All photos in this post are taken by the author unless specified otherwise.
This ultimate 1 day guide to Venice will give you an appetizer of what this magical and marvellous city has to offer. Definitely come back for a longer stay, but if you’re short on time, follow my guide on what you should see in 1 day.
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Voltage: 230 V. See my post on Essential Items to Pack in your Carry-on for tips on what plug adapters to buy.
Currency: the Euro (and credit cards are widely accepted).
Major Train station (on the Venetian lagoon): Venezzia Santa Lucia
Major Train station (on the mainland): Venezzia Mestre
Major International Airport: Marco Polo International Airport
Best Time To Visit: October to November and March to April (the weather is a bit cooler and there
Ultimate 1 Day Guide to Venice: Getting There
Depending on where you are in the world, you can either fly into Marco Polo International Airport and then catch ground transport to get to the Venetian lagoon, or you can ride one of the high-speed trains departing from major train stations around Europe.
Take the high-speed trains!
We took the high-speed Frecciarossa trains from Naples to Venice, which took just under 5 hours. I highly recommend buying tickets in advance online at the operator’s official websites. You’ll usually be offered discounts and might even catch business class (or even first class) seats on sale. It’s definitely worth splurging on, if your budget allows it, for a business class seat if the train ride is going to be 4 hours or more. You’ll get wider seats with more leg room and even complimentary snacks and drinks. All business class carriages are located right next to the bistro car as well, which means it’s a short walk to buy extra snacks. You can even treat yourself to a half bottle of wine on the trip while enjoying the Italian countryside scenery.
Buying tickets online also guarantees you a seat and easy access to your tickets. They’ll be sent to you as PDF and QR codes which you simply show to the conductor once you’re on the train. No fuss, no muss.
The line we took started in Naples, passed through Rome and other major cities, and ended in Venice. This is a great line to try to book your train tickets for if you’re doing popular itineraries involving these 3 cities as it’s a direct line travelling between all three of them. It’s a great line to take if you’re travelling with a group or with small kids because you won’t have to change trains.
I highly, highly recommend taking the high-speed trains if you’ve never tried it before. It’s relaxing, hassle free, and you get to enjoy the scenery and do some reading during the ride. You’re also usually be deposited by the train right in the middle of downtown of whatever city you’re visiting. In this case, we took the train from downtown Naples to downtown Venice on the lagoon. It was straightforward and convenient.
Do be aware that the train has limited spots for large check-in luggages. I suggest travelling with a small carry-on or backpack to make it easy to haul your belongings around. Also, try to keep it light. You’ll most likely have to toss your carry-on onto the luggage rack above the seats.
Ultimate 1 Day Guide to Venice: Where to Stay
Avoid staying near St. Mark’s Square or the Rialto Bridge as those places can get loud and rowdy at night. Stay a few streets away from the main tourist areas to get a better night’s sleep and to explore where the locals live. Keep in mind that Venice is a very walk-able city and you’ll be able to get to the major sites no matter where you stay. It’s simply a matter of how close you want to stay to the tourist areas.
In Venice it’s all about the bridges. With that being said, unfortunately Venice isn’t the most accessible city. There are lots of bridges to cross and most are not wheelchair accessible and, if you choose to walk, you will have to haul luggage up and down those bridges. It’s great exercise but can be exhausting when you first get there and as you’re departing. You can always try to book a water taxi from the major points and get as close as you can to your place of stay, but seeing the city will require lots of walking.
Budget Option: Ostello Santa Fosca
Location: Cannareggio district. Quieter and just slightly farther out from Rialto and St. Marks square. Keep in mind Venice is very walkable no matte where you stay.
Best for: Historical church charm, student accommodation, travellers on a budget willing to share a room and bathrooms with others.
I stayed here in 2014 and the prices aren’t as “budget” as they used to be anymore. But it’s in a great location in the Cannaregio district; a short walk from the main train station and to other major sites. The hostel is an old church which has been renovated over the years to accommodate travelling students. This is a
dormitory-style accommodation great for travellers on a tighter budget and students on their backpacking trip.
If you’re looking for something more romantic (and with some privacy), see my Splurge options below.
Location: Downtown Venice about 10 minutes to the Rialto bridge and about 20 minutes to St. Mark’s Square.
Best for: Couples getaway. It’s a historical and grand establishment. Great for travellers who want some privacy, luxury, and easy transport (hotel has its own docking port).
It’s a beautiful hotel on the Campiello Priuli street and it’s a few streets away from major sites. This is more of where the locals live and behind the hotel is a classic Venetian scene of boats and gondolas parked next to the buildings. You have limitless chances to take pictures and catch the light as the sun rises and sets. It’s also just 10 to 20 minutes away from the main sites and the best part is it’s closer to the “other” side of Venice where there’s also a large port to catch water taxis to other islands (such as Murano).
Location: Literally right next to the Rialto Bridge.
Best for: Luxury getaway right in the heart of downtown Venice. Easy walking to all major tourist attractions and you’ll literally be staying next to one.
