Welcome to the enchanting city of Venice, where history, romance, and beauty intertwine to create a truly unforgettable experience. From the moment you step foot onto the ancient cobblestone streets, prepare to be transported to a world like no other. Indulge in mouth-watering Italian cuisine, lose yourself in the labyrinthine alleyways, and immerse yourself in the rich cultural heritage that permeates every corner. If you're captivated by the art of Venetian architecture, glass blowing and mask-making, or if you simply want to savour a gelato while admiring the breath-taking sunsets, get ready to experience the magic of Venice unfolding before your eyes.
Whether you're wandering through the narrow streets or gliding along the picturesque canals, Venice will be sure to leave you with memories to last a lifetime. So grab your camera, put on your walking shoes, and let's embark on an unforgettable adventure in the floating city!
Know Before You Go
The local airport is Venice Marco Polo Airport (VCE). The two main railway stations are Venezia Santa Lucia and Venezia Mestre. Venice is also accessible by ferry or cruise ship.
Once you’ve arrived in Venice, the only way to get around is by foot or boat. Public ACTV water buses are called Vaporettos, and there are over 30 lines that deliver passengers to more than 120 floating stations around the city and surrounding islands.
For visitors arriving May to October, expect pleasant weather and sun lasting long past 8pm. The summer season however, whilst blissfully bright, can become stifling! Temperatures at this time are usually more moderate than either Florence or Rome for example, but even so, summers tend to be hot and sunny with daytime temperatures ranging from 25°C (80°F) in June to as high as 31°C (90°F) in August (in fact, sometimes it reaches over 40°C). So be sure to stay hydrated, or go in March to April if you prefer cooler weather.
Venice in the winter is a bit cold, with average temperatures ranging from 0°C to 10°C (32°F to 50°F). The winter season lasts from November to March, but sometimes extends to other months.
The currency throughout Italy is the Euro and paying with cash is still possible almost everywhere. Since the prices in Venice are relatively high, €100 bills are usually accepted. Be aware that in water taxis in Venice, the amount is rounded up. It’s also helpful to know that in restaurants, service charge is often already included. If this is the case, no tip is expected.
Day 1: St Mark’s Square
Named after the patron saint of Venice and known to natives as Piazza San Marco, this historic area dates back to the 9th century, and is often referred to as ‘the heart of Venice’. Here, you can take in the stunning Byzantine and Gothic architecture of the must-see sights, St. Mark's Basilica and Doge's Palace. You could learn more about its history through booking a tour, opt for some self-guided exploration, or even just take a moment to sip a cup of rich Italian coffee at one of the cafés, as you relax and enjoy the lively atmosphere and the melodious sounds of live music.
If you choose to eat here as well, don't forget to feed the pigeons! This is a beloved tradition in the square. Here’s a fun fact: Did you know that St. Mark's Square is often referred to as ‘the drawing room of Europe’? This nickname reflects the square's historical significance as a gathering place for locals and visitors alike. It has been a hub of social, political, and cultural activities for centuries. Another interesting piece of info: As St. Mark's Square is prone to flooding, the city has implemented a system of raised walkways called ‘acqua alta’ platforms. These have been put in place to allow visitors and locals to still enjoy the square even during periods of flooding.
The Grand Canal
The Grand Canal is the main waterway within the city. Some even call it the main ‘street’ of Venice! It is a bustling and vibrant sight lined with beautiful palaces, churches and historic buildings. Also home to numerous gondolas and vaporettos (traditional Venetian boats used for transportation), it is one of the main tourist attractions and offers stunning views of the city and its daily life. The canal is spanned by several bridges, including the famous Rialto Bridge, which is a must-see landmark in Venice. I’d definitely recommend starting here as it’s a good first look at your surroundings and is super close to where you’ll be headed next!
