I’ve been to dozens of cities around the world and yet Venice remains a favourite. There is something truly magical about this city with its canals instead of roads, gondolas instead of cars, and endless palaces. I’ve travelled solo to Venice three times now, my most recent visit was a week long. While some may say it’s too long for one of the most popular cities in Italy, I disagree. I could (and have) happily spend days exploring all the winding alleyways of this historic city. Of course, most people don’t have that much time which is why I’m sharing my suggestions for the perfect 3 days in Venice. I’ve created this Venice itinerary on what I believe are the highlights and most special things about this city.
The Best Time to Go to Venice
Venice is a major city in Italy and can be visited year-round but the busiest times are during the summer months and during the Venice Carnival. Aside from Carnival, the winter months tend to be grey, cooler, and often very wet. Part of this is because of the rain (Venice rarely gets snow) but another unique factor is acqua alta, when the tides get so high that part of the city floods. When this happens, the city brings out the boardwalks allowing pedestrians to walk above the streets and stay dry. I experienced acqua alta in November of 2022 and it was kind of neat, but, I wouldn’t want my entire visit to be that wet because it does prevent the city from operating the way that it should.
In my opinion, the best time to visit Venice is during the shoulder seasons. April/May or September/October. There will still be tourists but the weather will be nice and it won’t be quite as busy as during the high season.
How to Get to Venice
Getting to Venice is very easy. There is an international airport, the Venice Marco Polo Airport, as well as a train station. If you are arriving by train, make sure to get off at Stazione di Venezia Santa Lucia. This is the train station in Venice proper. There is another station, Venice Mestre, but it’s outside the city centre on the mainland. You can also arrive by bus. The main bus station is just outside the city. You can hop on a vaporetto (more on that below) or walk over the bridge into Venice proper.
Getting Around Venice
One of the most unique things about Venice is that there are no cars. This means no buses, subways, trains, or metro lines throughout the city. So, how do you get around Venice? Well, you have a couple of options.
The most obvious answer is to walk! Venice is meant to be explored on foot with all of its narrow alleyways and bridges. It is a small city, but it is divided by the Grand Canal which only has a few bridges and official crossings. So, sometimes it might take you a while to get somewhere which means you do need to allow for more travel time.
The second option is to take vaporettos, the city’s local transportation. Essentially, they are water buses and there are different lines that will take you to different parts of the city. However, they aren’t cheap. As of January 2023, a single 60-minute ticket will cost 7.50 euro. If you think you will end up using the vaporetto a lot, it’s worth the money to buy a travel card. Current pricing for a 72-day card is 40 euro.
Finally, you can book private water taxis. However, if you think the vaporetto ticket is expensive, then don’t plan on using a water taxi. A ride from the Santa Lucia railway station to the city centre can easily cost you 100 euros.
Where to Stay in Venice for 3 Days
The main island of Venice is divided into 6 neighbourhoods or Sesteiri. They all have something unique to offer and there is no ‘bad’ place to stay.
Most people choose to stay near Piazza San Marco as it is considered to be the heart of the city. Try:
For something more local, people like to stay in Dorsodouro. Try:
However, when people ask me where to stay in Venice I recommend Cannaergio, close to the train station. This means that you don’t have far to walk with any luggage or worry about paying for a water taxi or Vaporetto ticket just to get to your accommodation. It’s still very easy to get around from this part of Venice and the area has plenty of great restaurants. Try:
Venice Itinerary for 3 Days
So, how should you spend 3 days in Venice? As I said above, I’ve spent quite a bit of time in this city and while I haven’t seen it all I definitely have some favourites to recommend. So, here is my suggested Venice itinerary.
1 Day in Venice: Highlights around Rialto & Piazza San Marco
I recommend you start your first day in Venice early (plan to leave around 8am). Not only does it mean skipping the crowds but it lets you experience a different part of Venice. In the morning, the canals are full of boats unloading shipments for the day rather than gondoliers calling for your business. It’s a neat way to see the working side of the city and a great time to take photos if you like.
Make your way to Rialto Bridge for your first stop. The shops along the bridge won’t be open yet (you can come back to visit these later) but it also means it won’t be covered by tourists which makes it a great time to get some photos of the bridge itself and take photos of the Grand Canal from the bridge.
Libreria Aqua Alta
From Rialto, head back away from the Grand Canal and make your way to Libreria Aqua Alta. If you are a book lover, like I am, you will absolutely love it. Even if you aren’t a book nerd, a visit here is still one of the best things to do in Venice. The bookstore is magical with books piled into bathtubs, gondolas, and stacked into huge piles that you can climb and take photos from. Keep an eye out for the resident bookstore cats while you browse!
A visit to Aqua Alta is free but if you end up sticking around for a bit and taking a bunch of photos please support the shop in some way. There are little trays where you can leave some change as a tip or, even if you don’t purchase a book, you can buy a bookmark or a postcard for as little as 1 euro.
