One Day in Venice: How to Make the Most of 24 Hours

Alluring, romantic, and incredibly pretty, Venice is one of those destinations you don’t want to miss for any reason. 

The iconic Italian city is home to superb palaces, glorious churches, and a romantic lagoon, as well as so many attractions you can enjoy in the city… all of it is bound to conquer your ability to form words for what you’re seeing and leave you breathless!

view of a venice church from across a lagoon
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Planning your trip to Venice at the last minute?

Here are my quick picks on what to do & where to stay!

 Top Venice Experiences:
1. Tour of St. Mark’s Basilica + Doge’s Palace (skip-the-line!)
2. Scenic Gondola Ride (can take private or shared)
3. Venice Street Food Walking Tour (quickly taste the best of Venice!)

🏨 Best Hotels:
1. The Carlton (4-star hotel on the Grand Canal)
2. Ca Bea (budget-friendly guesthouse in trendy Dorsoduro)
3. Eurostars Residenza Cannaregio (former monastery with canal views!)

✈️ Flying in? Book your water taxi transfer to make getting into the city center a (beautiful!) breeze.

While living in Italy for 10 years, Venice was just a short train ride away, so I visited it often and can tell you how to make the most of a short trip.

If you’re heading to the gorgeous city of the gondolas and only have 24 hours to explore the city, then this one-day in Venice itinerary is all you need!

How to Get to Venice

venice gondolas all lined up in a row next to an old-looking building facade on a canal

With frequent train connections including Rome, Milan, Naples, Florence, Pisa, and Turin, spending a day in Venice is close at hand if you’re already in Italy.

That not counting other closeby Northern Italy cities, including Vicenza, Verona, and Padua, all of which can be reached with just a short train ride from Venice.

Venice is also near the Prosecco region, Lake Garda and its towns like Peschiera del Garda, and the Dolomites, all of which make excellent additions to an itinerary including one day in Venice.

The city is also home to an airport, Marco Polo International, but to get from the airport to the city it’s necessary to plan your transport in advance.

The best solution is to book a water taxi, especially if you are bringing more than just a small bag.

Moving Around in Venice

a venetian water ferry boat called a vaporetto

Maybe the most fun part of any trip to Venice is that you’ll have to (or should I say “get to”?) use means of transport that you wouldn’t normally consider in any other city!

Venice is a pedestrian city made of different islands crossed by canals and connected by bridges — no cars to be found in the inner city!

This means that you’ll either be walking around (a lot) or that taking a vaporetto (a kind of water bus) will be the most affordable and convenient way to move around.

The vaporetto is the most popular means of transport, and it’s not just for tourists: it’s also what the locals will use to reach different corners of the city.

sign that reads 'al vaporetto' which means "to the water taxi" in italian

Different lines operate until midnight; however, the lines working at night are limited, and the service isn’t as frequent.

Depending on how much you plan to move around, you can either purchase a day ticket or a single ticket for each trip.

If you think you’ll walk more than you’ll use the vaporetto and don’t plan on using it more than two or three times, single tickets are the cheapest option.

For more details, and prices as well as to learn how to validate the vaporetto ticket, check out their website.

Once you’re ready to book your travel, it also includes a section to purchase tickets online.

Since the vaporetto doesn’t run all night long, a good alternative is a water taxi.

These private rides are a bit more expensive but will take you anywhere, any time of day.

It’s always a good idea to have the phone number of Venice’s local taxi company: 041 522 2303 — save that!

Taxis operate 24 hours a day and prices should be confirmed beforehand, as they might change according to the time of the day and availability.

People on boats in Venice in winter

It’s also possible to enjoy a classic Venice gondola ride, but these can often be quite expensive, so they are more of a tour and a romantic experience than a practical means to move around.

With that said, a gondola ride often includes an itinerary that features the most important sights in the city, such as the Rialto Bridge or the small canal near the Bridge of Sighs.

This particular gondola ride takes you to discover the historic sights along the shoreline, admire marvelous palaces and churches, and explore the romantic secret waterways of Venice.

The ride also includes a glimpse of St. Mark’s Square and the La Fenice Opera House.

One Day in Venice: How to Make the Most of It!

view of a church in venice

It’s no surprise visitors to Venice can be easily overwhelmed by the sheer volume things to do, landmarks to see, museums and churches to visit, streets to walk, and districts to discover.

