Do you want to discover the best things to do in Venice? Venice (in Italian, Venezia) is not only one of the best places to visit in Italy but also one of the most popular destinations in Europe. Every year, tens of millions of tourists travel to Venice, to experience all the beauty and romance of this Italian city!
Capital of the Veneto region, Venice is completely different from any other city in the world, as it was built between the canals of a lagoon with the same name: the Laguna di Venezia. In fact, “Venice and its Lagoon” were inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1987, for their cultural, architectural, and artistic value!
So, do you want to know more about 3 Days In Venice: The Perfect Venice Itinerary? Keep reading!
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- Brief History of Venice
- Visiting Venice
- Venice Itinerary – Day 1
- Venice Itinerary – Day 2
- Venice Itinerary – Day 3
- Map of the Venice Itinerary
- More Posts about Italy
- More Posts about Travel Itineraries
- More Posts about World Heritage
- What Photography Gear Do I Use?
Brief History of Venice
As far as is known, the city of Venice was founded in 421 AD by the Venetians, a people from northeastern Italy. At that time, the Roman Empire (and the future Byzantine Empire) sought to defend much of this region from the constant Germanic and Hunnic invasions, which made Venice a kind of “refugee center”.
The year 697 AD was another pivotal date in the history of Venice, as it marked the election of the first Doge of Venice. Now, the “doge” (initially called “dux”) was the top leader and first magistrate of the Serenissima Repubblica di Venezia until the end of the 18th century, ruling from the Doge’s Palace of Venice in the Piazza San Marco.
Considered a great maritime power since the 9th century, the Republic of Venice became one of the richest states in Europe, due to the trade of silks and spices. Besides, it was decisive in the artistic and musical scene during the Renaissance and the Baroque, thanks to artists such as Tiziano Vecellio, Giorgione, Tintoretto, Paolo Veronese, Tomaso Albinoni, Antonio Vivaldi, Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, and Canaletto.
However, the Age of Portuguese and Spanish Discoveries (15th-17th centuries) destroyed the maritime trade empire that Venice maintained with the East through the Mediterranean. This decline culminated in the invasion of Napoleon Bonaparte in 1797 and the consequent extinction of the Republic of Venice and annexation to the Austrian Empire. Finally, the (now) city of Venice became part of the newly created Kingdom of Italy in the year 1866.
Did you know that Venice and its Lagoon were part of Italy’s fourth set of inscriptions on the UNESCO World Heritage List? This 11th session of the World Heritage Committee took place in Paris (France), between December 7th and 11th, 1987.
Only one other Italian site was announced in the session: the Piazza del Duomo, Pisa.
Nowadays, Italy is the country in the world with the most UNESCO sites: it has fifty-nine heritage assets (both cultural and natural) inscribed on the world list of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization!
In the meantime, I’ve already had the opportunity to visit eight of them:
- 18th-Century Royal Palace at Caserta with the Park (1997)
- Archaeological Area of Pompei (1997)
- Cinque Terre (1997)
- Historic Center of Florence (1982)
- Historic Center of Naples (1995)
- Historic Center of Rome and the Properties of the Holy See (1980) – Castel Sant’Angelo, Colosseum, Pantheon, Roman Forum and Palatine Hill
- The Porticoes of Bologna (2021)
- Venice and its Lagoon (1987)
The city of Venice is served by Venice Marco Polo Airport (VCE), which has several connections to other major European cities – making it an even more attractive tourist destination for international travelers. And if you’re already in Italy, then you can reach Venice by train, bus, or car!
However, it’s important to note that transportation within the historic center of Venice is exclusively by water or on foot. In addition to the famous gondolas – which have become a real tourist attraction in the city – it’s possible to travel around the Venetian Lagoon by “Vaporetto” (a kind of water bus).
