Venice Tour: What to Do and See in 48 Hours
Are you ready to take an unforgettable journey through an engaging Venice tour? Spending 2 days in Venice is a wonderful–and entirely unique–experience. Since time immemorial this city, now a Unesco world heritage site, has had the world at its feet.
Spread over 118 small islands in a sparkling emerald-green lagoon in the Adriatic Sea, Venice is one of the most romantic and unforgettable cities. Its majestic canals are lined with marble palazzi and sumptuous basilicas, and the narrow alleyways – filled with delightful boutiques and art galleries – open out into charming, secret squares.
Venice is not only one the most important art city in Italy, but also one of the world’s most sought-after destinations owing to its beauty, its uniqueness, and its culture. Short on time and want to explore Venice in 2 days?
We’re going to help you discover what makes this city truly enchanting with THE BEST 10 THINGS TO DO IN VENICE during your visit!
Discover one of the world’s most majestic cathedrals: St Mark’s Basilica
A visit to the St Mark’s Basilica is a must for your Venice tour. Considered one of the best examples of Byzantine architecture in the world, the Basilica di San Marco is known for its opulent design and gilded interior mosaics, and nicknamed the“Church of Gold”.
Its design is a mixture of eastern and western architecture styles resulting in a unique architecture typical of Venice. It has more than 500 columns and 85,000 square feet of intricate, golden mosaics adorning the main portal and the interiors of its five domes.
Inside, it’s almost impossible to choose a single highlight of this treasure-filled basilica, but the mosaics are the first sight that will take your breath away. They were created over 800 years and they are simply stunning.
As well as the beautiful mosaics, the Basilica is home to a number of treasures – many of which were brought home from the Crusades, in particular, stolen from Constantinople. This includes the four bronze horses, parts of the golden altar, chalices and crosses.
The lines to visit the Basilica di San Marco can be extremely long, especially in the summer months, therefore we recommend, for your Venice tour, booking skip the line tickets in advance (€ 3), this will save you time!
You cannot enter the basilica with luggage. Luggage must be deposited in Ateneo San Basso (Piazzetta dei Leoncini – in front of the Gate of Flowers, north façade)
Discover the wonderful Doge’s Palace: the ancient Venetian Republic seat of power
Right next door to the Basilica is the Doge’s Palace, the seat of political and administrative power of the Venetian Republic from its birth to its end. Keep in mind that from this Palace, 120 doges directed the fate of the city of Venice for almost 1,000 years.
Currently, the Doge’s palace is a museum and offers an extraordinary experience for anyone interested in the history of the city of the lagoon.
When you visit the Doges Palace you might also catch a glimpse of the chamber of the council of ten, the torture rooms used to get confessions from prisoners, the prison cells where prisoners were held as well as the bridge of sighs – the aptly named bridge that connected the palace to the new prison cells.
You’ll also get a chance to see the staterooms, the impressive golden staircase, paintings and sculptures by the greatest artists of the Renaissance. In the chamber of the Great Council, you’ll be able to see what is potentially the largest oil painting in the world – Tintoretto’s Paradise. There is so much to marvel at this museum!
Entrance fees: €25 per person
The Bridge of Sighs: one of the most famous bridges in the world
Did you know there are more than 400 bridges and 100 canals in Venice? Venice has numerous canals and therefore it isn’t surprising that there are countless of different bridges.
The Bridge of Sighs, however, is probably -together with the Rialto- the best known bridge in the city, and perhaps even the most beautiful as well!
The Bridge of Sighs, is one of the most famous bridges, not just in Venice, but in the world. The bridge was made for connecting directly the inquisitors’ offices in the Doge’s Palace to the New Prisons, the first building in the world to be designed specifically to serve only for detention.
The name of the bridge refers therefore to the heavy sighs of the convicted people who, crossing the bridge while going to prison, were seeing Venice for the last time and were leaving behind their liberty… today, it’s said that if a couple in a gondola kiss as they pass under the bridge at sunset as the bells of St. Mark’s toll, their love will last forever. Then, grab your partner and enjoy a magical gondola ride to test this legend!
Scala Contarini del Bovolo- an impressive view of the city rooftops!
The Scala Contarini del Bovolo is the most beautiful building with a view over Venice. Hidden in the centre of Venice, unknown to most tourists, is a spiralling “snail” staircase that winds up the tower-like facade of a historic palazzo.
It’s located on a small backstreet (near Campo Manin – San Marco)that requires navigating Venice’s notorious maze of narrow alleyways, but it is worth the effort.
