With just 2 days in Venice, I knew I’d be cutting it close. Could I really get to know this magical city in just 48 hours? Could I find the best restaurants? Would I have time to simply roam the quaint canals? To sit back, sip on a glass of wine, and enjoy it?
Well, if I did it right, the answers to all those questions could be yes. So from the moment I arrived, I didn’t let one second go to waste. I arrived determined to discover the most authentic Venice I could, in only 2 days.
And that’s exactly what I did.
My time in Venice included wandering the timelessly beautiful canals on foot, and by boat, roaming the city’s quiet alleyways and colorful corners, eating plenty of seafood and traditional cicchetti, drinking spritzes at local bars, and more.
If you’re ready to experience the best of Venice in just 48 hours, read on!
This 2-Day Venice Itinerary includes everything you need to know for a quick, but amazing trip to Venice. I’m going to cover it all: the best things to do, where to eat, where to stay, plus some hot tips to help you plan the best 2 days in Venice.
2-Day Venice Itinerary:
What to See, Do & Eat in Venice in 48 Hours
As soon as I hopped off the train at Stazione di Venezia Santa Lucia, and into the warm Venetian air, my jaw dropped at the immediate stunning views.
Finally seeing the dream-like canals of Venice for the first time is pure magic. Especially when you’ve been bombarded with romantic movies and Instagram photos of Venice for as long as you can remember. Seeing the real thing is actually something else.
How to Get to Venice
But before you see it for yourself, you’ve gotta figure out how to get there… In Venice, these things can get confusing, very quickly. So here are a few quick, must-know tips.
From Venice Marco Polo Airport, you have a few options. Take the land bus, headed for Piazzale Roma; this is the cheapest, quickest option, but then you have to change at Piazzale Roma. Take a water bus from the airport, headed for Piazza San Marco (the main square in Venice, likely close to your hotel); this takes a little longer and is a little more expensive, but it’s a nicer experience. If you want a no-fuss option, hop on a water taxi (private taxi) that will take you straight to your hotel; this is, by far, the most expensive option.
When booking your train tickets, make sure to choose Stazione di Venezia Santa Lucia as your final destination! This train station is on the island of Venice, so all you have to do is hop off the train at Piazzale Roma and then navigate to your hotel.
Bussing to Venice from elsewhere in Italy? You’re likely to get off at the Venice Mestre (Stazione FS) bus station, which is on the mainland, in the city of Mestre. From there, all you need to do is change to the next tram or train for Venice. It’s about a 10-minute journey.
Once You Arrive
Once you arrive in Venice, purchase tickets for the water bus (vaporetti) and make your way to your hotel to drop off your luggage. Here is the water bus map! You can also take a private water taxi, if you don’t mind shelling out some cash for the convenience of a straight-shot journey.
HOT TIP: Venice can be busy and downright hectic, especially during peak season. And the heat doesn’t help! So before you arrive, make a plan. Research in advance how you’re going to get from the airport or train station to your hotel. Find out which water bus stop is the closest one to your hotel. Remember it! And of course, download the Google Maps app on your phone and “save” your hotel’s location so you can find it when you arrive. It will show your location even if you don’t have cell service, helping you get to where you need to go. Venice is a maze. It pays to be prepared, so do your homework!
Where to Stay in Venice
With only 2 days in Venice, you’d be wise to stay in the San Marco area.
Even though San Marco is the busiest and most touristy district, it offers an easily accessible, central location, setting you up perfectly for a hassle-free 2 days in Venice. This is where the city’s main highlights are located, where the best hotels are, and where most guided tours begin from. Staying here means less time (and money) wasted on transport – and therefore, more fun!
Here are my top recommendations for Venice accommodations, in every price range! (Though keep in mind, Venice is expensive no matter which price bracket you choose.)
- The Gritti Palace, a Luxury Collection Hotel (in San Marco)
- Baglioni Hotel Luna, Leading Hotels of the World (in San Marco)
- The St. Regis Venice (in San Marco)
- Monaco & Grand Canal (in San Marco)
Affordable Luxury ($$$)
- Ai Patrizi di Venezia (in San Marco)
- PALAZZO PIANCA (in San Marco)
- San Teodoro Palace Luxury Apartments (in San Marco)
- Hotel Gorizia a La Valigia (in San Marco)
- Palazzo del Giglio (in San Marco)
- Hotel Bartolomeo (in San Marco)
- B&B Casa Baseggio (in Cannaregio)
- Hotel Casa Boccassini (in Cannaregio)
- Anda Hostel (in Mestre – on the mainland; a quick tram or train ride away)
Click here to find the best deals on accommodations in Venice – from luxury hotels with waterfront views, to chic boutique hotels, to modest guesthouses and hostels!