An extremely elegant hotel and located inside a historic mansion. This one is definitely the best for location but remember it can get busy and noisy during the day and night as you’ll be in a prime tourist location. However, you are also minutes away from all the major sites and restaurants. This can be a great choice if location is most important for you and you don’t mind the noise.
Ultimate 1 Day Guide to Venice: What to See and Do
Tour St. Mark’s Square and the Bridge of Sighs
Of course you must see St. Mark’s Square during the day and at night as each window in the palace is lit up. Look at the Square from the point of view of the Doge’s palace and you’ll get a great shot of the expansiveness of the Square.
The Doge’s palace itself is decorated with Byzantine mosaics depicting the life of Christ and the Apostles, and you can see many of them on the façade of the Palace without having to go in. However, definitely buy tickets in advance if you do want to enter the Palace as the lines will be long during high (and even low) season.
There are several restaurants with live music in the Square but the last time I was there in 2014 it was 15 EURO for a cappuccino, so be prepared with that credit card if you truly want to dine in the Square.
A short walk to the right of the Palace is the open ocean where gondolas are parked and where most ships dock. A short walk from there is the Bridge of Sighs where (according to Wikipedia) prisoners saw their last glimpse of Venice as they’re being transported to their prison cells.
Stroll on the Rialto Bridge
And then there’s the bridge of all bridges in the world to see: the Rialto Bridge. There’ll be a bajillion tourists taking selfies there so don’t be afraid to squeeze yourself in for a picture too when you see an opportunity. Don’t just take selfies however, make sure to admire the view you get from standing on the Rialto Bridge: it’s the glory of Venice all in front of you.
Grab a Gondola Ride
For another view of the Rialto Bridge, take a Gondola ride and enjoy the views of Venice from the waterways. Your gondolier will briefly narrate the history of Venice and point out any significant buildings you might not get to see on foot. At some point you might even pass under the Rialto Bridge and this is where couples must kiss for good luck. The gondolas are owned by the gondoliers and they can decorate it and name it how they like. The gondolier we had, Bryan, named his gondola after his grandmother, Allegra, and had seahorses as decorations. We paid 80 EUROs for up to 4 passengers (up to a maximum of 5) so it’s a great splurge for a family or an activity to split among friends.
Visit a Glass Blowing Factory on Murano Island
You can do all the above activities in an afternoon and leave some part of the day to visit a glass blowing factory on Murano island. Our hotel had a partnership with one of the glass factories, and they arranged a water taxi for us for a round trip to Murano island with a tour of the factory — entirely free. So definitely ask your hotel if they have a partnership with any of the glass factories and if they’ll arrange a free tour for you.
Murano island is also only 10 minutes away by water taxi and is easy to get to on your own if the hotel you’re staying in doesn’t provide those tour services.
During our tour, we watched a glass master show off his skill by sculpting a small horse statue in under 90 seconds. There’s also a chance to buy real Murano glass products direct from the factory, but with no obligation to buy anything at all.
Good to know: There’s no pressure to buy anything from the factory because you got a free tour; simply show your gratitude and appreciation. If you do want to make a larger purchase, know that you can potentially save up to 40% off the official purchase price if you aren’t a local. The factory can ship large purchases directly to your home properly wrapped and fully insured. Full disclaimer that this information is only current to the time I visited one of the factories and can change according to factory. Consult with the sales associates for the factory you’re visiting to find out how much you can save if you decide to invest in an original Murano piece.
Ultimate 1 Day Guide to Venice: Where to Eat
Savour Fresh Seafood
There are endless restaurants serving pizza and lasagne. But since you are on an island shaped like a fish, tasting fresh seafood is highly recommended. A special dinner we had located far off the main roads (we only found it thanks to Google Maps) was Osteria Antico Giardinetto. It’s a lovely seafood restaurant with a charming patio and a small space for indoor dining. Reservations are a must.
We had appetizers of mixed fresh seafood such as fresh sardines, anchovies, creamed cod on polenta, seared scallops, salmon, mussels, and langoustine. Scared of fish smelling “fishy”? Or pungent? Let’s just say that won’t be a problem here at all.
For mains, we ordered tagliolini with scallops and zucchini, squid ink vermicelli, and spaghetti alle vongole (spaghetti with clams). And finally we had a strawberry panna cotta to close out the meal.
My favourite place for a refreshing treat is I Tre Mercanti. A specialty grocery store that also makes fresh tiramisu every day. There’s usually a gentleman in a bowler hat standing at the store front’s bay window making fresh tiramisu. The tiramisu they make is balanced and decadent but without the weight. A sweet way to end your 24 hours in Venice before hopping back on the train (or plane!) to head to your next destination.
Don’t forget to check out my other ultimate 1 day guides, like Chloe’s Guide to 24 hours in Rome , or Chloe’s Guide to 24 hours in Naples, for more inspiration on how to make the most of your bucket-list trips!