St Mark’s Basilica
One of the most notable features of St. Mark's Square is the breathtaking mosaic work on the facade of St. Mark's Basilica. The intricate designs depict biblical scenes and are made up of thousands of pieces of coloured glass. The interior is equally impressive, with its golden mosaics, marble columns, and magnificent artwork.
One interesting fact about this building is that it has been damaged and restored multiple times throughout history, including a major restoration after a devastating fire all the way back in the year 976. It is truly a masterpiece of Byzantine art and an unmissable sight. For this reason, it is often very busy here- especially during the summer season. Want to skip the line? Click here to book your ticket for a fast-track entrance and an audio guide.
St Mark’s Campanile
Have you ever seen pictures of that one big, famous bell tower in Venice? Well, chances are you’ve already had a peek at St Mark’s Campanile! And trust me, it’s even more impressive in person. One of the most recognisable landmarks in Venice, and offering breathtaking views of the city, the campanile has a rich history dating back to the 9th century. Sadly, it has been rebuilt from its original form several times due to collapses and fires. The current structure, standing at 98.6 metres tall, was completed in 1912. The campanile stands alone in the square, near the front of St Mark's Basilica.
The belfry is topped by an attic with effigies of the Lion of St Mark and allegorical figures of Venice, and the tower is capped by a pyramidal spire at the top of which there is a golden weather vane in the form of the archangel Gabriel. I personally found it very interesting to learn that the campanile inspired the designs of other towers worldwide, especially in the areas belonging to the former Republic of Venice. Similar bell towers can be found at the Church of San Rocco in Dolo, Italy, at the Church of San Giorgio in Piran, Slovenia, and at the Church of Sant'Eufemia in Rovinj, Croatia.
Doge’s Palace & Prisons
Originally built in the 9th century, the Doge's Palace (known to the locals as Palazzo Ducale) served as the residence of the Doge of Venice, the supreme authority of the Venetian Republic. It’s now a popular tourist attraction and, over the centuries, the palace has undergone several renovations and expansions. It’s truly an architectural masterpiece- featuring intricate details, beautiful arches and glorious artwork. Whilst exploring this area, I would also recommend checking out the Doge's Palace prisons. In use from the 16th century until the fall of the Venetian Republic in 1797, the palace prisons were known for their harsh conditions and overcrowding, and for its difficulty to escape… What’s even more unnerving, is that it wasn't all that difficult to end up in jail in Venice. At times, a single anonymous accusation was enough to be arrested! The individuals held in these cells included political prisoners, criminals, and even prisoners of war.
Today, visitors can explore the prison cells as part of a tour of the Doge's Palace. So if you’d like, you could learn more about the history of this site and the people who were incarcerated there. To skip the line and reserve your ticket, click here. This particular offer also includes entry to the Museo Correr, National Archeological Museum, and Marciana Library so it’s great for if you find yourself having some extra time!
Bridge of Sighs
The Bridge of Sighs is, (you guessed it) a bridge, which connects the Doge's Palace to the New Prison. Built in the 17th century and made of white limestone, the name ‘Bridge of Sighs’ comes from the legend that prisoners would sigh as they crossed the bridge, as they took in their last glimpse of Venice before being taken to their cells. The bridge has become a popular tourist attraction and is often associated with love and wistful desire.
I definitely recommend checking this out as the Doge’s Palace itself is somewhere you simply must not miss, so passing by the Bridge of Sighs too just makes sense. It’s a perfect place to make a quick pit stop, admire the view and take some very Instragrammable travel pics. Maybe Venice’s Bridge of Sighs could be the location for your next profile picture!
Carnival Mask Workshop
Feeling Creative? Test your paper mâché and decorating skills with this Carnival Mask Workshop! Here you can learn about ancient techniques and get an insight into the traditions of Carnival. Even if you’re not so confident in your artistic abilities, no worries, everybody is welcome and encouraged to join in. Your session will be led by a professional artisan mask decorator whose main focus is to make your experience fun and entertaining and, when your creation is complete, you can take it home as a unique keepsake.
