A weekend in the beautiful city of Venice can be a magical trip, but it is important to make a plan in order to make the most out of your few short days.
On Saturday, start early with the best of Venice
If you want to tick off the "best of Venice", get up early and go back down to Saint Mark's Square. The early hours of the morning are often just as quiet as the evenings, so beat the crowds and get there nice and early. Here are some of the things in the city centre you can do to fill up your Saturday:
- Get to Saint Mark's cathedral before 9:45am to beat the crowds and see the stunning mosaics inside.
- Go up Saint Mark's bell tower and get stunning panoramic views of the city.
- Go to Doge's Palace, cross the Bridge of Sighs, and get there before 11:35 to take a "secret itineraries" tour
- Cross the Rialto Bridge, se the Rialto markets, and get cicchetti for lunch
- Saturday is a good day to visit any of the museums and art galleries if you want to, as many things close down or have shorter hours on Sundays or Mondays.
- Take a gondola ride at dusk
- Get lost walking in the back streets! This is one of the most wonderful parts of visiting Venice, and whether it is done on the first, second or third day is irrelevant, but getting lost is sometimes one of the best ways to explore and get to know this beautiful city
On Sunday, go beyond central Venice
For your second day in Venice you might want to take things a little easier, or get outside of the centre of the city.
- A good way to escape the city centre is to go to one of the surrounding islands for the day. The most popular are Murano, where you can see glass blowing workshops, Burano, that is characterized by its cute, doll-like houses, and Torcello, that is a lot more secluded and peaceful that places like Murano. This post on Murano vs Burano gives more details.
- Alternatively, you can use this day to wander through the streets if you didn't get a chance to the day before, and look forward to relaxing a bit more than the first day. You could take a secret wine tour, go to some of the lesser known churches, or take a cruise down the Grand Canal on the number 1 waterbus.
Planning a weekend in Venice can be difficult as there is so much to admire and explore, so it is important that you decide what pace you want to travel at (and maybe consider coming for longer than just the weekend!).
Tips for a weekend visit to Venice
Pay higher for convenient accommodation
Accommodation can be difficult in Venice, as the prices are expensive all year round and there is no real off season for visiting the city. It is important to book your accommodation in advance, and expect to pay a bit of money for this expense. Approximate prices per night are:
- Shared hostel dorm room: €30-€50
- Budget hotel room: €70-€90, €150+ for a hotel room on the main island
- AirBnb: €90-€140
And if you want to be close to the main attractions, consider staying in the San Marco area. This is one of the best area to stay in Venice as you will save a lot of time on a short weekend stay in Venice.
Buy a 2 day ACTV transport pass
Besides walking, the most common way to get around the Venice is by using the water bus. If you are not staying in the city centre of St.Mark’s, or if you plan to visit some of the outer islands, or you are not a fan of walking everywhere so much, it would be a good idea to buy a 2 day ACTV transport card for the weekend. Single ticket fares on vaporetti are around €7.5, and therefore not economical if you are see yourself on the water a lot during your weekend break in Venice.
If you are between 13 and 29 years old, you can get the Rolling Venice Card, which also gives you unlimited access to public transport and discounted prices to most city attractions. If you pay slightly more it will also include fares to the airport. You can however only purchase 3 day cards using this option. You can get more details on various Venice tourist pass available for tourists.
It is not usually advisable to drive to Venice, and if you are arriving by train (Stazione de Venezia Santa Lucia) or plane (Marco Polo Airport) you can use the public water buses to reach Venice city centre. You can also book private water taxis, but these are a lot more expensive.
Be adventurous with food
Food and wine is a big part of visiting Venice even on a weekend. There is a large range of seafood and wine, as well as all the usual Italian treats to try. But the best approach is to be quick and spontaneous with trying local food.
Discover off canal Cicchetterias
Consider going on a secret wine tour, where you get to discover the back street, hole-in-the-wall bars that locals frequent on their way home from work. Drinking is a big part of the culture, and these tours will give you a good chance to discover it. You could also try somewhere like Vino Vino that offers a selection of wine, light meals and a chance to escape the busy city.
Try street food
If you want something quick, there is a lot of street food to be found, as well as places like Rosticceria San Bartolomeo and Rosticceria Teatro Goldoni, which are a great option for delicious lunch options on the go.
If you want to try local food, dine on cicchetti, a tapa-like way of trying lots of small portions of different local foods. One place to try is Cantina Do Mori.
Plan your activities in advance
Planning what to do once you have actually arrived in Venice will probably be the most difficult part of planning your trip. You itinerary will vary greatly depending on how many days you are staying and how much money you are wanting to spend. Below is a very general idea of what you can do if you are only there for one weekend (i.e. arriving Friday afternoon/evening, leaving Sunday night).
On Friday night, get some alone time
Don't discount the evening, even if you are tired. By the late afternoon and evening, most of the crowds have disappeared, and this could be a great opportunity to wander down to Saint Mark's Square while there is nobody really around. Venice is not especially known for having a raging nightlife, and walking through these public spaces in the evening will give you a stark difference for when you visit them the next day. Make sure that you get a good sleep however, as the days of exploring can be very long.
Day 1 - main sights
Having only two days in this beautiful city, the best solution is to dedicate the first day, to visit the main places of the historic center, passing the Fondamenta della Misericordia, where you can have lunch in one of the authentic Venetian taverns, with spritz and cicchetti, to then arrive in the Rialto area where admiring the majestic bridge you can reach the Basilica of San Marco, walking through the narrow streets and buying the typical symbol masks of the city.
Arrived in Piazza San Marco, the visit to the Basilica is a must, for the more sporty you can also visit the bell tower that offers a breathtaking view of the rooftops and the lagoon. From here, you can head towards the Accademia bridge, visit the Galleries, the largest collection of ancient paintings in Venetian history and then take a break in Campo Santa Margherita. At this point, we can decide whether to proceed with the evening of worldliness, savoring the drinks and cicheti that offer us the various bacari, or still devote to culture, perhaps attending a show at the Teatro Goldoni or the Phoenix.
Day 2 - outer islands
The second day can take place at a quieter pace. We can decide to visit a place or an exhibition that particularly interests us, walk or visit some of the countless islands of the Venice Lagoon. The most famous are certainly Burano and Murano, where one gets lost among artisan shops of glass and lace.