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Top things to do in Venice in 2 days: An itinerary

by Sam
Visiting the bridge of sighs - one of the best things to do in Venice in 2 days

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Coming up with an itinerary of things to do in Venice in 2 days can be extremely hard. There’s a long list of wonderful things to see in the city, from the beautiful canals to St. Mark’s Basilica to the Doge’s Palace and more! On top of that there are some other amazing spots to discover, such as the colourful island of Burano and the San Giorgio Maggiore Church – which provides stunning views of Venice from its bell tower. With so much to see and do it’s tough to come up with an itinerary that covers all the highlights. To save you the hassle, we’ve come up with a comprehensive itinerary of things to do in Venice in 2 days to make sure you see the best the city has to offer!

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Two Day Venice itinerary

Day 1

Vaporetto

The easiest and most convenient way to get around Venice is using the public water bus service known as the vaporetto. Water buses are the only means of public transport in the city and are extremely useful for getting around. On top of that, the water buses allow you to get some lovely views of the city that you cannot get from land.

If you’re staying near the entrance to Venice or coming to the city from Mestre then one of the best ways to start your day is to catch a vaporetto from Piazzale Roma to San Marco. You can take either vaporetto line 1 or 2, with both services running along the Grand Canal and giving you great views of the famous Rialto bridge as well as a number of beautiful buildings. The ride can take up to 45 minutes, with line 1 taking longer as it makes more stops along the route.

It’s still worth taking the vaporetto along the Grand Canal if you’re staying in Venice itself, but it might make sense to do it later in the day. If your accommodation is located close to St. Mark’s Square we would recommend starting your day there and continuing this itinerary as listed below. By doing this you should still have time later in the day to take a vaporetto ride along the Grand Canal.

Regardless of when you take your first vaporetto ride, it’s also a nice idea to take another ride along the Grand Canal at night. It’s a nice way to see the city after dark while also giving your feet a break after a day of exploring!

This itinerary involves the use of the vaporetto multiple times on both days and so for the best value you should buy a 2 day ticket for €30. This gives you unlimited use of the water buses for 48 hours. Alternatively it costs €7.50 for a single trip of up to 75 minutes, but over the course of this itinerary it would end up costing more to pay for each trip individually!

For anyone between the ages of 6 and 29 it actually works out cheaper to buy a 3 day ticket, which costs just €28 in total. To get the ticket for this price you need to buy a Rolling Venice card for €6 alongside a 3 day ticket for the reduced rate of €22.

Vaporetto on the Grand Canal - one of the best ways to get around Venice


St Mark’s Square, Campanile and Basilica

Piazza San Marco, known in English as St. Mark’s Square, is the heart of Venice. It’s widely regarded as one of the most beautiful squares in the world – and for good reason! The square is bordered by arcades of grand arches, as well as being blessed with architectural masterpieces such as St. Mark’s Basilica and Doge’s Palace. As one of the top attractions in Venice, St Mark’s Square is often buzzing with crowds of tourists. It’s best to visit as early in the day as possible in the hope that there won’t be too many other tourists about at the time.

After you’ve got off the vaporetto at San Marco station it’s around a 2-minute walk to St. Mark’s Square. With so many impressive things to see and do in the area, it’s hard to decide where to start. We recommend spending a few minutes briefly taking in the square and its surroundings before heading to St. Mark’s Campanile – the bell tower of St Mark’s Basilica. Standing at 99 metres tall, the campanile towers above surrounding buildings and provides the best views of Venice and St. Mark’s Square. Fortunately there’s a lift to take you straight to the top so you don’t have to climb an endless amount of stairs! There is almost always a queue to visit the tower, with the wait time regularly being 1-2 hours. Tickets to the campanile cost €8 per person if you’re happy to wait in the queue, or €13 per person if you book a skip-the-line ticket online in advance. If you only have 2 days in Venice it’s probably worth paying the extra to save yourself from wasting an hour or two of your time waiting in a queue! Click here to book skip-the-line tickets to St. Mark’s Campanile.

