The city of Venice holds a special place in the hearts of all those who have visited Italy (and even those who haven’t). The narrow streets, interlocked with opaque blue canals and classical Italian architecture creates a wonderland for those who enjoy exploring. How do you make the most of your time if you only have a day in Venice? What do you go? What do you see and what should you eat? This 1 day Venice itinerary will guide you in the right direction.
1 Day Venice Itinerary
Prepare Well for A Day in Venice with Breakfast
Address – Calle Seconda de la Fava, 5602, 30122 Venezia VE, Italy
Housed in a building constructed in the 1300s, Farini does a top-notch breakfast that will set you up with. Perfectly fluffy brioche is a bit of a speciality and they strongly suggest you enjoy it dipped in a coffee. The pastries at Farini are crisp and delicious.
The pistachio croissant comes highly recommended and selecting a party to takeaway may be a better option if you want to get out and get on with your day in Venice. Even if your hotel has provided you with breakfast, it might be worth grabbing a sourdough sandwich for a lunch on the go later on..or a cake…AND a cake.
Climbing the stairs, there are a plethora of gift shops selling souvenirs (that are considerably more expensive than elsewhere in the city) to either side. Once you reach the apex, you will be able to look out on the canal below.
Take to the Water
Splash the Cash – Take a Gondola Ride
Sitting in a shiny, black gondola with the crumbling but beautiful buildings of Venice slipping by and the sound of small waves slapping the front of the boat is surely a bucket list experience. These traditional boats are flat bottomed to allow them the freedom to deal with the shallow water and shifting sandbanks of Venice Lido. The chap on the back, in the stripey t-shirt and straw canotier hat, serves as both engine and rudder, using the pole to steer and move the boat forward at something similar to walking speed.
Tips for Taking a Gondolier:
- This is not a cheap experience, it will cost upwards of €80 for a half an hour trip.
- Taking a gondola at night costs about 25% more
- If you want some live music, you’ll have to pay about €50 more. (Maybe pop some opera on your phone and start it up once your journey is underway)
- Agree on the price before you board but don’t pay until the ride is over.
- A tip of around 10% is polite and expected for larger groups.
- Gondoliers can be found throughout the city but we favour taking the trip around the Rialto Bridge. The canals you can explore are seriously picturesque and you’ll get to pass under the famous bridge itself.
Save Some Pennies – The Vaporetto
If you are of the opinion that the gondolas are a tacky rip off (you are not alone) then rejoice in the cheaper option, the Vaporetto. These waterbuses ply the Grand Canal all day and take in the whole waterway so, armed with a guidebook you can do some excellent sightseeing. Tickets are cheaper than a gondola ride but at €7.50 each way, if you are in a group of 5 or 6, it works out at around the same price.
You can either take the Vaporetto north along the canal and then return to this spot or take it south and miss you out next stop. If you decided on that, we will see you in Piazza San Marco.
Tips for Taking a Vaporetto:
- To Take the Round Trip Option – Take Vaporetto number TWO in a north-easterly direction. Stay on until you reach Ferrovia Ferry Stop. Jump off, buy another ticket and return on the same route on the Vaporetto going in the opposite direction. 20 minutes each way without waiting time.
- To Take the One Way Option – Take Vaporetto number ONE in a south-westerly direction to Piazza San Marco. 20 minuteswithout waiting time.
- Tickets can be prepurchased at the machines or anywhere displaying the blue sign with a white letter T on it. Tickets but must be validated before boarding on the white machine.
Libreria Acqua Alta
Address – Calle Lunga Santa Maria Formosa, 5176b, 30122 Venezia VE, Italy
This bookshop has been selling books, postcards and other paper curios for 17 years but it has recently had the blessing (and curse) of becoming a famous Instagram spot. It is no surprise as the self-styled “most beautiful book shop in the world” is utterly photogenic. Secondhand books are not stacked on neat shelves but instead are piled in plastic tubs, canoes, bathtubs and even a gondola! As well as looking charmingly chaotic, it has the added benefits of keeping the books away from the frequent floodwaters from the nearby canals. In fact, translated into English, the name of the shop is “Book Store of High Water”. Ths that haven’t survived have been commandeered and turned into a fun book staircase in the back garden.
Shoppers are welcome to stop and pull up a chair to read a book, scratching the ears of the cats who wind their way through the shop. However, as you only have one day in Venice, consider picking up a book or two to ensure the business doesn’t just become a photo base.
Piazza San Marco – St Mark’s Square
This square, located next to the lagoon, is the hub of tourism in Venice, and for good reason. This 2.5 acre square has long been the centre of the city, and Europe. Venice achieved its vast wealth by acting as the middle man between Western Europe and Turkey (which linked to the spice route). It was a city built on good commerce and many of the buildings that surround the square were government offices to help run the city. The whole city was run by the Doge (Duke).
These days Saint Mark’s Square is full of buzzy cafes architecture that is hundreds of years old. It is worth noting that it is also the hub of pigeons and pickpockets in the city too so don’t wander through still eating your flaky pastry or they might descend…the pigeons, not the pickpockets.
This square is the first place in the city to flood when the tide rises. During a small flood, water seeps in, creating huge puddles, but during more severe tidal changes the whole square is underwater and alarms here signal the rest of the city that it is time to batten down the hatches. To counteract the slow sinking of Venice, the whole square had its paving pulled up in 2006. a deep layer of sand was laid down before the paving slabs were re-laid. Thus, the whole thing is slightly higher than it used to be.
Check out our easy reading blog from one of our earliest trips together to Venice, Italy – Pigeons, Pasta and Pleasantly Striped Poles
Campanile – The Bell Tower
The campanile (bell tower) has been standing on this spot since 1912. That doesn’t sound all that impressive but ithis is its second incarnation The previous one stood for around 900 but came crashing to the floor in 1902. The story goes that the top landed just outside the door of the Basilica and the golden angel was standing. You can see that every angel on the top.