Although you won’t be able to see all the sestieri (districts) of Venice in a single day, you’ll certainly check out the city highlights if you follow this organized itinerary that packs in quite a lot in a short time!

If you have more time, follow this 3-day itinerary for Venice to explore further, or add on something fun like a Venice cooking class to learn more.

Take a panoramic Vaporetto ride on the Grand Canal.

the Rialto bridge in Venice with turquoise canal and gondolas and colorful buildings on a sunny and beautiful blue sky day

If you arrived in Venice by train, after you reach Venice Santa Lucia Station, head towards Rome Square (Piazzale Roma).

This isn’t just the place where buses arrive from the mainland, it’s also where you can catch the most famous vaporetto line in town (Line 1).

On this water bus, you can sail along the Grand Canal and enjoy some incredible views.

Line 1 is considered the most touristic vaporetto ride as it passes near the most iconic Venetian buildings (watch your belongings for pickpockets, here!)

On your way along the canal, you’ll see the Venice Casino building, the impressive Ca’ Pesaro Palace, now an international art gallery, and the Rialto Market.

I suggest getting off the vaporetto at the Rialto Bridge stop right after you have passed under the bridge.

This way, you’ll also be able to walk through some of the most beautiful alleys in town.

Walk across the stunning Rialto Bridge.

side view of the rialto bridge with bright red and marble color buildings on the other side of the turquoise canal with boat traffic in the water

Often overcrowded and busy, visiting Rialto Bridge in the early morning is the best idea to avoid crowds, even in winter and the off-season.

You’ll want to go to the top of the bridge for great pictures of the Grand Canal!

If you’re also interested in taking a gondola ride, this is one of the suggested departure points.

The Rialto is one of the four bridges spanning across the Grand Canal to connect the districts of San Marco and San Polo; it’s also the the oldest of them all, first built in 1173

Its original appearance was quite different from the stone bridge you can see today, as it was made of timber.

The bridge underwent different rebuilding and restoration processes over the centuries, until settling in its iconic form that you see today.

The current version and structure date from 1591 and it features two ramps leading to a central portico lined up with (overpriced) souvenir shops.

Walk to Saint Mark’s Square (Piazza San Marco).

The busy square of Piazza San Marco with lots of tourists milling about in the square area on a sunny day. The campanile (bell tower) stands high over the top of the piazza)

Follow the street signs that read “To San Marco” for your next stop.

The walk is only about 15 minutes, traversing past some of Venice’s cutest alleys and canals, and it takes you right to the heart of Venice and to its main square.

It’s here at Piazza San Marco that you’ll be astonished by the view of the imposing Saint Mark’s Basilica.

This is the most important church in the city, just next to the Doge’s Palace, with its distinctive pink marble facade.

Also in the square, you’ll find Venice’s tallest tower, which you can climb for spectacular views of the Venice lagoon.

Visit the Saint Mark’s Basilica.

The ornate decoration at the entrance of St. Mark's Basilica in St. Marks' Square, the heart of Venice city center.

Saint Mark is the most visited church in the city (and one of the most visited in Italy), so the lines tend to be huge.

Booking an advance entrance ticket is key to being able to visit the church without a ridiculous wait.

There are several skip-the-line combined tours available that also give you access to the Doge’s Palace.

This experience also includes a tour guide to give you important historic details about the buildings, as well as access to the terrace of Saint Mark’s Basilica.

Book your skip-the-line tour of St. Mark’s & Doge’s Palace here!

Saint Mark’s Basilica is modeled after the sixth-century Church of the Holy Apostles in Constantinople.

As a result, you can find clear Byzantine, Romanesque and Islamic details in its design, as well as unique Gothic elements that were added in later years!

The most important of these are four bronze horses located over the main door of the church, an iconic detail of the church.

Visit Doge’s Palace and the Bridge of Sighs.

Looking up at the beautiful pillars and pink stone of Doge's Palace, a popular former palace in Venice that is now a museum.

The Doge’s Palace, often also called the Duke’s Palace, is attached to the Basilica (which used to work as the Doge’s private chapel — not bad, eh?).

In Venice, between the year 726 and the late 1790s, the doge (or duke) was the chief magistrate and leader of the Republic of Venice.

A typical example of Venetian Gothic architecture, the palace was not only the Doge’s residence, but in later years it also became the seat of Venice’s law courts and prison.

The cells of this political prison were connected to the palace through the famous Bridge of Sighs (or Ponte dei Sospiri), which can be seen on one side of the palace.

