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How To Spend One Day In Venice: The Perfect Itinerary

19 min read
How To Spend One Day In Venice: The Perfect Itinerary

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There is no city in the world more enchanting than Venice. It’s a city where time seems to stand still, and every corner holds a hidden story. 

It’s one of the most visited cities in the world and is famous for its labyrinth of canals and historic architecture, as well as the sobering fact that the city is slowly sinking each year, giving it the nickname “The Floating City.”

caz kalyra and savannah looking at the view of grand canal from rialto bridge
View of Grand Canal from Rialto Bridge

But if you only have one day in Venice, it’s easy to become frustrated with what to do and see in such a short amount of time.

But don’t worry, we’re here to relieve that headache from you, as we’ve prepared the best itinerary for 1 day in Venice, from exploring the iconic St. Mark’s Square to getting lost along the charming canals of Dorsoduro – this itinerary encompasses all the beauty, history, and culture of this unique destination. 

We recently only spent one day in Venice on our European summer trip. We visited from the nearby town of Verona, catching the early train in.

 We’re sharing our tips with you on how we spent our day in Venice, as we feel we did the best of Venice, combining the top attractions mixed with a touch of quieter local. 

So, lace up your walking shoes, and let’s dive into the magic of Venice in just one day!

Is One Day in Venice enough?

Girl riding a gondola in Venice

Before we get into all the things to see in Venice in one day, you might be wondering if one day is really enough to explore Venice? 

The answer is no, one day is not enough to see everything in Venice. You will need to wake up early and spend a full day exploring to see all the highlights, and even then, you will need to be comfortable missing some spots.

Personally, I think Venice is a little overrated. This is my second visit to Venice, and on both times, I only spent a day here. 

BUT I do absolutely think Venice is worth a visit as it is so unique. I actually enjoyed it more on this visit as I feel I dug a little deeper into Venetian life, and on my previous visit 20 years ago, I was a broke backpacker and couldn’t do much.

So, if you’re a little ho hum about Venice, or on the fence, then one day should be enough. 

boat cruising in front of domed building on grand canal

If you think it will be the place of your dreams, then ideally, you should set aside three full days in Venice to be able to explore it properly and more leisurely, however we know that not everyone is blessed with time.

So, if you only have one day in Venice, then below is the best itinerary for 1 day in Venice, covering the biggest attractions and things to do.

To preserve time, make sure you purchase Skip the Line tickets for attractions, and consider the Venice Pass, and walking tours (see below) for highlight overviews. I have included ticket and tour options with each main Venice attractions listed below.

I also have a Venice map at the end of the post you can copy that has walking directions and top attractions and food and drink plotted.

How to Get to Venice & Around

boat coming into shore with island behind it

First off, fly into either Venice Marco Polo Airport or Treviso Airport, depending on your options. 

From Marco Polo, hop on the Alilaguna waterbus for a scenic ride into the heart of the city – it’s like a prologue to your Venetian adventure.

Coming in via Treviso? No sweat – there’s a shuttle that zips you right to Piazzale Roma. And voila! You’ve arrived in the land of canals and gondolas. Easy peasy, right? Enjoy the ride and soak in those dreamy Venetian vibes!

If you are coming to Venice for the day, you are more than likely a train trip away or visiting on a day tour. 

boat going down canal in venice

If arriving by train, the Venice Santa Lucia train station is right on the Grand Canal, giving you easy access to the city. From there, you can either catch the waterbus or walk the narrow streets into St Mark’s Square (about 30 mins). 

It’s really easy. We caught the first train out from Verona, which was just over an hour. We booked our tickets in advance via Omio. We then walked into Venice city so we could use that as an opportunity to explore more. 

Of course, you’re in Venice, getting around by water is the norm. So, consider vaporetti’s (ferries), private taxis, and gondolas. Buses do not operate on the main Venice islands – no vehicle zone!

Getting around Venice tickets

If you don’t want to walk everywhere in Venice, here are some options for transportation tickets and private transfers. Reserve in advance for hassle free travel upon arrival.

