Day 1 in Venice - Main attractions
Your first day in Venice will be a day for exploring all of the main attractions and orienting yourself in the city:
Your first stop will of course be the famous and stunning Saint Mark's Square, the most famous part of Venice and in a lot of ways the centre of the island!
Close by you will find Doge's palace, Venice's grand, Gothic-Renaissance town hall. If you plan in advance, you could book a "Secret Itineraries" tour for mid-morning so that you can explore all of the rooms that are not open to the general public. Otherwise, simply wander and take in the historic building and many Renaissance works in its halls. You can also walk over the famous Bridge of Sighs that you cannot access from the outside.
In the afternoon, you will be exploring some of Venice's best art galleries, so put your walking shoes on and get ready for some art appreciation:
Your first evening you will probably need a break after exploring the major sites in the city:
Day 2 - Visit the Islands
For your second day in Venice you will be heading to some of the outer islands and getting away from the centre of the city.
In the morning you will be going to the nearby island of Murano:
After a morning exploring Murano, you will get back on the ferry and keep going to other nearby islands:
After you have finished exploring the island of Murano, you can catch the same ferry and keep going to the island of Burano which is a couple of stops over. This is a great place to grab some lunch as there is a large range of fresh seafood dishes in this little fishing village. Spend some time exploring this quaint island, with its colourful houses and winding back streets.
A short traghetto ride away from Burano is the quiet of island of Torcello. This place is far from the crowds of Venice, and is a sanctuary of beautiful gardens and old buildings.
In the early evening, find somewhere beautiful to watch the sun set over the city.
If it is around dusk on your way back, the island of Murano is a great place to watch the sun set. Look back across the water at the city of Venice and see the sun going down over the lagoon.
If you are already back in the city, you could go across to the San Giorgio Maggiore church and climb to the top of the tower to look at the sun setting over the city. If you haven't already taken a gondola ride during your trip, dusk is the best time to do it. Find a gondoliere and ask them to take you down the quiet back streets as the city starts to go to sleep.
Day 3 - Explore and get lost in Venice
Your third day in Venice will be a day of exploring markets and getting lost in back streets:
Spend a few hours in the morning wandering through the local market:
The best time of day to go to the Rialto market is in the morning. Walk over the iconic bridge and go find the local market where you will find locals haggling over prices in the earlier hours of the day. If you haven't already, this area is a great place to try eating, cicchetti style - by filling up a plate with bite-sized portions of the region's best food.
The rest of your day will mostly be dedicated to going back to things you might have missed, and exploring the back streets of Venice.
After you have refuelled at the market, it is time for the best part: getting lost in the back streets of Venice. You might have already done this by accident in the last few days of exploring, but wandering through the streets of Venice is one of the best ways to get to know the city. If you want to get a real taste of Venetian life, head into the residential areas like Castello and Cannaregio where there will be less tourists and more people just going about their everyday lives. Get snap happy and enjoy not using the map.
If you are still wanting something a bit more structured, you could go to the Ca D'Oro, a magnificent old palace that has now been turned into a museum and art gallery. This is quite close to the Rialto markets so it would be good to do on this day. You could also head out to San Giorgio Maggiore or go on a gondola ride if you did not have time to see them on previous days.
In the cool hours of the evening, it can be a magical experience to head back to major sites like Saint Mark's square after all the day tourists have moved on. Go and see the magnificent Basilica lit up at night, then find a back street bacaro to toast three wonderful days in Venice.
Venice is a bewitching city, you can perceive its history simply by crossing its streets and admiring its unique views. If you have three days in Venice and you prefer to opt for a less "touristy" route, which most grasps the essence of the spirit of the Serenissima, this is my proposal:
On the first day a visit to the Dorsoduro district, from the Punta della Dogana to the Chiesa della Salute up to the Zattere.
In this juncture you will observe the most beautiful and ancient residences of the noble Venetian families, among which the haunted Cà Dario, now famous in folklore for the strange events linked to it.
Why not stop and get some sun at the Zattere now? Or exchange a chat with a university student sipping a spritz and enjoying one of the typical cicchetti of Lo Squero, a renowned bar located in front of an old Gondola garage.
From here the walk can continue through the streets that lead to Rialto, this is the most youthful area as there are the headquarters of the Academy and University.
In the evening you can not miss a jump in Campo Santa Margherita or in Campo de l'Erbaria to live the Venetian nightlife up close.
Day 2 - less known Castello
On the second day, with more audacity, you can decide to go into that maze of streets that characterizes the Castello district, an area very little traveled by tourists; from the Rialto Bridge we proceed towards Campo Santa Maria Formosa where there is the famous Acqua Alta library, which is partially submerged when the sea level rises and you can then proceed towards Sant'Elena admiring the Venetian Arsenal and the view of the lagoon from Riva degli Schiavoni, or take a trip to the Giardini della Biennale.
In the evening there is nothing better than to find yourself sitting on the sofas of Osteria dell'Orso near Santa Maria Formosa, perhaps listening to one of the live concerts organized by the owner and savoring one of the rums of their vast reserve.
Day 3 - islands
The last day but not least, it would be nice to dedicate it to Burano, attention not Murano! You do not want to spend the day climbing over guided groups of interesting people to the furnaces of glass ... in Burano the climate is very different, it is a characteristic island that has managed to preserve the tradition in all its aspects; here we find painted houses of every color, the best fish restaurants and the best biscuits in Venice! In the evening returning by boat to Fondamenta Nuove you could walk towards the Timon to sip the last drink sitting on a large wooden sailing ship.