The Scala with its attached arcades spirals 90 feet high, combining elements of Gothic, Renaissance, and Byzantine styles.
You can climb to the top of its 80 steps, from which there is a beautiful view over the rooftops of the city.
During your Venice tour, you cannot miss this hidden gem from which you can take fantastic pictures!
Admission ticket: € 7 per person
Rialto Bridge- the romantic spirit of Venice
A stroll across the Rialto bridge, is high on the list of romantic things to do during your Venice tour, thanks to its beautiful views of the Grand Canal and numerous little shops for souvenirs.
Rialto Bridge is one of the most photographed images in Venice, also famously known as the ‘Lover’s Bridge’ is one of the pristine beautiful bridges in Venice.
The Rialto Bridge was the first one built across the Grand Canal: at the beginning, it was a wooden drawbridge to permit sailing ships to sail from St. Marks Basin to Piazzale Roma area.
The bridge was rebuilt only in 1588 as we see it today. Nowadays, the Rialto Bridge is an elegant, arched stone bridge lined with arcades on each side. Under the arcades are numerous shops, many of which cater to the tourists who flock here to see this famous bridge and its views of the gondola-filled Grand Canal waterway.
If you’re wondering how to get to the Rialto Bridge,during your Venice tour, there are a couple of ways of doing it. On foot, make your way through the city’s atmospheric streets north from St Mark’s Square until you reach the Grand Canal – you can’t miss the bridge! Alternatively, hop on a water bus and get off at the Rialto Bridge stop. Have your camera at the ready for one of Venice’s most breathtaking sights!
Go to the Venetian Ghetto and admire some of the tallest buildings in the whole city
Visiting the Jewish District in Venice is one of the top things to do in the city during your Venice tour. Through the Jewish Ghetto, you will see how Venice has always been an open multicultural society. You will experience art, history and gastronomy, getting a 360 ° tour of Jewish culture!
This was the world’s first ghetto (in fact the word ghetto itself comes from Italian), established in 1516, when the Venetian Republic restricted Jews to this area of the city. Today there remains a distinct Jewish population in the area, with numerous synagogues, Jewish restaurants, delicious bakeries and a museum, making the area a fascinating source of culture and history.
Even though Venice will astonish you with its grand palaces, it is in the Venetian Ghetto that you’ll find the tallest buildings of the city. You may even notice a few synagogues squeezed between houses and other edifices. Why so? Because the Jewish community was twice as large as it is now, and counted around 1,000 Jews who had to fit on this very small island.
As the ghetto couldn’t expand horizontally, it grew upward to supply the needs of the growing community, so that’s exactly why you can now see these particularly tall buildings.
The Ghetto of Venice is located in the Cannaregio district, about 5 minutes walk from the Santa Lucia train station.
Admire St Mark’s square by night!
Venice is probably best seen at night, it turns into another city, quiet, mysterious and empty. It is interesting to see this phenomenon of emptying the streets of Venice after dark, in fact, if the day there are over 100,000 people in the evening is as lot if there are 5000 in the whole city.
So you can walk often deserted streets and savour the intimate atmosphere of this island city. Like the rest of Venice, St Mark’s square is immensely crowded during the day, but when it come nightfall, it’s magical! St. Mark’s Square is the first thing that comes to most people’s minds when talking about Venice.
The huge square, its Basilica and the pigeons craving to be fed with breadcrumbs is the most popular image of Venice.
Considered one of the finest squares in the world and certainly Venice’s prime attraction, it is surrounded on three sides by arcades of public buildings and on the fourth, by Basilica di San Marco’s riot of domes and the soaring St. Mark’s campanile.
If you will stay in Venice for 2 days, once the day trippers have left, you will almost have this beautiful city to yourself! You can sit listening to the restaurant musicians playing beautiful music whilst taking in the beautiful Basilica di San Marco and the bell tower all lit up. See this place all lit up in the evening will be simply stunning!
Get Lost in Venice!
Wandering aimlessly through the various sized alleys and streets during your one day in Venice is the best way to experience the wonder of this unique city built on water. Throughout the walk you’ll come to various intersections where a pedestrian walkway runs over a water alley through which a gondola or water taxi is sailing through.
Seeing these water streets amidst the twists and turns of the land, streets is truly magical: this is truly part of Venice’s charm. Getting lost in Venice, during your Venice tour, is the perfect opportunity to get away from the crowds, explore where the locals live and shop, and have a serene moment to yourself to appreciate this truly remarkable city.
