I recently went to Venice Italy for the first time, and I fell in love. I admit I had mixed expectations, I wasn’t sure how I would react to the over-tourism, gaudy souvenirs and constant stream of people in gondolas. However, once I’d spent a couple of days exploring the narrow streets, I realised that there is so much more to Venice than just a few touristy attractions. I understand that if you are short of time you may not be able to spend much time in Venice, but please, please don’t try to visit Venice in a day. Spend at least one night in the city, and you’ll see why you need more than one day in Venice to fully appreciate this incredible city.
Why You Shouldn’t Visit Venice in a Day
I am a huge fan of slow travel. I’m lucky that I don’t have a job that restricts the number of holiday days I can take, but even if you are pressed for time, I highly recommend spending more than a day in Venice. Rushing around, following a tour guide or struggling with a map or GPS just seems so much more stressful than it needs to be. Some cities are possible to visit on a day trip, but for a city like Venice, it takes time to really enjoy it. One of my favourite things to do in Venice is simply to wander the streets.
Venice is a safe city, and although in other places I wouldn’t always encourage walking down a deserted street, in Venice it is an essential part of exploring. Get lost, forget the time and enjoy. If you see people, turn around and walk the other way. Venice isn’t as busy as you might think, just take the time to walk away from the tourist hotspots.
And if that hasn’t convinced you, here are five more reasons why you need more than one day in Venice
Why You Need More than 1 Day in Venice: It Isn’t Sustainable
If you only visit Venice in one day, you’ll probably do exactly the same things as everyone else who visits Venice for a day. Take a gondola ride, visit St Mark’s Square and the Rialto Bridge. You’ll find a place to eat close to these areas, like everyone else, and you will only see a tiny fraction of the city and spend your money in a tiny fraction of businesses, in the most touristy areas, probably buying a couple of cheap souvenirs to take home.
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It may seem strange to encourage spending more time in Venice to combat over-tourism, but it is all about how you spend your time and your money. By all means, do the touristy, bucket list items but also set aside some time to explore some of the less visited areas of Venice, so you see more of Venice, and help more local businesses just off the beaten path.
Early Morning and Late Evening are the Quietest Times
If you only have one day in Venice you will see the streets and famous canals in the daylight, and hopefully sunshine. There is no doubt that Venice is beautiful but seeing the city at night will give you a whole different experience. As the light fades, Venice becomes truly magical, and at night the lights reflect off the water and the streets are quieter so you can enjoy Venice (almost) to yourself. Most day-trippers will arrive sometime after 9 am and usually leave in the early evening to head back to their cruise ship or tour bus. Early-risers or night-owls can truly have the streets and canals to themselves, instead of battling the hoards across the Rialto Bridge.
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Venice is More than One Island
Venice is actually made up of 118 islands, but even the islands we refer to as Venice are a small part of the larger Metropolitan City of Venice. There are lots of other islands in the Venice lagoon to visit, such as Burano which has beautiful coloured houses, Murano which is famous for it’s Venetian Murano Glass, and Lido, where the Venice Film Festival is held.
You Need More Time to Eat and Drink!
The food in Venice is fabulous, and I defy anyone to successfully eat all the delicious Venetian dishes in just one day. You need time to explore the ‘bacari’ bars which serve up delicious ‘cicchetti’ and wine, these Venetian snacks are similar to Spanish tapas or Pintxos in the Basque Country, and there are simply too many tasty varieties to try. And that’s not to mention the other Venetian specialities like Sarde in Saor, Spaghetti with squid ink and a wide range of seafood.
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You’ll Miss out on Some Fabulous Day Trips
Although you may not have thought about using Venice as a base to explore Italy, Venice is well connected by train so you can take day trips from Venice to Padua, Verona, Lake Garda and more.
So How Many Days Should You Stay in Venice?
Well, that is the million-dollar question. The highlights of Venice itself are easily visited in a weekend, including some relaxed wandering and time to visit a museum or two, so even the most time-strapped travellers should be able to spend two days in Venice without screwing up their itineraries too much. Personally, I’d say at least 3 days in Venice would be better, so you can also visit some of the surrounding islands and even a day trip to Padua or Lake Garda while you’re at it.
What to do in Venice in One Day
If you really can’t afford any more than a day in Venice, try to arrive as early in the morning as you can, and leave as late in the evening as you can, so you can still see a little bit of the evening magic I mentioned earlier, and enjoy quieter streets.
Take Vaporetto 1 Along the Grand Canal
If you are visiting Venice on a budget, and even if you’re not, then I would skip the gondola ride and take the Vaporetto water bus all along the Grand Canal. If you arrive in Venice by bus then you have a chance of being the first one on the boat so you can grab a seat right at the front (or back if there are no seats at the front – some boats have them, others don’t). If you arrive in Venice by train, I’d still advise walking back across the bridge to the Piazzale Roma (Santa Chiara) stop so you’re first in line. You can check the timetables for the Vaporettos here, but they run from 5am to 11pm every 12-20 minutes throughout the day so you don’t need to worry about catching one.
Take the Number 1 Vaporetto which goes all the way through Venice along the Grand Canal to San Zaccaria and across to Lido Island. You could stay on until San Zaccaria, where you can then visit the Bridge of Sighs and St Mark’s Square, but I’d suggest getting off at Rialto to see the Rialto Bridge and visit the Rialto Fish Market which is only open until 12 pm (closed on Sunday & Monday). The Vaporetto takes about 50 minutes along the whole canal to San Zaccaria and is well worth the €7.50 ticket price, even if you get off part way along.