HOT TIP: Most hotels in Venice are small and sell out way in advance. If you don’t plan ahead, you will pay top dollar or be forced to stay in an undesirable location. Book now! Most hotels on this website offer free cancellation.
Day 1 of 2 Days in Venice
Phew! Now that the logistics are out of the way, let’s get to the Ultimate 2-Day Venice Itinerary. Here are the best things to do in Venice in 2 days!
See Venice’s Highlights
Kick off your time in Venice by seeing all of the highlights – and more importantly, learning about why they matter! Venice’s history is truly fascinating, so you won’t want to miss out on a guided walking tour.
St. Mark’s Square, St. Mark’s Basilica & Doge’s Palace
On this top-rated small group tour, Legendary Venice: St. Mark’s Basilica with Terrace Access & Doge’s Palace, you’ll dive into Venetian history as you explore the city’s two most iconic (and most magnificent) structures: St. Mark’s Basilica and Doge’s Palace. Luckily, the tour comes with skip-the-line access, so you won’t be wasting any time!
Other highlights of the tour include checking out the famous Bridge of Sighs and gaining special access to the terrace of St. Mark’s for panoramic views over Piazza San Marco and the city.
If possible, book this tour first thing in the morning on Day 1! It’s only 3 hours long, so you’ll have plenty more time afterwards to see the city itself. Click here to book your small group tour of St. Mark’s Basilica and Doge’s Palace.
Next on the list of Venice highlights is none other than the Grand Canal! The Grand Canal snakes its way through the center of Venice – needless to say, there’s a lot happening. Make your way from St. Mark’s Square through the busy streets of the San Marco area all the way to the Rialto Bridge on the Grand Canal.
Go slowly… Well, as slowly as the dense crowds will allow. Check out the souvenir shops, take in your surroundings, people-watch. Pop into a bakery. Enjoy it. Even though it’s busy, it is beautiful.
What’s all the fuss about this bridge? The Rialto Bridge?
Built in the 16th century, the Rialto Bridge is the oldest bridge spanning the Grand Canal. Known as a grand feat of engineering and architecture from the Renaissance era, this arched bridge is the most famous (and busiest) bridge in Venice. As you cross, make sure to snap a photo or two, as the view down onto the narrowest part of the Grand Canal is pretty epic!
Hungry yet? Cross the Rialto Bridge and you’ll find yourself in the San Polo neighborhood. The crowds will begin to thin, and you’ll be on your way to a traditional, tasty Venetian snack time!
Eat Cicchetti for Lunch
Next, it’s time to begin your search for authentic food… Which of course, means cicchetti!
Cicchetti are little Venetian snacks served in traditional bàcari (bars) in Venice. You eat cicchetti with your fingers or toothpicks, while standing, usually with a small glass of wine (ombra) on the side… Not unlike Spanish tapas!
We went to Cantina Do Mori — one of the oldest, most traditional bars in Venice. This lively bar has been around since 1462 and it was awesome. We picked out all of the scrumptious little bites our stomachs could handle, and enjoyed them with a couple glasses of local wine.
HOT TIP: If discovering authentic Venetian food is on the top of your list, then consider booking this Experience Venice like a Local: 5 Cicchetti & 5 Wines Tour. This tour of Venice’s backstreet cicchetti joints and wine bars also includes a little gondola ride on the Grand Canal.
Savor a Delicious Gelato
Hot or cold weather, who cares. It’s time for a quick gelato stop. Because you can’t go a day in Italy without at least one gelato… Or at least I can’t.
I found a little gelateria called Gelatoteca Suso, which will forever and always be my go-to gelato shop in Venice. It’s so good. Over the years, it’s become quite popular, so you may have to wait in a little line – but it’s worth it!
Mm, mmm, mmmm! Delizioso!
Boat the Canals
They say Venice is best explored the canals… And they are right. So after your gelato, it’s time to explore them by boat! So head back over to San Marco Square to meet your guide for a 2-Hour Small Group Motorboat Cruise of the canals.
