Venice Itinerary: Planning Your Time

Water taxi ride to Murano, Venetian lagoon, Italy
With a third day in Venice, venture out to the islands of the Venetian lagooon.
St. Mark's Square, Venice, Italy
St. Mark's Square, home to the bulbous St. Mark's Basilica, becomes Europe's most romantic dance floor after dark.
By Rick Steves and Gene Openshaw

So much to see, so little time. To help you plan your sightseeing, I've listed my ideal itineraries for Venice, whether you're going for one day, two days, three days, or more.

Venice is small. You can walk across it, from head to tail, in about an hour. Nearly all of your sightseeing is within a 20-minute walk of the Rialto Bridge or St. Mark's Square. Remember that Venice itself is its greatest sight. Make time to wander, explore, shop, and simply be. When you cross a bridge, look both ways — you may be hit with a lovely view. Venice has what's considered one of the highest concentrations of art anywhere in the world. Art lovers need to be particularly well-organized to get the most out of their visit.

Key considerations: Ninety percent of tourists congregate in a very narrow zone in the center. But even the most touristy stretches of the city are almost ghostly peaceful early and late. Maximize your evening magic, and avoid the midday crowds around St. Mark's Basilica and the Doge's Palace. If you arrive in Venice late in the day, try taking my guidebooks' self-guided Grand Canal cruise and St. Mark's Square tour (both are also available as free audio tours). These sights are more romantic and much less crowded after dark — and they provide a wonderful welcome to the city.

Depending on when you visit, you may have to juggle the itineraries below, as sights' visiting hours will vary by season and day of the week.

With that in mind, here are my recommended priorities:

Venice in One Brutal Day (Plus the Night Before)

Night Before:  Walk or boat to the train station and then, aboard an empty vaporetto #1, take the self-guided "Grand Canal Cruise" to St. Mark's Square (as outlined in my guidebooks, or follow along with my free audio tour).

9:00  Meander from St. Mark's Square to the Rialto Bridge, ideally off the main thoroughfares, and — even better — following my Venice guidebooks' self-guided "St. Mark's to Rialto Loop Walk" as far as the Rialto Bridge.

10:00  Enjoy the action at the Rialto Bridge and Rialto Market.

11:00  Make your way to the Frari Church via the San Polo neighborhood, ideally following my the self-guided "Rialto to Frari Church Walk" outlined in my Venice guidebooks.

12:00  Tour the Frari Church (also covered by one of my free audio tours).

13:00  Wander into the Dorsoduro district toward the Accademia museum, exploring and enjoying lunch along the way. Stroll across the Accademia Bridge (tour the Accademia only if you're an art lover — and really energetic) and back to St. Mark's Square.

15:30  Tour St. Mark's Basilica (closes at 17:00 in summer, at 16:00 in winter; best with my guidebooks' self-guided tour, or with the audio-tour version).

17:00  Visit the Doge's Palace (in summer closes at 19:00, last entry at 18:00; closes earlier in winter).

18:30  Explore St. Mark's Square (best with my guidebooks' self-guided tour, or with the audio-tour version).

19:30  Dinner and a gondola ride (or vice versa, as a gondola ride at sunset is best).

22:00  Enjoy a drink with the orchestras on St. Mark's Square.

Venice in Two or More Days (Plus the Night Before)

Day 1

Night Before:  Walk or boat to the train station and then, aboard an empty vaporetto #1, take my self-guided "Grand Canal Cruise" to St. Mark's Square (as outlined in my guidebooks, or follow along with my free audio tour).

9:00  Ride to the top of the Campanile.

10:00  Explore St. Mark's Square (best with my guidebooks' self-guided tour, or with the audio-tour version). Pop into a glass shop for glass-blowing demo.

11:00  Meander from St. Mark's Square to the Rialto Bridge, ideally off the main thoroughfares, and — even better — my Venice guidebooks' self-guided "St. Mark's to Rialto Loop Walk" as far as the Rialto Bridge.

13:00  Lunch.

14:00  Tour the Correr Museum (ticket purchased here includes Doge's Palace).

15:30  Tour St. Mark's Basilica (closes at 17:00 in summer, at 16:00 in winter; best with my guidebooks' self-guided tour, or with the audio-tour version).

17:00  Visit the Doge's Palace (in summer closes at 19:00, last entry at 18:00; closes earlier in winter).

19:00  Dinner (if a nice one, make a reservation) and maybe a gondola ride (or vice versa, as a gondola ride at sunset is best).

22:00  Enjoy a drink with the orchestras on St. Mark's Square.

Day 2

9:00  Enjoy the action at the Rialto Bridge and Rialto Market.

10:00  Make your way to the Frari Church via the San Polo neighborhood, ideally following my guidebook's self-guided "Rialto to Frari Church Walk."

11:00  Tour the Frari Church (also covered by one of my audio tours).

12:00  Wander into the Dorsoduro district toward Ca' Rezzonico, exploring and enjoying lunch along the way. (Visit Scuola San Rocco only if you're an art lover.)

14:00  Tour Ca' Rezzonico (Museum of 18th-Century Venice, closed Tue).

16:00  Tour the Accademia museum (only if you're an art lover), then stroll across the Accademia Bridge and back to St. Mark's Square.

18:00  Commence pub crawl for dinner (consider taking Alessandro's Classic Venice Bars Tour).

Day 3: Lagoon Tour

10:00  Catch boat at Fondamente Nove to San Michele (old cemetery), then continue to Murano.

11:00  Tour Murano, and (on weekdays) see glassworks.

13:00  Boat to Burano for lunch and browsing.

15:00  Boat to Torcello, tour church, back to Burano.

18:00  Zip back to Fondamente Nove in 45 minutes, or — if you'd like to see more of the lagoon — take the long way back by boat via the mainland peninsula of Cavallino and the Lido (no need to stop there — just enjoy the cruise).

20:00  Dinner and/or concert in Venice.

Day 4 and Beyond
  • Shop and browse some of Venice's more characteristic areas (such as the zone between Campo Santa Margarita and Campo San Barnaba; the back lanes of Cannaregio, near the Jewish Ghetto; or the sleepy part of Dorsoduro behind the Accademia and Guggenheim).
  • Take one of the many guided theme tours available (I recommend several in my guidebooks).
  • Visit the Church of San Giorgio Maggiore.
  • Side-trip to Padua (30–50 minutes away by train).

Gene Openshaw is the co-author of the Rick Steves Venice guidebook.