Venice is one of my favourite cities in the world… so far. It’s impossible not to love the floating city, with the maze of canals, the paths and bridges connecting it all together and of course the incredible architecture. Arriving in Venice makes you feel like you have just stepped onto the set of a movie of some ancient water city. Not so far from the truth I guess.
We only had a couple of days to spend in Venice during our visit a few years back and in fact, it was really only one day in Venice overall. It was part of a whirlwind guided tour through Europe, 2 months before our wedding. We were aiming to see as much as we could in a short 3 weeks. A bit of a taster trip I suppose.
What we did know when planning this trip was that Venice was a must see destination, along with Rome. All the other countries and cities we saw were really just bonus add ons, so long as we got our Italian highlights.
During our tour, we spent an afternoon and evening in Venice, giving us the chance to experience Venice soon before the sun went down, well into the night. Then back for a full day to explore and sight see the next day before heading back to our hotel for our final night in the Venice area.
With only one day in Venice, to see this amazing city, you do your best to maximise what you can see and do in that short space of time and we did great to see as much as we did. Check out our Venice one day itinerary.
ONE DAY IN VENICE: OUR ITINERARY
St. Mark’s Square
As pretty common starting point when visiting Venice in one day or more, St Mark’s Square is where the action begins. Try not to get lost amongst the growing crowds as you admire the iconic structures that surround the square. One one side, the water lined with Gondolas and boats. Beside you, St. Mark’s Basilica in all its grandeur, standing opposite San Marco Campanile, and the line of cafes and restaurants in front. You could spend your entire day seeing everything in this one spot, but don’t. There’s more to see.
Take a walk to Rialto and visit the famous Rialto Bridge. The bridge is a lovely sight to see, but even more impressive is the view from the bridge of life in Venice along the canal. We enjoyed taking a few minutes to just stop and watch the world go by around us, seeing boats filled with fresh produce and other essential wares, at the floating Rialto marketplace, and the hustle and bustle of this busy area.
It’s a cliche tourist attraction, but we loved every second of our gondola ride. Enjoy the relaxing ride through canals and under bridges and if you are lucky enough, you may even get serenaded while you ride. The best part of this is seeing areas of Venice you would not have seen on foot, and having a glimpse of how Venetians live. I loved seeing people coming and going by boat, since their front doorsteps lead to water. So cool!
Our gondola ride also gave us the chance to see a few of the other sites we did not have time to see up close, like the Basilica of Santa Maria, before arriving back in the main canal.
Most gondola rides go for around 30-45 minutes, so you will need at least an hour to account for lining up and waiting. Ours was pre-booked through our tour so no massive line up with other tourists. They are very expensive though.
Wander away from the main tourist attractions and find yourself somewhere quiet for a light lunch. We avoided dining anywhere too close to St Mark’s Square to avoid the expensive prices and crowds. A good choice!
Getting lost is something you need to do, even if you only have one day in Venice. After lunch, we went for walk with no particular destination in mind. We wandered along narrow pathways and bridges, over canals and through tunnels. This was one of our favourite parts of the day, just the two of us away from the massive crowds and chaos.
We enjoyed taking photos and sharing our thoughts on this amazing and beautiful city. Those are always my favourite travel moments – having those ‘What if we lived here?’ conversations and seeing how different life is compared to back home.
San Marco Campanile
It doesn’t take long for the crowds to start arriving at Venice, fairly early in the day. Unfortunately for us, we should have planned our day out in advance because our hesitation upon arrival that morning meant we missed the chance to go inside St. Mark’s Basilica (Basilica San Marco) and Doge’s Palace. The line up was massive within about half an hour of our arrival. Not uncommon since we were visiting during Summer. Had we waited, we would have missed out on so much else so it was a sacrifice we grudgingly made.
Thankfully the line up to take the elevator up the top of San Marco Campanile was much more reasonable so in the afternoon this is what we did. You get some amazing views of Venice and beyond from up the tower, and it’s the perfect photo taking opportunity. We spent quite a while enjoying the sights from the tower, seeing many of the attractions we would not have time to explore up close.
Our tip would be to head to St. Mark’s Basilica as soon as you arrive if you are keen to go inside, to avoid the massive line up. Get this out of the way first up, so you have the rest of the day to explore. Otherwise, like us, you may need to settle for admiring it from outside, which thankfully is still pretty amazing!
By the time we came back down the elevator from San Marco Campanile, the day was getting away on us and it was not so long before we were due to meet up with our tour group for dinner. We spent our last half hour of solo travel time grabbing a couple of token Venetian souvenirs. I can’t help myself… I love to grab a small token to remind me of the cities we visit. Plus we grabbed a couple of small gifts for family from the very touristy shop carts that seemed to have popped up all over St. Mark’s Square.
Enjoy Dinner and Venice By Night
Our dinner in Venice was organised by our tour. They booked us into a quaint little restaurant that I wouldn’t be able to find again if I tried. It was a long windy walk between buildings and over bridges to find it. The food was amazing. All 5 courses of it!
After that it was our final chance to enjoy the wonders of this charming and unique floating city before heading back to our hotel. One day in Venice is not nearly enough, but we did make a good go of it, seeing the hightlights and a few unexpected treasures along the way.
Tips for visiting Venice in one day:
- Plan your visit before you arrive so you know what you want to see most
- Head straight to St Mark’s Basilica or Doge Palace if you are keen to go inside, before the queues get too long
- Or consider a pre-purchased guided tour through St Mark’s and Doge Palace to bypass the queues entirely.
- Find a gondola service away from the main tourist area – usually cheaper
- Same goes for food – cheaper outside the main piazza area
- Avoid the dodgy fake handbag salesmen – we were warned by our tour guide that tourists can be fined for purchasing the fakes
- Enjoy Venice by night – far less crowds
- Take your photos of St Mark’s Square earlier in the day as by the end of the day, the amount of litter and rubbish littering the square is not very appealing.
One day in Venice was not enough for me and one day we will go back, with plans to stay on the island itself rather than on the mainland. While we may take that opportunity to visit the popular sites we missed this trip, mostly I want the chance to experience a little bit of everyday life living in a city surrounded by water and to really get in there and see the lesser known areas so often forgotten.