Venice: The Perfect Day

The floating city of Venice is a must-visit destination for anyone in Italy. Here’s how to spend one day seeing all the highlights.

Venice, the floating city, is one of the most picturesque cities in Italy.  It has been a popular place for tourists for years, known for its canals, small alleyways, and gondolas.  It is a collection of islands connected by walkable bridges. It’s a maze of small alleyways and streets, each with cafes and friendly people.  Personally, it’s one of my favorite cities in Europe. It’s a wonderful city both in the winter and summer! Did I mention there are no cars in Venice? Yes, it’s completely pedestrianized.  Venice is made up of thousands of islands, so we’re just going to focus on center city Venice. When in Italy, it’s a must-see, so here is an itinerary for one perfect day in Venice.

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St. Mark's Square and Campanile di San Marco, busy with tourists and visitors.
St. Mark’s Square with the Basilicia in the background and the Campanile di San Marco on the right.

Start in St. Mark’s Square, the center of the city.  It’s also pretty impossible to miss (I’m proud to say Venice is one of the few cities I haven’t gotten too lost in because of this square.) Venice, for the most part, doesn’t have posted names for its alleyways, but there are plenty of signs directing you to a few of the major landmarks in the city.  Start the day with a quick workout and walk up the Campanile di San Marco (pictured above). You’ll get some marvelous views of the city. It’s the perfect spot for a panoramic photo.

Venice, Italy
Darling husband taking a selfie

Once you’re done taking in the aerial views, come back to ground level and take in the Basilica di San Marco, right there in the piazza.  Entry is free (rare in Venice) and it’s probably the most famous church in Venice and for good reason. There are a few other churches and museums in the Piazza that you can buy a pass for in order to save money.  

Finally, while you’re in the Piazza, take your pick of one of the cafes to enjoy breakfast.  The famous Venetian pigeons provide entertainment while you sip on coffee or hot chocolate–but don’t feed them.  Feeding any type of animal is unwise, but it’s also illegal to feed these pigeons.  If it’s a nice day, you may be able to hear orchestral music playing.   Even if you’re not into classical music, take a minute to enjoy where you are.​ Near the Piazza, you can take a tour of Doge’s Palace.  It was the residence of the Doge of Venice and was built in 810. Unfortunately, nothing remains of the original building. It has been reconstructed due to numerous fires throughout the centuries.  Even without a tour, you can be amazed at the architecture on the outside.

Doge's Palace, Venice, Italy
Doge’s Palace at Sunset

Read more about our Road Trip Through Italy.

Venice, Italy

By this time, it’s probably time to grab food.  It’s Italy, so let’s be sensible- unless it looks like a tourist

trap it’s going to be delicious.  You might want to avoid eating at places immediately adjacent to the main tourist spots–walking even a couple of blocks over can give a quieter and more authentic experience. If you need inspiration, here are 22 restaurants & tricks for eating in Venice on a budget. Although, if you haven’t had pizza yet in Italy, Venice has some delicious hand-tossed options available. 

After lunch, hop onto a water taxi (they’re all over the city, they’re affordable, and you get to see Venice from the water) and head to Rialto bridge.  Every taxi stops at Rialto, just be sure you’re heading in the right direction. The Rialto Bridge is the most famous bridge in Venice, with good reason.  The white facade is attention-grabbing and it boasts beautiful views of the city. The white stone bridge that we see today was completed in 1591. Prior to the stone, it was built as a pontoon bridge in 1181 and then as a wooden bridge in 1255.  The wooden bridge was partially burnt and rebuilt before collapsing due to crowds in 1444 and then again in 1524. Critics of the stone bridge design said that it would lead to ruin, but it is now one of the most photographed places in Venice.

Rialto Bridge, Venice, Italy
Rialto Bridge

If you’re an art lover, the afternoon is a perfect time to visit Accademia Gallery.  It has a stupendous collection of over 800 pieces of art from the 13th through the 18th centuries.   You can also visit the Renaissance “frat house” or the real name Scuola Grade di San Rocco which houses dozens of famous Venetian paintings in dark wood and big oil paintings.

If you’re not an art lover, spend some time taking in the alleyways and shops.  You can buy a traditional Venetian mask or some hand blown glass (though, to be honest, the best glass is on the island of Murano, but since you only have a day, you may not have time to get there).   Late afternoon, the early evening brings with it some awesome treats called “Cicchetti” pronounced “chi-que-ti”. It’s similar to tapas in Spain, but don’t call it that there. Traditionally these shareable appetizers come when you order a drink and are eaten outside.  

Food, Venice, Italy
Cicchetti in Venice

After your cicchetti, it’s time for the traditional gondola ride.  Technically you could do this any time during the day until about 9:00 pm, however, I recommend around sunset.  The colors of the Venetian sky with the water and colorful buildings is indescribable.

Venice, Italy
Fresh pasta being made

Once you’ve taken in the natural colors of the city, have dinner at a waterfront restaurant.  Venice is a sinking city and may not be around too much longer, so enjoy the views while you can.  Here’s a great site for restaurants with a view.  Enjoy a glass, or bottle, of wine with dinner and celebrate your time in Italy.  Remember, it’s pedestrian, so you’re walking back to the hotel anyway.

For breakfast, the next day, visit Rialto market.  Just be careful, if you’re not paying attention,

You may walk into someone throwing a fish (just trust me on this one). There is fresh pasta being handmade, fresh fruit and vegetables, delicious cheese, and farm eggs. The market is open every day but Sunday and most of the locals do their grocery shopping here.  

Then it’s off to your next destination.  I hope you really enjoy your time in Venice!

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Venice, Italy

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