Liberia Aqua Alta opens at 9am so I suggest arriving close to opening time to explore it as it does get very crowded later in the day, especially when the day trippers come into the city. The area around Aqua Alta and the next stop is also one of my favourites in the city. I think it’s absolutely beautiful so walk around a bit and take some photos, I think you’ll like it too!
Rosa Salva Pasticceria
If you haven’t had breakfast yet, head to Rosa Salva for your next stop. It’s a popular Italian café and bakery with both indoor and outdoor seating. Of course, you can also be like the Italians and just eat/drink at the bar. A typical Italian breakfast is a coffee (you can have espresso or cappuccino, just note that cappuccinos are only acceptable at breakfast time!) and a sweet pastry.
Piazza San Marco
After your morning breakfast (whether it be first or second) head to Piazza San Marco. This is the busiest part of the city and home to some of the best things to see in Venice. The Piazza itself is quite beautiful and lined with old, historic cafes such as Caffe Florian (which I’ve been told is insanely overpriced and not very good but it’s up to you). Make sure to look around the see the Torre de’ll Orologico as well, a beautiful clock built into a Renaissance tower that dates back to 1499.
Basilica di San Marco
Basilica di San Marco, or Saint Mark’s Basilica, can be found here as well. The building is incredibly impressive on the outside and equally ornate inside as well. You do pay to go in, you can book a skip-the-line ticket in advance or join the queue. There are several different types of tickets you can purchase depending on what you want to see inside. Personally, I think the museum ticket with access to the rooftop is worth it for the views from above. Note that you will need to climb up stairs, there is no elevator.
Campanile di San Marco
This is the tallest building in Venice standing at 98.6m (323ft) tall. If you enjoy views from above then it’s worth getting a ticket and climbing up to the top. It’s really only worth it if you have a clear day though. If it’s foggy, skip it for another time.
The Bridge of Sighs
One of the most photographed signs in Venice is the Bridge of Sighs. The bridge connects what served as the interrogation room in the Doge’s palace to the prison, and walking over the bridge, which crosses a canal, would be a prisoner’s last view of Venice. And so, it got its name with the expectation the prisoners would take one last look at the city and sigh before being led to their cell. It’s a beautiful bridge and most people view it from the Grand Canal, but there are also some nice photo opportunities if you walk around and look from the other side as well.
At this point, you might want to grab some lunch or a snack. Harry’s Bar, home to the original bellini is also located in this area. It’s a fun, historic stop but it’s pricey! You can also find plenty of other restaurants.
T Fondaco Viewpoint
One of the best ‘secrets’ of Venice is actually a free view over the grand canal. The terrace is located at T Fondaco dei Tedeschi which is a luxury shopping centre on the Grand Canal. You do need to make reservations in advance (they book up quickly!) but if you can get them, the view is meant to be fabulous (and free!).
Explore Cannaregio & The Jewish Ghetto
Head up towards the train station towards the Cannaregio neighbourhood. Once you get away from the Grand Canal you’ll find plenty of tiny passageways and canals with little bridges including Pointe Chiodo, a unique bridge which has no sides.
The Jewish Ghetto is also found in this part of the city (random fact: Ghetto is actually a Venetian word that has been pronounced wrong). There is plenty of history here so you may want to take a tour or visit a museum. If not, you can do a little of your own research and just walk around.
Canaregio is also known for its restaurants and food so I recommend grabbing dinner here. I really loved Trattoria Bar Pontini and Trattoriia Il Vagone (amazing seafood spaghetti!). If you are interested in trying cicchetti, look for Cantini Aziende Agricole. If you are after gelato, Gelateria San Leonardo was my go-to.
2 Days in Venice: Grand Canal Tour & Dorsodouro
Your second day is going to be exploring some different parts of Venice while still seeing some highlights, the cheap and local way. No need to start super early today, so enjoy breakfast and set out when you are ready.
Grand Canal by Vaporetto
Without a doubt, some of the most beautiful views of Venice are from the Grand Canal. You’ll be able to see the bridges, the palaces, Saint Mark’s Square, gondaliers, and more. However, as I said earlier water taxis and pricey and boat rides can be too.
So, take the vaporetto. Line 1 starts all the way up by the bus station (you can also get on at the train station) and heads down the length of the grand canal stopping along the way. This means you can enjoy a scenic journey for under 10 euro. Now, you won’t get any commentary or stories and it might be crowded, but if you get on right at the top of the canal you can snag a seat or a prime spot to take your photos.
Vaporetto line 1 goes all the way down to Lido. I usually stop at Saint Mark’s Square, which is about a 45-50-minute journey.
From Saint Mark’s Square cross over the Ponte dell’Accademia, which is the closest bridge crossing the canal. There are some really nice views as you cross the bridge so make sure to take a look.
Dorsodouro is my favourite neighbourhood to walk around and explore. It’s often ignored by the day-trippers and has more of a local feel. You’ll see kids out in school uniforms, local grandmothers hanging laundry, etc.
It’s best just to walk around this neighbourhood and see what you find along the way. A few of my favourite spots that are worth keeping an eye out for include:
- Ca’macana mask shop: a famous mask shop and the best place to buy an authentic Venetian mask. They also have classes where you can learn to make your own mask. I did it in 2013 and it was quite fun.