There are a lot of souvenirs to find and purchase in Venice, but we think this one would be truly special. If this workshop sounds like something you would enjoy, you can even sweeten the deal and upgrade your experience by discovering the art of glass-making in a master artisan's studio. Just keep in mind that the meeting point varies depending on the option booked.
Libreria Acqua Alta
Cosily tucked away within Venice’s winding streets, this unconventional bookstore is home to a treasure trove of literature. In this eclectic haven for readers, shelves are filled with books- both new and pre-loved- and stacked creatively in bathtubs, gondolas, and even a full-sized boat. It would seem that the owners have a good sense of humour, as the name ‘Acqua Alta’ translates to ‘high water’, to reflect the bookstore’s specific design to withstand the frequent flooding that occurs in Venice.
Even if reading isn’t your favourite hobby, many visitors flock to Libreria Acqua Alta just to experience its unique design quirks and to take photos of its unique aesthetic and features. Animal lovers, see if you can spot the resident cats! Once strays, the shop has adopted these furry friends and they can often be found lounging peacefully around the store. Libreria Acqua Alta is a popular, smaller attraction which often draws large crowds, so I’d recommend visiting early in the morning or just before closing to avoid the queues.
Palazzo Contarini del Bovolo
This late Veneto-Gothic palace has two different facades: The first, overlooking Calle del Bovolo, features the famous must-see spiral staircase and an impressive tower which was actually inspired by The Leaning Tower of Pisa! The second overlooks the Rio de San Luca-Rossini- and you can get a great view of it if you happen to pass over the Verona Bridge.
Inside the palace, visitors are free to explore the various rooms and admire the stunning frescoes that adorn the walls. The outside courtyard is also a perfect spot to relax and take in the beauty of your surroundings. If you have an appreciation for architecture, a visit to Palazzo Contarini del Bovolo is certainly sure to be worth checking out.
Teatro La Fenice
Teatro La Fenice is a world-renowned opera house with a rich history. It’s actually one of the most famous and prestigious venues for opera in the whole country, with prominent features inside including a grand chandelier, ornate decoration and a beautiful painted ceiling. The name ‘La Fenice’ translates to ‘The Phoenix,’ symbolising the theatre's ability to rise from the ashes after multiple fires and reconstructions.
The acoustics are incredible, the atmosphere is magical, and the history of its performances is bound to impress even the toughest of classical music critics. Example: in the 19th century several of the four major bel canto era composers – Rossini, Bellini, Donizetti, Verdi, staged premiere performances of their works at Teatro La Fenice. If this interests you, you can learn more with an insightful commentary from an audio guide with this skip-the-line entry ticket.
Where to Stay
Budget - Centauro Hotel
This 16th century building is just 450 metres from St. Mark's Square, with various restaurants and cafés located within a 5 minute walk. Rooms are decorated in the 18th century Venetian style.
Mid Range - Abbazia Hotel
This restored monastery resides in the quiet Cannaregio district of Venice, 100 metres from Santa Lucia Train Station and a 5 minute walk away from the nearest Vaporetto stop.
This 5-star hotel offers room service, a 24-hour front desk, free WiFi, continental, Italian or American breakfast options, fitness centre, garden, restaurant and bar.
Day 2: Dorsoduro
Dorsoduro is a great neighbourhood to visit for those who have an appreciation for artistic and cultural attractions. It’s home to several galleries, churches, museums and historic buildings- one of the most famous being the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, which houses an impressive collection of modern art. It’s a great area to leisurely explore on foot whilst enjoying beautiful views of the canals.
Additionally, Dorsoduro is known for its vibrant culinary and nightlife scene, with many bars and restaurants offering a lively atmosphere and mouthwatering menus both throughout the day and after dark. Can you imagine yourself embarking on a romantic gondola ride through the Grand Canal, followed by a delectable food and wine tasting experience? This itinerary for your second day in Venice can provide!
