Perfect Venice Itineraries
How long should you spend in Venice? Whether you have one, two, or three days, here's what to see and do in the time you have to spend in Venice, Italy.
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Gondoliers on the Grand Canal in Venice.Venice, done properly, takes about a week (if only to get over the shock of the crowds and for time to get away from the tourist-bedeviled main squares and streets).
Then again, for all I know you have only a single day to spend in this most serene city of canals. With that in mind, here are several perfect itineraries that'll help you pack as much sightseeing as possible into however much time you have to spend in Venice.
How to spend 1, 2, or 3 days in Venice
1 day in Venice
- 1 day—arriving in Venice*
2 days in Venice
- 2 days—arriving in Venice*
3 days in Venice
- 3 days—arriving in Venice*
* Itineraries for those arriving in Venice on the morning of the first day.
There are actually two kinds of vacation days: days in which you actually do have 24 hours to do everything you want... and days were you have to spend part of the time traveling—either arriving in town, or heading off to the next destination.
Most "suggested itineraries" out there assume that you have full days. I travel all the time, so I know that's not always true. Often, you spend the morning of that first day arriving by train (or flying in, collecting your bags, going through customs, and catching a train downtown), then waste an hour or so getting to and checking into your hotel.
To that end, here are both kinds of itineraries to help you cram the most into whatever amount of time you have in Venice.
If you are lucky and have full days in Venice
These are the itineraries for those who genuinely have full days to spend in La Serenissima.
(See below if you have more than 3 days.)
If part of your first day in Venice is spent arriving
Venice is at least several hours from the other major cities, so whether you're arriving by air or by train, you will likely spend part of "Day 1" of your Venice sojourn just traveling—say, getting from the airport or train station (or driving in) and then getting to your hotel. In that case, "Day 1" is really just an afternoon, and you'll have to adjust your ambitions accordingly.
- One day in Venice (arriving in Venice day 1)
- Two days in Venice (arriving in Venice day 1)
- Three days in Venice (arriving in Venice day 1)
An alternative day in Venice
Keep in mind: these itineraries are designed for the first-time visitor who wants to be sure he or she gets to all the highlights—all the must-sees. But what if you want to avoid the crowds that pack those highlights, or you've already done St. Mark's, the Doge's Palace, and a gondola ride and are looking for less famous—but still rewarding—sights?
As luck would have it, I have whipped up Reid's List of Venice sights and experiences devoted entirely to this purpose. These are sights from the B-list (sometimes the C-list) that I happen to love and that are definitely worthy of your time—in some cases, perhaps more worthy than some of the more famous sights. (Gondola rides are way overrated—but I certainly won't be the one to tell you not to take one and then have your spouse blame me for the rest of my life because y'all missed out on this classic Romantic Moment.)
I figure, if you have more than three days in Venice, you'll want to start branching out into lesser-known sights and experiences that appeal to you personally—and who am I to tell you what to do?
To help you find those sights, I've also compiled quick lists of both the top sights in Venice and of my own favorite sights and experiences after countless trips there (and covering it in a half-dozen guidebooks) over the past 25 years.
- Consider daily tours: Prefer to leave some of the planning and information-providing to a professional? Consider signing up for a guided tour—doesn't have to be a standard bus tour; our partners at Viator.com offer loads of neighborhood and thematic walking tours, private guides, and other fun ways to explore the capital as well. » more
- These are merely blueprints. You really should spend your time on whatever catches your own interest. Some people would rather get a root canal than spend several hours in the Accademia, but for others an afternoon of Old Masters would rank as the highlight of their trip. Same goes for shopping, or gondola rides, or cramming a dozen churches and museums into a single day: heaven for some, hell on earth for others. For some less-famous sights to visit, check out Reid's List: Venice.
- Keep in mind that you may have to adjust these itineraries in case one of the days you're in town happens to fall on a Monday (when most museums are closed) or a Sunday (when many things are closed, and those that remain open tend to operate on shorter hours).
- Also keep in mind that these are maximal itineraries, designed to cram as much a reasonably possible into the time allotted. There's no down-time built in for relaxation—which you really should have. You're on vacation, after all. I suggest using these but maybe dropping a sight which interests you less (or curtailing your time at a couple of sights) in order to carve out from some free time to just sit at a cafe, writing postcards and watching the carnival of Italian life swirl past.
- One day in Venice
- Two days in Venice
- Three days in Venice
- Top sights in Venice
- Venice layout
- Italy itineraries
This material was last updated February 2011. All information was accurate at the time.
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