Venice in a Day: Rialto Bridge
The Rialto Bridge used to be filled with market stalls and shops, which were first installed to raise money for the completed bridge when it was built. Now the bridge is lined with expensive shops and souvenirs. You can get a good photo of the bridge from the Vaporetto, or from the canalside next to the bridge. Right next to Rialto Bridge you’ll also find one of my favourite free things to do in Venice – booking a slot to go to the roof of the deluxe shopping centre T Fondaco dei Tedeschi for one of the best views in Venice.
Rialto Fish Market
The market is only open in the mornings from 7.30am to 12 pm and closed on Sundays and Mondays. If you are in Venice early enough, it is definitely worth a visit here to see the last remaining market on Venice Island. Sadly, it is under threat too, as most tourists don’t buy anything from the market, and most of the locals now live in nearby Mestre. Consider buying something from here for lunch or eating nearby.
Eat Cicchetti for Lunch And/Or Dinner
The streets around the market have some great places to eat, with some of the best bacari bars selling delicious cicchetti. Cicchetti are rather like Spanish tapas, served in small plates or as a slice of bread with a tasty topping. Check out Cantina do Mori (a favourite of Casanova), Cantina do Spade or WEnice for seafood and wine.
St Mark’s Square
From the Rialto Bridge it’s less than 10 minute’s walk to St Mark’s Square but take the scenic route. Diverting off the main streets means you can explore more of Venice and enjoy fewer crowds. When you reach St Mark’s Square, have a stroll around the square, don’t feed the pigeons (you could get fined), and if the queue isn’t too bad you might have time to go inside St Mark’s Basilica or up the Bell Tower. The Doge’s Palace is here in the square as well but would take up a lot of valuable time if you want to go inside. If you really want to have a coffee in one of the cafes in the square, be aware it’ll cost at least €12 for the pleasure.
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The Bridge of Sighs
It’s a pretty nice bridge, and probably one of those things that you’ll want to tick off your list if you are only in Venice for a day. This bridge was connected the Doge’s Palace and prison, where prisoners would breathe their last breath of fresh air on the way to the cells and would sigh as their freedom was taken away. It’s a nice spot for a photo of a gondolier too.
Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute
From the Bridge of Sighs, walk along the waterfront to see this gorgeous church across the canal. It’s a great spot for gondola-watching and a lovely place for the sunset if you are here in the late afternoon/evening. Explore the narrow streets around here to find the best views of the church, all the way along the canal front to the Ponte dell’Accademia.
One Day in Venice: Ponte dell’Accademia
For some of the best views in Venice, don’t miss a stroll across this bridge (see the cover photo). The Gallerie dell’Accademia is a wonderful art gallery nearby which is open till 7.15 pm every day except Monday when it closes at 2 pm. If you don’t have time for that, and just want a bite to eat then my favourite places on this side of the Island are Osteria al Squero and Cantine del Vino già Schiavi, which are both great bacari to grab some chicchetti and eat outside next to the canal.
Wander the Streets
Wherever you can, I’d suggest walking around and getting a real feel for the city. If you follow the above itinerary that’ll pretty much fill your day but take any chance you can to walk down a deserted street. You could look out for a traditional mask maker for a Carnival mask (only the paper maché ones are authentic, if it’s made of plastic it’s a cheap import), or see if you can sneak a peek inside one of the last remaining gondola maker’s workshops at Squero di San Trovaso. Indiana Jones fans may want to go to the church from the Last Crusade where Indy and Dr Schneider came up through the drain cover (Chiesa di San Barnaba).
But, personally, I’d head away from the crowds and just walk. Pick a narrow alley and explore. Even just a street or two away from the top things to do in Venice you will find peace and quiet, and a glimpse of the real Venice. To get more though, you really need another day or two to explore!
Venice Day Tours
If all that seems a bit stressful, you could sign up to a day tour of Venice to see the highlights and have someone else take care of the itinerary for you. The day tours usually include entrance to the St Mark’s Basilica and/or the Doge’s Palace, so you won’t have as much time to enjoy the actual city of Venice, but it could be a good option if you want everything taken care of. Here’s a couple of highly rated options on GetYourGuide:
Depending on where you are based during your stay in Italy, you could even consider a day trip from another city in Italy, however, you really will only get a few hours in Italy – which I don’t think is enough. That said, if that is all the time you have then these could work for you:
Where to Stay in Venice
Hotels in Venice are notoriously expensive, so I can understand your hesitation to shell out for several nights in a pricey hotel in Venice. If you stay in nearby Mestre, the prices are dramatically lower, but you are within 15 minutes of Venice itself. Mestre also connects Venice to the rest of Italy by train and bus, so in Mestre, you are ideally located to explore the Veneto region as well – perfect for spending several days in Venice!
I’m the #WombatsTraveller ambassador for wombat’s City Hostels, and they have just opened a brand-new hostel in Mestre in July. Before it opened I went to check out the hostel to see how it is coming along (check it out here) and I’ve also stayed in it now it’s up and running! Booking is now available online for private rooms and dorms, and I highly recommend wombat’s Venice Mestre as an excellent place to stay in Venice.
Have you visited Venice in a day? Do you think one day in Venice is enough? How long would you stay? I’d love to hear your thoughts, please leave your comments below.
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