St. Mark's Campanile and St. Mark's Square in Venice


After you’ve finished enjoying the stunning views of Venice from the campanile, make your way over to St. Mark’s Basilica. The basilica originally dates back to the 9th century, but the current building is actually from the 11th century. It was built to honour the relics of St. Mark, which Venetian merchants supposedly smuggled out of Alexandria to bring to the city. The basilica is a truly remarkable sight thanks to its ornate exterior and 5 large domes. In our opinion the basilica is most impressive from the outside, but the interior is still magnificent due to the incredible golden mosaics covering the walls and ceiling.

Entrance to the basilica is completely free, but there can be long queues. If you’d prefer not to queue you can purchase a skip-the-line ticket online in advance for €3 so that you have more time to explore elsewhere in Venice. Standard entry only allows for a 5-10 minute walk on a short trail through the basilica, but there are additional costs for visiting other areas. It costs an additional €5 to visit St. Mark’s Museum, €3 to visit the treasury and €2 to visit the Pala d’Oro.

Alternatively, guided tours are available if you want to learn more about the history of St. Mark’s Basilica. There are a number of great tours available at Get Your Guide but one of the best is the skip-the-line guided tour. Click here to check out the great guided tours of St. Mark’s Basilica! 

If you have a bit more money to spend and want a truly unique experience then it’s also possible to take an after hours tour. These tours represent an amazing chance to see the basilica free from crowds so that you can enjoy its beauty peacefully with almost no-one else around. Click here to book an amazing after hours tour of St. Mark’s Basilica!

It’s important to be dressed suitably to visit the Basilica as it is a place of worship. The rules state that shorts, sleeveless dresses and low-cut clothes aren’t allowed. On top of this, no filming or photography is allowed inside the Basilica.

Visiting St. Mark's Basilica is one of the best things to do in Venice in 2 days


Doge’s Palace

Next stop should be the Doge’s Palace, which is adjacent to St. Mark’s Basilica. It used to be the residence of the Doge –  a person elected to the position of leader of the Republic of Venice. Known as Palazzo Ducale in Italian, the palace is one of the city’s finest buildings thanks to the exquisite Venetian gothic style architecture. The palace’s interior is beautiful, with numerous rooms covered in simply amazing pieces of art. Getting a good view of the Doge’s Palace can be quite hard whilst up close to it, but if you follow this itinerary you will get a great view on the second day during the vaporetto ride to San Giorgio Maggiore.

Entrance to the Doge’s Palace costs as little as €20 depending on the ticket you purchase, however as it only costs slightly more we recommend clicking here to buy a skip-the-line ticket to save yourself some time. If you’d prefer you can also do a guided tour of both the Doge’s Palace and St. Mark’s Basilica, which gives you a better insight into the history of these marvellous buildings. These tours cost €65 and include skip-the-line entrance to both attractions as well as a knowledgable guide. Click here to book a guided tour of both the Doge’s Palace and St. Mark’s Basilica!

Whilst in the Doge’s Palace you should take the opportunity to walk across the famous Bridge of Sighs (Ponte di Sospiri). The bridge was built to connect the interrogation rooms of the palace to the Prigioni Nuove, known in English as the New Prisons. All tickets to the Doge’s Palace allow access to the Bridge of Sighs, although some websites incorrectly state that the bridge can only be accessed on the Secret Itineraries tour. The bridge supposedly gets its name as prisoners would sigh whilst crossing the bridge as they took one last look at Venice before having their freedom taken away. For the best view of the Bridge of Sighs you should make your way to the bridge known as Ponte della Paglia. From here you can appreciate the beauty of the ornate bridge and the canal flowing underneath.

Doge's Palace, Venice


Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute

The Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute is one of the most impressive churches in Venice. Located at the entrance to the Grand Canal, its magnificent dome is instantly recognisable as it towers above the surrounding buildings. The church was built in the 17th century as thanks for salvation from the plague of 1630, which killed roughly one third of the city’s population. It’s one of the best examples of Baroque architecture in Venice and is a truly beautiful place to visit.

Entry to the basilica is free, but if you want to admire the art in the sacristy there is a charge of €4. Although the interior is impressive, in our opinion the Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute is best appreciated from the outside. To get the best view make your way to a pier on the other side of the canal, as from directly outside the basilica you are too close to be able to take it all in at once.

