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Venice in 1 Day: a guidebook for getting the most out of your visit

If you only have one day to see Venice, don't worry. To optimize that visit, I leave you a tour with which you can know the main points of the city of canals.

Carlos Bleda

Carlos Bleda

9 min read

Venice in 1 Day: a guidebook for getting the most out of your visit

View of Foscarini Point | ©Nicola Bortoletto

Venice is one of the most touristic cities in the world, but also one of the most spectacular. There is so much to do and see in the city of canals. Piazzas, churches, basilicas and buildings worthy of being considered the most beautiful in the world await you. With the addition of its canals, Venice becomes a unique city in the world.

Touring it in 1 day can be stressful if you go without planning. That's why I have prepared this circular tour designed to know the most important of the city, such as St. Mark's Square, the Doge's Palace or the Rialto Bridge, in just one day. Come with me and let's get started.

1. We start by navigating the Grand Canal

By boat on the Grand Canal| ©Pedro Szekely
By boat on the Grand Canal| ©Pedro Szekely

The starting point of our visit will be the Santa Lucia railway station. This is the arrival point for most visitors to Venice and from there we can take a vaporetto, or a gondola ride if we wish, to travel along the Grand Canal to our first destination. As we are interested in traveling the distance between monuments as quickly as possible it is best to go by Vaporetto. One of the best ways to get around Venice.

The Grand Canal is the main artery of Venice. Like one of the great avenues of the cities but replacing water with asphalt and cars with boats. The Grand Canal is a tourist attraction in itself. Our destination is St. Mark's Square. On the way we will see from the boat iconic buildings and constructions such as the casino, the Ca' Pesaro, or the Rialto Bridge.

It is about 10 minutes by Vaporetto tothe Rialto Bridge and from there another 10 minutes walk to St. Mark's Square. These minutes on foot can be used to get to know the typical streets of Venice.

Book a Grand Canal cruise

2. St. Mark's Square is our starting point

St. Mark's Square| ©Toa Herftiba
St. Mark's Square| ©Toa Herftiba

We arrive at what will be our main starting point on our tour. St. Mark's Square, the heart of Venice. Napoleon defined it as one of the most beautiful in Europe and he was right. This 9th century square is home to some of the main places you should visit. The Basilica of St. Mark, the Doge's Palace, the Clock Tower and the Old Procuracies are the emblematic buildings that we can see.

If we want before "getting down to business" we can relax with a delicious Italian coffee at the famous Caffè Florian. A place with a spectacular decoration and in a privileged place, having an espresso in its terrace is a very typical experience of Venice. Of course, you can pay more than 6 euros for a coffee although for some the environment is well worth it.

Also pay attention to the acqua alta. On rainy days or at high tide the water rises to partially flood the square. If your visit coincides with this phenomenon you will have to walk along the walkways that are installed if you do not want to get wet.

3. We enter St. Mark's Basilica

Inside St. Mark's Basilica| ©Michael Vadon
Inside St. Mark's Basilica| ©Michael Vadon

The first thing we will visit is the first thing that jumps to the sight when entering the square. Well the second thing after looking up the tower. I am talking about St. Mark's Basilica. This impressive Byzantine style basilica was built to house the relics of the saint after whom it was named.

On the outside, its golden and blue colors, its impressive frescoes and its 98.5 meter high bell tower where we have one of the best panoramic views of Venice stand out. The interior is equally spectacular.

The normal visit is free but the queues are usually quite long. As we have only one day, it is best to hire a guided tour to save the queues. We also have the advantage of having a guide tell us everything there is to know about the basilica.

Book tickets for St. Mark's Basilica

4. Another must-see, the Doge's Palace.

Façade of the Doge's Palace, Venice| ©Son of Groucho
Façade of the Doge's Palace, Venice| ©Son of Groucho

Leaving the basilica and in the same square we have another of the most representative buildings of Venice. The Doge's Palace. It is a symbol of the power that Venice reached and was the residence of the Doges, the top leaders of the city. We can access the Doge's Palace paying the direct entrance to save queues.

One of its facades overlooks St. Mark's Square and the other the Grand Canal. The Gothic style building was also the seat of government and served as a prison. In relation to the latter, in the palace is the bridge of sighs, known as such by the sighs of prisoners who crossed it to go to their black destiny.

Inside the palace houses an impressive art collection, courtyards guarded by sculptures of great artistic quality and rooms worthy of the best palaces.

Book tickets for the Doge's Palace

5. We leave the palace to see the Bridge of Sighs

Ponte dei Sospiri| ©Fred Romero
Ponte dei Sospiri| ©Fred Romero

During the visit to the Doge's Palace we will cross the famous Bridge of Sighs inside. After learning about its history, the best thing to do when leaving the palace is to see the bridge and photograph it from the outside.

Contrary to popular belief, this bridge has nothing to do with romanticism. Its name comes from the fact that the prisoners of the Inquisition crossed it and looked for the last time at the sun through its small windows and let out a sigh knowing that they would not see it again for a long time. There are many secrets surrounding the Bridge of Sighs.

But there is one figure related to the bridge and romanticism. The famous lover Casanova crossed that bridge and was one of the few prisoners who managed to escape from that prison.

