Known for being one of the most romantic cities in the world, Venice is a destination you don’t want to miss during your time in Italy. Prepare to be blown away by the charming cobblestone streets, picturesque canals, historic masterpieces, and of course, the food!
Built on over 100 small islands in northern Italy, Venice is one of the most unique cities I have ever visited. There are no roads for vehicles, just canals and narrow walking streets lined with charming shops and stunning architecture.
Before we dive into the best 1-day itinerary of Venice you have ever seen, I want to go over a few important details. First, let’s talk about where you should stay.
The main tourist area is filled with sights, shops, and restaurants. It is only about 2.5 kilometres long in either direction, making it extremely walkable. Any of the neighbourhoods in this area will work as a home base, but we would recommend staying in Santa Croce, San Polo, San Marco, or Dorsoduro if possible.
The benefit of staying in Santa Croce near the train station, as we did, is that you do not have to pay for a gondola to take your luggage to your hotel.
Trust me on this one, you do not want to walk over 1 kilometre with your suitcases in Venice. The combination of uneven cobblestone paths and bridges with stairs on every corner makes 1 kilometre feel like 3.
If you chose to stay near the train station, you will need to walk a bit further to get to places like Piazza San Marco. But the streets are so striking, and more importantly, you will be luggage free, so I promise you won’t mind.
Next, let’s talk about the crowds…
Venice is famous for getting painfully hot and crowded, especially during the summer. This popular city gets over 4 million tourists each year, averaging out to over 10,000 visitors per day.
Remember when I told you that the main tourist area in Venice is only about 6 square kilometres? And remember me briefly describing the small but endearing streets? The math here is not in anyone’s favour…
If the thought of being packed like sardines in a hot and humid maze is making you rethink your entire trip, don’t worry! That’s our personal version of hell, too.
For that reason, we are going to share our top tips and tricks for making the most of your time in Venice while avoiding the crowds and beating the heat.
- Do your best to visit Venice outside of July and August. This is by far the busiest season. We arrived in Venice at the beginning of October and the crowds were much more reasonable.
- Wake up as early as you can. Even the busiest attractions never seem to get crowded until 9 or 10 AM. We woke up for sunrise, which was at 7 AM, and had the streets to ourselves for almost 3 hours.
- In the afternoon when it’s really busy, head back to your hotel room for a siesta or sit down at a restaurant for a glass of wine.
With all of that in mind, let’s get into it. Buckle up for the best ever 1-day itinerary in Venice!
7:00 AM: Ponte dell’Accademia
I know, I know, 7 AM feels hella early when you’re on vacation. Just trust me on this one, though, the earlier you get started the smoother your day will go. Grab something quick from the hotel for breakfast or pack a snack if you would prefer.
NOTE: Italy does not serve breakfast the same way we do in North America. Many restaurants are not open in the mornings. If they are, it’s a sit-down espresso and croissant sort of situation. If you want to get something to eat on the way, your best bet is to find a bakery and buy a croissant or another delicious pastry.
The Ponte dell’Accademia is one of only four bridges that cross the Grand Canal and was one of my all-time favourite places in Venice. From here, you have a great view of Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute and the open water of the lagoon.
When we visited in October, we watched the sunrise from this beautiful bridge at 7 AM. If you are travelling at a different time of year, double-check what time the sun rises.
Ponte dell’Accademia to Piazza San Marco: 15 minute walk
7:45 AM: Piazza San Marco
Piazza San Marco, AKA St Mark’s Square, is the most popular public square in Venice. It is home to some of Venice’s most famous buildings including the Basilica di San Marco and the Palazzo Ducale.
At 7:45 AM, the sun will be peaking over the rooftops illuminating the basilica and the square will be eerily quiet. It was remarkable to peacefully enjoy this quintessential area all by ourselves knowing that it would be filled with thousands of people only a few hours later.
Piazza San Marco to Ponte de Canonica: 3 minute walk
8:30 AM: Ponte de Canonica
Once you have thoroughly enjoyed your time at Piazza San Marco, take the short walk over to Ponte de Canonica. From here, you will have a picturesque view of one of the most famous bridges in Venice, Ponte dei Sospiri.
Also known as the Bridge of Sighs, this unique, enclosed bridge is made of white limestone. It connects the prison to the interrogation rooms in the Palazzo Ducale (AKA Doge’s Palace). In the past, it was used to transport prisoners directly from their trial to the prison cells.
According to Venetian legend, the name of the bridge comes from the sighs of the prisoners who crossed it, catching their last glimpses of Venice through the tiny stone windows. Another legend states that if a couple in a gondola kisses while passing underneath the Bridge of Sighs, they will be blessed with eternal love.
