Venice in 3 days

If I only have three days in Venice, how should I spend them?

This is the itinerary to follow if you actually have three full days in Venice.

If, on the other hand, you will be arriving in Venice that first day by plane or by train, much of that first morning will be spent traveling and finding your hotel. (To that end, here is a 2.5-day version of the itinerary below designed for those who won't be able to start sightseeing until midday).

Day 1 - The top sights in town

A map of what you'll see on Day 1 of this three-day Venice itinerary
What you'll see on Day 1 of this three-day Venice itinerary. (Base map © OpenStreetMap contributors.)

9:00am Campanile di San Marco

25 min.The belltower of St. MarksSince the Campanile di San Marco (bell tower) actually opens before the basilica itself, hit this one first for stupendous city panoramas from the top. (Though please note that, in winter, it does not open until 9:30am, so adjust accordingly.)

Take a bit less than half an hour for the elevator ride up, photo ops at the top, and the ride back down—because you want to be in line at the Basilica of St. Mark's before it opens at 9:45am to avoid the long lines. » more

9:45am St. Mark's Basilica

75 min.The mosaics of St. MarksKill two birds with one stone by being at the Basilica di San Marco before it opens at 9:45am; that way you (a) get to see its treasures and the thousands of square feet of glittering mosaics swathing its interior, and (b) won't have to wait in a long line, which can stretch the wait to as long as an hour or more later in the day.

Do pay the small, separate admission fees to see the Pala d'Oro altarpiece and to visit the Marciana Museum upstairs (great close-up view of the mosaics from the balcony level). Don't dawdle too long, however, because you have to be next door at the Doge's Palace by 11:20am for the 11:35am "Secret Itineraries" tour. » more

Take a tour

11:20pm Doge's Palace

120 min.The Palazzo Ducale in VeniceBe at the Doge's Palace before 11:35pm to take your (pre-booked) "Secret Itineraries" tour, which in 90 minutes gives you an amazing insider's glimpse into the hidden offices, courtrooms, archives, and prisons from which the true Venetian Republic ruled for 900 years.

Then take another 30 minutes for a spin on your own through the palazzo's public rooms, smothered in paintings by Titian, Tintoretto, and other giants of the Venetian Renaissance. » more

Take a tour

1:30pm Lunch

75 min.VeniceThere are several great places to eat between Piazza San Marco and your next stop (Ca' d'Oro). I recommend either the simple yet hearty and authentic fare at Osteria La Campana hidden in plain sight on the main drag (or, a bit out of the way, Trattoria Cea), or splashing out on lunch at the excellent Bistrot de Venise, many of its recipes from Renaissance-era Italian and French cookbooks.

If you prefer a quick, cheap bite, there are two excellent tavola calda joints selling hot, prepared foods near the Rialto Bridge: Rosticceria San Bartolomeo and Rosticceria Teatro Goldoni. » more

3:00pm Ca' d'Oro

75 min.VeniceAfter lunch, tour the Ca' d'Oro, a glorious private palace on the Grand Canal now turned into a museum and art gallery... » more

Take a tour

4:30pm Rialto Bridge & Market

15 min.VeniceCross over the Grand Canal on the Rialto Bridge, a Renaissance stone span lined by shops.

Take a few minutes to wander the stalls of the Rialto Market on the far (S. Polo) side, then thread your way south through the S. Polo district to the Scuola Grande di San Rocco.

(Note: If you're running ahead of schedule, along the way you can take 15–20 minutes to hit the church of I Frari with its art by Bellini, Donatello, and especially Titian, who is buried here.) » more

Take a tour

4:45pm Scuola Grande di San Rocco

45 min.Tintoretto's Crucifixion in the Scuola Grande di San RoccoAdmire the dozens (yes, dozens) of spectacular Tintoretto paintings in the amazing Scuola Grande di San Rocco, basically a Renaissance frat house for Venetian bigwigs, all dark wood and big oil paintings in a suitably clubby atmosphere. » more

Take a tour

5:30pm Cicchetti crawl

75 min.VeniceRound off the day with an early evening cicchetti crawl through the bacari bars around the Rialto Market area. A personal favorite: Cantina Do Mori... » more

Take a tour

7:00pm Dinner

90 min.VeniceCongratulations. It's been a long day, stuffed with art and history. Time to celebrate by digging into a sumptuous meal—seafood, if that's your thing, because it certainly is Venice's.

