Venice is one of those places I wasn’t sure if I was going to like. But instantly, as soon as I arrived, I didn’t just like it, I loved it. The little alleyways, endless waterways, glorious buildings and a good dose of sunshine made it feel absolutely magical and it definitely captured my heart. It was also a special trip for me as I went with my Mum who had always wanted to go, plus we managed to visit during an April heatwave so also avoided the peak tourist season but got the sunshine.
We were in Venice for 3 days, which was a good amount of time to explore the city. This itinerary post covers the core 2 days in Venice, with day 3 used as a day trip to some of the neighbouring islands, including Murano and Burano. You can also view my post on visiting Murano here.
So, how do you see all the amazing sights of Venice in just 2 days?
Day 1 – The main tourist sites
A. Start the day taking in the views in St Mark’s Square
This is always the busiest area of Venice, being the main square of the city and home to some of the most well known sights. My advice is to beat the cruise ships and day trips to get there early and get your photos of the glorious Basilica, Doge’s Palace and The Campanile. I don’t recommend eating breakfast there as it’s extortionate, so grab something on the way.
View of St Mark’s Square and a Venetian mask shop just off it
B. Climb the Campanile
The Campanile is a tall tower in St Mark’s Square, which is actually the bell tower of St Mark’s Basilica (see below). The tower was reconstructed in 1912 following damage and at almost 100m high, is the tallest structure in Venice. I definitely recommend going for when it opens. We did, and still had to queue for 30 minutes. By the time we got down, the queue was 2 hrs long! The views over Venice are well worth it though, providing glorious scenes of the lagoons below.
Views from the Campanile
C. Visit The Basilica
St Mark’s Basilica is the cathedral of Venice – it’s main structure dates back to the 11th century with clear Byzantine elements which mean you can see the influence of other incredible churches like the Hagia Sophia in it.
Many of its rich artifacts and relics were plundered from Constantinople (now Istanbul) in around 1204 on the Fourth Crusade, including from the Hagia Sophia itself. Even the four horses above the door were plunder from this crusade, although today only replicas are above the door. For anyone who doesn’t know about the early religious Crusades, Italy and Venice played a huge role and it’s well worth researching ahead of a visit.
Today, the queues to go inside the Basilica are long but move fairly quickly and it’s well worth a look. You can also go up to the roof for views out over the square, and to see the infamous four horses above the door.
D. Explore The Doge’s Palace
The Doge’s Palace was the residence of the Doge of Venice, the supreme authority of the former Venetian Republic. It’s an incredible building and is the symbol of Venice as one of the richest republics in the world at the time it was built. It’s stunning inside and out – and we spent about 2 hours looking around it and found it very interesting. Follow it up with a late lunch at a traditional Trattoria.
E. See the Bridge of Sighs
This bridge runs from the interrogation rooms in the Doge’s Palace to the Prison. It’s known as the bridge of sighs due to the sighs the prisoners made as they went over it. I thought it was beautiful and a must see, just off St Mark’s Square.
F. Relax on a Gondola Ride
Are they a rip off? Yes. Do they last long? No. Are they worth it? ABSOLUTELY. Ours was so much fun. We booked in advance to save some money with Gondolieri Travel and did the route starting from Bacino Orseolo, not far from St Mark’s Square. It was expensive, and you may get a cheaper price on the day if they aren’t fully booked, but we both loved it. And hey, you’re in Venice.
Aboard the Gondola!
G. Check out the views from the Ponte dell’Accademia
A short walk from the bridge of sighs, head round to the Ponte dell’Accademia for beautiful views down to the Santa Maria Basilica. One of the most perfect Instagram shots!
H. Marvel at the Rialto Bridge with some traditional Gelato
As the day draws to a close, meander back across Venice with a Gelato in hand as you head to one of Venice’s most famous sites to finish the day – the Rialto Bridge. Stroll down the Grand Canal to get the best views of it, and then cross if for the picturesque views out across the Grand Canal itself.
Admiring the Rialto Bridge and views of the Grand Canal
After this, there are plenty of options for drinks and dinner in the area. There is a great wine bar called Vineria all’Amarone and for food, we particularly loved Ristorante San Silvestro.
Day 2 – Taking it slow exploring the lesser known regions of Venice
A. Explore the Oldest Jewish Ghetto in Venice
Situated in the Cannaregio district, learn about an area of Venice which is much lesser visited. Today this area is the hub of the Jewish community, home of synagogues and other religious institutions, as well as heritage restaurants and shops.
The formation of the Jewish Ghetto in Venice happened in 1516, originally formed as a way of placating the Roman Catholic Church, which had already driven the expulsion of Jews from Western Europe. Immediately after, about 700 Jews were taken to this area, and the word Ghetto soon gained popularity throughout Europe to refer to areas for isolated minority communities. By 1600, the community had grown to over 5,000 people and Christian guards kept everyone locked inside the area.
You can visit the Jewish Museum, Museo Ebreico, or take tours of the historic Ghetto when you visit today. This fascinating area is well worth a couple of hours of your time.
Exploring the historic region of the city (L) and Memorial wall (R)
B. Wander the San Polo area
The San Polo area of Venice (north of the Rialto Bridge) was the most beautiful area of intricate alleys and canal ways to explore. I loved just walking about in the morning without anyone else for company, not really knowing where I was going. Feeling lost was actually a treat! Eventually I also found a lovely spot called Dolce Vita Coffee which served lovely cake – a perfect morning snack.
C. See the notorious Ponte delle Tette
The Ponte delle Tette, literally the bridge of tits, is a notorious bridge previously frequented by topless prostitutes! I had to pay it a visit!
D. Visit the Mercato
Just down the road from the Ponte delle Tette, is the Mercato. You can smell this area before you see it, what with all the fish – and it’s filled with lots of goodies, from dried fruits, to nuts, to eggs and meat. Perfect for a snack or to stock up for dinner.
E. Enjoy the pews of the famous I Frari
In 1231, this site was created as a monastery, though it quickly became too small, and by the end of the 1300s work was completed on the current, much larger, church. It’s now deisgnated as a minor basiliaca, and Titian (the most famous Venetian painter of the 16th century) is interred in the church. For me, the highlight was the incredible gothic pews.
Inside and outside of the church
F. Explore Dorsoduro
Another lovely area of Venice worth exploring is the beautiful Dorsoduro. This felt really ‘authentic’ Venice – no tourists, just locals, and lots of lovely streets and restaurants. This area is also home to some great museums and galleries, like Ca’ Rezzonico and the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, as well as famous churches such as Angelo Raffaele.
G. Visit one of the museums or galleries
To finish off your leisurely day of exploring, visit Ca’Rezzonico to learn about the history of Venice, focused on the 18th Century. Or if history isn’t your thing, explore the art on display at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection. After a busy day of more walking and sight seeing you’ll be ready for a special dinner before returning home.
And that concludes my itinerary for 2 days in Venice. I absolutely fell in love with the city, and would love to be able to go back some day and explore further. If you have longer in Venice, you can also check out my post on visiting the island of Murano here (post coming soon).
Thank you for reading everyone! I hope you enjoyed the post – stay safe and happy travelling!