A high bridge connecting two buildings in Venice over a canal

The area faces the most beautiful part of the Grand Canal, opposite the imposingly beautiful Santa Maria della Salute Church.

From this area of the Grand Canal, it’s possible to board the vaporetto to visit the small island of Murano, which is a great place for a mini day trip to explore if you’re curious about Venice’s famous glass production.

You could also take a vaporetto to check out the other famous island in the Lagoon, the colorful Burano.

Yellow House, red and other color houses brightly painted on a canal with some small boats on an island in the outskirts of Venice

This destination is ideal for those interested in picturesque photo opportunities (Instagrammers, take note!).

Visiting both islands could be quite difficult if you only have a day in Venice. There are half-day tours, but they take up about 5 hours — quite a big chunk of your day.

If you have to pick one, choosing Murano might be easier as it’s closer to the San Marco district, and it’s smaller, which means it will take you less time to visit.

You may also want to skip the outer islands entirely, with only one day in Venice, so you can spend more time exploring the city itself.

Take a scenic gondola ride.

a bridge that spans a canal with scenic Venetian architecture in the background

If there’s one thing you wouldn’t want to miss when in Venice, even if just for a day, it has to be a romantic gondola ride!

Even though it can be a bit more on the expensive side, there’s something incredibly romantic about the experience and it’s the best way to see the smaller canals.

Trust me, you’ll see Venice with completely different eyes.

There are different tours available making it easier for those with a more restricted budget, like small group tours instead of private tours.

There are tours lasting just 30 minutes while there are also longer rides, another way to save money while still having the experience of a gondola ride.

Night gondola rides tend to be more expensive, and adding on a serenade can definitely make this quite a costly experience!

To avoid bargaining stress and unpleasant surprises, I suggest booking the ride beforehand.

You can opt for a more luxurious private gondola ride or check out this more affordable option in which you share the ride with other people.

Enjoy some of the delicious local food.

a selection of venetian tapas or cichetti that you can enjoy in venice

Food is one of the most genuine cultural expressions, no matter what country you are visiting… but especially Italy.

However, when it comes to Venice, a food tour is the perfect activity if you don’t want to waste precious time at a restaurant, either at lunch or after sunset.

A street food tour guarantees tons of fun moments discovering the city while tasting delicious local staples.

Venice is one of the best cities to learn more about Italian cuisine.

Just trust the knowledge of a local guide who will walk with you to explore the street markets, local bakeries, and other interesting places that mix history with flavor.

This particular food tour is really interesting (and affordable) as it combines a stop at the historic Rialto Market, famous for the fresh fish as well as fruit, veggies, herbs, and spices that locals often use in their kitchens daily.

The walking experience also includes a visit to Basilica dei Frari. Along the way, you’ll taste a wide range of regional cheeses, typical cakes, biscuits, and tiramisù.

The highlight of the tours includes a taste of the cicchetti culture, those Venetian snacks resembling Spanish tapas served in local bars known as bàcari.

Admire the stunning La Fenice Theater.

interior of the la fenice opera house in venice, one of the city's most famous landmarks

Another iconic place that needs to be part of this one day in Venice is the city’s most historic theater, La Fenice (The Phoenix).

This incredibly beautiful opera house was founded back in 1792 and it has had the honor of being the location of the premieres for some of the most important masterpieces of the history of opera.

The site of a complex history, the theater burned to the ground on a cold December night back in 1836, but its importance has always been such that its reconstruction was decided immediately.

Just like the mythical bird, on Saint Sylvester’s night just one year later, the theater rose from its ashes, more beautiful and spectacular than ever before.

It’s a good idea to join an organized tour to check out the backstage and those lesser-known areas of the theater.

Since it is a popular place on the tourist trail of Venice, a skip-the-line ticket can guarantee timed access without wasting time and detailed information provided by an audio guide you can use at your own pace.

Enjoy a sunset by the Grand Canal.

view of venice at night with gondolas going past into the sunset

It’s no secret that the best spot for sunsets in Venice is right by the water, where the dark silhouettes of dozens of gondolas, gently rocked by the sea, are illuminated by the last rays of the sun.

For an unforgettable experience, sit at any of the different waterfront cafés that are located in the area to enjoy the last hours of the day before slowly walking your way back to Santa Lucia train station.

If you have more time in Venice, such as if you’re spending the night, you can also read this guide to what to do in Venice at night for more ideas on what to do next.

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