If you have a weekend or a couple of days to escape to Venice it is advisable to know in advance what to see and what to do in the city of canals. Although there are many monuments and places of interest, in two days we have time to know the essential of Venice and its surroundings.
We have a full day to get to know the heart of the city, St. Mark's Square and all the places of interest around it, and a second day to visit the islands of Venice and culminate our visit with a gondola ride and an unforgettable sunset.
1. Day St. Mark's Square and surroundings
On our first day in Venice we will focus on visiting its main monuments. Luckily most of them are located in the famous St. Mark's Square or its surroundings. St. Mark's Basilica, the Doge's Palace or the Bridge of Sighs are some of the places that we will discover at our leisure in the first 24 hours.
I will also tell you some tricks to save you time, and some queues, to optimize the visit in this itinerary through St. Mark's Square and its surroundings.
We arrive at St. Mark's Square through the great canal
In 90% of the time, if not more, tourists arrive in Venice through the Santa Lucia train station. This is where our day begins. From the station we will take a Vaporetto that will take us along the Grand Canal to St. Mark's Square or to our hotel or accommodation before starting our tour.
The Grand Canal is the artery of the city and walking along it at least once is a must if we visit Venice. We will take advantage of our way to the square to admire the beauty of the canal, the boats that ply it, the bridges that cross it and the buildings that surround it.
Panoramic View of St. Mark's Square
Going down to the pier of St. Mark's we arrive at the square with the same name. St. Mark's is the heart of Venice and around it were built the main buildings of the city. Take your time to discover St. Mark's Square. Napoleon himself defined it as one of the most beautiful in Europe. After a short walk to get situated, the first thing we can do is to see the whole city from the heights.
The Campanile of Venice
It is an impressive tower that rises 98 meters above the ground of the square and we can climb to admire the best views of Venice. It is the first thing I recommend you do if you arrive early as there are usually large queues as the day begins. The entrance costs 10 euros and you can go up on foot or in an elevator for 14 people. The queues you may encounter are well worth it for the views from the top of the Campanile.
St. Mark's Basilica
After going up to the Campanile it is time to go down to visit the Basilica of St. Mark. This Byzantine temple was built to house the relics of the saint and attracts all who visit it for its imposing beauty. Its forms and its golden and bluish colors stand out on the outside and the same happens inside.
The entrance to the Basilica of St. Mark is free but you can pay extra to visit the treasury, the golden shovel (its spectacular altarpiece) and the museum. The latter includes the possibility to see the square from your balcony next to the famous St. Mark's horses. My recommendation is that you pay the full visit.
The best thing you can do to save queues to enter is to buy tickets online in advance and hire a guided tour that, in addition to including everything inside the basilica, allows you to access it directly.
Stop for lunch and a coffee in an emblematic place.
It is possible that after visiting the basilica it is already time to eat. The restaurants in the square are prohibitively expensive for most but in the area around St. Mark's Basilica there are many good value for money options. I recommend the Rossopomodoro Venezia restaurant. They have a good value menu where you can try traditional Italian pasta. There are many options for all tastes and budgets.
After filling the stomach and before returning to the tourist's work we can stop for a coffee in the most important coffee shop in Venice. The Caffè Florian. Located in St. Mark's Square, some of the most emblematic figures who have lived or visited the city have passed through this café. Having an Italian espresso on its terrace is a luxury with those views. And I say luxury because, in addition to the place, the prices are also luxurious. A coffee can cost more than 6 euros but it is a whim that is well worth it to do it in St. Mark's Square.
Doge's Palace and Bridge of Sighs
We have regained our strength and now it is time to get to know another icon of Venice. The Doge's Palace, which is located next to the Basilica of St. Mark and is a symbol of the power that reached the city of Venice. It was the residence of the Doges and served not only as a palace, but also as a seat of government, a courthouse and even a prison.
The entrance to the Doge's Palace on this occasion :is not free, from 19 euros, and it is worth paying to access the interior and see the impressive decoration of the Doge's Palace. Its halls are decorated with works of art and frescoes of great value and it is extremely beautiful. I again recommend buying tickets in advance and hiring guided tours to save time to access the palace.
The Bridge of Sighs is part of the complex. It is known by this name because, when the palace was a prison, prisoners crossed it and sighed as a longing for the freedom they were about to lose. At the exit we can go to the ponte della Paglia to photograph the Sighs from the outside.
You will probably notice it before but in the square there is another tower of smaller size but also striking, known as the clock tower. This building right next to the entrance of the basilica houses an astronomical clock on its facade.
