Venice needs no introduction. Its walkways along winding canals, decorated bridges, gondolas, magnificent churches and palaces, and lively squares make Venice one of Italy’s most popular tourist destination.
Marvel the views across the Grand Canal, visit Piazza San Marco, stroll around the maze of alleys and visit the off beaten districts and islands nearby. The beauty of Venice can be found around every corner.
Here’s our recommendation what to do, where to go and good places to eat along the way, if you have only one day to enjoy in one of the most romantic cities of Europe.
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To make the most of your Venice day, get up early and head out to Piazza San Marco (Saint Mark’s Square) to explore its historical monuments, to drink a morning cup of coffee and to watch the sun sparkling on the water.
Piazza San Marco is the centerpiece of the city. The square enriched the cultural, social and economic life of Venice in the course of its history. Today it is a buzzing place used by tourists who are there to appreciate the unique Venetian architecture as well by locals that are shopping at the market.
Visit the Basilica San Marco (Saint Mark’s Basilica). This beautiful cathedral sits at the eastern end of Piazza San Macro. It is one of the most famous churches of Venice and one of the best-known examples of the Byzantine architecture. You will be astonished by the decorations, mosaics, and sacred images that adorn the church inside and outside. A steep passage goes from the church’s main door up to the museum and the Loggia dei Cavalli. Apart from giving an impressive view of the square, the loggia is also the best spot to see the Gothic carvings at the top of the facade.
The line to enter the cathedral forms already early, so be sure to be there on time or purchase online a “skip the line” ticket for a few euros.
Take a coffee in one of the street cafes on the Piazza San Marco. For an extraordinary experience visit the beautifully decorated Caffe Florian, established in 1720, a historical landmark in Venice. Here you do not only come for the coffee but especially for the atmosphere. At a stone’s throw from the Piazza, you find the lovely “bacero” (the ancient local name for a bar where to grab a quick drink) Magna Bevi Tasi; it is an excellent place to stop for a coffee and a “panino” in the morning.
And while you’re in the area, don’t miss to climb the steps up the Campanile di San Marco(Saint Mark’s bell tower), one of Venice’s most recognizable monuments and the city’s tallest building. When you go up the tower, you’ll have a superb view of the entire lagoon of Venice, and you might on a bright day even see the Dolomites in the distance.
So, don’t forget your camera!
From the cultural highlights of the Piazza San Marco walk to one of the most famous landmarks of Venice, the Rialto Bridge, probably the most crowded spot of Venice! It is always full of activity and a great place to watch the coming and goings on the Grand Canal.
Tip: If you have time, visit then early morning the Rialto Market, located not far from the Rialto Bridge just off of the Grand Canal. This is a beautiful place to stroll around, enjoy the atmosphere and hear the lively conversations of the merchants and locals that are buying their fresh fruits, vegetables, meats and fish.
Around each corner of the labyrinthine passageways and bridges mean there are a LOT of corners to turn around – you will get yet another postcard-worthy scene.
Spend the next few hours wandering around Venice getting purposefully lost. You will find plenty of postcard-worthy scenes around each corner of the labyrinthine passageways.
The lesser visited districts Cannaregio and Castello are excellent spots for a quiet walk. Cannaregio has beautiful squares and canals and the many residents that live in this area, give it a local flavor. Also, the nearby area Castello is very picturesque. It is rich in history, and monuments to admire. Lined along the canals of Castello you’ll find green park spaces and churches and laundry drapes over the clotheslines in the street. Despite the crowds of the Piazza San Marco being minutes away, a relaxed atmosphere fills the air among Castello’s unique stores that crisscross this central neighborhood.
Probably you might be in for a real Italian lunch after your long morning walk. Venice cuisine shines with seafood specialties, but also with “simple” one dish meals and of course with home made pasta. In all corners of the city (even in the touristy parts) you can find good food, but where to go? Here are our suggestions for the best places where to eat super fresh seafood (and of course other delicious local dishes).
Located away from the tourist trail, Ostaria Boccadoro (Cannaregio) is a typical Venetian restaurant serving traditional Venetian seafood dishes and homemade pasta, using only fresh and local ingredients.