Venice One Day Itinerary

Whether you’re into history, culture, delving into the local cuisine, or want to experience some hidden gems, below is an itinerary that combines all of this and more! You can save on entry into Venice’s top four attractions with a Venice Pass.

Stop 1: Get an early morning coffee and pastry

exterior of small cafe on venice alley

Since you only have one day in Venice, you’re going to want to get up early to start exploring. 

Wake up when the sun wakes up and get yourself a morning coffee and a pastry to start your day.

We arrived in Venice by 7:30am and almost had the city to ourselves. It was a rare Venice treat. I loved walking from the station with local Venetians on their way to work. Have your maps open so you can find your way to St Mark’s Square – you will get lost (which is part of the fun).

Starting your day in Venice with a coffee and pastry is not just a way to get energy and substance for the day but is also a cultural experience that immerses you in the city’s rich traditions. 

restaurants on square
Cafe life on the Squares

Venetians take their coffee seriously, and you’ll find several historic cafes in Venice that have been serving aromatic brews for centuries. 

Sipping on a freshly brewed espresso or cappuccino (cappuccino is reserved for breakfast in Italy) while enjoying a flaky Bussolà Buranelli sets the perfect tone for a day of exploration. 

We popped into a coffee bar in Venice we walked past that was busy with locals standing at the bar taking their espresso shot and running back out! 

Stop 2: Walk over the Rialto Bridge

rialto bridge over the grand canal in venice
Rialto Bridge from our gondola

Perhaps one of the most famous landmarks in Venice, if not all of Italy, is the Rialto Bridge.

One of the benefits of starting your day in Venice early is you will get to be one of the few people on Rialto Bridge. You can take all the photos you like and have uninterrupted views of the Grand Canal. 

Come any time after 10am and it will be jam packed with tourists! 

Mom and two daughters looking over a canal in Venice
Rialto Bridge at 8am
crowds at the Rialto Bridge Venice
Rialto Bridge at 3pm

The Rialto Bridge dates back to the 12th century and is the oldest bridge crossing the Grand Canal. 

It was originally built as a wooden structure, but it collapsed twice before being reconstructed in stone between 1588 and 1591 by Antonio da Ponte. 

Serving as a central crossing point in the bustling city, the Rialto Bridge played a vital role in the daily functioning of the Republic of Venice. 

Its iconic design and architectural beauty have made it a symbol of Venetian pride and a must-visit landmark for anyone visiting Venice.

Stop 3: Head to St Mark’s Square

caz and the girls looking at the tower in st mark's square venice
St Mark’s Square Vienna

Next stop is another iconic setting in Venice, St Mark’s Square, or Piazza San Marco. This iconic square holds a rich history that has made it an iconic symbol of the city. 

It was established in the 9th century, but the square reached its current size and form in 1177. It became the heart of Venetian political, social, and religious life, housing the magnificent St. Mark’s Basilica and the Doge’s Palace. 

The square’s architecture showcases Byzantine, Gothic, and Renaissance influences, captivating people with its stunning domes, turrets, and intricate gold mosaics. 

kalyra and savannah walking past white building and monument tower
St Mark’s Square

Beyond its architectural beauty, St. Mark’s Square represents the wealth, power, and cultural heritage of Venice throughout the centuries. 

It’s also where many of Venice’s top attractions are located, so you’ll find yourself here no matter if you’re looking for it or not.

Again, arriving here after 10am will have you fighting through crowds. Our 8:45 am arrival had us wandering around freely with little people beside us. 

To be honest, I found St Mark’s Square a little boring. I don’t know what all the fuss is about. We did have a lot of the area taken over by the setting up of a festival. There are some beautiful architectural buildings to look at, but I still found it dull. 

Stop 4: Tour Doge’s Palace & Bridge of Sighs

Caz taking photo of palace courtyard

The Doge’s Palace is an unmissable attraction in Venice, and it takes a while to see it all, which is why we recommend you book yourself on the first tour of the day, starting at 9.00am.

Touring the Doge’s Palace is a captivating journey through the city’s rich history and one of the most impressive architectural marvels. 