Basilica di Santa Maraia della Salute is easy to get to from St. Mark’s Square. If you have a vaporetto pass you can simply get on vaporetto line 1 towards Piazzale Roma and get off at Salute. Another option is to walk to the basilica via the Ponte dell’Accademia bridge, which should take around 20 minutes. If you don’t want to use the vaporetto but also don’t want to walk the whole way then another option is to take a traghetto – a gondola-style boat used to quickly transport passengers from one side of the canal to the other. These boats depart from Campiello Traghetto and cost just €2 per person to cross the canal. From there you will be less than a 5-minute walk away from the basilica.

Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute, Venice


Rialto Bridge

The Rialto Bridge is one of the most iconic landmarks in Venice. Known in Italian as Ponte di Rialto, construction of the bridge lasted 3 years between 1588 and 1591. Although there are now 4 bridges spanning the Grand Canal, the Rialto Bridge was the only way of crossing the canal on foot until the Accademia bridge was opened in 1854.

The beautiful design of the bridge has seen it become one of the city’s top tourist attractions. During the day it gets extremely busy with tourists crossing over and making use of it as a vantage point for views of the Grand Canal. Despite the busyness, it’s well worth visiting in the day. That being said, if you do have the time to visit in the evening too then we fully recommend doing so to enjoy it without so many other tourists around.

To get the best view of the Rialto Bridge we recommend taking the vaporetto and sitting at the very front or very back of the boat as you go past it. Getting to the bridge from Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute is easy as you just take vaporetto line 1 towards Piazzale Roma and get off either just before or just after the bridge. Alternatively, the bridge is approximately a 20-minute walk from the basilica.

Rialto bridge - one of the must see attractions in Venice


T Fondaco Rooftop Terrace

The T Fondaco Rooftop Terrace is a bit of a hidden gem that offers some of the best views of Venice. While many other viewpoints in the city charge an entry fee to visit, access to this rooftop terrace is completely free. The terrace is located at the top of the T Fondaco dei Tedeschi department store, just a short walk from the Rialto Bridge.

Access to the terrace is limited as only 70 people are allowed to visit at any one time. This means you can enjoy some of the most beautiful views in Venice without it being overcrowded. As access is limited it’s important to book in advance. Visits to the terrace last for 15 minutes and time slots can be reserved on the T Fondaco website. Click here to visit the T Fondaco Rooftop Terrace website to book a time slot for your trip!

It’s important to plan your day around your visit to the rooftop terrace. Depending on what time slot you get you may need to change the order of this itinerary slightly, but it should be reasonably easy to figure out. We recommend arriving 5-10 minutes before your time slot just to ensure you are on time and get full use of your 15 minutes!

As you have to visit the store to use the rooftop terrace we recommend making use of their free toilets. We saw places in Venice charge €1.50 for the use of a toilet but you can save that money by using the free ones in the store!

Views of the Grand Canal in Venice from the T Fondaco Rooftop Terrace


Cannaregio

The district of Cannaregio is a lovely spot to get away from the tourist crowds at the end of your first day in Venice. It’s one of the city’s more residential areas, and so is often overlooked by tourists in favour of spending more time visiting famous attractions such as St. Mark’s Square and the Rialto Bridge. A visit to Cannaregio allows you to see a slightly more authentic side to Venice that is sometimes lost amongst the tourist crowds in the San Marco district.

Cannaregio is almost directly next to the T Fondaco department store so it’s easy to walk there after you’ve enjoyed the rooftop terrace. Some spots you might want to visit in Cannaregio include:

Ca’ d’Oro – A beautiful palace that has lovely views of the Grand Canal and is now home to the art museum Galleria Giorgio Franchetti alla Ca’ d’Oro. If you want to visit the museum tickets cost €10, although prices can vary due to differing exhibitions.
The Jewish Ghetto – An area of Cannaregio where Jews were used to be forced to live on a gated island. If you’re interested in learning about the history of the ghetto then it’s a good idea to take a guided tour.
Ponte di Chiodo – The only bridge in Venice without a parapet/side rails. It’s worth a quick visit to see this unique bridge, which provides a nice photo opportunity with the canal flowing underneath.
Fondamenta della Misericordia – A nice area with a number of restaurants and bars running alongside a canal.
Campo dei Mori – A small square known for turbaned statues.
I Gesuiti Church – A magnificent church with a particularly beautiful and ornate interior.
Madonna dell’Orto Church – A pleasant 14th century church with a brick facade.
Santa Maria dei Miracoli Church – A beautiful church made in the Venetian Renaissance architectural style.
Casino di Venezia – Located in the Ca’ Vendramin Calergi palace, the Casino di Venezia is the oldest casino in the world.