Well-informed visitors and locals seek out Trattoria Corte Sconta (Castello) for its trademark seafood starters and house-made pasta. This authentic restaurant with a vine-covered courtyard has a very friendly staff and an excellent cuisine!
Osteria Anice Stellato (Cannaregio) is a beautiful restaurant located along the canal. It is the perfect place to take in the quieter sights and sounds of Venice while savoring a variety of regional dishes.
After lunch catch a ferry (Line 12, at Fondamente Nove on the north side of the Cannaregio district) out to some of the smaller islands in the lagoon of Venice: Murano and Burano.
Murano Island (a 25 minutes boat ride) is world famous for its Murano glass, and it is a fascinating art to watch this delicate glassware being made. Be aware that most of the Murano glass for sale in the city center is made in China. If you’re looking for real Murano glass, you better buy it on the island. Burano is a small island located at an hour from Venice (and 35 minutes from Murano). It is a quaint, colorful village famous for its (handmade) laces. There are still local artisans who sit in their shops or on the sidewalks and make lace as you watch.
Instead of visiting the islands in the lagoon, you can visit one of the great art museums in the city. The “Gallerie dell’Accademia di Venezia”, is a first-class art museum that contains a complete art collection of the 13th to the 18th century. Next door stands the famous Peggy Guggenheim Collection that houses 200 paintings and sculptures from almost every modern art movement.
Head back to your hotel for a well-deserved (short) rest and refreshment before going to explore Venice by night. Good accommodations can be found in all the main neighborhoods in Venice from Cannaregio, San Polo, Dorsoduro, to San Marco and Castello.
Here are a few hotel recommendations to help you decide where to stay in Venice.
- Corte di Gabriela, a 4-star boutique hotel in the central San Marco neighborhood
- Hotel Moresco, a 4-star 19th-century Venetian style hotel in the Dorsoduro district
- PalazzinaG, a very exclusive 5-star hotel located on the Grand Canal
- Ca’ Pisani, a unique 4-star design hotel filled with original Art Deco pieces in Dorsoduro
- Ca Maria Adele, a hotel for luxury-lovers, housed in a 16th-century palace at the tip of the Dorsoduro quarter
Your day in Venice wouldn’t be complete without a ride down one of the city’s picturesque canals in an iconic gondola. Gliding through calm waters, while serenaded by your gondolier, against the stunning backdrop of Baroque buildings is an experience you won’t soon forget.
Be aware that the city of Venice sets official rates for gondola rides, so check online the current prices before you go on your trip.
When the evening falls, locals and travelers stroll the winding alleys on their way to their favorite restaurants. Dining options in Venice range from ultra-high end restaurants to local trattorias, to bars where you can eat “cicchetti” – small portions of food that are consumed with a glass of prosecco or wine.
Here are some of our favorite fine dine restaurants for dinner.
Il Ridotto, this tiny, gracious restaurant located to the east of St Marks Square serves innovative dishes which tend to be lighter, but wonderfully tasty versions of the classical Venetian dishes.
Al Covo (Castello neighborhood) is a family run restaurant offering a range of Venetian classics that can be eaten outside or inside their charming interior.
Osteria Alle Testiere is a beautiful little restaurant where seafood plays the starring role. Whether you choose for squid in ink, oysters, or other “fish of the day”, you can be sure the quality is excellent.
Close the evening on the square you started the morning, Piazza San Marco. Now the square is transformed into a serenade of music as the various cafes alternate playing music to entertain their guests. Stroll the square following the sound of the music. With the Piazza all lit up at night, it is a beautiful setting for the last drink and a perfect closure of a long day in the beautiful “City of Water”.
Many airlines fly directly to the International Airport of Venice Marco Polo (VCE). British Airways has daily eight direct flights from London, Iberia flies directly to Venice from Madrid, and American Airlines flies to Venice via Rome.
From the airport, there is a shuttle bus that brings you in 20-minutes to Piazzale Roma in Venice. From here you can take the local public boat (Vaporetto) or continue by foot to get to your hotel.
From Italy’s main cities there is an excellent train connection; the high-speed train Frecciarossa brings you comfortably from Milan and Florence to Venice in a few hours. From Rome, it takes a bit less than 4 hours arriving at the central station of Venice Santa Lucia train station.
Cover image: Piazza San Marco (CC BY-SA 2.0) by Russell Yarwood
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