This tour also includes the chance to head up to the bell tower of San Giorgio Maggiore church, for stunning views over Venice’s grand buildings and canals!
I loved this boat tour, not only because of the incredible vistas, but also because of the interesting stories and facts we heard along the way from our guide.
Eat a Venetian-Style Dinner
At Osteria alla Staffa, my mind was blown (yet again) by how amazing Venice could be – if you stray off the beaten path and seek out authentic places!
We savored three courses, along with a bottle of wine. For our appetizer, we shared a seafood dish of delicate fried fish croquettes.
Then, there was a succulent dish of lamb and vegetables. And the real stunner: Just imagine perfectly cooked steak, swimming in a rich red wine sauce, topped with chunks of local, organic cheese. I had never tasted anything like it, and unfortunately, I haven’t since. So. So. Delicious.
For dessert, we split something chocolatey and also a tiramisu!
Then, it was off to bed, because we had an early morning ahead. You do too!
Day 2 of 2 Days in Venice
Explore the Venetian Lagoon: Murano & Burano
You know those super colorful islands near Venice that you’ve seen on Instagram? Well, you’re about to see them in real life.
Kick start Day 2 with an early wake-up call for this Murano & Burano Islands Small Group Tour by Boat! *Choose the earliest option possible to maximize your day! This tour is only 3 hours long, so you’ll have plenty more time afterward.
Hop aboard a boat and head out on the Venetian Lagoon to explore two of the area’s most quaint, colorful, and quiet islands in the area. Famous for their traditional handicrafts, you’ll witness centuries-old glass blowing techniques in Murano and impressive lace-making in Burano. Beyond the art, you’ll enjoy the boat ride and wandering the most picturesque streets you can imagine!
Roam Around San Marco
When you return to San Marco, no plan at all may just be the best plan.
At this point, I decided roaming Venice without a map, and getting lost along its picturesque canals and quiet backstreets, sounded like the perfect way to spend a couple of hours.
So walk around, take lots of photos, stop into shops… Until lunchtime!
Eat Pasta To-Go Along the Canals
I’m not usually one for a quick lunch. But sometimes, drastic times (only 2 days in Venice), call for drastic measures (pasta, to-go)!
For lunch in San Marco, opt for Dal Moro’s. They serve fresh, handmade pasta to order, in a to-go box. You choose your sauce, your pasta shape, and your toppings. And don’t be shy: throw a mini bottle of wine or bellini onto your tab. It may not be the most aesthetically pleasing lunch, but it’s convenient, delicious, and comes out to about €10.
I took my pasta and wine to a quiet bridge nearby, where I sat on the steps, and ate every last morsel. (Apparently, you can get a hefty fine for doing this! So sit and dine at your own risk…)
P.S. The lovely, the legendary Gelatoteca Suso is a 4-minute walk from here. So if I were you, I’d head over there next!
Explore the Quiet Side of Venice
After a day-and-a-half in Venice, you’ll be getting tired of the crowds… No, more accurately, hordes of other tourists. Everywhere. So now, it’s time to explore the quieter, more local and authentic districts of Venice! In particular, Cannaregio and the edges of San Polo.
From the San Marco district, simply stroll on over to Cannaregio, or take the water bus (vaporetto) to S. Marcuola Casino. Or, cross the Rialto Bridge, pass through San Polo, and take the water bus from San Stae to S. Marcuola Casino.
While in Cannaregio, roam the quaint streets. Take lots of photos! Check out the vintage shops and discover the workshops where artisans are still crafting Venetian Carnival masks and gondolas the traditional way. Explore the 16th-century Jewish Ghetto. Then, choose one of the many local bars lining the quaint streets, find a table in the sunshine, and enjoy a few ice-cold beers or chilled glasses of local white wine.
That’s what I did anyway, and it was a great afternoon on Day 2 in Venice!
HOT TIP: On this guided walking tour, called The Real Hidden Venice, you will discover some of Venice’s hidden gems and most authentic neighborhoods. You’ll learn about the history of the Jewish Ghetto, Cannaregio, and San Polo as you explore the quiet canals. Click here to book your tour of the Real Hidden Venice.
Take a Sunset Gondola Ride
I saved the most iconic for last!
Obviously, a gondola ride is one of the most popular (read: touristy) things to do while in Venice! If you want to experience this quintessentially Venetian activity, plan to hop aboard between golden hour and dusk – the most magical, albeit the most expensive, time to go for a gondola ride.