It is possible to visit the top of the tower. It costs €8 and the views are unsurpassed in the city. Luckily, climbing the tower is blissfully easy. There is a lift that will whoosh you up the 99m tower!
Basilica di San Marco – Saint Marks Cathedral
This spectacular church is dedicated to Saint Mark who is said to have visited Venice and there are those that believe he is buried beneath the church. The Basicila si San Marco is the perfect embodiment of the crossroads that Venice was in the 10th and 11th centuries. Middle eastern onion domes top a structure that boasts Greek columns, Roman features and Byzantine mosaics.
Entering the cathedral is free so be sure to pop in and see the beautifully bright mosaics that cover the wall and ceiling. You can pay extra fees to enter the treasury, pala d’oro and museum. In total that adds about €10.
A Spot of Lunch
Splash the Cash – Sip a Coffee at Caffe Florian
Address – Piazza San Marco, 57, 30124 Venezia VE, Italy
If you need a caffeine fix to keep sightseeing and don’t mind remortgaging your house, then consider stopping for a cup of coffee at Florian Cafe. This Venice institution has been here since 1720 and it has not lost its sense of decorum. Waitstaff in white jackets and bow ties whisk gleaming white china full of genuinely superb coffee to tables of tourists eager to make the most of their eyewatering expenditure.
Coffee ranges from €6.50 for espresso to €18 for an Irish coffee (now that really is a pick me up!)
Inside, gilded mirror adorn the walls and the vibe is wonderfully oldfashioned. Sitting outside it is slightly more jovial with plenty of people watching to do. Live music is a welcome accompaniment but you will pay a little cover charge. Yes, it isn’t cheap but it is a once in a lifetime cup of coffee and paying that musician fee means you can nurse your coffee as long as you like.
Save Some Pennies – TUTTINPIEDI
Address – Sotoportego del Cavalletto, 1099/A, 30124 Venezia VE, Italy
For something a little cheaper…OK, a lot cheaper…grab a quick lunch at Tuttinpeidi, a two-minute walk from Piazza San Marco. This is counted as fast food but a half-decent bowl of pasta for between €7.50-€9 around here is a rarity so this is a good one to know. Plus, they have craft beer and wine.
The Palazzo Ducale – The Doge’s Palace
Refuelled and ready to go, its time for cake. Well, actually, to visit a building nicknamed the wedding cake. The decorations seemingly stepped on in pretty pastel pink and cream, it was a far cry from other castles elsewhere in Europe. Other rulers were blown away at the lack of fortification but the Doges were elected rulers in a stable democracy for four centuries (1150ish-1550ish) so they didn’t feel like they needed it.
The first area you enter is a stunning courtyard full of classical statues and plenty of columns. Its a great opening act.
Inside the rooms are opulent. Walls are covered in giant canvas paintings by famous Venetian artists like Bellin & Titian. You will find paintings on the ceilings and the whole thing is surrounded by elaborate gold frames and gilding.
Following this, in an act of brutality, you are sent across a bridge to the prison. After all that bling it seems especially dank and dark. All that talk f the perfect democracy seems far away when you realise learn that people were thrown in here for tiny crimes or misdemeanours with no trial whatsoever. Creepy!
Tips for Visiting the Doge’s Palace:
- If the queue is too long, consider popping to the Correr museum across the square, where they also sell tickets to the Doge’s Palace. In fact, your ticket will cover both so you could pop in here and see some works by great Venetian masters.
- Alternatively, buy your tickets in advance here.
- Disabled visitors can take a carer for free so make sure you take proof.
- Tickets cost between €13–25
Ponte dei Sospiri – Bridge of Sighs
This was originally called The Prisons Bridge but Byron, poetic chap that he was, renamed it The Bridge of Sighs. This created the legend of prisoners taking their last glimpse of Venice here with a big sigh. It is much more romantic!
You will cross the Bridge of Sighs during your visit to the Doge’s Palace. But you’d like to see it from the outside you need to head to the back of the palace.
Stand facing the Basilica and pass into the small square to your right until you reach the waterfront (the Riva). Turn left and you’ll come to Ponte della Paglia, the classic spot for snapping the bridge.
Alternatively, the bridge off Calle de la Canonica to the North of the Bridge of Sighs takes a lovely photo.
Time for Dinner
Forget pizza, food in this area of Italy is about great pieces of protein treated nicely, often alongside polenta or lots of pasta. At Osteria Enoteca, the food is traditional Venetian fare with a modern twist. Even though it is close to Saint Mark’s Square, it isn’t just a tourist trap. Seafood, whether it is served with pasta or just veggies, is tender and delicate., and their latest menu had a good smattering of dishes with truffle. Delightful!
If you are ending your night here, it’s good to know that they have a wonderfully extensive wine list including Prosecco (produced just up the road in the Treviso hills).
End Your Day in Venice with a Classic Cocktail
Address – Calle Vallaresso, 1323, 30124 Venezia VE, Italy
Have you ever heard of a bellini? Of course, you have! Well, Harry’s Bar, dating back to the 1930s invented it! The barman and owner who created this wonderful blend of prosecco and white peach puree originally used a touch of raspberry or cherry which is how it got its name. The pink colour reminded him of the pink toga in a famous painting by an artist called Bellini. It is a stretch but it makes a fun name. Now you know the history, go and enjoy the real thing!
Final Thoughts on Your Day in Venice
It is hard not to feel the romance of Venice. Even when Saint Mark’s Square is to the brim with flood water or tour groups, there is still something about it that captures the imagination. This 1 Day Venice itinerary is going to be a whirlwind and it may inspire you to return and see even more of Venice.