Starting another day staring out at the blissful waters on one of Venice’s four main bridges, Ponte dell’Accademia is your first location to hit. Named for the famous Accademia galleries of this area, from here you can enjoy views of the Grand Canal in both directions. If you’re coming in by water bus, the Accademia vaporetto station is on the Dorsoduro side of the bridge, with the Accademia Gallery just behind. Originally a steel structure, it’s now made from wood carved to form a convenient and picturesque connecting arch between the quarters of San Marco and Dorsoduro.
Church of San Sebastiano
Chiesa di San Sebastiano, or Church of San Sebastiano, is a 16th century Roman Catholic church widely regarded for its stunning interior. It was designed by architect Antonio Abbondi, known as Scarpagnino, was constructed between 1506 and 1548, and is adorned with magnificent frescoes by the famous Venetian painter Paolo Veronese. It also houses a collection of religious art and artefacts, with works such as paintings by Tintoretto and Titian, making it a must-visit for art enthusiasts and history buffs. The peaceful atmosphere and intricate details of the church make it a perfect brief rest stop, or a calm retreat for quiet contemplation.
The Accademia Gallery is a renowned art museum that houses a vast collection of Venetian art from the 14th to the 18th century. It’s a super quick walk from the Church of San Sebastiano, so hitting up both spots is nice and easy. What’s more, if you liked the works of Titian, Veronese, and Tintoretto in the church, good news! This gallery is home to even more of their magnificent pieces.
The Accademia offers visitors the opportunity to immerse themselves in the rich artistic heritage of Venice, and will encourage you to learn more about its pieces and the artists behind their imaginings. Whether you know a lot about art history, or simply appreciate the beauty of a timeless artistic masterpiece, a visit to the Accademia Gallery is a must when in Venice.
Peggy Guggenheim Collection
Housed in the Palazzo Venier dei Leoni, an 18th-century palace overlooking the Grand Canal, this museum showcases the personal art collection of Peggy Guggenheim, an American art collector and patron. Born in New York City in 1898, she collected and showcased artworks in the US, around Europe and eventually here at her Venetian home in 1951. In 1962, she was awarded honorary citizenship. Although Peggy Guggenheim passed away in 1979, her legacy lives on!
The collection includes works by prominent artists such as Picasso, Pollock, Mondrian, and Dalí and is considered to be one of the most important collections of European and American art from the first half of the 20th century. The museum also hosts temporary exhibitions and events throughout the year that are open to the public for visitation. Guggenheim’s ashes are kept in a corner of the garden of the museum, and one of her many famous quotes include, ‘My motto was Buy a painting a day, and I followed it to the letter.’ If you’d like to learn more about her life and see her impressive former home and collection, book your ticket here.
Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute
Built in the 17th century as celebration and thanksgiving for the end of the plague that devastated the city, the Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute is known for its beautiful Baroque architecture and its prominent location at the entrance of the Grand Canal. It is a significant religious site in Venice and draws in countless curious tourists due to its impressive domed roof being visible from all over the city. Designed by Baldassare Longhena, the church’s facade is embellished with 125 statues.
However, its ornate, imposing exterior is a sharp contrast to the interior, which is undoubtedly beautiful yet has a quite stark and sombre feel to it. It’s definitely worth having a look at- even from afar as you can’t miss it! My personal favourite view is from across the canal at night. Seeing the basilica lit up beautifully, lights reflecting off of the water, creates a truly memorable and magical moment.
Church of San Giorgio Maggiore
The Church of San Giorgio Maggiore was designed by Andrea Palladio in the 16th century and is often used for religious services and concerts. It’s located on the island of San Giorgio Maggiore, so getting there is super quick and easy, but you will have to cross the canal via vaporetto. For the best experience, sail dreamily into the sunset by typical Venetian boat, prosecco in hand!
