Venice in a day

If I only have one day in Venice, how should I spend it?

This is the itinerary to follow if you actually have a full day in Venice.

If, on the other hand, you will be arriving in Venice that first day by plane or by train, much of the morning will be spent traveling and finding your hotel. (To that end, here is a half-day version of the itinerary below designed for those who won't be able to start sightseeing until midday).

If you will be waking up in Venice but leaving sometime during the day, just follow as much of the itinerary below as you can until about an hour before you have to catch your train, pick up your rental car, or head to the airport (it always seems to take an hour to get to the train station/Piazzale Roma or the airport)—and feel free to curtail the amount of time spent at some sights so you can move more quickly and squeeze in more sightseeing.

The top sights of Venice in just 1 day

[anytime] Grand Canal cruise
Venice
60 min.

Hop aboard the no. 1 or no. 2 vaporetto line to for a poor man's cruise of the Grand Canal between Piazza San Marco and the Ferrovia (train station) or Piazzale Roma (car park). Make sure you sit up in the open prow for the best views.

I am sticking this here at the start, but you can do it at any point on your visit—most easily simply when you arrive or as you are preparing to leave, since it conveniently doubles as transportation. » more

Grand Canal private boat tours

 
9:00am Campanile di San Marco
The belltower of St. Marks
25 min.

Since the Campanile di San Marco (bell tower) actually opens before the basilica itself, hit this one first for stupendous city panoramas from the top. (Though please note that, in winter, it does not open until 9:30am, so adjust accordingly.)

Take a bit less than half an hour for the elevator ride up, photo ops at the top, and the ride back down—because you want to be in line at the Basilica of St. Mark's before it opens at 9:45am to avoid the long lines. » more

 
9:45am St. Mark's Basilica
The mosaics of St. Marks
75 min.

Kill two birds with one stone by being at the Basilica di San Marco before it opens at 9:45am; that way you (a) get to see its treasures and the thousands of square feet of glittering mosaics swathing its interior, and (b) won't have to wait in a long line, which can stretch the wait to as long as an hour or more later in the day.

Do pay the small, separate admission fees to see the Pala d'Oro altarpiece and to visit the Marciana Museum upstairs (great close-up view of the mosaics from the balcony level). Don't dawdle too long, however, because you have to be next door at the Doge's Palace by 11:20am for the 11:35am "Secret Itineraries" tour. » more

Take a tour

 
11:20pm Doge's Palace
The Palazzo Ducale in Venice
120 min.

Be at the Doge's Palace before 11:35pm to take your (pre-booked) "Secret Itineraries" tour, which in 90 minutes gives you an amazing insider's glimpse into the hidden offices, courtrooms, archives, and prisons from which the true Venetian Republic ruled for 900 years.

Then take another 30 minutes for a spin on your own through the palazzo's public rooms, smothered in paintings by Titian, Tintoretto, and other giants of the Venetian Renaissance. » more

Take a tour

 
1:30pm Lunch
Venice
45 min.

There are several great places to grab a quick bite between Piazza San Marco and your next stop (the Accademia). I recommend either the simple yet hearty and authentic fare at Osteria La Campana hidden in plain sight on the main drag.

To make sure you keep things quick, you could opt for one of two excellent tavola calda joints selling hot, prepared foods near the Rialto Bridge: Rosticceria San Bartolomeo and Rosticceria Teatro Goldoni. » more

 
3:00pm Rialto Bridge & Market
Venice
10 min.

Cross over the Grand Canal on the Rialto Bridge, a Renaissance stone span lined by shops.

Take a few minutes to wander the stalls of the Rialto Market on the far (S. Polo) side, then thread your way south through the S. Polo district to the Scuola Grande di San Rocco.

(Note: If you're running ahead of schedule, along the way you can take 15–20 minutes to hit the church of I Frari with its art by Bellini, Donatello, and especially Titian, who is buried here.) » more

Take a tour

 
3:20pm Accademia Galleries
Venice
75 min.

Visit the Accademia Gallery for its stupendous collection of Old Masters paintings, on of the best in Italy. Venetians (naturally) reign, with canvasses by Titian, Tintoretto, Giovanni Bellini, Paolo Veronese, Paolo Veneziano, Giorgione, and Carpaccio. » more

Accademia tours:

 
4:45pm Scuola Grande di San Rocco
Tintoretto's Crucifixion in the Scuola Grande di San Rocco
45 min.

Admire the dozens (yes, dozens) of spectacular Tintoretto paintings in the amazing Scuola Grande di San Rocco, basically a Renaissance frat house for Venetian bigwigs, all dark wood and big oil paintings in a suitably clubby atmosphere. » more

Take a tour

 
5:30pm Cicchetti crawl
Venice
60 min.

Round off the afteroon with an early evening cicchetti crawl through the bacari bars around the Rialto Market area. A personal favorite: Cantina Do Mori... » more

Take a tour

 
6:30pm Gondola ride
Venice
45 min.

Yes, they're touristy, yes they're overpriced, and yes they're hackneyed, but if you can put all that out of your mind, they're also pretty cool, relaxing, and romantic—and who wants to go all the way to Venice and not ride in a gondola anyway? » more

Gondola rides:

 
7:30pm Dinner
Venice
90 min.

Congratulations. It's been a long day, stuffed with art and history. Time to celebrate by digging into a sumptuous meal—seafood, if that's your thing, because it certainly is Venice's.

Just remember: Venice is unlike the rest of Italy, where 7:30pm is considered an early dinner. In Venice, 7–8pm is about normal for starting dinner, and many restaurants shut their kitchens before 9pm (when, in southern parts of Italy, things are just getting going). Here are my recommendations for the best places to eat in Venice. » more

Or, have special meal, either accompanied by a local culinary expert or simply with a serenade and gondola ride after:

 
9:00pm Piazza San Marco
Venice
45 min.

End your day in Venice just wandering aimlessly around Venice's labyrinth of alleyways. Or take a load off and sit on Piazza San Marco to listen to the dueling string trios and piano players playing for the tables in front of competing chichi cafes. » more

Piazza San Marco tours:

 

Tips & links

Consider daily tours

You can pack more in with a tour: Prefer to leave some of the planning and information-providing to a professional? Consider signing up for a guided tour.

This doesn't have to be a standard city tour. Our partners offer loads of neighborhood and thematic walking tours, private guides, and other fun ways to explore the capital. » 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.

Adjusting for Sundays and Mondays

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).

A special bonus on Sundays

If any of your days in Venice happens to be a Sunday, do not miss the 6:345pm mass in the Cathedral of St. Mark's—the only time they throw on all the light switches to illuminate all of those amazing gold mosaics.

Don't try to cram in too much

Keep in mind that these are maximal itineraries, designed to cram as much a reasonably possible into the time allotted.

(Though you will notice I pad about 10–20 minutes between stops to give you time to get from place to place. That's why if, say, it says to arrive at Sight #1 at 9am and spend 45 minutes there, Sight #2 doesn't have you arriving until 10am—that "missing" 15 minutes is walking time.)

Aside from that, there is 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.

Get current hours

This is all meant to be ballpark. What is currently open in town (and those open hours) changes more frequently than you might think, so always make sure you get updated open hours and other intel at the Venice tourism information site:
www.turismovenezia.it

Venice links & resources

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Tourism Info
Venice tourist information
Giardini ex Reali, San Marco (between Piazza San Marco and its western ferry stop)
Vaporetto: San Marco–Giardinetti Reali
tel. +39-041-529-8711
Turismovenezia.it


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