Floating atop a vast expanse of gleaming blue waters, there is no other city in the world that sparks the kind of wonder and joy that Venice can. It is arguably one of the most romantic and picturesque cities in the world. Venice is one of the hottest tourist spots in all of Italy. What makes the Queen of the Adriatic unique is the iconic network of waterways and bridges that connect and divide the city.
Venice is small and tightly packed which makes it ideal for being able to experience most of Venice in only a few days. If planned well, 2 days in Venice may be all the time you need to capture the essence of the city. To help you successfully accomplish this, I have created an itinerary for things to do in 2 days in Venice.
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With only 2 days in Venice, we’ll start your trip off straight away by visiting some of the major sights on every visitor’s “must-see” list.
St. Mark’s Square
First up will be St. Mark’s Square (Piazza San Marco). From here, you will be able to tour St. Mark’s Basilica (Basilica Di San Marco), the Bell Tower of St. Marks’s Church (Campanile di San Marco) and the Doge’s Palace.
If you are into photography, I highly suggest arriving early in the morning, between 6 am and 7 am, to capture the sunrise over the square. The early morning light from the sun creeping onto the virtually empty square is a breathtaking, serene scene.
If not, plan on arriving before 10 am to save yourself from having to wait in long lines at the Basilica, This 11th-century church has a beautiful Gothic design with striking goal mosaics on both the inside and out. During the busy months from 1 April to 1 November, I would highly recommend buying the skip the line ticket for only €3 or a skip the line guided tour as the entrance lines can get quite long when a cruise ship is in port.
Head on over next door to the Doge’s Palace. The Doge was the historic ruler of Venice. A Doge was elected for life by the ruling elite. If you want to see inside the palace, try the Secret Itineraries tour. The last tour starts at 11:35 am and will run you €25.40. On this 90-minute long tour, you will get an exclusive look-in the archives and prisons from the times of the Venetian Republic. These tickets can fill up so you should look into them weeks in advance.
If you have managed to make good time, I recommend taking a trip up to the top of the Bell Tower of St. Mark’s Church. The bell tower stands tall at 323 ft. with an observation deck with sweeping views of the islands that comprise Venice. The cost of admission to the top of the bell tower is €8, but you can buy a skip-the-line ticket online for €13.
Rialto Bridge & Market
Take a quick 7-minute walk to get from St. Mark’s Square to the Rialto Bridge. Enjoy the experience as you wind through the labyrinth of narrow alleys and small canal crossings. The Rialto Bridge is a spectacular sight. It is the oldest bridge in Venice. It was originally built in 1181 as a pontoon bridge. The current stone version of the bridge has been standing since 1591.
If you can make it during operating hours, take some time to explore the sprawling Rialto Market where you will find a selection of fresh produce and a wide variety of fresh fish. Close your eyes and let the smells of fresh seafood, vegetables, and fruits waft over you. You will hear the chorus of local fishmongers and produce vendors chatting it up with the locals selling their fresh haul. Allow yourself to submit to the full sensory experience occurring before you. The operating hours of the markets are:
- Pescheria (Fish Market) Open: Tuesday – Saturday from 7:30 am – 1 pm.
- Produce Market Open: Monday – Saturday from 7:30 am – 1 pm.
Now make your way to the T Fondaco dei Tedeschi mall nearby and visit their Rooftop Terrace. The cost to access the terrace is free, but you are required to go to their website and reserve a time slot ahead of time. The normal operating times are from 10:15 to 7:15 or later, depending on the season.
Sunset in Venice
Spend the evening doing the classic tourist activity when in Venice – take a gondola ride over the Venetian waters and let all of your worries go as you watch the last of the sunlight reflect from and then drown in the blue waters. The beauty of the sun setting over the Grand Canal is beyond any combination of words I can put together.
With many of the major sights out of the way, start your day off by simply taking to the streets and see if you fall in love with them (spoiler alert: I can guarantee that you will). The city of Venice hides its most stunning secrets within its lanes that you will only discover as you wander around aimlessly, taking in everything it has to offer. So set off on foot early in the morning and snap away as the city awakens.
Drop the map and explore the city
Take some time to explore the little shops and boutiques that line the streets of Venice as each holds a unique aspect of the culture and legacy of this historic city. Make sure you visit Muranero di Niang Moulaye in particular, a jewelry and glass boutique where Moulaye, an expert glass artist, will perform glass blowing in front of you and give you the opportunity to grab the perfect Italian souvenir blending Murano glass with African style.
Murano, Burano, Torcello
Spend the remainder of your second day in this dreamy city exploring what is arguably the most awe-inspiring and striking part of Venice – the Murano, Burano, and Torcello islands in the Venetian lagoon.
Murano is world-renowned for its glass artisans. Here you can catch a glass master blowing and shaping melted glass into works of art.
Burano is instantly recognizable by the vibrant, multicolored building facades hugging small canals. It is a nice escape. Stop by the winery resort Venissa, where you can walk through the picturesque vineyard and outdoor sculpture garden.
