Venice is a bit of a polarizing city: Some travelers love it, others can’t stand it. But if you haven’t been to the unique city, it’s worth at least 24 of your hours, after which you can decide on which side of the argument you stand. “La Serenissima,” as the city is nicknamed, comprises 118 islands separated by 170 canals that are spanned by 400 bridges. You’re definitely not going to be able to see all of that in just 24 hours, so don’t even try. We’ve mapped out a few standout activities to help fill your single day in Venice.
Venice gets very, very, very crowded (not unsurprising for such a densely packed metropolis), so you’ll want to get an early start to beat the rush. Head to St. Mark’s Square first thing in the morning to take it all in without the masses. Guided tours are available at the major sights in the square — St. Mark’s Basilica and its clock tower, the Doge’s Palace, the Marciana National Library, and several museums — if you so choose to enter them.
After exploring the square, hop on a gondola. While gondolas used to be the main way Venetians got around, they’re now mainly used by tourists, and they’re more of a joyride rather than a method of transportation. Rates are set by the city, and they start at 80 euros for a 40-minute ride (each gondola can fit up to six passengers), then 20 euros for each additional 20 minutes. Rates go up in the evening, so it’s best to ride earlier in the day. You can also take a “traghetto,” which is essentially a gondola used as a ferry to bring people from one side of the Grand Canal to the other. The best part? It only costs two euros.
Before you break for lunch, head to the iconic Rialto Bridge, which is one of four that spans the Grand Canal. Keep on walking to the Rialto Market, where you can assemble a picnic basket full of fresh food for lunch.
Once you’re fueled up from lunch (and maybe a glass of wine or two), it’s time to take in art. The Venice Biennale is a major international art show that occurs in odd-numbered years, lasting from February through November. If you’re visiting during an even-numbered year, fear not: the Venice Biennale hosts its architecture show then. And if you’re visiting during the two months where neither biennale is in session, you can head to the famous Peggy Guggenheim Collection.
Later in the afternoon, you’ll want to get a little shopping in. Venice is known for its famed Carnival masks, which are made year-round in shops across the city. Try to avoid the touristy vendors on the street and head to a traditional shop, like Ca’ Macana.
Dinner doesn’t typically happen until 8 p.m. — or later — so you can spend the early hours of the evening strolling the streets. But when you do decide to grab a bite, try to head outside of the tourist areas to find the best food, or at least the best prices for food. Opt for a full Italian meal, meaning an “aperitivo” (appetizer), “primo” (first course, usually pasta), “secondo” (second course, usually meat or fish), “contorni” (side dish), and “dolce” (dessert). After your meal, you can walk through Venice’s romantic streets by night, or splurge on another gondola ride, though prices go up to 100 euros for 40 minutes.
Where to Stay
If you plan on sleeping during your 24 hours in Venice — and we do recommend it — consider staying at the for luxurious accommodations on a private island. While you’ll have to wait for a boat to get there, it’s worth the peace and quiet. For a value stay, we recommend the , which is slightly removed from the main tourist thoroughfares and therefore offers quiet, too.
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