6. Stop for lunch near St. Mark's Square

Pizza Capresa at Trattoria Pizzeria da Mamo| ©skormama
Pizza Capresa at Trattoria Pizzeria da Mamo| ©skormama

After visiting St. Mark's Basilica and the Doge's Palace, hunger is sure to get the better of you. It is the perfect time to have a bite to eat and taste the Italian gastronomy near St. Mark's Square. In the square itself the restaurants are quite expensive, but in the adjoining streets there are many options at reasonable prices.

Being Italy, pasta is a must, but in Venice seafood and fish from its waters are also part of the menu. Some of the best places to eat near St. Mark's Square are Rossopomodoro Venezia, a franchise with good food and good prices, and Da Mamo if you want to taste the best Italian pasta.

7. A leisurely stroll to the Rialto Bridge.

Rialto Bridge| ©Nick Bramhall
Rialto Bridge| ©Nick Bramhall

After lunch and to take the food down the best thing to do is to take a walk to the Rialto Bridge. With tranquility is a walk of about 10-15 minutes to the bridge and we can take the opportunity to see less touristy streets and eat a delicious Italian gelato on the way.

The Rialto Bridge is, along with the Bridge of Sighs, the most famous bridge in Venice and the largest bridge that crosses the Grand Canal. It was built between 1588 and 1591 and its arches and the views it offers of the Grand Canal mean that it is usually full of tourists. That is why after lunch is a good time to visit it since the influx of visitors is somewhat lower.

8. Back to the canal to reach the academy bridge.

Accademia Bridge| ©advencap
Accademia Bridge| ©advencap

After photographing and seeing the Rialto Bridge we will take another Vaporetto that will take us across the Grand Canal to the bridge of the academy. This bridge is one of the four that cross the Grand Canal and one of the most important bridges in Venice. It connects the Dorsoduro district with the San Marco district.

The name of this bridge is due to the fact that next to it is the Accademia Gallery of Venice, one of the most important museums in the city. Unfortunately if we go only one day is not worth visiting it because to see his works would need too much time.

9. We visit the Basilica of Santa Maria della Salute

Basilica Santa Maria della Salute| ©Jorge Franganillo
Basilica Santa Maria della Salute| ©Jorge Franganillo

From the bridge itself we will walk for about 10 minutes to the Basilica of Santa Maria della Salute at Punta della Dogana. The basilica is spectacular from the outside thanks to its imposing dome. The building was built to thank the Virgin of Health for the end of the plague that took most of the population of Venice.

Under its huge dome and inside the church **you can see several works by Titian, such as David against Goliath or the Death of Abel. The famous Renaissance painter is buried in Venice itself in the Basilica of Santa Maria dei Frari.

10. Sunset in Santa Maria to end the day.

Tower and Basilica of San Giorgio.| ©Dimitris Kamaras
Tower and Basilica of San Giorgio.| ©Dimitris Kamaras

To crown the day the best thing to do is to watch the Venetian sunset. Luckily the basilica of Santa Maria is located on the Pointe della Dogana, which is one of the best places to watch the sunset.

From there we can see the last rays of the sun on the Basilica Di San Giorgio Maggiore
and its bell tower or part of St. Mark's Square.

From this point we can take a vaporetto back or cross back to St. Mark's Square to finish with a nice dinner and enjoy Venice by night. It all depends on how long you want to extend a magical day in the city of canals.

What other monuments can I see

La Fenice Theater| ©Benh LIEU SONG
La Fenice Theater| ©Benh LIEU SONG

Inevitably with only one day we are left with many things to visit. The tour we have done goes through the main tourist attractions of Venice, but it may be the case that you already know them from other occasions and want to see other things. In that case I share with you some alternatives to see:

  • Jewish Quarter of Canareggio: In this neighborhood Jews were forced to live in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries to keep them separated from the rest of the Venetian population. It is the oldest Jewish quarter in the world and in its streets you can see the Palazzo Vendramin Calergi, the Palazzo Ca' d'Oro or the Jewish Museum of Venice.
  • Acqua Alta Bookstore: One of the most curious bookstores in the world. It has a large collection of antique books but its attraction is not them but the way they are placed. Due to the Acqua Alta many of their books are in gondolas located on the banks of the canal.
  • La Fenice Theater: Its history makes it one of the most important theaters in the world since on its stage were premiered works such as "La Traviata" by Verdi. You can visit and see parts such as the Royal Box or the many rooms of the theater.

Any of these places are easily visited in one day and can perfectly replace any of the points of the previous tour. A good option if you are visiting Venice for the second time and you missed something.

Tips to optimize a day in Venice.

Venice by night| ©Luca Sartoni
Venice by night| ©Luca Sartoni

When you set yourself the challenge of getting to know Venice in one day, optimizing time to the maximum is fundamental. To achieve this I leave you with these tips for visiting Venice that, in my own experience, will help you see the city in one day:

  • The early bird catches the worm, as they say. In this case it is true. Beyond the obvious and having more time, getting up early and arriving early to St. Mark's Square will save us queues.
  • Just as I recommend getting up early, I also recommend stretching out the day as much as possible. Venice at night has a different atmosphere and the night illumination transforms it completely. If you come back at night you will appreciate it even if you are tired.
  • Buy your tickets in advance. Doing so will save you the queues to buy tickets for the monuments and you will be able to go almost straight through.
  • Guided tours also give us advantages. For example in St. Mark's Basilica, although the normal visit is free, with a guided tour you can go directly to the temple without queuing.
  • When you arrive at the Santa Lucia station go to the tourist office there and get a map of Venice. These maps usually include the information of the Vaporetto lines and knowing it beforehand allows us to move with greater agility.