When booking our trip to Italy, one of the toughest decisions for my husband and I was how much time to spend in Venice (our last stop). We had several friends tell us it could be done in a day trip, while others insisted we would want at least a couple of days. Ultimately, we chose to spend 2 nights in Venice which I am so glad we did, because it rained a lot while we were there, giving us less time during the day to explore.
I personally loved the romantic vibe of the city and could spend days just strolling through the streets, passing by canals, and popping into tapas-style restaurants. If you only have a day or two make sure you at least see and do the things listed below!
Stay in Venice
Hotels and Airbnbs in Venice can be really expensive, so you might look into staying in Mestre, which is located on the mainland. Hotels here are generally much cheaper, but this does require taking a 15 minute from the Venezia Mestre train station.
Mitch and I opted to spend a bit more and stay in Venice. If you decide to do this as well, and you’re coming in by train, you’ll want to arrive at the Venezia San Lucia station. From there, you can walk or buy a water taxi ticket to get to where you are staying. The water taxi through the grand canal is not only a convenient transportation option, but is also a fun experience (minus the fact it was packed to capacity with people). The views from the water were stunning.
We stayed in an Airbnb one night and a hotel the other. Our Airbnb was located right by the Rialto Bridge. It was technically in the Castello siestre (or neighborhood), but was right near the San Marco and Cannaregio neighborhoods as well. We loved this spot as it was a great lively, central location! The picture above was taken from our Airbnb bedroom window.
Eat like the locals
In the morning, be sure to stop by one of the Farini cafés to enjoy an espresso and cannoli. This place was filled with locals getting their morning espresso and grabbing something to eat.
If you want to really eat like a local, find a place with Cicchetti, the Venetian version of Spanish tapas. Cicchetti are small, affordable plates that are often eaten while standing, socializing, and drinking wine. They can be a snack or, if you order several, can make for an affordable lunch or dinner. The first night of our stay, we got Cicchetti at a place our Airbnb host had recommended, Al Portego. The food was amazing and I loved the atmosphere. It felt like a cozy, backstreet wine bar and also had a nice, small outdoor space.
If you are looking for some unbelievable pizza go to Rosso Pomo Doro, a local favorite. The Rossopomodoro pizza on their menu is definitely the best pizza I had in Venice and probably the best pizza I had in all of Italy. Call me crazy, but I loved it so much I went back for lunch the next day!
Go for a stroll to salute church
Walk to the Accademia Bridge, and gaze at the incredible view. After crossing the bridge, make your way to the Zattere (a walkway along the water), turn left and enjoy the scenery as your make your way to Punta della Dogana right at the tip of the island. This is a great place to stop for a photo. Finally, make your way to Salute Church!
Take a gondola ride (or don’t…)
So when you think of Venice, you probably think of romantic gondola rides. If this is something you really want to experience and you feel like you might regret if you don’t take a gondola ride while you’re in Venice, I say do it!
Our Airbnb host had warned us that gondola rides are rather pricey (about 80 euro) and not really as romantic as the movies make it seem. Our host let us in on a little secret, that there are gondolas you can take for a quick (like seriously only 3 minutes) ride across the river with a small group for only 2 euro. The gondola (Traghetto) we took was just to the right of Campo San Gregorio (near Salute Church). While it wasn’t a private ride through the canals in a fancy gondola, we enjoyed our modest, little gondola ride nonetheless!
Whichever one you choose, I think a gondola ride is a must in Venice!
Check out the local market
Rialto Mercato is a market open Tuesday through Sunday mornings only that sells fish and lots of produce. I thought it was so cool to have, what we call back home, a farmer’s market right along the Grand Canal.
Go to San Marco Square
San Marco Square is considered to be the center of Venice. Here you’ll find St. Mark’s Basilica. During the day, the square was super crowded and the line to enter St. Mark’s church was incredibly long. I would recommend checking out the square earlier in the morning or late at night to avoid crowds!
Wander the streets
Just wander the streets and alleys and you’ll be sure to stumble upon the cutest squares and canals. Also, cross as many bridges as you can! Venice has over 400 bridges and the views from many of them are wonderful. The view from Rialto Bridge is probably the most iconic, but there are so many more to explore.
I know there is so much more to see and do in Venice, that Mitch and I were unable to get to in our short trip, but I hope you find the suggestions above helpful as you plan your own short stay in Venice!
Planning a trip to Rome too? Check out my 3 Day Rome Itinerary!