Designed by Mauro Codussi it was built in the mid-16th century and is also known as the Moorish tower because of the figures next to its campaign at the top. The tower is crowned by the lion of St. Mark and the large clock face in blue with numbers and decorative figures in gold.
Standing next to the tower at an hour on the hour and see the bell ringing will not take more than a few minutes and is a good culmination to the tour of St. Mark's Square.
To finish the day we will go to see one of the most important bridges in Venice. The Rialto Bridge. It is only a 10 minute walk from St. Mark's Square to the bridge. We can take advantage of this walk to go quietly through less touristy streets and admire the beauty of the city.
The Rialto Bridge is one of the four bridges that crosses the Grand Canal and is the oldest of them. Its particular shape and the semicircular arches that compose it have made it one of the most visited tourist attractions in Venice. In fact it is almost impossible to see it without the presence of hundreds of tourists who want to photograph it. The gondolas crossing the Rialto Bridge are one of the most characteristic postcards of the city of canals.
To conclude our first day we can have dinner near the Rialto Bridge and crown the day with a delicious Italian gelato.
2. Venice Islands Day, gondola ride and Santa Maria della Salute
The first day can be a bit hectic after seeing some of Venice's most famous sights. So on the second day we can get away from the crowds and enjoy a quieter day visiting the islands of Murano and Burano, taking a gondola ride and ending with a movie-like sunset next to the church of Santa Maria della Salute.
The island of Murano is known worldwide for its glass and the works that its artisans make with it. Our first visit of the second day will be to this island which can be reached by Vaporetto line 4. The trip usually takes about 40 minutes if we leave from the city center.
Once on the island our visit will focus on learning about the craft and art around the famous glass. For this there are many factories and workshops that offer tours to tourists to learn how Murano glass is worked. If we have marveled at this process we can delve into this art in the glass museum. And we can not miss the opportunity to buy some glass souvenirs. Although you will have to go very carefully the rest of the day not to break it.
In most cases visitors to Murano take advantage of the same excursion to go to its sister island, Burano. And my recommendation is that you do it too. From Murano itself and taking the same Vaporetto line we can go to Burano. The trip is a little longer and takes about an hour.
Upon arrival on the island we will be amazed. Its houses, each of a different color, form an incredible composition and together with its canals give us a postcard from a magazine. In fact there are many international magazines that rest Burano as one of the most colorful and beautiful places to photograph in the world. There is much to do and see in Murano, butthe main thing is as simple as strolling through its streets.
As in Murano, handicrafts also play a fundamental role on the island. In this case for its thread lace. If everything has gone according to plan and we leave at 9 am we will finish our visit to the islands around 4 or 5 pm.
On our return to Venice we can opt for a relaxing gondola ride. A must if you want to live the full Venetian experience. They can be taken anywhere in the city and the only thing is that you decide in which area you want to move.
The municipality forces the gondoliers to charge a standard rate of 80 euros for a half hour ride. Don't trust them if they ask for more. The 80 euros are independent of the number of people traveling so the more people in your group, up to a maximum of 6, the cheaper the trip will be per head.
If you want to go through emblematic points of the city like the Bridge of Sighs, they will charge you extra. I recommend that your tour ends at the docks of the Basilica of Santa Maria de la Salud where we will finish our tour of the second day.
Santa Maria della Salute and its sunsets
Either by gondola or using the Venetian Vaporetto we will cross the grand canal and approach our last point of the itinerary. The Basilica of Santa Maria della Salute. This spectacular church crowned by an imposing dome was built to honor the Virgin of Health after the plague epidemic that affected three quarters of the population of Venice.
The baroque facade gives access to the interior of the church in whose dome we can see several works by the famous painter Titian such as the Death of Abel, the Sacrifice of Abraham and David against Goliath.
We leave the church around sunset and head towards Punta della Dogana. This is the end of our two-day visit to Venice. And to put the perfect finishing touch we will contemplate the sunset in one of the most spectacular places in the city for it.
Tips to see Venice in two days
To optimize your time and your visit in two days, I leave you :::link|text=a series of tips that may be useful to you in Venice.
- Upon arrival at the Santa Lucia train station, visit the tourist office in the station and get a map of the city. They usually show the lines and timetables of the Vaporettos. These boats are the best and fastest way to get around Venice.
- Buy tickets online in advance for monuments such as the Doge's Palace or St. Mark's Basilica. If you also book guided tours you can skip the queues.
- The monuments begin to open their doors around 9 am and the transports start running around 8 am. Keep this in mind to start the day around that time so that you have time to visit everything.
- To eat cheaply avoid the restaurants in St. Mark's Square. Without going too far away and in the adjoining streets there are many options with better value for money.