The palace is a masterpiece of Gothic architecture and was the residence of the Doge of Venice and the seat of political power for centuries. 

columned entry way to doge's palace with marble statues

As we were visiting St Mark’s Basilica on our guided walking tour in the afternoon with skip the line privileges, we bypassed the long line of people waiting to get into the basilica and instead walked up to the Doge’s Palace with our skip the line tickets for 9am.

WOW! This is how you do it. Just like the Hall of Mirrors in Versailles, we had the grand ballroom and most of the other rooms in the magnificent palace all to ourselves. I’ve heard crowds can be intense here, so book the earliest tour. 

As a result, the Doge’s Palace was my favorite thing to do in Venice. 

Inside, you can explore opulent chambers, grand halls adorned with frescoes, and the famous Council Chamber. 

Next, the Bridge of Sighs, connecting the palace to the prisons, which earned its name from the melancholic sighs of prisoners as they caught their last glimpse of Venice. 

caz looking out small window inside bridge of sighs
Inside Bridge of Sighs looking out
looking out small window of bridge of sighs for last look at venice canal and island
The last view of Venice
underground hallway of prison
To the prison cells we go!

The self-guided tour will take you over the Bridge of Sighs and then down into the prison cells, so you can really get a sense of what that journey must have been like for them. It then brings you back over the Bridge of Sighs.

How long you spend here is really dependent on how long you want to spend soaking up all the details. We were content with an hour., but we did not have crowds slowing us down.

Ticket and tour options for Doge’s Palace

To make it easier for you, I’ve gathered the best options below for you to choose from in order to get the best entry times and tours. Some include St Mark’s Basilica.

Stop 5: Bridge of Sighs from the Outside

caz and girls posing in front of bridge of sighs

We then had time after our palace tour, to look at the Bridge of Sighs from the outside. So, make sure you do that. There will be crowds lining up for the views. We didn’t have to wait long for a space to open up for a good look at where we had just been!

The Bridge of Sighs at Oxford University in the UK is falsely believed to be a replica of the Bridge of Sighs in Venice. However, this is not the case as the bridge more closely resembles the Rialto Bridge.

Stop 6: Saint Mark’s Basilica 

caz, kalyra and savannah posing in front of st mark's basilica

Visiting St Mark’s Basilica in Venice is a top attraction you don’t want to miss. But it doesn’t have to be a long-winded experience. A quick look inside at the unbelievably stunning gilded domes is absolutely worth it. 

I was very happy to have our tour of St Mark’s Basilica as part of our afternoon walking tour with Walks of Italy (more below). I loved having a guide point out the most important features and sharing the history of Italy’s second most important church to us. 

St. Mark’s Basilica is another awe-inspiring Byzantine masterpiece, showcasing intricate mosaics, gilded domes, and exquisite relics. 

exterior of St Mark's BAsilica
golden mosaic roof with st mark's basilica etched on it
golden roofs and archways inside ST Mark's Basilica

If you do not do the walking tour, and visit the basilica on your own, I highly recommend you buy skip the line tickets. The line here was long all day from 8:30am. 

If you skip the line tickets, it won’t really matter what time you go in. I would do the Doge’s Palace first, simply because the Basilica is busy all day long, so you’ll always have crowds, whereas with Doge’s Palace you have a good chance to skip the crowds if you do the very first tour. 

Skip the line tickets and tours

If entry tickets are sold out, guided tours are a good option to get inside. All tour companies below are those we’ve personally use and trust.

Stop 7: Have a late morning cicchetti and coffee

Capuchino and chicchetti on table

We only spent an hour in the palace. That was more than enough for us – even with taking a lot of photos. If you like to read every single information board and see every piece of art, it may take you longer. 

We were ready for a mid-morning snack after our tour. It’s Italy, espresso shots are welcome any time of the day! 

This was the perfect time to wander the narrow alleyways and find a coffee bar and try one of Benice’s most popular snacks: Cicchetti. 

A cicchetti is a small, bite-sized venetian snack or appetizer that are commonly found in the bars and bacari (wine bars) of Venice. 

creamy fish and cured meats on chichetti on plate

Similar to Spanish tapas, cicchetti are delectable treats that can vary in form and flavor, ranging from crostini (toasted bread with various toppings) to fried seafood, meatballs, and cheese-filled pastries. 

