Known as The Floating City, Venice is a picturesque maze of canals, brigdes and stunning architecture. Here’s my guide to spending 24 hours in Venice.
There is so much to see and do, especially given the city’s colourful history. But if you’re short on time, it’s best to pick a handful of attractions and experience them well.
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How to spend 24 hours in Venice, Italy
Vaparetto (public waterbus): This is by far the cheapest way to get around Venice (aside from walking). Explore the routes of line 1 and 2 for a cheap tour of the Grand Canal. Single and multi-day tickets are available to buy via machines at the vaparetto stops.
Water taxi: The fastest but most overpriced transport option. I would only recommend taking a private boat if you have a large group (up to 10 people) to split the costs.
Traghetto (public gondolas): Need to cross the water but no bridge nearby? A traghetto only costs €2-€3 and will get you across to the other side of the canal quickly and easily. Just find one of the stops marked along the Grand Canal.
1. ST. MARK’S BASILICA & DOGE’S PALACE
Venice may be well known for romance but there’s more to the ‘Queen of Adriatic’ when you delve into its past.
In my opinion, the best way to explore the fascinating history of Venice is with a local guide. I highly recommend the St. Mark’s Basilica and Doge’s Palace Fast Track Tour organised by Walks of Italy (£56.85 / €65).
This tour was the highlight of my Venice trip. My guide was extremely knowledgable and told every story with genuine passion.
This ticket price includes priority access and guided visits to both St Mark’s Basilica and Doge’s Palace. This means no waiting around in long queues – a bonus when you’re keeping to a tight schedule!
The ticket price also includes special access to the St. Mark’s Basilica terraces (not always available on other tours), where the REAL copper Horses of Saint Mark are located.
You won’t find a better view over St. Mark’s Square (Piazza San Marco) from up on the Basilica terraces so don’t miss the opportunity to go up!
Find details and reviews of the St. Mark’s Basilica and Doge’s Palace Fast Track Tour here.
Top tip for Venice tours
Make the most of the morning: If you’re able to, I always recommend booking the earliest time slot (for the St. Mark’s Basilica and Doge’s Palace Fast Track Tour, this is 9am). Getting out and about early not only means you make the most of your day, but it also gets you to the tourist hotspots when it’s still quiet. No crowds = excellent photo opportunities.
2. THE BRIDGE OF SIGHS
Don’t battle the crowds and selfie sticks on the bridge opposite the Bridge of Sighs. Instead go inside it and stare out across the water as the prisoners once did.
Stroll through the inside of the Bridge of Sighs and take a peek of Venice through the small limestone gaps. Learn how the bridge got its gloomy name and hear tales of the prisoners and their crimes.
Sounds much better doesn’t it?
Access to the prisons and Bridge of Sighs is included in the St. Mark’s Basilica and Doge’s Palace Fast Track Tour (as mentioned above).
3. GONDOLA RIDE
A trip to Venice just wouldn’t be complete without a gondola ride to tick off your bucket list.
Despite being somewhat overpriced, Gondolas give you the chance to appreciate Venice from a totally different perspective.
There’s no doubt that taking a cruise on one of these decorated boats is a one-of-a-kind experience that symbolises the tradition and history of Venice.
Take a break from walking the narrow streets and bridges and you’ll get a true sense of Venetian life on the water. Just don’t expect your gondolier to sing like in adverts and movies!
Top tips for gondola rides
Where to go: I recommend finding a gondola away from the main tourist areas if you want to avoid long queues and over crowded waterways. Try strolling a few streets away from San Marco to find the quieter back streets or spend an afternoon exploring Venice’s Jewish Ghetto for a good gondola spot.
Prices: At the time of my visit (April 2019), daytime rates were set officially at €80 for 40 minutes. Evening rates (after 7pm) are higher at €100. These prices can be split between a maximum of six people per boat.
4. Rialto Bridge & Rialto Markets
Don’t leave without a visit to one of the most iconic bridges in the heart of Venice, the Ponte di Rialto. Built in the 16th century, this architectural landmark is the oldest of four bridges crossing the Grand Canal.
Be sure to get there in the early morning for the best photos and views.
From Monday – Saturday, stroll north-west of the bridge (or take the vaporetto and get off at the Rialto Mercato stop) for an authentic local experience at the famous Rialto Market.
If you’re a foodie then this will be a real treat for the senses. Take in the bustling charm and the colourful assortments of fresh seasonal produce including fruits, vegetables and spices.
Don’t miss the fish (Pescheria) market that also runs along the Grand Canal from Tuesday – Saturday.
One day Venice itinerary:
Head over to Rialto Bridge first thing for a great view of the Grand Canal and a photo without the crowds. Next, take a walk to the Rialto Markets and experience fresh local food at its finest. Grab some breakfast and a coffee from one of the cafés nearby.
After breakfast, make your way to St Mark’s Square for the St. Mark’s Basilica and Doge’s Palace Fast Track Tour. Don’t forget to take plenty of photos of the square while it is still quiet!
Once the tour has finished, take some time to explore more of St Mark’s Square and enjoy the live music as you wander around. Make sure you walk round to see the outside view of the Bridge of Sighs (if you can get through the crowds).
Don’t overpay for coffee or lunch. Take a vaparetto or walk a couple of streets back from the square to find a place to eat. It is well known that the cafes and restaurants on the square are very expensive and will add a cover charge (usually between €4-€6) for the live music.
After lunch, it’s time for a relaxing gondola ride. Gondoliers can usually be found in most tourist hot spots however remember my advice above if you want a quieter experience. Be sure you know the price before you agree anything and the standard prices.
Venice remains just as magical and romantic by night. Take the opportunity to wander the quiet streets and find a local bar or restaurant for dinners/drinks. Try some of the fresh seafood or a traditional Venetian dish Risi e Bisi (similar to risotto made with peas, rice and pancetta).
If cocktails are more your thing, try the drink loved by the locals. A Spritz is a bright mixture of Prosecco (or white wine), Aperol and soda water.