Torcello is where Venice originally began before moving to the island we know today. What was once the center of Venetian trade and politics, with only a handful of permanent residents remaining; Torcello has become a quiet, peaceful island that feels a world away from civilization.
Start in the morning so that you have ample time to truly take in the individual beauty of each of the three islands and then take a boat ride back as the sun sets in the water. The scene will surely make for some Instagram worthy shots.
When you return to the Venetian island, you can opt for one of the many sightseeing tours that go around every day on the islands, each allowing you to explore a different feature of the Venetian islands.
Other things to see
If island hopping does not interest you, then you can opt to lounge around and have a relaxing beach day. Stop and visit Lido where you can walk on the skirts of the sparkling Lido Beach.
If you are interested in modern art, then there is no better place to visit than the Peggy Guggenheim Museum. Embellished with 20th century works from the likes of Picasso, Miro, and Dali among others, the Guggenheim museum is quite literally a remarkable sight.
How to Get to Murano, Burano, and Torcello from Venice
The Alilaguna is how you will get between Murano, Burano, and Torcello and it is easiest from San Marco – San Zaccaria stop located by St. Mark’s Square. A one-way ticket is about €7.50, which you can buy from the ticket window or through the automated ticket kiosks. The best option may be to buy the unlimited ride day passes for a 1-day pass for €20 or a 2-day pass for €30.
Whichever ticket type you choose, remember to validate your ticket using the ticket readers at the dock before getting on the boat.
If you want to visit Murano, take the #12 line to the “Murano Faro” stop and then catch the #12 again to visit Burano. If you want to visit Torcello, you will need to take the #9 or #12 line one stop to Torcello.
Alternatively, if you want to skip Murano altogether, you can take the #14 line which will take you all the way to Burano without needing to change ferry lines. You will take the #14 line to the Lido stop if you want to visit Lido Beach.
Venice is a wonder all by itself. Ideally, you would want more than 2 days in Venice to be able to experience all that Venice has to offer. However, if 2 days is all that is available, then this guide will get you to see as much of the city in a short amount of time.
Getting from Venice’s Marco Polo Airport to Venice
There are three ways to get to Venice from Marco Polo Airport. To get to Piazza San Marco where we start the trip, use one of the following three modes of transport:
The (ACTV Line #5) bus line leaves you at the Piazzale Roma for about €8. From here, you can catch the vaporetto, or water bus, one way for another €8 and take it right down the grand canal. This is the least convenient mode of transport for the walking required, especially if you have a large party or have many bags.
The Alilaguna, or water ferry, is another option. A one-way ticket will run you €15, but you can save yourself €1 if you purchase ahead of time online. Take either the Blu (Blue) or Arancia (Orange) lines to get from the airport to the San Marco stop. The trip from start to finish takes anywhere between 75-90 minutes. Unfortunately, the ferryboats are slow and in rough shape. They are often crowded and the seats are not comfortable. It can be difficult to see through the oft foggy and dirty windows, as well. Consequently, this can result in a less than enjoyable ride and valuable time lost.
The third and best option is to go by water taxi. It is the costliest of the three options, but make no mistake; it is like having a luxury car that will take you to the point nearest to your desired destination. It is by far the simplest and quickest way to get to the island center, with a trip length lasting anywhere between 20-40 minutes. A one-way water taxi trip can cost anywhere from €115 – €150 depending on your destination, but the fare is flat. If you are traveling with a group you can split the cost of the trip, so for a little more than the cost of the ferry ticket per person, you can get a comfortable, private luxury ride. If you are traveling solo, see if there are any other people willing to split the cost and share a ride.
The views you see as you approach the island by water taxi are unlike anything you would get with any of the aforementioned options. You will have a speedboat furnished with comfortable seating inside the cabin, or you have the option of stand in the open air towards the rear of the boat. When standing, you get an unobstructed 360-degree view throughout the duration of the trip of the entire lagoon and islands. The real treat will be when you begin winding through the canals and you get to see Venice from the “water streets.” This experience makes the water taxi well worth the price of admission.
Getting to the water transport piers
Upon leaving the baggage claim area, look for the “public transport tickets” counters where you can buy tickets to the ACTV land bus and the Alilaguna “water bus” lines. If you are taking a water taxi, find the ticket window labeled “Speed Boat to Venice.” Once you have gotten your tickets for your chosen mode of transport, follow the blue signs that say “Trasporti via acqua – Water transport.”
It is about a 10-minute walk from the arrivals area to the Alilaguna boat dock and water taxi piers. The sign markers along the way conveniently tell you how much time it will take for you to reach the piers. When you arrive at lagoon level, you will see a landing flanked by numbered piers.
You can buy your ticket ahead of time through the Consorzio Motoscafi Venezia website. If you do not already have your taxi reserved when you arrive, you will have another ticket window where you could hire a water taxi on the spot. However, I recommend reserving your water taxi ahead of time as the fare will be slightly more expensive should you wait to hire one last minute due to demand and availability. Take your previously printed voucher or the one the attendant will hand you to your assigned pier where your water taxi will be waiting for you.
This post is sponsored by Consorzio Motoscafi Venezia but all opinions are that of the author… or the editor.