Built on an archipelago made up of 118 islands, Venice is crossed by more than 100 canals and around 400 bridges. The best known of these hundreds of bridges are the four that cross the Grand Canal: the Ponte di Rialto, the Ponte della Accademia, the Ponte degli Scalzi, and the Ponte della Costituzione.
Another bridge, called Ponte della Libertà, is responsible for connecting all road and rail traffic between the mainland and the terminals at the northern end of the city. In my opinion, the most practical (and pleasant) way to travel around Italy is by train. With direct connections to several capitals in other Italian regions, Venice is about 1h30 from Bologna (Emilia-Romagna), 2h15 from Florence (Tuscany), 2h30 from Milan (Lombardy), and 4h from Rome (Lazio).
Venice Itinerary – Day 1
Ponte di Rialto
The Ponte di Rialto is the oldest and most famous bridge on the Grand Canal in Venice. Built between 1588 and 1591, it’s also the best-known work of the Venetian architect Antonio da Ponte.
Until the end of the 12th century, the districts of San Polo and San Marco didn’t have any kind of pedestrian connection. But that changed in 1181 when Nicolò Barattieri designed a floating bridge.
This first bridge was eventually replaced by a wooden one in 1255, due to increased traffic from the Mercato di Rialto. But this new bridge needed constant maintenance and even collapsed twice!
Similar to what happens with the Ponte Vecchio in Florence, the single-arched deck of the Rialto Bridge is home to a series of luxury stores, the vast majority of which are jewelry shops.
The rest of the best things to do in Venice on your first day of visit are all in one square: the iconic Piazza San Marco. And one of them is the Torre dell’Orologio, one of the first Renaissance buildings in this Italian city!
The central tower was designed by Mauro Codussi in 1496. In addition to the richly decorated mechanical clock (whose dial indicates the signs of the zodiac, as well as the phases of the sun and moon), it’s possible to admire on the façade a statue of Our Lady, a sculpture of the Lion of Saint Mark, and the famous “Two Moors Bell” at the top.
The side structures were added a decade later and renovated in the mid-18th century. Another curious detail is the monumental arch, which connects the Piazza San Marco to the Merceria dell’Orologio (one of the main arteries of Venice).
The Torre dell’Orologio is open every day from 12 pm to 4 pm, but the visit is by reservation only and accompanied by an expert guide. Tickets cost €12 (adults) or €7 (children aged 6 to 14, students aged 15 to 25, and over 65s) and can be purchased in advance on the official website of the Civic Museums Foundation of Venice.
Basilica di San Marco
The Basilica di San Marco is probably the most famous basilica in Italy. Situated right next to the Doge’s Palace of Venice, it’s one of the best examples of Byzantine architecture in the country and was inspired by two important religious temples in Constantinople (present-day Istanbul, Turkey): the Hagia Sophia and the Church of the Holy Apostles (the latter, now destroyed).
Its history dates back to the first half of the 9th century AD, when Venetian merchants returned from the Egyptian city of Alexandria, with the supposed relics of Saint Mark the Evangelist. The church was built precisely to house these Christian treasures, but it had to be rebuilt several times over the next two centuries.
The works on the monument that we see today started in 1071 and lasted for more than five hundred years. Featuring a Greek cross plan, St. Mark’s Basilica is composed of six naves with different chapels and altars, a crypt, a high choir, a baptistery, a sacristy, and a canopy over the main altar.
Of the impressive decoration, the main altarpiece (or “Pala d’Oro”) and the Horses of Saint Mark (a set of four bronze statues, stolen from Constantinople during the Fourth Crusade) stand out. However, there are hundreds of mosaics, sculptures, and reliefs in marble, gold, bronze, and precious stones to contemplate!
The Basilica di San Marco is open every day from 9:30 am to 5:15 pm (Monday to Saturday) or from 2 pm to 5:15 pm (Sundays and holidays). Tickets cost €6 (adults), but you can pay a supplement to visit the Pala d’Oro (€6), the Museo – Loggia dei Cavalli (€9) or both (€14). Regardless of the type of ticket you prefer, I recommend that you buy it directly from the official website of St. Mark’s Basilica.