They are typically enjoyed alongside a glass of wine or aperol spritz and are a popular culinary tradition in Venetian culture.

We tried a couple of versions: topped with creamy smoked fish and a ham. 

This is also a good opportunity to put your feet up for a bit after the tour, but don’t get too comfy, as there is still a lot to see!

You may like..

This Venice at Sunset: Cicchetti, Food & Wine Tour from our favorite food tour company, Devour. Step away from the well-worn tourist trail on this incredible Venetian food and wine exploration, eating your way through the most authentic of bars. 

Stop 8: Visit the Secret Bookstore, Libreria Acqua Alta

Kalyra and Savannah sitting on wall of books
Book lovers

The Libreria Acqua Alta bookstore was once a hidden gem, but thanks to the rise in social media, it’s become one of the top things to do in Venice.

This quirky bookshop is famous for its garden, which has a staircase made out of books, which takes you up to look over the canal below.

It won’t take you too long to snap some cool photos and get a feel for this artistic store. It’s also a great place to get some postcards and prints to take home as souvenirs.

kalyra and savannah sitting on staircase of books

I didn’t enjoy this as much as I thought I would. I LOVE the Last Bookstore in Downtown LA, and though it may be a little like that. The staircase was cool, but a little haggard from everyone walking over it. 

The lines started getting long right after we finished with our turn to walk and take photos. My annoyance started then with the many rude people who just ignored the patient people lining up and jumped the queue.

And then there were wannabe Instagram stars taking over the whole place for a photoshoot without honoring the signs saying to follow a 2-minute limit! 

If you’re short on time, I’d skip it, or go early to escape the nonsense. 

Stop 9: Go Chocolate Tasting 

plate of small venetian squares of chocolate
Yummy flavors

Another tasty treat that Venice is known for is chocolate. The city offers a delightful array of chocolatiers and specialty shops that showcase the artistry and craftsmanship of chocolate-making. 

Venetian chocolate is renowned for its rich flavors, smooth textures, and creative combinations. From traditional dark chocolates to luscious truffles, there is something to satisfy every sweet tooth. 

Venetian chocolatiers often incorporate local ingredients like almonds, hazelnuts, and spices, adding a unique twist to their creations. 

Set an hour aside in the afternoon to taste Dragées, chocolate covers, pralines, truffles, and chocolate beans, or even a hot or cold chocolate drink, depending on when you visit.

small glass of goldoni cold chocolate drink with chocolates
Cold Goldoni Drink

Not far from the bookstore is Vizio Virtue Cioccolateria which is where we sampled chocolate without any crowds.

We tried a Goldoni cold chocolate drink which has been a Venetian recipe made since 1750. It was very thick and spicy with an unusual flavor. I kind of liked it but then didn’t! Apparently outside of summer you can have it hot which I think I would have enjoyed better. It was a NO for the girls.

You can join this 40-minute chocolate tour which takes you to some of the best chocolatiers in the city.

Stop 10: Venice’s Best Gelato

Young girl holding up and ice cream in Italy
Our last gelato

There is nothing wrong with following up Venetian chocolate with the best gelato in Venice. They are right near each other, which is why we did them right after each other. 

Our timings were spot on in Venice, as right after we ordered, all the crowds arrived for a scoop of gelato. 

What’s great about Suso gelato is that they serve their ice cream in edible cups with edible spoons – doing their it for the environment one scoop at a time. 

This was a somber moment for us – our very last gelato in Italy as we were flying out the next day for our Danube River cruise. 

We really savored the flavors of this delicious Venetian gelato. 

Stop 11: Wander the Streets & Lunch Break

caz sitting on edge of pathway looking at canal
Wander down every alley!

Now that you’re full of sugar energy you have time to keep wandering the streets of Venice. I loved getting lost in its winding alleyways that arrive to open squares, or campos, with people enjoying coffee and lunch in restaurants lining the squares.

