Venice has truly made a name for itself as a vacation city. From the Venetian Lagoon to the stone streets and ancient basilicas to the beautiful Italian Alps, this picturesque metropolis is sure to charm its way into your heart. Though it would take quite a while to experience all that Venice has to offer, you can still visit the most popular sites in just a few days. So if you are planning only to stay for 3 days in Venice, you will want to have a game plan in place to ensure that you visit the most must-see attractions. Being careful to stay hydrated and well-rested can also make it easier to see through any tourist traps, so don’t try to do too much and wear yourself out.
May through September is the most favored time to visit Venice, when the sun is shining, the weather is warm, and there is very little chance of flooding. Most businesses are geared toward tourism specifically during this time of year, so their hours are longer and selections larger. You will find though, that many shops are closed one day a week. Though it varies from business to business, the most common days to be closed are Sunday and Monday.
Some of the most well-known attractions include the Peggy Guggenheim Museum, St. Mark’s Square (or Piazza San Marco in Italian), the Murano glass factory tour, and of course the iconic gondola ride along the grand canal. And while Venice is not known as a shopping center, you can still find highly specialized small shops tucked into corners and on side streets. So shed some extra weight and drop off your bags at a locker in Venice so you are free to get exploring!
Venice Itinerary - Day 1
Beginning the morning of your first day in Venice, you will obviously want breakfast. Caffe Florian is the oldest café in Venice and, like much of the city, is truly a work of art itself. While making a reservation may make getting in easier, it is not necessary.
Caffe Florian is also quite close St. Mark's Square and the Doge's palace, which are a few places that you can’t miss while in Venice. The massive plaza was originally a marketplace for the native Venetians in the days of the Republic of Venice, but it is now a prime tourist location. The beautiful Basilica di San Marco stands at one end of the square, and the Doge's palace is found just a short walk from St. Mark's Basilica. Campanile di San Marco is also located near the Square.
St. Mark's Basilica became more well-known after the fall of Constanople when shiploads of Byzantine artifacts and treasures were brought to the chapel, making it extremely wealthy. The church is now exquisitely decorated with paintings, arches, and golden mosaics. Mass is still held in the church, so be considerate of their services when visiting.
The Doge’s Palace behind the Basilica is just as spectacular, with similar gothic spikes and arches adorning the outside, and extensive murals inside. The original palace was built in the 10th and 11th centuries, but extensive additions and renovations have been made throughout the years, many made necessary by fires and political change.
Originally built as a watchtower in the 10th century, Campanile di San Marco has slowly morphed into a bell tower, traditionally rung to regulate religious and civil life. The tower was reconstructed in the mid-1900 after collapsing in 1902. You can climb up the tower for a fantastic view of the square and surrounding areas.
Most of the morning and early afternoon can be spent touring Piazza San Marco and the Doge's palace, as well as investigating the various small shops and cafes near the Square. After lunch, you can catch a gondola ride along the Grand Canal, and spend a relaxing afternoon admiring the city’s notable waterside sites and famous bridges, such as the Basilica of Santa Maria della Salute and the Rialto Bridge.
The Basilica of Santa Maria Della Salute stands near the Grand Canal, towering over the water. Built to celebrate the end of the Plague in 1631, it is named after Saint Mary, also known to the Catholics as Our Lady of Health. It is a stunning sight, whether you are on the water or taking a tour of the inside.
The oldest and arguably most famous Bridge in Venice, the Rialto Bridge was originally built as a pontoon bridge in the 12th century. After surviving many upgrades, riots, and crowds, it was rebuilt as a permanent stone bridge in the 16th century. It connects the San Marco district to the San Polo district and has become an iconic part of the city. You may also want to check out the Rialto Market located on the northwest side of the bridge in the San Polo district.
The city of Venice is just as spectacular during the night, as street lights guide your way along the lanes. Later evening or early night is a great time to explore Venice if you want to admire the city with fewer tourists around. There are tons of great things to do at night in Venice, so don’t feel like you have to restrict your vacation to daylight hours.
Venice Itinerary - Day 2
Morning and Afternoon:
After exploring the city for the first day of your Venice itinerary, you may want to get out of the metropolis for a day. The Italian countryside is rife with sightseeing opportunities, from the Italian Alps to the Venetian Islands, the views are amazing. The small islands of Murano and Burano are both iconic in their own ways. Murano for the glass blowing factory and Roman architecture, Burano for its beautiful lace and colorful houses.
Though both landscapes are stunning, exploring either option could take a whole day, so unfortunately you will have to decide between the mountains or the water on this particular trip.