Campanile di San Marco
The Campanile di San Marco is the bell tower of the Basilica di San Marco and one of the most recognizable symbols of this city in northern Italy.
Initially projected in the 11th century to replace an old Roman watchtower, it ended up being completely rebuilt between 1511 and 1514, when it received the five-bell carillon, the copper-clad spire, and a golden weathervane with the figure of the Archangel Gabriel.
With about 99 meters high and perfectly visible from the St. Mark’s Basin, it’s speculated that St. Mark’s Campanile once served as a lighthouse for boats arriving at the Venice Lagoon.
At the base of this square-shaped brick tower, you’ll find the Loggetta del Sansovino, which was built by this architect between 1537 and 1549 and is decorated with bronze statues and marble reliefs.
The Campanile di San Marco is open every day from 9:30 am to 5:15 pm, and may close in case of adverse weather conditions. As for tickets, they cost €10 (adults) and can be purchased on the official website of St. Mark’s Basilica.
In my opinion, the Doge’s Palace of Venice (in Italian, Palazzo Ducale di Venezia) is the most stunning building in Piazza San Marco, tied with the Basilica di San Marco. Also known as the Ducal Palace, it’s considered a true masterpiece of Venetian Gothic architecture!
The Doge’s Palace of Venice was built in the 14th and 15th centuries to serve as the residence of the Doge and the administrative seat of the Serenissima Repubblica di Venezia. And in the 16th century, it continued to be renovated, receiving decorative elements typical of the Renaissance and Mannerism.
The Doge’s Palace of Venice is open every day of the year from 9 am to 6 pm. And the ticket costs €26 (adults) or €14 (for children from 6 to 14 years old, students from 15 to 25 years old, and visitors over 65 years old), and can be purchased on the official website of the Civic Museums Foundation of Venice.
Read my complete guide to the Doge’s Palace of Venice, a must-see tourist attraction on any Venice itinerary!
Musei di Piazza San Marco
Depending on how much time you have left on this first day in Venice, you may still have the opportunity to explore other Museums in St. Mark’s Square. This is because the ticket to the Palazzo Ducale also includes admission to the Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Venezia, the Museo Correr, and the Sale Monumentali delle Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana.
By the way, if you’re interested in visiting more cultural spaces in the historic center, you can opt for the Museum Pass (at €36 or €19), which gives you access to the four museums in St. Mark’s Square and eight other civic museums in Venice:
- Ca’ Pesaro – Galleria Internazionale d’Arte Moderna + Museo d’Arte Orientale | House Pesaro – International Gallery of Modern Art + Oriental Art Museum
- Ca’ Rezzonico – Museo del Settecento Veneziano | House Rezzonico – 18th Century Venice Museum
- Casa di Carlo Goldoni | House of Carlo Goldoni
- Museo del Merletto | Lace Museum (in Burano)
- Museo del Vetro | Glass Museum (in Murano)
- Museo di Palazzo Mocenigo e Centro Studi di Storia del Tessuto, del Costume e del Profumo | Museum of Palace Mocenigo and Study Center for the History of Textile, Costume, and Perfume
- Museo di Storia Naturale di Venezia Giancarlo Ligabue | Natural History Museum of Venice Giancarlo Ligabue
- Palazzo Fortuny | Fortuny Palace
Venice Itinerary – Day 2
If the first of this “3-Day Itinerary in Venice” was spent almost entirely in San Marco (the most touristy neighborhood in the city), the second is entirely dedicated to Dorsoduro (the university district of Venice). And there’s no better place to start this day than the Ca’ Rezzonico – Museo del Settecento Veneziano!