The peace and silence of Venice become real in the canals of Cannaregio away from the touristic routes: Rio della Misericordia, Rio degli Ormesini, Rio della Sensa are the local places of relaxation and daily life, slow sports and wonderful photographs. Not only will you find tranquillity in one of Europe’s busiest cities you will also see some beautiful architecture and some hidden gems.
Climb St. Mark’s Bell Tower “the Campanile”
If you’re on the search for cool panoramic views of Venice, how about climbing 323 feet up St. Mark’s Bell Tower? One of Venice’s iconic structures, the Campanile, located in St. Mark’s Square, was originally built in the 9th Century on Roman foundation.
Afterwards, the bell tower was restored many times due to fires caused by lightning, but collapsed in 1902. It was decided that the bell tower had to be reconstructed exactly as it was, and in 1912, it was finally inaugurated on St. Mark’s Day.
Once you go up, the view from St. Mark’s Bell Tower is one of the most impressive panoramic views of Venice. The Campanile was also used in 1609 by Galileo to demonstrate his telescope to the Doge.
You’ll see a plaque to commemorate this event once you go up the tower! With a height of 99 m, it is also the highest lookout point in Venice. This gives you a grand view of the city and the closest islands in the lagoon such as San Giorgio Maggiore and Giudecca.
Did you know? During Carnival, there are 2 people who get the opportunity and the honour to fly from the campanile to the square: the Angel and the Eagle . The “Flight of the Angel” is a traditional event that goes back to the Serenissima period where an unknown guest of Venice, flying along a rope from the San Marco bell tower in the middle of the square, offered an homage to the Doge.
This announced the beginning of the Carnival of Venice with a triumph of confetti and coloured air balloons.
Skip the line tickets: €13 per person
Islands hopping in Venice: Murano, Burano, Torcello
Murano, Burano and Torcello are the three most famous islands near Venice and you cannot miss them during your Venice tour. Murano is famous for its beautiful glass, Burano for its lace, and Torcello for its cathedral. You can tour all three in one day or choose to explore one of the islands in depth.
Visiting the glassmaking factories is the most popular activity for visitors of the Murano island, and for good reason. Murano is internationally renowned for its history of glassmaking, and is recognized as the home of the world’s best artisanal glass.
The best place to see glass-making without the sales pitch is Abate Zanetti School – the one-of-a-kind school for glass-making.
This school offers tours in conjunction with the Murano Glass Museum, which are well worth the money and provide a valuable addition to learning the history of Murano’s top craft in the museum.
All visitors of Burano remain intrigued by the many colours and the colorful houses that are reflected into the green waters of channels, by the leaning bell tower, by the tranquility and the calmness with which the elderly ladies embroider original Burano lace by their tombolo (or lace pillow), while they are laughing and chatting in squares among them.
It seems to be in paradise. Burano has been occupied from the 6th century, but it only became important in the 16th century, when women on the island began making lace with needles and it became popular among the European elite. It’s a fine art form and takes an incredible amount of patience and time to create. So as you can imagine, it’s a luxury few can afford.
Most of the lace that’s for sale in souvenir shops is affordable, so it’s not created by hand. Still, it’s beautiful and the shops are worth visiting.
Tip: If you’re in the market for lace, check the label carefully, because a lot of it is made in China. Be prepared to pay a lot of real Venetian (Burano) lace. Another place you must see in Burano is the Bepi’s House, the most colourful home on Burano island and, of course, take some photos of it.
Torcello immediately offers an atmosphere of times to its visitors.
Following the long avenue that leads to the square and along the main river, you are immersed slowly in a landscape that seems to remain in the period of the late Roman Empire, with a rhythm occasionally fragmented by a colonial-style restaurant.
The main attractions on the island are located around the main square of Torcello: the ancient Cathedral, the Church of Santa Fosca, the Throne of Attila and the Devil’s Bridge. This very tiny island surely knows how to surprise its visitors.
Venice travel tips: Things to know before you go!
- Once you arrive in Venice, the best way to get around is on foot. All the main tourist attractions are within walking distance from one another. However, public transport is available via expensive water taxis, traditional gondola rides and easily accessible ferry boats.
- Travel Light: The water taxis and ferries do not always drop you right in front of your hotel. It is highly likely that you will need to walk for a while to get to your hotel. You may have to cross a few step bridges as well. So travel light and expect some walking to be involved during the commute
- Gondola Ride: Yes, it’s touristy. But can you really go to Venice and not ride on a gondola? Venice is known for its canals that crisscross the city and cruising on a gondola is the best way to see them. Gondola rides are a once in a lifetime experience and one you’ll regret missing if you don’t take one during your Venice tour.
