Tried and tested Venice itinerary ideas to help you decide how many days to stay in Venice and plan your dream trip.
Planning a trip to Venice is exciting.
The city is one of the most beautiful in the world and its uniqueness has inspired so many artists and poets, a first visit here often comes with high expectations and hopes.
I love Venice and I believe the city will sweep you off your feet.
However, I also believe you need to know how to tackle it.
Over-tourism is a problem in Venice and if you don’t plan your Venice itinerary carefully, or don’t set aside a sufficient amount of time to see it, then disappointment can easily set in.
The first thing you need to decide when planning a trip here is how many days to spend in Venice and this article is here to help!
In this guide, I share my recommended itinerary for one to three days in Venice.
I believe this is the best way to help you decide how many days to stay in Venice, see the best of Venice and a little more!
This guide is suitable for all types of travelers and includes alternatives for families with children.
If you have little ones, you can also look at our family travel guide to Venice with kids here.
Want more Venice advice? Check out also our guide to the best places to stay in Venice or Join my free Travel Italy with kids group on Facebook, where we discuss all the best ways to plan a multi-generational trip to Italy!
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How many days in Venice?
The best length of time for a first trip to Venice is 1 to 3 days.
Stayung less than a day? Then have a look here at my Venice in a day itinerary
One day in Venice, you can explore the Rialto Bridge, San Marco, the Doge’s Palace, take a gondola ride and explore a local neighborhood such as Cannaregio or Dorsoduro.
With two days in Venice, you can see Rialto Bridge, San Marco, Doge’s Palace, explore Venice’s beautiful ghetto and the small colorful island of Burano
With three days in Venice, you can explore Venice’s city center, including Rialto and San Marco, explore Burano, discover the beautiful areas of San Polo and Giudecca, have some downtime for shopping in Venice or visit a museum.
Two full days in Venice are enough for most visitors to get a first sense of the city and its highlights.
One day is better than nothing and anything from 3 days up is ideal if you love museums, enjoy a slower travel experience and want to enjoy the city beyond its sightseeing opportunities.
One day in Venice: recommended 1 day itinerary
Venice has a rather compact city center so you will be able to see quite a lot even with just one day in the city
Your biggest challenge with one day in Venice only is the crowds.
Since you will most likely want to spend this day visiting Venice’s must-see sites, there is a high chance you will find yourself in the city’s busiest areas.
I advise starting your day early and taking a long lunch break away from San Marco (see below)
The crowds literally disappear as soon as you leave Venice’s main streets and due to the many day trippers, you find numbers go down fast if you get out before they arrive and stay out after they have left.
Morning of day 1 – San Marco
The main Venice attractions for first time visitors is Piazza San Marco, its stunning basilica, tower and Doge’s palace, so my recommendation is to start your day here and beat the crowds.
The square starts getting busy from about 9 am: if you can, come here between 8 and 8.30am so you have it for yourself!
Take your time to take photos, walk to nearby bridge of Sights before the crowds make photos impossible and be ready to visit Doge’s Palace, if in your plans, when it opens at 9am.
Piazza San Marco Square itself is stunning and it is hard to overstate the impression it makes on the visitors.
The piazza is large and surrounded by beautiful porticoes, making it look like an elegant living room and one of the most beautiful piazzas in Italy.
San Marco’s Basilica overlooks it and has a facade so peculiar in its colors and shapes that you have to look twice to make sure it is real and not a vision!
The church is the perfect mix of oriental and Italian shapes and mixes domes with elaborate arches and delicate carvings.
It is considered one of the most important examples of Italo-Byzantine style and it is indeed unique.
Depending your interests, you may or may not want to visit inside.
However, even if you can’t, do not miss its facade. It is unforgettable.
Need to know: San Marco Basilica operated a strict dress code. If visiting in the hot season, make sure you avoid shorts, strappy tops and revealing clothing or you will be refused entrance.
Beside the church, makes sure you also take the time to see Venice’s campanile and the beautiful Doge’s Palace.
The palace is a wonderful Gothic structure and one of the most famous landmarks in Venice, that overlooks both Piazza San Marco and the Grand Canal.
At the back of the Doges’ Palace you also find the famous Bridge of Sights.
To visit these landmarks inside, I recommend you book skip the line tickets or a tour.
Some to consider are:
- Skip the line St Mark’s Basilica Guided Tour
- Doges’ Palace and St Mark’s Basilica guided tour
- Doges’ Palace ticket and audioguide
All the attractions in the St Mark’s area will be enough to fill your morning.
At this point, plan a coffee and chocolate break at Vizio Virtu’, a fabulous chocolate shop about 10 minutes walk from San Marco, in the direction of Rialto Bridge, our next stop.
Rialto bridge is the second most famous landmark in Venice and it is iconic and worth seeing but also incredibly busy!
This is where you see the worst of Venice overtourism so my recommendation is: come, see and leave!
Do not plan on having lunch here and do not judge Venice based on this specific spot: Rialto is worth seeing but unless you strike gold and are here on a non-busy day, it really is the least pleasant part of the city.
Rather than spending time at the bridge, I recommend you climb up to the top of Fondaco dei Tedeschi nearby.
The Fondaco is an old Venetian building now turned elegant shopping mall and I recommend seeing in under two accounts.
First, it is beautiful and an architectural transformation worth seeing for its aesthetic value.
Second, for the stunning view from the top!