Just remember: Venice is unlike the rest of Italy, where 7:30pm is considered an early dinner. In Venice, 7pm is about normal for starting dinner, and many restaurants shut their kitchens before 9pm (when, in southern parts of Italy, things are just getting going). Here are my recommendations for the best places to eat in Venice. » more

Or, have special meal, either accompanied by a local culinary expert or simply with a serenade and gondola ride after:

Day 2 - Museums, gondolas, and getting lost

A map of what you can see on Day 2 of this three-day Venice itinerary
What you can see on Day 2 of this three-day Venice itinerary. (Base map © OpenStreetMap contributors.)

9:00am Get lost

120 min.VeniceVenice has its fair share of monuments, museums, and decorated churches, but frankly just about the best thing you can do with your second morning is ignore all the sights and just wander the streets aimlessly.

If you can, try to get lost. Honestly. I do it all the time, and it's great. You'll stroll past slowly decaying Gothic palaces decorated with pointy Byzantine windows, stumble across pocket-sized campielli (squares) where local kids are kicking a soccer ball around a medieval well, and duck into the shade of a tiny bar to share a glass of wine with the well-weathered locals. Ahhhh; perfect.

You can seek out secondary sights if you like. Or shop for Murano glass or Carnival masks. Pop into random small churches. Grab an espresso from a bar. Just experience Venice.

To best avoid the tourist crowds, head deep into the residential neighborhoods of Castello (especially in the eastern half); northern Cannaregio, especially the Ghetto (the medieval Jewish quarter); and La Giudecca, another large Venetian island, largely residential not connected to the rest of Venice by any bridge.

Now that you've recharged your mental batteries and drunk in some of Italy's dolce far niente ("the sweetness of doing nothing"), cross the Grand Canal into the Dorsoduro neighborhood to spend the afternoon engaged in some hard-core art appreciation. » more

Walking tours

Want a purpose to your wanderings, or the help of a local guide? Here are some Venice walking tours from our partners:

11:00am Accademia Galleries

90 min.VeniceVisit the Accademia Gallery for its stupendous collection of Old Masters paintings, on of the best in Italy. Venetians (naturally) reign, with canvasses by Titian, Tintoretto, Giovanni Bellini, Paolo Veronese, Paolo Veneziano, Giorgione, and Carpaccio. » more

Accademia tours:

12:40pm Lunch

80 min.VeniceHave lunch at the family-run Trattoria Ai Cugnai, ruled by a gaggle of Venetian Aunties (sisters-in-law, actually) who turn out authentic home-cooking » more

2:00pm Peggy Guggenheim Museum

60 min.VeniceContinue to the nearby Peggy Guggenheim for one of Europe's best galleries of early modern works from the 20th century, including Picasso, Dalí, Chagall, Miró, Mondrian, Brancusi, Duchamp, Kadinsky, Giacometti—not to mention Peggy's one-time hubby (Max Ernst) and her most famous discovery (Jackson Pollock). » more

3:20pm Ca' Rezzonico

45 min.VeniceIf you find you still have the time (and energy), try to squeeze in a visit to the Ca' Rezzonico, another historic patrician palace restored with a small painting gallery devoted to daily life in 18th-century Venice. » more

Ca' Rezzonico tours:

4:15pm Grand Canal cruise

60 min.VeniceHop aboard the no. 1 or no. 2 vaporetto line to for a poor man's cruise of the Grand Canal between Piazza San Marco and the Ferrovia (train station) or Piazzale Roma (car park). Make sure you sit up in the open prow for the best views.

I am sticking this here in the afternoon of Day 2, but you can do it at any point on your visit—even when you arrive or as you are preparing to leave, since it conveniently doubles as transportation. » more

Grand Canal private boat tours

5:30pm Piazza San Marco

45 min.VeniceSpend the early evening just wandering aimlessly around Venice's labyrinth of alleyways. Or take a load off and sit on Piazza San Marco to listen to the dueling string trios and piano players playing for the tables in front of competing chichi cafes. » more

Piazza San Marco tours:

6:00pm Gondola ride

60 min.VeniceYes, they're touristy, yes they're overpriced, and yes they're hackneyed, but if you can put all that out of your mind, they're also pretty cool, relaxing, and romantic—and who wants to go all the way to Venice and not ride in a gondola anyway? » more

Gondola rides:

7:00pm Dinner

90 min.VeniceTonight I'd say keep up the morning's spirit of Zen wandering and root around to find your own special place to eat.