Not far from St Marco Square are the irregular and beautiful buildings lining campo Santa Maria Formosa, one of the liveliest squares in Venice.

church with tower on Santa Maria Formosa,
Campo Santa Maria Formosa

As you wander, you can take time for shopping if that’s your thing or enjoy a sit-down lunch. There are plenty of options. We found Al Vapiretto Trattoria, that served delicious pasta and pizza at a reasonable price.

We also enjoyed stumbling upon this wonderful multi-arch spiral staircase known as the Scala Contarini del Bovolo attached externally to the Palazzo Contarini del Bovolo, a small palazzo in Venice. It’s a perfect blending of Renaissance, Gothic and Venetian-Byzantin architectural styles.

spiral staircase attached to outside of building
Scala Contarini del Bovolo

The view of Venice from the Belvedere at the top is said to be beautiful. You can see the domes and the Campanile di San Marco, the Basilica di Santi Giovanni e Paolo, and even the Teatro la Fenice. We did not have time to go up and see. (Here is where you reserve the entry ticket to the staircase and palace)

Keep an eye on the time and maps so you know how to get back in time for your next Venice activity – a guide walking tour.

Stop 12: Guided Walking Tour: Welcome to Venice, St. Mark’s Basilica & Gondola Ride

tour guide with walks of italy leading a tour in venice

If you’re ready to dive into the enchanting vibes of Venice without getting lost in a sea of maps, this guided walking tour with Walks of Italy is for you. In just three hours, you’ll go from being a tourist to a Venice insider, all thanks to your local guide’s passion and know-how.

We started our tour with a local guide, Paola, outside Chiesa di San Giacomo di Rialto, a gothic church dating back to 1071. This area right near the Rialto Bridge is one of the most important areas in Venice.

Paola guided us away from the crowds on the Rialto Bridge to the other quieter side with a view just as pretty – with no one blocking it! 

She guided us through the local markets sharing a lot about local Venetian life allowing us to see a different side from the normal tourist destinations. 

market stalls with produce in venice
The local markets
boat going past buildings on grand canal
The other view on the Rialto Bridge

This continued as we wandered narrow alleyways, visited the site of Marco Polo’s house in the quarter of San Giovanni Crisostomo. The explorer and merchant lived here for the last 25 years of his life, until January 1324. We learned a lot about his life as we stood in this square.

The original house unfortunately burnt down in 1596. All that remains is a great archway with a beautiful Veneto-Romanesque arched lintel and on the foundations of this big house, in 1678, the actual Malibran theatre was constructed.

Some of the gondola rides will pass by it. I did on my first visit to Venice, but our gondola ride this time did not. Our tour proceeded on the other side of hte building for views from the canal.

people standing in courtyard next to arched marco polo building
Marco Polo House Venice
Caz smiling at camera with venice canal behind her
Marco Polo canal

We winded through more alleyways, learning more about Venitian life to the much quieter Campo San Giovanni e Paolo, for an espresso break. 

It’s one of the largest squares in Venice and is where you’ll find Santi Giovanni e Paolo, one of the largest churches in the city. It’s named after st John and Paul the protectors has the status of a minor basilica. Twenty-five doges are buried in here.

Paolo also told us more about the Scuola Grande di San Marco hospital on the square, which used to be the home for the brotherhood fraternity.

Here you can pay €1.50 to use the restrooms or buy an espresso for same price or less and use their facilities with it. #nobrainer

The Scuola Grande di San Marco on the canal
The Scuola Grande di San Marco
statue of man on horse
row of restaurants on Campo San Giovanni e Paolo
Espresso break

But as this was a highlights tour, we also visited a few of those top attractions as well, I’ve mentioned in their own separate sections in this Venice itinerary guide. 

Our VIP access to St Mark’s Basilica allowed us to stroll past those lines for an up-close look at the golden mosaics on the ceiling. 

And we wrapped up a fantastic Venice highlights tour gliding through the dreamy waterways on a gondola, soaking in the cityscape that was literally designed for this exact view. 

Stop 13: Take a Gondola Ride

caz and craig sitting in gondola

The best time to take a gondola ride is late afternoon to early evening, just as the sun hit golden hour. 