With this evening cruise, you can do just that. Enjoy a relaxing and romantic adventure across the Venetian Lagoon, as well as travel to more of the remote islands of Venice. Alternatively, from the Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute, you can either walk for approximately ten minutes or take the ACTV 1 water bus to St Mark’s Square. From there, it’s just a short walk to S. Zaccaria - B terminal, where you will need to board the ACTV 2 water bus to S. Giorgio. This journey is just one stop, so enjoy your pleasant 3-minute glide over the water.
No trip to Venice is complete without a gondola ride! Spoil a loved one, round up the gang, or treat yourself as a solo traveller, with a scenic ride along the Grand Canal. Day and night rates differ, but both are equally special. By night, you will see some areas of the city alive with nightlife, and others much more quiet and peaceful, with the twinkling lights reflecting off of the calm waters. On the other hand, in the daytime you can observe the hustle and bustle of daily life almost everywhere and get a fantastic view of many of the key tourist sights and attractions that Venice has to offer, as you sail merrily along.
There really is no better way to experience the city than aboard its most famous, traditional mode of transport. You’ll really feel like a noble of days gone by as you’re invited to sit back, relax and leave the paddling to the pro! Be mindful however that if you book on the day, prices can (pun intended) blow you out of the water. It’s much more affordable to book something ahead- like this great offer which provides an in-app commentary. Or, if you’re really looking to go all out and have the most luxurious and unforgettable experience, this Gondola Ride with Serenade and Romantic Dinner could definitely prove to be a highlight of your trip.
Evening Food & Wine Tasting Tour
On this indulgent food and wine tasting tour, see Venice through the eyes of a local as you explore the backstreets with a local food expert, tasting traditional dishes and visiting small wine bars away from the tourist traps. Starting with a prosecco toast under the Ponte della Costituzione bridge, sample some regional treats that have been carefully handpicked to pair perfectly with your first drink.
Next, stop for a spritz unlike any you’ve tried before- as the real Venetian spritz doesn’t contain Aperol or Campari. Your third stop includes another glass of local wine accompanied by dessert and grappa. The tour lasts 3 hours and offers a very personalised experience in a small group of no more than 8 participants. So if you really want to see how the residents of Venice live and discover their favourite hidden gems, an evening food and wine-tasting tour is the perfect way to treat your tastebuds and experience real Venetian local life!
Where to Stay
Budget - Hotel Pausania
Once the residence of an aristocratic Venetian family, this charming property offers rooms complete with free WiFi, a TV and air conditioning. Your room rate also generously includes 1 free entrance to the Venice Casino and a free tour of a glass factory in Murano!
Mid-Range - La Residenza
Each room here will provide you with a TV, a minibar and a private bathroom with bathrobes, slippers and free toiletries. Some rooms have Giudecca Canal views. The Peggy Guggenheim Museum is a 5 minute walk away and the closest water bus stop is in 100 metres.
Luxury - Hotel Moresco
Showcasing stunning 19th century Venetian styling, Hotel Moresco’s elegant rooms are a luxurious mix of old and new. Its spacious, air-conditioned rooms feature elegant décors and a flat-screen TV. The private bathroom has modern furnishings, free toiletries and a soft bathrobe and slippers. Some rooms have a terrace, while others have a spa bath.
Day 3: Day Trip to the Venetian Islands
There are various islands within Venice which are well worth a visit before your time in the city comes to a close. The 3 most popular and unmissable being Murano, Burano and Torcello. Spending your final day floating along the canal, leisurely hopping from island to island, is a relaxing yet still exciting way to explore the outer stretches of the city, to learn about its culture and traditions and to see even more of its effervescent beauty.
If you’d like to plan ahead and make getting around much easier, click here for a 6 hour trip which includes all 3 destinations, as well as access to an insightful glass blowing experience. If you’re a little shorter on time, you could instead opt for this 4 hour boat trip to Murano and Burano. Or, if you prefer to be a bit more spontaneous with a less restrictive schedule, a hop-on hop-off boat ticket (also including glass blowing demonstration in Murano) is probably the best option for you.