Just look for menus in Italian (not five languages) and a clientele that seems at least partly local (this is Venice, so every restaurant will be at least half filled with tourists). (Just in case you want some advice, here, again, are my recommendations for some favorite Venice restaurants. » more

Or, once again, try a special meal, either accompanied by a local culinary expert or simply with a serenade and gondola ride after:

Day 3 - Explore the outlying islands

A map of what you'll see on the outlying islands on Day 3 of this three-day Venice itinerary
What you'll see on the outlying islands on Day 3 of this three-day Venice itinerary. (Base map © OpenStreetMap contributors.)

It's time to get out of Venice—or at least the tourist-ridden downtown part of the city. Take your third day to do perhaps my favorite activity all of Venice: a circle tour of the best outlying island in the Venetian lagoon.

Murano, VeniceStart with Murano, a Venice-in-miniature, home to the lagoon's famed glass-blowing workshops and several lovely churches.
Burano, VeniceContinue on to Burano, a quiet fishing village famous for its hand-tatted lace and for the eye-popping, super-saturated, wonderfully clashing colors of its houses.
VeniceEnd up on Torcello, a glimpse of what Venice must have looked like when the canals still had mud banks, but which was once a glorious city larger than Venice itself of which all that remains is a gloriously mosaicked Byzantine church in the middle.

If you time it just right, you'll be motoring back to Venice itself right as the setting sun dramatically backlights the teetering bell towers of the city and throws sparkling streamers across the waters of the lagoon.

Tips & links

Consider daily tours

You can pack more in with a tour: Prefer to leave some of the planning and information-providing to a professional? Consider signing up for a guided tour.

This doesn't have to be a standard city tour. Our partners offer loads of neighborhood and thematic walking tours, private guides, and other fun ways to explore the capital. » more

These are merely blueprints

You really should spend your time on whatever catches your own interest.

Some people would rather get a root canal than spend several hours in the Accademia, but for others an afternoon of Old Masters would rank as the highlight of their trip.

Same goes for shopping, or gondola rides, or cramming a dozen churches and museums into a single day: Heaven for some, hell on earth for others.

For some less-famous sights to visit, check out Reid's List: Venice.

Adjusting for Sundays and Mondays

Keep in mind that you may have to adjust these itineraries in case one of the days you're in town happens to fall on a Monday (when most museums are closed) or a Sunday (when many things are closed, and those that remain open tend to operate on shorter hours).

Don't try to cram in too much

Also keep in mind that these are maximal itineraries, designed to cram as much a reasonably possible into the time allotted.

There is no down-time built in for relaxation—which you really should have.

You're on vacation, after all.

I suggest using these but maybe dropping a sight which interests you less (or curtailing your time at a couple of sights) in order to carve out from some free time to just sit at a cafe, writing postcards and watching the carnival of Italian life swirl past.

Get current hours

This is all meant to be ballpark. What is currently open in town (and those open hours) changes more frequently than you might think, so always make sure you get updated open hours and other intel at the Venice tourism information site:
www.turismovenezia.it

Venice links & resources

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Tourism Info
Venice tourist information:
Giardini ex Reali, San Marco (between Piazza San Marco and its western ferry stop)
Vaporetto: San Marco–Giardinetti Reali
tel. +39-041-529-8711
www.turismovenezia.it
also
www.veneziaunica.it
www.veneziasi.it



Useful links
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Local info
Venice tourist information:
Giardini ex Reali, San Marco (between Piazza San Marco and its western ferry stop)
Vaporetto: San Marco–Giardinetti Reali
tel. +39-041-529-8711
www.turismovenezia.it
also
www.veneziaunica.it
www.veneziasi.it


National tourism authority: italia.it
Cultural patrimony: culturaitalia.it
Historic & cultural sites: beniculturali.it
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