- Museo Correr: Take the most romantic coffee in Venice with a stunning view of St mark square. The cafeteria is open also to non-visitors. Not to be missed: “Brunch at Museo Correr” every first and third Sunday of the month (from 10.30 am to 13 am), with a breathtaking view on Saint Mark’s Basilica. Special menu at 25 euros per person.
- Venice market: The Rialto area is well known for its famous market, open every day (Sunday closed), from the San Polo area of the bridge. The market is frequented mostly by venetian citizens, a continuous passage of people, boats and carriage of fruits, vegetables and fish make of it the most alive part of the city, many typical trattoria and osterie, serving local wines and food can be found around, simple but delicious dishes.Don’t miss it during your Venice tour.
- If you aren’t looking for an elaborate menu with multiple courses of food to choose from, walk into a bacari. There are places that offer small portions of food and wine (known as ciccheti and ombre) at an affordable rate.
- Shopping: Venice is a window shopper’s delight! Many small shops have been inviting window displays, including artful blown glass (from Murano Island), jewellery, and beautifully decorated carnival masks. In the San Marco neighbourhood, there are many upscale designer shops, but the Strada Nova, the wide main street of the Cannaregio district, is a mix of souvenir shops and local retailers. You can find art galleries and antique shops in the Dorsoduro district. Avoid buying items from vendors on the streets who may be selling counterfeit goods, as you can be fined for purchasing these.
- Carnival: Every February, the city hosts the traditional Carnival where more than three million people dress up in masquerade costumes and dance until dawn. What makes this party different? It dates to Renaissance times. Venetians wear gilded white masks and the theatrical outfits range from black capes to ball gowns and feathered hats. It’s a spectacular sight to see.
- If a beach is on your mind during your Venice tour, head to the Lido, the largest of Venice’s islands is a narrow strip of land which separates the central part of the Venetian lagoon from the Adriatic Sea. With an 8 mile expanse of golden sandy beach, it makes for a great beach to lounge on a sunbed, read a book or take a quick dip.
- Venice is a popular cruise stop, and many of the itineraries either begin or end here. It’s a great place to combine a Venice tour with a cruise on the Adriatic to Croatia, Greece or Turkey.
- For the best experience of Venice, we strongly recommend you to stay in Venice historical centre.This will allow you to enjoy the city, at the best time of the day, before and after the day trippers have come and gone. The Venice historical centre is made of 6 districts: Castello, Cannaregio, Santa Croce, Dorsoduro, San Marco, San Polo.The last 2 are the most touristy and crowded ones.Therefore, we would recommend you to stay anywhere else for a more authentic experience.
Best Time To Visit Venice
Although Venice does not really have an off-season, you must veer away from the summers, weekends, and the days of the carnival. The best time to visit Venice, keeping in mind both the weather and the tourist hordes, are the months of March, April, October, and November.
Venice Hotels – Where to Stay
Best luxury hotel: Hotel Danieli 5*
A magical voyage for the senses
Overlooking Venice Lagoon, Hotel Danieli is a legendary hotel 200 m from St. Mark’s Square This award-winning Luxury Collection Hotel is comprised of 3 separate buildings, dating back to the 14th, 19th, and 20th centuries, and connected by covered bridges. Essential to the Danieli experience is its Restaurant Terrazza Danieli and cuisine concept, a magical voyage for the senses which retraces the oriental influences of spice traders and blends them with ingredients from the lagoon.
Rooms from € 560/night
Best mid-range hotel: Locanda Fiorita
A romantic and charming getaway
The Locanda Fiorita Hotel is a charming establishment situated right in the very heart of Venice’s historic town centre. It overlooks a small picturesque Venetian square (campiello) which, because of its charm, attracts many artists and photographers. During the warmer months, breakfast is served al fresco, in the small square that is overlooked by the Locanda, a romantic and magical place.
Rooms from € 160/night
Best budget hotel: Hotel Arlecchino 3*
Overlooking a typical Venetian canal, the Arlecchino Hotel is 100 m from Piazzale Roma square, where you can find Venice’s central train and bus station, and the ferry port. Housed in a historic building, it offers elegant rooms with free WiFi. These rooms are air conditioned and feature a satellite TV and minibar. Each has a private bathroom with shower and hairdryer, while some have canal views.
Rooms from € 140/night
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