Personally, I’m not fully sold on the experience, as it can be hit or miss. (I preferred this Small Group Motorboat Cruise because it’s a two-hour experience, includes history, and a visit to the San Giorgio Maggiore bell tower for amazing views! But I digress.) Like so many things in life, this experience hinges on the people you do it with! If you’re lucky to find a friendly gondolier who’s enthusiastic to welcome you aboard and show you some of the quieter, more romantic canals, then of course, you’ll have an incredible time! But if not, then maybe not…
HOT TIP: Don’t go with the first gondolier you see! Talk to them. See if they’re friendly and in a good mood (boating tourists around all day in the hot sun is exhausting work). Ask them which route they take. Ideally, you want to explore a small portion of the Grand Canal, while cruising through some quieter areas too. If you’re not feeling it, don’t be afraid to say no thanks and keep on walking.
How much does a gondola ride cost?
The official price for a 30-minute gondola ride is €80 (per group, not per person). After 7 PM, the price goes up to €100. Again, these are the official prices; the amounts that gondoliers actually charge is up to them… And almost always more. How great are your haggling skills?
If you’re hoping for your gondolier to serenade you with singing or instrument-playing, they may do it organically on their own. Or they may ask you to cough up some more cash!
If you have a decent-sized group, or if a romantic gondola ride is on your bucket list, this experience may be worth it for you. Or you may decide that strolling the canals at sunset is just as magical! The choice is yours.
Dine at a Traditional Seafood Trattoria
For Day 2’s dinner, it’s time for some traditional dishes from the Veneto region of Italy. So, in a word: Seafood.
I settled on a lively and homey family-style trattoria called Alla Rivetta. There, I ate lots and lots of Venetian-style seafood, from calamari fritti to scampi alla griglia. And some seafood pasta, for good measure. Obviously. This place is frequented by locals and tourists alike. It’s affordable. It’s traditional. It’s not going to blow your mind (I don’t think), but it’s good!
HOT TIP: Depending on where you end up after your gondola ride, you may want some more options! So “star” Osteria Antico Giardinetto, Trefanti, and Al Conte Pescaor on your Google Maps app, too. That way, you’re sure to be within range of a delicious, traditional trattoria, no matter what!
2 Days in Venice: Ultimate First-Timer’s Venice Itinerary
I’m not sure it’s even necessary to point this out. But by the end of my stay in Venice, I’d fallen absolutely and irrevocably in love with this great, historic city.
How could I not? With those insanely beautiful canals, warm locals, and incredible restaurants, Venice was a dream.
2 days in Venice was short, but it was just enough to do it all. I bet you’ll feel the same.
Alla prossima, Venezia.
Oh… and before you go, find a great deal on Venice accommodation here!
What to Pack
Depending on the season you visit will depend on the layers you need, summer is very warm but the winter is incredibly cold. Italy is very stylish and Italians famously dress well, so avoid white sneakers where possible and opt for a smart shoe or boot. Always have a beautiful coat in winter, it will hide anything less stylish you may be wearing as you explore in the colder months.
Here are a few top tips of what to wear:
- Wool coat: During the colder months a beautiful wool coat is essential. You will fit in with the locals with this one.
- Comfortable boots: As expected, you will do a lot of walking so opt for a comfortable but stylish boot that you’ve worn in. You can’t go wrong with a smart Chelsea boot, like these.
- Floaty dress: In the summer opt for a long floaty dress so you know you are always prepared to enter religious sites. Bring a light scarf with you to cover your shoulders.
- Sunscreen: Nothing spoils your trip (and your photos!) more than sunburn. Remember to prepare with a good, natural sunscreen and stay protected.
- Reusable water bottle: Remember to keep hydrated during your tours, it can’t all be Aperol and coffee! Bring a reusable water bottle so you can keep topped up.
- Travel insurance: As with all trips, it’s always best to purchase travel insurance so you know you are covered should anything go wrong.
- HOTEL: I use this website for scoring amazing deals on accommodation worldwide.
- HOSTELWORLD: If you’re traveling on a budget, this is the best website to score cheap hostel deals.
- VACATION RENTAL: I use this site for finding the perfect vacation rental for an unforgettable getaway.
- TRAVEL INSURANCE: Never go on a trip without travel insurance! It isn’t worth the risk if something goes wrong.