The viewing terrace is free. However, if you get here on a busy day you may have to take a ticket and come back at a later time. Either way, it is worth coming here!
For lunch, leave San Marco area and instead walk towards Cannaregio.
A restaurant we enjoy there is La Colonna, which has a lovely patio and delicious typical Venetian foods and Italian staples.
Afternoon of day 1 – Cannaregio
After lunch, head to Campo Santa Maria Formosa, nearby.
This is a gorgeous square with a beautiful church, it is a rather quiet part of the city, which makes for a nice change after San Marco and it is also where you will find something special: the Acqua Alta bookshop!
The Acqua Alta bookshop is a peculiar, photo-ready bookshop opening up onto a canal and storing books new and old in any container you can imagine, including gondolas and bathtubs!
Acqua Ala is now very touristy but worth seeing, as unique to the city.
Things to see in this area include Campo Santa Maria Formosa, Acqua Alta Bookshop, and then I recommend you walk to the Jewish Ghetto in Cannaregio, which is stunning, historical part of Venice worth seeing.
Activities available in this area, should you want some structured time:
Cannaregio and Venice Old Ghetto Tour with Lucia (tell her Marta from Mama Loves Italy sent you!)
At the end of your day between San Marco and Cannaregio, I recommend you take the walk to Dorsoduro and Accademia.
Take in sunset views from the Accademia Bridge and eat in San Trovaso restaurant.
2 days in Venice itinerary
If you have two days in Venice, you can build on the one day itinerary above and add the following stops.
Morning of day 2: Dorsoduro, San Giorgio Island
Start your morning bright and early with a walk around Dorsoduro area.
If you love museums, enter the stunning Accademia (Giorgione and many other masters have their paintings here!), and consider visiting the wonderful Peggy Guggenheim Collection.
No matter what you do, ensure you see:
The squero, aka the place where they build and repair gondolas (Squero San Trovaso on the map)
Punta della Dogana, a stunning viewpoint at the very top of Dorsoduro, with water on three sides and La Salute Church being you: a fantastic spot!
If you prefer a guided tour of the area, you can contact Lucia again: she is a Dorsoduro local and will tell you all the secrets of this area!
Eat at lovely and local Osteria ai Pugni.
If not visiting Museums, take the ferry onto Isola di San Giorgio and climb the bellowers for incredible views over Venice!
Afternoon day two – Arsenale
Spend your second afternoon in Venice is Castello neighborhood.
Castello is a wonderful, large and local neighborhood in Venice city center, often ignored by visitors.
A little removed from Rialto and San Marco, the area is best known for hosting the Venice Biennale but it is worth seeing even when the exhibition is not on.
The main landmark here is the Arsenale, but the whole neighborhood is a delight of canals, small streets and restaurants.
There is also a wonderful park and lovely lagoon-front promenade.
You can easily have dinner in Castello or you can take the ferry back to your favorite neighborhood and have dinner there.
Whe often stay in Dorsoduro so we often go back to that area to have dinner either in San Trovaso (mentioned above) or OKE Zattere.
Venice 3 day itinerary
If you have three days, plan the first two as above and then add a third day to visit the island of Murano, Burano and Torcello.
You can do this on your own or book a tour such as this one.
If going by yourself, plan your day as follows.
Take the ferry from Fondamenta Nove to Murano.
The ferry is frequent, easy to find and scenic and you will find yourself in Murano in no time.
the island is not the most scenic on the lagoon but has something unique: glass workshops!
The workshops are fascinating to see and some offer glass-blowing demonstrations or even the chance to try your hand at glass work.
You will find them everywhere in Murano however, prices vary. A good one within a reasonable budget it Ferro Toso.
Afternoon: Burano and Torcello / activity ideas
I recommend you spend the afternoon in Venice visiting the small island of Burano and, possibly, the even smaller one of Torcello.
Burano is famous for pretty canals and colorful houses while Torcello is a gem of local atmosphere, worth experiencing.
You can read how to get there and what to see in our Burano guide here.
I recommend you catch the ferry back to venice right before sunset so you an see the sun go down over the Venice’s lagoon – unforgettable!
Should you prefer to spend only part of the day on the islands, I recommend choosing Burano. You can also plan your day in Venice proper.
In that case, you could:
- Spend the day visiting one of Venice’s wonderful museums
- Take a food tour like this delicious one by LivTours
- Wander and shop in San Marco Area
- Take a glass-making workshop in Venice city center (great if you want a Murano glass experience without going to Murano!
- Take a mask-making workshop to learn the art of making carnival masks
- Treat yourself to a session with a photographer, to capture memories of your time in Venice: I love Marta from Flytographer in particular! Find prices and info here (use the code MAMALOVESITALY to book)
- Take a rowing lesson on Venice canals (amazing, my top recommendation for Venice!)
- Take a cooking class in foodie San Polo (Venice city center)
Have 3 days in Venice with kids? Read here >>> my Venice with a 10 year old trip report!
Additional resources to plan our trip to Venice
- How to get from Marco Polo airport to Venice proper
- How to get around Venice
- Visiting Venice with kids
- Visiting Venice with a baby
- Venice packing list
- Venice in winter
- Where to stay in Venice
I hope you enjoyed this quick overview of a possible itinerary for Venice and it helped you answer the question: how many days in Venice?
Safe travel planning!
This post was originally written in 2020 and has now been fully updated with tours, activities and recommendations for 2022/ 2023