8 minute walk to Ponte di Rialto
9:00 Ponte di Rialto
Ponte di Rialto, AKA The Rialto Bridge, is the oldest bridge that spans the Grand Canal. Lined with vendors and connecting two bustling neighbourhoods, this bridge and the surrounding area are always lively and crowded.
At 9 AM you should still be able to find an open space along the railing. We sat on the edge for a few minutes and watched the gondolas go by as the city of Venice began to wake up before our eyes.
7 minute walk to Libreria Acqua Alta
9:45 AM: Libreria Acqua Alta
Libreria Acqua Alta is a one-of-a-kind bookstore tucked away on a tiny street in Venice. It has recently become “Instagram Famous” for a beautiful viewing platform built out the back of the shop.
Hundreds of books are stacked up to create a staircase. It grants you a unique view of the surrounding canals and bridges. There is a large gondola filled with books in the middle of the store and several resident cats keeping an eye on the visitors.
Spend some time perusing the endless rows of books and enjoying this wonderfully weird experience. If you are in the market for a book, there are some English options available in the mix of new and used literature.
9 minute walk to Piazza San Marco
10:30 AM: Go Inside the Basilica di San Marco and the Palazzo Ducale (Optional)
Since both of these buildings were closed early this morning, now is a great time to go inside. At this point, you will most likely feel incredibly thankful for your peaceful morning as you watch the tourist pile into Piazza San Marco.
We had seen our fair share of Italian museums and basilicas at this point, so we decided against it. If you do decide to go in, we would recommend booking a skip-the-line ticket in advance to avoid a long wait time.
12:30 PM: Lunch
It’s finally time to eat! The streets of Venice are lined with restaurants so finding a tasty meal shouldn’t be a problem. When we visited, David and I challenged ourselves to find the best pizza by the slice and gelato in the city. Here are a few places we would recommend.
For Pizza: Pizzeria L’Angelo, Crazy Pizza, Pako’s Pizza & Pasta, Happy Pizza, Pizza al Volo, Ali Baba Pizza & Kebab and Idea Pizza
For Gelato: Gelatoteca Suso, GROM – Il Gelato, Gelateria Millevoglie, Gelateria Il Doge Venezia, Gelato di Natura, and Venchi
If you’re thinking to yourself “wow, that is a lot of pizza and gelato for one day”, it certainly was. We have zero regrets, though. It was that good.
Piazza San Marco to Palazzo Contarini del Bovolo: 6 minute walk
1:30 PM: Palazzo Contarini del Bovolo
Palazzo Contarini del Bovolo was one of my favourite places in all of Venice for two reasons. First, it offers mind-blowing views of the city from a magical, open-air tower. After climbing 6 floors on an exquisite, circular staircase, you will arrive at the top to a panoramic view of Venice.
The second reason I loved it here so much was that it was not overly crowded in the middle of the day. For some reason, this tower is not at the top of most people to do lists in Venice. I have no idea why that is, but it works out great for those of us who choose to make the visit.
2:30 PM: Readers Choice
I have two different recommendations here depending on how tired you are and if the crowds are beginning to get to you.
Option A: Go back to your hotel for a few hours of downtime. It always feels lame to do this, but if you are starting to tire out this is a great way to refresh yourself for the rest of the day. David and I frequently have afternoon naps while travelling so that we can make the early mornings work while still enjoying our evenings.
Option B: Find a little restaurant with a view, take a seat, and order a glass of wine. If you’re looking for some downtime but don’t want to spend it in your hotel, this is a great idea. There is something so satisfying about watching crowds of people hustle between the attractions that you had to yourself earlier.
4:30 PM: Gondola Ride
If you would like to take a gondola ride in Venice, this is a great time to do it. Cruising past the busy streets and admiring the city from your own private gondola is a peaceful and mesmerizing experience.
Gondola fares are regulated throughout Venice, so you do not need to worry about finding the best price or trying to haggle. In 2022, the price was 80 euros for a private 25-30 minutes tour.
6:00 PM: Beautiful Sunset Spot
If you are interested in taking a few photos like the one below or hanging out here and watching the gondolas cruise by, go to these coordinates between 5-6 PM. You can also visit earlier in the day, but this particular dock gets busy with deliveries of food and people for the surrounding hotels and restaurants.
7:00 PM: Dinner
Now that it’s getting dark, you will want to find a place for dinner. Many restaurants in Venice open at 7 PM, so I would recommend arriving between 7-7:30 to get a spot. We had a wonderful meal at Trattoria Ca’ Foscari al Canton. If you can, try to get a charming table on the side of the cobblestone street.
If you aren’t too tired after dinner, I would highly recommend walking around a bit in the dark. The nightlife in Venice is impressive and it’s a whole different atmosphere than during the day.