In our opinion the best thing to do in Cannaregio is simply wander the streets and take it all in. Take it at your own pace and try to figure out a route that includes some of the places listed above!

After you’ve finished up in Cannaregio a nice way to end the day is taking a vaporetto along the Grand Canal at night. It’s a nice contrast to a daytime trip along the canal, and gives you the chance to rest your feet while you still see the sights of Venice!

Cannaregio district - one of the best places to see in Venice


Day 2

Burano

Wake up early the next day to catch the vaporetto to the colourful island of Burano. It’s one of the most picturesque spots in Venice thanks to the brightly-coloured houses found all around the island. If you’re looking for the easiest way to get there, check out our guide of how to get to Burano Island from Venice!

Burano is traditionally a fisherman’s village, and it’s fishermen that are to thank for the island’s beautifully vibrant houses. They painted their houses bright colours to help themselves navigate back to the island when fog descended on the Venetian lagoon. As a result, the island is one of the most colourful places in Italy – perhaps even more so than Cinque Terre! One of the best things to do in Burano is simply wander the streets and enjoy the magnificent mix of colours found all around the island. By arriving to the island early the streets should still be quite quiet, so you should be able to enjoy this picturesque setting without many other tourists around!

Although for most people the main attraction of Burano is the colourful houses, the island is also well-known for its tradition of needle-lace making. It’s possible to visit the Burano Lace Museum for just €5, but alternatively you can just visit some of the shops on the island to see some of the lace for yourself. It’s also worth sampling some of the local cuisine while you’re there. As Burano is traditionally a fisherman’s village it’s a great place to try some seafood, so if you’re still there around lunchtime then we recommend treating yourself!

The best advice we can give you for your visit to Burano is simply to take your time while you wander the streets and enjoy the beautiful colours. Although it can get quite busy, it should be a lot quieter than the packed San Marco neighbourhood in Venice.

Colourful houses along a canal on Burano Island in the Venetian Lagoon


Murano

After you’ve finished on Burano catch vaporetto line 12 back towards Venice, at which point you can make an optional stop at the island of Murano. The island is famous for its glass-making, and so many of the main attractions focus on this. If you’re interested in learning about glass-making on the island and potentially buying some Murano glass then it’s definitely worth visiting for an hour or two.

One of the best things to do in Murano is to visit a glass factory for a demonstration of the glass-making process. These demonstrations give you an idea of how glass has been made on the island for over 700 years. At some factories demonstrations are free whereas others charge a few euros for the privilege. Alternatively, you can visit the glass museum (Museo del Vetro) to see a number of beautiful glass artefacts. Entrance to the glass museum costs €10 per person, but unfortunately does not include a demonstration.

If you’re looking to buy some Murano glass as a souvenir it’s important to exercise caution. The first thing you need to do before committing to a purchase is to check for a stamp/signature or a certificate of origin. Unfortunately a number of stores try to pass off fakes as Murano glass in order to make a profit, so don’t part with your money unless you’re convinced what you’re paying for is the real thing! In particular you should be aware of stores selling items at a price that seems too good to be true. It’s also important to make sure that you aren’t being overcharged. Some stores in both Murano and Venice will charge extortionate amounts for glass when other similar authentic pieces can be bought substantially cheaper elsewhere.

Other things to see in Murano include the Basilica di Santa Maria e San Donato, the Chiesa di San Pietro Martire and the Cometa di Vetro. If you have to choose between the two churches then we recommend visiting the Basilica di Santa Maria e San Donato instead of the Chiesa di San Pietro Martire as in our opinion it’s a nicer work of architecture. The Cometa di Vetro is a unique sculpture made using bright blue glass that is also worth visiting whilst on the island!

