Venice, Italy can be a trip of a lifetime. But you don’t need a lot of time there to really experience everything the city has to offer. Here are some tips and tricks on how to spend one day in Venice, Italy:
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Get Lost in Venice
Piazza San Marco
St. Mark’s Basilica
San Marcos Clock Tower
Eating in San Marcos Square
Things to Know About Venice
Where to Stay in Venice
The number one tip we can give anyone is to not plan your trip too much when visiting Venice. The city is full of surprises, so plan to get out and walk, and don’t worry about where you end up. There are so many beautiful places in Venice, and you will never discover them if you plan every minute of your time on the island.
One day in Venice is plenty of time to discover the beauty that the city has to offer.
Although many guides will tell you that Google Maps is unreliable in Venice, it seems to be as reliable as your cell phone provider. If you are concerned, click here to learn how to download an offline Google map beforehand.
San Marcos Plaza is an incredibly busy, touristy location in the city. That being said, it’s something you should do. It’s right on the water, and has is surrounded by cafes and shops.
There are numerous locations in the Piazza, including St. Mark’s Basilica.
The interior and exterior of the basilica are both beyond beautiful, and you could spend at least a few hours walking through. The church became the seat of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Venice since 1807. Although it’s not exactly clear when it was built, construction of the current building likely started around the 11th century AD.
The interiors include the largely gold mosaic ceiling, and the treasury of the church contains many early Christian artworks and metalworks.
Just a note: You are not allowed to take photos inside the Basilica.
You can climb the stairs where you will see a great view of San Marcos Square, as well as a museum inside with artifacts from history, as well as from the building of the church.
The good news or bad news (depending on your preference) of the San Marcos Clock Tower is that you can no longer climb the stairs to the top — you must take an elevator. And although there is usually a short line, once you get to the top, it is all completely worth it.
The view from San Marcos Clock Tower is going to be one of the best you will get in all of Venice. Make sure to spend some quality time at the top, and walk all the way around.
Eat at your own risk. This is not because the food is bad (actually, the food is quite good), but because you will be charged for the experience of eating in the square. This is the most tourist area in all of Venice, and they know what it’s worth.
We have heard news stories of tourists or students eating near the square and being charged hundreds or thousands of dollars. The best advice is to 1. check prices before you sit down anywhere, and 2. make an attempt to eat once you have gotten further from tourist locations.
That being said, not all of Venice is like this. And sometimes it is worth paying for an experience. When we visited the city, we decided to sit down and have a beer in the square, because we knew we would never be back there. It was a decision we made, and was completely worth it.
(In contrast, we found a 3-pack of Peroni in a convenience store for €2.30).
The Doge’s Palace is a palace located in the Piazza San Marco, and was once the home to the Doge of Venice — the former leader of the Republic of Venice. Since 1923, it has been a museum.
Perhaps the most interesting part o Doge’s Palace is that it has been a prison for centuries. The Bridge of Sighs is where many prisoners were led to and from the palace and the new prison. Many prisoners looked out the windows of the bridge as their last look of freedom as they crossed over.
If you are a fan of Ernest Hemingway, Harry’s Bar is a must-see while you are in Venice.
Harry’s Bar has been open since the 1930s and is located close to St. Mark’s Square.
Hemingway spent a great amount of time in the city in 1949 and 1950, and the bar was his favorite in the city.
If riding a gondola in Venice is on your bucket list, then great! It is definitely an experience many people want to have. But know that riding a gondola in Italy can be expensive (upward of $100), and it has become a pretty tourist-centric event.
However, if you do want to do a gondola ride:
San Barnaba Church
This is not a well-known church in Italy, but was incredibly important to me because it is the “library” seen in a scene of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade — the scene where Indiana Jones and his friends are looking for the holy grail, and climb under the library.
However, if you are looking for the library you may be disappointed. The building is a church and you will not be able to enter at all hours of the day. But it’s still a cool piece of movie history, and is not a bad walk from anywhere else in the city.
Venice is not big
You cannot drive onto the island and you can definitely not take an Uber (you can’t actually use a bicycle). Venice is walking only — unless you are on water. But the island part of the city is not large, only around 16 square miles. You could walk all day and not see the same place twice, but that is more about the number of winding alleyways than anything. You can easily see everything you need to see in just one day, and you are never more than a mile or two from where you need to be.
But do remember that the Grand Canal and smaller canals are all connected by bridges, and most of those bridges have stairs. When dragging around a suitcase or just walking for the day, know that you will be going up and down small staircases on a regular basis.
Everyone speaks English
Although the culture of Italy and the Italian people is amazing to experience, Venice is a tourist destination, and you will likely run into very few people in the service industry who won’t know English. That being said, it can’t hurt to learn some Italian language as a way to show them you respect their culture.
Be prepared for crowds
Venice is an incredibly tourist-y location, and it’s good to be prepared for that. If you are, it won’t seem so bad. The restaurants are not too crowded though and you can find many pockets where you can get away from people.
Wandering around the island will help you discover the city, and not just the busy locations. Finding a cute courtyard or coffee shop will help you experience Venice in a more authentic way.
If you prefer to get up early to beat the crowds, try this:
Water Taxi 2 is not worth it
When booking your hotel, keep in mind that the large water bus is crowded — and it could take you a while to fit on one. If you are within a mile or two of the train station, walking is likely the better option — even if you have your luggage.
When booking your hotel, this is something you should consider.
The city pretty much shuts down at 9 p.m.
Although Venice is such a bustling city during the day, do everything you can to eat before it gets too late. Surprisingly, a lot of the city shuts down early. Although you can still find clubs and some bars, like you would in any city, walking around the streets after 9 p.m. is surprisingly eerie.
However, this is also a good thing — because if you do want to be out after this time, you pretty much have the city to yourself. There is no reason to ever feel unsafe, and so you can wander to your heart’s desire after everyone else goes to sleep.
There are a number of hotels and apartments available in Venice, but you can read my review of the amazing hotel we found.