of the Bridge of Sighs.
Inside the grand interior are some true masterpieces of Renaissance and Venetian art. Be sure to see Veronese’s Rape of Europa and The Triumph of Venice, paintings and ceilings by Tintoretto and Veronese, and Tiepolo’s Neptune Bestowing Gifts upon Venice.
The Doge’s Palace also has the world’s largest oil painting Tintoretto’s Il Paradiso. It dominates the Great Council, which is the the main hall of the palace.
If you buy tickets for the special Secret Itineraries Tour, you’ll go beyond the public rooms and pass into the private chambers, judges’ chambers, interrogation rooms, and prisons.
You’ll see the cell of the infamous ladies’ man Casanova, who made a miraculous escape. And you’ll walk across the Bridge of Sighs where prisoners took their last glances of Venice through tiny windows and “sighed.”
5:30 PM: Gondola Ride
The early evening is the perfect time to take a gondola ride, if you are so inclined. A gondola ride ranks among one of the most dreamed-about experiences for travelers. But the image of a singing gondolier may be more Hollywood than reality.
Should you go on a gondola ride? Is a gondola ride is really worth it?
It depends. It’s a very touristy thing to do, but then Venice is a touristy place in general.
I’ve been to Venice and taken a gondola ride at night, which I confess seemed pretty darn romantic. A gondola ride gives you a different perspective on Venice.
It allows you to experience Venice from its waterways and no one is blocking your view. It’s a bucket list experience in Italy.
I’ve also been to Venice and skipped the gondola ride. While undeniably a unique experience, gondolas are very expensive. So whether you take a gondola ride may depend on your budget.
There are official set prices for 30-60 minute rides. So don’t bother negotiating. Gondolas can hold six people.
You can always recruit fellow travelers to share the cost. Here’s a handy guide to the best gondola ride options in Venice.
Here are some of the sample gondola rides you can go on:
- shared gondola ride across the Gran Canal
- shared 2 hour gondola ride past main sites
- 30 minute private gondola ride
- 45 minute private gondola ride
- small group walking tour and gondola ride
- 30 minute private gondola ride at night
- 2.5 hour private city tour + gondola ride
As an alternative to a gondola ride, take a traghetto. Traghettos were created for the locals to cross the Grand Canal. In a traghetto, you stand with up to 12 other people.
You can find the traghetto stations on Google Maps. It only costs 2 € to go one way. It can be an efficient way to see sites on the Grand Canal easily. Click here for information on stations, times, and fares.
You can also take a more serious rowing lesson.
Another way to hit the water is to take a Vaporetto down the Grand Canal, in the later afternoon for softly lit views.
Hop on Vaporetto #1, the most popular water bus. That vaporetto zigzags up the Grand Canal from St. Mark’s to the Lido, with 21 stops in an hour.
7:00 PM: Cocktails at the Hotel Danieli or the Gritti Palace
The Palazzo Gritti is a luxury hotel. It’s chock full of Venetian antiques, oriental rugs, and spectacular Murano glass light fixtures. It has the perfect canal side bar.
Perched on the hotel’s roof top, the Restaurant Terrazza Danieli is a magical location. It’s right on the Riva degli Schiavoni, overlooking the Grand Canal, the Doge’s Palace, and the Lido.
If you want to skip cocktails, take a stroll along the Riva degli Schiavoni. It’s a long lagoon edge promenade stretching from Piazza San Marco to the Arsenal in the Castello district.
Be forewarned, while the Riva is picturesque, it’s usually very crowded. If it’s not too late, you might be better off with a post-dinner stroll.
You could also opt to take a 2-3 hour guided evening walking tour. Venice looks different at night when the day trippers have left.
9. 8:00 PM: Dinner
For dinner on your last day in Italy, pick a restaurant according to your preferred location.
If you’re a classical music fan, consider attending a concert at the Renaissance Church of Santa Maria dei Miracoli in Cannaregio. Covered in polychrome marble, it’s also dubbed the “marble church.” The acoustics are perfect.
Alternatively, you could book a ticket for a Baroque music concert in the 17th century Church of San Vidal
Tips For Spending One Day In Venice
Here are some must know tips for your day in Venice.
1. Is One Day In Venice Enough?
To explore the primary landmarks in Venice, one day in Venice is sufficient. But it will be rushed, for sure.
You won’t have time to visit all the magnificent palaces, churches, and museums in 1 day in Venice. But you can check off popular tourist attractions with no problem and get a sense of the magic that is Venice.
In general, I think 2 days in Venice is more ideal. Last time I was in Venice, I was there a week and never got bored.
2. How To Get To Venice
If you’re flying into venice, you’ll arrive at Venice Marco Polo Airport (VCE). From there, you can take a water taxi, water bus, or book a private transfer to get into town.