The Italian Alps are the picture of rugged glory, with towering snow-capped peaks. Yet despite their intimidating appearance, you will find hiking trails for all levels of experience. While most of the hiking routes are about an hour from the city center, if you enjoy hiking you will want to check out these mountains.
Murano is a hop skip and a jump from central Venice and is known for its famed glass blowing museum. The simplest way to get to Murano would be the water buses, which are called vaporetto. On the island, you can take a tour of the Murano glass factory Ellegi Glass where you can observe a glass blowing demonstration. You will find many different Venetian glass pieces for sale, from wine glasses to animal sculptures to abstract art.
The Murano Glass Museum showcases the glass through the centuries, and the collection even contains Roman artifacts from the island's earliest settlers.
After touring the glass factory and museum it will be about time for lunch. Murano has several restaurants to choose from. Osteria al Duomo, or the Murano Co-op as the locals call it, is a family-owned eatery that tries to stay true to the traditional Venetian diet. The menu there boasts local seafood, meat dishes, and pizza, and several gluten-free options are available as well.
Many smaller restaurants and cafes can be found sprinkled among the island, all offering local cuisine.
Burano is a short distance from Murano by vaporetto. Covered in colorful fishermen’s houses, it is a sight to behold. Recognized for the beautiful and delicate hand-made lace as well as Venetian masks, it is certainly worth adding to your Venice itinerary. On the island, you can find demonstrations of traditional lace making and mask construction. The lace gained fame all through the Roman Empire, popularizing the art and bringing recognition to the fishing village. Though imported imitation lace has hurt the ancient market, you can still find traditionally crafted lace from artists on the island. There is even a lace museum celebrating the art.
The Carnival of Venice is probably most recognized for its absurd and artistic masks. Historically made from paper mache and fabric, you can find cheaper plastic modern masks, but you will definitely want to check out one of the artisan’s shops.
Exploring these islands will leave you tired, but no doubt satisfied with your journey, so a relaxing evening with minimal walking would probably sound really great right now. Good thing Venice has legendary opera houses and theaters. Venice's most well-known opera house Teatro La Fenice was named for the mythical phoenix after Italy lost several opera houses to fires. There are many opera houses and movie theaters around the city, so you will have options for your laid-back evening.
Venice Itinerary - Day 3
Almost one hundred museums strong, Venice boasts a wide array of museums to choose from, from architecture to classic and modern art, to ancient palaces, and even more. Some of the most unmissable options would include the Peggy Guggenheim Museum, Carlo Goldoni's House, and the Archaeological museum.
The Peggy Guggenheim Museum is a collection of what was modern art through the ages, housed in an 18th-century palazzo. A self-proclaimed art addict, Peggy Guggenheim opened her first gallery in London during the 1930s. Over several years she expanded her collection and started more museums, including this large one in Venice, which holds artwork from artists such as Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dali, and Jackson Pollock.
Another interesting historical site to visit is Carlo Goldoni's house. The birthplace of this 18th-century playwright has been converted into an exhibition dedicated to 18th-century plays, and those of Carlo Goldoni in particular. This small gothic palace dates back as far as the 1500s and passed through several families before being donated to the Venice Municipality in 1931 to become a museum. Casa di Carlo Goldoni, as it is known in the native tongue, has educational programs available, as well as a large library and a bookshop.
The Archaeological Museum in Venice was started after Cardinal Domenico Grimani left his collection of Flemish artwork and sculptures to the Venetian people through his will. The museum expanded, adding Greek, Egyptian, and Babylonian artifacts. It now encompasses 20 rooms in the Procuratie Nuove palace located near Saint Mark’s Square.
After exploring the museums of Venice, take some time to appreciate all the little things that make this city spectacular. Enjoy some gelato, poke around some of the small shops hidden away on tiny streets, and maybe find a local bar or café.
Spend your last night in Rome taking in the hustle and bustle of Piazza San Marco and opt for a few drinks and a leisurely meal as the sun goes down over your trip to Venice. Ristorante La Piazza is particularly good with well-positioned outdoor tables.
Even in just 3 days in Venice, you can experience the most breathtaking sites of the Floating City. By splitting up your days for specific sites and having a plan, you can take most of the stress out of your travels. You may also want to consider hiring a local guide who will know the streets and major attractions well. Taking a guided tour of museums will also help to bypass some of the crowds that flock to Venice at all times of the year.
Flying into The Venice Marco Polo Airport will put you only a short distance from central Venice, so you won't have to worry about wasting precious time traveling to and from the airport. Your weekend Venice itinerary awaits!