This is the time when the Venetian architecture and quaint canals are awash in golden light, illuminating their finer details and intricate designs.

We finished our guided walking tour with the 30-minute gondola ride. It was part of the tour, which meant we could skip the lines! 

Taking a gondola ride in Venice is like stepping into a dream. As you drift along the city’s labyrinthine canals, you’ll be transported back to a time of romance and elegance. 

gondola on grand canal with colorful buildings on side
gondola going under bridge

The gondolas, with their sleek black hulls and iconic shape, glide through the water, carrying passengers on an unforgettable journey. 

Originally, gondolas were used as transport for the common people since the 11th century, but soon moved on to become a symbol of status and wealth. There are 400 gondolas in Venice, and nearly all of them are used for touristic purposes.

The gondoliers, dressed in traditional attire, may sometimes serenade you as you meander around the canals. It’s a serene and intimate experience that allows you to immerse yourself in the timeless beauty of this enchanting city.

gondola rowing down canal

It is very touristy, but a must when in Venice. Be sure to put the phone down and enjoy the experience. It’s easy to want to capture everything but you’ll miss the in-the-moment romance of it. 

Our girls really enjoyed the gondola ride in Venice – it’s always a sure sign when they start taking a lot of photos. Thankfully, they sat and looked more than they took pictures. 

Check out this gondola ride tour here.

Stop 14: Visit Accademia Bridge

view of grand canal and buildings on either side

The Accademia Bridge, or Ponte dell ‘Accademia, is a must-visit attraction for its historical significance and breathtaking views. 

As one of only four bridges spanning the Grand Canal, it holds a special place in the city’s architectural landscape. 

Originally built as a wooden structure in 1854, it connects the Dorsoduro and San Marco areas of Venice. 

The bridge offers visitors two exceptional vistas along the Grand Canal, showcasing iconic landmarks such as the dome of Santa Maria della Salute. 

view of dome Santa Maria della Salute along grand canal

Stepping onto the Accademia Bridge allows you to immerse yourself in the timeless beauty of Venice while capturing unforgettable panoramic views of this enchanting city.

Stop 15: Head to the Dorsoduro for Dinner 

colorful buildings on the Rio de la Fornace canal in the Dorsoduro area.
This is a cityscape near the Rio de la Fornace canal in the Dorsoduro area.

Dorsoduro is one of six districts in the historic center of Venice and holds a rich history and significant appeal for those who visit. 

The name “Dorsoduro” translates to “hard back” in Italian, referring to its stable and rocky land. 

This district includes elevated areas and islands like Giudecca and Isola Sacca Fisola. 

Dorsoduro’s solid ground allowed for the construction of magnificent buildings, iconic churches, and picturesque squares. Today it stands as an art and cultural hub, and is home to numerous galleries, museums, restaurants, and bars. 

Exploring Dorsoduro offers a chance to immerse oneself in the more modern-day Venice, as well as enjoy the usual serene canals, shady squares, and the artistic atmosphere that defines this captivating district. 

I enjoyed wandering around this much quieter side of Venice in the early evening. 

We found a great restaurant, Da Fede on the Campo Margherita (much cheaper than in the tourist part of Venice). As I was quite full of a day of indulging, I settled for a simple octopus’ salad which was bursting with flavor – the perfect dish to end a magnificent two weeks in Italy! And of course, it was washed down with a cheap (€5) aperol spritz! 

Map of Venice


We have created a map of Venice with points of interest, places to eat and drink and walking directions plotted. You can save a copy of this map here and then edit to suit your Venice itinerary of things to do.

Final Thoughts on a Day in Venice

makepeace family on accademia bridge in venice smiling at camera
Enjoying the Views from Accademia Bridge

This concludes our itinerary for one day in Venice, and I’m sure by the end of it you’re pretty worn out and feel like you’ve seen it all.

It’s an action-packed day that’s for sure, but it does include the best places to visit in Venice in 1 day and covers everything that makes this city special.

We hope this itinerary provided you with some inspiration and gave you ideas for how to spend 24 hours in Venice!

More Italy Travel Tips

You may be interested in these guides for nearby destinations:

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