Venice is also well-connected to Italy’s extensive rail network. The Venezia Santa Lucia train station is located in the heart of the city and provides convenient access for travelers arriving by train from other Italian cities and European destinations. You can book a private water taxi transfer from there to your hotel.
While Venice is famously car-free, if you’re driving to the city, you can park your car in one of the parking garages on the outskirts of Venice. The Tronchetto Parking Garage is the closest.
Many small cruise ships include Venice as a port of call. If you’re arriving in the city that way, you can book a private transfer from the terminal.
3. Where To Stay In Venice
I’ve stayed in many different places in Venice — in the Rialto, Dorsoduro and Castello — in both hotels and Air Bnbs. Be aware that because Venice is such a dense city, the hotel rooms will be smaller than usual.
If you want a real luxury hotel, opt for Gritti Palace (elegance and views of the Grand Canal) or the Hotel Danieli (opulent Venetian rooms with a rooftop terrace). If you don’t stay there, I highly recommend you visit for a cocktail or brunch.
If you want a luxe hotel in the center of things, try St. Regis (unrivaled terrace suites above the Grand Canal), Aman Venice (my fave, you’ll feel like an aristocrat), or Bauer Palazzo (elegant Venetian design).
The Novecento Boutique Hotel is a stylish hotel tucked away in a quiet spot just 10-15 minutes from San Marco.
The Palazzo Venart is a gorgeous hotel on the Grand Canal, which comes complete with Renaissance frescos and marble fireplaces. The Hotel Bucintoro is nautically themed and offers pretty views of the lagoon.
If you’d like to stay off center for some peace and quiet, try the Belmond Cipriani on the island of Guidecca. This is where the Bellini cocktail was invented.
4. Special Venice Rules
✔ Don’t feed the pigeons on St. Mark’s Square. It’s illegal.
✔ Wear comfortable shoes. High heels are a terrible footwear option because of Venice’s uneven cobbled streets.
✔ There are no roads or cars in Venice. You either have to hoof it or take a vaporetto, though Venice is very walkable. The main vaporetti is #1, which stops 13 times between Piaza San Marco and Piazzale Roma. Bikes aren’t allowed in Venice either.
✔ If you arrive at one of Venice’s two airports, and your budget can handle it, reserve a water taxi in advance to take you to your hotel. Then, you won’t be dragging bags around Venice’s busy cobbled streets.
✔ For 1 day in Venice, consider purchasing the Venice Pass. It includes transportation, entry to the Doge’s Palace, a shared gondola ride, and a Venice audio guide. You also qualify for 10% discount on other attractions in Venice.
✔ You’re forbidden from entering Venice’s churches in “inappropriate attire.” That means shorts, sleeveless tops, cropped tops, and skirts above the knee are banned.
✔ Don’t visit Venice in the summer. It’s simply too hot and crowded. The shoulder season is ideal.
5. How To Get Around Venice
The best way to get around Venice is on foot. Venice is relatively small. You can traverses the entire city in 30 minutes. But you can also use the vaporetto to get around.
6. How To Take the Vaporetto
I admit I found the vaporettos slightly confusing. But I am directionally challenged and not a great map reader.
The vaporetto is a good way to ride down the Grand Canal or get someplace further afield like the Lido.
You can get a vaporetto ticket from an ACTV, the local transit authority, or at a Hellovenezia ticket outlet. There’s also a touch screen ticket booth at most larger Vaporetto stations, such as the Rialto Bridge, Piazza San Marco, and Ferrovia station. That’s what I have used.
You can also buy tickets at most tobacco shops and newsstands. If you download the AVM Venezia app, you can buy and validate tickets with your smart phone.
Whether you buy a pass or single ticket, be sure to validate it at the machine before boarding.
7. Lagoon Islands
If you have more than one day in Venice, head to the city’s lagoon islands — Murano, Burano, Torcello, and the Lido. You can get there via vaporetto.
If you want to see all of them, the traveling to and fro can be difficult. You may want to opt for a guided tour.
I hope you’ve enjoyed my one day in Venice itinerary. You may find these other Italy travel guides useful:
- 3 day itinerary for Rome
- 1 day itinerary for Vatican City
- 3 day itinerary for Florence
- 1 day itinerary for Milan
- 10 day itinerary for Tuscany
- 10 day itinerary for Italy’s classic cites
- 11 ways to spend 1 week in Italy
- 10 day itinerary from Milan to Rome
- 1 week itinerary from Venice to Milan
- 30 beautiful towns in Italy
- 100+ Italy bucket list experiences
- Tips for visiting Italy
- Historic landmarks in Italy
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