If Murano doesn’t sound like your kind of place then just skip it out and catch the vaporetto straight back to Venice from Burano! For those of you that do stop, simply catch a vaporetto back to Venice when you’ve finished exploring the island.

Canal in Venice, Italy


San Giorgio Maggiore

Regardless of whether you decide to stop at Murano, make sure to visit the island of San Giorgio Maggiore. In our opinion a trip to the island is one of the essential things to do in Venice in 2 days. After you’ve got back to Venice from Murano or Burano you will need to walk from Fondamente Nove to San Zaccaria, which should take around 20 minutes. Vaporetto line 2 runs from San Zaccaria to San Giorgio Maggiore approximately every 10-15 minutes during the day. You can get some great views of the Doge’s Palace on the vaporetto ride, so make sure to get a good seat if you want to get some pictures!

San Giorgio Maggiore shares its name with the church of San Giorgio Maggiore, which dates back to 1566. Although there isn’t much else to see or do on the island, the church alone is well worth a visit as you can get one of the best views of Venice from its campanile/bell tower. Tickets to the bell tower of San Giorgio Maggiore cost €6 per person. Thankfully you don’t have to climb hundreds of stairs to reach the top as there is a lift to take you up. From the top you get views of the Doge’s Palace, the domes of St Mark’s Basilica, the entrance to the Grand Canal, the Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute and more! You don’t even have to book in advance as most tourists don’t visit the island, even though its home to one of the best views in Venice!

After you’ve enjoyed the incredible views you can either catch a vaporetto back to Venice itself or head to Giudecca for a different kind of view of Venice. There should still be a fair bit of time left in the day for some more exploring, although at this point you will have seen much of what Venice has to offer. We recommend spending the remainder of your second day in Venice focusing on your own personal interests. We’ve covered some of our top suggestions below to give you an idea of what you might like to do.

View of Venice from San Giorgio Maggiore Church


Alternative things to do in Venice

Take a gondola ride – Taking a gondola ride through the canals of Venice is one way to make your trip unforgettable. It’s a lovely chance to experience the city in a different way, but it will set you back €80 for a 40-minute ride. Arranging a gondola ride is pretty straightforward, but it’s best to know exactly what you’re doing to ensure you don’t get ripped off. We recommend checking out our guide to the cost of a gondola ride in Venice so that you know exactly what to expect!

Visit the Peggy Guggenheim Collection – The Peggy Guggenheim Collection is a very popular museum to visit in Venice. It’s an essential stop for art lovers thanks to its great selection of modern art, including work by Picasso, Dali, Pollock and more! Click here to book skip-the-line tickets to the Peggy Guggenheim Collection!

Visit La Fenice Opera House – Teatro La Fenice is considered to be one of the most famous landmarks in the history of opera. The elegantly decorated interior is a truly beautiful sight that is sure to be appreciated by lovers of the arts. Visitors to the La Fenice Opera House have the choice of exploring themselves with an audioguide or taking a guided tour. Both options give an insight into the history of La Fenice, including the fires that destroyed the theatre in 1836 and 1996. Click here to book a skip-the-line ticket for an audio guided tour of La Fenice! Alternatively, click here to book a guided tour of Teatro La Fenice!

Enjoy the view from the Scala Contarini del Bovolo –  The Scala Contarini del Bovolo, the staircase of Contarini del Bovolo Palace, is another of the best viewpoints in Venice. It offers brilliant views across the city’s rooftops, as well as of St. Mark’s Campanile and the domes of St. Mark’s Basilica. If you want to see beautiful views of Venice from another perspective then this is certainly the place to go! Click here to book tickets to the Scala Contarini del Bovolo in advance for just €7!

Visit the Leonardo da Vinci Museum – The Leonardo da Vinci Museum is a great option if you want to learn more about some of his fascinating inventions. Although the works in the museum are replicas, the originals are found in different collections across Europe and are not always on general display. As a result this museum is a more budget friendly way to see some of the great man’s work! Click here to book skip-the-line tickets to the Leonardo da Vinci Museum!

Heading to Rome before or after Venice? Make sure to check out our itinerary of the best things to do in Rome in 2 days!

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