- Chiesa di San Barnaba: my favourite church in all of Venice because it’s the church from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade which is one of my favourite movies of all time. Sadly, it’s not actually a library like in the movie but you can go inside.
- Squero di San Trovaso: this is a gondola workshop. There are only a couple in Venice and while it’s not a typical tourist attraction you can sometimes catch a glimpse and see what they are working on.
Dorsodouro is also home to some palaces and museums that you may be interested in. Plus, it’s a great area to try typical Venetian food so grab a meal while you are here as well.
Hop on a Traghetto
Want to ride a gondola in Venice? Most people do. But they are wildly expensive. If you really want to do a gondola tour, then by all means book one and do it right. But, if you just want to have a quick experience of riding on a gondola then keep your eye out for the traghettos. These are local gondolas that ferry you across the Grand Canal for just a couple of euros. There used to be dozens of them but today they only operate from a few spots. They can be hard to find, and make their own hours so it might require a bit of work to track one down but it’s fun!
3 Days in Venice: Murano and Burano
For your final day in Venice, visit the outer islands of Murano and Burano. They are accessible by Vaporetto, so you’ll want to buy a day pass for the best option.
Things to do in Murano
Murano is known for the world-famous Murano glass and one of the best things to do on this island is see how it is made. There are a number of workshops that offer you tours of the factory for a minimal fee. You can book in advance (this one is highly rated) or see what’s going on when you arrive. Oftentimes there are people waiting where the Vaporetto arrives with signs advertising workshops and tours. It’s also worth visiting some of the shops on the island and the Murano glass museum. Keep in mind, if you are buying your products should come with identifying marks, signatures, or labels from the artisan. Bigger products should also come with a certificate of authenticity. Otherwise they may not be real Murano glass.
Things to do in Burano
Burano is known traditionally know for it’s lace, however, it’s also known for it’s colourful houses. It’s my favourite island of the two as I love walking around and taking photos of all the bright coloured houses and buildings. You can also hire a local to do a walking tour of the island.
The lace shops are fun to peek into as well, even if you don’t plan on buying. It’s quite small, but the atmosphere is really nice so once you are done exploring (or want a break) grab a seafood dish or even just a glass of wine or spritz and people watch. If you love sweets, pop into a local bakery to try a bussola cookie. They are Venetian butter cookies typical to the island and the local ones are shaped like an “S”.
Food & Drink in Venice
When it comes to food and drink in Venice, you won’t be disappointed. There are plenty of great restaurants. Of course, as goes with all travel destinations, if the menu is in multiple languages and there are people outside chasing you to come in to eat, then it’s likely a tourist trap and should be avoided. Your best bets are going to be the restaurants away from the waterfront and main tourist places. Check google reviews or ask at your accommodation for suggestions.
A few of my recommended spots include:
Seafood is always a good idea in Venice. The seafood spaghetti is especially delicious. If you are interested in trying something unique and different, you can try pasta made with squid ink. It’s an interesting taste (and does turn your lips back, so visit the bathroom quickly to check before you leave the restaurant!).
While Pizza is popular across Italy, it’s actually not the best thing to order when in Venice. This is because wood ovens are banned in the city due to the fire risk. That’s not to say pizza here is bad, but it is better in other cities where you can get a proper wood fire pizza.
One of the unique things when it comes to what to eat in Venice are cicchetti which are essentially Venetian tapas. There are plenty of cicchetti bars across Venice where you can order a couple of different ones to try. They can be pretty much anything and there are usually meat, seafood, and vegetarian options. It’s popular for Venetians to bar hop and get cicchetti at a couple of different places throughout the evening.
As for drinks, Venice is known for two. The first is the peach bellini which originated at Harry’s Bar. It’s a fun place to stop if you want to check it off the list but it’s pricey. I remember going in 2014 and paying 14 euro for one. When I went back in 2022 they were 22 euros. If you want the bar experience, great. If not, you can buy bottles of bellini at the grocery store to take back to your room.
The second drink to keep an eye out is the Venetian spritz. Keep in mind this is not the same as an Aperol spritz. In Venice, instead of Aperol, they use Select which is only available in Venice. So try it, and if you like it buy a bottle to bring back home!
Final Tips for 3 Days in Venice
Venice is one of my favourite cities in the world and I know that it has a reputation for being busy and overly touristic but it’s that way for a reason. It’s so incredibly magical. Plus, keep in mind that a lot of visitors to Venice only come for a day trip. So, if you are willing to get up early, explore away from the main tourist areas, and stay for a couple of days then you will get to explore the city without all the crowds as well.
It’s also worth noting that Venice is incredibly safe. I took a food tour with a local on my most recent visit and he made a joke that the most dangerous thing you will see here is a teenager smoking weed. I didn’t even see that. So, if you are a female traveller, don’t be worried.
I hope this Venice itinerary for 3 days comes in handy and that you love the city as much as I do. Happy travels!
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