In the mid-17th century, Filippo Bon (one of Venice’s renowned patricians) commissioned a family residence from Baldassare Longhena, who designed an elegant Baroque-style palace overlooking the Grand Canal. However, both the owner and the architect died before the work was completed.
About a century later, the palace was sold to Giambattista Rezzonico, who hired Giorgio Massari to finish the building’s construction. Since 1936, the House Rezzonico has accommodated several collections of 18th-century Venetian paintings, sculptures, and decorative arts, which belonged to the Museo Correr.
The Ca’ Rezzonico is open every day (except Tuesdays) from 10 am to 5 pm. The ticket costs €10 (adults) or €7.5 (for children from 6 to 14 years old, students from 15 to 25 years old, and visitors over 65 years old), and can be purchased on the official website of the Civic Museum Foundation of Venice. If you have time to visit other aristocratic palaces during your stay in Venice, I recommend the Ca’ Foscari, the Ca’ Pesaro, or the Ca’ d’Oro!
The Ponte dell’Accademia is an arched bridge that connects the neighborhoods of Dorsoduro and San Marco.
After the Ponte di Rialto, this was the second bridge built over the Grand Canal in Venice, despite having been inaugurated on two separate occasions: first in 1854 and then in 1933.
The original project consisted of a steel bridge and was carried out by Alfred Neville. But the structure was eventually replaced by the wooden bridge we see today, by Eugenio Miozzi.
I recommend that you cross it, even if it’s just to see the sights, as this is one of the best things to do in Venice. From here, you can take spectacular panoramic pictures of the Grand Canal and the palaces and other historic buildings along the banks!
The Gallerie dell’Accademia is a renowned museum and art gallery, whose collection comprises the 13th-18th centuries. Its foundation dates back to 1750, the year in which the Accademia di Belle Arti di Venezia was created, the first school of painting, sculpture, and architecture in the city.
Of all the museums and art galleries in Venice, this is certainly the most important, so a visit is really recommended. Throughout several rooms and corridors spread over two floors, you’ll be able to admire masterpieces by Giovanni Bellini, Leonardo da Vinci, Tiziano Vecellio, Giorgio Vasari, Tintoretto, Paolo Veronese, Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, and Canaletto, among many others.
The Gallerie dell’Accademia (or simply Accademia, as it’s best known) is open every day from 8:15 am to 2 pm (on Mondays) or from 8:15 am to 7:15 pm (from Tuesday to Sunday). As for tickets, they cost €12 (adults) or €2 (young people aged between 18 and 25, who are citizens of the European Union), and can be booked directly on the official website of the Galleries of the Academy.
Collezione Peggy Guggenheim
The Collezione Peggy Guggenheim is just 400 meters from the Gallerie dell’Accademia, so you can visit it right away or after a lunch break. Now, this museum was opened in 1951, in the old Palazzo Venier dei Leoni, one of many installed in front of the Grand Canal in Venice.
Belonging to the Solomon Robert Guggenheim Foundation – which has similar museums in New York, Bilbao, Berlin, and Las Vegas – the Peggy Guggenheim Collection is the most important museum of North American and European modern art in Italy, displaying works by Wassily Kandinsky, Pablo Picasso, Max Ernst, Joan Miró, René Magritte, Salvador Dalí, and Jackson Pollock, among other Cubist, Surrealist and Abstract Expressionist artists.
The Collezione Peggy Guggenheim is open every day (except on Tuesdays) from 10 am to 6 pm. Tickets cost €16 (adults), €14 (over 65), or €9 (students under 26), and can be purchased in advance on the official website of the Peggy Guggenheim Collection.
Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute
The Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute is one of the many basilicas that exist in Venice. I mean, when I was in Venice, I saw/visited six: Basilica di Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari, Basilica dei Santi Giovanni e Paolo, Basilica di San Marco, Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute, Basilica di San Giorgio Maggiore, and Basilica di San Pietro di Castello!