Murano is the second-largest island in the Venetian Lagoon and is most commonly known for its long-standing history of glassmaking. For anyone interested in this art form, an excursion to Murano could be a valuable learning experience, as the island is home to numerous factories and workshops where you can witness skilled artisans creating beautiful pieces using traditional techniques.
There’s also the Murano Glass Museum, which showcases over 4,000 objects including Phoenician flasks, mirrors, kaleidoscope beams and a chandelier weighing in at 330 kilos! In addition to its glassmaking heritage, Murano also offers charming canals, picturesque streets and lovely shops where you can purchase unique, handmade, glass souvenirs. It also houses one of the oldest churches in Venice, the Basilica of Santa Maria and San Donato, which is definitely worth a visit before you leave the island. Built all the way back in the 7th century and celebrated for its beautiful Byzantine mosaic pavement, the basilica is said to contain the relics of Saint Donatus of Euroea, as well as large bones behind the altar. Legend alleges that these bones are from a dragon, slain by the saint in the 4th century.
Burano is famous for its colourful houses and historic lace-making tradition. It’s a great place to take a stroll (and of course lots of photos!) through vibrant, harlequin streets. The main place to visit is the Lace Museum, which showcases rare and precious pieces that offer an overview of the history of Burano laces, from its origins to the present day.
Producing intricate designs through delicate craftsmanship, residents in Burano use a technique called needle lace, where the lace is created by hand using a needle and thread. This allows for great precision and attention to detail and has been passed down through generations. The lace industry in Burano is an important part of the island's cultural heritage and attracts visitors from all over the world. The island is also a great place to try delicious, fresh Italian seafood, such as the mouthwatering Italian pasta dish, frutti di mare. If you decide to embark on this trip from Murano without booking tickets ahead, Vaporetto line 12 will take you here in approximately 40 minutes.
Ever heard of saving the best until last? Once a thriving centre of trade and culture in the early Middle Ages and often referred to as the parent island from which Venice was populated, in current times Torcello is a serene, peaceful island with just a few remaining inhabitants. It features several notable landmarks, including the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta and the Church of Santa Fosca, which visitors may enter free of charge. The island is also known for its beautiful natural scenery and is a great choice for tourists looking to pass time on the quieter side of the Venetian Lagoon.
Although a popular destination choice, and arguably just as enjoyable as Murano and Burano, Torcello is not always included in many visitors’ island-hopping itineraries, which is a shame. Coming out here makes a nice break from the hustle and bustle that you might find elsewhere, and allows you to take a genuine moment of rest and reflection away from the sometimes overwhelming intensity of the other tourist areas. If you’d like to experience the charm of Torcello first-hand and haven’t opted for an inclusive tour, line 12 is the water bus line you’ll need. It runs every 20 to 30 minutes from stops in Venice mainland, Murano, Mazzorbo, Treporti mainland, Punta Sabbioni mainland and Burano.
Where to Stay
Budget - Ca' Del Pomo Grana' Al Roman
This charming bed and breakfast in Murano provides guests with air-conditioned units featuring a wardrobe, coffee machine, fridge, safety deposit box, TV and a private bathroom with a walk-in shower. There are also facilities offered for disabled guests.
Mid-Range - Casa Sulla Laguna
Offering a sun terrace and views of the sea, Casa Sulla Laguna is situated 500 metres away from San Michele and just a few steps away from Murano Navagero vaporetto water bus stop. All rooms have free WiFi, a flat-screen TV and panoramic views.
Luxury - Murano Suites Boutique Apartments
This property features mountain and lake views, offers soundproof units and is situated 12 km from Venice Santa Lucia Train Station. The units at the apartment complex come with air conditioning, a flat-screen TV with streaming services, kitchenette, dining area and a private bathroom with bathrobes, a bidet and slippers. A dishwasher, an oven and toaster are also provided, as well as a coffee machine and a kettle.