Ask anyone who’s been to Venice for advice on planning a trip to the city, and they’re likely to tell you, with a wistful look in their eyes, to ‘just wander… get lost… let the spirit of the city guide you…’ . While it’s not hard to see how Venice’s undeniable beauty turns visitors into 19th century poets, this kind of advice just isn’t realistic if you’re only here for one day. You want to make the most of your time in this sickeningly pretty city, right?
Forget wasting time getting horribly lost and increasingly hangrier; what you need is a plan. Sure, you could just do the usual tourist trail that barely ventures out of St. Mark’s Square, but you’d be missing out on so much. Missing out on what exactly? Well, we’ve put together this nifty little Venice day itinerary to help you see the best of the city in under 24 hours. And don’t worry – you’ll still have some time to wander down those little alleyways, too.
Wake up, you’re in Venice! Or making your way over, deleting whole albums on your phone to free up space for the onslaught of photos you’re about to take. Well, when you’re ready, first things first; it’s time to fuel up with breakfast. If you’ve been to Italy before you’ll know this typically doesn’t consist of much more than a coffee and a pastry. Head to a Majer bakery – there are several dotted around the city – get your cappuccino to go and limber up for some serious sightseeing.
It’s best to visit the city’s main attractions as early as possible, as the cruise ships swarming with other day trippers will start arriving very soon. Booking line-jumping tickets in advance is also a good idea to save some precious time. So, which of the top sights should you see?
St. Mark’s Basilica is a must; the gothic architecture housed in this 11th-century cathedral is really special, as is the view from its bell tower.
Tip: if you insist on skipping St. Mark’s but still want a photo of the city from above, head to the roof terrace at the T Fondaco Dei Tedeschi department store. It’s free, but book your 15-minute slot in advance as they fill up quickly.
Doge’s Palace is another essential addition to your Venice day itinerary, and happily it’s right next to St. Mark’s Basilica. Home to the city’s former rulers until the 19th century, this museum has all of the classy art, fancy staircases and seriously impressive ceilings you could want – you even get to cross the famous Bridge of Sighs. The museum’s own ‘Secret Itineraries’ tour is worth booking, too – it’s the only way to see the palace’s murkier history, including prison cells and torture chamber.
A 10-minute stroll from Doge’s Palace is the Insta-famous Libreria Acqua Alta bookstore. If ever a shop earned the adjective ‘quirky’, this has to be it. Books here form stairways, shelter a couple of stray cats, and are stored in boats and bathtubs (hint: it floods a lot). There’s also a door opening straight onto the canal; prime photo op material.
Next: time to get on the water. And, of course, the burning question here is should you splash out for a gondola ride? Well, this is some serious fence-sitting territory. It is quintessentially Venetian, but it’s also expensive; €80 (£72/$94) for 30 minutes. The good news here is that you do have other options.
A ride on the city’s water bus, aka Vaporetto, costs €7.50 (£6.77/$8.83) and will allow you to travel along the Grand Canal for an hour. Alternatively, if your heart is still set on that gondola, you can opt for a traghetto. These larger-style public gondolas ferry up to 12 passengers to the other side of the canal; tourists pay €2 (£1.81/$2.36). Sure, the ride is only a few minutes long, but that’s quite handy when you’re trying to see Venice in a day.
By now you’re probably feeling rather peckish, and for a filling, tasty lunch on the go, there are few better options than Dal Moro’s. Your choice of pasta (bolognese? pesto? carbonara?) is cooked fresh in minutes, and their takeaway tiramisu is a real treat, too.
Pasta in hand, now is a great time to do some exploring. While this time of the day can get pretty packed in the main tourist areas, you only have to venture one or two streets away to have some solitude. Go ahead; pick one you like the look of and just keep following it; you’ll either end up at a dead end or the canal, and who knows what hidden gems you’ll come across along the way; embrace your inner 19th century poet.
Need a caffeine fix after all that wandering? What better place than the world’s oldest coffee shop. Caffe Florian is every bit the grand, beautifully-interiored dream you’d expect from a historic Italian cafe. Sure, it’s expensive, but it’s worth it. Tip: if you can manage without the caffeine, the hot chocolate here is incredible.
If you’d like to get a taste of everyday life in the city, stroll over to the Cannaregio quarter. This is where the locals are; and though there are no top attractions here it’s a great place to experience a more low key side of Venice. A 20-minute walk from St. Mark’s, you’ll find plenty of shops, cafes, bars and market sellers here.
As the sun starts to set, it’s a great time to head over to the Rialto Bridge. The view over the Grand Canal looks particularly nice here at night, with the twinkling lights reflected in the water as the cruise ships leave and the city quietens a little.
While Venice isn’t exactly known for its culinary scene, there are plenty of tasty options for dinner. Avoid the restaurants in the main squares (especially those with people outside basically begging for your business), and you’ll find the food quality improves dramatically. Osteria Bancogiro, with its large canalside terrace and intimate dining room with vaulted ceilings, should be among your top choices. The modern dishes aren’t cheap, but they are picture-perfect and delicious.
Other solid options include Osteria Al Squero; technically a bar but their cicchetti (Ventian tapas) is filling, and seriously good, and Bacaro Da Fiore; a traditional family-run tavern that serves tasty authentic seafood dishes like grilled cuttlefish, moeche crabs and ‘sarde in saor’ – sweet and sour sardines.
If you have time for a drink (or three) in the city, be sure to stop by at Cantina do Mori, said to be the oldest bar in Venice. The house wine at this traditional ‘bacaro’ is so pure that it apparently doesn’t cause hangovers (note: not a challenge). For something rather more luxurious, try the rooftop bar of Skyline. Get your snaps of the gorgeous evening view of the city, then make your choice from the lengthy cocktail menu.
Hoping to find some gluten free delicacies during your stay? Check out our top pick of gluten free restaurants in Venice.
Whether you’re seeing the sights of Venice in a day or a week, we have all the insider knowledge to make your trip an Italian dream. Download the Orbzii app now to start planning your perfect getaway.