Few people know this, but the Basilica of Saint Mary of Health is the fulfillment of a promise made by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo (the then Patriarch of Venice) in 1630! This is because that year, an outbreak of plague was triggered, which decimated a large part of the local population.
The project was in charge of Baldassare Longhena (the architect of Ca’ Rezzonico), who designed it in the Baroque style. The works started the following year and were completed half a century later, in 1681. And the place that was chosen was the Punta della Dogana (the Customs House of Venice), located on the edge of the Dorsoduro district.
One of the most interesting architectural details of this Catholic temple is the octagonal central nave, topped by a hemispherical dome and surrounded by six smaller chapels. In addition, it’s worth mentioning the high altar dedicated to the Virgin Mary and the frescoes by Tiziano Vecellio, depicting episodes from the Old Testament.
The Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute is open every day from 9:30 am to 12 pm and from 3 pm to 5:30 pm. Although access is free, there’s a ticket at €4 (adults) or €2 (students and over 65s) to enter the Main Sacristy (that is, the Museum). In this case, visiting hours are from 10 am to 12 pm and from 3 pm to 5 pm (from Monday to Saturday) or from 3 pm to 5 pm (on Sundays).
Venice Itinerary – Day 3
Giardini della Biennale
The third and final day of this “3-Day Itinerary in Venice” is dedicated to one of the least explored neighborhoods in the city: Castello. The truth is that many tourists take advantage of the end of their stay in Venice to travel to other islands in the Venetian Lagoon (such as Murano or Burano), but I wanted to focus this cultural itinerary only on the island of Venice.
And the day begins at the Giardini della Biennale di Venezia, the stage of the famous international art exhibition, which takes place every two years (hence the name)! The Venice Biennale is mainly known for the “Mostra Internazionale d’Arte Cinematografica”, but there are also events on architecture, visual arts, dance, music, and theatre!
Interestingly, these gardens were created by Napoleon Bonaparte at the beginning of the 19th century. And since the exhibition opened in 1895, dozens of pavilions from foreign countries have been built, displaying works of art by their respective artists, such as Australia, Belgium, Canada, Egypt, France, Germany, Great Britain, Greece, Russia, South Korea, Spain, Switzerland, Thailand, the United States, and Venezuela (among many others).
Isola di Sant’Elena
Exploring the Isola di Sant’Elena is not only one of the best things to do in Venice but also one of the most unique! Totally off the radar of the floods of tourists that fill the streets and canals of neighborhoods like San Marco or Dorsoduro, Saint Helena’s Island is what many call a “hidden gem” or “off the beaten path”.
The main attractions of Sant’Elena are the Chiesa Parrocchiale di Sant’Elena Imperatrice (the main church of this island), the Stadio Pierluigi Penzo (a multipurpose stadium and home of the Venezia Football Club), the Campo Marco Stringari (a public garden) and some of the permanent pavilions of the Venice Biennale.
Isola di San Pietro di Castello
The Isola di San Pietro di Castello (or simply, Isola di San Pietro) is much smaller than the Isola di Sant’Elena, but just as stunning. You can find it at the eastern end of the historic city center, just a few meters from the Arsenale de Venezia.
Despite its small size, the island of Saint Peter of the Castle was very important in the history of Venice, as the Basilica di San Pietro di Castello served as the seat of the Patriarchate of Venice between 1451 and 1807 when Napoleon Bonaparte transferred it to the Basilica di San Marco!
And here we are at the last point of interest in this “3-Day Itinerary in Venice”: the Arsenale di Venezia. In the Middle Ages, when the city achieved the international status of great maritime power, this shipyard and the naval base became one of the most important areas of Venice.
And although there are no records of its construction, it’s thought that the works began in the early twelfth century. Despite that, a century later, the “Arsenale Nuovo” was created, much larger than the original. Here, hundreds of merchant ships and warships were produced, as well as various types of firearms and heavy naval artillery.
Map of the Venice Itinerary
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