- GUIDED TOURS & EXCURSIONS: Many of the tours I recommend are hosted with Viator, which also works with local tour operators. Search them all here.
- CHEAP FLIGHTS: Get great deals on flights using my favorite flight fare aggregator.
- TRAVEL GEAR: A collection of all of my must-have travel gear are all listed here. Most important to remember is comfortable shoes and a scarf to use when visiting religious sites or if it gets a little cold.
- CAR RENTAL: If you need to rent a car book car rental in advance here for the best deals.
2-Day Venice Itinerary FAQs
Of course, Venice is worth visiting! Roughly 20 million people visit Venice every year for a reason: Venice is absolutely magical. From its charming canals and incredible architecture to its fascinating history and wealth of fun things to do, Venice is unlike any other place on the planet. My guess is, it’d be hard to find someone who thinks Venice is not worth visiting!
2 days is the perfect amount of time to see the highlights of Venice! Between gondola rides, strolling the Venetian canals, eating delicious food, and visiting the historical highlights (like Piazza San Marco, Basilica di San Marco, Doge’s Palace, the Bridge of Sighs, and the Rialto Bridge), you are going to be very busy… But you will have time to do it all! In fact, with two days in Venice, you’ll even have time to squeeze in a visit to the nearby islands of Murano and Burano, and maybe even take a walking tour or food tour! With 2 days in Venice, there won’t be much time to kick back and relax, but you will have lots of fun!
Yes, Venice is a very walkable city! Though navigating the many canals, bridges, and little alleys can feel a bit like walking through a maze, there’s an amazing view or stunning old building around every corner. Make sure you have your Google Maps app downloaded and handy! It’s a good idea to stay in the San Marco district so that most of Venice’s highlights are nearby! If you get tired of walking – or if you want to go further afield, exploring other districts of Venice and the Venetian lagoon – then the public water buses (vaporetti) and private water taxis can get you where you need to go!
To summarize, here are each of the guided tours that I recommend booking while in Venice. Of course, chop and change based on your interests and ideal itinerary:
Legendary Venice: St. Mark’s Basilica with Terrace Access & Doge’s Palace
Experience Venice like a Local: 5 Cicchetti & 5 Wines Tour
Murano & Burano Islands Small Group Tour by Boat
Small Group Motorboat Cruise
The Real Hidden Venice Walking Tour of Cannaregio & San Polo
The best months to visit Venice are April, May, September, and October. During these months, you will enjoy lower prices, less crowds, milder weather (in early April and late October, you should pack a jacket!), and an overall more authentic experience. If I had to choose, I’d say that October is the best month to visit Venice.
If possible, choose to visit Venice (and Italy, in general) outside of the peak season of summer: June through August. Everything is exponentially more expensive during this time, from hotel rooms to gondola rides. There are hordes of tourists… Like you’ve never seen before! And it’s HOT.
Ideally, you should spend between 2 and 4 days in Venice. With 2 full days in Venice, you will have just enough time to explore the highlights, eat some delicious food, stroll the canals, and learn a bit about Venice’s unique culture and history. Your agenda will be packed with places to see and things to do. But that’s okay! You’re going to have an amazing time in Venice for 2 days. If you have more than 2 days, you will be able to explore at a slower pace, and perhaps explore more of the Venetian Lagoon.
For me, personally, spending 3 days in Venice is too much. The reason(s) why? Well, for one, Venice is super-duper touristy. It’s crowded, and expensive. Especially if you decide to visit during the peak season of summer, between June – August. For me, 2 days is the perfect amount of time to enjoy the charm of Venice. To soak in the beautiful views. And then get out of there to enjoy less crowded destinations within Italy – and beyond!
Ideally, you should at least spend two full days in Venice. How many nights you spend in Venice really depends on your travel schedule – on your arrival and departure times in Venice. As a general piece of advice, you should plan to spend between 2-4 nights in Venice. Click here to find the best deals on accommodation in Venice!
OTHER ITALY POSTS:
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- Tuscany in One Day: Siena, San Gimignano, and Pisa
- Is a Gondola Ride in Venice Worth it?
- Hiking in Cinque Terre: A Day Trip from Florence
- Riding Vespas through Tuscany: A Must Do!
Have you been to Venice, Italy before? What are your favorite things to do there? Where are your favorite places to eat?
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